Tag Archives: anorexia

Intent Former Editor Chelsea Roff Gets “Best Shift Ever”

Chelsea Roff
Photo Credit: Chelsea Roff’s Facebook page

Good things happen to good people – that’s karmic belief. This week Intent’s former blog editor Chelsea Roff was the subject of Break.com’s “Prank it Forward” series where they surprise deserving individuals with life changing gifts.

For those that don’t know, Chelsea left Intent last year to pursue creating her own non-profit organization that shows the vital importance of yoga in eating disorder recovery. Chelsea herself suffered from extreme anorexia – at one point dropping to 58 pounds and caused her to have a stroke two weeks before her 16th birthday. She spent 18 months recovering under the custody of a Dallas hospital. When she was released her therapists suggested that yoga might be good for her – and it turned out to be a life changing experience.

To give back to the community that gave so much to her Chelsea started an IndieGoGo campaign last July that raised over $51,000 in four days. For those four days Chelsea camped out above the “You Are Beautiful” mural in Santa Monica, refusing to leave until she reached her goal. Now that money is going to fund research based studies in yoga studios and treatment centers around the country. To help get the funds to hire a full-time staff for the organization Chelsea has also been moonlighting as a waitress. Did we mention she’s only 24? Chelsea Roff is the definition of using your own talents and abilities – and the power of intent – to save the world. To reward her for all of her selfless good work, her friends and co-workers teamed up with Break.com to provide Chelsea with the best shift ever.

It starts off with a kind stranger leaving a ridiculously huge tip – that Chelsea insists on sharing with the rest of the wait staff. Then a free trip for two to Hawaii, followed up by Chelsea’s dream job where she’ll be able to use the work she’s been doing with Eat. Breathe. Thrive. in conjunction with a funded medical center. To top it off Chelsea was surprised with a brand new car and a visit from her very first yoga teacher that showed her so much about strength and being proud of your body and the space you inhabit.

We are so proud of Chelsea, who will always be a member of the Intent family, and all of the things she’s done. It’s such a wonderful thing to see her get the rewards she deserves for doing such amazing, wonderful work. Congratulations to Chelsea! You deserve it, girl. And we can only hope that Chelsea’s journey also inspires all of you to show the potential of setting an intent and following through with it. We really have the power to make meaningful change in people’s lives!

Learn how you can help Eat. Breathe. Thrive. or find one of Chelsea’s programs in a city near you here.

The Accident That Changed My Life (Part 2)

165Click here to read Part 1.

By Margaret Westley

My optimism carried me through the extent of my six week hospitalization. Life in a hospital is far from easy, but amazing medical care, family, and friends supported me through multiple surgeries and challenging rehabilitation therapy. However, optimism would only take me so far. And like with any traumatic event in life, a person needs to take time to heal.

More surgeries followed the summer after my accident. One morning I noticed a wound had appeared on my residual limb and it turned out to be an infection that traveled to my bone. More bone would have to be amputated. Though I knew the surgery was necessary, I was tired – tired of surgeries and setbacks preventing me from scheduling an appointment with the person who would fit me for my first prosthetic limb.

A shift occurred. Instead of letting myself feel disappointed, I looked for ways to control the situation and prevent myself from feeling sad. I started with eating as little as possible. Being hospitalized only increased my odds for losing more weight. Eating was the last thing from my mind. The fact my wrists were getting thinner and my stomach more flat were pluses in my eyes. I started to tell everyone I was too tired to eat.

At the grocery store, I started checking labels and counting calories too closely. Low fat, fat free, low carb, carb free were my favorite categories. Though I was a size four/six, the Slim Fast Plan became my new best friend.

Externally, I was upbeat and smiled, but inside I wondered why I had started to be afraid to cross busy streets, and why I trembled during class and why when I looked at a line in one of the textbooks all of the words looked the same. Most people had made positive comments about my weight loss, but I’d already decided I was not yet thin enough. So I joined a gym and survived on coffee, bananas, and diet cereal.

The gym became my refuge where I worked out two or three times a day, and when I felt lightheaded I sat on the toilet in the bathroom until I stopped feeling like I was going to black out. I rarely went to class, but when I did, the bathrooms at school called to me. The quiet in between the stalls was one of the few places I felt safe.

