Bad Body Image, Clothes, & Shopping

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Alright everyone, let’s talk clothes and shopping. It seems to be one of the biggest topics for me at work right now. The seasons have changed and thankfully, warmer weather is here! This means more shorts, tanks tops, and even…swimsuits. I thought it might be helpful if I passed along some tricks of the trade I’ve learned along the way.

1. If your closet is filled with clothes that don’t currently fit, this needs to change immediately. Take the clothes you know don’t fit you and do not try them on. Simply fold them up and place them in a bag, bin, or box. Ideally you would take them to Buffalo Exchange or Goodwill. But if you can’t part with them just yet, place them out of sight. Newsflash, looking at clothes that are too small for you on a daily basis will not make you skinnier. It will only make you feel more self-loathing and depressed. And it will make it harder for you to get dressed in the morning since you can’t clearly see your options.


2. You deserve clothes that fit your here and now body. So make a budget, prioritize items that you need, and make a shopping plan (more on that below). Did you know that practicing self-compassion leads to healthier practices like balanced eating and exercise? And you may have already guessed this, but treating yourself like crap (ie not buying yourself clothes that you feel cute in now) leads to depression and worse health habits.

3. After you’ve made your shopping list make your shopping plan. Be thoughtful about when you’re going shopping, who you’re going with, where you’re going to go, what you hope to buy, and how long you can tolerate going for. If you find shopping to be extremely stressful you might choose to look for 2 tops, keep it to 2 stores, and shop for no longer than 30 min with the most supportive buddy you can find. You know yourself best so only you can decide what makes most sense for you.

4. When trying on clothing, follow these simple rules. Bring a couple of sizes into the dressing room. Turn away from the mirror and try the first item on. With your eyes closed identify how the article of clothing fits. Does it feel comfortable, can you move easily in it,? If your answer is no, take the item of clothing off. Don’t look at it! Either select another size to try on or move on to something else all together. Once you find something that feels good, then face the mirror and look at THE WHOLE PICTURE OF YOU. Do not hone in on the body part you hate the worst. Step back and look at the big picture, scan from head to toe. If you hate it, take it off immediately. If you like it, then yay!!!

5. When you’re getting ready in the morning, place a limit on how long you’ll spend trying on clothes. If you are struggling with intense body image issues and find yourself spending more than 10 minutes choosing an outfit, this is a problem. Make a commitment to contain the issue. If you are trying on 15 outfits, then make a goal of no more than 10 this week. Perhaps talk with a friend and let him or her hold you accountable. Consider keeping a running list of outfits that you know you like. If it’s a tough body image morning use your go-to list. Even if those outfits don’t feel super cute you can remind yourself that your head isn’t in a great space and that the outfit is probably just fine. Put it on and move forward with your day.

Remember, you deserve to have clothes that fit well and allow you to feel comfortable and confident. No more shoving yourself into jeans that are too tight or refusing to buy yourself something new because you don’t believe you deserve it. Summer is here- let’s enjoy it!

 

The Body Image Movement

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Women are tired of feeling crappy about their bodies. I know you are. If you are like most women, you feel bad about your body and then guilty that you feel so bad about it. Taryn Brumfitt was in that exact place until she decided to make a change. Please please take 5 minutes to watch her video and share her story. And if you are inspired (like I was) donate to the Kickstarter program and join The Body Image Movement- or what I might call a revolution.


 

Guest Blog Post: Thine Own Self

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The following post is written by my dear friend and colleague Alex Amorosi. He is a registered yoga teacher and all around amazing human being. He maintains a phenomenal blog here. Enjoy this post he wrote about the art of listening to and responding to the core of your authentic self. And if you love this post as much as I do, definitely check out more of his writing. My most recent favorite is The Fitness Trap.


Each of us has a core of authenticity that we must honor. The authenticity guides us each day, it watches out for us, and makes sure that we never get too far off track.

