Sweatin’ for the Wedding: Say, “I don’t.”

Sweating for the Wedding? Say: I Don’t.
Image by rawpixel on Pixabay

by Carolyn Hersh, LMFT

In November of 2018, my boyfriend proposed to me. It was one of the most exciting days of my life thus far. With a proposal comes the next exciting chapter: wedding planning. For many brides-to-be, this entails finding that perfect gown.

Sadly, although not surprising, once I got on bridal mailing lists, I learned I was also being targeted by gyms for “Bridal Boot Camps” and “Sweatin’ for the Wedding.” The weight loss industry found yet another way to weasel their way into a life event that should have nothing to do with changing one’s body.

Why is it that you could be with someone who you love for a certain amount of years, and suddenly the moment they place a ring on your finger you need to change your body? Why does looking beautiful equate to weighing less?

Unfortunately, it has become the norm in our culture to experience pressure to lose weight for special events. A friend once shared that when she was dress shopping her consultant actually wrote down smaller measurements because “all brides lose weight.” When my dress consultant mentioned letting her know if I lose weight, my initial thoughts were, “Are you telling me I need to lose weight? Am I supposed to lose weight? What if I like my body where it is? What if I want to gain weight?”

Granted, our bodies can change. But, hearing about weight loss, exercise programs, and diets specific for the big day can be detrimental to our physical and mental health. The diet industry has found another market and doesn’t care how it impacts the people getting married.. Wedding planning can be stressful enough with trying to create a special day without the added pressure to create a “perfect” body.

But, here is the thing. Your fiance asked to marry you not because of what you’ll look like on that one specific day, but because they are in love with you and everything about you. Getting married is about making a commitment of love to one another. Your wedding day should be a celebration of that.

As brides or grooms, we should dress up and present ourselves the way we want to on this day but, it should not be at the expense of our health and well being. Remember what this day is about. Your wedding is not about the celebration of the size of your body but about the love between you and your significant other and making a commitment to one another.

What to do Instead of “Sweatin it”

Here are some tips I have developed to use myself and also with my clients who were wedding dress shopping:

  1. Buy a dress that fits you now. Don’t buy something a size smaller. Don’t use words like “my goal size” or “I’ll be pretty when I fit into this.” Fighting your body to go to a size it isn’t meant to be is only going to add more frustration, stress, and sadness. If the person selling you a dress keeps harping on “when you’ll lose weight” or “all brides lose weight” speak up and tell her that isn’t your plan. You do not have to be a victim of diet culture. Buy the dress that makes you feel pretty right now. Also, do not forget that many dresses you try on are just sample dresses. It’s okay if it doesn’t fit perfectly when you try the dress on. The one you get will be tailored to your already beautiful body,
  2. With that, remind yourself of the things that not only make you look beautiful but what makes you feel beautiful. One of my bridal consultants asked me when picking out a dress, “Do you want to feel whimsical? Do you want to feel like a princess? Do you want to be sexy vixen?” Wedding dress shopping became ten times more fun when I could close my eyes and imagine what style of dress would make me feel the most beautiful.
  3. Write down what you want to feel on your wedding day. Write down your hopes and excitements for this day. Think about what memories you want to hold onto.  While the idea of “looking perfect” in your wedding photos may be a strong drive to engage in diet culture, think about what those photos are truly capturing. Most likely, you’ll want to remember this as a day of celebrating love and new beginnings with your partner.
  4. It’s okay to exercise and it is okay to eat. It’s okay to follow your normal routine, As you plan for your wedding continue to follow your intuitive voice. For many people, weddings take months if not years to plan. Do not remove fun foods out of your diet for the sake of just one day. Listen to your body when it comes to exercise. Exercise because you want to give your body the gift of movement, but know it is okay to take days off too. Exercise should not be a punishment to your body.

In Conclusion

You do not need to lose weight for your wedding day. Ultimately, remember what this day means to you and your partner. Your wedding dress should be the accessory to the already amazing you. You know, the person that your partner wants to spend the rest of his or her life with. So, when it comes to “sweatin’ for the wedding,” say, “I don’t.”

