Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Culture of Thinness

An article I wrote for Deconstruction Magazine a couple years ago:

Eating disorders and poor body image have become rampant in recent years, and the media has stimulated the increase in the life-threatening diseases that come under the heading of disordered eating. The numbers of people who have body image issues are staggering. Television, magazines, and even film play a large role in the development and maintenance of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and compulsive eating…and they help create body image problems for many. The rise in eating disorders affects women’s lives most of all because they remain the major sufferers. Recently, new hindrances have presented themselves to women with the potential for developing eating disorders, such as pro-anorexia websites and diet product marketing. And trust me, we have enough hindrances without getting hit with more. I for one have personally dealt with the pain and problems this article talks about, so I write from experience and a growing anger with the media. The culture of thinness is prevalent in Western society—a culture that continually focuses on women and their bodies.

Putting aside for a moment what helps to cause eating disorders and body image issues, there is still the matter of health and the consequences of these things for women. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa especially, have serious dangers associated with them…and an unhealthy body image is no pleasure with which to live. Women are dying from problems like this—women with options, women with lives, women with these problems that have conquered so many—thanks in part to the media. While there is no simple “cure” for eating disorders or unhealthy body image, there are solutions to the problems that influence these things. There is not only an opportunity to help women struggling with these issues, there is an opportunity to prevent these issues from ever happening at all. Women with any type of eating disorder are generally those with other psychological issues or low self-esteem—but what gives them this low self-esteem?

While the media is surely not the sole cause of eating disorders or body image problems among women, it does play a tremendous role in the way women feel about their bodies. Body image is an issue that is often directly related to eating disorders, especially anorexia and bulimia. Television frequently displays women who are considered the standard of beauty; we don’t often see unattractive or overweight women in lead roles. Today’s standard of beauty generally includes being thin, tan, and picture-perfect in every way. As if this were not bad enough, the commercials on television do not bring much relief; diet products are continually marketed all day and all night so that women scarcely have a chance to feel comfortable with themselves. The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness (AEDA) lists that the diet related industry was a 50 billion dollar a year enterprise in the year 2000. Since this style of marketing is so ubiquitous, many women are left to assume that their bodies are not on par with the societal “ideal.” The American Anorexia/Bulimia Association (AABA) states that as of 1998 the most common behavior that leads to an eating disorder is dieting. How many women do YOU know who are on a diet?

Magazine photos and advertisements, like those in Cosmo, Glamour, and Seventeen act in much the same way. Even women’s magazine articles tend to focus on weight, appearance, and beauty over fitness and health. Society labels beauty as women’s main “thing” in life. More than success, intelligence, or personality, beauty is the goal that is set for women of all ages to achieve. Women are often judged by appearance alone, and this includes weight. For example, many women feel that if they cannot get a date, it must mean that they are too fat or too ugly. You seldom hear a woman saying she couldn’t get a date because she’s too smart, right? These messages which the media render can be detrimental to the psychological well-being of women of the Western world. Adolescents are the main consumers of women’s magazines and diet products. They are also the target audience of television shows and movies that portray thin and gorgeous women as the “ideal” or the norm. It is obvious that these messages do indeed have an effect on their audience; according to the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research (EDC) 40-60% of high school girls diet and 30-40% of junior high school girls worry about their weight.

Since the 1960s, focus on women and body has increased considerably. What led to this change? All kinds of media, for instance, skyrocketed; television, movies, and advertising became about looks and fashion whereas in earlier years it was not such a big issue. Pressure on adolescent girls to fit in has soared as well. Not only has this pressure increased, but it is continually on the rise. The depiction of women’s sexuality (or the dominance of women as sexual objects) also influences women and the way in which they view themselves and each other. Young girls particularly have come to understand that to become a woman means make-up and style and being pretty. Women in Western culture, in order to be women, must fill a role that has already been created for them. Just as society views women, so women learn to view themselves. They may become overly critical, discontent, and acquire low self-esteem in the process of trying to measure up to impossible ideals (or simply ideals that simply aren’t who they are and/or who they should be).