In the movie "The Matrix" the character Trinity tells the character Neo, "The Matrix cannot tell you who you are", a way of saying, "The world cannot define you." I remember back into days when I really had no clue who I was on the inside and I looked to the world to define me. I wanted my job, or my things, or my relationships to give me a sense of self. It's like having chameleon skin on the inside, never being able to access what is right for myself, always looking to have that defined by the outside. When the outside defines us, we are never secure because the outside is constantly in a state of flux. Our sense of self is never secure because we are not guiding ourselves by a steady and reliable compass.

Underneath this sort of inner chameleon stuff is usually a powerful sense of guilt and fear. I was always afraid that if I were true to myself, I would hurt people. In fact, in being true to myself, I have hurt people. There is nothing that causes me a greater sense of guilt than feeling that someone is in pain because of something I have done. However, when we are truthful in the name of authenticity to who we are, we are actually acting in the most compassionate way possible. Why would we allow ourselves to continue on a road that we clearly know will not serve us? And why would we drag someone else down that road with us? Authenticity demands that we step up to the plate and do what is right. And, as we all know from the cliché, what's right is almost never easy.

We have become so used to listening to outside sources in our culture that we have lost touch with who we are. We are more accustomed to listening to advertising than listening to ourselves. We want someone else or the world to tell us what's right and what we should want. In the yoga world this translates to what I call the "guru trap". We look to our teachers to define the parameters of what is right and wrong, good and bad. We want the teacher to have all the responsibility. And, there are many teachers all too eager to step right into that role. It's a very seductive place for yoga teachers because it makes the teachers feel needed and valuable. But newsflash teachers, it's not about you so get over it, get your validation from yourself not from your classes. The most effective teacher is one who guides you to your own guidance, not one who proclaims they have an answer that you need.

Who we are is who we are. We must be who we are. We must accept who we are, and when we do, then we can let everyone else be who they are. We don't need to, as Marianne Williamson puts it, "police the universe" anymore. We can relax and know that when we are true to who we are, and others are true to who they are, we are all much happier. It doesn't mean we all have to join hands and sing Kumbaya, but it does mean that we can let ourselves and everyone else be. It means that we might finally know that we are ok exactly as we are, and that nothing is more important than to simply be who we are. Trust your own core of authenticity and you will never get far off course, it is always your true and steady compass.


 

New Years Tips

Marci Anderson - Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's is often a time of self-reflection and goal setting. So I thought I'd share a couple of tips for you to consider in anticipation of the new year that is upon us.


Tip #1

Consider accepting yourself as you are right now. I can hear all of your objections as you read that first sentence. I can't accept myself as I am- I'm too fat, I'm too ugly, I'm too lazy, I'm too... People often mistake acceptance with stagnation. If I accept myself I'll never change. But that's the crazy thing- acceptance is what actually creates the most effective change. Acceptance allows us to take stock of reality as it is in the here and now and make the best possible decisions based on that reality. If you're interested, you can read more about self-acceptance here

From my perspective one of the most difficult areas people have trouble accepting is their body or physical appearance. I have pre-ordered a book "Living with Your Body and Other Things You Hate" by Emily Sandoz and Troy DuFrene. It utilizes ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. As the name indicates, acceptance of what is, is at the core of living a more fulfilled life. I hope you'll check it out too.

If you need some more inspiration for body acceptance, check out this incredibly powerful interview with Ellen DeGeneres and model Robyn Lawley. As Ellen points out- as women we aren't supposed to say, I'm comfortable with my body. And THAT is hugely problematic. They take acceptance one step further and talk about body love, which I realize is a hard message to swallow for many of you. At the end of the clip, Robyn also mentions the fact that we shouldn't comment so freely on other people's bodies. I agree whole-heartedly, which takes me to...

