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No Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat-Talk Free Thanksgiving

untitledThanksgiving is my family’s favorite holiday. Is it one of yours too? There’s something so powerful about a holiday that everyone celebrates in America because it is part of American culture, not religion.  But you know what can really ruin a good holiday meal? Fat Talk.

Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

A collaborative body image article by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

With Thanksgiving on Thursday and many of the major holidays right around the corner, expectations run high. The grand dinner, the family gathering and…who’s done what since the last get together. You know what I mean. Who’s dating and who’s been dumped. Whose daughter was accepted early to the best program and who is licking her wounds?

And of course, who’s gained weight.

The comparisons slip off the tongue as easily as the marshmallows are stolen off the sweet potato casserole. It easily, seamlessly, and expectantly becomes part of the dinner conversation. Between bites, stares of “should you be eating that” meld with apologies for eating too much and promises to be “good” at dessert time. Each plate is then served with a hefty heaping of shame, blame, and naming names of those relatives or celebrities who are or are not adhering to the narrow definition of what is considered the standard of beauty these days. Is this really what Holiday Dinners are supposed to be about?

Fat-Talk-Free Holiday Tips

It’s time to take control of our holidays instead of allowing Fat Talk into the driver’s seat. Dr. Robyn Silverman and Dr. Lynne Kenney give you the tips to make your Holiday a positive experience where everyone involved can come away feeling good, strong, powerful, and supported.

Dr. Robyn Says…

(1) Declare the Holiday Table a Fat Talk Free Zone: In Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I talk about establishing a Fat Talk Free Zone in order to take charge of what kind of “talk” you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Holidays, of course, are special occasions and times when we see people who aren’t in our every lives. While it may take guts, ask your guests (YES, your mother-in-law too!) to join you in making this holiday a positive one where you build people up rather than tear them (including yourself!) down. Hang it right on the door or by the Holiday Table; “You are now entering the Fat Talk Free Zone!”

(2) Don’t forget what Holiday Family Dinners are really all about:When you think of the true meaning of your holiday get togethers, they’re really about love, family, friends, and gratitude, right? I mean, what happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving? If we can focus on what we have—our strengths, our assets, and our support system—instead of what we lack, our Holiday dinners will surely be more enjoyable…and something to fondly look forward to and remember.

(3) Remember what Your Mama told you (if you can’t say something nice…): Whether it’s about yourself or someone else, snarky, rude comments hurt. They impact our minds and our moods and poison the dinner environment. And let’s not forget that such toxicity isn’t contained to that day. We remember those negative messages for years to come. Girls internalize it.  Boys learn that this is a practice that girls do AND that girls should indeed hold them to such a narrow standard. Frankly, it stinks. So let’s change the dialogue we say to others and to ourselves.

(4) Start a new tradition: Some go around the table and say what they’re grateful for while others retell old family stories. In the spirit of Fat Talk Free Holidays, why not start a tradition of celebrating our strengths? Ask everyone to say 1-3 things that they feel are assets they possess. You can also go back around the table and flip it—what are 1-3 assets you admire about someone else at the table? This is not about competition or comparison but rather, about seeing people for their strengths rather than their deficits.

(5) Nip it in the bud: If someone starts to “fat talk,” pull them aside and remind them kindly about your Fat-Talk-Free Holiday plan. While some adults may be able to filter out opinions about fat, calories, and weight, children and teens are very impressionable. Your silence, in this case, can be seen as an endorsement of the behavior and what the guest is saying. Speak up so that everyone can get back to focusing on enjoying family, food, friends, and some fat-talk free time.

Dr. Lynne says…

(1) Think first, speak second. The messages you send your girls really matter. They listen closely and watch even closer. Are you commenting on your need to diet? Do you identify some foods as “good” and others as “bad.” At the dinner table recently I heard a mom say, “Eat your dinner so we ca get good stuff, the dessert.” Desert can indeed be yummy, but it’s not the good stuff. Stop labeling foods, eat a touch of it all without comments and judgment. Fat-Talk-Free is the way to be!

(2) Lift one another up. Family meals are not the time for devaluation and gossip. No need to criticize those who are not present or take advantage of the audience to make yourself feel better by putting others down. Turn conversation into opportunities to share experiences, learn what your family members have been up to and celebrate one another’s passions.

