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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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Tag: advertising

27 Mar

You Should Know :: MissRepresentation’s #NotBuyingIt App

Current Events, Media Literacy, You Should Know No Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

notbuyingitAPP

In the category with white chocolate M&Ms for things that I wish I had thought of first, MissRepresentation’s #NotBuyingIt app is one of the coolest things I’ve heard of recently. It joins the ranks of other apps I just love.

From the same folks that brought us that eye-opening film a couple years ago comes an app that brings media literacy to your finger tips.

The #NotBuyingIt idea was first made popular as simply a hashtag on Twitter. PolicyMic reports that the hashtag accompanied over 10,000 tweets during this year’s Super Bowl and reached almost four million people. The app takes that kind of grassroots consumer power to the next level.

The app combines the power of social media (Twitter, namely) as a higher tech “complaint department.” Users of the app can slap “#NotBuyingIt” onto an ad that they find offensive or degrading and let the company using the ad know how they feel. The app also allows mapping of where the most offensive ads are originating and which communities are taking the biggest stand.

The app is still in development and the creators are working to raise money to make it available. If it’s something you want to support, check out the fundraising page.

12 Feb

Food is not a moral issue.

Media Literacy 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Back when I was doing research on media literacy and would go into schools to teach high schoolers about navigating the media’s mixed messages, one of my favorite things to talk about was guilt. Specifically, I loved initiating a dialogue with these young people about how the media capitalizes on our individual and collective moral conscience when it comes to food choices.

An all-too-common advertising angle in marketing “healthy” food or. more often, “healthy alternatives” is to frame food as a moral issue. The media uses the concepts of guilt and shame freely to craft a very specific message — to be a good person, make good food choices.

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Sometimes the reference is explicit — an advertising campaign will use the idea of “sin” to frame the food messaging. Advertisements for dessert-type foods are often accompanied by phrases like “indulgent”, “sinful”, or even “being bad” (with an obligatory wink). Chocolate gets an unfairly bad rap with this type of advertising. Conversely, advertisement for foods meant to be seen as “good” are often marketed by telling us that we can “ditch the guilt” and elevate our moral superiority by making having this food instead of that. It’s not uncommon to use specific religious imagery to highlight these ideas. The idea of an angel and devil on the shoulder in making a food choice is time-honored marketing image.

These tactics are fraught with problems — perhaps not for the millionaire advertising executives making a pretty penny off our collective shame, but certainly so for the rest of us. First of all, it’s dangerous – and unhelpful – to frame food as good or bad. They are arbitrary labels based on — well, what? There’s no universal rubric for how to identify what special ratio of fat to protein to sodium to iron to whatnot constitutes a food being good or bad. My perspective is that food doesn’t fit into simple categories like this. It’s food. It just is. It’s all good. It’s best when there’s a variety. That’s it.

Further, confusing food with morality leads us down a slippery slope. Guilt and shame, in my opinion, too often define individuals’ experiences of themselves, and this is particularly true for women. So many of us spend out lives feeling guilty for this choice or that choice — I didn’t call my friend back when I said I would. I’m a bad mom for choosing to work outside the home. I use plastic instead of resuable grocery bags. The last time I worked out was 2008. And the litany goes on. Do we really need to add “I ate a piece of chocolate” to that list?

Last, shame is a notoriously bad motivator for change. Rather than inspire us to be a better version of ourselves, shame tells us we are   bad and deeply flawed. We can’t expect people to make choices in line with their health values from a place of unworthiness and shame. So while people might buy your box of veggie crisps the first time because you’ve guilted them into it, unless they like them and they fit into their food repertoire, they’re not going to keep buying them. I’ve said it before and I’ll said (one hundred times) again, shame doesn’t work to change people!

Interestingly enough, a study actually showed that people tend to report enjoying food more when they experience a sense of guilt. So marketing your product by telling us how we don’t have to feel guilty anymore may actually be counterproductive.

But more than that, I just want corporate advertisers to quit telling us how to feel about the choices we make. We make thousands of choices in a given day that define our character. Whether we eat a Hershey Kiss doesn’t need to be one of them.

