Fit vs. Fiction's Blog


Why I started Fit vs Fiction and why I won’t shut up about it

BECAUSE:
We live in an image obsessed, fat-phobic, one-size-fits-all, thin is in, skinny jean wearing, thigh gap measuring, binging and purging, body hating society where kids barely out of pre-school are begging their mothers to keep them home from school because they feel like they’re just too fat to fit in!

And THAT..is NOT..Okay.

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We need to fight FOR our kids and not against eachother

I decided to send my Huffington Post article about Childhood obesity to a fairly well-known local fitness team and asked them for their thoughts. I did this, knowing that my article “Childhood obesity is not the problem” is a tad controversial. In my post, I discuss the dangers of anti-obesity campaigns and the fact that I believe we need to focus less on weight and more on health. I was genuinely interested in hearing their thoughts as people who have spent the last 25 years or so, offering health tips to families. They responded by saying, “The author is missing point. I think she is taking the topic and twisting it to write an article.” I wrote back explaining that I am, in fact, the author and that while I understand that there’s a health crisis in this country, focusing solely on weight is completely ignoring all of the other factors that play into our kids overall health and well being.

I was really looking forward to the discussion that I was hoping was going to follow. Afterall, we’re both trying to reach the same goal and I believed in the benefits that could come from extremely dedicated people approaching the same issue from different angles. Sadly, that’s not what happened. Not only did the conversation end, but my entire post had been deleted from their Facebook page.

REALLY?!

What this showed me was that some people are so stuck in their own opnions, that they aren’t even willing to consider that there may just be another way to look at things. I wasn’t looking to completely change their outlook, just expand it a little and I was just as open to the possibility of learning something new as well.

Here’s why I find this SO FRUSTRATING: There is hardly a lack of weightloss experts, programs and campaigns out there trying to make us lose weight and yet, obesity is still an issue. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to look at things in a different way. If we keep banging our heads against the same “Skinny means healthy” concrete wall, nothing will ever change.

Do I believe that I have a TON of knowledge to contribute? Yes, I do. But I am also not so arrogant as to believe that I have nothing left to learn.

We all know that childhood obesity is a problem, but here are a few things most people don’t know.

Fact: In Canada, for all the kids who are overweight, there are even more kids who are NOT but THINK that they are.

Fact: Eating disorders aren’t just a teen girl issue anymore. Girls AND boys as young as 5 years old are destroying their bodies in an effort to be skinny

Fact: It can be extremely difficult to find treatment for eating disorders due to lack of resources or finances.

Fact: Some people suffering from eating disorders find it nearly impossible to be taken seriously if they don’t “look the part”. It’s easy to look at someone who weighs as much as 380lbs or as little as 80lbs and recognize that they probably have a problem but someone battling a severe eating disorder can look healthy while slowly dying inside and can be overlooked even by medical professionals.

Fact: Anti-obesity campaigns tell kids they need to be skinny to be healthy by focusing on numbers, but we are more than just numbers and our self-worth should not be measured in pounds.

I understand that obesity is an issue, but I also understand that it is one of several issues that need to be tackled simultaneously if we have any chance of truly raising healthy children. While I understand this, there are way too many people who refuse to see the bigger picture and choose only to look at fat as the enemy. For there to be any chance of us finding solutions to the health crisis we’re facing, and for our kids to stand a chance at the long, quality filled lives they deserve, we need to fight the risks of unhealthy living instead of eachother.

If we let ego get in the way of progress, WE may feel better, but our kids won’t get any healthier.

Why I had to write the Body Image Survival Guide for Parents:

Why did I write this book?

I always thought that if I ever wrote a book about my life, the title would be, “Who knew?”.

It seems fitting because whenever I look at old pictures of myself from when I was just a little kid, before the traumas came fast and hard, I look at the little girl in the pictures and think, “You have NO IDEA what life is about to throw at you. Get ready, it’s gonna get rough for awhile”.

Life has definitely sucker punched me in the gut on more than a few occasions and thrown a crapload of challenges my way that proved extremely hard to overcome. I’ve lived a lot, lost a lot and learned a lot. Along the way, there was one thing that was there for me through it all. My eating disorder.