Not only are positive themes associated with thinness, but there is a distinct stigma associated with fat. According to Western culture, thin is wonderful and fat is horrible. This stigma alone can influence the choices women make and the actions they take. Since fat is something disgusting, women who are "overweight" or feel that they are overweight may be distressed. If this daily distress becomes bad enough, many women may develop self-damaging behaviors or eating disorders. All the negative messages surrounding fat can cause women to have negative feelings about themselves, and these negative feelings can increase until women feel what is known as body hatred. And who do they have to thank?—the media.

Remember when I mentioned that since the 1960s focus on women and body has skyrocketed? Well, it should be no surprise to find then, that the incidence of eating disorders has doubled since the 1960s. Shock and frenzy often follow eating disorders in the news and public, but instead of merely addressing and re-addressing the problem, something can be done about it. First on the list might be “fixing” the media. Despite the fact that girls and women often feel inadequate compared to many of the unrealistic and pervasive images the media presents, these images still remain the basis for beauty in our society. Not all media is like this; there are images of natural, full-figured, and beautiful yet imperfect women out there, but this is certainly not what women most often see. The majority of ideas and images in media of Western culture drives home that a lovely and likable slender appearance is much more important than being smart, successful, or healthy. Even if it remains difficult to purge society of these images, combining them with positive ideas about intelligence, careers, social issues, and health would at least be an improvement. It’s also pretty vital to promote health and fitness as opposed to body size.

According to the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, over half of females between ages 18-25 who participated in a recent survey would rather be run over by a truck than be fat, and two-thirds surveyed would rather be mean or stupid. This statistic alone is enough for alarm. It is clear that eating disorders, eating disordered behavior, and body image problems have become an epidemic. Body image issues are increasing in younger age groups—as young as seven-year-olds. In the past, eating disorders were mainly an issue for white middle to upper class women, but in recent years the issue has increased in diverse ethnic and socio-cultural groups, according to the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research (EDC). Furthermore, the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states, “The number one wish of girls 11-17 years old is to lose weight.” When a wish like this becomes so prevalent, the issue of body image and the media needs to be addressed. There is no reason why so many girls and women should die from eating disorders—or live a life of suffering and pain.

(c) Arielle Lee Becker

Saturday, November 24, 2007

So Damn Beautiful Rant

I wrote this about 2 and a half years ago. It's a quick, honest, and blunt rant of a poem. I allowed myself to speak freely and recognize what it was I was feeling and saying. With each line I gained momentum, and by the end, the last lines were like smacking myself in the head as I saw what I had been saying the whole time.

I’m so damn beautiful

That I think I’m ugly.

That said, the spirit of me

Is hard to contain.

Girl, you’ll be a woman soon.

Woman, you’ll be a girl again.

Remember to reinforce me,

Jealousy is natural,

I have done nothing wrong.

I declare my sentiments:

I’m so damn beautiful

That I think I’m wrong.

Multi-generational packs of women

Stare at me because I’m me.

They don’t know I’m beautiful.

They don’t know I’m ugly.

They ratify against me,

Volunteer to fix me,

Wish they were like me.

I lament the prevalence of me,

Wish I was smaller,

Less less less,

Hidden away from everyone.

I’m so damn beautiful

That I think I’m crazy.

I lament the lack of me,

Wish I was bolder,

More more more,

Ubiquitous and flashy.

I’m so damn beautiful

That I think I’m ugly.

I buy right into the eyes

That search me out

And strive to dissipate

My sense of humor.

The tip of the iceberg:

I’m so damn beautiful

That I think I’m not me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, it's that time of year again that just may strike fear or panic into your heart: Thanksgiving.

It's a day where the focus is typically on food and family. Enough said.

