Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Facebook Ads - Take Back Your Feed

As I blogged about recently, a study earlier this year found that Facebook use was associated with an increased risk for disordered eating. While there are likely multiple pathways associated with this relationship, let's take a critical look at some of the ads that might pop up on your daily Facebook feed. I hope that I get more of these body-negative ads than the general public due to the content I post, but I might be wrong.

Here's one from a site called "Women's Insight" with not much insight at all. The model, pictured doing a leg abduction exercise is said to be ridding herself of "muffin top" belly fat. I'd say wrong exercise, wrong body part, except for the fact that there is no exercise that reduces fat in any part - exercise simply doesn't work that way.

Same deal for this one. No one gets a flat belly through abdominal exercises. And yes, most "regular" fitness instructor do know about crunches.

How about this one? That pesky "female metabolism" is just like a glazed donut shackled to your arm. True, diets don't work, but most women also aren't manacled to a Krispy Kreme. This ad comes from the same folks whose picture of a cellulite "cure" depicts rubbing an unpeeled orange down one's thigh.

And how about this before and after picture? What did she just transform?

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And finally, this graphic, which pictures women doing push-ups(?) on top of one another to illustrate the hormone, leptin, can't even get its grammar right.

Facebook ads are misleading and destructive. While most people who read my blog can likely see past the hype, the reality is, many can't - just read the comments from people who are ready and willing to sign on to these products and programs. Even for those of us who aren't so easily swayed, the messages collectively seep into our unconscious minds, further indoctrinating us with the thin ideal and that our bodies, as is, are unacceptable.

Want to inoculate yourself against these harmful messages? Be critical consumers. Hide the ads from your feed (unless you're using them for blogging content, like me). Don't buy (or buy into) what they're selling. And finally, call them out.

p.s. My book is AVAILABLE NOW!!!! on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback and Kindle formats. Check it out, and if you like it, please review on these sites!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

WW, Part 2

Years ago, I visited a Weight Watchers meeting to learn more about the program and blogged about it here. An anti-diet proponent, I tried my best to be unbiased, and I walked away from the meeting thinking that as far as diets go, WW wasn't the worst-of-the-worst and that the meeting offered some cognitive behavioral tips and social support.

But still, it's a diet.

And diets can be incredibly damaging, even when they refresh their marketing campaigns and "allow" you things like unlimited fruit and especially when they start bequeathing you extra food allowances earned via exercise.

Recently, I met a woman I'll call Jessie. When Jessie told me that she was on Weight Watchers, my response was a simple, "Why?" To be honest, part of this was because Jessie was someone whom I'd describe as "normal" weight. I asked her from where on her body she planned to lose the weight. "I've already lost 13 pounds," she said, "And I still have a little to go." Okay. Well, the reality is, I would question anyone who told me she was on Weight Watchers, regardless of her size, because I think the diet mentality can create a disordered relationship with food, which ironically for her purpose, can lead to weight-gain over time.

Jessie and I ate brunch at a friend's home. Said friend served a beautiful spread - we each had some frittata, fruit, and a slice of banana bread. Now, here's where it gets interesting. Jessie ate what my friend served her, and then after the fact, told me that she was now going to have to make this a "cheat" day.

"What do you mean?" I asked. "That was a healthy breakfast!" I campaigned.

"I know," she said. "But I don't know how many points it was. And if I can't calculate the points, then I might as well just eat whatever I want the rest of the day and make it my cheat day."

Now, Jessie didn't mean that she planned on eating intuitively the rest of the day. She meant that she was going to overeat -and here's the kicker - not because she had overeaten already (which some people do out of black-and-white thinking) - but because she couldn't calculate the points and had therefore landed herself in Weight Watchers' no-man's land.

For some reason, I tried to protest. "How many points could it have been? I was satisfied but not even full."

"It's the banana bread," she replied. "The banana bread at Starbucks is almost my full-day's point allowance. If I have that, I can't eat much the rest of the day."

That criminal, homemade, small slice of banana bread. . . I was getting nowhere.

Weight Watchers, and other diets, set people up to alternate between periods of restriction and overeating. The rigidity, the rules, and the monumental distance from intuitive eating are all disordered in my mind. That a plan could say "Fine, you had your banana bread, now starve yourself until tomorrow" and call itself a flexible plan and, in any way, designed to promote health, is miles beyond my comprehension.

Want a true Weight Watchers disaster story? Read here how one woman dropped the program and regained a healthy relationship with food.

Now, that's a good plan.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Parenting Healthy Kids

Actress Drew Barrymore was quoted in February's New York magazine: "I wasn't a rebellious kid. Actually, I rebelled with junk food, because my mother was so psychotically healthy that I was like, I'm going to hide Doritos under my bed."

Barrymore's experience isn't unique. A recent article in the New York Times discussed how restricting children's access to foods can backfire, making these forbidden food even more desirable to kids.

And yet, that's what parents continue to do.

In an online parenting community I frequent, one mother expressed concern about her young daughter's eating and burgeoning weight. She noted this daughter ate more than her siblings and was in the 95th percentile for weight.

One responder, who identified as a parent educator, recommended the whole family go on a diet, either Paelo or GAPS, both of which restrict grains/carbs. She noted that her son went from "chunky" to lean on the diet she chose. Other parents applauded this mom's approach.

And of course, I had something to say in response:
Parents' attempts to restrict food can backfire and lead to overeating (same happens when we self-restrict as adults). It's important, as parents, that we focus on health, not weight. Choose foods that are nutritious and get kids moving (not exercising) in a joyful way. Labeling foods as "good" or "bad" can also backfire, as the "bad" foods become more coveted and sought out. Here's a good summary of some positive parenting/eating principles. 
Bodies are naturally diverse, as are our biologies. The attitudes we have about weight in our culture are incredibly damaging and can be transmitted to our kids even without our awareness. True, we don't want our kids bullied for their weight, but it's important that we're building them up at home. If they are eating beyond fullness or they're sedentary, that's important to address. Are they using food to cope or soothe? But if they're eating intuitively and are active, then at some point, we need to accept that bodies come in different shapes and sizes.
Stay tuned for an article version of this post, which will be published soon on a health and wellness site.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Healthline's Best Eating Disorder Blogs of the Year

Check out our new award from Healthline! Thanks to my readers for making this the blog it is.
The Best Eating Disorder Health Blogs of 2014
The other blog awardees are not to be missed - check them out here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Celebrating International No Diet Day with a Comment on Tabloid Weight Loss

At the supermarket recently, my eye caught this display:

Yes, that's right - four weight loss cover stories, all in a single glance.

We are bombarded on a daily (read: momentary) basis by content like this.

Sometimes, the weight-loss plans these magazines tout as effective aren't even responsible for said weight loss. In a feature in January's US magazine, actress Melissa Joan Hart is interviewed about her post-baby 35-pound weight loss. Hart reports turning to Nutrisystem in order to shed the weight and discusses benefits of the plan.

But, here's the funny part. The article states: "She shed the first 30 pounds before starting the program." So, yes, this Nutrisystem success story and company spokesperson dropped (best-case scenario) only five pounds on the plan. Oops.

These magazines sell content like this because we're buying it. Weight-loss plans and programs are only lucrative because we believe these stories.

We need to get smarter. We need to look at these magazine covers as no different than those featuring stars adopting alien babies. And we need to demand better content, because wouldn't it be a treat to be checking out at the grocery store and see a cover story that celebrates women or actually makes us think?