Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: body image

Please join me for a South Pasadena Community Special Event Screening and Community Discussion of the award winning documentary Miss Representation Monday, February 24, 2014 , at the South Pasadena Library.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Free Screening - South Pasadena Library, Monday February 24 5:30 p.m.

Hailed by the Hollywood Reporter as “A relevant and important doc[umentary] that deconstructs the insidious role of visual media in the widespread, unbalanced depiction of women and girls,” Miss Representation exposes how mainstream media contributes to the under- and mis- representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which makes it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

“How we think about ourselves helps to determine our sense of self-worth. Well-being is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complex combination of a person’s physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. Well-being is linked to how you feel about yourself and your life. We need to be increasingly mindful about the demeaning and sexualized images of women and girls that popular media promotes. This event will bring awareness to the source of these negative messages and jumpstart a much needed conversation in our community about self-esteem and political empowerment.” Marina Khubesrian, MD, FAAFP

The 90-minute film will be screened from 5:30pm-7pm followed by a dynamic discussion from 7pm-8pm facilitated by Cissy Brady-Rogers, LMFT, featuring expert guests Katherine Wong (Common Sense Media), Mayor of South Pasadena Dr. Marina Khubesrian;, SPHS Feminists Unite Club members Charlotte Foley, Mia Forman, Paige Valentine, Paige Forman, and Suki Sekula; Katherine Wong (Common Sense Media); Pasadena City College Board Trustee Linda Wah; Oliver Middelstaedt (USC student and featured in the film);, Pasadena City College Board Trustee Linda Wah and Shaunelle Curry (Media Done Responsibly).

The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. Space is limited. Refreshments and snacks will be provided. While attendance of the screening is encouraged, it is not necessary for participation in the community discussion.

Press Release supplied by Healthy South Pasadena and Day One.

When I began practicing yoga a few years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn’t know the research on it’s health benefits, but my gut told me it was good for me.

A study published in the Journal for Clinical Oncology indicates yoga is especially helpful in reducing fatigue associated with breast cancer treatments. After three months of twice a week yoga practice those in the yoga group reported more vitality and better sleep than in the control group which didn’t participate in the classes.

At the six month follow up the yoga group reported about 60% less fatigue than the control group, even though many had stopped practicing after the initial three month trial.

As with all research, correlation doesn’t equal causation. But the current study is one in a growing body of research supporting many physical and psychological benefits from yoga.

If you’re fatigued from cancer treatment or just life in general, consider exploring the potential benefits of yoga. As always, consult with your healthcare provider as to your unique needs and limitations. And remember that all yoga classes are not alike. Do your homework. Find out what studios are in your area, review the class descriptions and look for a beginning level or gentle class to get started.

If you’re in the Pasadena area, my yoga teacher friend Tatiana is offering a four week introduction to yoga series on Sunday afternoons at Mission Street Yoga in South Pasadena. Begins February 9th.

My Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. class meets weekly at Glendale Presbyterian Church.

Hope to see you in yoga sometime soon.

Blogger Sarah Kopplekam’s post “How to talk to your daughter about her body” went viral last month, landing her a spot on the Huffington Post where 146,249 people have “liked” it and 35,292 people have shared it.

What Sarah said isn’t revolutionary to those of us who work with eating disorders. Unfortunately, wise counsel like this often only reaches parents too late–after years of negative modeling and messages have already done their damage. And her wisdom applies to sons as well as daughters.

My favorite suggestion: Don’t dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your kids, or about your new diet.

A dear friend’s daughter recently moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school. We hung out last week, laughed about how “crazy” her mom and I were when she was young and the impact our relationship with each other and our bodies had on her. “I never heard my mom say anything negative about her body. I asked her about it a few years ago. She raised her eyebrow like she does when she wants to make a point and told me that she was very intentional about that.”

Katie internalized a healthy sense of her body by watching us love and enjoy being in our woman bodies, enjoy good food, move because it felt good and not be afraid of getting dirty or talking about vaginas and penises! Needless to say, I was absolutely delighted by this conversation. I can’t imagine a better compliment than to hear that my example, even more than my words, impacted the life of another person.

The greatest gift a mom can give her child is her own positive relationship with her body.

The greatest gift one woman can give another woman is to fully embrace our own bodies and lovingly care for ourselves through the many changes and challenges of the female life cycle.