But try to see today as positive, not negative. Remember that Thanksgiving can be a day to reflect on what you are thankful for, and it can be a day to nourish yourself.

Whether you're afraid of eating too little or too much, of being noticed or monitored, or of being just plain uncomfortable in such a setting...remember to breathe.

Take a moment today before you sit down to the meal or before you head off to spend time with family or friends...and just breathe. Tell yourself you are strong and today is just another day. Then eat to nourish yourself. Not to be gluttonous or disordered, but simply to nourish. Don't restrict yourself. If you're afraid of getting out of control in the other sense, don't gorge. Just eat. And try to relax. And remember this: you are not alone.

There are many people out there today feeling what you are feeling. Many people panicking or afraid. Think of everyone who is struggling as you are and dig right in.

Today is what you make it.

I know Thanksgiving can be scary. But if you start with a positive outlook, you can make it through and try to enjoy yourself this year. I know it's easier said than done. Encourage yourself to take care of yourself. Just set a goal for yourself that is reasonable and not over-the-top for where you are at in your life. Simply say: I will make the best of this day.

Perhaps you can keep something positive in your pocket (like a quote, saying, or some good reinforcement from wherever you choose) and look at it when you're feeling the urge to restrict, binge, purge, or just get upset. Eat what you want because it's Thanksgiving and it's about feeling good--not bad. When you feel yourself faltering, look at your positive item, whatever it may be. Don't forget you want to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to enjoy what is before you.

I will think of all of you, send you some good vibes, and love myself and my Thanksgiving day.
Here's to a Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Taking a Step

Each day, I wonder how I got to where I am now. And then I remember: I fought my way here with words and realizations and a dream of happiness. I used my writing to express what was going on inside my body. Inside my head. Inside my heart. I set reasonable goals that--even though they didn't seem reasonable at the time--acted as beacons of light in a vast darkness.

Every struggle I dealt with made me stronger. It sounds cliche, but it's true. And with every new thread of strength I gained, I had a better foundation on which to build my health, my happiness, and MY LIFE.

It takes really opening your eyes. Really seeing. Understanding the feelings within. Being honest with who you are and who you want to be.

You might say, "Well, I really want to be thin, or thinner, or prettier, or more fit, etc. But you only say that because you think it will make you happy. It won't.

And besides, that's just focusing on your body, not your soul. Your soul...your mind...your SELF is the essence of you. Maybe you can achieve a goal of being thin or whatever it is you desire to be, but you may lose your self in the process. Or you may never find it.

Do you really want to live your life in an empty shell? Even if that shell happens to be pretty, or thin, or fit, etc.?

Reach into yourself...and pull your self out...

And I promise, you'll look BEAUTIFUL.

Tell Your Tale Tuesday (# 4)

Happy Tuesday, everyone! And thanks, Rachael, for sending me this wonderful essay/rant/empowering declaration! If anyone's interested, you can find more of Rachael's awesome words here: Twisted Barbie Weighs In

And you can always find a link to her blog on the side panel of my site. And without further ado...

By Rachael Stern aka Twisted Barbie

The weight industry is an incredible enterprise isn't it? They're trying to sell us self worth and were so hungry from starving so long we eat it all up. Entrapment in an all encompassing paradigm, where an intellectual double standard is the normative fare, is what womanhood has turned in to. Entrapment in a society that wants to feed and stuff us with the image of starvation as satiety.

What are we to fill up on when double standard is the coach fare of our culture? Certainly not food for that would make us un-hungered for. A cultural analysis of our bodies is hardly necessary when our physical contextually is the primary factor in determining our personal worth, and yet somehow in the attempt to empower our hips and thighs, those of us who are still tormented by the jiggle that our very humanity might conjure are digested as traitors, unconsciously working against the slowly ticking clock, setting it into a counterproductive, counterclockwise spiral.