Tip #2

Stop gossiping and commenting on other people's appearance, especially those near and dear to you. A client sent me this Q&A from The Boston Globe. A reader wanted to get advice on how to handle her family's gossip and criticism about her weight. Your body is your business and nobody's else's. Unnecessary body talk creates discomfort and hurt feelings that creates walls of defense and avoidance to be erected. Instead, why not discuss the things we are doing and thinking about instead.

I hope 2014 holds the promise of health and healing for each of you. What tips would you share with me and the other readers of this blog?



 

Weight Stigma Awareness Week

Marci Anderson - Sunday, September 22, 2013


Weight Stigma is judgment or stereotyping based on one’s weight, shape and/or size.

If you don't think that weight stigma has anything to do with you, please keep reading. It's the number one form of bullying and discrimination in the United States today.

A scientific study of 170,000 people showed that feeling fat is worse for your health than being fat
Research has shown that people are less likely to help fat people after a road accident and more likely to find them guilty when on trial
Physicians are less willing to prescribe tests and lab work for fat people
The majority of fat people avoid seeing a doctor for fear of being ridiculed, judged or otherwise mistreated
The likelihood of being bullied is 63% higher for obese children
The #1 source of weight stigma and bullying is from family and friends

Our communal stigmatization of overweight and obese people is exacerbating physical and mental illness. This week is Weight Stigma Awareness Week. Please, take the challenge to look within yourself. Only as individuals can we obliterate weight stigma. 

1. Examine your own biases
2. Challenge your own beliefs
3. Get educated
4. Speak up
5. Refrain from weight talk
6. Take great care of yourself 
7. Diversity, including body diversity, is a beautiful thing

The Binge Eating Disorder Association has created a week PACKED with online events to increase awareness about weight stigma. You can also check out the WSAW toolkits. Yours truly contributed by writing articles specific to weight stigma and nutrition counseling. 

Everyone deserves to feel safe enough to walk outside their house and to be treated with dignity and respect. Commit this week to confront your own prejudice and commit to compassion rather than hate.

 

Guest Post: Obesity as a Disease

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This article was written by Joanne Sauer, LCSW.  She currently is taking graduate classes at Plymouth State University to further her knowledge and work to help patients diagnosed with Eating Disorders. She works as a Social Worker at the Albany NY VA Hospital.  She also works part time for a managed care company as a Care Manager.  Her interests include caring for her numerous animals, running, reading, kayaking and spending time with family and friends.

As widely reported on network television, the internet and in major newspapers such as the LA Times and the NY times, after much debate the AMA voted to declare obesity a disease with a primary goal of changing the way the medical community evaluates and treats up to 78 million American adults and 12 million children.  The debate centers around whether this action would help people have better access to treatment or whether it would contribute to further stigmatize a condition that is not always easily defined.

There are no real legal ramifications with this vote.  It is more of a declaration.  It is hoped that physicians will communicate more with patients the health related concerns related to

obesity.   Insurance companies will most likely be pressured to increase reimbursements for medical care said to be related to obesity including bariatric surgery, diabetes management, dietary counseling and weight-loss programs.

As cited by Holes-Lewis and Malcolm, there is research that indicates obesity to be associated with related conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke and certain types of cancer.   However, there is also research that shows that people who are considered overweight can be healthy.  For example, a 2010 study found that middle-aged men who engage in regular exercise are less likely to suffer an early death independent of their Body Mass index.  A recent study by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that obese individuals are not more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease or experience early death than normal weight individuals.  22,203 men and women from Scotland and England were followed for an average of 7 years.

Where does this lead in regards to the big business of weight loss, a massive industry where billions of dollars are spent every year?    It can be speculated that companies will step up their marketing efforts for various diet books, foods, exercise equipment and other interventions.  The media will probably add to their marketing campaigns something that attempts to convey the medical imperative importance of losing weight and avoiding obesity.  The pharmacological industry will certainly benefit as weight loss drugs including the most recent additions to the weight loss arsenal:  lorcaserin (Belviq) and phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia) are increasingly marketed and sold.