(3) Offer to share the space. Do you get anxious each holiday knowing that your mother or mother-in-law is going to steal the limelight with her extravagant meal offerings, only to hear that you forgot to add the garlic to the mashed potatoes? Call ahead of time and offer to host an evening in your own home so that you can all have an opportunity to throw a family gathering the way you like it. Perhaps Thanksgiving is always at one home, ask to switch it up. Have dinner Wednesday evening at your own home and invite everyone you love. Celebrate everyone’s passion for entertaining by telling family members they can bring a favorite dish. Just because Thanksgiving has always been one way doesn’t mean this year it has to be the same old status quo.

(4) Add an activity to the holiday weekend. Family activities like sports, games and crafts bring each other joy. Consider a family game of football, a walk in the forest, or a game of Bananagrams. You can find a list of fun family activities for your fridge in The Family Coach Method. Rebecca Cohen offers great tips on planting and playing outdoors. Download her family activity list and put some family fun in your holiday.

(5) Do something nice for others. There is no better way to teach your children to give back than to offer to make crafts with elders at a local senior center, serve a meal at the local food pantry or clean out your closet and give away what you don’t need. Enjoying a family meal is only one aspect of the holiday experience.

Conclusion

This holiday season is one you get to design. So move away from old habits and introduce new ones with some thoughtful planning and preparation. You may be surprised by how others willingly join in.

Are you ready to set the stage?  Are you ready to speak up?  We all must be accountable for stopping fat-talk at our holiday tables. Do it for yourself. Do it for the other girls and women at the table.  Do it to reinforce the message to boys and men that beautiful women come in all different shapes and sizes.  This Thanksgiving, let’s toast to a very happy, healthy, fat-talk free holiday! People will thank you for it…

Note: Dr. Robyn Silverman’s book is Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.

“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home

Rebecca Tishman, our teen college blogger, has openly told our readers her story of eating disorders and recovery over the last 2 years. Her frank insight and bold discussion has helped many understand the many facets of eating disorders during the teen years and how they can be a support to others who are facing similar challenges.  Today, Rebecca writes about her eating disorder relapse. 

Relapse from an eating disorder is not uncommon. Studies show that 1/3 of women treated for anorexia or bulimia relapse within 9 years and 40% of patients with anorexia relapse within 1 year of being treated at an inpatient eating disorder facility. While Rebecca is in no way alone, there is no doubt that this article was likely hard for Rebecca to write. Please write in your support, comments, questions, encouraging words, and congratulations for her courage during her ongoing fight against ED either here or on my Facebook site where she’ll also be interacting with readers.

blog_rebeccat2-230x300“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home by our college blogger, Rebecca Tishman

I’ll be honest. As much as I’d like to say that I’m fully recovered from my eating disorder (ED), it looks as though ED’s still got me on my toes.

Back in May I finished my first year of college. What a feat, right? Two days later I moved to North Carolina for an internship opportunity I secured there at an artist collaborative. Things seemed to be going great at first. I did my own grocery shopping. I cooked meals everyday.  I was able to clear my mind of all the stress that developed over the past year and exercised in an appropriate amount. Yes! I was staying in control of my Eating Disorder instead of the other way around.

But then it happened. I had naively let my guard down and allowed ED sneak his way back in. I was relapsing.

It was about halfway through my stay there. I somersaulted so quickly. My own admission that I was in ED’s grips again My own admission that I was in ED’s grips again forced me to choose to return home earlier than I had originally intended to so I could see my team of doctors and be closer to my parents’ support.

I remember a time when I was in treatment. One of the tasks they gave us was identifying what relapse meant to us. They asked us; what would the signs of our own relapses would look like? They then asked us to give them to our family so that they knew what our relapse would look like and what signs to look for. This exercise helped me to identify the very painful truth. It was happening and I needed to do something about it.

