The phrase “societal ED” doesn’t necessarily mean that society has an eating disorder, but there is a clear message in the world today, particularly in America, that really has some messed up perspectives on food and eating.
This is an easy one to target… people who have body types that are not reflective of the general public are then dolled up by professional make-up artists and custom wardrobe fittings, after which they are Photoshopped to a level that is unattainable in reality… even by the model themselves. The media world extends beyond just film, tv and print these days… with social media we are all creating the messages. A gal that I adore tweeted just the other day that her cat is bulimic and binges on grass, followed by the statement that her cat knows how to party. Bulimia isn’t a party, just FYI!
Assigning Morals to Food
We’ve all heard this: “I ate a salad today, I was good.” or “Ugh… I ate cookies, so bad.” I’m guilty of this all or nothing thinking at times, but I’m very aware of it now and actively try to not practice this. Granted, some foods have a higher nutritional profile than others, but some have a higher pleasure factor than others. It’s all about balance… and part of that balance is allowing yourself to eat something you enjoy. Plus if you learn to be more mindful of the moment and eat intuitively… you may find that the enjoyment you get from something that you’ve previously deemed as “bad” will be heightened or diminished once you let that judgment get out of the way.
Fat Talk or Negative Self Talk
This is a rampant problem in our country, it is commonplace for people to berate themselves and it is considered weird to celebrate themselves. While on the treadmill the other day I paused for a moment on the Rachael Ray show and she was talking to Jennifer Aniston. Rachael asked Jennifer, “We all have them, what is your least favorite body part?” I just thought that was a messed up question, asking someone to actively focus on disliking something about themselves. Nobody is perfect (alright, let’s not get on the subject of perfectionism right now…) and we all have down days, but if you catch yourself saying terrible things to yourself… things you would never dream of actually saying to someone else… stop the action. If you can’t find something nice to say about the appearance of the spot you were berating, then focus on the function of that body part. I often criticize my butt… and it’s very hard for me to say something nice about the appearance, but if I focus on the fact that it contains muscles that help me power up hills… it comforts me. (And not all the time, I’ll admit that. But actively trying to change the thought patterns is good practice and hopefully over time the new way of thinking will become second nature.)
Impacting The Next Generation
Girls who hear their mothers berate their bodies constantly grow up to have higher rates of body dissatisfaction than those in homes that are more neutral toward or celebrate their bodies. From the Girl Scouts website: A majority of girls (59 percent) reported dissatisfaction with their body shape, and 66 percent expressed the desire to lose weight. (American Academy of Pediatrics). From the National Institute on Media & Family: At age thirteen, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen.
Sadly, youth are not receiving these messages only from inside the home. In the book Be Happy Without Being Perfect the author reflected upon a group of 9-year-old girls operating a bake sale. Every single woman that interacted with them had some kind of negative message about bodies and baked goods. “Do you think these thighs really need a brownie?” or “Well, there goes my diet, right?” And when the author pointed this out to the other mother helping the girls, she hadn’t noticed. It is so common in our society that we think nothing of it! That’s just wrong and sad.
I encourage everyone to pay closer attention to the messages they are spreading, not only does it affect others around you… but it affects your own feelings of self-worth. It’s hard to change! But it will also be worth it… if you can’t do it for others, then do it for yourself! And if you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for others!