Endangered Bodies has an exciting event announcement
The 24/7 ubiquity of social media, Instagram, twitter, Facebook and tinder, have shifted the focus on body image into overdrive, and mums and teens appear to be key targets for this pressure. A new event from Endangered Bodies promises to tackle some of these hot topics, head on.
World renowned psychotherapist and author Susie Orbach is in Australia for the 2016 Sydney Writer’s Festival and her events have all sold out. But, Susie has offered one final event for Endangered Bodies:
Susie will be presenting at Lord Dudley Paddington, 20th May 2016, at 6.30pm. This is the final opportunity to see Susie whilst she visits Sydney, to discuss some of the most pressing issues surrounding body image in our contemporary society.
Susie will be joined by psychologist and director of BodyMatters Australasia, Sarah McMahon, to engage on key questions surrounding:
· New mums
· Parenting a teen
· Teenage body pressures
· Transgenerational eating issues
· Digital Nutrition - social media and its pressures
· Media literacy for teens
There is also an opportunity for Q&A with the audience. Further, a national survey on body image will be launched on the night, offering the chance for participants to share insights on the pressures affecting them.
The pressures on new mums and teens in today’s digital and online world has never been greater. From the popularised idea of new mums ‘bouncing back’ to teens and even pre-teens being encouraged to create and share images of ‘bikini bodies’ on social media.
Recent Australian research shows body dissatisfaction is one of the top issues for young people, often attributed to media and advertising. It would seem that industry is capitalising on this with a growing list of ‘cut price’ cosmetic surgery centres opening in Australian suburbs. Such an alarming trend has lead to increasing funding for research looking to understanding the growing rates of cosmetic surgery, in particular the explosion in rates of labiaplasty.
‘Endangered Bodies’ is a global body activism organisation founded by world famous Dr. Susie Orbach. The Australian branch was launched more recently, in 2014. Dr. Susie Orbach is renowned for her work with UK government, UN Commission and the late Princess Diana.
The Endangered Bodies movement looks to work alongside government to push for greater awareness and regulation around harmful industry tactics.
The Endangered Bodies movement describes itself as: “A challenge to those merchants of body hatred who turn girls and women against their own bodies. There is a growing movement of girls, women and men who reject the horrors of body uniformity and cherish instead the variety of body shapes, sizes, colours, ages of us all. We are determined to change the visual landscape so it reflects all of us from New York to Nairobi, from Shanghai to Lima, from Delhi to Bangkok, from London to Tehran, from everywhere you are to everywhere we are.”
Mocktacular Ads – Shaming the body shamers – Part 1
By Natalie Jovanovski
In the last month or so I've noticed what seems an endless array of ridiculously sexist and just downright shameful advertisements that try to make us feel bad about our bodies. My first reaction, of course, is to get really annoyed and chew the ear off of whoever is sitting next to me at the time. But I think I've found a new way to cope with my emotions - THROUGH LIST-MAKING AND COLLECTIVE VENTING (trust me, it’s science!)
So here it is - the first edition of "Mocktacular Ads " from the last two months (in no particular order).
1. "You don't have to look bad when you're exercising. You can wear make-up while you do it!” Did you know that you can wear make-up while you exercise? OMG you should totally be doing it!! Yes, you heard right. I actually read an article yesterday that inferred that a natural face is somehow “bad”, even whilst exercising!" What's next? "Cross-fit and stilettos... a match made in heaven"!
AND, to top it off, you can now purchase a professional gym photoshoot to prove how well your makeup stays on while you do burpees! Perfect!
2. “Your beautiful armpits”. They've run out of body parts to shame, so now they've moved on to armpits. A famous beauty company is now telling women all over the world that we don't need to feel bad about our armpits anymore... I must have missed that train - were we supposed to be feeling bad about our armpits? Your armpits are mostly hidden from the outside world and they don't require much maintenance at all... unless you're hacking at them with sandpaper (if so, please refrain if possible).
3. “BUY OUR WONDER DIET SHAKES” Diet Shakes are still a thing??Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you're already eating a balanced diet and exercising, what could you possibly do with a ‘diet shake’? Time to let go of the eighties, ‘diet shake’ companies.
4. Ahh yes, the "bottom of the foot" shaming. You know that rough skin at the bottom of your feet? It can be smooth. AND IT SHOULD BE SMOOTH.You'll never impress men with rough skin on the bottom of your feet, because - apparently - men prefer it if you appear as though you don't walk (hence, the smoothness). They like you to just sit there and take care of the bottom of your feet. Are you going to risk missing out on a husband because you shamefully use your feet to walk? I should hope not.
