Monthly Archives: July 2016

Thunder Thighs and Other “Problem Areas”

*PHOTO CREDITS TO MODELS FLUVIA LACERA AND TARA LYNN
Summer style guideMany years ago, when my cousin had her first baby, her husband, as he held this gorgeous nine month old baby, squeezed on of her plump little thighs and said, “I can already see that this is going to be a problem area for her, we’re going to have to watch that…” (don’t worry,  my cousin divorced him). 

Problem area. I asked him what he meant by “problem area,” he said, “her thighs are fat, and they’re going to be a sticking point for her…” All the women in my family have thighs that are thick, strong, and sturdy. Including his wife. And he said it was a problem. SHE WAS AN INFANT!!!!! I have been thinking about this moment 15 years ago for days now. Because I know how these eating disorders get started. A baby girl is born perfect and her dad, her mom, society, a boyfriend, a teacher, whomever, says she has a “problem spot.” And then, she sees what she was born with, what is naturally in her DNA as a problem. And she diets. She starves, she gets sick, she binges, maybe she purges, takes laxatives, maybe she runs miles and miles and miles and miles and miles to make that “problem” go away. And she blames herself when it doesn’t. She blames herself for having no willpower, she blames herself for not exercising enough, for eating too many carbs, for the birthday cake she ate at her best friend’s birthday party. 

 

Like most every woman in my family, I was born with “problem” thighs. I knew they were a problem because my mother had the same thighs and she did everything under the sun to make them go away. Her mother also believed that she had the same problem. I know that because after my mother died, I found this book upon her stacks of books. It was published in 1952, when my mother was 4 years old and my grandmother was about 30.  This deceptive book was created to make women believe that the size of their thighs was their fault. IMG_3051

 

Here, let me cite the first sentence of the intro for you: “The woman with shapely legs and attractive curves is more likely to get ahead socially, in business and in love. Heavy legs, regardless of other attractions are a handicap that is hard to overcome….”   So here we begin, if you have thin thighs, you will get ahead in life but with thicker thighs,  your life will (and should) suck. If you have body image issues, don’t blame yourself this myth has been perpetuated by misogynists for years.  Now, let me continue with this brilliant piece of literary master… “Hollywood legs, for which some of the screen stars are famous, attract a large audience. Many movie actresses take systematic exercises to develop shapely limbs because they realize that the beauty of their legs may make the difference between success and failure…”  If you have thin thighs you can become famous! And most movie stars make sure to exercise their legs because genetically, this does not come naturally– you are responsible for the DNA you were born with. images

Here’s an interview with Marilyn Monroe where she says “I never really gave much thought to my body, I just tried to make sure I was eating enough… I never bothered with exercise, but now I exercise for about 10 minutes each morning…” Genetics. Marilyn had no hours at the gym trying to tame her body into submission– it just was what it was. Now, let me continue with our fine piece of literature… “We may also mention tennis legs, meaning that shapely limbs of the women who compete at Forest Hills every year for the championship of the United States. Many of these contestants have become famous for the beauty of their legs…”  Finally- a statement I can get behind– with our very own 2016 Wimbledon Champ. Though, somehow I have a feeling that the author of this book was not picturing our gorgeous Serena Williams when he wrote those words. bikini-babes-blunders-serena-williams

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, here is a real gem- the intro of the book, where the author describes in a factual way how we should view women with heavy legs…  “Women with heavy legs are not to be admired… In the minds of many men, such limbs are associated with the peasant type and are commonly called ‘piano legs.’ The woman with heavy, clumsy legs makes little impression on the opposite sex. One need only mention the popularity of certain movie stars who are famous for their beautiful legs. In fact, some of them have traveled to Europe and Korea as part of the war effort to keep up the morale of our troops… yet we see so many women with stout (heavy limbs) everywhere we go: on the street, at parties, in the theatre and in church. Some of them have beautiful faces, but their over-sized legs make them look clumsy. If they would only realize what they are losing in life, these women would gladly take the exercises described in this book for slenderizing heavy legs…”  There’s much more, but I won’t bore you with it. He then goes on to discuss his amazing credentials as a Physical Therapist and a man who appreciates thin thighs. Again, this was 1952.    