Yup, when life got too hard and the pain too intense, I turned away from what was hurting me and turned to my disorder for help. At the time, it made sense. When I was 17 years old, my brother Billy died and a huge part of me died right along with him. The pain of his loss was too much to bear and my life seemed completely out of my control so I turned to the one thing I thought I could control. My body. I started starving myself in an effort to feel like I was in control of SOMETHING or else I was sure I’d go completely insane.

It was easier to deal with the pain of an empty stomach than the sadness I felt walking into his empty room.

My disorder was the diversion I thought I needed. I thought it was helping. I didn’t know it would end up robbing me of my friendships, my health and my dreams. It kept me from making new friends and made it hard to keep old ones. It encouraged me to drop out of school and give up my ambitions. It told me I was nothing without it and I believed it.

I know what it’s like to think that everything you are and everything you could ever be depends on what you LOOK like but to feel like you’ll never look good enough. I know what it’s like to feel like you could never be smart, or funny or interesting enough to matter so you sure as hell better be pretty enough, but to never feel that you are. I know what it’s like to hate who you are so much that being the “girl with the eating disorder” becomes your entire identity and even though it hurts so much, you don’t want to give it up for fear you’ll just disappear.

I know what it’s like to battle with body image. I know what it’s like to watch my mother see me in pain and feel completely powerless about how to help me. I know that this is an issue that is confusing and complicated and incredibly hard to understand.

I also know what it’s like to recover.

My body image issues may have taken me to hell and back, but the important part is that I came back.

I know that with the right tools and information, parents don’t have to feel powerless. There is so much we can do as parents to instil the right messages from the time our kids are babies that can help them grow up with the confidence they deserve. Kids younger and younger are feeling pressured to be who they THINK society expects them to be instead of appreciating who they already are. They need our help.

I wrote the book I wish my own mother had had when I was struggling. I want parents to feel EMPOWERED. I give practical, solid answers to sticky questions and suggest games and projects that build healthy body image and self-esteem. I’ve included positive internet resources and body image pledges and include tons of stories from real people sharing real experiences.

My goal is to teach people that the “Best” bodies are HEALTHY ones and that SELF-WORTH IS NOT MEASURED IN POUNDS!

xoxoxoxo

Childhood-Obesity is NOT the problem!

Childhood Obesity isn’t THE problem.

There, I said it and I’ll say it again: CHILDHOOD OBESITY is NOT THE PROBLEM.

While it’s become nearly impossible to turn on a TV, listen to a radio or read through a newspaper without hearing about our society’s obesity epidemic and it seems like there are anti-obesity programs and campaigns popping up everywhere, I believe we are focusing our energy and efforts on the WRONG problem. Is obesity a serious issue? Yes, it is. But obesity is just one SYMPTOM of the real issue which is unhealthy living. By focusing solely on obesity, we are turning a “lifestyle” issue into a “fat” one. By doing this, we’re completely missing out giving people the information and the tools they need to be truly HEALTHY. The dangerous part about this is that instead of encouraging people to get healthy we are demanding that they get skinny and the truth is, skinny is not always synonymous with healthy. As a result of our “war on obesity” we’re creating a generation of kids who are TERRIFIED of being overweight and because of our society’s obsession with thinness, they don’t even know what being overweight truly looks like! Watching TV or flipping through fashion magazines and being inundated with unrealistic images of unattainable physiques can have most tweens and teens feeling inadequate and insecure about their looks within minutes. When the media is telling them that they need to be skinny to be beautiful and anti-obesity campaigns are telling them they need to be skinny to be healthy, the only message they’re hearing is: YOU NEED TO BE SKINNY!
Here’s a shocker: You can’t always tell how fit or unfit a person is simply by what they look like.
Being a little overweight and active is healthier than skinny and sedentary. Weight is not the ONLY factor in a person’s overall health, and we shouldn’t be made to feel like it is.

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS?

1.Thin kids become apathetic:
There are some kids who can eat as much junk food as they want and do very little physical activity without gaining any weight. Lucky for them, right? WRONG. However, IF they’re constantly being told that OBESITY is the issue than they won’t see the risks related to their present lifestyles. Things like: Diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and Cancer.