Passing it forward to Natalie

I met Kristen Fenton at the beginning of her career in social work. She participated in a self-care mentoring group I lead for ministry and mental health professionals.  I passed onto them the understanding and skills that have helped me find a new way of being in my body and life.  Years later, Kristen passes it forward through helping others heal from disordered eating and body image in her private practice in the Chicago area.

Last spring Kristen visited Los Angeles and I had the delight of meeting her engaging and beautiful daughter Natalie.  In writing to thank me for the time I spent sharing my life with her, she wrote “I am forever changed because of it. And my sweet Natalie now gets to live her life with a mama who is not enslaved to food or a poor body image.”

Thanks be to God!

Maybe you don’t “love and enjoy” your body. Begin with a small step: notice what is right with your body: your eyes that see, your ears that hear, your ability to walk. Practice noticing what is right with your body, not what is wrong.

And, if you need to talk about what is not right, the things you hate, wish you could change, please don’t do that with your daughter or son. Kids have more than enough negative and confusing messages about body image coming from media and peers. They don’t need you to add to that baggage.

Lots of resources are available. No matter what age your kids are, now is moment to begin to change your relationship with your body into a more loving, compassionate, and even celebratory one. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.

If you’d like some support, I’ve been there and done that and would love to share my experience, strength and hope with you.

Misogyny and female objectification scored another major victory Sunday night at the Oscars. I posted on Facebook that it was the stupidest show I’d ever seen. A young female friend whom I greatly respect thanked the Oscars for wildly entertaining her.  I thought it might be sarcasm, but she noted that I needed to remember she had a crude 13 year old boy sense of humor.

That pretty much sums it up. Our societal disconnection from the sacredness of our bodies leaves us with no better story about female bodies than Oscar offered Sunday. We live in a culture so saturated with this kind of disgraceful, disrespectful treatment of women and our bodies that even the intelligent, thoughtful women among us found it entertaining.

I don’t fault those who found it humorous. This is what we know.  This is what Hollywood has trained us to find entertaining. Schooled at the movies and television, we’ve become a culture of 13 year old boys when it comes to our bodies.

Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

In the latter decades of the 20th Century, building positive self-esteem in children became a widely accepted and influential concept in psychotherapy, parenting, and education.  Years later, with decades of implementing esteem building interventions, it turns out self-esteem isn’t as effective a standard of psychological health as it was originally thought to be.

Educators, coaches, parents, youth workers and psychotherapists have spent decades trying to help kids “feel good about themselves.”  Yet it turns out that self-esteem is highly resistant to change, may cause self-distortions, and is associated with narcissism and bullying.  On top of the evidence that it isn’t the most helpful construct for supporting identity development , the notion that we should always feel good about ourselves and our lives doesn’t leave room for what Judith Viorst termed the “necessary losses” of real life.

Dynamic Duo Working Out at Dynamic Advantage

This week I participated in my first group strength training class at Dynamic Advantage in Eagle Rock.  I was a good ten or fifteen years younger than my classmates.  But some of those gals were surprisingly strong!  One of the two “Pats” in the class was doing tricep pushdowns with several times the amount of resistance I was using.

Dynamic Strength for Everyone!

In an earlier season of my life I might have experienced a drop in self-esteem, feel “bad” about myself and judge myself for being such a slouch.  I prided myself on my strength and fitness.  My body identity was largely built on comparing myself to you, being superior, and allowing the good feelings of being “better than” you enhance my sense of self.  I don’t like admitting it.  Yet, it’s the precise dynamic that years of academic evaluation, athletic competition, and cultural tutelage in building my esteem by being at the top of the class  or having my dog win the “best in show” have taught me.

Yesterday I noticed a small dark line beneath my eye.  Thinking it was an eyelash, I used my pinky to brush it away.  No such luck!  Turns out,  it’s a permanent documentation of my recent life experience.  Dehydrated, un-moisturized, and fifty years old—I’ve got the wrinkles to prove it!

This week I discussed loss and grief with my marital and family therapy students.  Several students spoke of experiencing a loss of physical strength and fortitude.  One said in his younger years he felt invincible as he ran for miles, feeling more energized the further he ran.  “I can’t do that anymore.  It doesn’t feel good.  After a few miles I start to hurt.”

