Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Can you believe that today marks the final day of August?? I can't! For me, this summer has flown by. I had a chance to sneak out of the office for lunch today, and I got to sit outside and enjoy this amazing weather we're having in Raleigh. Not too blazing hot but still warm, a little bit breezy and blue skies. Today is one of those days that gets me excited for Fall!!

Anyways, I thought I would round out August with some links to some of the more interesting articles I've read this month. Most of them come from the Huffington Post, a favorite of mine. If you've read any interesting ones, please feel free to share in the comments section! 
Enjoy this final day of August :-)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sweet Maggie and the D-Word

So, you may have heard the recent uproar about a new book written for children called Maggie Goes on a Diet, about a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet and is radically transformed from insecure, overweight girl to confident, social, thin, superstar soccer player. Seriously? What a message. :/ Good Morning America ran a piece with the author, which I am posting below that I would encourage you to watch. To be honest, I hesitated writing about this whole thing because 1- I haven't read the book (it's not out until October) and 2- this piece is getting so much negative attention, and I don't want to be another critical voice! But when I saw this interview, I felt the need to express just a few quick thoughts. More on why after the clip below. It's definitely worth watching- it's just a few minutes and it not only features an interview with the author but explores 6 year olds' inclinations towards thinness. So sad!

A few quick thoughts. After watching this interview with the author (Paul Kramer), I am fairly certain that he doesn't really get it. I don't think he is being malicious or intentionally trying to inflict harm on girls, but I do think that he is grossly uneducated about health and dieting. Rather than directing anger towards him, it might be helpful to use this as an opportunity to create open dialogue with people like him who don't see anything wrong with a book like this. Attacks against someone's character or critical diatribes aren't typically effective when trying to get one's point across. The other point that struck me is one I have known, but one that struck me again after this clip. As I watched, I was floored by just how young children pick up on messages about size and beauty. It's a good reminder that we have to be consistent and careful about how we communicate, and really, its a call for us to learn to embrace ourselves and pass on positive messages about our bodies and beauty to children.

If you are interested in writing a letter to the author or want more info on how to make a difference, follow this link to check out the Eating Disorder Coalition's latest info.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A few weekends ago, I was in Chicago and found myself downtown at a giant expo (a large exhibition= here.). I was offered one of my favorite things in the world- a fortune cookie- by a (friendly) stranger at a booth. As silly as it might sound, I love fortune cookies because I just love cracking the cookie open to read the message inside. (Fun side note- one of my best friends was proposed to in a specially made fortune cookie!) Anyways, inside of my cookie were some very inspiring quotes that I thought really related to recovery from an eating disorder. Not only that, but I think that these quotes are encouraging and inspirational for anyone facing a challenge of any magnitude. So.. here they are:

You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. -Eleanor Roosevelt

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.  -John Wooden

And while we're on the topic of motivational quotes, here is one of my favorites:

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. -Lao-Tzu

Sometimes, just putting one (proverbial) foot in front of the other is how we make it through the rough patches and on to our destination.

And now, to make this post a little bit cheesier, this song below is one that I think might brighten your day. I heard it on the way to work the other day and it was playing in my head alll day long. Not a bad song to have running through your head, with its message of 'keeping your head up' :-).

And last but not least, an awesome article via The Huffington Post. Carolyn Costin (contributor to my post awhile back on recovery- here !!!) is interviewed on making a full recovery from an ED, and her encouragement to readers as therapist to Portia de Rossi. Follow this link to check it out. She has a book coming out in October called 'The 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder.' Nancy Matsumoto reviewed the book on her blog, here. Sounds like its worth a read :) Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Celebrate the Small Things

Accentuating the positive, practicing gratitude, and celebrating the small things are all things that I think are important. Today, for me, is a little celebration- this day last year, August 18th, was my first day in private practice for myself! Lest you think I'm bragging, it was serendipity really that led me here [the definition of serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way]. Actually, I take that back- I think that everything happens for a reason and is ordained purposefully, but I feel that I was blessed in the way that things worked out to bring me to this point. I am so thankful to wake up each morning to do a job that I love, in a great office, in a great city full of people that I love.

