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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: culture

29 Jul

The (Beautiful) Truth of Body After Baby

Book Review 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

How long do you think poor Kate has until the media starts in on her getting her “post-baby body back”? I give it 24 more hours…

The antidote?

A crowd-funded project sharing gorgeously intimate photographs of non-traditional beauty.

Why, yes please.

Jade Beall is my new heroine. Mother to 17-month-old, Sequoia, Beall shared some exposing photographs of her post-baby body on Facebook, and the response was electric. After sharing another set of similar photographs of a postpartum friend, she realized that she’d hit on something.

Not until people – women, especially – saw the photographs did they realize what was missing in the barrage of pregnancy and post-baby chaos: reality.

Beall, a photographer, decided to kick it up a notch, so to speak, and began photographing other women – for free – in order to be able to share more of these powerful images with the world.

She told the Huffington Post that she’d struggled with her own feelings of unworthiness and that she wanted to share with the world un-photoshopped images of real women.

Some of Beall’s photographs give me chills – in the best possible sense – because the women in them radiate both delicacy and power. They remind me that beauty generates in multiple ways, and in multiple shapes and sizes.

Looking at the photos, I see the strength and power of carrying another human being. I see the soft curves that keep a little one warm and comforted. Sweet lines that tell stories as deep as they are.

And I am humbled.

Thank you, Jade Beall, for using your gift to cut straight through all of the white noise about losing the baby weight and getting your body “back.” They remind us that the human body is beautiful in all of it’s forms.

What would it be like for you to be photographed after pregnancy or birth?  Do you find these images powerful?

13 Aug

Media Watch: Does dedication mean giving up desert?

Current Events, Media Literacy 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

When I first saw the recent Citi commercial in which athletes profess all of the sacrifices they’ve made to get where they are today, it didn’t sit well with me. To put it in perspective, I was at the time, enjoying a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream with hot fudge sauce as a male athlete voice-over proclaimed, “I haven’t ordered desert in two years.”

I cringed in that moment. Not because I felt guilty for my delicious desert (I’ve already made it clear I eat chocolate every day.) but because I thought of all of the vulnerable men, women, boys, and girls who would hear that proclamation and take it as an indication of what should be rather than what one silly advertising company felt might represent sacrifice.

The commercial goes on to feature supposed athletes claiming all of the things that they gave up for their sport – from not reading the latest bestseller (c’mon, they are clearing talking 50 Shades here…) to not participating in many other “typical” joys of life. The picture painted is of the single-minded, tenacious athlete whose greatest sacrifices beget his or her greatest glories.

Blah. Blah.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of that cultural standard. I’m not suggesting that the athletes that have made it to the Olympic games have not given up a number of things, and that this hasn’t in part allowed them to succeed. Sure it has. But does one’s life have to be consumed by fourteen hours per day of training with no time for socialization, recreation, or education (or a flippin’ Kit Kat bar) in order to achieve greatness? I don’t think so.

Granted, it may come down to how we define success. If being considered the best in the world at a particular endeavor is your measure of success, then surely your priorities might have to shift a little. But for most of us, and I’ll include myself in that group, success in life means living a well-balanced and well-nourished life. And I don’t believe that a singular pursuit can nourish anyone. Man cannot live on bread alone, the saying goes. Well, he can’t live on Power Bars and time trials alone either.

If you’ve seen the Citi commercial, my wish for you is that you were able to recognize the message as a gross distortion and still enjoy your trashy novel and dessert. If you haven’t seen it, don’t both. Watch this parody instead:

Olympians Have No Lives

23 May

Are skinny women shamed as much as fat women? [And, does it matter?]

Advocacy, Current Events 55 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

For the “What I Wish You Knew” series over on Rage Against the Minivan, a blog I lovelovelovelovelove (in case you wondered), a reader submission addressed the topic of discrimination against thinner women. [Please note, the author makes explicit mention of weight, and the post could be triggering for some. Use your best judgment.]

Megyn shares her personal experience with food allergies that have caused her to be underweight and the subject of others’ critical stares and scathing comments. She makes some excellent points:

There is so much out there about loving your curves and accepting your body if you’re not thin. But what about us thin women? Is it ok to belittle and begrudge us? To make snide remarks and disgusted looks? Speaking badly of someone’s weight seems more socially acceptable of thin women than of heavier women. It’s hard to love my body when everyone else tells me I too should hate it and be disgusted. That I am wrong and not ok.

Megyn’s right. Discrimination against thinner women is not something that’s talked about very often. Society does seem to think that it’s okay to pour it’s commentary on how skinny women should “eat more” or “put on a few pounds” without a second thought. In fact, one of the very first posts on NTS addressed this issue, because I think it’s so important.

We all too often forget that creating a world in which weight stigma doesn’t exist means creating a safe space for people of all shapes and sizes. The truth is skinny women don’t all want to be that way. Some struggle with food allergies. Others with illnesses that have wrecked havoc on their bodies. Others may have been the victims of neglect or malnourishment in youth. And still others do struggle with eating disorders, but are no less deserving of respect. So, I understand Megyn’s frustration, dealing with health issues that not only cause her to have to eat differently, but to then be scrutinized for it.