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So let’s see, what does he do here? He first tells women that it’s better to have thin thighs because if you do, you get to be virtuous and entertain troops and do something valuable with your life. He then goes on to say that he doesn’t quite understand why if it’s so easy to have thin thighs, then why do most women go around thick legged. Surely it’s their fault for being lazy and slovenly and not doing the (bizarre and unnatural exercises) described in his book, he then goes on to describe that men will not care for a woman with thick thighs. Though I’m sure our friend Sir Mix-A-Lot would disagree with Sir Henry Milchenstein (the bright box who authored this book).  So, although our society has changed a lot in the last 65 years since this stupid book was published– these messages, though not spoken out loud and with such candor still permeate the collective unconscious. But most of us cannot look this way, yet we are made to believe that not only can we, we should and it’s our responsibility to go out and make it happen. 

It seems that my Mom had her moments somewhere between the ages of 4 or 5 years old where she told Milchenstein to go screw himself as seen in these pictures… IMG_3054IMG_3053

Unfortunately, these horrific messages became strong starting with whatever possessed Milchenstein to write this piece of crapola then down  to my grandmother and to larger society and then down to my mother. She struggled and struggled and struggled with her own thighs, doing every exercise that she could to slim them down. She really felt that she had a problem — she felt that she had a problem and she told me that I too had the problem. The inherited curse.   So I tried and I tried and I tried to make them go away. I went days, weeks, months without eating. I ran 10, 20 miles at a time several days a week, I lifted weights, I stopped lifting weights, I ate no carbs or sugar ever. I ate no meat, chicken, fish, eggs, or dairy ever, I went on juice fasts, I went on master cleanser fasts, I wrapped my thighs in seaweed, I sat in saunas, I sat in steam rooms, I did leg lifts every day from the time I was 9 years old. In fact, I owned the book Thin Thighs in 30 Days as a 3rd grader. It was my bible. I did the exercises faithfully in hopes that my “problem” would go away. I was so ashamed of myself. Why couldn’t I beat this? Why couldn’t I have legs like other girls in my school? It eluded me and so I tried harder and harder and harder. I tried as hard as I could to get thin thighs. To rid myself of saddle bags and jeans that fit loose in the waist but tight in the legs. I was built like, like, like… like a woman! 

The truth of the matter is, I have never had thin thighs. Even at an anorexic weight, even when I was running marathons, even when I wasn’t menstruating. My body isn’t a problem and my thighs are not a problem. But I was taught to believe they were and I was at fault.

And most of you were probably taught to believe the same thing. How normal is the cultural discourse about “problem areas.” And if you have bought into this belief–  it’s not your fault. We all fall for it. We all believe we have “problem areas.” But a problem area is a cyst on your ovary, a tumor on your breast, a splinter under your fingernail. Yet the collectively accepted conversation is that we have “problem areas” that aren’t actual problems. Now that is a FUCKING PROBLEM! 

When I was at the most recent International Eating Disorder Conference (ICED 2016), there was a lot of discussion on body image. I sat with several body image experts and I asked them how they helped women deal with body image issues and how they helped them to change their mindset. Many of the answers I got were similar, “In someone with poor body image, you cannot change it, it’s the message of the culture they grew up in and live in. It’s too late. The only thing we can do is help them heal from their eating disorders, and help to empower the next generation of women to accept and love their bodies. Though  we cannot save those who already hate their bodies,  we can empower them to change the status quo and work to help change the cultural discourse around the tyranny of thin.”

Maybe this is true.

But I accept that answer as much as I accept the answer that once you have an eating disorder you will always have an eating disorder and that it’s unchangeable. I have seen so, so, so many women recover 100% from their eating disorders and I’ve seen them go on to lead full lives without the tyranny of diets and weight loss and purging and bingeing beckoning at them.  But  best of all,  I have seen women make the decision to let go of the thoughts that keep them there. So many of those thoughts are, “you have to be different, you are not enough.”

But I have a little truth for you– and that is: Who you are right now in this very moment is enough. You are enough. You might not think that you’re perfect. You might not think that your body is beautiful, you might think that you have “problem areas” and lots of “flaws,” and that’s okay. If you can take one moment, one second each day to think to yourself, “who I am is enough,” and maybe make that second last a little longer each day. And let yourself feel it, you might start to believe it soon.