Even though we know these physical changes are normal, as another student put it, we still don’t  like them.   And we often don’t “like” ourselves during the moments they preoccupy our minds. It’s difficult to extend loving care to someone we have a negative attitude toward.  In a similar way, not “liking” ourselves often becomes a barrier to the very work we need to do to feel better.   Somewhere along the line we’ve come to value “liking” ourselves in a way that inhibits truly “loving” ourselves, just as we are, on any given day, in whatever state of health and success or illness and failure we might be.

Disappointment, frustration, sadness and anger are expect responses to loss.    Just as we must grieve the death of a loved one or loss of a job so that we can move forward into new life possibilities, physical changes bring real losses that must be acknowledged and integrated. And grief doesn’t necessarily feel good!

I wonder if the ladies I work out with feel “good” about how they look?  Do they “like” their wrinkles, sags, thinning hair, and widening mid-sections?  Do they feel affection for the necessary losses of their once youthful bodies and faces? Or are they too busy living their lives to the fullest, enjoying themselves and making the most of each moment to bother with such antiquated notions as self-esteem?

That deep line under my eye is part of the package of living long enough to get old!  A friend is grieving the death of his twenty-six year old nephew.  That young man will never have the privilege of developing wrinkles under his eyes. My classmate Pat is stronger than me–good for her!  And, good for me.  I want to be like Pat when I am sixty-something: wispy white hair, lots of life documented on ever surface of her face and body, and enjoying every second of cranking out those tricep pushdowns!

What you’ve always known to be true is now confirmed: you really are a size 8, and a size 10, and a size 14 — just depends on where you shop!

Manufacturers use  vanity sizing to delude us into thinking we’re getting smaller (and spend more money because we’re feeling so good about the lower number), when in fact the clothes are getting bigger.

What was a size 10 jean twenty-five years ago is now a size 6!  While that may bring momentary relief when we slide into a smaller size, we also may suffer great angst when the equation goes against us.  Recently a pair of jeans in my “usual” size wouldn’t slide more than half way up my thighs.  My thighs do tend to buff up a bit when I’m cycling more, but that was ridiculous!

A number of companies are attempting to address the disparity among different designers and stores by making it easier for us to find the right size and fit with less hassle.  But our best defense against the emotional ups and downs of the dressing room is mental preparation.  Before you go shopping, take a few minutes to ground yourself in the truth:

“I am not a number on a tag.  I am a human being.”

Don’t let the fashion industry delude you into believing that your self-worth is tied to a size.  Neither the relief or the angst associated with those numbers accurately reflects anything about you.  They are by-products of an industry that says it wants to make us feel beautiful, but is really all about profiting on our insecurities — which they do a great job perpetuating with games like this one.

If you want to arm yourself with more information, check out this sizing chart for more details on the disparity among different stores.

See for yourself what some experts are noting about the benefits of being less well-endowed!  I don’t have time to investigate the research right now, but it sounds legitimate.  Check it out for yourself and see what you think.

And, if you have a story to share about your experience — on either side of the discussion — please share your story.  I’d love to hear from the women–after all, we are the experts on our bodies.

Reclaim Your Original Beauty

Today is the first day of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Communities and universities across the country will hold events to educate and inspire participants with healthy ways to approach diet, exercise and beauty.

I attended a kickoff event on Saturday evening where “plus-size” model Crystal Renn, author of Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves, spoke about her passion for size diversity in the modeling industry. She is a former “straight size” model who earned success in the mainstream fashion industry through compulsive exercise and restrictive eating.  But when her self-destructive patterns couldn’t keep her skinny enough to meet those standards, she found hope in the plus-size segment of the industry.  Her discovery that she could eat normally and still work at the job she loved marked the beginning of her recovery.

I was taken by her boldness and courage, but my instinct told me that something was not right.  I couldn’t articulate it well enough to speak up during the question and answer time, but clarity came as I talked with my colleague Allison and her husband Steven on the drive home.

Disordered eating is rooted in an insecure self-image. Research indicates that exposure to idealized images of beauty is a primary contributor to the onset of negative body image—typically  the first symptom to develop and the last to heal in the course of an eating disorder.  Beauty and fitness magazines can be primary sources of distorted views of beauty and strength that exacerbate young people’s already unstable identity development.

The fashion industry profits from insecure self-image, using a form of marketing called “aspirational advertising” to increase profits. These ads use unrealistic images of beauty—something to “aspire” toward—to sell us products promising to alleviate the very psychological discontent the ad feeds.