5. A car tyre and a faux-dominatrix walk into a bar... Okay, I have saved the best for last. A car servicing company has decided that the ideal way to advertise TYRES is to put two scantily clad women in a number of dangerous situations, SEXY dangerous situations. These women are wearing dominatrix costumes and wielding power tools in a seductive way (how is that possible?) Tyres, rubber, power tools, dominatrix, get it? Neither do I. I had never felt very comfortable at the mechanics growing up - it may have had something to do with the proudly displayed calendars of naked women on every conceivable surface of the workshop. Now, it seems, I should continue feeling uncomfortable around car service centres. YAAAYYY FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE IS SO FUN AND NOT AT ALL HORRIBLE. I'll service my own car with pieces of stick that I found in my front yard – my car might not appreciate it, but my self-esteem will.
If you have any mocktacular advertisements or articles that you'd like to share, feel free to shame them in the comments section under our Facebook post! Shame them before they try to shame you. Go on, treat yourself!
Posted by Laura Mcnally · October 12, 2015 5:10 PM
The Culture - A Day in the Life by Laura Jackson
She wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror and it all starts. Battle number one: unattainable beauty ideals- does she choose to apply makeup, or not? Do her hair, or not? She is struggling in a world where a woman’s appearance is critiqued at every moment.
She puts on her clothes, grappling with contradictory messages; “don’t dress like a slut or you can’t expect men to be able to control themselves!”, “don’t dress like a prude”, and “don’t even think about making a choice to dress according to the traditions of your culture”.
She grabs her possessions to leave the house. Maybe she picks up a ‘weapon’ to keep herself safe? What time is it? Is it dark? Is it safe to walk alone? Does she need to thread her keys between her fingers to punch an attacker?
As she drives to work, she passes billboards which objectify women in every way.
Once the car is parked, she walks from the car to work, and is beeped at, called out to and leered at by groups of men, told to smile by strangers, had her appearance critiqued over and over again. “Yeah baby”. “Oi jiggle tits, I saved you a seat on my face.”
She finally makes it to work, where her opinions count for less than men’s, where she have a far smaller chance of reaching the highest positions in many given careers, and is paid less for the same work.
The work day is done – she head out to a bar! A place where she should be able to enjoy herself. Instead she is routinely groped & harassed and sticks together with her friends for our own safety.
As she makes it back home, she know that she bears the weight of certain gender norms, which often require the larger responsibility for the raising of children, and household management, while trying to manage careers, or if she is the woman who chose not to stay at home with her kids, she is scorned & belittled and told what we should remember as we “do the ironing”.
By the time the day comes full circle and she is back in bed, she faces impossible comparisons with pornography, where women can be forced into sexual situations which they aren’t comfortable with, either by their own feelings that they should submit to expectations, or by the pressure by partners.
And then it’s time to wake up and do it all over again.
And even with all this laid out, I know that I am outlining the day of a woman who has certain advantages and privileges – she has a job, and a car and access to clothes and makeup, as well as the infrastructure of a first world nation. And the suffering of women who do not have these advantages, is worse on an enormous scale, from child marriages, entire groups of girls vanishing, survivors of rape being publicly stoned, women and girls without access to their basic human rights and education.
The story I’ve outlined, is a “good” day. She wasn’t beaten, raped, married off, sold into slavery or shot.
But when, in Australia, intimate partner violence is the number one, non disease related cause of death, disability or illness of women, between the ages of fifteen and forty four (Tara Moss, 2015) we can’t just look at the women who are having the so called “good” days.
What about the woman who lives with the man who is pacing the house in rage, who is breaking her possessions, who has isolated her from her friends and family? Who has cut off her access to finances, who puts her down, belittles, shames and humiliates her. Who demands to know where she is at all times. Who is jealous, controlling, coercive and threatening? Who has already caused so much pain, before he even raises his fist?
Laura Jackson is an emerging playwright and performer who is attempting to raise awareness and open conversations through her plays “Handle It” & “The Culture”.
“The Culture” is a brand new play from Laura Jackson which addresses critical concerns for a 2015 audience of domestic violence, homophobia and street harassment, in following dovetailing stories of two best friends Will who is gay and Katie who is a young woman. The two struggle for equality as they search for love in a modern culture which deems them both to be inferior.
“Handle It” is a one woman play, which covers issues of online privacy, sexual assault and victim blaming when a young woman has compromising pictures posted onto Facebook without her permission and six characters around her are left reeling in the wake of these events.
Posted by Laura Mcnally · October 07, 2015 2:13 PM
· 1 reaction
Gym gear isn't meant to make you feel guilty - A critique of the sexy gym gear craze
By Natalie Jovanovski
The popularity of fashionable gym clothes has always been slightly annoying, but I couldn't quite figure out why in the beginning. Don't get me wrong - I own gym clothes, and I like wearing them because - SHOCK HORROR - I enjoy feeling comfortable when I work out. You can't go wrong with a good elastic waist.
No, it's not the comfort of the clothes than make me feel uncomfortable. After much deliberation I realised that what annoys me about fashionable gym clothes - and what they represent in Western culture - is everything that a healthy exercise routine is not: Sexy, focused on appearance and a constant reminder that I should be getting my Aerobics Oz Style on.