Say Cheese! How to Be in And Celebrate Photos

How to Be in And Celebrate Photos
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In today’s digital age, photos of ourselves are everywhere. For many people with eating disorders and body image issues, they can be a source of distress.

Do you avoid photos? Do you refuse to let people take or post photos of you? Do you hide in the back when asked to be in a group photo? Do you agree to be in them but then feel awful when you see them because you can’t stop critiquing your body? Do you spend hours looking at old photos and longing to look like you used to?

If you relate to any of these scenarios, you are like many of my patients who feel uncomfortable with their bodies and either avoid photos altogether or obsess over them. I’m going to suggest some strategies that have been helpful for my patients.

The first thing to understand is your anxiety is almost always increased by the avoidance of something that is distressing but not dangerous. When a situation makes you anxious, the only way to get over it is to face it. With time, your brain learns to tolerate it—we call this habituation. This means that avoiding photos entirely will just increase your distress.

Next, consider how sad it is to not be photographed. As Alison Slater Tate wrote in her widely-shared article “This Mom Stays in the Picture”, “I’m everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them.” I’ve worked with patients that have so avoided photos there was almost no record of their lives. How sad for the people that love them!

On the other hand, it is also unproductive to take photos and then scrutinize the results for each of your flaws. This kind of obsessive focusing is destructive and only makes people feel worse. It also defeats the purpose of having taken the photo.

Photo Exposure Strategies for Body Image

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. When you look at a photo, resist the urge to zero in on your areas of body concern with an eye to criticize. Instead, look at the image of your entire body more holistically. Try to be nonjudgemental and curious.
  2. Remember that what you are looking at is not actually your body, but a representation of your body. Many factors influence this representation—the lighting, the angles, the quality of the camera, the capability of the photographer. (How many times have you taken a number of photos in a row and the people look different and better or worse from one to another?). If you take enough photos, it’s an inevitability that some will be good and some will be bad.
  3. Think about the purpose of taking the photo. Set aside social media bragging rights—the authentic purpose of a photo is to capture a moment in time, to remind you of a feeling you have experienced, to recall a place that is special to you, or to celebrate a relationship.

Take, for example, a woman who attended her sister’s wedding. When she looked at the photos, she could choose to focus on how unmuscular her arms were, the imperfections in her hair, or how she was bigger than certain other guests. Alternatively, she could focus on why they took the photo: the joy she felt in sharing this special occasion and her love for her sister.

Also, keep in mind that your perception of the same photo can differ over time. How many times have you hated a photo when it was taken but looked back on it later and loved it?

So this is my challenge to you: when given the opportunity to pose for a photo, seize it. When you look at the photo, practice not critiquing your appearance or comparing yourself to others or to past versions of yourself. Instead, ask yourself what is important about the photo—why you took it and what you wanted to remember about the moment it captures.

Breaking The Myth: Men and Eating Disorders

Male Eating Disorders
Photo by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash

by Carolyn Hersh, LCSW

In the spring of 2018 major league baseball player, Mike Marjama abruptly retired from the sport to focus on being an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association. He struggled with an eating disorder growing up and his move to working with NEDA was only to help save lives but to give men who are struggling a voice to hear that they aren’t alone. Mike Marjama is a reminder that eating disorders can affect anyone of any gender.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, about one in three people with  an eating disorder in the United States are male. That’s roughly about 10 million males. There is a long-standing myth that men do not have eating disorders. A common misconception is that eating disorders are a women’s issue. As a result, many men are ashamed or may not even recognize that they have an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses with both genetic and environmental contributing factors. It is also important to be aware that just because someone has poor self image does not necessarily mean they have an eating disorder and vice versa.