The ultimate goal is not to make us feel beautiful, but to cash in on our insecurities:  Am I okay?  Am I beautiful?  Am I good enough?  Do you like me?

Tom Ford, a top designer, says he wants women to feel beautiful, but, like Chrystal, his perspective is clouded by his financial dependence on the fashion industry. His casual remark, “I’m just trying to make pretty clothes.  And beautiful clothes make beautiful women…” reveals the not-so-beautiful truth.  To the fashion industry, you really aren’t beautiful in the skin you came in—or in your favorite grungy jeans and old college sweatshirt.  Your package isn’t complete without the designer clothes.

I say beautiful women just are!  Beauty is our birthright. No one makes you or I “feel” beautiful.  We allow ourselves to feel less than beautiful when we measure ourselves according to others’ ideals of beauty.

Made in the image of the Creator, originally naked and unashamed, our instinct to cover ourselves—both physically and psychologically—is protective. We live in a world where kids bully each other and adults contrive ways to use our basic human insecurities for their own profits.  While it is necessary and good to clothe ourselves, we don’t need to let others determine what is fashionable.

To reclaim our original beauty we need to know that we are loved just as we are. The truth I always come back to when I’ve fallen into an insecurity rut is simple but elusive:  there is nothing I can do to make God love me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less.  All other loves will end, but the love of God endures forever.  Maintaining a deep and abiding connection to God’s love is foundational to good health and true beauty.

We also need to remember who we are—women created in the image of the Creator of all that is beautiful, good and true. We are already beautiful, just as we are.  But when we fill our minds with images of other people’s notions of beauty, we can’t even begin to see ourselves accurately.

A concrete step you can take to reclaim your original beauty is to resist the aspirational advertising of the fashion and cosmetics industries. Feelings follow thoughts.  When thoughts and images determined by advertisers fill your mind, you’ll continue to feel “less than.”   Careful consumption of (or, better yet, elimination of exposure) beauty magazines is a powerful way to prevent and heal negative body image.

For more on media literacy and other practical steps for reclaiming your original beauty, please check out NEDA’s website for handouts you can use and pass on to others.

A Bad Knee?

One day in yoga class my teacher Mark asked, “Is that your bad knee?”   A knowledgeable and compassionate teacher, Mark knew about my injury and wisely asked before correcting my alignment.

I’m surprised by how often people refer to my injured knee as “bad.”  Why do we so quickly label body parts and symptoms as bad?  “I’ve got a bad tooth…stomach…foot… a bad headache…cold…flu.”

“I don’t have a bad knee” I replied.

I knew that Mark was referring to my injury.  I could have just said “Yes” and let it be.

No Bad Body Parts

But everything in me said, “No.  My body is a good body.  Don’t call my body bad.” I felt like mother sticking up for her child.  “Don’t talk dirt about my knee.  You may be the teacher, but that doesn’t give you permission to talk bad about me!”

Mark corrected himself and said, “Okay.  I mean your challenged knee.”

I said it was and he said, “Okay, then I won’t tell you to straighten it.”

I drew my attention to my leg and mindfully worked the knee a bit straighter, sensing the muscles, ligaments and tendons move into a new position.  It felt good to gently push myself.

I am grateful for Mark’s combination of precision in alignment and gentle correction.  He did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

Speak Up for Yourself

I am also grateful that I love myself enough to not let anyone speak ill of any part of me—including my knee!  Twenty years ago I might not have done that. While I would have challenged someone calling me a bad person, or speaking ill of my loved one, I might not have challenged that same assignment of meaning to my body.

I did for my knee what it couldn’t do for itself—challenge the negative language so commonly used when speaking about physical challenges and symptoms.

Most often it isn’t someone else we need to confront.   We’re our own worst critics when it comes to our bodies.  How often do you judge your body or assign negative labels to your body?

New Ways of Talking About Your Body

It’s difficult to change long-standing behaviors, but practice creates new patterns. The next time you catch yourself speaking badly about your body, see if you can find a kinder way to talk about your aches, pains and problems.  Descriptive language—“I have a sore tooth…a painful headache…an injured knee”—is a more accurate and loving way to talk about yourself.

Be a good mother to yourself–speak lovingly of your body and challenge yourself or anyone else who doesn’t.