Overcoming Disordered Eating and Distorted Body Image

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Finding Our Hunger Podcast, Episode 127

This week, Kaila interviews Nikki Dubose about finding an identity and religion in recovery from an eating disorder. Check it out!

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UNpodcast 127: Can Religion Help with Eating Disorder Recovery?

TL;DR: Go listen to today’s podcast with Nikki Dubose! Writing about religion is tough for me, because I wasn’t really raised with one. I mean, I was raised “Jew-ish,” so I knew some of the prayers (but couldn’t tell you what they meant to save my life), went to Jewish summer camp (where we got to eat challah made by other booger-y summer campers every Friday), and attended a Bat Mitzvah or two (but never had one of my own)… So it never occurred to me to turn to God, per se, when people started talking about finding a higher power in recovery. But that said, just because I call it “the universe” and don’t go to temple, it doesn’t mean that religion isn’t important for some people in recovery. In fact, for some people it really is the difference between life and death. And I love that it provides such an important source of inspiration to carry on.* The more I hang around the recovery community, the more people I talk to, the more apparent it becomes that some people need the universe and some people need God—but everyone needs something to help them let go of the need for control. As an adult and in my own lifetime, I’ve seen religion as a collective construct that helps humans ascribe meaning to the universe, even if none of it is true (and I’ve found peace in accepting that I won’t know until I get there), a la Kurt Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle (not coincidentally my favorite book). But my own beliefs don’t make anyone else’s beliefs less true.... read more

Is Intuitive Eating “Worse” than Calorie Counting?

I know it’s Thanksgiving week and you’re probably hoping for tips and tricks for surviving the holiday. But I’ve done that before, and there are going to be a million other people writing posts in this same vein all week. Today, I want to talk about another topical subject, albeit one that has flown much further under the radar: So the New York times published another article by Gretchen Reynolds, whom I used to really trust as a news source, back in my gym-and-fitness obsessed days. Because her articles toed the party line about calories (in and out), working out, etc. They validated everything I needed to hear at the time to keep me locked into and justifying my exercise addiction. This doesn’t just apply to Ms. Reynolds’ articles, of course—the mainstream media is FULL of articles and reports and studies and press releases and analyses all meant to help you reduce your calories in, increase your calories out, and get to that all-important, all-mighty weight loss goal. But the reason I’m talking about her specifically today is the SHIT article that got posted in the New York Times Magazine this weekend comparing outcomes between calorie restriction and intuitive eating. Here’s the TL;DR: A study was published in October that basically says that Intuitive Eating is not as good as calorie counting. Now. Here’s the thing. This study is BEYOND problematic, as is this article. Because it makes SO many assumptions about what intuitive eating is for—and actually makes this method of freeing yourself from diet hell seem like a bad idea. So let’s just dig in: First of all—and... read more

UNpodcast 126: Body Positivity is a Political Act

TL;DR: Go listen to today’s podcast with Christy Harrison! Last week, I offered up the hypothesis that disordered eating is, in fact, a thing, that it is, in fact, dangerous to our mental and physical health, and that it is, in fact, something that more of us are falling prey to than we think. To those of you who don’t want to go back and read the post, here’s the TL;DR: Rapidly losing weight through restriction—so, basically participating in any of the various forms of diet culture, from cleansing and detoxing to intermittent fasting to overexercise to calorie counting to biohacking—can actually create physiological and mental health problems analogous to those that occur in people with the actual diagnosable mental illness of eating disorder. The obsession with food and fitness—and the performance of and identification with that obsession in both local and global forums—is making us sick. And it has to stop. But how? That’s the rub. I don’t know if we have the tools to get out of our body image hell, and I don’t think that, even if we did have them, we’d have any idea what to do with them. Let me give you a little metaphor, since I love metaphors so much: Imagine that diet culture is a box, and we are all inside of that box. We decide that we’ve had enough of obsessing about our bodies and our food, so we decide it’s time to break out of the box. But the only tools we have inside the box are diet culture’s tools, and diet culture’s tools can’t open up the box. Outside... read more

UNpodcast 125: You Don’t Have an Eating Disorder, but You ARE a Disordered Eater

TL;DR: Go listen to today’s podcast with Katie Dalebout! We’re in the middle of one of the most inhumane experiments in the history of humanity. We’re willing participants, and yet, at the same time, we don’t even realize that we’re allowing this experiment to happen. I’m not talking about vaccines or antibiotic-fed meat or GMOs, and if you thought that was what I might be referencing, then it’s very possible that you’re an unwilling subject in this experiment yourself. I’m talking about disordered eating—not just eating disorders, but the habits, beliefs, politics affecting and distorting the relationships we all have with our bodies. In the next two posts (so keep an eye out for next week’s post too!), I want to talk about the reasons, implications, and solutions so that we can consciously begin to end disordered eating and poor body image once and for all. The Premise In 1944-1945, scientists began an experiment on the effects of starvation using human subjects. In order to better understand starvation and refeeding—to help in the war effort—researchers at the University of Minnesota gathered a group of 36 conscientious objectors to World War II, all able-bodied cis-men without a history of mental illness. The men spent 12 weeks in observation to obtain a baseline, and then 26 weeks fed below 1600 calories, considered a starvation diet for male-bodied people, in an effort to have them lose 25% of their body weight. Then they would go through a refeeding period. The men did not enter the study with anorexia, but they began to display many of the physiological and psychological behaviors of anorexics... read more

But THEY Can Do It, So Why Can’t I? Why Essena O’Neill Matters

It’s finally happening. The cracks in the veneer are starting to show. They’re small. Almost unnoticeable. But they’re going to keep getting bigger. We’re living in one of the most grossly consumer-driven times in history, and it’s a huge problem. And finally, finally, some people are starting to speak out. A few days ago, a young woman named Essena O’Neill, an instagram-famous teenager, came out about her fake instagram life—how it was posed, controlled, unreal—and how she’s shutting down her accounts to make good.* And I know that there are plenty of you out there who are shocked and upset to hear that an instagram star could be making up her life, and I also know that there are plenty more who are angry, saying that of course it was posed, but so is everything we do these days, why make a big deal out of it? Or that maybe that was her experience, but it’s not sad and empty and fake for everyone…etc. But I think that we need to talk about Essena and “but they can do it” syndrome, especially when it comes to disordered eating and body image. One of the reasons why I feel so helpless as an activist, writer, and coach is because I get a lot of push back from people who are in denial about their food/body/exercise issues. And the denial is actually encouraged by the culture in which we live. The denial goes like this: “I don’t want to hate my body anymore.  I don’t want to feel out of control.  But I don’t want to stop eating Paleo/running marathons/doing cleanses/figure... read more

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