I didn’t yet know eating disorders were a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I didn’t even know what PTSD was.

The crash came. My bed was a close second to the gym as my favorite place to be. Everyone thought I’d gotten too thin. I couldn’t balance a full time school schedule, appointments with doctors, lawyers, prosthetists on top of learning how to walk all over again. People began to tell me I was too thin, encircling my emaciated wrists with their fingers to prove I was not eating enough. There were too many questions, and I didn’t have all of the answers.

Withdrawing from school, in my eyes, was the only option. Since I no longer was a student and did not live in the dorms, I sought the guidance of my mentor who had a friend who owned a bar with a boarding house on top of it. The next chapter of my life started in a room the size of a closet. The quiet comforted and frightened me at the same time. I knew it was time to listen to what it was my body needed.

At times, it felt like my world was crumbling, but I knew I would not have made it that far had I not had hope. I found a therapist who specialized in PTSD and eating disorders. She told me I could be sad, mad even, and that I wasn’t crazy. I just needed to take the time to heal.

Yoga became a life saver. I stumbled across the first class I ever took in the East Village. Interestingly enough, I was not nervous. It was as if my body knew being on a yoga mat was where it belonged. At the end of class after the deep relaxation the teacher said, “namaste” and I burst into tears. I knew then yoga and other mindfulness based modalities would be a part of my life forever.

People often want to know about my healing process. Process is a word I prefer instead of overcoming because I don’t want to overcome anything. I want to learn how to be. My amputated leg isn’t going to grow back anytime soon and to be honest, I wouldn’t want it to. I focus not on what I lack, but what still remains.

Life continues to be challenging. My residual limb swells when it’s hot outside and shrinks on a cooler day making it difficult to walk a lot of the time. Phantom limb sensation and spasms are constants. I get tired more easily than before and bed time rarely is past 9:30 pm.

A little over a decade has passed since the accident happened. Sometimes it feels like it was twenty years ago, and there are days where I am shocked it wasn’t just yesterday. I have some regrets, but being hit isn’t one of them. No matter what day it is, I take the time to connect. In the morning, I lie on my back and breathe. Sometimes I cry. A lot of the time I smile. Laughter happens often. There is no shame. Just one incredible journey.

* * *

mwestleyMargaret Westley is a writer, fundraiser, certified integrative nutritionist, and yoga teacher. Each of these professions were inspired by a near death accident she had when she was eighteen years old and got run over by a bus, which resulted in a broken right ankle and losing her left leg below the knee. Though the recovery was tough, Margaret has always seen the accident has a huge gift! Over the years, she’s been a face-to-face fundraiser, worked in a café, been an office assistant, a healthcare attendant, meditation/yoga teacher, and is currently building a fundraising business and writing a memoir. Everyday, something or someone reminds her about how amazing life is and, for that, she is eternally grateful.

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful: Why I’m Camped Out On A Rooftop Yoga Mat

Right now I’m sitting on a yoga mat on the rooftop of 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. Just below me is a giant red wall painted with the words “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL,” and there are two ten-foot tall inflatable dancing man balloons blowing in the wind beside me. There are men and women walking by on the sidewalk below, a beautiful community garden across the street. The ocean is just visible in the distance. This is #OccupyYouAreBeautiful.

Between today and Wednesday, September 18, this yoga mat will be my home. I will stay here all day and all night — I will eat here, sleep here, and I will be joined by yoga teachers, musicians, speakers, and other members of the community.

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful is a public demonstration of solidarity with people who struggle with food and body image issues on all ends of the spectrum. Together, we are taking a stand – for life, for happiness, and for the right for all people to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

The statistics around eating disorders in this country are discouraging. Nearly 24 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and millions of others struggle with food and body image issues at a sub-clinical level. This disease kills nearly half a million people every year – daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and spouses. That’s not okay. 32-year-olds shouldn’t be dying of starvation. 8-year-olds shouldn’t be vomiting to lose weight. This is not the kind of society I want to raise my kids in.

Over the past several years, I’ve built my life and career around helping others recover from this illness. I believe yoga can be a game-changer in the fight against eating disorders, and more importantly, I believe it can help shift the sociocultural dynamics that contribute to eating disorders to begin with. Yoga teaches critical skills for developing a healthy relationship with food and one’s body (which many of us never learn as children), and it can equip those who struggle with these issues with skills that pharmaceuticals, talk therapy, and other traditional forms of treatment simply do not provide.