2.Skinny at all cost mentality:
How about the kids who are so afraid of gaining weight that they become overly concerned with every piece of food they consume? I get emails and phone calls from parents of kids as young as 5 years old who are already struggling with eating disorders! While it wouldn’t be surprising to hear our toddlers worry about imaginary monsters or witches, hearing them cry because they feel they look fat in their snowsuits is something most parents are not prepared for. More and more kids are putting their health at risk through dangerous behaviour related to weight loss and a huge part of it is because of our society’s Fat-Phobia!

Recently, many schools have tried to get on board the fight against obesity by implementing programs aimed at making our kids healthier. Unfortunately, in an effort to solve one problem, they are inadvertently creating an even bigger one by encouraging disordered eating and negative body image. While numbers and charts may offer a little insight into a person’s health status, they can be drastically misleading if other important factors are ignored.

Take for example, the recent story about the 10 year old Massachusetts boy who was sent home from school with a letter saying he was obese. This boy’s athletic (healthy) build was considered obese by the BMI rating his school was using to measure their students body weight. To be honest, I am completely against ANY KIND of program that has school faculty measuring (judging and shaming) a child’s weight and the fact that they’d use such an inaccurate system to do it, makes it all the more frustrating.

http://todaynews.today.com/_news/2013/02/27/17119287-fat-letters-sent-home-to-students-cause-a-stir

Schools need to EDUCATE, not HUMILIATE.

3.It’s become okay to point fingers at the chubby kid.

You’d think that with all the talk about bullying going on these days, we’d be able to recognize when we’re doing it ourselves, but here’s another example of good intentions lost on bad execution. By singling out the “overweight” kids we’re making them easier targets to be picked on. Some might argue that if they’re overweight, they’re probably already being picked on, but the difference is that they’ve now got school staff agreeing with the bullies. This kind of negativity will only make them feel less worthy of respect from others and themselves. HOW does that help??

We all want the same thing. We want our kids to grow up as healthy and as happy as they can be, but we really have to be so incredibly careful about how we go about doing that.

Eating with balance and moderation and being physically active shouldn’t be something we feel forced to do because we hate our bodies, but something we WANT to do because we love and respect them. We can’t lose weight in order to like ourselves, we have to first like ourselves in order to lose weight.

Enough with the “ANTIs” and bring on the “PROs”. Instead of an Anti-Obesity approach, why not try one that’s Pro-Health? We shouldn’t be fighting AGAINST our bodies but working WITH them.

FAT isn’t a bad word. It’s an essentially nutrient necessary for good health. Why have we turned it into an insult? Teaching kids that fat is “Bad”, can be a dangerous lesson. However, educating them about the benefits and risks related to different kinds of fats can be extremely helpful without being judgemental.

A truly healthy child is one that is healthy physically, emotionally and psychologically. By focusing simply on the physical, we risk damaging everything else.

The question I’m asking is: Do we want HEALTHY kids or just skinny ones?

Olympic medallist Leisel Jones criticized for being "Fat".

Olympic medallist Leisel Jones criticized for being “Fat”.

Olympic medallist Cathy Rigby.Admits that she and many teammates battled eating disorders while competing

Olympic medallist Cathy Rigby.
Admits that she and many teammates battled eating disorders while competing

Healthy bodies have less to do with how they LOOK and everything to do with how they WORK.

“Self-worth shouldn’t be measured in pounds”

Wrinkles and Crinkles and Laugh lines, Oh My!

226210_10150179742291992_7974671_nlast night, I had the television on in the background while I did some work and ended up watching a few minutes of an informercial for one of those “facelift in a jar” kind of products. The “doctor” who was leading the commercial threw around a lot of the usual skin care connected adjectives like: smooth, young, tight and fresh, but there was one thing he said that really confused me. At one point, Dr.Facelift said,

“Skin that has repeated the same action over and over, like smiling, causes muscles to contract and create wrinkles.”