Let's face it. If fashionable fitness tights could talk, this is what they would ask us: Are you feeling sexy? ... You're not? Then you need to work out harder. And try being sexy while you do it.
Do we really need our gym gear to make us feel guilty? Aren't we already taught to feel guilty about our bodies from every other facet of popular culture? Now our comfortable sweat pants need to turn on us, too?
Fashionable and sexy gym gear seems to be on the rise. Australian and international fashion companies have profited substantially from turning gym gear into the newest fashion accessories. Even parodies of the gym gear craze have appeared on YouTube and on breakfast television shows, highlighting the absurdity of wearing fitness outfits without engaging in the fitness bit. No longer is a fitness bra just an item of clothing designed to support your breasts during a jog - it's also there to make you look sexy during said jog (See: Serena's Williams' 'Bounce' campaign earlier this year). When will this sexy madness end?
Thankfully, I am not alone in my frustration. Maggie Kelly, a Sydney-based writer who has previously commented on crazy diets and fitness crazes, refers to the sexy gym gear phenomenon as 'fake healthy': a way to pretend like you're being healthy by simply putting on an a tight-fitting fitness outfit.
Surely if you're planning on being healthy, this pursuit will take more than just a change of outfit? While some have commented that fashionable gym gear puts them in the 'mood' for exercising, others have argued that donning their expensive pair of fancy fitness tights without the exercise only makes them feel more guilty about themselves.
But the popularisation of fashionable gym clothes hasn't been all bad. Being physically comfortable in the clothing we wear is a good thing. An elastic waist, flat comfortable shoes and a good-fitting sports bra are a nice change from the ultra high heels that so many of us have become accustomed to. But the need to feel sexy, and then feeling guilty about the lack of exercise we're doing while looking sexy, is counterproductive.
Feeling good about our bodies starts with how we treat our bodies, not with how we adorn them.
No amount of sexy fitness tights will change that.
I’m replacing the sexy gym gear with comfortable tracksuit pants. The focus has to be on being kind to our bodies. Being sexy can wait for another time.
What do Collarbones, Bellybuttons and the Kylie Jenner Pout have in common?
The dysfunctional culture of body-shaming ‘challenges’
By Natalie Jovanovski
The latest craze to sweep the internet, joining a long list of ‘challenges’ aimed specifically at young women, is the ‘collarbone challenge’. For those of you who haven’t heard, the collarbone challenge, which was popularised by Chinese celebrities in the last couple of weeks, involves placing coins on your collarbone. The more coins you’re able to hold, the more ‘superior’ your collarbone is said to be. After all, who wouldn’t want a superior collarbone?
Just several weeks earlier, the ‘bellybutton challenge’ was doing the rounds on the Internet, where young women were encouraged to upload photos of themselves in obscure positions. Once again, pictures of female celebrities ‘succeeding’ were broadcasted online.
Just several weeks before that, and geared towards primarily Western audiences, the Internet exploded with the ‘Kylie Jenner challenge’. This is where young women cupped their lips to make them swell into a Botox-inspired pout (in other words, to pull a ‘Kylie Jenner’). This particular ‘challenge’ was so popular, that it made the news, and spawned a series of failed YouTube videos that showed young women ‘failing’ the challenge i.e., bruising the area around their lips due to excess suction.
The first reactions to these ‘challenges’ were rather predictable. People either laughed at or dismissed them as ‘just a bit of fun’, with some even trying to mimic the celebrities online with varying results. However, another more problematic reaction involved criticising the young women who tried - and ‘failed’ - the ‘challenges’, labelling them as ‘stupid’ and ‘impressionable’.
Amidst all the laughter and judgement, what everybody has failed to ask is: why are these body-shaming practices framed as actual ‘challenges’? And why has everybody failed to notice that ‘challenge’ culture is good old body-shaming wrapped in glitzy, celebrity-inspired clothing?
Rather than being ‘just a bit of fun’, body-dissatisfaction affects a significant number of young women both in Western and non-Western contexts, and has been shown to lead to dangerous compensatory practices such as cosmetic surgery and other forms of self-harm, such as disordered eating behaviour. Rather than laughing at women who feel badly about their bodies, we (ought to) respond compassionately to their experiences. But ‘challenge’ culture encourages us to laugh at and join young women in their body-dissatisfaction.
What needs to be culturally emphasised, however, is that body-shaming is not a fun challenge, it’s a cultural problem.
Calling these practices ‘challenges’ merely masks their problematic origins, and turns the anxiety that women feel about their bodies into a culturally validated competition – with the celebrity tick of approval. The girls who ‘fail’ these ‘challenges’ are laughed at for being impressionable, but those who ‘win’ aren’t necessarily let off the hook. As Laura McNally argues in her piece on the downside of adhering to the beauty myth - achieving the pornified, thin, hairless, pouty ideal is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Rather, it is often used to reinforce female sexual objectification:
“We should feel great about our bodies and about sexuality too, but feeling great doesn’t come by conforming to sexual commodification. We know this, empirically we know this. Yet somehow we are still fighting the same fight. Over a century ago women were fighting for the vote, they may never have guessed that today we are fighting for our right to have differently shaped [bodies]”.
