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“Good Food” and “Bad Food”

Good Food and Bad FoodIs There Such Thing as Good Food and Bad Food?

There is a growing amount of focus on obesity in American culture.  Phrases such as “the war on obesity” are commonly used by media outlets (DePhillis, 2013). In 2013 obesity was officially categorized as a disease, and in 2012, the New York City board of health passed a ban on sugary drinks in containers over 16 ounces in an effort to help thwart the “obesity epidemic,” (Pollack, 2013 and Lerner, 2012). People often have an idea that there are foods that are good and foods that are bad. This is evident in the way we talk about food. Chips are labeled as “junk food,” fast food as “unhealthy,” and other foods are simply labeled as “bad for you.” On the other side, there are several foods which are labeled with positive words and phrases such as “healthy,” “good,” and “pure.”

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BMI Report Cards: A Path to Weight Stigma

BMI Report Cards Path Weight Stigma
BMI Report Cards: A Path to Weight Stigma

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a mathematical formula based off the height and weight of a person, and allows for comparison of one person or population against what is considered normal body weight composition, and can be useful for tracking trends.  BMI is often used to classify a person into weight categories such as underweight, normal, overweight, obese and morbidly obese.  In children, BMI takes into consideration age and uses percentiles, but still yields numbers which can be categorized on the same scale (Ikeda, 2006).

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The Role of Schools in Good Food/Bad Food Thought

Role Schools Good Food Bad Food
Role of Schools in Good Food and Bad Food Thought

In recent years, the classroom has become not only a place of learning, but a battleground for the “obesity epidemic.”  Government officials, including the First Lady, Michelle Obama, are deeply concerned about the rise in overweight and obese youth (Letsmove.gov.)

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Body Dissatisfaction

Body DissatisfactionRisk Factors for Body Dissatisfaction

Different people have bodies of different shapes and sizes. Despite the diversity of body shapes, many men and women wish that their body looked different. This phenomenon is known as body dissatisfaction or negative body image and is all too common. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) defines negative body image as “A distorted perception of your shape—you perceive parts of your body unlike they really are” and also adds that those with negative body image see themselves as unattractive and feel self-conscious and awkward in their own bodies (NEDA, 2013). In contrast, those with positive body image see a true representation of themselves, and are also able to disconnect their self-worth from their body shape, accept their body as unique and feel comfortable and confident in their own bodies (NEDA, 2013).

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What is Orthorexia?

Many have heard of the terms ‘Anorexia’ and ‘Bulimia,’ but few have heard of an emerging concept known as ‘Orthorexia Nervosa’. The term, which is not listed as a mental health diagnosis in the DSM-V, was coined by Dr. Steven Bratman n 1997 and further explored in his book with David Knight, Orthorexia Nervosa: Heath Food Junkies: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Bratman, 2000). Orthorexia describes someone who is overly focused on “righteous” eating. Most often this refers to someone who is focused on healthy eating and to the types of foods they put in their bodies. Often they will follow common health fads such as macrobiotics, the paleo diet, etc. They may also cut out entire food groups such as starches or certain food dyes and additives in the quest to eat righteously. Reasons for cutting out these food groups or additives may be given as allergies or intolerances. As Dr. Bratman describes in his book, people may be so overly focused on eating the ‘right’ foods that they suffer health problems or become underweight due to excessive restriction, (Bratman, 2000).

However, the mentality of someone with orthorexia is much different than someone with anorexia or bulimia. The focus is not on becoming thin, but on being pure. Their focus on food is not the amount, but the purity (Krumer, 2008). What is similar is that both are willing to go hungry to attain their goal.

It is unknown how many people suffer from Orthorexia because only a handful of studies have examined it and there is no agreed upon definition of it. Bratman named the disorder from “ortho” meaning correct or true, melding it together with anorexia nervosa as the disorder involves restriction (Bratman, 2000). Some authors have proposed that orthorexic tendencies are actually precursors of more serious eating disorders (Krumer, 2008).