That’s why I developed Yoga for Eating Disorders — to teach people who struggle with eating disorders practical tools for using yoga in their recovery. Specifically, the program teaches yoga-derived exercises for tuning into hunger and fullness signals, coping with difficult emotions, and learning to relate to the body as an ally rather than an enemy. The average cost of eating disorder treatment is $1,250 per day, and even at that rate over half of patients relapse after discharge. Eating disorders — from anorexia to binge eating — take a huge toll on our healthcare system. Yoga is a cost-effective way to teach those who struggle with these issues skills for long term recovery, potentially shortening treatment, reducing relapse, and ultimately saving lives.

On July 30th (my 24th birthday), I launched a crowd-funding campaign with the ambitious goal of raising $50K to take Yoga for Eating Disorders to treatment centers around the country at no charge, collect data for an evidence based study on its effectiveness in treatment, and offer pro-bono talks about eating disorder prevention at local schools in each city where the program is offered. We’ve raised almost $30K so far, but with only 4 days left in the campaign it’s time for something a little more drastic. It’s time to Occupy.

Inspired by my friend Will Baxter of the Don’t Let Will Die campaign, I am demonstrating my solidarity with eating disorder sufferers around the world by taking a stand. I invite you to take a stand with me – for life, for freedom, and for the belief that all people have the right to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

With less than 100 hours left in our campaign, I need your help. I will not let this campaign fail. This yoga mat saved my life once, and I’m not getting off it until other have the same opportunity.

Stand with me by donating today!

You can stand in solidarity with Chelsea and #OccupyYouAreBeautiful by making a donation, sharing this campaign with your friends and family, commenting on this page and visiting her at 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. There is no reason this has to be the only #OccupyYouAreBeautiful. Host one in your own community!

Former Intent Editor Chelsea Roff Launches Indiegogo Campaign to Research Yoga for Eating Disorders!

Setting sail from Intent Blog, former editor Chelsea Roff is now pursuing a path that takes her deep into the heart of her passion: Yoga as a tool for treating eating disorders.

Chelsea’s own background has shown her the power of yoga in transforming body image and bringing about whole-person wellness. Today she launches an Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000 in order to embark on an in-depth research project to compile the data necessary to bring this method of treatment to public awareness.

Intent: This is an amazing campaign! Can you say a bit more about your inspiration for this project?

Chelsea: Thank you! Yes, of course. As many Intent readers know, I struggled with a very severe eating disorder when I was young. Anorexia nearly took my life. Fortunately I was helped by an amazing team of medical professionals, but while treatment did help me recover physically — I still hated my body, was plagued by self-deprecating thoughts, and lacked the resources to step fully into life.

I left the hospital in despair. I wanted to live, but the eating disorder still haunted me. Relapse seemed  inevitable.

But then I found yoga. Or yoga found me.

Yoga gave me a path. It gave me a future. It introduced me to joy and freedom I never thought possible.

The statistics around eating disorders in this country are discouraging. Nearly  24 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and only one in ten ever receive treatment. This disease kills nearly half a million people every year — daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and spouses. That’s not okay. This disease is NOT incurable!

My inspiration for this project is a desire to share the incredible gift that was given to me during my time of need. Eating disorders destroy lives, hurt families and crush spirits. But they don’t have to. There is a way out, and yoga can be an incredible tool in paving the path to healing.

Intent: How has your own history driven your advocacy work around eating disorders?

Chelsea: I think having experienced first hand how agonizing this disease is — and how AMAZING life is on the other side — I just can’t help but want to give it back.

Eating disorders are terrible. Having anorexia is like having a demon inside you that controls your thoughts, manipulates your emotions, and isolates you from everyone and everything you ever loved or cared about. Many people think eating disorders are driven by a wish to be skinny or get attention — I assure you that is not the case. Eating disorders are biological illnesses, triggered by a combination of genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors. No one chooses this illness.

I think my history gives me a combination of empathy for those suffering and hope for their future. I know there’s a way out of this illness, and I hope I can offer a few tools to help others get their lives back from this disease as well.

