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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Body Image Revolution :: Interview with Sandy Ross, Part II

October 3, 2010 1 Comment by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

This is the second post in a three-part series of my interview with Sandy Ross. Sandy, a holistic counselor and body image warrior (as I have lovingly dubbed her) graciously agreed to spend some time answering my questions about her work and her thoughts on our cultural struggle with body image. If you missed it, check out the first post on Sandy’s background and the Emotional Freedom Technique.

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NTS: What do you believe creates the negative body image with which so many men and women today struggle?

The easy answer is “the media”. And that is part of the picture, but it’s not the whole picture. It’s really tempting to say “let’s stop magazines airbrushing women’s bodies and that will solve the problem,” like the Australian Government recently did – and I applaud them for taking the step though the Code the produced is voluntary – because we’d like there to be one source of the problem, and one solution.

The fact is that with most media, we can choose to consume it or not. We don’t have to turn on the television, buy the magazines, or go to the movies. The visual pollution of outdoor and in-store advertising is harder to avoid, but if that was the only media we consumed, would we be so heavily influenced?

There are a few other factors driving the negative body image epidemic we’re experiencing and commercial interests are at the heart of it. For example, if cosmetic companies didn’t pay buckets of money for glossy ads in magazines, magazines wouldn’t be viable. If they didn’t advertise on television, or place products in movies, TV and the film industry would be a different place. Then we turn to the weight-loss companies – if they didn’t keep pushing the thin equals healthy message, would we eat their pills, powders, potions, or plastic food? I don’t think so. And then we turn to the sibling of the weight-loss companies, the gym industry, which grew out the aerobics craze Jane Fonda pushed in the early 1980s to fund her political activism. That was never about fitness, but it was about being thin. The big point though is that we choose to do the diets, buy the thinercise DVDs and hit the gym to burn off the fat.

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NTS: What makes us susceptible to the messages they’re pushing at us?

I think an answer lies in our food supply and the quality of the food we put into our bodies. In the holistic model of the BodyMind, the digestive system or the gut is where we transform food into energy that sustains us and powers our body. On the emotional plane, the gut is also where we transform the ideas that surround us, into the thoughts and feelings that power our lives.

We are eating food that is so processed that it’s almost devoid of nutrition other than the synthetics that are added back during manufacturing, and are so toxic and loaded with synthetic chemicals and hormones. How can a digestive system that is struggling to digest what Michael Pollan calls “food-like substances”, then transform outside influences into something our mind can filter and sort? It can’t.

So we watch the TV shows and read the magazines and instead of being able to sort the good information from the bad, we take it all on board and try to become what we’re told the perfect healthy woman should be, today anyway, because she is a construct, airbrushed, not a real woman, she doesn’t exist.

This is a complex problem, but I truly believe that we can start the healing by eating a nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner, and having some good snacks like fruit and nuts along the way.

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NTS: You say on your website, “Because attitudeand beliefsis what it’s all about, not the size of your bum or your bra.” Can you explain this?

We take on the messages that we have to look a certain way to be the best, healthiest, most acceptable, kind of woman. We can make those messages mean the size of our bra or our bum is what makes us a worthy woman. The fact is, chest size never did mean anything other than that’s the size of the bra you buy, and the size of your bum is the size of your bum, it doesn’t mean anything about the person you are. Like, when you did you last look at someone’s bum and say, “Oh, I’d like to be her friend because she has a bum that says she’s going to be a loving supportive friend.”

I know, that’s just daft. But if the size of our body parts meant anything about us, that’s the kind of stuff we’d be saying. We don’t say it, but hiding away in our subconscious mind is a whole set of beliefs about what makes the best kind of woman, what size and shape she is, what her skin looks like, what kinds of shoes she wears, how much skin she shows, and so on.

Attitudes are judgments, or how much we like or dislike something. Most women, something like 90%, want to change something about their body – that’s great news for the people marketing appearance-changing stuff to women, they’ve done a really good job convincing us that their opinion is right and shaping our attitudes, don’t you think? That is their job, to make us feel less-than, bad about ourselves, so we’ll buy their stuff.

We don’t have to believe their opinions about what makes a woman worthy, we can change our beliefs, choose our own attitudes, and we don’t have to buy their stuff. Their stuff won’t work to make the changes we want, if it worked, they would go out of business!

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Check back tomorrow for the final installment in the interview series, where Sandy will address just exactly why diets don’t work.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Sandy’s message? How have you experienced pressure to look or be a certain way?

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  1. [...] three-part interview with body image expert Sandra Kumskov at Nourishing the Soul (part 1, part 2, part 3), one of my favorites! It’s a blog about body image, disordered eating and media [...]

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