Although eating disorders are about much more than body image, it’s hard to ignore the societal impact of cultural ideals of beauty and gender. Women are not the only ones impacted by gender ideals. The ideal male body includes large muscles and little to no body fat. Next to the Cosmopolitan magazines are the men’s magazines with models showing off their six-pack abs. I recall a time shopping with my fiance when we came across the packages for men’s underwear. There, staring me in the face, was a man with a Spartan-like body, doing his best to sell this product. I could see how men could feel intimidated, just like when women are walking through a Victoria’s Secret store. Many males they are taught at a young age to be ‘tough” and “not to cry.” Expressing feelings is often frowned upon.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “25% of normal weight males perceive themselves to be underweight and 90% of teenage boys exercised with the goal of bulking up.”  Male athletes can become hypersensitive to their bodies when sports such as running, gymnastics, or wrestling has them paying close attention to their weight. Many males are loathe to ask for help because it may make them appear weak or too feminine The fear might be “I am not man enough.” Unfortunately, health professionals may also not recognize eating disorders in males who are usually diagnosed later in their illness, which can lead to a worse outcome.

Eating disorders in males may look different.

A few years ago there was a reaction to the athletic physique that had been so celebrated. The “dad bod” trend became a thing where it was okay for men to be more round in the middle. But even with this new trend it still puts out a message that there are only certain body types that are acceptable.  What if you are round in the middle and round all over? Is that not okay? And isn’t any guy who is a father technically walking around in a Dad-Bod? It is great that there is more room for different bodies, but we need to expand our acceptance to all shapes and sizes. And not only accept different bodies, but also recognize that the body doesn’t define who someone is as a person.

How can you help a male that you know is struggling with an eating disorder and body image? Just as with females, we need to work on celebrating the men in our lives with what they do and not how they look. We need to let boys know it’s okay to show emotion. It’s okay if they do not look like Superman. Having bulky muscles or not having bulky muscles doesn’t define the strength of a person; especially their character. We need to accept people of all genders and all bodies in all their glorious diversity.  It isn’t about your body that defines you, but who you are as a person. If only people could be more impressed with the contributions we put out there instead of the size of our stomachs. Hopefully, with more men like Mike Marjama coming forward, it will decrease the stigma surrounding this mental illness and more men will seek the appropriate help that they need.

Carolyn Hersh, LCSW and our other therapists are able to work with people of all genders at Eating Disorder Therapy LA.

Source

National Eating Disorder Association

Fat Positive Photography

Fat Positive Photography
Representation Matters

I’ve recently returned from the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) Conference and I’m reflecting on all I’ve learned. I’ve wanted to share and further explore Substantia Jones’ keynote, “Fat Visibility Through Photography: the Who, the How, and the Hell Yeah.”

Jones is a photographer, a “Fat Acceptance Photo-Activist,” and the proprietor of the Adipositivity Project.  She started Adipositivity in 2007 to “promote the acceptance of benign human size variation and encourage discussion of body politics” by publishing images of women, men, and couples in larger bodies. Substantia is passionate about the fact that fat people don’t see a balanced representation of themselves in the media—as she says, “Humans need visibility. Positive and neutral visibility is being denied to fat people.”

So many of the media images we see of larger-bodied people portray them in negative and stereotyped ways: unkempt, unhappy, eating fast food, and often headless—as if they are ashamed to show their faces. At the same time, the range of body types provided by media images does not really represent most bodies. The media typically culls the thinnest or fittest sliver of the population, and then proceeds to photoshop the images of these bodies.  According to the Body Project, “Only 5% of women have the body type (tall, genetically thin, broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped, long-legged and usually small-breasted) seen in almost all advertising. (When the models have large breasts, they’ve almost always had breast implants.)”

In September 2009, Glamour included a photo of Lizzie Miller, a model who is a size 12-14. The photo showed Lizzie nude and looking joyful while displaying a roll of belly fat. The response was overwhelming—American women were thrilled to see a woman who looked more like them and was happy to boot.

While this was groundbreaking, the average American woman is a size 16. So where are the images of the upper half of the weight spectrum? It should be noted that it is not only larger bodies that are marginalized; other bodies are often not portrayed in mainstream media. These include bodies that are darker-skinned, disabled, aging, and gender diverse.