Indeed, if we’re going to use the rhetoric of the ‘challenge’, then why don’t we use it responsibly, and in a way that challenges the backward social expectation that we need to ‘perfect’ ourselves according to some unrealistic ideal? The real challenge is not to pout like Kylie Jenner or to turn our collarbones into glorified ashtrays, but instead, to see these body-shaming ‘challenges’ pop up in our newsfeed is to challenge them immediately.
Asking questions is a great start – and the beginning of every cultural movement and source of empowerment.
And that’s what Endangered Bodies Australia encourages you to do. When you see the next ‘challenge’ pop up in your newsfeed, ask yourselves: Why are practices that are designed to make women feel badly about their bodies designed as fun ‘challenges’? And how can we critique this culture without sounding like we’re ruining the party?
As always, we encourage discussion in the comments section of our Facebook page. Have you successfully challenged this harmful culture? We’d love to hear your experiences!
Quite a few years ago I sat in my therapists consulting room and half listened while she lamented on about the benefits of working on “body image”.
I nodded in agreement, hoping my face looked pensive (I have zero poker face and often need to summon up certain expressions before the ‘real ones’ dance across my face). I murmured, ‘yes of course…’ while I stared out the window at the traffic and wondered whether I could make it back to Bondi in time for a spin class…
Blah, blah, blah…her voice was hypnotic and strangely soothing but I had no interest in what she was talking about. I wanted to be thin and working on my ‘body image’ was a freaking sell out.
Fast forward to now, and in a a strange twist of fate, (though I prefer to think of it as using my past suffering in service to others) I have my own practice in which I talk to clients almost exclusively about body image and disordered eating.
I have to be honest, I find it almost amusing when I see their eyes glass over. I hear myself talk about how loving and accepting your body are the keys to the castle and I watch while they nod their heads in agreement. I want to call ‘bullshit’ (and sometimes I do).
You see, I know that they’re really thinking about what training they can squeeze in before dinner, or they are quietly running through what they have eaten that day in order to decide what they should have for dinner. I know that there is also a strong (to very strong) possibility that they are just sitting there thinking I’m full of shit.
I know that deep down many of them think that the only possible way they will ever love their body is if they lose the x amount of weight they currently feel is ‘holding them back’ from living a happy and beautiful life.
I get it. I really do. I have been there.
And what I now know is this: learning to love and accept your body right now is not about changing your body.
It’s about changing your mindset.
I know this for a fact because although I am probably in the same weight range that I have been for most of my adult life (though it has been years since I have actually been on a scale to confirm this fact), there have been times in my life when I have been a lot thinner and I stillfreaking hated my body (I also didn't have a period for 5 years, was depressed, anxious, irritable, had zero sex drive and would no more dance around in the nude cleaning my apartment than I would fly to the moon (mind you, I always cleaned my apartment thanks to my somewhat unhealthy obsessive, compulsive complex but never naked, but, I digress…).
Changing your mindset about your body means changing your perspective, and it is a process.
Sometimes a long one.
Where to start? I personally started with the following (though bear in mind that what worked for me, may not work for you. I also tried many more that didn't ‘work’:
1. I stopped telling myself I was a fat, worthless piece of shit. Kind of a no brainer really, but a really hard one to overcome. The way we talk to ourselves is so powerful and changing the dialogue is critical to overcoming body shame. I started practicing interrupting every negative thought with a variety of phrases: “shhh, I love you”, “choose again”, and “I’m sorry” were some of my favourites.
I also tried to work out what was really going on for me in moments when I started freaking out about not wanting to leave the house because I “felt like “a fat, repulsive piece of shit” (yes, these were my thoughts). I started addressing my real feelings (anxiety, unworthiness, fear of judgement) and the real issues underlying them, because, in case you haven’t heard, “fat isn't a feeling”.
2. I stopped weighing myself. I actually gave this up a long time before I started doing any real work on my body image but I think it’s useful for me to include it as it features heavily in my work with clients who I have “surrender” their scale to me and sign an agreement not to use one while we are working together.
Yup. I am pretty serious about giving this bad boy up.
Why? Because I am passionate about the fact that no good can come of stepping on one. None. And while I acknowledge that “some” people might be able to jump on the scale out of “interest” and without any negative repercussions (though to those people I would urge, get a better hobby), if you are reading this, you probably aren't one of those people.
If my passion for getting rid of the scale does not persuade you, perhaps think about why you feel the need to use them. If the answer is “I don't really need to, I just like to” great - stop using them. If the answer is more along the lines of “I need or like to know where I am at” or “I need to keep myself accountable” (or some version of either of these) congratulations, these are really shitty reasons, and you need to step away from the scale. Give. It. Up. These reasons practically guarantee that the scale will or is leading you to screw with your food as it is practically impossible for most people to have a ‘normal’ relationship with food (i.e to eat intuitively) when they are constantly weighing in. Which brings me to my next point…
3. I stopped screwing with my food (i.e. I stopped dieting in all its various guises: clean eating, restrictive eating, not eating certain types of food, avoiding carbs, “eating healthy” the whole kit and kaboodle). If you haven’t already given up dieting, please give it up now.
