Body Image and LeAnn Rimes: Worshiping the Art of Skinniness

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Does LeAnn Rimes have an eating disorder?  A few days ago, she posted a picture of herself in a bikini on Twitter.  This started a tsunami of tweets about whether or not LeAnn has an eating disorder, including one saying “@leannrimes “Whoa, you’re scary skinny! Sorry don’t mean to offend but that’s a lot of bones showing through skin…”

LeAnn replied “@AJPaterson1987 those are called abs not bones love.” Later, in an airport, she tweeted this:  “Boston Dog’s sliders and French fries in the Cabo airport are so good! Anyone coming here try them!!!”  LeAnn has tweeted previously on the subject
of her body.

While it is not my place to comment on LeAnn’s situation, I think our culture is deranged in that it worships the art of skinniness.  When a culture believes, “the skinnier the better,” to the point that many models look like concentration camp survivors, we certainly have tragedy on a monumental scale.  By the age of seventeen, Americans have been exposed to 250,000 ads featuring pencil thin models.  It’s no wonder we are ultra-obsessed with body image. Most of the models in the media are anorexically thin, and most are unable to menstruate due to exceptionally low levels of body fat.  That speaks volumes.  Barbie, the most popular doll in America, would have diarrhea 24/7 if she were real because her waistline is so incredibly tiny.  Is this what we want to portray to our girls?  Check out my goodbye letter to Barbie for more information:
https://cherriemac.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/bye-bye-barbie-body-image-and-barbie-dolls/

We live in a culture which screams, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.” Sadly, the message sinks deeply into our souls until it chases people into a sea of despair.  We grab onto what appear to be life rafts, but are sharks in disguise.  This quickly lead us into the Ferocious Foursome:  Dieting, which leads to bingeing due to feeling extremely deprived.  At this point, the dieter wants to eat everything except the TV.  So the second step of the Ferocious Foursome is Bingeing, which leads to more shame and self-contempt.  After the Bingeing comes purging (for some) and then over-exercising (for some).  If the last two aren’t practiced, the lifelong dieter is stuck in the cycle of dieting, bingeing, dieting, bingeing, until they are dizzy.  Research shows that almost all diets lead to weight loss, but later on weight gain. The dieter eventually gains more weight than he or she lost to begin with!  It is exceptionally rare to lose weight and keep it off for decades.

The truth is, body image issues such as compulsive overeating, purging, bingeing, and negative thoughts about our bodies are much more about our stories and relationships than food.  People often try to work on the symptoms only, and don’t address their reasons behind food issues.  Until we address the underlying issues, we won’t fight the Body Image Bandit and win.  When did you first start to binge, purge, or have self-contempt about your body?  While the cultural current is certainly a key factor, addressing the pain in your story will help you fight back the Body Image Bandit – the Father of Lies, who tries to convince you that you are unworthy unless you’re stick thin.

So how can we avoid the Ferocious Foursome, and concentrate on what is truly important?  What if we could learn to embrace the bodies God gave us, and realize with every cell ofour beings that we are each unique masterpieces?  I hope you join me on the passionate voyage of discovering the real you and focusing more on your gifts, talents, and calling than your tooshie.  After all, “Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

Body Image and Barbie: Bye Bye, Barbie

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BARBIE™ A FASHION FAIRYTALE GLITTERIZER™ Wardrobe and BARBIE® Doll Playset - Shop.Mattel.com

Dear Barbie,

Today I’m officially saying goodbye.  I haven’t actually played with you in decades, but nevertheless I feel I need to write you a formal goodbye letter.  I know you’re wondering why I decided to take such a drastic measure.  I hope this letter explains my concerns. I used to love and admire you, but in the past several years I’ve realized our relationship isn’t healthy.

My main concern is that you’re completely unrealistic in your dimensions. Media Awareness Network says, “Researchers generating a computer model of a woman with Barbie-doll proportions, for example, found that her back would be too weak to support the weight of her upper body, and her body would be too narrow to contain more than half a liver and a few centimeters of bowel. A real woman built that way would suffer from chronic diarrhea and eventually die from malnutrition.” BARBIE™ IN A MERMAID TALE 2 MERLIAH™ Doll - Shop.Mattel.com

 

Barbie, I imagine you’re familiar with the problem of eating disorders in every advanced nation.  Americans, for example, see over 250,000 ads by the time they’re 17.  Most of them show ultra thin models, which tell girls and women, “To be thin is beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.”