                                 Happy first birthday to my private practice! 

While on the topic of celebrating the small things, I wanted to congratulate my friend Karen for her amazing work with The Grateful Tree. I blogged about her clothing line awhile back (read that post here) called The Grateful Tree, whose mission is to promote the fashion of gratitude. With each sale, a tree is planted, in addition to 30% of profits benefiting different charities. Karen has a passion for eating disorder recovery, and has also worked as a therapist specializing in treating eating disorders (we met in grad school!). She designed a shirt called the Grateful 'Hope' T-Shirt, whose profits go to the National Eating Disorders Association. Her shirts are being featured on NEDA's site, which is a pretty big deal. I am so proud of her!! Go Karen!! :-) Check it out here.. and then check out the tee. She sent me one a few months ago and I absolutely love mine. It is such a soft, comfortable tee that is perfect for lounging around in, or wearing to yoga. And it supports a great cause! 

No matter what is going on in your life today, take a minute to accentuate the positive, practice gratitude in some small way, and celebrate the smallest thing, even if you feel silly. If you are reading this, you have something to celebrate- you are alive!! :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Who Needs A Stress Dog?? :-)

Yesterday, this article was sent to me by my best friend- she doesn't really read my blog very often, so she probably won't see this- but she deserves a shout-out because she is amazing! :). Anyways, we'll keep her anonymous, because the subject line of her email read: I Need A Stress Dog. Haha. This is a girl who isn't a huge fan of animals. When she met my dog for the first time, Bella ran across her face. Yes- ran across her face. I know that sounds impossible, but it happened and I think it traumatized her. Soo, I was a little intrigued by her email. 

The NY Times article that she emailed me highlights the current debate over whether therapy dogs should be allowed in court, to help teenagers and others deal with having to disclose difficult testimony. My personal interest in this article had more to do with the idea of therapy dogs than anything else, and my best friend raised a good point- that therapy dogs help reduce stress!! Rosie, the golden retriever therapy dog who is featured in this article (named after Rosa Parks!), has worked with emotionally troubled children in a residential setting as well as in the court system. Therapy dogs play a role in helping reduce stress and can be very therapeutic. I'm sorry to say that I wasn't always a believer- but I am now. A friend of mine in Raleigh has two therapy/service dogs (which she has told me are two very different and distinct things). Her pups are so sweet. The Delta Society is a great resource that she told me about, if you would like more details. Or, if you are interested in hearing more about therapy dogs or service dogs, you can contact my friend herself- Sara Rose Roman, who graciously agreed in spite of her busy schedule to answer any questions that she can. (Sara is the founder of Change the Triangle, and also just started the Raleigh Forum, an awesome local business with her sister, Cristina. Definitely worth taking the time to check out both of these--click on the names and you will be led to their websites. You can reach her at! Thanks Sara!) 

According to statistics from the APPA, we know that owning a pet can reduce one's blood pressure, and can lower stress levels and cholesterol levels, too! There is also a correlation in owning a dog and lower rates of heart disease. Pets also help fight depression and loneliness, especially amongst the senior citizen set. This isn't a public service announcement to run out and buy a dog- or any pet- but just an interesting story in the news that got me thinking about the therapeutic nature of animals. In the past, I wrote a post about equine therapy, which is therapeutic work done with horses. This is fairly common in many residential facilities that treat eating disorders. You can check out my post here for more info.

Speaking of dogs- look who stopped by my office the other day for a few minutes at lunch?! Bella (a boston terrier) was checking out my new polka dot chairs. I think she approves. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Beauty, Princesses and Raising Girls- Part Two

A few days ago, I posted some thoughts on femininity, beauty and little girls (here!) related to Peggy Orenstein's book Cinderella Ate My Daughter. There are so many things to say about this book, and I would really encourage anyone who has daughters to read it-- or anyone who, like me, is simply interested in girl culture. It is one that will make you think long and hard. Orenstein explores the world of Disney Princesses, but also looks at the toddler beauty pageant world (Toddlers & Tiaras style), American Girl dolls, and social media. One thing that particularly got me was her examination of fairy tales and Disney stories. 