I’m confused because I thought smiling was a GOOD thing. Why would I want to hide evidence of being happy? Our faces tell our stories and I refuse to be ashamed of that. I have lived through many  obstacles up to this point and each of these experiences have affected how I think and how I feel, why shouldn’t they affect how I look as well? And why should that be a bad thing?

Every line in my face reflects that I’ve lived, loved, lost and learned and I’m okay with that.

I miss a lot of things about my mother who lost her battle with Cancer when she was only 56 years old. One of the things I miss is the way she looked when she smiled. When she smiled, her whole face smiled and as strange as this may sound, I remember the lines around her eyes and how warmly and lovingly they seemed to frame them. Is it weird that I WANT my laugh lines? Is it bizarre that I’m proud of every crease and crinkle I earn as I live each day?

Thanks, but no thanks, facelift in a jar, go peddle your ageism elsewhere, I’m just not interested.

My E.D. nearly killed me. But although I’m a little bruised and scarred, I’m still here.

photo (29)

Today I found the journal I kept when I was a teenager.  I was 17 and my eating disorder was just starting to creep it’s way into my life.   It creeped it’s way in slowly. I hardly saw it coming, but before I knew it it had completely taken over. It felt like every minute of every single day was spent thinking about what I HAD eaten, WAS eating or was GOING to eat. My life was filled with fear, shame and guilt..but very little food.

My disorder nearly killed me.

To be honest, there were times when I wished it would.

But it didn’t. I’m still here. And after over 20 years of fighting against myself, I finally found a way to fight for myself instead.

Young, sad, sick girls just got themselves a new role model. Thanks Amanda Bynes!

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about social media is that it makes it possible to share everything and anything we’re feeling the second we’re feeling it. While this is perfectly harmless when talking about the delicious sandwich we just ate or the soccer goal we scored or the hilarious thing our kid just did, it can be extremely dangerous when we use it to promote unhealthy behaviour and a hell of a lot MORE dangerous if you’re a celebrity.
It’s no secret that Amanda Bynes has become a bit of a train wreck recently. Two DUI arrests and a lot of erratic behaviour have put her on the “needs some drastic help” radar for some time now and this latest development just reinforces that point.
Amanda has decided that she needs to lose weight and for some bizarre reason she’s decided to choose 100lbs as her goal weight. The problem is that at 5’8 inches tall, weighing just 100lbs would make her completely unhealthy. It is just NOT a healthy place for her to be.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/amanda-bynes-weight-loss-100-pounds_n_2695706.html

Why do I care?

I care because she has chosen to document her feelings and weight loss plan on social media and has even posted pictures of her thighs on Instagram.

This is particularly disturbing considering the latest trend in body shaming among young people which involves measuring their “thigh Gaps”.
http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/shine-on/thigh-gap-results-teen-girls-starving-themselves-191159136.html

As a celebrity, even one whose star is fading quickly, she needs to be responsible when it comes to what she shares with the public. By saying that she needs to lose weight from her already healthy physique, and posting critical pictures of her body parts, she is sending a very dangerous message to her young fans.

I asked a couple of young women how they felt about Amanda’s goal and one teenager shared,
“I think this is going to affect a lot of young girls because so many of us grew up with her as a role model. It’s disgusting what a smart confident woman has become.”
The other said, “If a girl is 5’6 and weighs 110lbs she’ll assume she’s obese when that’s totally underweight! She’s in the media and young girls will see this and think, “Oh she’s pretty and famous, if I want to be like her I should want to be 5’8 and 100lbs.”
Amanda is obviously going through a very hard time and I’m not judging her for that. Having battled my own severe body image and eating disorder issues for over 20 years, I can certainly relate. BUT, while I’m not judging her struggle, I am having a HUGE problem with how her actions may bring a lot of young girls down with her. Like it or not, being in the public eye gives her voice and her actions more attention than the rest of us and with that comes a lot of power. Her comments through social media are reaching millions of young people and can end up causing disastrous results for some of them.

The great thing about social media is that it can connect us to almost anyone, anywhere at anytime. The terrifying thing about social media is that exact same thing.