It is important that people in larger bodies see images of people that look like them. It is also important for all people to broaden their aperture on what people should look like. This includes viewing images of fat people who are happy, sexy, desired, and beautiful and engaging in all the activities that make up a fulfilled life.

Those working in the field of body acceptance confirm the therapeutic value of seeing attractive images of larger-bodied people. Unfortunately, these images can still be hard to find. One must look outside of the mainstream media. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to provide resources for beautiful, artful photos of people living in larger bodies.

During her keynote, Substantia shared photos from several of her favorite fat-positive photographers, including those that inspired her. Below I list some of the photographers she shared and where to find their photos and information about them.

  • The photography of Patricia Schwarz can be found in Women of Substance – Portrait and Nude Studies of Large Women, published in Japan in 1996 by The Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts. Little has been published about her aside from this article, which states that Schwarz, who belonged to the fat liberation community in the 1980s, specialized in full-color photography of fat women. The book features women posing in domestic, natural and urban settings in various stages of clothing and nudity.
  • Laura Aguilar is known for her photographs of people from various marginalized communities (including fat, lesbian, and Latina). She is particularly known for portraying her own nude body as a sculptural element in desert landscapes.
  • Leonard Nimoy (yes, that one) published The Full Body Project, a collection of black-and-white nude photos of members of a burlesque troupe called the Fat-Bottom Revue. According to Nimoy, the purpose of the book was to challenge the harmful beauty ideals promoted by Hollywood.
  • Catherine Oakson was described in an obituary as a creator of “artistic self-portraits—some playful, some sensuous—and messages of body positivity.” Unfortunately, since her death, her photographs are extremely hard to find. Her website, “Cat’s House of Fun,” is only available via web archives (web.archive.org). Search for the website, http://catay.com and look at screen grabs prior to 2017
  • Shoog McDaniel, an artist and photographer living in Florida, was also present at the ASDAH conference, and their art was used in the conference program. Shoog was featured in this article in Teen Vogue which described them as “the photographer pushing the boundaries of queer, fat-positive photography.” Shoog states “the work that I do is about telling the stories of people who are marginalized and not usually put on the forefront, and whose lives are beautiful and important.”

Although Substantia’s presentation did not touch upon it, it’s worth mentioning Representation Matters, the world’s first website providing high-resolution, royalty-free, stock images of diverse bodies for commercial use. (The image in this post is from Representation Matters.) They specifically include larger bodies portrayed in a positive light. These photos are available for purchase.

Unfortunately, diet culture and thin privilege are alive and well, and those in larger bodies remain marginalized and excluded from most mainstream media. I hope you’ll check out these resources and come to appreciate the vast diversity of the human body. I purchased some photography books to share at my office. Together we need to work to challenge the notion that there is a best way to have a body and learn to celebrate the beauty of all bodies.

On a closely related topic, I’m thrilled to see that Meredith Noble has a great list of body positive artists to follow.

Source

Baker, Cindy. 2013. “Aesthetic Priorities and Sociopolitical Concerns: The Fat Female Body in the Photography of Patricia Schwarz and Jennette Williams A Review of Patricia Schwarz: Women of Substance, by Patricia Schwarz, and The Bathers: Photography by Jennette Williams, by Jennette Williams.” Fat Studies 2 (1): 99–102. https://doi.org/10.1080/21604851.2012.709447.

Don’t Diet! 10 Alternative New Year’s Resolutions

Non-diet New Years Resolutions

I am skeptical of New Years Resolutions in general because I think they promote all-or-nothing thinking (I also don’t like to categorize entire years as being bad or good for this reason). I don’t feel that one needs to wait for the year to reset to make changes in one’s life. I  am anti-diet and dread the increased obsession with dieting and weight loss that arrives with each January 1st.

So I thought that this year I would offer some alternatives to weight loss goals as potential resolutions for those who will be making some for 2019.

