Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Three Out of Four

{Photo courtesy of here}
Let’s face it.  We have a lot in common.
The more I talk, write, and research about women and their relationship with food, the more I discover that many other people struggle just like me.  For years and years, I thought I was alone in my problems.

Oh, how wrong I was!

According to recent studies, three out of four American women have disordered eating behavior, and 10% of all American women have a diagnosable eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder.  (Information provided by Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D.,in the UNC School of Medicine’s department of psychiatry and director of theUNC Eating Disorders Program via Psych Central by Rick Nauert, Ph. D.)

There is a lot of helpful information out there.  Many people have struggled with disordered eating and many people have written about how they deal with it.  You can read about those who have recovered and those who are still on the path to recovery.

We have a lot to share with each other and a lot to learn from each other.

It is time we started talking about this issue.

Even if you have a healthy relationship with food, odds are someone you know is struggling.  I think it is important to, at least, inform yourself about the issue.

We need to become aware of society’s obsession with weight.  Becoming aware is the first step in change the culture of self-hate.  Our society is breeding generations of girls who are growing up and learning to hate their own bodies.

One thing we can do right now: We can learn how to love our own bodies and be an example to those around us, especially the young people.  We owe it to ourselves, our friends, our families, and our children.

It makes me so sad to see how mixed up our culture is about weight and weight loss.  Today on Good Morning America, a nine year old girl and her parents were interviewed.  The girl had lost 66 pounds in a year.  She was being praised and encouraged by her parents and the interviewer for achieving this goal.  The headline read, “Fifth grader’s stunning weight loss: Drops 66 pounds the natural way.”  I cannot even begin to count how many ways this is so wrong.

For starters, the girl, Breanna, was praised and complimented for how she looks now.  They “oooo’d and ahhhh’d” over her transformation.  She was obviously receiving more positive attention since she lost weight.  To a nine year old girl who is just beginning to find her place in the world, more attention equals self-affirmation.  There was no mention of how she was still beautiful before she lost the weight.  There was no mention of how looks are not the most important thing.  There was no mention that she doesn’t need to change the way she looks to deserve respect.
I am afraid for Breanna and for her body image she will have for the rest of her life.  She has lived on this earth for a short nine years and in those few years she has learned one thing: if I am thin, than I will be happy.  She will, most likely, tie her self-worth to how she looks for the rest of her life.

Another thing that struck me was that her parents were concerned about her weight gain as a baby!  A baby!  Quote from Yahoo News, “Breanna's weight gain began when she was a baby”.  Duh!  All babies are supposed to gain weight.  And all children are different and have different needs.  Her parents were concerned from the get-go.  I can’t help but wonder if there were issues with food in the family before the poor girl was even born.

I also had a problem with her parents encouraging her to exercise everyday. This is a direct quote from her mom in talking about exercise: “There was nothing that stopped us,” she said.  “We went at night, in the rain, in the hail, in the fog, nothing. We had a zero-tolerance policy. We're doing the walk, no matter what.”  This exercise philosophy is flat-out terrible and even quite dangerous.  If you are not working with the weather, then are you even working with your own body?  So, what we need to teach our children is that exercise is the single most important thing.  More important than health, happiness, love, life, faith, family, etc.  You don’t even go to school come hell or high water.  So exercise is more important than school?

Her parents are also teaching her to monitor her fat gram intake and to limit it to a small amount a day.  First, of all, children need different nutrients than adults.  Second, the vigilant fat counting can be detrimental to the psyche and may result in an obsession.  Third, we get our energy source from healthy fats and need fat in order for our brain to function properly.  Our society just hates the word, "fat".  Recent studies show:

“The link between saturated fat and heart disease doesn't exist; people who go on diets high in saturated fat lose weight; and humans and our ancestors have been eating animal fat for millions of years. Our bodies have no problem utilizing fat for energy, and even prefer it as an energy source." (Read full articles here and here.)

We are not done learning about the complexity of the human body.  What dieticians have label true 20 years ago are not true today and may still be different in the next 20 years.
The main thing I have a problem with is that there is no mention of moderation.
Annnnnnnd....There is no mention unconditional love.

There is nothing “natural” about this weight loss program.

I understand that this girl was in danger of health risks.  And I understand that we don’t get the whole story from a brief morning show episode.  And to clarify, I do not think that losing weight in and of itself is bad.  However, this highlight was an example of the media distortions.  This presentation reflects what our society believes as a whole.  This story is an example of how messed up our culture is when it comes to body image.  It is just another example of the existence of the culture of self-hate.  Unfortunately, this girl, Breanna, is still at risk for health problems even now, and she is even more at risk for developing an eating disorder and negative body image.

Breanna’s mom commented during the interview that, “She is an inspiration to the world and all children who are having weight issues across America, that you can do it with a pair of tennis shoes and motivation.”  Weight issues.  This statement is so false because not everyone can or should lose weight.  Weight is NOT an issue!  Negative body image is an issue.  Low self-esteem is an issue.  Bullying is an issue.  Disordered eating is an issue.  T.V. is an issue.  The media is an issue.  Weight is NOT an issue.

It just really boils my blood.

If you want to read the full Yahoo article, you can find it here.
You may want to argue with me on these points.  I would love to hear what you think.  The topics I write about are always open for discussion.  Please feel free to comment or message me!
Until next time, take care, YOU!


  1. Mary, I love this; I'll say again that I sincerely love this blog! I completely agree with your points here. And 3 out of 4 women?! That's horrifying.
    Keep writing, cuz. <3

  2. Hi Mary, Catching up on your blog and thankful to you for writing! I couldn't agree more with you.
    I have encountered so many women and young girls who have nothing good to say about themselves. Its easy as women to diminish our value and worth. If only we could catch a glimpse of how beautiful we are in HIS image. Small steps that you mention are a great starting point:)

    1. Hi Anna, we ARE beautiful in HIS image! I love it! Thank you!

  3. A friend of mine pointed out how mindlessly we point children, especially girls, in the direction of "pretty is the most important." We (myself included) as a society praise young girls on their looks so often. If I see a little boy playing with a toy, I might say "Hey Billy, what are you doing? I like that truck. You're playing with it so well." I can see a little girl playing with the same toy and might say "Hi Sally, don't you look pretty today? Your sparkly shirt is very cute." I catch myself doing it all the time! Now I try to ask what they're doing, reading, or thinking about, NOT comment on how adorable they are.