The term orthorexia has been expanded to include those who restrict food to the extreme for religious purposes such as fasting. Martin Luther, the protestant reformer was known to fast until he fainted, and other Christian mystics and ascetics were praised for their extreme fasting practices. This is not to say that the practice of fasting in any religion constitutes an eating disorder, however, fasting taken to a dangerous level in the pursuit of extreme holiness has been classified by some as a form of orthorexia (Apsell and Larson, 2000).

How does one distinguish healthy or pure eating from Orthorexia? Bratman does give some guidelines. First, the amount of time spent thinking about food is excessive. Bratman defines this as three or more hours per day thinking about healthy food. He also labels planning what one will eat in the future as a red flag. Second, he focuses on one’s relationship with food. For instance, does the person care more about the virtue of the food versus enjoying the food, or finding no joy in previously enjoyed food because it has been categorized as unhealthy? In addition, if one takes pride in what they eat in a way which causes them to believe they are superior to other “unhealthy” or “impure” eaters or if a person feels extreme guilt for eating “unhealthy” or “impure” food, they might be orthorexic. Perhaps the rules for what one can and cannot eat are become stricter as time goes on and as a result of eating “healthier” the person’s quality of life has decreased, rather than increased. Lastly, Bratman states that if the diet isolates a person from others, this could be a symptom of orthorexic eating.

It is possible that one could answer yes to one of these questions and not be orthorexic. One symptom does not create a disorder. It is the accumulation of these symptoms that Bratman states is an issue. If someone believes that they have Orthorexia, they can do a few things. First, recognize the issue and objectively evaluate the justification of such a diet. Second, think about eating in a different way or about eating something “unhealthy.” If anxiety occurs, the behavior is most likely more than healthy eating. Third, if you believe you or someone you know is orthorexic, consult a mental health professional who can assist in differentiating what is health driven and what is obsession. Also see your physician to address any health issues sustained as a result of the restrictive diet.

 

 

References:
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
Apsell, P., & McPhee, Larson. (2000). Dying to be thin [motion picture]. Arlington, VA: PBS.
Bratman, S. and Knight, D. (2000). Health food Junkies: Orthorexia nervosa: Overcoming the obsession with healthful eating. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
Krumer, F.A. (2008). On the concept of orthorexia nervosa. Scandinavian Journal of Science and Sports, 18, 395-396
 

Celebrity Body Acceptance Spotlight: Jennifer Lawrence

Celebrity Body Acceptance Spotlight Jennifer LawrenceCelebrity Body Acceptance Spotlight Jennifer Lawrence

A Celebrity’s weight is constantly under scrutiny by the media. Many celebrities who are already thin are Photoshopped to appear unrealistically thin in magazines and other forms of media and there is intense pressure to keep weight off.

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The Abercrombie and Fitch Controversy: Developments and Reactions

Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) and its subsidiaries, Abercrombie Kids, Hollister and Gilly Hicks are both popular brands among teens and young adults.  However, the retailer only provides their clothing up to a size 10. Comments made by the CEO of A&F, Mike Jeffries, from an interview with Salon in 2006 and were recently brought back into the public spotlight and have created a large amount of controversy. Jeffries stated,

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all- American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. (Denizet, Lewis, Benoit.)”

The quote has incited outrage and a wide range of responses. One of the most prominent comes from Benjamin O’Keefe, a teen from Orlando, Florida who created a petition on Change.org calling for A&F to begin carrying XL, XXL, and sizes above size 10 in their stores.  The teen states that this type of exclusionary practice was one of the contributing factors in an eating disorder he battled for several years, and that it only serves to promote poor body image (O’Keefe, Benjamin).

Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has joined with O’Keefe calling these comment “body shaming” and encouraged shoppers to boycott A&F (Flaherty, Maggie).  A protest sponsored by NEDA was scheduled to take place outside A&F headquarters and one of their retail stores in Ohio on May 20, 2013.