The majority of American girls have played with Barbies fairly often , and this reinforces that thinness is next to godliness.  Yet your unrealistic body type pushes the envelope further, making girls feel less beautiful if they don’t have large chests.  This grieves my heart.  Frankly, Barbie, it makes me angry.  I know you’ve made some improvements over the years, and I’m thankful for your efforts.  For example, your wider waistline is a bit more realistic than the original.  Also I congratulate you on your addition of Barbies of color.  In fact, this architect Barbie helps girls to believe they can chase and pursue their passions.  I believe if we don’t pursue our passions, we wilt and die from the inside out.  So the architect Barbie offers them a great taste of hope.

BARBIE® I CAN BE...™ Architect Doll - Shop.Mattel.comThose are great steps in the right directions.  Even so, Barbie, you’ve had almost 52 years to get it right.  Enough is enough.

So I’m writing to say goodbye, and I’m going to encourage people to stop buying you.  I hope Mattel or another manufacturer designs and sells a doll that is similar, yet has realistic proportions.  I hope you’ll consider resigning if you continue to resist necessary changes.  I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC

Barbie® Designable Hair Bundle - Shop.Mattel.com

“Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

 

Body Image and Eating Disorders: My friend says she doesn’t have an eating disorder, but I think she does

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A few mornings ago it happened again.  While staring at the TV in my “I desperately need more coffee” stupor, another ultra thin, bony movie star denied that she has an eating disorder.  I almost flipped channels on her because I am very tired of all the denial in Eatingdisorderville.  I don’t keep up on celebrity tidbits, but my morning wake-up show interviewed this woman.

This is not an uncommon denial.  I know several people who deny that their thinness is the result of an eating disorder.  Yet I sense they are extremely uncomfortable around food and are hyper-critical of their bodies.  On the other hand, I have a beautiful friend in her fifties who is thin yet does not have an eating disorder.  People have been quick to accuse her, yet I have been with her on several long trips and could not help but notice her relationship with food.  She definitely does not have an eating disorder.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t sit around and observe what people are eating and not eating.  Yet at the same time, due to my training and experience, I have noticed how many thin women meet the criteria for anorexia yet deny having an eating disorder.

From Behavenet:

“Early signs may include withdrawal from family and friends, increased sensitivity to criticism, sudden increased interest in physical activity, anxiety or depressive symptoms.

  1. Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected).
  2. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
  3. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
  4. In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea, i.e., the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles. (A woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occur only following hormone, e.g., estrogen, administration.)

Specify if:

  • Restricting Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has not regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)
  • Binge-Eating/Purging Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)”

If you think a friend or relative may have an eating disorder and is denying it, research the subject carefully and proceed with love.  In my experience, the majority of women who are excessively thin do have eating disorders.  Obviously this is a tough call because sometimes it is difficult to know.  Yet if you sense an extreme fear of fat, and/or a magnified fear of food, you may be on to something.  At that point, it is best to educate yourself and to proceed carefully in loving her and calling her (or him) to glory.  Normally the first place to start is to learn all you can about the eating disorder.  And then tread lightly, remembering that to engage her in a power struggle about her denial is generally not a good idea.  Sometimes interventions work well, but before you proceed, study the subject from good sources.  I recommend www.aplaceofhope.com.  Then you can begin the process of calling your friend or relative to glory.  After all, that’s what friends and family are for.   Because if you don’t, she may end up robbing herself in terms of life expectancy.  The prognosis for untreated eating disorders are dark, yet  the glimmer of hope abounds with experienced eating disorder specialists.

Statistics:

  • 5-10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease and 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years.
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness (including major depression).
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
  • Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die. With treatment, the mortality rate falls to 2-3%

Body Image: How to Develop a Healthy Body Image

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By now, if you have been following this blog for long, you understand that issues with food, weight, and body image are much more about your heart and your story than food and weight.  Let me say it again:  It is NOT about food!  It is about your heart and your story.  Until you work on these underlying issues, you will not fight the Body Image Bandit and win.  Geneen Roth, writer and body image specialist, recently addressed this on Oprah.  One of the women interviewed had been 100 pounds overweight.  But in working through her story, she realized the weight gain coincided with the divorce of her parents.  She had been dieting on and off for years, but until she addressed that pain in her heart and her story, she could not keep the weight off.  This did not surprise me at all because issues with food and body image are much more of a symptom than people realize.  If you treat the symptom only, it is like covering up an infected wound with a bandage.