Intent: After experiencing yoga as such a powerful tool for recovery, are you eager to share this method of treatment to others suffering from eating disorders?

Chelsea: Absolutely!

Over the past several years, I’ve put a lot of thought into which elements of the yoga practice were helpful in my recovery and which weren’t so much (I think some aspects of yoga culture can actually exacerbate an eating disorder). I’ve developed a program called Yoga for Eating Disorders™ that teaches patients practical tools for learning how to tune into hunger and fullness signals, cope with difficult emotions, and relate to their body as an ally rather than an enemy. Without those skills, it’s nearly impossible to be successful in recovery.

Intent: That’s amazing! How can others get involved?

Chelsea: Please support our campaign! Here are a few ways people can help:

1. Donate to the campaign – today! Every little bit counts – even $5! If you’re going to contribute, please don’t wait! We’re trying to reach our first 15K in the first week.  If people see the campaign is successful, they’ll donate too.

2. Like,  Comment on, or Share our IndieGoGo page.

3. Tell a yoga studio in your city about the campaign. For the first 12 studios that make a tax-deductible $5,000 donation, I’ll teach my 3-day Yoga, Food, & Body Image Intensive at no cost to the studio. The program is priced at $300 per participant, so 17 registrations will earn all the money back, and 30 registrations will generate $9,000 in revenue.

What If Barbie Reflected an Average 19-Year-Old’s Body?

829420150_1371948989If Barbie were a real woman, she would have half a liver, a head too heavy for her neck to hold up, and feet so tiny she’d have to move on all fours. The iconic Mattel doll’s proportions are so wildly unrealistic yet pervasively admired that it’s no wonder women around the world are plagued with a sense of inadequacy.

Well move aside, Barbie, because there’s a new doll in town! Artist Nickolay Lamm has created a 3-D model of what Barbie would look like if she were based on the proportions of an average 19-year-old American girl (as reported by the CDC.) Granted, the average 19-year-old will have a youthful body, a fast metabolism, and may not yet have had children – so her body is still going to look a lot different than the average adult woman’s. But with eating disorders and body image issues so prevalent during teenage years, it’s imperative to have representations of beauty that model something closer to real life.

In an interview with Huffington Post, Lamm said, “If we criticize skinny models, we should at least be open to the possibility that Barbie may negatively influence young girls as well. Furthermore, a realistically proportioned Barbie actually looks pretty good.”

Drum-roll, please! Here is Barbie as a beautiful young woman, who would have a head raised high, a full set of organs, and two sturdy feet to carry her to college, work, or wherever her heart wishes!

Barbie 3

Barbie 4

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Barbie 1

What do you think of this re-imagining of the Barbie doll? Is it still too far from what the average woman’s body really looks like? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Redefining Beauty and Brains as a Middle-Aged Hippie

WBeverley-online-Ghen I was much younger people saw me as being so beautiful or so smart. Some who knew me very well, actually saw both. I strove at all costs to have my intellect be recognized as my principle asset and, heaven forbid, someone would relate to me as ‘just another pretty face.”

To some degree that worked. I left high school early and went to play with a large group of boys at university, who were all eager to make their mark in the big bad world of business, as was I. At graduation, I was awarded the gold medal as the outstanding graduate from a class of 400 business students. Not bad considering only ten of us were women. Times have definitely changed.

Now that I’m older, I’d like to think that I’m still smart. My mother at least confirms this for me by telling me “You’re too smart for your own good.” Although I’ve never quite figured out what that means, I am going to take it as a compliment. The beauty issue is quite another story. Actually, it is in fact intertwined with many, many of my life stories, which are chronicled in my upcoming memoir Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie, to be published this summer.

Up until a week ago, the picture that lives of me in cyberspace, (although only two-and-a-half-years old), apparently looks to some people like I am a lot younger than I am. One man told me I look like a single woman still in the dating scene who is in her late 20s or early 30s. Yikes! I immediately booked a photo session, as I wanted a fresh new authentic author photo that represents who I am today. Having always photographed well, I’m grateful that most of the time, I do look good in pictures. However, I admit that like many aging women, I questioned how real would be real enough to accurately represent me now. Tough question indeed.