A convenient way to view this problematic social structure would be through Flocculation tinted lenses. Are we not creating our own neo victorian standards? Do we best feed our movement by continuing to feed it with propaganda, rejecting those who are imprinted by the very mold our non allied communities are trying to cookie cut us out with? Let the sustenance of our community feed those un sustained by themselves. After all, in the end, who would you rather sit down for dinner with? Driving home from a Rally seemed like an everyday act for me, but passing out at the wheel wasn't what I envisioned as empowered. I have always and will always label myself a feminist. It is at the core of my identity, wholly and truly. How is it then, that I ended up being so effected by society that I would sacrifice myself?

I set off on a journey that went against every value I hold. I transformed myself for others into something socially and culturally appropriate. I disabled my own beliefs, my own activism, my own power.

Not anymore.

I hereby agree to revel in my humanity and do the very things necessary to support its livelihood. I agree to love with my whole heart unapologetically. I agree to stand at the edge of the cliff and not only to sit amidst, but dance in the fire surrounded by friends. I agree to have no apologies. I agree to embody my own beliefs that I hold so steadfast for others and never sacrifice myself to fit what another might consider good or better or appropriate. I agree to speak my mind when my voice shakes, to cry when I'm hurt, to scream when I'm angry, to sing when speaking cannot express my joy, and to dance when words fail my truest expression.

I have worked myself into an oblivion attempting to prove my right to inhabit this world, when my mere existence should have sufficed. I have always been enough just as I am. I agree from this day forth to feel entitled to my life, my voice, my body and my food. I agree to exist as counter culture within the diet ravaged society that I am forced to contextual myself in. I agree to grapple with the tough questions. How is that I have reconciled an eating disorder with a strong feminist selfhood?

Why is it that the standard I hold for others falls away when I stand in front of the mirror? I agree to keep questioning what the difference is between personal and political activism. What does it mean to effect change from within, and is this in opposition to without? Is personal liberation as important as political liberation? I have come to believe it is.

I agree to work for radical change within something that will be the most prevalent in my life beyond laws and beyond labels. I can return to the very beginning and work from the source. I can be me. I promise to be me.

How is it that when the very gears of the political machine are falling apart, we fail to notice? How is it that activists everywhere have alcohol problems, drug problems, self injury problems, food problems and it is accepted? How are we okay with this? Why is it okay to kill yourself to feed the movement? What are we really fighting for if not our own lives?

Perhaps as activists, we need to start with ourselves. We need to go back to the drawing room and retrace our steps. What are our goals? What do we really want, and why? Can we structure a movement that supports healthy individuals? These are questions that take us back to the consciousness raising group. We have grown too far from the personal. We are people, we are human and no amount of protest, no amount of social movement, no amount of anything can change that. H0w can I tell bush he isn't fit to run the country, much less anything when I cant feed myself? and what right do i have, pretending to be someone that younger people can look up to when I'm sacrificing myself? Perhaps we need to take a step back and acknowledge that by engaging in these self defeating acts we are not only stopping our own gears, but we are allying with the other side, forgetting what the focus is, turning inward and contributing to our own ineffectiveness and erasure.

How is it that we have ended up in a society where the very act of consuming food, sustenance is a political act? If I buy a diet pepsi, it supposedly isn't political, even-though I am supporting bullfighting. If I buy a bag of chips, it breaks an unwritten social code. People form opinions about me. I form opinions about myself and all of a sudden i'm not thinking about how my gay best friends can't get married, or why I care about the current paradigm. Eating without judgment becomes a political act, a stance I am taking. It is noticed and I am choosing to be a part of this world without letting others judgment keep my presence at bay. I refuse to take it
on. I want chips damn it and I am no less of a woman because of it. This is feminism. I am here and I'm not leaving. I want to change the world, I want to dance naked and have sex with the lights on.

The personal is political, and the political is personal.

The time has come to put our food where our mouths are.

Who is with me?