It's pretty interesting to consider some of the messages being communicated through Disney stories and fairy tales. As a kid, I never really thought too much about the stories themselves- I just remember that Ariel really loved the prince, and that Belle wore a yellow dress and loved the Beast! After reading Orenstein's book, it was pretty disturbing for me to step back and think some more about these stories. Take the Little Mermaid for example. That was a great one! Well, if you have seen it, take a minute to remember the premise. Do you remember? If you don't, here is a short version: Ariel, the Little Mermaid, sells her soul and her voice (literally) in order to earn the love of a prince (unabridged version via Wikipedia here). When I remembered that, I was a little bit shocked!! Becoming mute to be loved? Hmmm. I get that maybe this was seen as a grand gesture of her love, but the underlying message is not one that sends a positive, empowering message.

If I didn't think about these things as a kid, and didn't really understand what these things meant at the time, it may not be safe to assume that others didn't understand or pick up on the messages. But even if they didn't, why does any of this really matter? I guess I just think that if I had a little girl, I would not want her to pick up any messages about love, self-worth, relationships, happiness, etc from a story like this. I know it probably seems like I am over-reacting, and it is possible that I am. But I would rather over-react and be mindful when it comes to passing on potentially negative messages to very vulnerable ears and eyes! The challenge remains, however, to exhibit balance. It would be wrong to outlaw all stories and fairy tales, all Disney stories, princess stories, princess playing, dress-up and the color pink. That would ultimately be just as wrong and narrow minded! I think when interpreting media, regardless of the form, it is critically important to think through our choices and decisions about what is and isn't okay, and the consequent impact upon girls and women! As Orenstein says, "our role is not to keep the world at bay but to prepare our daughters so they can thrive within it."

With that, I will conclude with a quote- not really that relevant to the rest of this post- but one that I felt compelled to share as it addresses beauty, femininity and the media, topics often discussed on my blog. It is taken from Orenstein's book-
"I have never seen a study proving that playing princess specifically damages girls' self-esteem or dampens other aspirations. And trust me, I've looked. There is, however, ample evidence that the more mainstream media girls consume, the more importance they place on being pretty and sexy. And a ream of studies shows that teenage girls and college students who hold conventional beliefs about femininity--especially those that emphasize beauty and pleasing behavior--are less ambitious and more likely to be depressed than their peers. None of that bodes well for Snow White's long-term mental health."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Princesses, Raising Girls, and Beauty...

Some of my friends like to tease me about my girliness. I am sure if you read my blog from time to time that you may have picked up on that... (um, flower background, anyone?!). I like that I am feminine (and I think my friends do too), but my femininity isn't likely to be mistaken as 'prissy'. I have survived a 3 week Outward Bound type trip in the upper peninsula of Michigan, in which I was only allowed to carry two outfits on my back, and I spent a summer in Zambia, Africa, in the bush. Trust me when I say that I was roughing it. While I don't prefer to rough it when given the choice (just keeping it real), I don't feel that my femininity and relative sense of adventure have defined me in a way that has prevented me from viewing others expressions of femininity in an open minded manner. I guess we are all biased though--I just don't feel that I have a chip on my shoulder towards others who don't share my same sense of girliness, or who are more girly than myself.  

I think back to when I was young (I was born in the 80s), and I played with Barbies and My Little Ponies. But I also played with Lincoln Logs, and Tinker Toys, and loved them equally. I don't remember only wearing pink- I was a girly girl, but I also didn't really play a LOT of dress up, and while I remember enjoying Disney movies, I never really got wrapped up in the Disney princesses. Granted, by the time The Little Mermaid came out, I was in second or third grade. What I am about to say is an observation, rather than a judgment- but it seems like a lot of little girls these days are obsessed with the color pink and princesses! That is obviously a generalization, and with any generalization, there are exceptions to the rule. I have been having a difficult time putting into words my feelings about this flourishing princess culture, and reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter, written by Peggy Orenstein (it was on my summer reading list!), really helped me think through all of this a bit more.