It would benefit us as Americans as we focus on healthy eating and lifestyle habits, to remember we are all unique and special.  We can be healthy in all shapes and sizes.  The debate still remains whether obesity is considered a disease.   We know our standard measurement tool, the BMI, has flaws and incorrectly measures children, adolescents and the elderly.    We look forward to the benefits that the AMA declaration will afford those who would benefit from medical treatment that will lead to a longer life.  Positive interventions can include increase in physical activity and behavioral modification as cited by Eckel in his article Nonsurgical Management of Obesity in Adults.  Will the AMA declaration also affect healthy, happy Americans who may have a higher BMI in a negative way?  We need to be diligent to ensure people are not judged, stigmatized, directed towards treatment that isn’t needed or made to feel their body is imperfect. 

Since the AMA readily admitted concern over the possibility of increased stigma over higher weight with their declaration, it would be to their benefit to include in their recommendations the need for less emphasis on BMI with more emphasis on education regarding healthy diet, lifestyle and choices which contribute to our physical, emotional and spiritual health.   

References

Eckel, Robert H, MD; Nonsurgical Management of Obesity in Adults, The New England Journal of Medicine, 358:18, May 2008.

Hamer, Mark and Stamatakis, Emmanuel; Metabolically Healthy Obesity and Risk of all-cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 97 (7): 2482, July 2012.

Holes-Lewis, KA and O’Neil, Malcom R; Pharmacotherapy of Obesity:  Clinical Treatments and Considerations,  American Journal Medicine Science, 345 (4): 284-8, April 2013


 

DIY Vision Boards

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

By Elizabeth Jarrard- Registered Dietitian at Marci RD Nutriton

Do you surround yourself with inspiration? Are reminders of your goals staring you in the face when you wake up, when you head out the door? What would happen if they were that close? What would happen if you were constantly reminded of where you want to go in this life, and how you're going to get there? I wouldn't think of traveling to somewhere unknown without a map (or my gps) in tow. So what if we map out what our dreams look like so that we end up at our destination-not lost forever.

 

Vision boards can be a great tool for getting back in touch with what our goals are and where we are headed. The act of creating them should be meditative, soothing and almost therapeautic, as you find images and words that resonate you with. Then when you have finalized it (for the time being), you can hang it as a constant reminder of where you are and where you would like to go. And of course because we are fluid, and our goals and dreams are ever changing it's important to create new vision boards to serve those changed desires.

Making a vision board is easy.

 

1. Gather a large piece of construction or any other "heavy" paper
2. Find a bunch of magazines (from a variety of genres. Beauty, travel, food, you name it!
3. In a peaceful place scour the magazines for words and images that resonate with you and cut them out
4. Arrange the images and phrases on the paper and use good ol' glue or modpodge to adhere them
5. Hang in a prominent place to be forever reminded of where you are heading


I surround my desk with vision boards of past and present

Have you ever made a vision board? How has it helped you? Care to share? 


 

The Biggest Loser & Why I Can't Support It

Marci Anderson - Friday, January 25, 2013

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I do not support or agree with the show “The Biggest Loser” (TBL). I recently shard this article on my personal Facebook wall and it generated a discussion about the show. I decided to write a more thoughtful response here on my blog as to why I find the show so problematic.