What would it look like for you to finally work on the roots of your issues instead of treating your symptoms only?  And how can you re-learn a healthy relationship with food?  Since we have seen over 250,000 ads by the age of seventeen, and we are constantly bombarded with ads about delectable foods as well, our relationships with food are entangled in a web of confusion.  On the one hand, the images re-program our brains to think, “To be thin is beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.”  Of course we know deep down that our worth is in our hearts, but the media drowns us in toxic messages so we get confused.  At the same time, the media floods us with juicy, delectable images and messages about foods that are dripping with taste.  And of course most of these foods are high in fat and sugar.  So our relationship with food plummets to a deeper level of confusion.

We want to have it all, which is why so many fall into the arms of eating disorders.  Eating disorders – particularly bulimia – make us believe that we can have it all and get away with it.  But of course we know now from research that people actually die of bulimia.  It is another example of the enemy disguising himself as an angel of light.  Or perhaps we choose anorexia and it eats away at our hearts and our lives.  Whenever we deny ourselves, we develop an insatiable hunger which results in the sick cycle of dieting and bingeing (and for some, purging or over-exercising).  (For more information, check out my blog postings on The Sick Cycle of Dieting, Bingeing, Purging, and Over-exercising.)  So dieting and denial is a landmine that will completely distort our relationships with food until we feel completely hopeless and powerless.

About two months ago, I started to pray wholeheartedly for God to give me a healthy relationship with food.  I know dieting is a monster because it only leads to feeling deprived, which creates a binge mentality.  This is why research shows that almost everyone who diets loses weight, but later gains it all back- plus more!  But I also know that purging is not the answer and is in fact extremely dangerous.  Thankfully, by the grace of God I have never been chained to the beast of bulimia (see my blog posting, Confessions of a Purging Flunky).  I have also received a lot of counseling and the Lord has helped me to work through my own issues – yet at the same time I know that this side of Heaven, I will always have issues.

And so I finally put my relationship with food on my prayer list.  Several times a week, I prayed for God to give me a healthy relationship with food.  I think he has.  Please understand that I am not talking about cutting out everything, because that is what leads to a feeling of depravation.  Then all heck breaks loose and you eat everything that is not nailed down.  (You’ve been there, done, that, and got the tee shirt, haven’t you?)  So I have been eating better as far as more fiber and less fat, etc.  BUT I do not deprive myself!  I still have mochas, ice cream, etc. about once a day.  I have not concentrated on eating or not eating any certain way – I have simply prayed for God to give me a healthy relationship with food.  I have lost about ten pounds, which is significant since I’m under 5’3”.  More importantly, I feel released from the world’s messages about food and body image, for the most part.  I will keep praying and keep you posted.

And so I would like to ask you to take the 40-Day Challenge:  Pray every day, asking God to give you a healthy relationship with food.  He is faithful and he will answer you and take off the chains of despair about food and body image.  That is the only way to fight the body image bandit and win.  Ask God to set you free…And please keep us posted!

7 Ways to Protect Your Daughter (or Son) from Eating Disorders

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After her brother said she was fat, Karen (not her real name) vowed to do whatever it took to get into a pair of size 6 Calvin Klein jeans.  Most women who struggle with eating disorders remember this type of significant moment in their stories.  This vow included starving herself to the point that she passed out on a beach.

When she regained consciousness, the EMT asked her, “What can I do to prevent this from happening to my daughter?”  With tears in her eyes, she answered, “You can love her unconditionally.” 

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“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe these elephant thighs,” you remark in front of the mirror as you try on a new pair of jeans.

“Maybe I have elephantitis, and my doctor hasn’t diagnosed me yet.”  Your daughter hears this, and you both laugh.

But the problem with these types of negative body image statements is that they cut deeply into her soul, doing much more harm than you realize.  Such comments, even if said in jest, reinforce the belief in our culture which screams, “If you’re not toothpick thin, you are ugly.”

This spurs girls, sometimes starting before age five, into dieting.  Then they begin the roller coaster ride of dieting and later bingeing because they feel so starved.

This leads to shame, which leads back to dieting again.  Even if they get down to a normal size, they still feel fat.  If they have people-pleasing, perfectionistic personalities, they often get swallowed up with anorexia.

