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No Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat-Talk Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my family’s favorite holiday. Is it one of yours too? There’s something so powerful about a holiday that everyone celebrates in America because it is part of American culture, not religion.  But you know what can really ruin a good holiday meal? Fat Talk.

Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

A collaborative body image article by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

With Thanksgiving on Thursday and many of the major holidays right around the corner, expectations run high. The grand dinner, the family gathering and…who’s done what since the last get together. You know what I mean. Who’s dating and who’s been dumped. Whose daughter was accepted early to the best program and who is licking her wounds?

And of course, who’s gained weight.

The comparisons slip off the tongue as easily as the marshmallows are stolen off the sweet potato casserole. It easily, seamlessly, and expectantly becomes part of the dinner conversation. Between bites, stares of “should you be eating that” meld with apologies for eating too much and promises to be “good” at dessert time. Each plate is then served with a hefty heaping of shame, blame, and naming names of those relatives or celebrities who are or are not adhering to the narrow definition of what is considered the standard of beauty these days. Is this really what Holiday Dinners are supposed to be about?

Fat-Talk-Free Holiday Tips

It’s time to take control of our holidays instead of allowing Fat Talk into the driver’s seat. Dr. Robyn Silverman and Dr. Lynne Kenney give you the tips to make your Holiday a positive experience where everyone involved can come away feeling good, strong, powerful, and supported.

Dr. Robyn Says…

(1) Declare the Holiday Table a Fat Talk Free Zone: In Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I talk about establishing a Fat Talk Free Zone in order to take charge of what kind of “talk” you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Holidays, of course, are special occasions and times when we see people who aren’t in our every lives. While it may take guts, ask your guests (YES, your mother-in-law too!) to join you in making this holiday a positive one where you build people up rather than tear them (including yourself!) down. Hang it right on the door or by the Holiday Table; “You are now entering the Fat Talk Free Zone!”

(2) Don’t forget what Holiday Family Dinners are really all about: When you think of the true meaning of your holiday get togethers, they’re really about love, family, friends, and gratitude, right? I mean, what happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving? If we can focus on what we have—our strengths, our assets, and our support system—instead of what we lack, our Holiday dinners will surely be more enjoyable…and something to fondly look forward to and remember.

(3) Remember what Your Mama told you (if you can’t say something nice…): Whether it’s about yourself or someone else, snarky, rude comments Read more

“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home

Rebecca Tishman, our teen college blogger, has openly told our readers her story of eating disorders and recovery over the last 2 years. Her frank insight and bold discussion has helped many understand the many facets of eating disorders during the teen years and how they can be a support to others who are facing similar challenges.  Today, Rebecca writes about her eating disorder relapse. 

Relapse from an eating disorder is not uncommon. Studies show that 1/3 of women treated for anorexia or bulimia relapse within 9 years and 40% of patients with anorexia relapse within 1 year of being treated at an inpatient eating disorder facility. While Rebecca is in no way alone, there is no doubt that this article was likely hard for Rebecca to write. Please write in your support, comments, questions, encouraging words, and congratulations for her courage during her ongoing fight against ED either here or on my Facebook site where she’ll also be interacting with readers.

“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home by our college blogger, Rebecca Tishman

I’ll be honest. As much as I’d like to say that I’m fully recovered from my eating disorder (ED), it looks as though ED’s still got me on my toes.

Back in May I finished my first year of college. What a feat, right? Two days later I moved to North Carolina for an internship opportunity I secured there at an artist collaborative. Things seemed to be going great at first. I did my own grocery shopping. I cooked meals everyday.  I was able to clear my mind of all the stress that developed over the past year and exercised in an appropriate amount. Yes! I was staying in control of my Eating Disorder instead of the other way around.

But then it happened. I had naively let my guard down and allowed ED sneak his way back in. I was relapsing.