Awesome, is it not? Rachael, so glad you sent me this. I love the concepts, the words, and the meaning. But most of all I love the spirit and the strength! I'm also kind of partial to the fierce feminist voice speaking out against what's wrong with this society. I know a lot of us are "with you." I know a lot of us appreciate the strong voice of this essay. Thanks again for sharing it. I am with you!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Desire to Be Thin is Weighing Heavily Upon Us

I guess it's even come to this now: '"Diabulimics' shun insulin to get thin"

It's terrible--this desire to be thin; I always thought it was possible that things would become this bad, but it still makes me sad to read this article.

What are your thoughts about it?


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Help Me Live

I wrote this 4 years ago today. At the time, I thought I was writing to someone--to some unknown source--for help and guidance...but now, in retrospect, I realize I was writing to myself. I was asking for help, pleading with myself. This poem describes how I used to feel each morning when I woke up. I'd feel drained. I'd feel scared. I'd feel alone. I'd feel miserable.

Help me live

To face the day

Look around

And be okay

Help me live

To face the night

Think alone

And be all right

Help me live

To face the me

In the mirror

That I see

Help me live

To face the crowd

Beat the battle

Make them proud

Help me live

To face the day

Look around

And be okay

(c) Arielle Lee Becker 2003

I finally helped myself live...just like I was always asking. It was mostly about self-realization, self-love, and self-expression. It was partly about listening to myself. It was partly about doing what I really wanted--what I really really wanted. It was partly about deciding I was ready for a new life. It was partly about getting rid of the bad in my life and surrounding myself with some more good. And it was a little bit about lots of other things that made me stop, made me think, made me turn my head to see, and made me understand at last.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tell Your Tale Tuesday (# 3)

I recieved an email from a woman named Kira Bloom this week. I am copying the email here so all of you have access to what she shared with me. I am also posting a few images of Karin Collins' beautiful, WEARABLE artwork. How nice! She is LA based, but her items are available online. This art has a story behind it and the "Every BODY Is Beautiful" Online Fundraising Auction event sounds wonderful. And of course, it's a great cause.

Here is the email that was sent to me; I hope you all will read it!

These are the pendants Karin Collins donated for the auction.

These are just a couple of the spoon pendants on her website that are for sale.

Hello Arielle! Please consider this important health/lifestyle/fashion/charity item for coverage on your Actively Arielle blog at some point during the month of November!

Acclaimed Los Angeles-based wearable art designer Karin Collins (please see her inspiring health-related story below and at http://www.spoonfedart.com/) is once again promoting and participating in the annual National Eating Disorders Association "Every BODY Is Beautiful" Online Fundraising Auction, which is running from November 1st through December 2nd, 2007. There are a number of fantastic items up for sale, including jewelry, clothing, tote bags, spa packages, beauty products, celebrity-autographed collectibles, vacations, music, books, art - and many more great items will be added as the auction progresses! The event is being chaired by music superstar Sara Evans and features many other celebrity contributors!

The delightfully diverse auction offerings include a trip to Tokyo, a backstage concert meet & greet with Sara Evans, a manicure in Beverly Hills, yoga classes in Seattle, an iPod Nano, an autograph/clothing package from American Idol singer Carrie Underwood, a one-of-a-kind customized guitar signed by Bo Diddley, tickets to the Regis & Kelly show, a Disney Snow White animation cel, an Orioles jersey autographed by Cal Ripken, Jr., a weekend in Malibu, and much much more....

Please let your audience know that they can go to this link for the scoop on this great event: http://www.blogger.com/www.nationaleatingdisorders.cmarket.com

And please do take a moment to check out Karin Collins' latest SpoonFed Art work (and the brand new look of the website!) at http://www.spoonfedart.com/!

Karin's gorgeous wearable art spoon necklaces - made from actual spoons! - are gaining popularity all around the globe (see a sampling of our press clips below)! AOL Style recently referred to Karin's pieces as "staggeringly beautiful pendants with a soul," and as NYLON magazine writes, SpoonFed Art is "...an imaginative jewelry collection that takes wearable art to a new level... The L.A.-based designer hacks the handles off ordinary utensils and fills them with all things sticky, shiny, and bright... Wear one, and you\'re guaranteed to cause a few mouths to open."

