Monthly Archives: April 2014

why i’m ditching the diets for good

Magazine covers are littered with phrases to entice the masses. They promise a “10 Day No Fail Diet!” and offer ways to lose the flab and get bikini body ready. They play on our insecurities– or if you didn’t have insecurities before, you probably will after flipping through the pages of these magazines. The advertisers are banking on your low self esteem. Diets are notorious for failing so we have to come back, repeatedly, looking for solace in the glossed pages. The average woman will go on 16 diets in her adult life and she will lose, on average, 5 pounds. After years of torture, I am ditching the diets for good.

When I was anorexic, I spent an alarming amount of time researching the best way to restrict my calories to a dangerous degree. I was a frequent poster at popular “pro- ana” (pro- anorexic, if you will) forums, where we exchanged restriction tips and comforted each other during emotional times. I thought about food ALL. THE. TIME. When you subsist on strawberries, pickles, rice cakes, beef broth, green beans and little else, it is hard not to think of anything else. On top of my extreme restriction, I was also exercising vigorously 6 days a week; running on fumes. I didn’t care that I experienced dizzy spells or frequently fell down when I stood too fast. My health was the furthest thing on my radar. The only thing on my mind was reduction and I would do anything to hit my next goal. Of course, the goals were never enough. Once they had been reached, I evaluated my body in the mirror and deemed it unworthy. 5 more pounds down would be my next goal. This pattern repeated itself. There were times that I would obsessively weigh myself a dozen times in a row to make sure I got the most accurate number. I would move the scale around the bathroom floor each time, compulsively, in case there was a slight divet in the floor that would effect the accurary of the scale. Calorie counts were constantly going on in my head. If I eat this, then that. If I eat that, then this. I was so hungry all the time that I would try to sleep to escape the madness but even then I couldn’t escape it. I would dream of it.

Then one day I threw my scale off the balcony. Literally. I was shaking, in tears because I had just had enough. It was eating me alive and I felt like I was dying. After a brief inpatient stint and some counseling sessions, I was on my way to getting my life back. Fast forward to today. All the same messages are out there, telling me I’m not good enough as I am. But this time, I am not buying it. Dieting makes me feel miserable. For me, dieting is also a slippery slope because it can be triggering. I eat when I am hungry and when I want dessert, I have some. I exercise lightly 3 times a week and if I miss a day, I don’t freak out. I don’t subscribe to the idea that my self worth is tied into my dress size. That took a long time. I am worth so much more than that and I have so much more to offer. I don’t feel ashamed of my body anymore; instead, I am amazed. I am amazed that I could put my body through so much hell and it remained so resilient. I am amazed that this body carried 2 babies who are now healthy children today. All of the torture and hate I have put on my body and it still just keeps on moving forward.

I have never felt more free since I gave up the notion that I needed to be constantly working to achieve some sort of “results” regarding my body. This– my body– this, is the result of self acceptance and self love. And to be honest, I think I look pretty damn good. 

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internalized sexism

Sexism is sometimes so subtle you may not even notice it is there. But it is there, ever so subtly. Subtle, the way a group of friends gesture towards a teenage girl walking by, whispering amongst each other, ridiculing the way her “dress is too tight and skanky- looking.” Subtle, the way your eyes sweep over a woman you walk by on the street as you pass judgment on her “stripper heels” and the way her cleavage is overflowing; you dismiss her. It is in the way women who lunch together enjoy a dessert and then afterwards, speak of regret, guilt and talk of going on a diet pronto. It is in the way a middle school aged child says, knowingly, “Girls just aren’t good at math.” It is in the way you read school dress code policy which should be titled ‘Dress Code Policy for Girls’ because the rules only apply to them. There is no male equivalent.

So why is this sexism internalized? When we are constantly bombarded with messages in the media and in our culture about sexist stereotypes, whether we would like to admit it or not, they subconsciously have an effect on us. We take the messages we hear and we start to believe them. And then we pass them down to future generations. We live in a patriarchy; in a society that blatantly values a man’s opinion and perspective over a woman’s so what is a woman to do? In many cases, we resort to sexism (that is, against women) to feel empowered and validated in this “man’s world”.  