My life, as I write about in my book, has been a journey to shift paradigms and show what is truly possible. Pretty much in most areas of my life. I know that through the magic of Photoshop or air brushing, it is quite easy to appear flawless and young. Does what I represent in my stories and how I live my life mean my author photo needs to be au naturel and show that I truly walk my talk?

As a highly visual person, (with a very strong Venus influence in my astrological chart) I openly confess that I love beauty. Youthful, innocent, flawless beauty. Beauty of course is a very subjective topic, yet for me, I sometimes wonder if having been young and beautiful might have been totally wasted on me back when I was. People still tell me I am beautiful. Somehow I hear the subtext “for your age” in the statement, even though it isn’t spoken. I understand that this might seem to be shallow and I confess it might be.

As a wise cousin once said to me “When you grow up as the pretty one, you learn to walk through the world differently than those of us (meaning her) who aren’t as pretty.” I guess that’s true, however, I can’t know her experience, as I haven’t walked in her shoes. Although technically I did, as I had to borrow her shoes to get married in, because my four-inch platform heals were vetoed before the wedding ceremony. Full story in the book.

Not only do I love beauty, but I find thin plus beautiful even more attractive. Coming from a family who are generally plump or zaftig, I figured out a clever (remember I’m smart) way to get thin, by creating a very mysterious gastrointestinal illness that led to me malabsorbing mostly everything I ate (sometimes up to 4000 calories a day), resulting in me becoming painfully thin. I write about all this in my book, exposing myself in a very raw and vulnerable way, in hopes that it might be of some help to others. I even include a picture of me at 89 pounds looking like a walking skeleton, when my health was so bad that people didn’t think I would make it. But I did. In my case, pictures have always been worth way more than the proverbial thousand words.

Having spent almost an entire decade at an abnormally and unhealthy low weight, I have no idea what I would have aged like, as I moved into middle-age. My fall was so dramatic, that I had truly all but lost hope of ever looking “pretty” again or even getting above 95 pounds. I did emerge after a very long and arduous climb back. Maybe that is partly why this issue is so emotionally charged for me.

Even after all I’ve been through in my life, when the photographer asked if I was nervous about the shoot, I had to admit that the idea of having a new picture taken still surprisingly excites me. After all, I’ve had men become totally enamored with me (before even meeting me) just from my picture, intrigued by my eyes and smile and hopefully, the way I express myself. These might not be the “smart” men that are still out there.

So this middle-aged hippie took the plunge and had a photo shoot done. I’m ecstatic to report that it turned out wonderfully. We left most of the lines in my lower face and around my eyes, but not all of them. Some of the pictures are still pretty scary to me, however, and I won’t make those public. Many are exceptional. When I posted one of these new pictures on Facebook, the comments were incredible. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Radiant. Captured your shining inner spirit. One person asked how long ago the picture had been taken? Three days ago. They thought it was from when I was much younger. Hmm.

I’m still working on accepting the beauty I’ve grown into at this current age. I understand that, especially in North America, we have set warped and unattainable standards because of our obsession with youthful beauty. Times are changing. They have to, if we want to encourage young women to love and accept themselves as they are, so they are equipped to reach their full potential. It is imperative to foster their self-esteem, so they don’t diminish themselves by attempting to be something that is unrealistic and unobtainable for most.

I’d like to be someone who sets an example of what is possible relating to aging. It felt wonderful when a young thirty-year-old friend commented that when she clicked on my new picture online, she was delighted to see I wasn’t trying to look like a 40 or 50-something line-free, flawlessly Photoshopped woman. That I look beautiful and still represent my older age. A great affirmation for me.

Beauty is still an incredibly sensitive subject for me. I know that true beauty does come from inside. It radiates out from the soul. Hopefully my life experiences are shining through and I can continue to contribute to this ongoing conversation about aging gracefully, especially in a time when women feel compelled to have all kinds of “work” done to their faces in an effort to look young. Much of the time, ending up not even looking like who they are, but some fake virtually unrecognizable version of themselves. Each to their own. My vote goes to real and authentic.

All any of us truly wants is to be seen. So with Mother’s Day approaching, I encourage us all to shift the way we look and “see” the true beauty in everyone — regardless of age.

Love to hear your thoughts on women, aging and beauty.