How can you ever learn to love and accept your body when you don't trust yourself and instead rely on external rules and ‘expert advice’ on how to eat? If you have no idea what it means to eat intuitively (i.e. according to the inherent wisdom of YOUR body), I recommend picking up a copy of Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch as an essential starting point. (I could write an entire article on how body shame and dieting are inextricably linked but as it’s not the purpose of this particular article, just know this: there is very good research linking the two).
4. I bought new clothes. If you want to feel good about your body, insisting on trying to squeeze into those “skinny jeans” you bought 5 years ago that no longer fit is not a good starting point. Would you make a child (your son, daughter, niece, nephew, brother or sister) wear clothes that didn't fit or felt uncomfortable? Would you tell him or her that they could only wear something in a particular size and if it didn't fit they had to schlep around in old tracksuit pants and stained T shirts? Forget the size. Forget what size you once were. Buy clothes that fit and that make you feel beautiful right now.
5. I unsubscribed from, unfollowed and got rid of absolutely anything and everything that generated feelings of insecurity or dragged me down the path of “compare and despair” (I even went through a period where I even stopped looking at old photos of myself). This will no doubt vary from person to person but may include facebook, twitter and instagram accounts, “health” and “fitness” magazines, TV shows that body shame such as The Biggest Loser, Supersize v Superskinny, Extreme Weight Loss, Shedding for the Wedding, Celebrity Fit Club etc (if you work with me you know I call this stuff “ED porn” and I often recommend the BBC series “The Men Who Made Us Thin” for several hours of useful documentary watching while you are “detoxing” from this crap), email subscriptions, forums, and blogs that tell you “how to eat”, that “sugar is addictive” or use headlines such as “give up these foods now” or “what to eat in order to get ripped” - you know the stuff I’m talking about here.
I would also consider distancing yourself from friends who regularly update their feeds and accounts with weight loss, food fear mongering, diet, training and fitspo shit (you don't need to unfriend them - just unfollow or hide them), delete your tracking systems like Health, MyFitnessPal etc, and for goodness sake, stop wearing your or activity monitor or HR monitor, (unless you have a heart condition) - is knowing how many calories you burned, or how many steps you took on any given day really improving the quality of your life? We have an inbuilt one. It’s called the wisdom of YOUR body. Start listening.
6. I got naked. This was hard. Really, really, hard. For a very long time I never got naked. Except in the shower and only then only with the lights off. I never had a bath because I didn't want to look at myself. I cannot overstate how hard it was for me to write that paragraph. It hurts to even remember how disconnected and self-loathing I was toward my body at one point in time.
I also have to be honest, when it was first suggested to me that spending time naked would make me feel more comfortable in my body I was freaking horrified. The suggestion came with the really helpful tagline “it's like desensitization therapy”. OK. Whatever.
I resisted it, for a very, very long time. Until one day I was visiting a friend and her daughter ran, naked, into the kitchen where we were talking. My friend laughed and told her to go and put her clothes on and she flat out refused, giggling hysterically and ran off into the backyard to play with her brothers. In that moment, something really shifted for me. More than anything else, I realised that I wanted to embody that feeling I had had as a child who spent a lot of time naked (my mum has the photos to prove it) a time when I felt comfortable and happy, naked.
So, this might sound simplistic but I just started acting as if I was already comfortable and happy naked (and it took some getting used to). I started taking a bath every other day and I just kind of got into the habit of doing ‘stuff’ in the nude, and what I found was that working, cleaning and chilling out in the nude was liberating and I just started to feel more and more comfortable doing it (I work from home so for those of you who don’t…um, probably best to not experiment there…#awkward).
The only draw back to my new found nudity is that I need to keep my blinds half closed most of the time (which means using the lights more - apologies to the environmentalists - on the upside, Energy Australia loves me) but thanks to the various men who live in the apartment building opposite me who apparently also feel rather comfortable with their naked form (I thank you, my friends thank you and even my mother thanks you) I am more than aware of the uninterrupted views we have.
7. I redefined beauty. This one is a little controversial but I need to include it because it had such a profound impact on me. I started looking at images of women of all shapes and sizes on pinteresrt and instagram, I read positive body image blogs and subscribed to sites that promoted body diversity and filled my facebook feed with things along the same lines. In essence, I created a new little universe for myself where people were kind and positive, a space where all bodies are good bodies and where the general consensus was, if you don’t have anything nice to say, see a therapist because you have ‘stuff’ you need to work on.…
Now, I am not going to lie, it took me a long time to rewire my brain to find all bodies beautiful. We have all been culturally brain washed to view (thin), fit, lean etc bodies as being the ‘ideal’. This is mainly so that companies can sell us shit we don't need like diets and training regimes (after all, it’s a $63 billion dollar industry in the US) and if you don't believe me, let me ask you this: do you honestly think you were born with a preference for one body type or body size over another?