It was about halfway through my stay there. I somersaulted so quickly. My own Read more

Plastic Surgery Mommy Make-Overs: Dr. Robyn Discusses on GMA

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The post-pregnancy body is a controversial topic these days.  Isn’t that…strange? It used to be that we embraced the maternal figure– the robust, zaftig, rounded physique of a Mom was celebrated and revered. What happened? I sat down with Lara Spencer on GMA to talk about body image, mothers, and what the trend towards plastic surgery means to our children.

Below, I talk about some of the questions I’ve received on the topic over the last few years: Read more

The Art of Recovery: Making the Best of a Bad Situation

As you know, I often talk about asset development in our young people.  When they find and take hold of their their SPARK (Support, Passion, Action, Reason and Knowledge), they are able to put their energy into something so positive that, while it may not negate the negative, it can create a louder, more convincing voice that tells them they are amazing just as they are.  Rebecca Tishman started writing for us when she was in high school– talking about her struggles and triumphs while in recovery for her Eating Disorder.  Now, a freshman in college for fine arts, we are so proud and pleased that her voice has become stronger and louder in this world of Eating Disorder recovery. Her passion, art, has reached new levels now- it is being recognized and rewarded in the Eating Disorders community. Read her latest article about the art of recovery and just how good a bad situation can get when you turn it around and make it so. Proud of you, Rebecca. So proud.

The Art of Recovery: Making the best of a bad situation

By: Rebecca Tishman

Having written for Dr. Robyn and shared my Eating Disorder story, I’ve learned a great deal about advocating for myself, using my voice, and turning a bad situation into something of which I can be proud. Just 2 short years ago, I know that I could have to let ED destroy me. To take away my life. But instead I’m now speaking out against ED in favor of full recovery and making art that addresses the issue head on. I’m so thankful to be alive everyday.

I’ve started to find my voice and discover ways of asserting myself. It’s amazing to me that I am now in a place in my own recovery that I can share my experiences with others and help them, in some small way, get through their rough times battling ED. Since I began writing for Dr. Robyn, I’ve had countless friends, acquaintances and even strangers get in touch with me to seek advice about various aspects of ED and recovery. Some just to tell me I’ve helped them get through another day. While I admit that I can’t very well solve their problems and that every person’s experience is different, I’m able to offer a few words about what helped me in various situations and lend a listening ear because often that’s all we really need.

This voice is now reflected in my art. And, in turn, my art has been a big source of motivation to stay in recovery and a source of healing. When I’m struggling, I remind myself that if I start to slip back into ED I won’t be able to continue at art school and often that’s the reality check I need. Without my art I don’t know where’d I’d be in my recovery; it’s constantly helping me get through the days.

I recently entered the “Imagine Me Beyond What You See” IAEDP (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals) Body Image Art Competition with a sculpture I made over my winter vacation. I won. I Read more

Fat Talking Tots: Body Image & Fat Hatred in Preschoolers & Young Children

The aversion toward chubbiness has been shown to begin at a very young age. According to research conducted in 2009 by the University of Central Florida and reported in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, nearly half of three- to- six year old girls worry about being fat.” — Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How to Help Them Thrive Despite It. (page 10)

YOUNG CHILDREN’S BODY IMAGE, FEAR OF FAT, & FAT HATRED

As it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about body image, fear of fat, eating disorders, and disordered eating.  Most of this conversation has been devoted to teens and older. But what about the young children? How are they affected by this pervasive message that “fat is bad?”

In my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I cover the unbelievable reality that “Fear of fat” and “fat hatred” has been shown to begin at a very young age. While there isn’t a great deal of research out there on very young children, body image and weight, studies have shown that negative attitudes towards children who are considered “overweight” and “fat” in general have been detected in children as young as preschool-age children.

Here’s some study results in a nutshell.