If they are not people-pleasers, they often flirt with throwing up until it develops into full-blown bulimia.  But when they throw up, they are actually trying to purge all the hurtful feelings stored in their hearts.

This is why learning to express true feelings is so important.  (I will write more about this in another blog.)

Here are some ways you can protect your daughter (or son, as more and more boys are developing eating disorders) from eating disorders:

  • Avoid talking about dieting, fat, or your fanny.  Whenever you do this, your daughter is getting the message that her value rests on how thin she is
  • Discourage dieting, as it usually leads to a lifelong obsession with black-and-white thinking in regards to food
  • Discourage your daughter from looking at beauty and fashion magazines.  Research shows this leads to depression
  • Stop praising girls for their beauty.  Instead, focus on their other strengths and accomplishments, When we praise girls for their appearance, we reinforce the cultural tsunami of lies that drown girls in feelings that they are only valued for their appearance.
  • Be aware that certain activities such as ballet, modeling, gymnastics, and wrestling often emphasize thinness, which puts your child more at risk for developing an eating disorder
  • Encourage your child find out which physical activities he or she enjoys, so they can have fun while getting exercise
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle.  Research shows that kids tend to pick up their parents’ lifestyle habits, whether they are smoking, exercising, obsessing about dieting, or eating lots of sweets.  Work toward moderation so that they don’t feel deprived, yet get the benefits of a well-rounded eating pattern

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Of course there are no guarantees, but these suggestions will help your child to feel good about himself or herself, appreciating the unique characteristics that God has given them.   Also keep in mind that many more boys and men are now falling prey to eating disorders.

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© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This article is taken from a newsletter on my web site:  www.notjustsymptoms.com.  Click on Newsletters on the right side of the home page.

Body Image: Making Peace with Your Body

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What if you and your fanny could finally make peace?  You have dieted, exercised, and poured your fanny into a pair of jeans three sizes too small.  Maybe you – like me – bought a pair of plastic bloomers designed to hook up to your vacuum cleaner and suck the fat off your hiney.  Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts showed up during the procedure, seeing you through the window.  They were traumatized for life, but you waddled to the door anyway in yellow plastic bloomers to buy a year’s supply of chocolate mint cookies.

Face it.  Many of us spend enormous amounts of time dwelling on our derierres.  On some level, we believe the world actually cares about them, but in reality most people don’t have time to ponder our plunder.

I imagine our love-hate relationship with food started in the Garden of Eden.  Eve’s hormones whacked out and she had a craving for chocolate that wouldn’t quit, even though she had never tasted it.  I don’t think it was an apple.  Most likely, it was a large handful of chocolate beans, coffee beans, or hybrid chocolate-coffee beans that tasted like a Starbucks mocha.  Now that would certainly be tempting.

And so began women’s preoccupation with the conceptual size of their fannies and other unassorted body parts.  Now don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about, because I know you do.  You’ve exercised, dieted, and some of you have binged, purged, and/or starved yourself – all in search of the perfect body, or a skinnier one or perhaps a less expansive model.

But if you actually succeeded in molding yourself into the dimensions you had always dreamed, bizarre men started clinging to you like chocolate on chocolate-covered raisins.  The fabulous fanny acted like a creep magnet, and wacky weirdos came from everywhere to meet you because they loved your packaging.  You resented this, which led you to drive through all the fast-food places in town and gorge yourself with sugary, fatty foods until you thought you would pop.  The bottom like is the more you obsessed about having the perfect packaging, the more you attracted guys who wanted you for your looks and not your heart.

Perhaps you have obsessed about other body parts, and how  they measure up to photoshopped standards of models and movie stars who are being eaten from within by the beasts of bulimia and anorexia.  Eating disorders create an imploding black hole that always ends in darkness and has swallowed up many lives due to heart failure and other complications.

Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit is for anyone who has been weighed down with feelings about food, fat, and fannies.  (The ebook will be out Summer of 2014, Lord willing). You will experience resounding joy when you completely grasp that God is much more concerned about your heart than your fanny.  Of course you know this in your head, but when you truly feel it in every cell of your body, you will wrestle with the Body Image Bandit and win.  Finally, you will be protected from the Body Image Bandit  – the Enemy, the Accuser, and the Father of Lies, who continually works to convince you that your value comes from outer beauty as opposed to inner beauty.  The answer to the cultural lie of, “To be thin is to be beautiful and beauty is everything,” is the truth:  “Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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