The problem is that mainstream culture has an incredibly narrow definition of beauty (possibly the understatement of the year) so unless you are making a concerted effort to look at the thousands of other different versions and definitions of beauty that exist, it is more than likely that you have been brainwashed into thinking that only one exists. Change your culture. And by this I mean, your online one. Mine is filled with men and women who inspire and promote beauty of all sizes. Once you start to reinvent your definition of beauty, you will shift your perception of what beauty means. And yes, this will have a profound impact on the way you view yourself.
8. I realised that what I really wanted was to feel beautiful and sensual (I wrote about this in my last post) and when it finally dawned on me that those were feelings were available to me at any weight, and in any clothing size, well, it was somewhat of an epiphany. Feeling beautiful and sensual is about the way I treat and relate to myself. It is about honouring all of my appetites in every possible sense and sensation of the word. I seek pleasure and joy in everything I do - from the way I eat, to the way I relax, and I am completely and utterly unapologetic about all of it. Buy some beautiful lingerie, light candles, have sex (alone or with a partner), get a massage…treat yourself as though you are already at that magical weight you are currently spending so much time and energy trying to get to….live as if you are already deserving of those things. Because you are.
9. I discovered spirituality. When I came to the realisation that I am on this earth to live my purpose, to be light, to feel joy and to be of service to others…I had a massive paradigm shift. This was a compete game changer. I stopped worrying about shit that didn't matter (what clothing size I wore or whether I thought I looked good/attractive/sexy/fit) and started to spend my time reflecting on how I could best be of service to another human being, on how I could radiate light and joy so that other people could see their own…Marianne Williamson, Danielle LaPorte and Jordan Bach (if he was straight and I was single…I would totally cyber stalk him more than I already do…just saying) are my favourite people in this space and I strongly suggest checking them out if you need a place to start.
And, if none of the above points resonate with you, I saved the most important one for last….
10. I acknowledged the price I was paying. And the costs I encountered as a result of my body shame were substantial. They included:
An overwhelming and all encompassing self loathing toward myself. This led to major depression, and to me almost taking my own life.
Avoidance of activities such as going to the beach or the pool due to the shame and disgust I felt over the way I looked.
Avoidance of social activities for the same reasons.
Isolation and loneliness as a result of avoiding all social situations and activities.
A really, really shitty sex life. Read: nonexistent. This makes sense though doesn’t it? How can you possibly hope to connect with your body, (alone or with a partner) or to experience pleasure and satisfaction, when you are too caught up loathing the way you look? (Not to mention that when you are routinely depriving yourself of food your libido goes out the window, but again,I digress).
Think about what body shame is currently costing YOU? How is hating your body working out for you? Really. Be honest. Make a list.
Making the decision to accept and love your body right now is not ‘giving up’. It is not ‘selling out’. Some people might consider it brave in a culture where only one particular body type is deemed acceptable, but I don't see it that way.
I believe that learning to love and accept your body is an obligation: an obligation to honor your birth given right to be happy and to live a beautiful life.
Posted by Laura Mcnally · April 14, 2015 2:11 PM
· 1 reaction
Cultural orthorexia: When ‘healthy eating’ becomes unhealthy obsession
By Natalie Jovanovski.
In recent weeks many big names in the food and diet industry have come under fire. Chef Pete Evan’s is facing growing criticism for his paleo diet book. Ashy Bines – former lingerie model turned ‘clean eating guru’ - has been criticised for copying recipes. Foodbabe Blogger is being questioned for labelling normal foods as ‘toxic’. There is as much hype about ‘sugar free’ as there are questions about all this food panic. So what exactly is going on? And why are so many non-experts selling us their dietary advice? To understand how they do it, we need to look at Orthorexia.
Orthorexia is a condition that involves the obsessive avoidance of foods that are considered ‘unhealthy’ and the strict consumption of ‘healthy’ or ‘clean’ foods. While orthorexia is not classified as an official psychological disorder in the recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), psychologists and other medical professionals report that it affects a significant number of young women and, increasingly, young men.
Several studies have identified that orthorexia is linked to a number of individual factors, such as low self-esteem, increased obsession and comorbidity with other psychological illnesses, such as anxiety disorders. However, none of these studies have asked themselves: Where is the obsession with health and ‘clean eating’ coming from?
It has been well-established that anorexia and bulimia nervosa stem, in part, from a culture that teaches women to ‘perfect’ their bodies at any cost. Images of thin models in catwalk shows and fashion magazines have been strongly implicated to the development of anorexic and bulimic symptoms among women, a theory that is otherwise known as the sociocultural theory. While research into the effects of these images on women with eating disorders proliferates, barely any studies have implicated culture to the development of orthorexia. In keeping with the notion that our society and culture shape the way that we relate to food and our bodies, it may be useful to acknowledge that the growing obsession with health and ‘clean eating’ can also be traced back to the messages that we hear about food on a daily basis.
