In facilitating discussion with parents on children’s body image, I often introduce the “how to talk to your daughter about her body” debate. A blog of the same name instructs parents: “Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.” The message?
It’s 9:30am at a school in York Region and I’ve just finished talking to a hundred eleven year olds about developing healthy relationships with their bodies. First shy, then clamoring for attention, a gaggle of girls queues up to talk about what’s normal. Their weight – is it what it’s supposed to be? Are they too tall? Do they look their age? It was easy enough for me to tell them that they were perfect the way they are. But how do busy parents address the normalcy question at home?
Since morphing into a fitness fanatic quite a number of years ago, I think the most common question I get on the subject is “do you actually like working out?” When I come back with a quick “yes”, it is almost always followed by, “at what point did it start becoming fun?” I will admit that it wasn’t at first, and I almost always had to find some way of convincing or rewarding myself to get my butt up and moving.
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.
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.
When someone dies as a result of bullying, as in the cases of Reetah Parsons, Amanda Todd and Jamie Hubley, there is an appropriate outcry in the media. At the same time, in the same media, there are many stories of how Kate Middleton hasn’t lost her ‘baby bump’ two minutes after giving birth; that Jennifer Lawrence has ‘cellulite’, and so on. It’s rare for us to see the connection between the frequent body-shaming in the media with the more overt bullying that happens in the schoolyard, social media and in the workplace.
When you’re younger, you’re told you should follow your dreams. I always took that to heart and believe that if I had the power to do anything, than why not spend my time doing something that I love? Part of following your dreams means taking risks, and when I was a kid I was teased and I had practically zero self-confidence. Additionally, I was also slightly overweight at the time, which caused me to analyze and pick apart everything about how I looked. So even when opportunities came my way, I was too self conscious to even think about going for it.
“Chocolate!!” exclaims my 6 year old nephew Jesse as my sister and I are discussing the preferred flavour of cake for our annual Turkey Tea party. “I want chocolate turkey cake with brown icing!” Ok. Ever since he was a baby we have been having tea parties for special occasions and holidays, keeping celebrations short to match his uh, time-challenged, attention span. Thanksgiving always includes a cake decorated as a turkey from the local grocery store.