I will never have thin thighs. I can read every book, do every exercise, go on every diet, lose my period, vomit everything I eat, and my thighs will never be thin. And I can blame it on myself, for not being enough, not doing enough for doing everything wrong. I can do that. And I have done that. I’ve done a lot of that. But I am done. That is not a life that I want for myself.

That is a life that I do not want for YOU.

That is a life that I don’t want for any woman or any young girl or boy or young man or anyone growing up right now believing that they are not enough. 

I want you to know that you are enough. I want you to know that the way you are shaped and built is not your fault and it’s NOT BAD! YOU ARE NOT A PROBLEM. You are a human. And your DNA is what created you. You are enough. And you have so much to live for and so much to do in the world that has nothing to do with the size of your thighs (or belly or arms or tush)… You are not flawed. The world is flawed. Your body did not fail you, society failed you. You did not mess up, the social norm messed up.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do? Anything at all that you just never did? What would it be like to focus on that? What would it be like if you could take your focus off your “flaws” and focus on something totally arbitrary? Like I don’t know, learning how to play the saxophone (that’s totally my next venture) or writing a children’s book, or painting with acrylics, or taking a chemistry class, or learning about black holes, or collecting rocks, or doing pottery, or learning how to salsa dance, or doing nail art or blowing glass, or playing tennis, or going to medical school, or learning furniture design, or taking a martial arts class, or starting your own pet grooming business, or reading tarot cards, or learning to sail, or going to beauty school, or knitting socks, or playing guitar or starting a garden, or or, or…. anything! Anything other than spending all your time and your mind and energy thinking about what you should be doing in terms of changing your body into something that society deems acceptable. Because the truth is, according to a 1997 Body Shop ad, there are 3 billion women who don’t look like super models and only 8 who do. So find a habit that you enjoy more, that you can really go forward with, that is meaningful to you– because chasing the illusion of the perfect body will keep you in a state of sadness for as long as you stay in it. 

I love you people and I want you to love yourselves or at least try to enjoy this one life you’re given. 

10 Things Not to Say to Your Partner with Binge Eating Disorder

10 THINGS NOT TO SAY TO YOUR PARTNER WITH BINGE EATING DISORDER

Do you have a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, son, daughter, best friend, or roommate who has some difficult food issues? Maybe they don’t eat all day – or you never see them eat, but then a whole jar of peanut butter seems to disappear. Maybe they often tell you that they’ve just started a diet – but then you find them alone in the kitchen decimating a birthday cake. Maybe you’ve been saving a special dessert for yourself in the refrigerator and when you go to eat it, you find that it’s gone. Maybe they’ve cried to you about their issues with food. Maybe they’ve even told you that they have binge eating disorder, maybe they’ve promised that they’re done with this habit and they’re never going to do it again.

And then it happens again. And you’re so frustrated you don’t know what to do. You feel like you can’t keep anything that you want to eat in your own house, you wish they’d just stop doing this and you can’t understand why they just won’t stop. You wish they had a little self control or will power. 

 

Binge Eating Disorder is extremely complicated to understand if you’re not in it– think of it this way:  Imagine saying to a cocaine addict, “you need to never do cocaine again.” And then putting a giant pile of cocaine right under their nose. That’s what it’s like for someone with BED. Food is their drug. But food is everywhere, so the process of recovery isn’t as simple as just not doing it. It’s hard enough for cocaine addicts to recover without having people pile cocaine under their nose constantly, without seeing billboards with cocaine on it, TV commercials advertising delicious piles of all you can snort cocaine or a never ending cocaine basket, or passing cocaine stores everywhere.

Seems a little ridiculous right? But…  that’s the thing about having Binge Eating Disorder—food is your drug. And it’s impossible to separate yourself from it completely. It’s not as simple as just ending your relationship with food because you can’t just walk away from food you have to fix your relationship with it. Have you ever tried to fix a relationship? It’s hard work. It involves breakups, make ups, fights, lots of open communication, kindness, gentleness, relaxation time, and most of all EXTREME, RADICAL PATIENCE.

