the author


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

post categories

nourishing body image awards

Nourishing Body Image Awards Badge

Category: Current Events

28 Oct

Walmart Used the “F” Word and I Didn’t Care

Current Events 2 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul


Social and traditional media has been abuzz for the past day or two as Walmart got lambasted for listing larger-sized female Halloween costumes under the label “Fat Girl Costumes.” When Jezebel “exposed” the story, Twitter lit up with comments slamming the retail giant for their apparent insensitivity and shameful decision-making.

I’m going to admit something, and I’m expecting, based on the backlash I’ve seen against Walmart, that this may not go over particularly well. But when I first saw the news story on CNN (right after an Ebola update and before an ISIS segment…), my first thought was, “Wow, Walmart’s more progressive than I thought.”

I’ve asked readers here before what they thought of the word “fat” and the responses were varied and enlightening. Still, at that point, the majority of readers felt that the word was not particularly helpful or appropriate.

Meanwhile, a movement continues to grow in which the idea and reality of fatness is embraced. That includes not just accepting size diversity, but accepting — and honoring — the word “fat.” The idea is that, much like other traditionally stigmatizing words, there’s an opportunity to reclaim the word and thus diminish the negativity and critical power associated with it. Personally, I love the idea of beating the haters at their own game. If I call myself fat — and not in a self-deprecating way, but in descriptive, neutral way — than I’ve taken away your power to insult and harm me with that word. Try again, jerk.

That said, it might be hard for some of us to imagine using the word fat for ourselves or someone else in a neutral way. That’s because so many other words have become embedded with the word fat deep in our brains — words like: lazy, self-indulgent, bad, wrong… It’s important to note the should-be obvious here, which is that none of those things are naturally or inherently tied to the idea of fatness, but our cultural and linguistic traditions are pretty powerful.

So I get the fact that some hear the word “fat” and immediately get defensive. That’s not because there is something inherently wrong with the word; it’s because in their minds they immediately hear all the other words associated with it and feel that Walmart is hurting its customers. If Walmart had said “Selfish, Ugly, Lazy Girl Costumes,” I’d support us being up in arms. But they didn’t. They just said a three letter word that could be argued to neutrally describe a portion of their consumer base.

Now, it’s equally important to consider that words don’t exist in a vacuum. Was Walmart supporting the fat-acceptance movement and promoting a progressive wave of feminism with it’s webpage? I’m not naive enough to totally buy that. But I also can’t say what the intention of the site was. The fact that they’ve now apologized profusely and pulled down the page seems to indicate that they are not exactly trying to make a political statement (or at least not one they were prepared to defend).

Alright, lay it on me… What do you think of Walmart’s “Fat Girl Costumes” page? What do you think of the word “fat”?

p.s. I actually feel a little more offended by the term “girl” in that phrase… You don’t see Walmart referring to adult men as “boys.” But that’s for another day…


17 Apr

Could a patch make you feel more beautiful? Does it matter?

Current Events No Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

“I’ve been spending so much time thinking that if I could just get myself to like the outside, to feel satisfied with the external, then I would feel peace on the inside. But I realize that hasn’t work,” she said, shaking her head slightly and as her eyes shifted down. “Maybe it’s really about finding peace on the inside first, and the outside will follow. Maybe that’s the key to feeling beautiful.”

Her peer looked at her earnestly, her shoulders lifting into a shrug, and replied, “Or maybe when you feel peace on the inside, you just don’t care about beauty so much.”

I smiled at the reply, noting that I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s exactly right, I thought. When you feel peace, there are more important things that how I look today.

And I think that sort of sums up my feelings about the latest Dove project. If you haven’t seen the video, under-cover Doves give unsuspecting women a “beauty patch” that they tell them will make them more beautiful. After a few days, the women report not noticing any changes. But soon they say that they are feeling different, more beautiful. They even notice how their own behavior changes as a result of this sudden “beauty.”

(Watch it here.)

Of course, the patch is a sham and the moral of the story is that there is nothing external that can make you more beautiful. Beauty comes from within. La de da.

Okay, okay — when I first saw the spot, I got a little choked up. I think seeing any woman start to feel better about herself gets me a bit emotional. Seeing the women’s reactions to hearing that they didn’t need a patch to help them feel more confident? There were truly touching moments.

But something about the whole thing still leaves me feeling… conflicted… Maybe it’s the fact that these women believed themselves to be putting on a patch — assumably of medication — and didn’t question at the outset what “chemicals” were seeping into their bodies. I realize this happens every day with things like diet pills and special creams that are purchased with similar intent. But it still weirds me out.

Then there’s the fact that the project was created by Dove, a company, like any other hygeine and beauty company, who profits from women feeling that they need their products to feel beautiful and better. I’m not dissing Dove here, specifically. I think they make good products, and I like their soap. But my cynicism, usually buried deep, starts to emerge when I watch this. So you’re telling me that women don’t need anything external to feel good? Well then your sales just dropped… Oh, you want us to still buy your sixteen products though to feel good? I see.

