I participated in a group discussion recently regarding perfectionism. We were given a list of types of perfectionism – physical, achievement, perceived, emotional, self-esteem, relationship, etcetera. With so much talk about wellness and balance, I think sometimes I fall into balance perfectionism. Maybe some of that comes from the notion of being able to have it all – or even having to do my wellness "perfectly".
I recently found myself leading a workshop on body image and self esteem for a large group of grade seven and eight girls. One of the tools I like to lead with is a getting-to-know-you exercise in which every participant shares their name and something that they like about themselves with the group. The only rule is that this quality cannot be appearance-based. With adults, this exercise tends to be fairly smooth – at our age most adults are able to define something they value about themselves, even if it takes a moment of soul searching.
A short and sweet blog post for you today about the post vacation bulge we all tend to battle. I recently went on a glorious trip to Paris, the French Alps, Switzerland, and London! It was a whirlwind twelve days that definitely took me out of my daily routine. When you're not at the office, always eating on the go, and not exercising regularly, it's only natural to put on a few pounds. If you google "Vacation Weight Gain" you will see that many are desperately seeking advice on how to lose weight following their trips.
I've never blogged before. The first thing I do when I'm asked to write something is to research, so I looked at others' blogs to get information and ideas. The second thing I do when preparing to write is to become overwhelmed by everyone else's work – "Wow, that's great information/insight – how can I add to that? I'm not so prolific. I can't do it right". But then a little voice, that has grown louder along my journey to recovery, says, "There's no right and wrong," everyone has his/her own experience and way of sharing it. We learn and grow by taking risks.
A few weeks back when the weather really started to warm up I went for a run outside on the city streets of Toronto. As I passed by the Eaton Centre (this is a giant mall in the downtown core, for any of you not familiar with our lovely city) I stopped in a shady spot to have a drink of water. As I tilted my head up to drink from my bottle, I saw that what I was shaded by was a giant billboard displaying the advertisement shown below.
Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, organic—everyone you talk to is extolling the virtues of eating a proper diet. Taking a step toward trading junk for more balanced, nutrient-packed meals is a good thing. But when taken to an extreme, danger ensues, often in the form of anxiety, nutrient imbalances and other health issues.
I recently spotted a greeting card that said “I’m on two diets. There is simply not enough food on one”. Within the humorous message resides a very real truth… dieting means never eating enough. No matter how many new, creative ways that diets are re-packaged and marketed, the point is always to restrict nutritional intake and energy below what the body actually needs to sustain itself. While the multi-billion dollar diet industry promises a better body, better health and indeed a better life we now know that long term weight loss is not achievable for the vast majority of people.
Earlier this month Dr. David Herzog, Director of the Harris Center for Education and Advocacy in Eating Disorders, wrote a compelling yet heartbreaking article for the Huffington Post (Herzog, 2012 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-david-herzog/anorexia_b_1424487.html) about the public perception of anorexia nervosa. This important blog highlights the stigma commonly associated with anorexia, a disease often viewed as self-inflicted and ‘acquired’; a way of seeking attention and becoming thin.
“Does this dress make me look fat?” How many times have you uttered this phrase, or one similar? This, along with the knee-jerk reaction you can have to a friend decrying her big behind – which is often commiserated with, “Your big butt? Have you seen my muffin top?” – seems second nature. This “fat talk” is damaging to how we see and feel about ourselves, and yet it can be a daily occurrence.
“Faith is closing your eyes, stepping off a ledge into darkness and trusting that either someone will be there to catch you, or you’ll learn to fly.”
The above quote, spoken from a man in end of life care due to a battle with AIDS was relayed to me at a conference in 2010 by Cindy Blackstock, a tireless advocate for First Nations human rights in Canada. So, what’s that got to do with body image, eating disorders and mental health more broadly? For me the answer seems obvious – mental health is all about hope.