Eating Disorders, Info & Help

Naturally Twiggy? Fat ShamingPremium Content

I once saw a black and white photograph of the ultra-thin model Twiggy eating what appeared to be a plate of batter- dipped fish and French fries. And it provoked something. It had to do with the trigger-rife connection involving her thin physique and disordered food/body image concerns.

Twiggy (real name, Lesley Lawson) was world famous for her look, one which showcased a boyish, thin body, short hair and large eyes that were further accentuated by painted on eyelashes. Named "The Face of 1966" by The Daily Express, she took the 1960's British Mod Scene and the fashion world by storm.

Yes, Twiggy was a game changer. And, because of her androgynous and thin appearance, she has long been criticized for promoting unhealthy body image messages.

Over the years, she has addressed those critiques when it comes to the topic of eating disorders and her own body:

"I was very skinny, but that was just my natural build. I always ate sensibly -- being thin was in my genes."

Reading that statement, therefore, brought up the concept of beauty variation.

In today's culture, there's been an obsession with the thin image. That's no surprise. But, in more recent years, there's been a growing movement to promote a variation of body shapes and sizes. Curvy, "plus size," and "real woman" have been some of the buzz words used to describe and promote a healthier, more inclusive definition of beauty. And that's wonderful, and, believe me, much needed, especially concerning impressionable youth.

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Roles. Do we box ourselves in?Premium Content

When we're little girls, many of us have, at some point, wanted to be an actress. I did. I was "bitten" by the bug at age nine, when I played a baby doll in a school play. From there, I acted in various productions and eventually graduated from college as a theater major.

And during that time, I was exposed to Shakespeare and of course, his female characters. Juliet, Ophelia, Queen Gertrude and Lady Macbeth were the most influential to me.

I first encountered the Juliet character on a Brady Bunch episode (Marcia Brady was cast as Juliet in a school play). I know. It was during the time Franco Zefferelli's film was out, portraying our young star crossed lovers. And, by the time I hit high school, I'd seen the film. What wasn't to like? Drama, a love story and two very beautiful lead actors; Juliet was played by Olivia Hussey. Anyway, it lines right up with my desire to be beautiful. And that was, of course, a large part of wanting to be an actress.

And so, it begins - acting.

By the time I entered college, I decided to be a theater major. I was a great way to express myself - and a nifty way to avoid having to take math classes as well. (I was hopeless at algebra). Anyway, by college, I was introduced to Hamlet - and the leading lady role of the young, fragile - and crazy- Ophelia. She was the love interest of Hamlet (again, the star-crossed lovers theme) and I bought into its mystique.

Or rather, I bought into the ingénue's mystique. Ingénue. According to its definition, it means:

An unsophisticated girl or young woman: a girl or young woman who is naive and lacks experience or understanding of life;
A naive character in drama: a character in a play or a movie who is a naive inexperienced young woman

Really?

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Obsessed with Unattainable Thinness?Premium Content

The legendary sex symbol and movie star, Sophia Loren is now 80 years old. Wow- think about that. I know it made me think about the parameters of beauty.

And it made me think of a more current pop culture Sophia, Sophia Vergara (from the sitcom Modern Family). The actress once did a wonderful television commercial for her Kmart clothing line.

The thing which caught my attention was her emphasis on "real woman" figures when it comes to clothing. In the commercial, she breaks into her design studio, breezes by designers hovering over their thin body sketches. She then takes a red pen and draws two sets of curvy bubbles over the bust and derrière areas of the drawings, stating, "you can't draw a woman with straight lines."

Bravo and Amen, Ms. Vergara!

Since then, I've been having a little "Sophia on the brain." Both Loren and Vergara have been known as smoldering, exotic beauties with va-va-voom bodies to match. And it's great to see someone be celebrated who is closer to a "real woman size/shape."

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Surviving an Abusive ChildhoodPremium Content

Whether it's been through abuse or disorder, I learned to fear.

Child development experts state that newborns have only two fears: loud noises and falling. Babies' brains and nerves grow rapidly in the first two years of life, but they are born with very immature nervous systems. This means that they cannot interpret or handle certain sensory input -- like loud noises or the feeling of falling.

So, that means, all other fears are learned.

That's certainly been my experience. Growing up with an abusive dad, there was always this "or else" undercurrent of dread. My life experiences with conditional love further sealed the deal to the performance-based nature to both love and life:

"I desperately wanted my dad to notice me. I learned very quickly that one surefire way to do that was by winning awards. When I won something, I wasn't completely worthless or useless. I was productive; I was 'earning my keep.' I set impossible standards for myself. Try as I might with award after award, I'd eventually disappoint everyone, including myself, proving that I wasn't worth anything after all.

My perfect attendance record in school is an excellent example. For three years in a row, I did not missed one day of school, knowing that I would win a perfect attendance certificate, tangible proof on paper that I was worthwhile. It became a standard I had to maintain because my dad seemed pleased in my performance. Of course, he never said that he was proud of me, but he did lay off the criticisms briefly. So for the next few years, I went to school with colds, sore throats and influenza. I remember going to school once with a temperature of over 101, sitting at my desk, on the verge of throwing up, yet only thinking of that certificate.

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Glamourizing TriggersPremium Content

"Pain is beauty."

As a female, I certainly heard that phrase and took it to heart. I believed the lie that it was a female's obligation to endure pain and suffering for beauty. Hence, my dark battle with eating disorders developed.