Visit me at: www.beverleygolden.com   or follow me on Twitter: @goldenbeverley

Down with Fat-Shaming: 8 of the Worst Ads for Self-Esteem (Slideshow)

The tragic statistics about body image and eating disorders apparently haven’t been drilled into our brains enough for us to definitively take a stand against fat-shaming. With Dove‘s recent beauty campaign, Israel’s recent ban on underweight models, and endless discourse on bodies, plastic surgery, and celebrity diets, it is troubling but certainly eye-opening to see the kind of body-negative messaging that fills our public sphere.

Here are 5 of the most offensive fat-shaming ads out there. In posting these, our intent is not to perpetuate these messages but rather to inspire the kind of fire that will ultimately lead us to say NO once and for all to these ads and everything they stand for.

What kind of ads would you like to see promoting health and body-positivity? Tell us your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!

“Dove” Parody: Men Think They’re Better Looking Than They Really Are

There has been an outpouring of supportive messages surrounding Dove’s recent body-positivity ad. When it comes to body image and beauty, our community readily comes together to band behind women and promote self-love. Men, on the other hand, often get left out of these discussions, though they are by no means free of self-esteem issues and body dysmorphia.

Perhaps to ironically point out a lack of men in Dove’s messaging, or perhaps just as a lighthearted jab at men, New Feelings Time released a parody to the original ad. In this video it’s clear that there’s a whole other issue, which has been overlooked: Men apparently think they’re better looking than they are! Oh, the irony of self-esteem. Can you have too much of it?Take a look and tell us what you think:

Teaching Our Children About Body Image (And don’t forget the boys!)

By Dani Klein Modisett

How timely that “body image,” is the topic for “Perfectly Imperfect Parents” on The Chopra Well this week because a new story of mine, “ The White Food Disorder,” is part of a book launching next week called THE CASSOULET SAVED OUR MARRIAGE: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat.

In it I reveal how happy I was when I found out I was having a boy during each of my pregnancies. Not because I don’t love little girls, I do, although the Princess thing scares me, but because what frightened me more was passing down my body obsession and eating disordered history to daughters who might have sprung from my loins. Wait, men have the loins; I have a womb – that, in fact, my children lived in for nine plus months during which I spent not an insignificant amount of time wondering A) if I was gaining too much weight, B) if I would ever have arms again that weren’t the circumference of small dogs, and C) if eating two boxes of Pepperidge Farm anything was too much after a half pound hamburger.

I’m no Freud, but I was pretty sure that exposing a fetus to these thoughts did not bode well for the future of a little girl. With boys I thought I’d be safe. Boys eat and run and eat some more. Boys don’t ask if they look fat in their jeans, right? But long before Dr. Cara straightened me out on the misconception that boys don’t have body image issues, I was faced with a different truth in our house. The aforementioned “White Food Disorder.“

Although it has nothing to do with their body image yet, my sons’ fear of eating any food that isn’t white is disturbing and was an initial wake up call that food and body image issues are not gender specific. I won’t go in to further detail here about the White Food Disorder, (but feel free to pre-order the book by clicking on the link) suffice it to say, the only green items the boys ate until last year were holiday M&M’s. But we’ve made headway now with Spanikopita and blueberries. Parenting is nothing if not a series of small victories.

Regarding this episode on body image, I am surprisingly a woman of few words this week. It’s unexpected because with a former model for a mother, I eat body image issues for breakfast. And I have been for almost 25 years. My mother was on a diet my entire life, and she tortured me and my older sister about our bodies. Somewhere around 1976, my mother put my sister on a liquid protein diet until her hair fell out. According to my mother at the time, she looked “terrific.” Fat phobia ruled our household.

It didn’t help that when I left my parents’ home I became an actress. Everything you’ve heard about the lifestyle of actresses is true. During my first few years in LA, when I ate (which was rare), I inhaled steamed vegetables, popcorn or frozen yogurt (the 8 calorie per ounce kind). I weighed myself multiple times a day. No matter how small the number on the scale was, or the pant size, or the belt holes, I knew if I were only more disciplined it could be smaller. A friend couldn’t help but notice I had a problem and suggested I get help. Which I did.