So when someone you care about is attempting to repair their relationship with food, they need not just patience with themselves, but they require you to be exceedingly patient with their process. It’s not your job to fix them or their issue, so you can just let go of that. But, it is important that you get your own support while your partner deals with their issue.

Here are ten things NOT TO SAY to your partner with Binge Eating Disorder

  1. Where did that gallon of ice cream go? I just bought it last night!

You know where it went. I ate it. But when you ask this question—I just feel ashamed and I hate myself.  I already feel terrible because I ate a whole gallon of ice cream. I’m so sick I can barely move today, but I’m also feeling like withering up and dying because I feel like such a failure.

  1. Have you seen your therapist lately?

When you ask me this, it throws me deep into my shame cycle and I believe that there is something wrong with me… I’m unfixable… I need help… I’m too much for you. I’m unloveable… I need professional help. I’m beyond help. 

  1. Did you eat the cake that was in refrigerator? I was saving that for later!

Yes, the cake was eaten by me. And I feel like crap. And another thing—why is it that you can keep a piece of cake in pristine condition in the refrigerator for a week? What are you saving it for? It makes no sense to me that you can have a piece of cake in the refrigerator for a week without eating it. It makes me feel like I’m a totally strange and horrible human—because I can’t do that. I can’t have tempting food just in there because it tortures me. And the fact that you’re not tempted or tortured makes me feel awful about myself.

Better question—“was the cake good?” in a kind and loving and interested voice- not in a condescending voice. You could also choose to say nothing and go get more cake for yourself and let it go. 

  1. I think you might be addicted to sugar. You should just stop eating sugar for awhile and reset your palate.

Oh how many times have I stopped? To tell you the truth I don’t eat junk food – almost never. It’s all rice cakes and carrot sticks for me. But then—out of nowhere the beast comes out and tricks me and it will ravage you for case of two year old Cadbury Cream Eggs that I can literally break my teeth on.

  1. Have you considered going on a diet?

Um… when am I not on a diet? I’m on a diet Every. Fucking. Day. Of  My. Life. And I still binge— because diets don’t work! And everyone knows that and I shouldn’t be dieting but I’m terrified not to!  I know! It makes no sense. But that’s all part of my disorder. Dieting always makes me binge but I’m afraid if I don’t diet, I’m going to binge. My mind is playing tricks on me and it’s a constant battle in my mind to figure out what the right thing to do is. So please don’t give me advice, what I need is to learn to trust my inner guidance, and when you tell me to do something else, it will make me believe that my inner guidance is wrong… and my inner guidance is where I will find my recovery. Telling me to diet makes me doubt myself and undoes all the work that I’ve done. 

  1. You just need a little self control. Just don’t binge, it’s simple.

I have so much self-control that I’m frozen with control and perfection. I’m an absolute subservient to my self control. So much so that eventually I crack and break in half and this sneaky piece jumps out of me and steals all the food when I’m not looking. It’s terrible and it feels awful.

  1. Do you know how hard this is for me to deal with?

I know- I really do, it must be incredibly hard for you. But I need you to know that this really isn’t about you. My eating disorder is not about you, it’s about me. You didn’t cause it and you can’t fix it, so please don’t frustrate yourself. I know it’s hard for you to deal with. I know. It’s hard for me too. But please don’t try to make me feel guilty in order to shame me into stopping. I have so much guilt and shame around this and it just throws me deeper into my disorder. I just need your love and understanding.

  1. Okay—listen, I’m going to help you… just do what I tell you and eat what I tell you to and when I tell you to and it’ll be fine.

I know that you want to fix me because you love me. But it will make you crazy and it will make me feel like a failure and it will ruin our relationship. I’m not going to be able to do what you tell me to do. I have to recover on my own by helping myself. Please don’t try to fix me. It will break us both and we won’t be able to survive it. It’s not your job to fix me. Just love me and support me and be patient with me.

  1. Do you think you need to keep eating that?

Please don’t be my food police. Because what I’m likely going to do is put the food away, die of shame right now, then come back and binge on it later.