Advertisements and television programmes are increasingly aimed at reinforcing messages of health, often by instructing people how to eat ‘healthy’. Reality television shows, such as the Biggest Loser, reinforce the idea that losing weight and eating healthy are the keys to longevity and personal success. In these shows, health is an obsessive pursuit, rather than a way to nourish oneself. This normalises the idea that we must compete with ourselves – and others – to attain ‘good health’. The cookbook and diet industries are also responsible for sending us confusing messages about ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ foods, and are constantly in competition with one another; each promising to help us improve our health. But which messages do we believe and which do we discard as the next ‘fad’ diet?
The cultural confusion about ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ foods are contributing to confusion in the individual. In 2013, American blogger Jordan Younger – who was once known as ‘The Blonde Vegan’ – embarked on online diet journal that chronicled her journey through veganism and ‘clean’ eating; a hobby that turned into orthorexia. In her interview with Women’s Health Magazine, Younger describes how her pursuit of healthy eating quickly spiralled out of control:
‘I had known in the back of my mind for a while that I had developed many fears surrounding food, and it was clear to me that I was becoming more and more limited in what I was comfortable eating. I even joked about it with my close friends, calling certain foods, like eggs, "fear foods," because I had stayed away from them for so long. It was easy to hide behind the shield of veganism when I was at a restaurant with friends or even when I was grocery shopping for myself. Anything that wasn't completely clean—oil-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and plant-based—I dismissed because it wasn't within the dietary label I had given myself.’
Younger was able to question her eating practices before they became dangerous, but the praise she received from people for her ‘clean’ eating reinforced her symptoms, which are now thankfully under control.
Nourishing ourselves involves more than the food we eat or how much we exercise, it is also about giving ourselves the right to enjoy life. If that means trading a carrot stick for a piece of cake at a party, or going for a leisurely walk with friends rather than treading the treadmill, then so be it! Health and happiness do not need to be mutually exclusive.
If you’re ready to have these discussions with your friends and family, perhaps you can identify some of the ways that our culture promotes orthorexic thinking? Ask yourselves: Is this really just about health or about something else?
Posted by Laura Mcnally · March 31, 2015 10:27 PM
· 1 reaction
Living with Lipo[il]literacies: Why the “fat = unhealthy” myth is damaging our discussions of health and well-being.
By Natalie Jovanovski.
We’re told as children to never judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to our bodies – and other people’s bodies – that’s all we’re ever encouraged to do.
An unfortunate part of living in a culture that magnifies the importance of our appearance, (promoted largely by the fixation on the thin-ideal) is that we learn to read bodies for signs of health and well-being simply just by looking at them. From the magazine aisle to the doctor’s office, body-shaming messages are part of the wallpaper of contemporary Western culture, and they are used as a way to normalise the notion that “fat = unhealthy”. Some have referred to this phenomenon as ‘lipoliteracy’.
‘Lipo’, the Greek word for ‘fat’, coupled with the word ‘literacy’, directly translates to the reading of body fat or the ‘fat’ body. Coined by Mark Graham, ‘lipoliteracy’ is a term used in sociological research to refer to the evaluation of a person’s health based on the superficial reading of their weight and shape.
In The ‘Fat’ Female Body, Samantha Murray refers to ‘lipoliteracy’ as a phenomenon that affects women more than men in Western societies. Focusing strongly on the way that lipoliteracies occur within medical institutions, Murray uses the example of Irvin Yalom, a prominent US physician who found the appearance of the ‘fat’ female body as repulsive and an affront to female sexuality, as an example of how lipoliteracy truly is culturally ingrained. Indeed, how many of us have heard a GP prescribe weight-loss for illnesses that have nothing to do with body-weight at all?
Evidence of lipoliteracy is also found widely in the media. One of the most recent examples is of a documentary by controversial British TV personality Katie Hopkins called My Fat Story which aired on TLC. In the two-part series, Hopkins is shown repeatedly – and unashamedly – making superficial judgements about people’s health just by reading their body fat, and unsophisticatedly moralising their bodies throughout the process. Indeed, Hopkins does little to empathise or respect the extent to which ‘fat’ is stigmatised in our culture, even when her own body is judged erroneously based on its shape and size.
There is also a feigned condescending concern for ‘fat’ women, prevalent in much of the medical and pop cultural discussions. The more the “fat = unhealthy” message is spread, the more it becomes normalised as the ‘truth’. But lipoliteracies aren’t accurate readings of health and well-being. Rather, they emphasise how lipo[il]literate our culture really is, and just how far society has to go – to change the way that we think about our health and well-being.
After all, what is left out of lipo[il]literate messages that define the way we think about bodies? An in-depth understanding of how our body-shaming culture demonises certain body weights/shapes, and misunderstands how health should be measured and defined.