Playing with lightI wish I could tell you I have completely outgrown this preoccupation, but why lie? I still have concerns about my body size some days, but I think they fall more in the range of normal now. Although I still can’t be alone with popcorn. Fortunately, my size no longer determines my employment. As I age, I find I am much more concerned, and grateful for, the strength and health of my body. Because the humble truth about my thicker-than-I’d-like torso is that it housed my children, and despite the fall out from that, my body also brings me a lot of joy. Not the same high as being a size 2 after being told “You have such a pretty face,” for much of my adolescence, but it’s a very cool body nevertheless.

Which must be why my big “tip,” at the end of my reserved contribution to this show is “There is hope!” While my highly educated and thoughtful co-hosts give you very important facts and statistics and suggestions, I think my mind was engaged in it’s own flashback to my early life imprisoned by a terrible, sometimes paralyzing negative body image and how that is not the case today. Today I can work on a set with the very lithe Dr. Cara and still come out of my dressing room. I don’t think I could have done that in my 20’s. I would have expended so much energy comparing my body to hers and “feeling fat,” that I would have been too distracted to work. But, alas, there I am in my chair, talking and nodding my head. It’s not that I don’t notice that Cara has zero percent body fat, it’s just that it doesn’t matter. She’s her and I’m me and it’s all good.

This seems to be the key to raising a child with a healthy body image. To help them eat well, get exercise (an hour EVERY DAY, according to Dr. Cara!) and once that is in the works, teaching them acceptance. Dark, fair, tall, short neck, long arms, small hands, big feet, whatever it is, this is the body you have been given. If you take care of it, it will allow you to dance and laugh and have sex (when you’re older and not in my house, dear).

Some days it will be bigger and some days it will be smaller, but enjoy it because in the truest definition of the word, your body is awesome.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss next week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”!

photo by: hugrakka

Males with Eating Disorders? It’s Worse Than You Think

url-1 You’ve seen the telltale signs of anorexia: the emaciated frame, the hollow eyes, the social withdrawal. You’ve seen more pictures of skeletal celebrities and supermodels than you can count. You may even have friends or relatives whom you’ve watched spiral into self-starvation or bingeing and purging as you looked on helplessly. In fact, considering that some eight million Americans suffer from eating disorders, it’s hard to find anyone in this country who hasn’t witnessed or been a victim of one of these devastating illnesses.

Too often, however, we assume that eating disorders are a female problem, largely the domain of insecure adolescent girls and aspiring starlets. Our society has become so focused on protecting this vulnerable demographic from anorexia, bulimia, and other unhealthy relationships with food that we often fail to notice a phenomenon that’s happening right before our eyes: boys across the United States—as many as 25 percent of all people with eating disorders, according to some estimates—are falling prey to these very same diseases. If you or someone you love is part of this group, learn how to begin the healing process.

Recognizing a Silent Killer
Until the turn of the millennium, the general consensus within the medical community was that only 10 percent of disordered eaters were male, although researchers did concede that males were more reluctant than females were to report their abnormal behavior to a mental-health professional. However, a 2007 Harvard study found that this statistic might be misrepresenting the extent of the problem: of three thousand adults surveyed, a full 25 percent of the respondents with eating disorders and 40 percent of binge eaters were male.

Within the male population, specific groups are at greater risk of developing eating disorders than others—namely, athletes (especially those expected to display their bodies prominently as part of their sport, such as bodybuilders, wrestlers, swimmers, and skaters); men who make regular public appearances (models, actors, musicians, and so on); homosexuals; men who were teased as children for being overweight; men who endure extreme parental pressure; and men attempting to avoid weight- and nutrition-related medical conditions to which they are genetically predisposed.

The roots of boys’ eating disorders are wide-ranging; some are similar to the possible reasons girls become anorexic or bulimic (such as depression, control issues, and emerging sexuality), but the primary cause is male-specific: while girls are inundated with media images of the waiflike bodies of female “role models,” archetypes of which include Kate Moss and Nicole Richie, and put undue pressure on themselves to look like those women, boys are receiving their own set of societal signals about what constitutes an “ideal” male body—and those criteria are becoming harder and harder for the average guy to meet.