  • Thin means you’re nice and fat means you’re mean: One study showed that when children ages 3-5 years old were shown photos of different body types, 4 and 5 year old children consistently labeled the “chubby” figure as “mean” and the thin figure as “nice.” While the aversion for chubbiness was stronger in children ages four and five, preschool-aged children regardless of age ascribed more negative attributes to the “chubby” figure than to the “thin” figure.
  • Thin means I want to play with you and fat means I don’t want you as a friend: These preschool children have also shown a preference for the “thin” figures as friends and playmates. THESE FINDINGS WERE THE SAME WHETHER THE CHILD TAKING PART IN THE STUDY WAS CONSIDERED “THIN,” “NORMAL,” OR “OVERWEIGHT.” In fact, sometimes the aversion was pronounced in the children who were considered overweight.
  • Thin means I like you, fat means I don’t, and fat means “I don’t want to look like you at all:” Children as young as five years old show a clear dislike for those who are considered “fat” in accordance with cultural values. In a series of studies by my advisor at Tufts, they showed children different sized figures. The researchers found that of the 46 children in the sample, 86% of subjects expressed an aversion towards the chubby figures in the photographs shown to them during the course of their interviews. Most of the girls chose the photo of the “fat figure” as the “girl they would not like to look like at all.” They also found that those girls who Read more

14 Signs that Your Child or Teen May Have an Eating Disorder

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It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2011. After speaking with hundreds of girls about body image issues, eating disorders, and the intense pressure to lose weight, it’s vital that we know the signs of full blown, life-threatening eating disorders.  Actually, one of the number one questions I’m asked when presenting to parents is “how do I really know if my child or teen has an actual eating disorder?”

Many don’t though– and I understand the problem. From what eating disorders survivors have told me, they’re very good at hiding it (see page 27-29 of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat), some parents and loved ones are part of the problem, and unfortunately, so many people are having issues with food and weight these days, it’s hard to know when the problem has gotten to “full blown” status.  Studies repeatedly show that while it’s a minority of people that have diagnosed eating disorders, many do engage in disordered eating behavior such as fasting, dieting, laxative use, smoking– and worse– in an attempt to control weight. It’s actually more normal than not for women and girls to be dissatisfied with their bodies and more normal than not for women and girls to be dieting in some way.

While eating disorders have no age, ethnic, or gender bounds, 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12-26, and as many as 10 million women/girls and 1 million men/boys have eating disorders. Many don’t get help. Many are never diagnosed.

How do you know if your child may have an eating disorder?

(From Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It- Dr. Robyn Silverman)

14 Signs that Your Daughter May Have an Eating Disorder

  1. Erratic food habits: Eating large amounts of food and then disappearing from the table
  2. Playing with food.
  3. Restricting food intake. Read more

Recover(ed) or at least a bit closer: Teen Blogger Rebecca’s Two-Year Anniversary of Starting Treatment for Her Eating Disorder

Eating Disorders. The Recovery process is a hard road and the length of struggle varies depending on the person. Many wouldn’t dispute that there is no silver bullet.  What may be controversial is my colleague, Jenni Schaefer’s concept that one can indeed recover fully from an Eating Disorder. But more and more, those who have previously suffered from eating disorders have accepted full recovery as a possibility– where an eating disorder is no longer “given a seat at the table” and the person who once succumbed to dangerous and unhealthy eating practices and poor body image no longer allows that ugly Gremlin to be in charge.  Our teen blogger is currently celebrating the 2 year anniversary of her recovery journey and she is most certainly heading towards what she feels is full recovery.  Congratulations, Rebecca. Here is where she is now:

Recover(ed) or at least a bit closer: On My Two-Year Anniversary of Starting Treatment for My Eating Disorder

By: Rebecca Tishman

Recovered. Well, maybe not quite but I’m definitely getting there.

Today, is my two-year anniversary of going to inpatient treatment. Thinking back to two years ago is frightening and brings a wave of emotions. The picture was bleak: Barely able to stand. Unable to keep up with friendships. Blacking out multiple times a day. Shivering even under layers upon layers of clothes. Yelling at my parents no matter what they said or did. Afraid of every food except for two. Angry at absolutely everything.