Karin originally started making her SpoonFed Art pendants as a very personal art-oriented therapy to overcome a serious eating disorder she\'d been battling for almost 20 years. Karin is entirely free of her eating disorder now, and she continues to contribute to and spread awareness of the National Eating Disorders Association to keep the focus of her SpoonFed Art business on the reason it was started - to help heal.

For more information on the inspiring story behind SpoonFed Art, please see this profile of Karin on Yahoo! Health: http://health.yahoo.com/topic/mentalhealth/inspirational-stories/article/capessa/63_karinc

...or this SpoonFed Art article from the LA Weekly: www.laweekly.com/la-vida/la-vida/the-art-of-spooning/14389/

Karin Collins has donated three of her SpoonFed Art pendants to the NEDA fundraising project, including an exclusive NEDA-commissioned one-of-a-kind necklace featuring the NEDA logo. Last year's one-of-a-kind NEDA Logo pendant from SpoonFed Art sold for $370!

Please let your audience know that they can go to this link for the scoop on this great event: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.cmarket.com/

Karin Collins is available for interviews and can be reached at Karin@SpoonFedArt.com and her number is 310-467-8648.

Please feel free to use any of the images from the NEDA auction and SpoonFedArt.com sites in your coverage of this event - or let me know if you'd like higher-res jpegs of the three pendants Karin contributed to the auction!

Thanks so much! Hope all is well!

Kira Bloom

SpoonFed Art


SpoonFedArt has recieved awesome reviews in many popular magazines like Jane, Venus, Vision, Health Magazine, and TONS of others. Have a great Tuesday, everyone!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Extra Light.

Extra light in the room, pressure inside me. I think I need to break. Or is it ‘break out’? Hide and seek with my feelings has become a redundant game and I can’t think of new rules anymore. Sometimes sleepy-eyed thoughts find their way into my head like young children that need to be nurtured. Rhythmic chants and piles of dreams fill me with a feeling I find difficult—and difficult to explain. Senses fail, but one. Sight remains to streak my mind with visions needing words and sounds and smells and touch and taste. Tempting trances overtake me; beauty longs to hold my hand. Tricks pretend and dreams unfold—reality escapes me. Where have I gone? A thousand tiny lights shine on me and inside me, and pretty soon I’m floating in a luminous sky. Overcome and overpowered, I stretch and reach and suddenly shoot forth, my fingertips sending me away away away—and further…until I skid to a stop in front of me…and leap inside.

(c) Arielle Lee Becker 2004

Please send me something for Tell Your Tale Tuesday. I've been getting so many nice emails for Tell Your Tale Tuesdays, but none yet for this week's! And tomorrow is Tuesday! Have a great week everyone.


Friday, November 9, 2007

A Letter To the Other Side

This was in an eating disorder news feed today, which reminded me of something I'd like to post. First, here is the article: Eating Disorder Dilemma.

When I was a senior in college, I was taking a class called Sociology of Sex and Gender. It was a good class, and in it, we spoke often of eating disorders and body image, because those are major things women deal with in today's world. Eating disorders and body image issues are also feminist issues. That said, class discussions often turned to personal experiences and/or stories.

There was a girl in my class named Holli who had a roommate with what sounded like (from Holli's description) a serious eating disorder, namely anorexia. During a week when we were discussing, as a class, eating disorders and their various manifestations, effects, and victims, Holli brought up her roommate. She declared that her roommate was "anorexic" and "crazy." I didn't like the adjective "crazy" she used to label her roommate because of her restrictive, paranoid, and obsessive behaviors, but I also took it personally because I had anorexia (though was making significant progress in recovery) myself.