To prove this point, a Good Housekeeping article about boys and eating disorders describes a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor named Harrison Pope lining up three G.I. Joe action figures side by side—one from the mid-1960s, one from the mid-1970s, and one from 1992. With each successive iteration of the figure, G.I. Joe’s muscles have become more defined, to the point that the most recent version has six-pack abs and no visible body fat. Dr. Pope, who coauthored a book entitled The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession, believes that these updates to the figure’s physique reflect a marked shift in the dominant public perception of masculine physical attractiveness. As these largely unattainable standards become more and more mainstream, is it any wonder that an increasing number of males, particularly teenage boys, are limiting themselves to five-hundred-calorie-per-day diets or losing themselves in vicious bingeing-and-purging cycles?

Reading the Warning Signs
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, a whole host of telltale signals—physical, emotional, and behavioral—can help people identify disordered eaters. These include:

Behavioral Characteristics

  • Restricted diet; excessive dieting; fasting
  • Food-related rituals; preoccupation with food
  • Compulsive exercising
  • Body dysmorphia; disgust with body size or shape
  • Difficulty eating with others; lying about consumption
  • Insomnia

Physical Characteristics

  • Low body weight (at least 15 percent below average for age, height, and activity level)
  • Lack of energy; fatigue
  • Muscular weakness
  • Thinning hair or hair loss; lanugo (downy growth of body hair)
  • Decreased balance; unsteady gait
  • Lowered body temperature, pulse, and/or blood pressure
  • Lowered testosterone levels
  • Heart arrhythmia

Emotional Characteristics

  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Depression; social isolation
  • Perfectionistic; strong need to be in control
  • Decreased sexual interest or increased sexual fear
  • Possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Difficulty expressing feelings or concentrating
  • Irritability; denial (belief that others are overreacting to low weight or restrictive eating habits)

Eating disorders are serious physical and mental afflictions that won’t simply go away on their own. The longer they’re left unchecked, the more detrimental they’ll become—and in the most extreme cases, they can even be fatal. So if you’re a male who displays some of the symptoms listed above, or if you’re a family member or friend who’s observed these red flags in someone you know, don’t delay in seeking treatment—both medical and psychological.

Getting Help
Fortunately, as societal awareness of male eating disorders grows, support groups with the express purpose of preventing these devastating illnesses are cropping up nationwide. The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (N.A.M.E.D.) is one such organization; it offers the following preventive tips for parents striving to promote healthy eating habits and positive self-image in their sons:

  • Understand that males are as susceptible to eating disorders as females are.
  • Learn to recognize the physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of an eating disorder.
  • Realize that if you approach a male about his eating disorder, he’s likely to deny that he has a problem, attempt to dismiss his dietary regimen as an attempt to be “healthy” or “fit,” and have difficulty expressing his emotions.
  • Protect your child from coaches who endorse extreme athletic regimens, such as excessive weight-control tactics or bodybuilding routines, and promote the idea of healthy eating and moderate exercise as a means of achieving optimal physical performance.
  • Be aware that traumatic events or transitions can trigger an eating disorder—for instance, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse; a sexual-identity crisis; or the death of a loved one.
  • Help males recognize that they are just as vulnerable to the same physical objectification and media manipulation that females are subjected to, and that those influences have a pronounced, and often deleterious, impact on their body image.
  • Encourage boys to be themselves; affirm their special qualities, even if those characteristics fall outside the traditional realm of “masculinity”; seek to develop open avenues of communication with boys that will make them feel emotionally supported and at liberty to express their feelings.
  • Urge males of any age to view therapy as a positive addition to their lives, not as a shameful secret.

You Aren’t What You Eat
As mounting evidence underscores that eating disorders are far from being an exclusively female issue, a growing number of adolescent boys and men have begun to openly discuss their firsthand struggles with anorexia and bulimia. Even some male celebrities have come forward: Billy Bob Thornton has confessed to being anorexic, as has Dennis Quaid (who coined the term “manorexia” to describe his condition), and Sir Elton John has admitted to bouts of bulimia. As helpful as it is for male disordered eaters to know that they’re not alone in their illness, equal weight should be given to preventing eating disorders before they arise. And by doing our part to achieve this goal through public-awareness campaigns, vigilant parenting, supportive friendship, and nonjudgmental attitudes, we just might succeed.

Originally published in 2010

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