No glamorization here. I absolutely hate my eating disorder and wouldn’t want to go back to it even though it takes an excruciating amount of work to stay in recovery. It’s a daily battle but I’m willing to keep fighting it if it means one day my eating disorder will be gone for good. One day it will just be ME, living in an amazing and healthy body able to do anything I want.

Intuitive Eating. I thought I would never engage in that. When I was in treatment and people mentioned intuitive eating and gave us books to read about it I thought to myself “What the hell? Intuitive Eating doesn’t exist; I’m just going to go back to my eating disorder as soon as I leave this place anyway.” Well after two years on a very, very rigid meal plan, with certain exchanges to meet at every meal of the day, and another year or two before that on other meal plans, I am finally off of all meal plans! Boy does it feel amazing. I eat what I want, when I want, and don’t engage in ED behaviors. This past weekend with a friend of mine I was able to make macaroni and cheese and make an amazingly scrumptious blueberry and raspberry oat loaf. I remember just two years ago when I was forbidden by doctors and family members to cook anything! My how things have changed. I’m forcing them to change.

I’m actually listening to my body—a voice I blocked out for so long. I refuse to be my eating disorder any longer or adhere to the rules my eating disorder establishes. I am tuning in to my healthy body’s messages and relying on hunger cues. It’s bizarre and frightening to feel hunger, thirst, fullness, etc; all things that I turned off for many, many years.

Until recently, I confused hunger cues and thirst cues, unable to tell whether I needed to hydrate myself or eat something. It’s bizarre to not understand what is happening within your own body. Trust me. But now that I’m refusing to relapse, even though it would be so easy to just give up and go back to that life I described earlier (because it sounded so appealing, right?) I’m learning what hunger feels like and I eat when I feel those feelings inside. I stop when I’m full or have had enough.

If I don’t like what I took a bite of, I get something else. When I was following my meal plan, I didn’t listen to whether I liked the food or not, I ate what my meal plan told me to eat regardless of how it tasted. Not anymore. I’ve discovered I like a lot of food, there’s a lot I don’t like too. I’m rediscovering myself everyday—like a rebirth- and opening myself to new options.

I no longer load up my plate thinking;

  • “What am I supposed to eat?”
  • “How many starches do I need?”
  • “Is this enough fat?”
  • “Does this count as a protein?”
  • “If I skip something now, do I have to make it up later?”
  • “What if I’m overeating?”
  • “What if I’m under-eating?”

Instead I think;

  • “What am I hungry for?”
  • “How hungry am I?”
  • “ What do I want to eat?”
  • “What tastes good?”
  • “What do I remember liking the last time I tried it?”

That’s an inner dialogue I’ve enjoyed having over the past few weeks and I look forward to having for many more days and years to come.

I couldn’t be more excited to honor my two-year anniversary. I’m thrilled that I’ve made it this long in recovery. Though I’ve had moments, days, even weeks, where I was somewhat uncommitted to recovery and on the verge of a relapse, I’m still here in recovery and loving it. As my therapist put it on my birthday, my two-year anniversary this year is more of my birthday and the truth is, she’s right. This year I am two years old and I have a whole life ahead of me. All it takes is my commitment and I, for one, have no plans to waiver.

Recover(ed)…here I come.

Many congrats to our fabulous teen blogger, Rebecca Tishman.  Please take a moment to react her Rebecca’s article here or on Facebook. No doubt she would love to hear from you.

Other articles by Rebecca:

Vegetarianism and Eating Disorders

Speaking out against Fat Talk

Summer Renaissance: Body Image Rebirth

Fast Food: The New F Word

Are Schools Helping Students Down the Road of Eating Disorders?