23 May

The shame game: How the war on obesity is bad for our health

Current Events 21 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

{Image Credit :: Georgia Children’s Health Alliance via CBSNews.com}

Fear and shame are the most misunderstood, overused, and ultimately ineffective tools in the persuasion game, and yet we continue to utilize them to try to create behavior change. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the cringe-worthily named “War on Obesity.”

As armies of physicians, nutritionists, mental health professionals, pharmaceutical companies, diet-industry executives, media outlets, and the First Lady take up weapons in this “fight,” what we find is that the messages are doing more harm than good. Not only are they unlikely to help the target audience – namely, overweight folk – but they are potentially extremely damaging to rest of the population as well.

At the recent Academy for Eating Disorders conference, I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion on the topic, “Can Obesity Treatment and Prevention Be Reconciled with Eating Disorder Treatment and Prevention?” The reason that we need this type of discussion is that the tactics being used to “help” obese individuals can inadvertently promote eating disorders.

Take, for example, a recent anti-obesity ad that reads, “Chubby kids may not outlive their parents.” Or the ads now running in New York that depict a glass full of thick, yellow human fat and read, “Are you pouring on the pounds? Don’t drink yourself fat.” Or, better still, “Beat obesity with a stick,” (with celery sticks showing behind the text, in an apparent attempt at clever word play).

What we’ve seen is that obesity prevention and treatment efforts in the media have tended to focus on the individual and his or her choices. What they scream, and no so subtly, is: Eat less! Move more! Drop the sugar! Get off the couch! You’re lazy! You’re bad! You’re wrong! Shame on you! You’re going to die!

It doesn’t take an active imagination to see how individuals, and particularly those with genetic and other vulnerabilities to eating disorders, can be influenced negatively by these messages. As if the rampant social weight-bias wasn’t enough, children now see billboards plastered with direct messages telling them that being fat is bad.

What about children who are large? (Because we know that not all children or adults, no matter their diets, will be in the “normal” weight range – it’s human variation.) Can you imagine for a moment what it must be like to be a heavy kid, teased at school, harassed by siblings, assumed to be less intelligent and capable by teachers, and to be walking home and see a billboard telling you that are going to die? That you should be beaten? That the soda that you just drank – the same one you saw all of the other, thinner, kids drink – you should be ashamed of?

This. Doesn’t. Help.

What this does is creates an even more hostile environment in which weight bias and fat discrimination becomes even more prevalent and acceptable. In fact, it encourages people to turn that discrimination upon themselves – that’s how shame-based interventions work, after all.

And what we know is that people who feel ashamed, people who feel rejected by society, people whose confidence is torn to shreds by humiliation – these are not the people trying yoga for the first time or visiting the farmer’s market. These are the not the people who feel empowered to make healthy choices for themselves. And can we blame them? They’ve been told that they make all the wrong decisions anyway, and they’re probably going to die.

What we also know, from scientific evidence, is that we cannot effectively treat weight itself. What we can do is treat illness when it arises and encourage people to make healthy choices to prevent illness. So telling people that their weight or being fat is bad does nothing. Telling people how to enjoy physical activity and learn what foods make their bodies feel good can help a lot.

People of every shape and size deserve to live in a world that supports health. We cannot allow our misguided assumptions of how to promote physical health come at the expense of our mental and emotional health. If we want a healthier society, we need to start by examining what actually works in promoting wellness – and scare tactics and discriminatory media messages do not.


09 Feb

World’s Tallest Model Talks About Body Image :: Interview with Amazon Eve

Interview 16 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Standing at a domineering 6 feet, 8 inches tall, Amazon Eve knows a thing or two about standing out in a crowd. As the world’s tallest model and a fitness trainer, Eve has used her unique body to make a name for herself. But does the international star still struggle with her body image or being taller than most male suitors? In this intimate interview, Eve shares with me her experience of feeling different and how she has developed a healthy relationship with her body.

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NTS:  When did you begin to feel “different”? What was it like to experience your body making you stand out from your peers?