Body image concerns: Advice for Grandma and Grandpa

A woman approached me at the grocery store the other day because she had read an article about me in the newspaper where I talked about (what else?) body image and kids. She explained that she was a grandmother and was worried that she was putting a little too much pressure on her grandkids when it came to food choices. While she didn’t want to make them self-conscious about what they were eating, she also didn’t want them to feel free to eat whatever they wanted and risk becoming overweight.

Not too long after that, I heard from another grandma who was very concerned that her daughter-in-law’s own body image issues were setting her grandkids up for their own issues and was unsure how to handle the situation.

What so many people don’t realize is that body image issues and eating disorders don’t just affect the people who are struggling with them, but also impact the lives of those who love them. Watching someone you care about obsess over their weight/ food/ appearance can be beyond frustrating and heartbreaking since it’s really difficult for them to know what they should say or do.

It’s easy to overlook the stress put on friends and family of eating disorder sufferers, which is a huge oversight since having a strong and stable support system can make all the difference when it comes to recovering from such an insidious disorder.

For my next few posts, I’m going to talk about the people around the people who are suffering (grandparents, parents, siblings, friends) and offer some tips on how to feel a little less powerless.

1. Compare notes.
Grandparents don’t usually see their grandkids on a daily basis and it may be easier for them to spot the subtle changes that may be happening than parents who can be too close to a situation to have a clear view. If you are concerned about something you’re seeing, whether it be physical or behavioral changes, don’t be afraid to bring these concerns up with the parents. Find out if they’ve noticed anything concerning and make sure there is an open line of communication so you can work together to make sure the kids are safe.

2. If you suspect that something’s not quite right with your grandkids,Talk to them directly but make sure your conversations are non confrontational and your questions don’t come across as accusatory. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with you lately?” Or, “I know something’s going on, what is it?” Try instead to ask about things like school and their friends while you’re out for lunch or just hanging out together. For a lot of people, opening up about body image anxieties can be tough, but talking about other kinds of stress can be much easier. Just chatting about what’s going on their lives can give you a great perspective of where added anxieties can be coming from.

3. It’s time to give up the cute nicknames that may not be so “cute” anymore.
We all do it. We all have cute terms of affection we come up with for our kids and grandkids and they come from a place of pure love. Sometimes, however, it’s time to let those nicknames go. Calling your granddaughter/son “Chubby cheeks” or “Chunky Monkey” may be cute for an infant, but not nearly as sweet for an older child.

4. Cancel your membership with the “Clean your plate club”. There are still a lot of parents and grandparents who guilt their kids into finishing every last morsel of food off their plate at mealtime and this is a really bad habit to get into. It is so important for kids to learn how to listen to the messages their OWN bodies are sending them. They need to know when they’re hungry and when they’re full. If they are taught to just keep eating until the food is gone, they will end up eating for all kinds of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with hunger. Kids need to work with their own bodies and not have them micromanaged by anybody else.

5. Love them unconditionally.
Sadly, the world can be a very judgemental place and kids need to believe that they have a support system that will always have their backs. A woman once shared with me that while spending the weekend with her grandparents when she was a child, she overheard them talking about the fact that she gained a little weight and how worried they were about her getting fat. She’s a grown woman now, and that memory still haunts her.

My #1 advice is to let your kids/grandkids know that if there is ever anyhing they need to talk about, you will be there for them and they will have your full attention. Even if they have no interest in opening up right away, just knowing that you’re there will give them huge sense of comfort.

#self-worth shouldn’t be measured in pounds

Whose fantasy is this?!

A few days ago I was walking through the mall with my son and passed by a lingerie store displaying an enormous picture of a woman in a bra and underwear hanging in the front window. I looked at the picture and thought, “Imagine how incredible it would be if the woman modelling that lingerie wasn’t  your typical Victoria Secret-esque model and the picture hadn’t been photo shopped or airbrushed in any way.” I would love that!