 

Don’t Diet in 2019: Alternative New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Resolve to learn a new skill. Whether you’ve always wanted to learn to rock climb, play the piano, make dumplings, or cross-stitch, now is the time to do it.
  2. Commit to improving one relationship. Whether it’s getting to know that coworker, spending more time with your spouse, or getting back in touch with that childhood friend, do it in 2018.
  3. Pledge to reject self-denigrating body shaming comments. Those negative body comments, often made between friends, make everyone feel worse. Try to avoid saying things like, “My thighs look fat,” “Does this make me look fat?” “I need to lose weight.”
  4. Commit to not dieting. Focus instead on eating intuitively according to your own taste and hunger and satiety cues. Your amazing body will regulate itself if you let it.
  5. Listen to one body positive podcast. Improving your body image will make you feel better than dieting will. Here are a number of great suggestions.
  6. Spend more time in nature. Research shows that spending time in nature is associated with improved mental health. Go on a monthly hike, plan to visit a national park, or just spend some time outside appreciating your surroundings.
  7. Volunteer! So many organizations are in need of volunteers and there are so many important causes. You can devote your time to helping animals, saving the environment, or improving literacy. Volunteering provides health benefits and can boost self-esteem.
  8. Create something. Paint, draw, needlepoint, collage, write a story or a song. Art is a great way to express your feelings and the act of creating something can boost mood and self-esteem.
  9. Expand your cooking repertoire. Whatever your cooking ability, there is room to grow. Learn a new technique, master a new cuisine, and try some new recipes. Cooking is a great way to improve your appreciation for food and can help with mindful eating.
  10. Make no New Year’s resolution at all. After all, the passage from 2017 to 2018 is just a social construct — it affects neither your self-worth nor any progress in your life.

November 2017 LACPA Eating Disorder SIG Event

Jamie Feusner, M.D.Date:  Thursday, November 30th at 7:30 PM 

Presenter:  Jamie Feusner, M.D.

Title: Body Image in Anorexia Nervosa and Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Clinical and Neurobiological Features

Description: Anorexia nervosa (AN) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) share clinical features related to body image distortion, including distorted perception of appearance and overemphasis on appearance in one’s self-evaluation. In addition, they share obsessive and compulsive tendencies, poor insight, and are frequently comorbid with each other. Despite this, few studies have directly compared the phenomenology or neuropsychological functioning in AN and BDD and even fewer have compared their neurobiology. In this talk I will describe the overlapping and distinct clinical features of these disorders, as well as the neurobiological substrates of visual and emotional processing from our recent lines of research. In our research, we have used functional neuroimaging (electroencephalography – EEG – and functional magnetic resonance imaging – fMRI) to probe the neural basis of visual processing and to uncover the dynamics of brain connectivity related to fear processing. We additionally have used structural neuroimaging to understand white matter network connectivity patterns. I will also discuss our ongoing study in AN of how brain systems involved in anxiety interact with those involve in reward and how this relates to clinical trajectory. Finally, I will discuss ongoing and future studies to develop visual modulation strategies to address dysfunctional neural systems involved in visual processing, as potential tools to remediate perceptual distortions in disorders of body image.

Bio:  Jamie Feusner, M.D. is professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA. He obtained his medical degree and completed his psychiatry residency training at UCLA. He then completed a psychopharmacology fellowship followed by a research fellowship in neuroimaging, and joined the UCLA faculty in 2006. Dr. Feusner’s research program seeks to understand phenotypes of perceptual and emotional processing across conditions involving body image and obsessions/compulsions, including body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), eating disorders, OCD, and gender dysphoria. Dr. Feusner published the first functional neuroimaging studies in BDD, and the first studies to directly compare the neurobiology of BDD to anorexia nervosa. He is currently funded by the NIH to study anorexia nervosa, BDD, and gender dysphoria. His clinical work includes Directorship of the UCLA OCD Intensive Treatment program. He teaches cognitive-behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy, and is a research supervisor for postdoctoral fellows and students.