1. Our culture is one of extremes and I can think of no other TV show that reflects such extremism better than TBL. Four years ago I attended a talk given by Cheryl Forber who was actually the dietitian behind TBL. The diets designed for the contestants to follow meet the criteria for an eating disorder. My colleague has a very close friend who was a contestant on TBL and reported to her that she spent 3 days prior to the weigh in starving herself, exercising to exhaustion, and sitting in the sauna for a couple of hours to lose as much weight as possible. What is it about our culture that finds this entertaining rather than concerning?
Lesley Kinzel, author of “Two Whole Cakes” says it beautifully: “The reality is that fat people are often supported in hating their bodies, in starving themselves, in engaging in unsafe exercise, and in seeking out weight loss by any means necessary. A thin person who does this is considered mentally ill. A fat person who does these things is redeemed by them…A culture that supports weight loss by any means necessary is a culture that supports eating disorders. It is a culture that supports the sickening and weakening of us all…”
2. TBL’s focus on weight-loss at all costs actually supports a culture of weight bias and discrimination. Please consider reading the compelling research that is being conducted at The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Research clearly shows that weight bias is rampant in ALL medical settings and actually INCREASES THE LIKELIHOOD OF CHILDREN AND ADULTS WITH OBESITY to engage in:
  • Unhealthy weight control behaviors
  • Binge-eating episodes
  • Avoidance of physical activities (where stigma often occurs)
We have ZERO compelling evidence that a weight-focused approach actually helps people lose weight. ALL of the long-term clinical trials of weight-loss interventions result in a J-curve two years post-treatment (ie people end up heavier 1-2 years after the intervention). I learned this from Dr. Lee Kaplan (who is an obesity researcher at the MGH Weight Center) at my certification for weight management given by The Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition.
3. TBL promotes a pattern of exercise and eating that is both eating disordered AND unsustainable. In fact, dieting (significantly reducing calories while following a plan someone else gives you) is actually the #1 predictor of future weight gain

 (scroll down to "studies related to intuitive eating"). The #1 predictor of future weight gain! Why are we doing this to ourselves? 

(I cannot specifically comment on the long-term outcomes of contestants participating in TBL because to my knowledge, reliable data does not actually exist.)

4. We live in a weight OBSESSED world, which is supported by our medical system and our capitalistic economy. If you are interested in a different perspective, I highly recommend that you check out a few articles:
Association of All-Cause Mortality With Overweight and Obesity Using Standard Body Mass Index Categories: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Men and Women with Intuitive Eating Scales had lower BMIs
Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift

Often, people say that they find the show inspirational. This makes me question- what in particular do you find inspirational? I have built a career that is the anti-thesis of TBL and have counseled dozens of women who are trying to heal from the trauma of overly restrictive eating and excessive exercise. Don’t confuse what I am saying- I am all for supporting behavior change for health. I just don’t think that yelling, screaming, excessive exercise, starvation diets, or humiliation create permanent lifestyle change...no matter how entertaining you might find it to be.


 

Defining Self-Acceptance... Or At Least My Definition

Marci Anderson - Monday, January 14, 2013

This past weekend I was giving a workshop on Intuitive Eating/Intuitive Living with my colleague and friend Amber Barke. During the workshop we were discussing the very challenging topic of self-acceptance and I shared this blog post, which I wrote just over a year ago. I thought I'd re-post it, as the message seems relevant, particularly around this time of year. Enjoy.


My client, whom we'll call Sally, was telling me how she's been reading up on all sorts of positive body image blogs. You know, blogs that encourage you to love yourself and accept yourself as you are right now. And that was just all too far from reality for her to be able to swallow. She told me "I can't love my body. I can't stand living in it. I don't feel good physically in my body. Why would I accept something that makes me so miserable?" 

And I understood what Sally was saying. Often, people confuse self-acceptance with stagnation. Staying miserable, learning to put up with something you hate. Many people wrongly assume that they'll never change if they accept themselves (not to mention love themselves!) as they are right now. But it turns out that isn't true.

ACCEPTING SOMETHING DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO LIKE IT. The reality is that self-acceptance FACILITATES CHANGE. Acceptance can be defined as "the act of assenting or believing." Once we come to truly accept where we are at in life, what works for us, and what doesn't, we are then able to make decisions based on that reality. Here are a couple of diagrams to show what I mean.

Cycle of Non-Acceptance

Cycle of Acceptance

I share this message with you as a new year is about to begin because it's a time that you might be thinking about setting goals and contemplating how you'd like to improve upon this past year. So  you just might want to consider adding self-love and self-acceptance to the top of your list. Ironically, it just might help you accomplish everything else you had in mind.

