Women

Mother's Day, Not Measuring Day

What's your reaction to this image? Can you relate? Did you and your mother actually participate in this activity together, treating it as a bonding thing, a game, a competition or a means of "self-improvement?"

Mother's Day. It is devoted to the remembrance and celebration of our mothers, those people who first loved us. And, perhaps, even, in the name of that love, diet and weight measurement were a part of that.

With my mom, I believe it was. She battled with her weight her entire life, certainly as long as I've known her. I discuss it in my book. Years later, I see how it wasn't intentionally done to harm me.

But, nevertheless, that focus on body image, weight and thinness did. It's not just my experience, not perhaps, not just yours, either. Studies have, indeed, shown its impact: I can relate.

"…The study, published this week in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, found that when a teen-age girl develops an eating disorder 'the mother-daughter relationship appears to contribute significantly.'

Kathleen M. Pike and Judith Rodin, who wrote the study, say they concluded this after comparing the test results of girls with eating disorders with those of girls who did not.

'It appears that some of the mother's own dieting and eating behavior and especially her

Affirmation via Tattoos and Piercings

"He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, 'Where is it?'..." Job 15:23

Within recovery, there is often the need to commemorate the struggle, the courage and the life-affirming process, via tattoos and piercings.

Indeed, I've encountered many young people who have significant dates and meaningful logos marked on their skin. Likewise, eyebrows, nostrils and lips are also pierced, in the declaration of some kind of personal freedom from pain.

Our Battle with the Mirror

The infamous mirror. We do battle with it every single day, don't we? How many of us pick ourselves apart, critiquing, judging and hating every feature? How many of us, upon seeing our reflection, are disgusted and disappointed with what we see?

There is a use for everything, mirrors included. They serve a purpose. Let's face it -- if it weren't for mirrors, there'd be more instances of lipstick on -- and spinach in --teeth. We'd look much messier than we do when we present ourselves to the world.

But mirrors are not the end all, be all to our eternal worth and value. They are far from it.

The Thinspo Slave MarketPremium Content

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1


The artist Jean-Leon Gérôme's 1884 work, "A Roman Slave Market" is a startling example of image on display. It portrays a naked woman, up for sale to an enthusiastic crowd. It made me think of how image, especially female image, is offered up so easily and cheaply in our culture today. Some of its most extreme manifestations, unfortunately, extend to disordered eating and body image issues.

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What Measures You?Premium Content

I once came across an image of two little girls looking down at a bathroom scale. This was the caption:
"Don't step on it. It makes you cry."

Troubling.

Indeed, as a child, I had my own painful association it. There was once a time when I only saw a weird square in our bathroom. I didn't give it much attention; I was more interested in the blue windmill stencil designs lining the tub and my rubber ducky. It was just a square, taking up space.

However, suddenly, Mom placed me on this square - and I became conscious of what I weighed. Apparently, it wasn't a good digit as, with more frequency, I needed to get on this square. Now, suddenly, I had a "weight problem."

And ever since, I no longer see just a square.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, it dictated my worth, which was never good enough, always too big and always too heavy.

That drove me to eating disorders, with the hope as I became more punishing of myself, more "dedicated," well, then my two-digit weight as a young adult would mean triumph. It, however, never really did become that reality, of course. Because, I could always lose more weight and somehow, magically, "be better."

On and on and on I went, into my own hell...

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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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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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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?

Falling for the "Bad Guy"Premium Content

"Everyone falls for the bad guy."

Yep, that about sums it up. A lot of you ladies know exactly what I'm talking about.

We see him, the rebel, complete with dreamy bedroom eyes, tousled hair and a certain taboo nonconformity, brooding in a dark corner somewhere; we're smitten.

There's something alluring, dangerous and promising about the bad guy, isn't there? Its intoxicating argument of an exciting, romantic and perfect life, however that's defined, leads us into taking the bad guy up on his offer. We make some choices- and, let's face it, they're not exactly great choices for us, are they?

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