Holli went on to say that her roommate's hair had begun thinning and falling out and she was "crazy" because she still said she'd rather be thin with ugly hair. Now, granted, this is irrational thought, but I related to the poor roommate and it seemed to me (by the manner in which Holli was speaking) that Holli had next to no compassion for this troubled girl. The more Holli spoke, the more I felt irked and sad inside. I did not dislike this girl, Holli. In fact, she had always seemed rather nice and friendly. But I distinctly did not like the way in which she talked about her roommate. Holli sounded selfish, as though we as a class should have pitied her for having to live with such a freak. She also sounded coarse, as though she didn't want to try to help her roommate. This was all, as far as I could tell, because Holli didn't understand. And more than that--she made no effort to TRY to understand what her roommate was going through.

It hurt me that Holli would pass this girl off as "crazy" for having a problem and a disease. So I decided I couldn't stay silent. I decided it was my duty as a girl with an eating disorder to let Holli know how it feels to live an anorexic life and to show her what she could do to be supportive and/or understanding.

I did not speak up in class. What I had to say would not have been appropriate, nor did I want to let everyone in the room know I had an eating disorder. I would have gotten emotional. I would not have been able to be as articulate as I wished to be. I wanted to be anonymous, because Holli sat at my work station in the room and knew who I was. I wanted to speak to Holli anonymously, but how was I to do this?

After class, I followed our professor (a wonderful woman named Dr. Andersen) to her office. She invited me in and I told her I wanted to talk to her about something. I was beside myself. I am (at least I was then) a bit shy. And I was very nervous. I know I was blotchy as I tried to formulate my thoughts. I used the direct approach; this professor seemed like one I could talk to. I told her I suffered from anorexia (which was perhaps no surprise as I was very thin), was on my way to heading down a healthy track, and felt disturbed by the day's class discussion. She looked ready to listen. I explained how Holli's story made me feel. Dr. Andersen seemed to agree with me. I told her how I wished I could tell Holli how it was from my perspective and how it was for me when a friend DID want to help me, DID try to listen and understand. Dr. Andersen was nodding vigorously and was all for my idea. I think the professor had noticed the "rolling her eyes" way in which Holli had talked about her roommate. Dr. Andersen suggested I write a letter to Holli--anonymously--then bring it (or email it) to Dr. Andersen. The professor would then call Holli over to her at the beginning of class and give it to her.

It seemed a fine plan to me, so I went to my apartment that day and composed the letter I'm about to post here. A letter to the other side.

Dear Holli,
I am someone in your Sociology of Sex and Gender class and after hearing you talk about your roommate, I wanted to write to you. I have struggled with an eating disorder for years now and when I was a freshman here at UD, I was confronted by the best friend I had made at college, a girl who lived across the hall named Sarah. I was going through a really hard time in my life, and was in the throws of anorexia; I was sick, tired, and preoccupied with food all the time. I could really relate to a lot of what you said about your roommate and her eating habits. In the worst times of my disorder, I often didn’t eat for days at a time and was a very low weight. My friends were very worried about me because what I was doing was so noticeable, and my hair had even begun to fall out like your roommate’s.

I know it was extremely hard for my friend Sarah to do what she did because she probably worried that I would get mad, fight with her, or blow her off completely. But somehow, she found the right words to say, and that is what I wanted to share with you. I know how hard it must be to watch someone you live with do self-destructive things to herself, and I know it is a very difficult subject to broach, but sometimes it is getting your thoughts across in the right manner that really makes all the difference.

I realize your roommate may be completely resistant to getting help or even to listening to what you have to say, and for all I know, you have probably tried many things over time to help her. I just wanted to share my experience with you, from the point-of-view of the sufferer, with the hope that it can help you approach your roommate in the future and result in something beneficial. I know what the person suffering wants to hear and wants to feel (generally speaking), and while your roommate may not be willing to fully listen to you yet, if you say the right things she may think about them later, ponder them, and eventually get the help she needs. In any case, it’s worth a try.