  1. Why is it taking so long for you to get over this?

Because recovery is a long process. These patterns and habits and coping mechanisms have been formed for the past (10,20,30,40,50) years… and I have to actively work to change them. I’m frustrated with myself. And when you’re frustrated with me, it’s even worse. I just need your encouragement to keep going. I need your love and support, but most of all, I need your patience.

And lastly, the worst possible offense, such a terrible thing to say that I almost forgot to mention it because I blocked it out: 

11. You don’t have an eating disorder, this is just an excuse. 

I do have an eating disorder — and when you say that it’s an excuse it just throws me into my own shame and my own doubting about whether or not this really is a disorder or not. It makes me feel like a fool.  

What to do instead:

SUPPORT SUPPORT SUPPORT!!!

SUPPORT SUPPORT SUPPORT!!!

 

Read and learn about Binge Eating Disorder: 

What to say:

  1. How can I support you?
  2. What do you think you need?
  3. Should we go talk to someone together? (Like a Licensed couples counselor who specializes in treating eating disorders).
  4. It’s okay if you fall down—everyone falls down, you’re human.
  5. Do you need to talk?
  6. Come on, let’s go take a walk together and look at the trees. We don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. I just want to be with you. 
  7. Are you okay? You seem stressed out—is there anything you want to talk about? How was work/school/your day…
  8. I love you no matter what. You are perfect, whole and complete and I support you. 

What to do:

Ask your partner if there are any foods that they would rather not have in the house. Try not to be resentful if they can’t have say peanut butter in the house. Again—if your partner were a recovering cocaine addict, would you have piles of cocaine on the kitchen counter? Most likely not.

Don’t engage in “fat chat” if they want to talk about how much weight they’ve gained or if they ask you if they look fat. Just say “I’m not going there.” Don’t corroborate with their eating disorder voice (ED)

Don’t make comments about their body or anyone else’s body or body weight. 

Don’t make comments about your own body, your own weight loss or your own eating. 

Go in with them to see their therapist or an Eating Disorders Anonymous meeting and learn more about the disorder. 

Don’t neglect yourself or your own needs to take care of your partner. That happens all the time– people forget about their own existence or minimize their own needs and wind up feeling resentful. Terrible for any kind of relationship. Make sure that you thinking about what you need and caring for yourself.  Check out 12 Ways to Help Your Partner With Binge Eating Disorder.

 

How Not To Binge Eat on The 4th of July

7-4-09-0There are certain holidays that I call Binge Holidays. Oh yeah, there are all the typical ones, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve… But then – there are those sneaky Binge holidays that come up to bite you in the ass.. like Memorial Day, Superbowl Sunday, Labor Day, 4th of July, Superbowl Sunday…  Those holidays where people start drinking beer and eating potato chips and hotdogs at 11am and then pass out at 8pm and wake up the next morning for work feeling disoriented, bloated, hungover and all around crappy. 

Well Monday is one of our big American Binge Holidays. So here are some tips on how NOT to binge on the 4th of July.

  1. Know that you, like every other American will be susceptible to a binge on Monday, so going into it with consciousness and an intention not to binge will help you to remember that you are holding an intention inside of you. 
  2. Try to eat like it’s a regular day. Eat your breakfast, eat your lunch and eat your dinner. If you are at a barbecue, don’t graze– make one plate for yourself and fill it up with every interesting food that you want to eat. But then you’re done after your one plate. If desert is served- the same thing, one cupcake, one slice of water melon, etc. Just give yourself what you would give yourself for a “normal meal,” rather than an eat all day holiday meal.  If you are at an all day event– each lunch at lunch time and dinner at dinner time. 
  3. Limit your alcohol intake. Binge Holidays are also Binge Drinking Holidays. And when people binge drink, they don’t eat much when they are out and about- but they do when they get home — alone and away from everyone. 
  4. Don’t restrict. Often people will use restriction to keep themselves safe, but then they go home and binge after the barbecue. 
  5. Really focus on connecting with people at the barbecue, talking to friends, etc. Look people in the eye and try to focus on them rather than the food or your beliefs about what people might be thinking of your body. 
  6. Have fun! Try not to think of it as an eating holiday, but as a social holiday.  

How do you keep yourself safe on Binge Holidays?