And last, I think I’m a little tired of the message that if we feel good on the inside, we’ll be beautiful on the outside, for the reasons stated above. I think if we feel truly good on the inside, we give importance to things other than how we look on the outside. That’s not to say that anything is wrong with wanting to look and feel beautiful. It’s just what I notice when I think about the truly happy and content people that I know. They aren’t slobs, but they don’t pay a whole lot of heed to their appearance either. It’s not scientific fact, just an observation.

But I’m curious what you think… Do you like the Dove ad? Did you tear up at first like me? What do you make of it?

20 Jan

What Happens When the Scale Takes Over

Current Events 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

infographic FINAL

The scale can be a tricky little device. I’ve seen it send far too many people into a unnecessary tailspin with it’s annoying LED lights. I think the infographic above does a nice job of describing what can happen for many when too much value is placed on the number on the scale.

(Remember, a healthy weight is so much more than that number!)

Now, I don’t tell everyone to throw out their scale and avoid them for the rest of eternity. To me, that kind of avoidance can be dangerous in and of itself. We’ll encounter scales at various points in our lives (e.g. the doctor’s office) and in my work I try to teach people to make peace with the scale, to reclaim their lives separate from that box of metal and plastic. I think we have to learn to think and talk about weight without resorting to behaviors that are self-destructive. That doesn’t mean weighing ourselves often – or ever – but figuring out how to accept when it does happen and use that information in a healthier way. But this can take a while in the process of recovery from a life of disordered eating.  And, there are some that may find it most helpful to avoid the scale all together, and if that’s what’s best for them, that’s what they should do.

The trick is figuring out what the kind of relationship is going to work for you, But whatever it is, I hope that the number of it never defines your sense of yourself or your worth as a person.

Happy Healthy Weight Week!

Do you weigh yourself? How does it or does it not impact you?

09 Jan

When Alzheimer’s comes early: The importance of caregiver self-care

Current Events 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul


{image via pinterest}

New motherhood has caused me my fair share of forgotten names and misplaced items. The other day I couldn’t remember what letter of the alphabet came after “r” while singing it to my son. It was frightening moment, but laughable enough to share with friends while lamenting how little sleep I’d gotten that week.

Because memory problems can be caused by a myriad of issues — anything from insomnia to stress to depression to eating disorders — when they show up in the average adult, their doctors frequently write them off. They tell their patients to work on slowing down, getting more rest, maybe make a list if you can’t remember what prompted the trip to the grocery store. All good advice, unless there is something more dire at play.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease refers to an Alzheimer’s dementia that occurs in individuals under age 65. While obviously much less common than its later-onset counterpart, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates it affects somewhere between 222,000 and 640,000 Americans. They call it a “national crisis.”

Many of us have seen a media representation of the Alzheimer’s disease or have someone in our own family who has suffered from the condition. But rarely do we see or hear about younger individuals who develop the devastating symptoms. And because of this, we don’t learn about some of the unique challenges faced by this group. Early-onset Alzheimer’s patients face not only the decline of their health, but also difficulty getting the right diagnosis, financial issues caused by loss of needed income, difficulty getting adequate insurance coverage as they are not old enough for Medicare, and the lack of appropriate services.

A friend and colleague is part of a unique theater company here in Chicago that is hoping to shed light on this devastating illness. The Eclectic Theatre Company is showcasing the world premier of Unshelved, a dramatic stage production running February 7th through March 2nd. The show examines how the identities of not only the victim, but those of her family are impacted by this disease.

I’ve talked before about how family and friends of those with eating disorders are affected, and also featured some guidance on how loved ones can help when treatment isn’t working. Caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease face many of these same challenges. They too need support and guidance.

For anyone caring for a loved one as they battle an illness, self-care is crucial. Sometimes with families with whom I work I use the analogy of a house built on a foundation. The foundation is made stronger with basic things like sleep and adequate nutrition, and is further supported by social support from others and engaging in activities that you enjoy. If the foundation is weak or has cracks, it’s not going to adequately support the rest of the house. We have to make sure our core is solid.

Easier said than done, right? I frequently hear that this would be nice… if there was time. My message is that we have to make time, and that might mean doing things that feel uncomfortable. If our loved one needs round the clock support, we might need to hire a helper or ask a friend to come sit with him while we go on a walk. While easy to do, we can’t allow ourselves to give up the things that make us happy and healthy ourselves. We need to take care of ourselves, and we deserve to do so.

If you’re in the Chicago area in February and early March (because it’s such a lovely time of year here!), be sure to check out the production of Unshelved. It’s sure to be amazing and thought-provoking. If you’re interested in more resources on Alzheimer’s disease or how caregivers can get support, check out the Alzheimer’s Association website.

If you’ve ever cared for someone with a serious illness, what’s your advice? How can we support ourselves while a loved one is struggling? 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...