This is not an article that argues that the ‘fat’ body cannot be unhealthy, or that ‘thinness’ automatically translates to being unwell. This is also not an argument that it’s impossible to read some people’s bodies for signs of health and well-being. Rather, what is being highlighted is that the lipo[il]literacies that circulate throughout Western culture, such as those promoted by the medical profession, the media, and even everyday social encounters, are damaging to the discussions that we could be having about preventable illnesses and diseases.
Personalising the issue with unsophisticated comments akin to schoolyard bullying (i.e., “fatso” or “frog legs”) is not going to lead to progress, nor is masking the judgements in a faux-medicalised narrative. Instead of making lipoiliterate judgements, we can instead focus on what is truly productive for health, like examining the social, reinforce cultural, gender and class factors that lead to poor health outcomes.
Indeed, an important part of tackling a ‘lipo[il]literate’ culture involves both being aware of and challenging these messages when they occur. This involves actively asking ourselves – and those around us – questions such as: When was the last time you heard a lipo[il]literate message? And how do you think we should tackle this issue as a society?
If you are ready to ask some difficult questions about how we read our bodies, and the bodies of others - what are some other questions we could ask that untangle the pernicious culture of lipo[il]literacies we currently face?
Breaking update on the ‘Fat is Not a Feeling’ campaign: Facebook removed the “fat” option from the list of feelings emoticons. The move comes after more than 16,000 people signed on to Endangered Bodies’ Change.org petition and the issue garnered attention in news outlets across the globe.
As late as yesterday afternoon, Facebook was standing by their decision to keep the emoticon. While the social media giant has yet to release a statement on their decision to remove it, Endangered Bodies is celebrating the move as a victory in the fight against body shaming:
Says Endangered Bodies:"The eight chapters of the global movement Endangered Bodies are pleased to discover that Facebook has responded to our international petition and its 16K+ supporters by removing the "I feel fat" emoticon from its list of options! We extend special thanks to the thousands of people around the world who have signed our petition, showing that each and every one of your voices can be heard and has made a positive difference. We look forward to continuing a dialogue with Facebook to support their efforts in being a body-positive platform, leading the way for other social media sites to follow suit."
Update on the #fatisnotafeeling petition: 15 000 signatures and counting!
By Natalie Jovanovski.
Since the #fatisnotafeeling petition was launched over a week ago, there have been more than 15,000 online signatures of support from all over the world – over 15,000 voices in agreement that Facebook should remove their body-shaming “fat” and “ugly” emojis. Support for the #fatisnotafeeling campaign has been overwhelming, gaining widespread media coverage and, perhaps more importantly, fostering open discussions about body-shaming messages and how the digital age has contributed to the evolution of these harmful cultural narratives.
If you were one of the people who signed and shared the petition, Endangered Bodies Australia just wants to say THANK YOU for all your support! Without your voices, Facebook’s body-shaming emoji’s would continue without question, and as we all know, harmful messages thrive in a culture of silence - the only way to break the cycle is by speaking up.
Thankfully, our collective voices have been heard. Media coverage of the Fat is not a Feeling campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. International campaigns, as well as Australia’s campaign which was launched by Rebecca Guzelian, have been picking up traction, featuring in news articles from the Washington Post, Daily Mail, Huffington Post, CNN and even Buzzfeed, where one twitter-user mocked the “fat” emoji by asking, “What’s next? Feeling ‘kidney’? Feeling ‘brain’?”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, our very own vice-president of Endangered Bodies, Sarah McMahon, said that while the support for the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive, there is still more work to be done:
“Facebook has not been listening. Not only do these features remain as emoji selections, Facebook have not addressed the criticisms that this plays in contributing to culture of body shaming… This is despite the fact Facebook claims that one of their core values is to build social value - which in this instance they are not doing. This is particularly concerning when research demonstrates that Facebook use is already associated with increased risk of eating disorders, weight concern and anxiety”.
Indeed, what is often ignored in discussions of body-shaming messages is the notion that they are powerful enough to influence negative self-evaluations in people that can lead to eating disorders. Tackling our culture of dangerous messages requires identifying both how and where body-shaming messages occur, and discussing what can be done to stop these messages.
Unfortunately, the “fat” and “ugly” emojis still feature as regular part of Facebook’s emoji selection, so our task is not over yet! We need more voices to join our cause, and more discussions about how “fat” and “ugly” are adjectives, and not feelings.
If you haven’t done so already, please sign Rebecca’s change.org petition calling for Facebook to remove their body-shaming “fat” and “ugly” emojis. Send it to all your friends and family, and encourage open discussions about body-shaming messages and their impact on women’s lives. If you have twitter, use the hashtag #fatisnotafeeling to spread the word.
Our collective voices are powerful enough to take down Facebook’s body-shaming “fat” and “ugly” emojis. Let’s do this one signature at a time – and let’s keep talking about it. Please sign the petition here!