Perhaps the comments she bears are born out of jealousy, discomfort, or simply our hyper-focus on others’ bodies. Whatever the reason, there’s work we need to do culturally and personally to address weight shaming.

So here’s where I disagree with Megyn:

I want you to know thin women are prejudiced against just as much as heavier women.

Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, or playing right into the Pain Olympics (Waaa! We have it worse!). But I think that this statement is 100% untrue. To me, it’s like a white person saying, “I want you to know that I am just as prejudiced against as a black person.” I just don’t buy it. [Am I opening myself for a firestorm here?]

Everything that I know from reading countless research studies, following the HAES movement, working with patients across the full weight spectrum, and living as a person in a weight-focused world tells me that fat people have it worse. Period.

Larger folks are shamed at nearly every turn – in the workplace, at the grocery store, on the internet, at restaurants, on the playground, in the voting booths, and in their own families, as a start. While perhaps (and I say that tentatively), the comments are more underground when it comes to people we consider overweight or obese, the effects (in salary, opportunities, respect, etc.) are profound.

I think it’s important that we take a cold, hard look at the discrimination happening against larger people. We have to recognize privilege as it exists, or we are doomed to live blind and biased. That’s all.

Now that I’ve stated that fat people have it worse, I recognize that it’s not all that helpful to pit one side against the other, and that’s not what I mean to do. Really. It doesn’t make what’s happening to Megyn better. I just think that making the comparison doesn’t have to be part of her argument.

This actually shouldn’t be a battle of who is more shamed, because the real victims here are women in general. When fat people or thin people are shamed for their weight, we are all hurt. If we grow up fearing being anywhere but in the dead center of the weight spectrum, we perpetuate the stigmatization and we become terrified of letting our bodies find their natural rhythm.

My heart aches for Megyn and her struggle, because no one deserves to be stared down for their size.

What do you think?

[Speaking of not pitting people against one another, one of the best posts I’ve read recently also appeared on Rage Against the MinivanWhere Is the Mommy War for the Motherless Child? Go check it out.]

13 Mar

What if your body is not to blame?

Ideas to Consider, Media Literacy 30 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

magazines {credit K; via pinterest}

 

In the introduction to a several-page spread in a popular women’s magazine recently, the creative director “confesses” that he hates his arms, and how much he can relate to the body-hatred experienced by his female counterparts. While I’m always happy to see men acknowledging honestly their body image concerns, his confession was the introduction to an article on how to solve “dressing dilemmas.”

What to do when your panty hose run three minutes after walking out the door (when you’re running ten minutes late)? How to find trendy heels that won’t cause bunions? How to stop that turtleneck from itching so badly that you rip it off and hurl it across the room… at work?

These are some of the  “dilemmas” that I face, and would have been legitimately interested in learning how to “solve.” But this particular article had other issues in mind – to use their descriptions, turkey neck, spare tires, front butt, pit chub, bat wings, frump butt, and thunder thighs.

If that hasn’t sent you spinning into post-traumatic flashbacks of high school bullying, it’s probably because we’ve been so desensitized to such offensive and deprecating phrases. I was floored that these terms were used to describe any part of the female body. But I guess in the society in which we live, I shouldn’t have been.

A quick glance in the grocery line reveals all sorts of clever little phrases for women’s bodies – chub rub, side boobs, and the list goes on. What’s so frustrating about this, however, is not so much the phraseology, but the fact that the names are intricately tied to an expectation that women have flaws that need to be somehow rectified.

When did our bat wings become a problem? When someone decided it was profitable for them to be a problem. 

Bear with me here, because I realize this might sound like a foreign language.

We are not born with flaws, and we do not die with flaws. Our bodies are exactly how they are meant to be at each moment in time. There is nothing inherently wrong with our bodies. And do you know how I know that? Because they are the way they are, and that is reality.

So we long to be taller, or have bigger breasts, or smaller feet… But what we know, the only thing we know, is that this is we are the person we are supposed to be, inhabiting the body we are supposed to inhabit. Whatever explanation makes sense to you – genetics, God, destiny, a combo of all of them – the fact remains that we are who we are, with all of our uniquenesses in tow. And if that is who we are, it is who we are meant to be.

With that said, it seems that we have it all wrong when it comes to our approach to our “dressing dilemmas.” What if the clothes with which we adorn our bodies are not meant to cover “sins” or hide belly fat, but rather are meant as an expression of our creative self? What if the clothes were an extension of how we see the world? Or, if you don’t want to go that far, a way of simply keeping us comfortable in inclement weather? What if, for once, they weren’t a means of hiding these, apparently, un-namable body issues?

What if it’s the clothes that are wrong? What if it’s the corporation selling the clothes? What if it’s the magazine that advertising the quick fixes to our body blemishes? What if it’s our government for allowing manipulation and sexualization of our physical selves. What if it’s anyone or anything at all rather than our body to blame? What then?

That’s a lot of questions. They’re not meant to be answered. They’re meant to be felt. Sit with them and notice what comes up.

How do you feel? What if your body isn’t wrong?

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