A Dad’s Perspective: Most Recent Review For Good Girls Don’t Get Fat

As a father to a 20-month-old girl, this just may be the most important book I’ve read since becoming a parent. Do something special for the girls in your life and read this book. — Chris Singer, Book Dads, reviewing Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It
Thank you, Book Dads (Chris Singer), for an outstanding review of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat– A Dad’s Perspective (on body image and girls)
A Dad’s Point of View on “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” By Book Dads 5.0 out of 5 stars
How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It (Paperback)

I think the title of Dr. Robyn Silverman’s book (Good Girls Don’t Get Fat) really says it all. We’ve trained our girls to think they are bad or less of a person if they are fat. Whether it’s through magazines, television, the internet or ironically, the people who are supposed to love these girls the most (parents, siblings, “friends,” and teachers – yes teachers!!), girls are beginning to worry about their weight at younger and younger ages. While talk radio programs air news stories weekly extolling the dangers of obesity (which is, of course, also an important health issue), Dr. Silverman sees countless girls in her practice with only minor weight problems or none at all. However, these girls have convinced themselves they are fat and therefore “bad.”

The book provides excellent information of how aspects of a young girl’s life can send her the message of to be thin is to be happy, healthy, loved. The author takes the discussion from the “inside out” starting with what a girl thinks about her weight in her own head and continuing to cover how the various relationships in her life can exacerbate the issues. Including how powerful words can be in these various relationships (mother, father, step-parents if applicable, other family members, teachers and other adults).

Dr. Silverman uses a lot of tools, tips and worksheets throughout the book and are an excellent supplement to the information. Readers get examples of weight issues that may arise with girls and can read “Say What” boxes to give guidance on “what not to say” and “what to say” — (dads take note of that please). “Overheard” boxes appear throughout the chapters as well which share (read the whole review on Book Dads here: http://ow.ly/3sYEi)

Again, many thanks to Chris Singer of Book Dads! I would love to hear what you all thought was the most helpful part of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat and what articles and tips would help you in the future.  After all, 2011 is going to be a fantastic year…so let’s plan for positive body image, confident girls, and dreams fulfilled!

Dr. Robyn on The Today Show: Body Image, Girls, Self Esteem & “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat”

Dr. Robyn Silverman and Meredith Vierra on The Today Show

Dr. Robyn Silverman talks about Good Girls Don’t Get Fat

The Body Bully Within Attacks Our Body Image

Here’s just a few nuggets of the conversation from Good Girls Don’t Get Fat and The  Today Show segment on body image and girls:

Who is the body bully and how pervasive is it?

The body bully within is a compilation of all the voices we hear in the privacy of our own minds that tell us we’re not good enough, we’re not thin enough, we’re not beautiful enough to be worthy. It allows us to compare ourselves to the unachievable—to the digitally enhanced, retouched photo of our favorite celebrities and the perfect girls at school who we’re elevated to god status when they’re likely just as insecure as we are. the body bully ruminates on how we fall short rather than what assets we have that can allow us to thrive.

Why do girls pick on their flaws?

The standard for thinness is so unreachable for the majority of girls and yet we hold ourselves to that impossible standard. By zeroing in on our Read more

Please Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fabulous Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

Fat Talk Free Holidays by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

A collaborative body image article by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

With Thanksgiving and many of the major holidays right around the corner, expectations run high. The grand dinner, the family gathering and…who’s done what since the last get together.  You know what I mean. Who’s dating and who’s been dumped.  Whose daughter was accepted early to the best program and who is licking her wounds?

And of course, who’s gained weight.

The comparisons slip off the tongue as easily as the marshmallows are stolen off the sweet potato casserole.  It easily, seamlessly, and expectantly becomes part of the dinner conversation.  Between bites, stares of “should you be eating that” meld with apologies for eating too much and promises to be “good” at dessert time.  Is this really what Holiday Dinners are supposed to be about?

Fat-Talk-Free Holiday Tips

It’s time to take control of our holidays instead of allowing Fat Talk into the driver’s seat.  Dr. Robyn Silverman and Dr. Lynne Kenney give you the tips to make your Holiday a positive experience where everyone involved can come away feeling good, strong, powerful, and supported.