The signs of relapse are different for everyone.  Here were some of mine:

  • Disconnection: Feeling disconnected from friends and family-whether physically far away from them or standing right next to them I felt like we were in different solar systems
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol to escape the feelings
  • Food intake: Basing the amount of food intake on whether I exercised and how much I exercised
  • Skipping meals: Intentionally skipping meals-while missing a meal once in awhile is not a definite sign of relapse, going into the day intending to skip meals and not making up for them at the next meal was a red flag for me
  • Eating “safe” foods: rather than enjoying what I was cooking and eating, I felt like I was in control of what I was eating and drinking by returning to my “safe” foods and beverages
  • Eating by myself: Not wanting to eat in front of people
  • Withdrawing: Wanting to be alone all day-I was constantly afraid of being left out, ignored, not wanted, so I recoiled into myself and stayed home for days on end instead of venturing out and making friends
  • Being afraid of food: Whether I ate an entire pizza or a single grape I felt like I was binging and instantly wanted to purge; in order to avoid that feeling I avoided eating (not a healthy solution!)
  • Using attention-seeking behavior to speak for me: often I use my ED to speak the words I don’t know how to voice

Of course, identifying the signs of relapse is a good first step, but it takes more than that – one then has to change those behaviors.

Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to change my relapse behaviors:

  • Returning to my original nutritionist: I’ve trusted her opinion for almost four years so having her set up a meal plan and give me permission to eat gave me back some control and helped me feel like all of those foods were now “safe” foods
  • Ridding my wardrobe of “skinny” clothes: I no longer want to torture myself with the reminder of the body I had when I was very sick so I got rid of all the clothes that do not fit or that I have had since before I went to treatment
  • Recommitting to recovery every morning: it’s tough but when I wake up I try to tell myself “today I am committing to a better life which one day will be ED free”
  • Having an open dialogue with my team and my family: They can’t possibly help me if they don’t know what is going on so I have to remind myself to be honest with them.
  • Making a plan to move forward: I’ve decided to come home once a month so that I can see my parents and my doctors and can try to be that much more connected to them all

I’m trying to learn from each slip-up in my recovery in order to avoid doing the same thing again. In doing so I learned how important it is to identify what is truly my own behavior and what is an ED behavior, what ED behaviors still exist after all this time, and what new ones are starting to crop up. Once I can identify them for myself I’m that much closer to changing the behavior and ultimately being truly recovered. Today that seems impossible but tomorrow it could be a reality if I continue to diligently call my behaviors into question.

Thank you, Rebecca, for your bravery and your honesty.  We are rooting for you every step of the way.  Readers; please leave your comments here or on my facebook site and Rebecca will surely read and respond either place.

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Some other articles by Rebecca Tishman:

Is Vegetarianism feeding some girls’ eating disorders? HERE

Speaking out against Fat Talk while Recovering HERE

High School’s Helping Kids Down the Path of Eating Disorders

The Rub with Greasy Grub

Summer Renaissance: The Tale of a Body Image Rebirth

Next Twitter Chat 10/13! What to do about Pornified Halloween Costumes for Girls?

halloween_cop-150x150You probably don’t need someone to tell you that there has been a major shift in the “point” of Halloween lately as it pertains to young girls. We’ve moved from creative, scary, or funny costumes to sexy, sexier, and sexiest. Even childhood favorites, known for their youthful innocence have been pornified.

blog_halloween1-150x150Just check out Red Ridinghood and Alice in Wonderland. Interestingly, when I pressed on these tween/teen blog_halloween2 costumes, the costumes that came up under “compare similar items that customers also browsed were: “Red Hoodie- Sexy” and “Disney Aladdin Sassy”. Uh huh. That says a lot.

One of the things I find deeply disturbing is that marketing and wording is saving the butts of the advertisers. Remember when the ad for the sexualized push-up bra for 7 year olds became the fodder for firestorm a few months back? The advertisers merely changed the label of this item to “triangle swimsuit.” Somehow this was supposed to address the sexualization issue. Not exactly the solution we were looking for.

blog_halloween3-300x225Well, here we are again. Take a good look at these two “Little Bo Peep” costumes. The first is labeled “Little Bo Peep Tween Costume.” The second is labeled “Sexy Little Bo Peep Costume.” The first is size “preteen”, obviously, for tweens. The blog_halloween4 second is meant for adults. See a big difference? No? Hmmm. Look again.  Still no? Yeah. Me neither. The teddy bear is a nice attempt to making the whole costume feel a bit more youthful…dominatrix. And she is in flats rather than boots, right? Ugh.

(My colleague, Melissa Wardy, did an interesting comparison of the “cop costumes,” among others).

The issue here is that one costume after another is sexualized. Girls tell us that they feel they have 2 choices: Sexy or prudish. One of cool and daring, the other is lame and boring. Here is one teen’s explanation, more in depth.