Orenstein, who is up front from the get-go regarding her feminist leaning, believes that most parents are okay with their children being immersed in the Disney princess culture because they believe it is safe and child friendly. What could be safer than Disney, right?! Well.. she argues that little girls that are idealizing princesses are being set up to prioritize things that often lead to early sexualization (appearance, make-up, dressing up, etc). At the risk of this sounding like a giant leap- consider Disney teen star Miley Cyrus, etc. who started out as Disney's squeaky clean role model, who has now made quite a shift in her image. Or look at Britney Spears! Now, certainly, we can't use these women as evidence that our girls will turn out like them. Hey, I listened to 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' constantly and looked up to Britney for awhile, and I turned out okay. But when we raise our daughters in a princess world, it surely raises some questions about what kinds of messages they are getting.

First, the message of beauty. I don't know about you, but if you look at these pictures of the Disney princesses that I have posted, check out their waist size and their breasts. Or their cheekbones, and eyes? Most women I know don't look like that. Let's face it- we have a ways to go with how women and beauty are portrayed in the media, but that doesn't mean we have to be complicit with what we see. I don't know that I would want any daughter I might have one day to see these princesses and draw conclusions about beauty based on Ariel, Jasmine, Belle, etc. Let us not take ourselves too seriously--but if we're honest, our culture and ideals are ingrained in us at such a young age that I think we have to be responsible with the messages we are sending to our children, even when they are 3 years old! They are smart and pick up on a lot of things. If they are emulating princesses, dressing up and acting out princess games a lot, and they are being told that they are so beautiful as they play and dress-up, and that they are so special and precious, it sends them a pretty powerful message!

This post is getting lengthy, so I am going to conclude for now with a quote that Orenstein uses in her book in the context of an interview that she conducts with Catherine Steiner-Adair, the director of eating disorders education and prevention at the Klarman Eating Disorders Center at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. 
"'You're beautiful' is not something you want to say over and over to your daughter, because it's not something that you want her to think is so important. That said, there are times when it is important to say it: when she's messy or sweaty, when she's not dressed up, so that she gets a sense that there is something naturally beautiful about her as a person. And it's also important to connect beauty and love. To say,  'I love you so much. Everything about you is beautiful to me-- and you are beautiful to me.' That way you're not just objectifying her body." 

I will conclude my review of this book in my next post- would love to hear your thoughts!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Love Your Fellow Ladies

So- I read a pretty disheartening article today and I feel like I need to make a PSA (!public service announcement!) to all the women out there. "Love your fellow ladies!!" :-).

Here is what happened. And I will refrain from using names. If you read about this, then you know who I am talking about, and if you didn't hear about it or read about it, the specific people are not important. One celebrity called another "a fat (bleep)." Anyways- the celebrity who called the other one fat has publicly made the following statements: "I took more h*ll for being fat than I did for being an absolute raging drug addict. I will never understand that." She also has said, "Some horrible obnoxious teenager screamed out a car window to me, 'You're fat!' I went to my parents bawling. I would rather be called ugly than be called fat!"

Here is someone who has publicly and privately struggled with her body, her feelings about herself, who has even been bullied about her weight. And yet she uses the most hurtful word she has been called to inflict harm on someone else. This is not a vendetta against the name-caller herself, but in fact a call to women- for us to stop bullying each other and picking on one another about appearance, weight, intelligence, etc. Not to sound like a mom right now, but what good comes from that?! What if we spent all that time and energy (regardless of how little or how much time it is) being used to judge, hurt, slander, gossip etc about other girls and instead used that same breath and energy to do something positive? Pay someone a compliment, write someone an encouraging note, say a prayer for someone in need, ... random acts of kindness are so much better than taking shots at other girls! 

Also- think about it like this. As women, we face enough challenges, especially when it comes to redefining beauty. If we can't love our fellow woman, then how do we expect to make a difference, and make changes in our world together? Every time you are tempted to say something mean or bad about another girl, just stop and ask yourself if it is 1)beneficial; 2)nice; 3)helping anyone or making a positive difference. We have nothing to gain by being mean to each other and calling each other names, calling each other fat, calling each other ugly, etc. So ladies, love your fellow ladies!!