Recently, I caught a fashion ad which disturbed me.

Fashion photographer Danil Golovkin did a layout in which she featured model, Anastasiya Kolbasko. This, in my opinion, was a glamourized depiction of eating disorder behavior.

Rather than wearing the jewelry designs, the blonde model "eats" the adornments of gold styled by Liliya Simonyan.

But, the photos go further. There is posing of the model and the jewelry to suggest actual purging; in some photos, Anastasiya appears to be vomiting the jewelry. And, in every photo of the series, of course, the model has dead eyes and looks, quite frankly, cadaverous.

Triggering. That's an oft-used word for those of us recovering from disordered eating and harmful, negative body image issues.

Looking at this "artistic" layout, I couldn't help but think "ding, ding, ding!" Triggered ALL OVER the place!!!

And it angers me, because it represents rampant thoughtlessness and reiterates how harmful images are embraced and promoted.

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Harmful Body Image PerceptionsPremium Content

I admit it, I love guilty pleasure chick flicks. And one which fully engages all of my angst-driven feminine drama is the 1981 film, "Mommie Dearest," starring Faye Dunaway as the legendary screen star, Joan Crawford. The movie was based on the tell-all book written by the star's adopted daughter, Christina Crawford.

It's now become a part of popular culture. We've heard one of the most famous lines repeated in jokes and commentary. According to the book and film, Christina endured a traumatic rage episode in which her mother, having a meltdown, snaps when she sees a wire hanger in Christina's closet. I guess only satin and lace hangers were acceptable. Whatever that represented to Ms. Crawford, she became unhinged, shrieking the now famous line, "No wire hangers ever!" From there, Ms. Crawford throws all of the dresses out of the closet, onto to floor and proceeds to beat Christina with the wire hanger, all, of course, in an emotional upset. There was crying and screaming from both mother and daughter.
I know, fun times.

So, why am I mentioning this? The wire hangers made me recall an article I read on the fashion industry. Stay with me now. The question asked was concerning why models had to be so thin for the clothes the designers made. The answer given? Models were to be the clothes hangers;

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Do You Have a Pinocchio Nose?

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper. But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. Proverbs 28:13

Pinocchio - the adorable little story about a marionette who wants to become a real boy. It touches on this real theme, as well as the power of dreaming and the ability to love.

And yes, there's also the lesson about lying, hence Pinocchio's growing nose every time he tells a fib.

And that reminds me about the often chaotic journey of recovery when it comes to our addictions, compulsions and issues.

A lot of us having growing noses, don't we?

Addiction - related issues are subtle, tricky things which seem to sneak up on us from "out of nowhere." A lot of us may not look "the type." We may not look like such creatures as an alcoholic, a drug addict or a person struggling with eating disorders. We may appear to have "normal" looking noses, so to speak.

Our Ultimate Beauty Tip?

Change is a constant in life. And, with my recovery work concerning disordered image issues, this principle has become abundantly clear.

I recently came across some beauty tips, published in 1908; they include the following from Amy Ayer's, Facts for Ladies, Cora Brown Potter's The Secrets of Beauty and Mysteries of Health and My Lady Beautiful, Or, The Perfection of Womanhood by Alice M. Long. I've included them, along with their original 1908 sales pitches.

Brace yourself.

First, there are the meat facials...

"Many Parisian ladies, in the secrecy of their own chambers, on retiring at night, or some part of the day, bind their faces with thin slices of raw beef or veal. For several years a popular lady has used this remedy to feed the tissues of the face, with remarkable results. At thirty-eight she has the complexion and skin of a girl of eighteen."

My Two Cents...

I don't care how young you look; you still smell like meat. Last time I checked, that was not a fragrance made by Chanel. Plus, let's get real. How many ingénues do you actually see with beef on their faces?

Cross-Addiction: A Way That Seems Right?

Recently, a young girl reached out to me concerning her struggles with disordered eating; she informed me she just took up the habit of smoking.

For what I am doing, I do not understand... The Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15

She's currently in a facility, being treated for bulimia, a mood disorder and self-injury behavior. I asked her what her treatment center thought about this habit. She told me she thought it was a better action than engaging in the eating disorder and self-injury behaviors.

But, to me, it smacks of cross-addiction. Indeed, someone afflicted with an addiction, obsession or disorder can often become convinced if they just switch it for another passion or behavior, he or she will be fine.

I did this myself.

Recovery: Practice, Practice, Practice

When I was in kindergarten, I took dance class, with emphasis on ballet and tap. At least once a week, I attended these classes, held in Mrs. Taylor's basement. My strongest memories were the gigantic black bow pinning the back of her bun hairstyle and the 45 records we were given to practice our routines. I especially remember "Alley Cat" and "Practice, Practice, Practice." I spent hours in my tap shoes, striving for improvement on a square piece of plywood. After a while, I grew to dislike that song immensely. "Practice," after all, was tedious, boring and frustrating.

Little did I know, however, so often, would life be as well.

According to the famous myth, the character of Sisyphus was condemned to an eternity of hard labor. For a crime against the gods, his assignment was to roll a great boulder to the top of a hill. Each time he completed this task, requiring tremendous effort, reaching the summit, the boulder rolled back downhill again.

Tedious, boring and frustrating...

I recently came across this famous Margaret Thatcher quote:

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