Body image is something that we truly dread dealing with at one point or another in our lives. We call ourselves fat, we point out our flaws and sometimes look for validation from others that we are in fact “beautiful”. When I saw the Real Beauty campaign by Dove, it made me stop and truly think, if we all just focused on things that we liked about ourselves each day that could make a difference in how we view ourselves. One thing could lead to two or three or four and then maybe those flaws that we saw before won’t be so noticeable anymore.
It is my sincere hope that everyone spent the last holiday ensconced in a cozy cocoon of familial adoration and delicious, well-savored meals. If, however, you found yourself trapped in your childhood bedroom, shoving fistfuls of mashed potatoes into your mouth just to make the crying stop, then friend, come sit by me.
Growing up as a first generation immigrant is complex. Your parents are adults who are relearning things they learned in childhood while simultaneously trying to keep you alive and teach you life lessons. On TV you see these perfect, straw-haired, pale-skinned kids, speaking English and eating mashed potatoes for dinner and you look down at your plate of rice and squid, while your mom is yelling at you in your mother tongue and you wonder why your life is so different.
Almost a year has passed since I delivered my talk to NEDIC on the link between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and eating disorders. In that time more research has come out to support this surprising overlap between these seemingly distinct disorders. In August 2013, Simon Baron-Cohen and his team at the Autism Research Centre published a study that examined the cognitive profile of 66 teenage women with anorexia. Compared to their peers, women with anorexia had elevated autistic traits, reduced empathy and high levels of systemizing thinking.
As a personal trainer I spend a minimum of 30 hours in a gym every week. People of all different fitness levels, abilities, and body types surround me. Unfortunately, my industry is one that is often driven by a certain set of stereotypes around what fitness is. Magazines, posters, and commercials of fitness models drive a message that being fit and having a very certain look go hand in hand.
Take a picture.
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Write a caption.
At times when I was very ill, I made every effort to avoid food. It was normal to throw it out or lie to my friends and family about having eaten, However this was against my personal values. I would have never imagined that I would throw food out when there were people in the world who couldn’t find food to eat. I never thought I would lie to my loved ones! Yet, here I was, doing these things. Why? What was happening to me?
When you flip through the fashion magazines, you won’t find my body anywhere. When you watch TV, you might see me as a background character, meant to offer inspiration to the show’s main hero. I am the woman with a visible physical disability. You probably see my wheelchair, my cane, and my guide dog. Or you may notice my scars, my speech impediment, and my caregivers…yet, in many ways, I am invisible.
Does anyone else remember learning the “golden rule” in elementary school? It was in my second grade classroom written in yellow cursive, on royal purple card stock. “Do onto others as you would have others do onto you”. Yes, this is an extremely valuable lesson to teach young kids because the human nature of adolescents is more concerned in doing things that benefit themselves over classmates, siblings and parents.
People are usually their own worst critic. This is because we live in a culture that breeds constant competition by encouraging people from a young age to be “the best.” This often leads to our self-worth being determined by how we rank in social comparisons. We compare everything from education, grades, jobs, incomes, partners, houses, families, clothing, popularity levels, to appearances.