Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fostering Positive Body Image

With summer upon us, and the beach beckoning, this can be a challenging time for those of us susceptible to negative body image.

It's easy to get swept up in the things that bring us down and that is when self doubt can creep in. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to let go and make way for our inner child to emerge by being playful, having fun and engaging in the moment.

Being outdoors and getting active can boost our confidence, and therefore our self esteem. And nothing beats living with joy and laughter and sharing these moments with the people you love.

In my book Why Can't I Look the Way I Want, there is a section titled 'How Do I Stay Positive?' It talks about inner wisdom; the voice that speaks from your heart. This voice represents your untapped potential to trust in your own uniqueness, your ability to strive for and realise your dreams. Only you have the power to change your life; catch negative thoughts as and when they occur and turn your thinking around, transforming your thoughts into strong, positive ideals.

Here are some tips if you start experiencing negative thoughts:

1. Ask yourself ‘where is this coming from’? Can you back track your thoughts until you find what triggered the initial negative thought? Ask yourself why this thought upset you and decide what action you can take to resolve it.
2. Acknowledge that it’s okay to feel down sometimes. Everyone has bad days. Then do something to lift your mood. Read your favourite passage from a book, go for a walk in the sunshine or dance to an awesome song.
3. Create a collection of affirmations that inspire you and say them to yourself often, including when you’re in a great mood. My favourite is: “I am honest, caring and a true reflection of happiness. I am creating a wonderful life”.
4. A fun thing to do is create Affirmation Cards. Get your friends together with some index cards. On the top of each card write a person's name. Pass these around, have everyone write down one thing they love about each person and then take turns reading them aloud. Keep your affirmation card with you and look at it often.
5. Record your thoughts and feelings in a journal. How do you feel today? Why do you think you feel that way? Then choose the best moment of the day and write that down. Why was it so great? Think of ways you can create more of these moments in each day.
6. Practice gratitude. What are some of the amazing things in your life that make you smile? Great friends, sunshine, summer parties, walks on the beach … focus on these instead of thinking about what might be missing in your life.
7. If you can’t seem to escape the negative thoughts, talk, talk, talk to your trusted friends. Talk it all out. Vent until you feel better. Offloading will help you to let it go.

Remember that positive body image stems from self-love; how you feel about yourself on the inside. Keep your life focused on believing in yourself and all that you are capable of. As Tyra Banks famously said "Never dull your shine for somebody else". Words to live by.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Skinny on Kate Moss

Kate Moss has caused outrage after revealing that one of her mottos is the phrase "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels".

Health experts branded her comments to fashion website WWD "absolutely appalling".

Dr Carol Cooper told Sky News Online: "I was horrified when I heard it. We know she's a role model for a lot of girls and young women...and they will be adversely influenced by this."

Mary George, from UK eating disorder charity Beat, told Sky Moss' remarks "make life difficult for those struggling to beat eating disorders". She added "It's very unfortunate that comments like this are made and put on pro-anorexic websites. I'm sure she regrets making them."

A spokesperson for Storm, Moss's model agency, said: "This was part of a longer answer Kate gave during a wider-ranging interview - which has unfortunately been taken out of context and completely misrepresented. For the record - Kate does not support this as a lifestyle choice."

Despite the official comment from Moss's agency, the damage has been done.

It would be interesting to know in what context Kate Moss made such a statement, for that kind of statement can really only be construed one way. At a time where eating disorders amongst young people are on the rise more care needs to be taken by high profile role models in terms of the messages they are putting out there.

In contrast, the other day I was in my local Gloria Jeans ordering a takeaway coffee when a lady tapped me on the arm and said "I read about you in (the Sunday Telegraph's) Body & Soul a few weeks ago" and produced a copy of my book Why Can't I Look the Way I Want from her bag. I was amazed to notice the array of crooked post-it notes protruding from the pages. She went on to tell me how her niece had suffered anorexia for three years and the family were devastated because nothing seemed to be working. She said the section in my book 'Helping Someone You Love' had given the family some much needed guidance in terms of what to say - and importantly, what not to say, and the stories about people who had suffered through the turbulent and lonely existence of an eating disorder and then gone on to create happy and successful lives was also inspiring.

"I am going to visit my niece this afternoon and show her your book," she said. I picked up my latte, smiled and wished her well. As I watched her walk away tears filled my eyes. The process of writing my book was intensely emotional as it was rewarding - and random encounters like these warm my heart because it's proof that my book is out there helping people.

If Kate Moss had looked into this woman's eyes when she spoke of her niece and seen the pain and helplessness, perhaps she would have a different take on what "skinny" tastes like.

Now more than ever, we need to empower our young people to love themselves from the inside out, because self-love inspires confidence which inspires positive body image.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Computer Program to track Self Harm Risk

A recent study found that two thirds of young people who self harm don't tell anyone 1. I have spoken with many people who have shared with me the absolute anguish and desperation that led to cutting or burning themselves, and yet despite the momentary 'relief', their emotional pain continued.

25% of people with eating disorders engage in self harming behaviour 2. I was so alarmed by this statistic that I included a chapter titled 'Scarred and Scared' in my book Why Can't I Look the Way I Want; Overcoming Eating Issues to help people understand and overcome self harm.

Now there is a computer program being researched by two Victoria University of Wellington researchers. Dr Tiong-Thye Goh and student assistant Yen-Pei Huang have created a system to scan social networking websites and identify key words posted by people aged between 18 and 24.

"Social networking sites have in recent years become an increasingly popular avenue for young people to express and to share their thoughts, views and emotions," Goh said. "When young people are emotionally distressed for instance, instead of the traditional channel of consulting friends, parents or specialists, social networking blogs may provide a channel to share and release their emotions and intentions."

The researchers developed technology that picked up key words and phrases such as "depressed" or "I don't want to live any more". The option of needing help would link to an appropriate website that provides useful information and links.

While this is a fantastic initiative, it is important to note that if you are feeling alone and isolated, there are strategies that will help avert the need to self harm. Creating a similar physical sensation can dissipate overwhelming feelings and emotions. Try squeezing ice cubes in your hand, thrusting your arm into a bucket of cold water, plunging your fingers into some ice-cream or snapping an elastic band against your wrist. Because these intense emotions are fleeting, creating a similar physical sensation will allow the feelings to pass - without leaving scars.

Coming to terms with the underlying causes of self harm is an important part of understanding what motivates this behaviour. Being honest about thoughts, feelings and behaviours with a therapist and establishing motivation is the first step to working through them and an important part of the recovery process.

For more information go Here

1 Children, Youth and Women's Health (2009)
2 Sansone, R.A., Levitt, J.L. and Sansone, R.A. (2003), 'Eating disorders and self-harm behaviour: A chaotic intersection', Eating Disorders Review, vol. 14, pp.1-3