Location:  The office of Dr. Lauren Muhlheim (4929 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 245, Los Angeles) – free parking in the lot (enter on Highland)

RSVP to:  drmuhlheim@gmail.com

SIG meetings are open to all LACPA members.  Nonmembers wishing to attend may join LACPA by visiting our website www.lapsych.org

Spring 2015 LACPA Eating Disorder SIG events

Wednesday, February 11, 7:15 pm

Pia Guerrero
Pia Guerrero

Presenter:  Pia Guerrero

Title:  Adios Barbie: Body Image, Intersectionality, Healing and Advocacy

Location:  The office of Dr. Lauren Muhlheim (4929 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 245, Los Angeles) – free parking in the lot (enter on Highland)

Bio:  Pia Guerrero  is a media literacy and youth development expert with a focus on body image, race, and representation in the media.  For the past 20 years she has led a number of youth development organizations and programs in the San Francisco Bay Area.  From Harlem to Hawaii, she’s  led presentations to thousands of teachers, youth workers, and youth on the impact the media has on young people, especially girls. Pia is also the founder and editor of Adios Barbie, the first body image website to expand the conversation beyond size to include race, age, ability, sexual orientation, and sexuality. As the first website of its kind, Adios Barbie has been mentioned in MSNBC, The New York Times, Forbes, Al-Jazeera, Glamour, among others. Pia has also appeared numerous times as an expert on CNN’s Headline News (HLN) and Huffington Post Live. Currently, Pia works as the Executive Director of SheHeroes, a non-profit that profiles exceptional career women for their accomplishments and character with the purpose of empowering girls to pursue rewarding careers.

Wednesday, March 4, 7:15 pm

Nikki DuBose
Nikki DuBose

Presenter:  Nikki DuBose

Title:  B.E.A.U.T.Y: Paint Me A Soul

The talk will reflect on my life struggles and will focus on the modeling and entertainment industries and how I believe they contributed to my eating disorders, addictions, and mental health issues.

Location:  The office of Dr. Lauren Muhlheim (4929 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 245, Los Angeles) – free parking in the lot (enter on Highland)

Bio:  Nikki is a former fashion model, host, and commercial actress who recovered from a 17 year battle with anorexia and bulimia.  Writing for recovery turned into a full-time career for Nikki. She is working on her first book, detailing her life’s challenges, in an attempt to help others overcome their hardships as well.  She is an advocate for  the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), and the Project HEAL.

Tuesday, April 14 6:30 pm

Presenter:  Stephanie Knatz, Ph.D.

Stephanie Knatz, Ph.D.
Stephanie Knatz, Ph.D.

Title:  Using neurobiology to improve treatment for anorexia

This presentation will focus on providing a brief overview of the neurobiology underlying anorexia and present new treatment methods developed and used to target the underlying neurobiology.

Location:  The office of Dr. Lauren Muhlheim (4929 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 245, Los Angeles) – free parking in the lot (enter on Highland)

Bio: Dr. Stephanie Knatz is a clinical psychologist and program director for the Intensive Family Treatment Programs at the UCSD Eating Disorders Treatment and Research Center. Alongside colleagues at UCSD, Dr. Knatz is responsible for UCSD’s treatment development initiative to translate contemporary neurobiological findings into applied clinical treatment models. Through this initiative, Dr. Knatz and others at UCSD are in the process of developing a neurobiological framework for the treatment of anorexia. Dr. Knatz is currently overseeing the development, testing and implementation of a novel clinical treatment program for adults with anorexia and their family members, which integrates novel treatment strategies developed at the clinic. In addition to her clinical research, she also directs UCSD’s Intensive Family Treatment Program (IFT), a family-based treatment program for adolescents with eating disorders.

Thursday, May 14 7:00 pm

Presenter:  Jaeline Jaffe, Ph.D., LMFT

Title:  Misophonia

Location:  LACPA Office (Encino)

Please RSVP to drmuhlheim@gmail.com (2 H’s in Muhlheim)

March and April SIG meetings are open to all professionals.   During other months SIG meetings are open to all LACPA members.  Nonmembers wishing to attend may join LACPA by visiting our website www.lapsych.org