I'm going to leave you with a quote from a fabulous book that I stumbled upon while researching this blog post. The quote relates to accepting your body as it is right now.

How can you begin to learn the lesson of acceptance? By recognizing that what is, just is, and that the key to unlocking the prison of self-judgment lies in your own mind. You can either continue to fight against your body's reality by complaining bitterly and immersing yourself in self-deprecation, or you can make the very subtle but powerful  mental shift into acceptance. Either way, the reality remains the same. Acceptance or rejection of your body only carries weight in your mind; your perception has no bearing on how your body actually looks, so why not choose the ease of acceptance rather than the pain of rejection? The choice is yours. "

Found in "If Life is a Game, These are the Rules" by Cherie Carter-Scott PhD

Have you had an experience with self-acceptance? Please share it!


 

Part 1: My Hollywood Experience

Marci Anderson - Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was talking with a family member about her experience working in PR and Marketing in Los Angeles. I immediately asked her to share her experiences with all of you. She has generously agreed to talk about what she learned and how it influenced her feelings about her weight, body image, and sense of self in this two-part series. I hope you enjoy it.


In the summer of 2005, I worked at NBC Universal and Full Picture PR Firm as an intern. I was so excited to be entering into a world of magic and perfection, where the streets were paved with Chanel and celebrities were wandering about on every corner...or so I thought. In reality, my Hollywood experience was drastically different from what the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan depicted. 

At first I was star-struck by working near Rodeo Drive and the NBC Universal lot and what I quickly realized was that nothing in Hollywood is as it seems.  Now, I had amazing experiences with both internships and was so happy to see normal, decent , hard-working people making a living doing what they love. But what took me by surprise was how hard these people worked to keep Hollywood’s façade alive and well. You see, it takes a whole village to keep up that Hollywood veneer.

I would be at photo shoots prepping for the talent that hadn’t arrived yet and when they would walk onto the set, I couldn’t recognize them from the magazines I would read. The stars would be in hair and makeup for hours and hours before they were camera ready and camera ready meant they had a whole bottle of hairspray keeping their hair in place, layers and layers of makeup, girdles to suck in the belly pooch and other tricks of the trade like bean bags in their bras to make their boobs look plumper, and enough light on them to cook a chicken, which helps them look fresh and natural.

When the talent would get in front of the camera, the photographer would start by reassuring that everything and anything can be Photoshopped, so let’s have some fun. And the shoots always were fun, but the real work started after the shoot was over. Graphic designers would get the images and start working their magic by blowing up each image on their huge screen and editing the tiniest details. They would edit out the bags under the actor’s eyes, the blemishes and zits, underarm flab, belly pooches, thigh flat, and anything else you can think of that society deems unacceptable. These actors would look like normal individuals that wouldn’t necessarily catch your eye at first, and some celebrities would come to work looking slightly homeless, knowing that hair and makeup would fix them up for the day and make them look picture perfect. Celebrities that were advocates in the media for healthy nutrition and exercise to lose weight and keep the perfect figure would only eat a piece of celery and a slice of cheese with a side of packs of cigarettes and vats of coffee to keep their figures slim. Some even getting tummy tucks and liposuction in secret while telling the media they did vigorous yoga routines and ate only salmon and steamed veggies. I could see why normal girls were getting so frustrated with their bodies because they weren’t losing their extra weight as quickly as these celebrities were, but without their own personal chefs and those Hollywood tricks, no human being can achieve perfection.

That Hollywood sparkle was starting to fade when I started to all the unhappy celebrities. Maybe it was because they were starving themselves or that they live in a very fake world that seemed normal to them, but I realized I would rather be happy with my size and flaws than harming my body to live up to an impossible standard. So, before you start obsessing about being the same size as your favorite celebrity or starving yourself to reach their standard of perfection, please remember that THEY can’t even live up to their own standard of perfection because it is all fantasy and Photoshop.