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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: media literacy

06 Oct

All of the Things that Irk Me in One Single Subway Ad!

Advocacy 1 Comment by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

For anyone that knows me in my non-virtual life, you are likely aware of my frustration around Halloween. A few years ago I would have called it my “disdain” for the holiday, but I’m working on modulating my feelings about this day and recognizing that there may be some redeeming qualities. Like adorable children in costumes with chocolate smeared on their faces.

But back to my frustration before I get too sappy about this over-commercialized day that’s become based on things I generally detest: scaring people for fun and the sexual objectification of women and girls.

I’m just really not a fan.

Amazingly, Subway restaurants has managed to take my irritation to the next level by combining this holiday (in fact, the exact aspect of it that I despise) with both unsubstantiated nutrition advice and dieting pressure.

I think my head might explode.

Just watch the commercial:

 

So what we have here is clearly a case of “how the heck do we get people to continue fretting about their weight now that it’s sweater season?” From that standpoint, it’s a relatively clever marketing effort. But since I’m not a marketer and more on the side of a media literacy advocate, I’m going to tell you how utterly crappy I think this campaign is.

It’s utterly crappy. The woman in the ad explains to her presumable co-workers that you need to stay fit for Halloween costume season, specifically the costumes that all women are obviously dying to wear — attractive nurse (because how could I possibly catheterize you if I’m not a “10″?), a sassy teacher (because we haven’t seen recently in the news various reports of  child sexual abuse by educators), and — oh, yes — the foxy full-back (I mean, how tone-deaf can you possibly be right now?!?).

To stay fit, the trio should obviously be eating Subway sandwiches rather than the dreaded burgers. But when we take a closer look, Subway doesn’t pan out to be a much – if at all – healthier option than McDonalds. A UCLA study showed that adolescents purchasing meals from the two chains consumed about the same number of calories and even more sodium at Subway. So there’s that.

Another ad promoting the objectification of women, unsubstantiated health information, and weight-stigmatization? I know, yawn, right?  But this one really peeves me I think because of the Halloween tie-in. (Call me a cranky Halloween Scrooge — I can take it.)

If you’re as irritated as me, consider speaking up by leaving a message via the website, posting on social media, avoiding Subway, sharing this post, or starting a petition.

Trick or treat!

16 Jun

An apple a day won’t keep your waistline at bay, but…

Ideas to Consider 2 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

A recent study in A Cancer Journal for Clinicians indicated that, despite popular wisdom, consuming more fruits and vegetables won’t reduce rates of obesity.

The dictum that eating more of the nutrient dense foods would slim our society has taken hold in recent years, and has become the basis for a number of public health initiatives encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption. But according to researchers, these programs are based on false assumptions.

Namely, the belief is that if people eat more fruits and vegetables, they’ll fill up and take in less calorically dense foods. Some of us have heard the tip to eat an apple before a meal because you’ll consume less of the higher calorie items, or to always start with a salad.

But what actually happens is that we tend to eat the apple or the salad, and consume just as much. In fact, it could be the case that our eating the “healthy” item psychologically primes us to feel we then deserve something “unhealthy.” Researchers found that people eat on average 30 more pounds of vegetables and 25 more pounds of fruit than 50 years ago, and yet they believe that we are heavier as a nation.

So what can we take away from this research?

If we are eating fruits and vegetables to reduce our waistlines, we might be sorely disappointed. But we still might have less disease, think and feel emotionally better, have prettier skin, and have more energy. And I think those are all much better reasons to consume than to have a lower number on a scale.

Oh, and they are delicious and better for the environment than animal-based products and highly processed foods. So there’s that.

We also have to recognize the difference between what is true for a society and what is true for an individual. While increasing fruit and vegetable consumption overall didn’t reduce population-wide weight, eating them could have an impact on an individual. That may not even be weight (or it could be…), but could be even more important health indicators.

So the message you’ll read here is this: don’t give up on your fruits and veggies. And don’t worry so much about what will make you thinner. Listen to your taste buds and tune in to the foods that make you feel happy and healthy.

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?

10 Feb

How Our Current Approach to “Health” is Failing Our Children

Ideas to Consider No Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

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In a paper published this fall in the journal Pediatrics, Drs.

Leslie Sim, Jocelyn Lebow, and Marcie Billings from the Mayo Clinic share two harrowing stories of teenagers who initially met criteria for through various attempts at weight loss developed eating disorders.

And lest you think these were case studies highlighted for their uniqueness, they were not. In fact, the authors point out that over 45% of the adolescent patients that present to their clinic have a history of obesity. The fact that eating disorders can flourish in the context of obesity — and perhaps, obesity intervention — is nothing new, particularly to those of who treat these young people.

Take “Kristin,” the 18-year-old who presented to the study authors’ clinic with an eating disorder. She had been told she was obese at 12-years-old and provided what is all too common for youth of higher body weights — a prescription by her doctor to focus on healthy eating and exercise. Kristin’s weight continued to climb, however, until age 14, at which point she reduced her caloric intake and began running many miles per day. Her weight began to fall, and with it Kristin stopped menstruating, became dizzy, and had difficulties with blood pressure while standing.

When she returned to her doctor, she was simply given birth control pills to address the loss of her period and told to drink more water. Over the next few years, Kristin continued to present with serious issues and lose more weight, all of which was by and large ignored by her various providers, who included her PCP, a sports medicine physician, and even a nutritionist. When her mother expressed to her doctor that she feared Kristin may have an eating disorder, the doctor pointed to her “normal BMI” and dismissed the concern.

We are failing our children.

The current emphasis – obsession – with BMI and weight reduction has locked our culture into a vicious paradigm in which losing weight is the holy grail and the health consequences are simply the price we pay.

It’s not just physicians who are to blame — not hardly: it’s public health advocates who get on soapboxes demonizing fat; it’s state legislators who push for penalizing people for being at what is often their genetically predetermined weight range; it’s school districts who put BMI on report cards; it’s states who think that campaigns like this one could possible be effective. But it’s not all just “them” either. It’s the little things the we do as well — the fat talking we do, the beauty privilege (and thin privilege) some enjoy, the media we support with our hard-earned money.

So how do support our youth in developing health and wellness without sending them spiraling into self-doubt, shame, and disordered eating?

Kathy Kater, LCSW has been working on this issue for several decades. She says, “Children who are anxious about weight begin to view their bodies from the outside-in—objectifying and judging themselves harshly according to external standards.” She’s figured out that the answer is not in addressing BMI or setting up systems of “punishment” for kids.

Instead, it’s about creating healthy kids and communities by teaching kids to connect with their bodies in new ways, challenge weight stigma, embrace healthy approaches to food and activity, and develop positive role models. Her Healthy Bodies curriculum has helped countless kids develop a more grounded perspective on their health. And it’s not just for overweight or obese kids — it’s for all kids.

It might not feel satisfying to some who are still in “panic mode” and arming up for the “war” on obesity. It doesn’t call for weight control or hyper-vigilance about Hershey Kisses. What is does is promote a balanced state of health, one that can be sustainable and non-stigmatizing.

To learn more about Kathy Kater’s work, the Healthy Bodies Curriculum, and how you can help be an agent of change towards health in your family or community, join me as I co-moderate a fun AED TweetChat with Kathy on Friday, February 14th at 1:00pm EST: Connecting Bodies with Hearts: Teaching Kids To Care, Not Compare.

What are you seeing in your community or personal experience? How is the approach to weight and health impacting the kids you know? 

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