However, A&F executives have agreed to meet with O’Keefe and NEDA, and Jeffries issued an apology on May 16, 2013 stating,

“While I believe this 7 year old, resurrected quote has been taken out of context, I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense. A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers. However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. We hire good people who share these values. We are completely opposed to any discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations  or other anti-social   behavior based on race, gender, body type or other individual characteristics (Fairchild, Caroline)”

The protests have since been called off. However, the comments which have surfaced only lack the last few lines from the original comment which state, “Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny.” These lines do not add much “context” for why Jeffries believes those who are size 10 and under should be the only customers who are able to aspire to the popularity and “All American, cool kid” idea A&F is selling.

Others have come up with their own protests. Jes Baker, a blogger has created a series of sexualized black and white images which parody A&F print ads in which she renames A&F as “Attractive & Fat”.  Baker says she hopes that this controversy can be an opportunity for social change. However, she also criticizes Jeffries and his apology, stating that his comments only reinforce “the unoriginal concept that fat women are social failures, valueless, and undesirable (Baker, Jes).”

Another reaction comes from Greg Karber who created a video on YouTube in which he buys A&F clothing from a thrift store and distributes it the homeless in Los Angeles’ skid row in the hopes of rebranding A&F as #1 in homeless apparel. He encourages the public to donate their A&F clothing to the homeless as well and created the Twitter hashtag #Fitchthehomeless (Karber, Greg).

While this response is well intentioned, it suffers from the same ills as Jeffries comments.  It singles out a group of people who are branded as not being “All American” or “cool” and were only singled out to anger Abercrombie and Fitch because they are viewed as an underdesireable section of the population.  Instead of further alienating and hurting people, reactions should call for a change that uplifts and promotes self-esteem rather than more shame.

Jeffries’ 2006 comments have been met with public outrage and his apology has not quelled this anger by any means.  The attitudes which are portrayed in this comment are harmful to the very section of the population which A&F markets to.  The message here is that one can only be popular if their body is a certain size and that their self-worth and worth as a friend or romantic partner is tied up in their ability to fit into A&F clothes. Those teens and young adults who do not fit into these sizes may develop shame about their bodies even though they are perfectly healthy and represent the average American.  Teens, who are desperate to fit in and are highly socially motivated, may resort to extreme measures to fit into A&F’s clothing such as developing disordered and restrictive eating habits, purging or exercising obsessively and excessively.  If they cannot reach this goal, they may cope with their “failure” with actions of self-harm or even suicide.  Jeffries, whether he likes it or not, is positioned to decide who can be the “all American cool kid”.  He can decide to expand his definition to include all kids, or at least kids who are of average size.

A&F executives at the time of this writing are agreeing to meet with representatives of NEDA.  It is hoped that their policies will change after this meeting and that they will understand the huge impact they can have on the social climate of teens.  However, his apology does not evidence that any of the feedback has altered his business practices.  If Jeffries’ meeting with NEDA does not result in a change in their policies, which include hiring only “attractive” employees to serve as models (who therefore would risk their job if their bodies became unable to wear A&F clothing), then the public must send a message with their wallets.

Other retailers offer clothing in a wider variety of sizes. Retailer, H&M currently uses plus size model, Jennie Runk, who is a size 12 as the face of their entire line of swim wear, plus size or not (Sun, FeiFei).  Retailers who promote healthy body image should be lauded and the wallets of the people should also support such retailers, not companies whose business practices promote body shame and are unfazed by the possible destructive outcomes of such practices.

 

References:
Baker, Jes. “To Mike Jeffries, C/O Abercrombie and Fitch” The Militant Baker. May 19, 2013. 22, May 2013. http://www.themilitantbaker.com/2013/05/to-mike-jeffries-co-abercrombie-fitch.html
Denizet, Lewis, Benoit. “The Man Behind Abercrombie and Fitch.” Salon. January 24, 2006. 22, May 2013. http://www.salon.com/2006/01/24/jeffries/
Fairchild, Caroline. “Abercrombie and Fitch’s Semi-Apology Didn’t Go Over Too Well.” The Huffington Post. May 16, 2013. 22, May 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/16/abercrombie-fitch-ceo-controversy_n_3286502.html
Flaherty, Maggie. “Update: Monday, May 20th Abercrombie and Fitch Protest Cancelled.” NEDA. N.D. 22, May 2013. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/update-monday-may-20th-abercrombie-and-fitch-protest-cancelled
Karber,Greg. “Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment. #Fitchthehomless.” YouTube May 13, 2013. 22, May 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O95DBxnXiSo.
O’Keefe, Benjamin. ”Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries: Stop Telling Teens They Aren’t Beautiful; Make Clothes for Teens of All Sizes!” Change.org. N.D.  22, May, 2013. http://www.change.org/abercrombieforall.
Sun, Feifei. “H&M Praised for Using Size 12 Model in Swimwear Campaign.” Time. May 8, 2013. 22, May 2013. http://style.time.com/2013/05/08/hm-praised-for-using-size-12-model-in-swimwear-campaign/

