Tuesday, June 17, 2014

BMI Report Cards Fail Professional Support

Recently, the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) issued a position statement on Body Mass Index (BMI)/weight reporting in New York City Public Schools. The grade? Big fail.
The AED opposes BMI report cards, referred to as "Fitnessgrams," in New York City on several grounds. According to their press release, “Although the New York Department of Education reports the belief that providing information about students’ weight and BMI to be beneficial in ‘helping students set personal goals’ and developing a healthy lifestyle, experts in eating disorders and body image strongly disagree.
Why do health professionals oppose BMI reporting practices? 
First, BMI is not an accurate measure of body composition. BMI can be influenced by a host of factors, beyond body fat, including musculature and frame. Second, weight is not a proxy for fitness. There are kids (and adults) who are thin and unhealthy and others who are heavier but in good health. We need to disentangle these concepts. Third, BMI reporting highlights our culture’s thin ideal, which can contribute to the development of disordered eating and weight-related bullying. 

A number of states and school districts have similarly tracked students' weight, including schools in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Tennessee, Wyoming, Massachusetts, and Illinois. In some schools, parents are able to opt out of their children being weighed.
Parents who are informed of their child's overweight/obese weight status, as many are given current statistics, may run the risk of implementing misguided dietary practices, without professional advice. Kids, too, may decide to restrict their diets based on these reports. Such dieting practices can contribute, with the right set of genetic and constitutional factors, to the development of an eating disorder. 
If students are issued their BMI report cards publicly, the climate is ripe for unhealthy comparisons, fat-shaming, and weight-related bullying. Weight screening programs can increase body dissatisfaction in a world where fat is out and thin is in. For children and teens who are obese, this may compound the experience of stigma and shame already associated with their weight. They are likely to feel judged, labeled, and blamed.
If your child's school district has implemented BMI reporting, consider these tactics:
  • Opt out if you can and leave health discussion about your child to medical professionals.
  • Discuss the negative impact of such practices on children with the school's (and district's) administrations.
  • If age appropriate, have a discussion with your child on the limited information weight provides.
  • Focus on a balanced diet and sufficient activity at home – these behaviors are more important than weight.
  • Encouraged acceptance of different shapes and sizes - as psychotherapist Kathy Kater's book states, "Real Kids Come in All Sizes."

My book, Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight is now on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle and at BarnesandNoble.com. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why I Blog

Eight years ago, when I started this blog, I ventured to write a book about the toxic culture of disordered eating, exposing the normalization of eating problems and body dissatisfaction.

Has this culture improved in almost a decade of writing?

Not so much.

In fact, recent research has alarmed us to the dangers of social media (including blogging) in promoting eating disorders and a more general disordered mentality. We've learned that exposure to Facebook; certain Twitter hashtags; and images on Pinterest, Instagram, and blogs can trigger pathology in those who are predisposed. Terms like "pro-ana," "thinspo," "fitspo," "thigh gap," and "food porn" have become part of our vernacular.

Social media sites can challenge those with clinical eating disorders due to the sites'  promotion of the the thin ideal. Users are posting only the best, most flattering pictures of themselves, raising the bar for beauty/appearance. Those with eating disorders then compare themselves against others' best (edited?) selves. Technology presents us with a virtually infinite comparison group.

Plus, social media feeds often read like diet directives. Those we connect with online post often on their weight loss victories, their marathon training, the cleanses, diets, and juicing they're trying - all of this can be triggering for those susceptible to disordered eating. Moreover, many sites run advertising promoting the thin ideal, which can further body dissatisfaction. Ads pop up on users' feeds (and sidebars) for diet plans, exercise programs, "fitspo" images, all of which can reinforce unhealthy ideas about food and weight.

But social media can also be an incredible ally for recovery, growth, and change. And that is why I blog.

At the International Conference of Eating Disorders in March of this year, Australian health psychologist, Phillipa Diedrichs stated that through our use of social media, "We become the media." When we speak of all the evils of the media with regard to eating and body image disturbances, we must recognize that there are powerful counterculture voices in the mix, louder than ever before.

So, how exactly are we positively impacting the world around us? Here are a few examples:
  • When lingerie store La Perla featured a frighteningly thin mannequin in their Manhattan shop, a Twitter firestorm forced the company to take it down.
  • Thierry Lasry's line of "Anorexxxy"sunglasses came under a similar social media attack, despite celebrity endorsements. The result? The designer changed the name of the glasses to "Axxxexxxy."
  • Proud2BMe teen ambassador, Benjamin O'Keefe, successfully campaigned to get retailer Abercrombie Fitch to carry plus sizes.
  • Two teenagers, Liana Rosenman and Kristina Saffran, founded Project Heal, to increase eating disorder awareness and offer treatment scholarships.
  • When Melissa Fabello recently posted a video on youtube (see below) highlighting why she's a body image activist, this hashtag went viral and connected tons of body image warriors around a theme.
I love being part of the exchange of information, the connection of like-minded thinkers, and the burgeoning revolution that provides an alternative voice and challenges the thin ideal that has deleterious consequences for some and unfortunate consequences for all.

How can you use social media as friend, rather than foe?
  • Recognize if your participation on certain sites is causing you distress and evaluate the pros/cons of continuing to use these sites.
  • Create and manage a list of sites, organizations, and people to follow that promote recovery and body positivity (check out my sidebar for my recommendations).
  • Learn how to remove triggering advertisements from your sites and consider reporting those that promote pathology.
  • Become an activist yourself - the more vocal you are, the better in terms of furthering the movement and bettering your own recovery and relationship with your body.
  • If you have children who go online, be sure to monitor them closely and talk to them about how certain websites and images make them feel.  
Are we still swimming upstream when it comes to challenging dangerous media influences on self-esteem? Probably. But now there's a swelling current that carries us.

My book, Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight is now on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle and at BarnesandNoble.com. Enjoy!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Book Giveaway!

Breath and Nourish is giving away a free copy of my book! Only a few hours remain to enter. For the review of my book, and for giveaway details, click here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Book Announcement!

Why do so many women have problematic relationships with food and their bodies? This is the question my new book, Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation’s Fixation with Food and Weight, addresses. The book was published on June 1 and is based on this blog.

Most women do not suffer from a clinical eating disorder, yet so many have an unhealthy relationship with food and measure their self-worth by their dress size or the number on a scale. From an early age, women are bombarded with messages about what to eat and how their bodies should look. Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? examines our nation’s unhealthy weight obsession and the cultural factors pressuring women to be body-obsessed and proposes a radical alternative: lose the diet, love your body, and eat in peace. In the book, I outline practical steps you can take to feel good about your body at any size.

The response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive:

“Finally, a book that offers hope to the myriad women feeling all alone in their negative obsession with food and body. These women, victims of our culturally thin ideal, can stop blaming themselves and plant the seeds of healing that will lead them toward self-love and acceptance.”

Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, FAND, FADA, nutrition therapist and coauthor of Intuitive Eating
“Goes beyond simply raising awareness . . . Dr. Rosenfeld shares holistic solutions and exercises grounded in concrete psychology that lead the everyday woman to recognize her own biases around food and weight, adopt positive behavioral changes, and ultimately, acquire the personal empowerment we all desperately seek.”

Pia Guerrero, cofounder and editor, Adios Barbie

To read more reviews, click here.

You can order Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation’s Fixation with Food and Weight (Siena Moon Books, ISBN: 978-0-9898518-3-1, $16.95, paperback) at Amazon.com,* BN.com, or through your local bookstore

Thanks for your support!

*also on Kindle