Recently, lingerie model Erin Heatherton defended the use of photoshop  saying, “We’re not selling reality, we’re selling a story. It’s all about creating this fantasy.” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2219203/Victorias-Secret-Angel-Erin-Heatherton-defends-airbrushing.html)

But I have to ask, “Whose fantasy is this??”  I know it ain’t mine. I know that there are plenty of men who enjoy looking through Victoria Secret catalogues so maybe MEN are their target market. Are they hoping to create a fantasy for men that will encourage them to buy merchandise for their partners? I’m sure that’s part of it. But, as far as women are concerned, I’m not too sure using “perfect” looking models is the best way to sell their clothes. Here’s why:

If I see a cute bra and underwear set being worn by a blemish-free, bulge-free, wrinkle-free and crease-free young model, I may think, ”Wow, that looks great!” I may even want to try it on. But there’s a good chance I may be disappointed when it looks completely different on my body than it does on every  body in every picture in the store. There’s also a good chance I will leave store without buying a thing..

Is it possible, that if these stores were bold enough to use pictures that have not been retouched of “regular” women wearing their clothes that it would actually increase their sales? Think about it. Wouldn’t it be cool to walk into a lingerie store and see pictures of different women with different body shapes modelling their lingerie? I for one would not be offended to see a model with some of that extra skin that pokes through the space between the breast and armpit area, or one with a few creases around her back or a softer stomach around her waistband. I think it would be great. Then women can have a more realistic expectation when they decide to try something on. I would love for all women to be able to walk into a change room and walk out with their self-esteem intact. There’s nothing self-esteem building about trying to compare a real body to one that’s been digitally altered.  It’s been reported that 80% of women feel worse about themselves within 3 minutes of reading a fashion magazine. So I ask again, whose fantasy is this?

Why do supermodels have to be superhuman? When will we TRULY start glorifying HEALTHY bodies instead of just skinny ones?

 

 

Emotional Eating is HILARIOUS according to 2 sitcoms last night. uh..not so much.

Last night I found it interesting that two sitcoms  joked about emotional eating. One focused on “grief eating” where the members of a support group helped their friend “heal” his grief by gorging over food and the other involved one of the characters telling a little girl that the best way to get over a heartbreak is to “fill the void with sugar” and demonstrated by jamming candy down his throat.

At the risk of sounding humorless, I didn’t like it. I understood it. But I didn’t like it. The writers were probably writing about a topic they could relate to and they thought enough other people would relate to, so what does that mean?

Could it be that some people overeat not because they lack self-control or discipline, not because they’re gluttons who just like to eat..but maybe…just maybe, it’s not always about FOOD. Could it be that the reason we are dealing with an obesity problem isn’t because there aren’t enough diet plans and programs out there (Lord knows, it ain’t hard to find diet advice) but maybe because we’re too busy criticizing, judging and making assumptions about people that we are avoiding the real issues behined the behavior. Personally, my eating disorder wasn’t about food. Food was just the weapon I used to destroy myself with, either by restricting it or compulsively overeating it, but it wasn’t the cause of my problems, just a symptom Fact is, it’s easier to try and deal with what we’re eating than to deal with why we’re eating it. I hit my rock bottom when the pain of how I was abusing food became more painful than why I started abusing it in the first place. Once I was ready to stop the behavior, I was free to tackle what was at the core of my disorder and start healing.
I know, I know, if I don’t like what I’m seeing, I don’t have to watch it. But let’s face it, ignoring an issue doesn’t make it go away. I get it, it’s a sitcom not a documetary, but if you’re going to tackle an issue like this with humor, can you not find a way to do it responsibly?
The writers behind the shows could probably relate to the content and assumed that many of their viewers would as well and I’m sure they did. I know I did. I also, believe it or not, can joke about my food history at times and understand that great comedians can find light in the darkest if situations, and hey, it’s just food,right?
But for so many people, it’s more than that and I know that it made me and many of the people I’ve been hearing from, more than a little uncomfortable.
FOOD.
We love it, we hate it, we fear it, we hide it, we celebrate with it, grieve with it, express love with it, restrict it, need it, overindulge in it and think about it waaay too much.
We spend so much time working against our bodies by trying to avoid eating, instead of working WITH our bodies and learning how to eat in a healthy, balanced way.
I guess I’m sensitive to this issue because I work with kids and parents who can’t enjoy a meal without it including a side order of shame and guilt and if we’re really going to get healthy, we need to be careful of the messages we send.

 

 

 

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