Dr. Robyn Says…

(1) Declare the Holiday Table a Fat Talk Free Zone: In Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I talk about establishing a Fat Talk Free Zone in order to take charge of what kind of “talk” you surround yourself with on a daily basis.  Holidays, of course, are special occasions and times when we see people who aren’t in our every lives. While it may take guts, ask your guests to join you in making this holiday a positive one where you build people up rather than tear them (including yourself!) down. Hang it right on the door or by the Holiday Table; “You are now entering the Fat Talk Free Zone!”

(2) Don’t forget what Holiday Family Dinners are really all about: When you think of the true meaning of your holiday get togethers, they’re really about love, family, friends, and gratitude, right? I mean, what happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving? If we can focus on what we have—our strengths, our assets, and our support system—instead of what we lack, our Holiday dinners will surely be more enjoyable…and something to fondly look forward to and remember.

(3) Remember what Your Mama told you (if you can’t say something nice…): Whether it’s about yourself or someone else, snarky, rude comments hurt.  They impact our minds and our moods and poison the dinner environment. And let’s not forget that such toxicity isn’t contained to that day. We remember those negative messages for years to come—so let’s change the dialogue we say to others and to ourselves.

(4) Start a new tradition: Some go around the table and say what they’re grateful for while others retell old family stories. In the spirit of Fat Talk Free Holidays, why not start a tradition of celebrating our strengths? Ask everyone to say 1-3 things that they feel are assets they possess.  You can also go back around the table and flip it—what are 1-3 assets you admire about someone else at the table? This is not about competition or comparison but rather, about seeing people for their strengths rather than their deficits.

(5) Nip it in the bud: If someone starts to “fat talk,” pull them aside and remind them kindly about your Fat-Talk-Free Holiday plan.  While some adults may be able to filter out opinions about fat, calories, and weight, children and teens are very impressionable.  Your silence, in this case, can be seen as an endorsement of the behavior and what the guest is saying.  Speak up so that everyone can get back to focusing on enjoying family, food, friends, and some fat-talk free time.

Dr. Lynne says…

(1) Think first, speak second. The messages you send your girls really matter. They listen closely and watch even closer. Are you commenting on your need to diet? Do you identify some foods as “good” and others as “bad.” At the dinner table recently I heard a mom say, “Eat your dinner so we ca get good stuff, the dessert.” Desert can indeed be yummy, but it’s not the good stuff.  Stop labeling foods, eat a touch of it all without comments and judgment. Fat-Talk-Free is the way to be!

(2) Lift one another up. Family meals are not the time for devaluation and gossip. No need to criticize those who are not present or take advantage of the audience to make yourself feel better by putting others down. Turn conversation into opportunities to share experiences, learn what your family members have been up to and celebrate one another’s passions.

(3) Offer to share the space. Do you get anxious each holiday knowing that your mother or mother-in-law is going to steal the limelight with her extravagant meal offerings, only to hear that you forgot to add the garlic to the mashed potatoes? Call ahead of time and offer to host an evening in your own home so that you can all have an opportunity to throw a family gathering the way you like it. Perhaps Thanksgiving is always at one home, ask to switch it up. Have dinner Wednesday evening at your own home and invite everyone you love. Celebrate everyone’s passion for entertaining by telling family members they can bring a favorite dish. Just because Thanksgiving has always been one way doesn’t mean this year it has to be the same old status quo.

(4) Add an activity to the holiday weekend. Family activities like sports, games and crafts bring each other joy. Consider a family game of football, a walk in the forest, or a game of Bananagrams. You can find a list of fun family activities for your fridge in The Family Coach Method.  Rebecca Cohen offers great tips on planting and playing outdoors. Download her family activity list and put some family fun in your holiday.

(5) Do something nice for others. There is no better way to teach your children to give back than to offer to make crafts with elders at a local senior center, serve a meal at the local food pantry or clean out your closet and give away what you don’t need. Enjoying a family meal is only one aspect of the holiday experience.

Conclusion

This holiday season is one you get to design. So move away from old habits and introduce new ones with some thoughtful planning and preparation. You may be surprised by how others willingly join in.

Note: Dr. Robyn Silverman’s book full title is Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.