People have a tendency to laugh these things off. ‘It’s not a big deal!’ or worse, ‘Get over it.’ But working to combat sexism in any form should be recognized as intrinsically important. Women are made to feel as though they are less of a person. We are told our sense of self-worth comes from how we look (just  look at women’s magazines and advertisements aimed at women!) and little else. I think the first step to take towards improvement is to stop the consumption of harmful media. Anything that makes you feel bad about yourself or makes you feel like you need to improve something about yourself, physically speaking, isn’t worth the damage it will cause. When you feel yourself casting judgment on a woman or “slut-shaming” (the term used to describe making a woman feel guilty for her sexual behavior or her clothing choices), put a pause on those feelings. Where are they coming from? Be conscious of those feelings and try to replace them with something positive. Instead of rolling your eyes at her ridiculously short skirt, maybe you could think she was incredibly brave for wearing it. Maybe you could admit to yourself that she looks great in it. We only have ourselves to stick up for each other. We are sisters and let us all come together and recognize this.

 


anorexia is not a fad diet

“She was like, totally, anorexic,” my coworker stated, gesturing towards my other coworker. The coworker in question nodded her head enthusiastically, as if it were some great accolade– to be referred to as formerly anorexic. I stared at her, wide eyed. I couldn’t tell if she was being serious or if they, like so many other people I came across, were throwing the term around loosely. “I dieted constantly and I was so skinny. I fit into the best jeans. Now I’ve gotten all flabby. I need to get anorexic again.” Oh. It dawned on me that anorexic in her mind was just code word for restrictive dieting. It was painful to hear these things, having, by literal definiton, recovered from anorexia.

To me, anorexia was never just a diet or a lifestyle. It completely encompassed everything I was. It became me. It was not about being flabby or fitting into jeans. It was… But it wasn’t. My whole world was completely out of control because of some severe emotional and self esteem issues that I suffered with for years. Anorexia was, for me, my way to stabilize my world. To finally gain control over something in my life. It is a dangerous mental illness, NOT a diet. There are so many misconceptions about the disorder because it is often reduced to these common myths. People with anorexia are often told to “snap out of it”, “just eat something”– as I was often told. To this day, I cannot weigh myself, even though I consider myself “recovered”. When I go to the doctor, my blood pressure registers high every single time because I have just gone through high anxiety dealing with nurses who want to weigh me when what I have come for has nothing to do with my weight. “I don’t want to be weighed,” I tell them. They insist. “I need to be weighed backwards. I cannot see this weight. I haven’t weighed myself in x years. It is imperative that this information is not released to me.” Recently, I went through my routine of telling a nurse the history and she weighed me backwards, wrote my weight on a piece of paper, but then left the paper in the room with me after she took my blood pressure and other vitals. I sat there on the exam table, staring at it– my insides,raging with anger, my face, hot with tears. I felt like my entire being had not been taking seriously. I spiraled into a depression- like state for weeks following that incident. It is easy to brush off the general public being misinformed. But medical professionals?

Think twice before throwing around the term “anorexia” to describe a diet fad or even the way someone looks. You don’t know their personal struggles. And please, for the love of god, don’t tell anyone they need to eat a sandwich (or not). You are not the food police.    


finding feminism

For pretty much my entire adult life heretofore, I have struggled with self esteem issues that have led me into depression after depression, bulimia, anorexia, anxiety– the list goes on and on. It affected my relationships with people and got in the way of my professional life as well. It completely enveloped me.

I am a newbie to feminism, I will admit, but finding feminism has been the “life raft” in the ocean full of sexism, objectification, and misogyny. Since puberty, I have been inundated with messages from the media and people in my life that I am only as good as I look. Now, at age 26, it brings tears to my eyes to think of just how wrong I was and how many other young girls and women are as well. When it finally clicked– really clicked– I was finally set free from the confines of the beauty standard and was able to learn the power of accepting myself.

I wanted to start this blog to discuss not only the beauty standard, self image, etc but to also touch on the issues we face as women and intersectionally,like reproductive rights, homophobia, the wage gap and equal opportunities for advancement in the workplace.

I am new to this journey but would like to document every bit of it as I go along. Here is my story…