Amazon Eve: It felt like a mutation; like that first alien they pushed out of the mother ship during Steve Spielberg’s A CLOSE ENCOUNTER.  Tall, lanky and very vulnerable–‘eat her first humans’ was the message by inference.  I was different from my peers and I could tell they noticed how tall I was.  The comments kept coming from my classmate friends to adults commenting on me being more gently, “A tall drink of water.” I now answer them with, “Because I was very thirsty,” growing up.  By the time I was 14 I was 5’11” and taller than most adults.  Given that the average adult male height is 5’9” and female is 5’4” in the United States, it was really bad in the next four years as I grew 9 inches.  The growing pains took forever to stop. It was awful and to hear the teasing and taunts from other classmates was unbearable.  I was not graceful growing up and didn’t have much elegance in my step till much later in life.

NTS: Are there body image issues that you continue to struggle with? How do you stay body-positive?

Amazon Eve: Yes I do still struggle with my height, finding something that fits is a challenge.  Not as much now and I, like any woman, feel the pressure from the mainstream girly magazines to look a certain way.  I try to ignore it all and just be happy with the body I’ve been given.  I am grateful for my body–this is my mantra. My body is a gift–if you prefer.  I exercise to make my body as fit and as is should be shaped.  I can never be a short girl, and why would I want to when I’m looking beautiful and tall. Exercise helps you get back in touch with your body, when we women can be so brutal with ourselves and our body image, exercise with realistic expectations can give you a lifetime of positive results.

NTS: As a trainer, you help other women to stop focusing on the scale and become proud of their shape.  How have you been able to do this yourself? How do you assist other women in doing so?

Amazon Eve: I try to find out why someone wants to see me as a trainer; man or woman.  I ask those that want to look better to show me a picture of their ideal shape.  By this I’m trying to see how realistic their expectations are.  If I get some skinny guy wanting to look like a huge muscled-up body builder, I have to attempt to convince them to look at something more realistic.  Same for woman with a bit of a twist; woman place more emphasis on looks and a model size rarely fits most of us.  So we do a lot of searches for role models that do fit their particular body shape and fitness goals.  For someone like me where there are few examples, I have to do a bit more soul searching and looked towards athletic woman–Gabriele Reece was a star example of mine.

When I say stop looking at the scale I‘m talking about being more aware of your shape and dimensions then on some arbitrary number that comes from a scale.  I tried to get down to a models scale weight once and it almost killed me. My relationship with food needed to stop being that abusive boyfriend or addictive relationship with certain substances that call to me.

NTS: What has your experience been like as a model? In what way has it impacted the way that you see or use your body?

Amazon Eve: My experience as a model came at exactly the right time–later than usual.  I appreciate the gifts I’ve been given more.  The once ugly duckling is now a beautiful swan.  However, it took more than words and lots of people telling me, “Why aren’t you modeling” or “Are you a model?” I had to change the meaning of why people were staring at me when I walked down the street. Myself, me, and I needed to get in greater touch with who I am.  I’m a beautiful person–not perfect.  I don’t have to be perfect or some arbitrary model size and that shows through. I believe that is why I’m where I’m at today.  When they put you on a magazine cover you can’t call yourself ugly; some men have me on their bedroom walls as a pin-up.  It took much more than that to have a continued career in modeling.  The world’s tallest model is more objective than the worlds most beautiful model.  This lends itself to a bit of built-in celebrity.  I’m very realistic about this.

NTS: What advice would you offer women who struggle with a body that in some way makes them feel different from others?

Amazon Eve: Be realistic: Physical beauty is ephemeral–short lived. What really counts is what’s inside–that sounds like an old screed.  How we talk to ourselves is very important. It’s a whole seminar with seats filled with paid ticket holders.  The November/December issue of Psychology Today that I was in had a series are articles about the Psychology of Beauty and the Battle Over Beauty; waxing a trite muse; “inner beauty is OK but it wont get you laid.”  Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.  There is no model size.  There are those men out there that like short girls that wouldn’t give me a second look, yet it’s a bit frustrating to see a super tall man (perfect for me) with a short spinner girl, but damn there is an army of Umpa-Lumpa’s sans the orange skin and green knickers that think I’m the hottest thing on the planet.   Always remember whatever size you are we all deserve love. It will probably be waiting for you around the corner in a package your are least expecting.

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