So what are we supposed to do? Let’s talk about it. After a successful and intriguing twitter chat last month on the sexualization of girls, we’d love to invite you to join us on Thursday, October 13, 2011, at 9pm EST, 8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, and 6pm Pacific to our #girlsnow chat (formally #SaveGirlHood).

A peak at our powerful crew:

blog_audrey-brashich-300x226Audrey Brashich

 

Audrey Brashich has been involved in teen and women’s journalism since 1993. She’s worked and written for magazines such as Sassy, YM, Seventeen, Elle Girl, Cosmo Girl, Teen People, Lucky, Shape, Ms., Health and others. Her work focuses primarily on body image and understanding media influences–and she’s the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty (Walker Books for Young Readers, 2006). Audrey has appeared on TV and radio in the US and Canada (CNN, NBC, CBS, Canada’s CBC). Her commentary has also appeared in USA TODAY, The Vancouver Sun, The Seattle Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, The Toronto Star and many others. She’s served on the board of directors for Mind on the Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering critical analysis of media messages, and consulted with national organizations such as Girls Inc. on their programming and policies for girls.

Amy Harman

blog_amy-harman-200x300Amy Harman is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a wife and mother. She has worked as a therapist for several years, most recently as a therapist for women and girls with eating disorders. Because of her work with women and the examples of strong women around her, she has developed a desire help women realize their worth. While taking a break from working full-time, she has created a website to empower women by strengthening relationships and improving mental and emotional well-being. Visit her blog at becomingabetterwoman.com, follower her on Twitter @beabetterwoman, or like her Facebook page. Amy is concerned about the sexualization of young girls because part of becoming a better woman is leaving a better world to those who will be the women of tomorrow. In working with girls struggling with eating disorders, she has seen the harmful impact sexualized messages can make on young minds. She believes we have a duty to teach children the positive aspects of womanhood through example, discussion, and activism.

robyn_purple42-200x300Dr. Robyn Silverman

 

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a body image expert, parenting resource and child & teen development specialist who appears regularly on national TV such as The Today Show and Good Morning America. An award-winning writer, professional speaker and success coach, she has been the content consultant for 17 books and writes a character education/leadership curriculum called Powerful Words for top level after-school programs worldwide. Her most recent book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It, is based on her passion to help all girls reach their potential and highlight their strengths rather than their deficits. To learn more, please visitDrRobynSilverman.com, follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/DrRobynSilverman, or on twitter at @DrRobyn. You can also book Dr. Robyn for a speaking engagement: Please contact Dr. Robyn’s speaker’s bureau, American Program Bureau, Inc., or call her speaking agent Nancy Eisenstein directly at: 800.225.4575 Ext 1616 We can help our girls (and our boys!) thrive!

Nancy Gruver

blog_nancy-gruverNancy Gruver is founder of the groundbreaking safe social network and magazine for girls ages 8 and up, New Moon Girls, author of How To Say It® To Girls: Communicating With Your Growing Daughter(Penguin Putnam, 2004) and blogs on girls’ issues, parenting, and media. www.newmoon.com & www.daughters.com

blog_melissa-atkins-wardy-226x300Melissa Wardy

Melissa Wardy is the creator/owner of Pigtail Pals www.pigtailpals.com. A business owner, writer, and children’s advocate, her work has appeared on CNN, FOX News, and in the Ms. Magazine blog. She is the mom to a 5yo girl and 3yo boy and wants to see some big changes in the children’s marketplace. What originally began in 2009 as an empowering online t-shirt shop for little girls has now grown into a large online boutique that carries goods with the message to Redefine Girly and recognize our girls as “Smart ~ Daring ~ Adventurous”. We also have a line of tees for little boys called Curious Crickets. In 2010 Melissa began the Redefine Girly blog to educate parents on issues of gender stereotypes and sexualization that our children face. The blog and parent community quickly became known as the go-to place for parents to discuss these issues. In 2011 Melissa started presenting Media Literacy workshops for parents and educators helping them to understand how girlhood was changing, and in 2012 you’ll be able to read her book that brings everything full circle. Let’s change the way we think about our girls.

Hope to see you all, Thursday, October 13, at 9pm EST, 8pm CT, 7pm Mountain, and 6pm Pacific! Together; let’s talk about #GirlsNow!

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