Who is Ana?

 

The Internet has changed how we access information.  It can be gathered more quickly and easily than in days past.  Unfortunately, the Internet can also be a breeding group for destructive information.  One of the types of destructive information found on the Internet is how to act on and conceal eating disorder behavior. 

            “Ana” has become a way to refer to Anorexia and “Mia” to Bulimia on websites known as “pro-ana” or “pro-mia” websites.  These Internet pages usually list tips for maintaining an eating disorder such as cutting calories and dealing with hunger, for instance.  Additionally, many suggest eating behavior that can be classified as an eating ritual, or a way of eating food which lessens the stress of eating.  Tips for how to conceal weight loss from concerned parties may also be found. 

            Additionally, pictures of thin celebrities are posted and are known as “thinspiration,” pictures of underweight or extremely thin body types which become goals.  Most of these sites also contain message boards in which those with eating disorders can obtain “support” for their lifestyle.  Many of these message board administrators claim that eating disorders, especially anorexia, are a lifestyle choice and can be lived out in a “healthy “way. 

            Ana and Mia are symbolic of the identity that some clients find in their eating disorder.  Thinking of the presence of an eating disorder in this way causes issues because it is difficult to think of how one would recover from an identity or a lifestyle.  These online communities offer support for the “stigma” against this chosen way of living and serve as roadblocks to recovery. 

            What can be done about the type of thinking put forth by these websites?  First, we must accept that this type of information exists and is unlikely to go away due to the free-speech aspect of the Internet.  Internet blocks can be installed if this type of Internet usage is suspected.

            Second, what we can do is be aware of these sites and aware of the fact that anorexia or bulimia may be seen as a way or life or an identity by certain clients.  Acknowledging this allows us to approach those we care about or care for in a way that is closer to how they approach the issue, which may foster communication. 

            Third, these sites tend to provide community and support for their visitors. However, this support is supporting a destructive lifestyle.  All people seek community, but the type of community provided is important.  Help the person to find a support group focused on recovery and which may help to separate the identity of Ana from their own identity.  Foster the activities that they wish to do which are different from the things that Ana wishes to do such as going to college, freely spending time with friends or gaining back time that is not focused on food.  Instead of asking “Who is Ana?” we can hope that they will begin to ask “Who am I?”

 

References
Fox, N., Ward, K., & O’Rourke, A. (2005). Pro-anorexia, weight-loss drugs and the internet: An ‘anti-recovery’ explanatory model of anorexia. Sociology of Health & Illness, 27(7), 944-  971. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9566.2005.00465.x
Gavin, J., Rodham, K., & Poyer, H. (2008). The presentation of “Pro-anorexia” in online group     interactions. Qualitative Health Research, 18(3), 325-333.            doi:10.1177/1049732307311640

What Are Food Rituals?

What Are Food RitualsEver Wondered What Are Food Rituals?

Food Rituals are compulsive ways in which a person interacts with food that produces anxiety when not followed.  For instance, many people who have eating disorders take abnormally small bites of food, and when not allowed to do so will feel extreme anxiety.  Others may tear their food apart and will feel anxiety if not allowed to do so. Many rituals make it less stressful to eat food, or have the purpose of making one full before they finish the meal. Others focus on making the meal taste bad by letting cereal become soggy, letting food become cold, and burning the food or over-seasoning the food to create a bad taste.  The purpose of this is to discourage the desire to eat these particular foods in the future.  

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