When I was a freshman, Sarah knocked on my door one day while I was crying in bed (a common occurrence in those days) and asked me through the door to let her in. (I think the timing of when you talk to someone about this is key; if your roommate seems upset one day, maybe that is a good time to bring it up, instead of when you two are watching TV or something.) Sarah wanted to know what was going on (and what HAD been going on with me), but I was afraid to tell her…afraid she wouldn't like me anymore…afraid she wouldn't want to live with me next year. I thought she would think I was weird…and more than that: I worried that she would think I was crazy because she wouldn’t understand. The first thing that was important was that she didn’t judge me at all. She spoke to me carefully and assured me that she didn’t think less of me, didn’t think I was a freak, and didn’t think I was crazy even though she didn’t understand what I was going through. (Even if you feel all these things, I think it is vital to actually express them, because these things can never be said enough when a situation is so delicate.) Sarah sat there on my bed with me and listened while I cried out everything I’d been keeping to myself. She just told me she was there to listen and she let me say the things I wanted to. She didn’t come there to give me a list of reasons why she was worried or to give me a list of suggestions for what I should do. She just hugged me at the right moments and told me she would help me.

I know that this kind of incidence involves an exchange of some kind, therefore if your roommate isn’t as open as I was willing to be, the situation would not pan out the exact same way…but I honestly think, no matter how little or how much she wants to tell you about her problem, that you can never say “I’m here for you” too much. Eventually, she will start to believe it and maybe realize you don’t want to judge her. Instead of asking me why I did the things I did, or why I felt the way I did, Sarah simply asked me what was wrong. We talked for a long while and she said something I always remind myself of when I’m feeling particularly lost—she said she’d never leave my side throughout college and that she would help me in any way she could. It meant a lot to me to have someone say that. Sometimes support is the greatest thing—an offer to do nothing but be there.

Something I would advise you to avoid would be naming her problem. For instance, I have always recoiled from calling myself “anorexic” because it labels me in a way I don’t want to be labeled. Nor would I want to continually say “I have an eating disorder,” or have anyone say to me, “I think you have an eating disorder.” There are ways to say exactly that without using those words. The words “anorexic,” “anorexia,” or “eating disorder” seem powerful and scary. I don’t like to say I’m anorexic—I am me and anorexia is what had/has me in its clutches. So, if you do want to try again with your roommate, talk to her about her, about what she needs, and about how she feels—not just about her problem.

I know you are very concerned about her by the way you spoke about her in class, and it breaks my heart to know someone is struggling with same issue I struggle with, because I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Even though her habits might be strange and it might seem crazy that she would rather lose her hair than change her eating patterns (as you mentioned in class), just try to remember that anorexia or any eating disorder is truly an illness like anything else, and irrational thought is part of it. I know how it feels to think in that way and sometimes compassion is the number one thing I want if I am feeling adamant in my desire to keep doing what I am doing…not agreement that I am doing the right thing, but compassion for the way I feel and how difficult it is to feel in such a strange way.

I hope you will take this letter to heart and consider approaching your roommate again, and I hope you don’t mind that I wrote this to you. You seem very nice and genuinely troubled by what is going on with your roommate, so please don’t think I am claiming that you handle the problem in an inappropriate way—it is hard to know how to handle a problem like this—I just really want to show you the other side and try to give you new ways of helping her, if that is at all possible, because I had a good experience with intervention and I wish that for everyone. I wish you the best of luck with it, and thanks for listening.

I'll never know the effect that letter had on Holli (or her roommate, for that matter), but I can only hope the fact that someone would take the time to anonymously write such a detailed letter to Holli would have been enough to make her think and feel and grasp even a thread of understanding.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"What do I need?"

Sometimes in life, we need a few moments just to breathe and forget about all that is surrounding us. We need to relieve ourselves of the pain and the discomfort and the bad feelings. Sometimes we need to close our eyes and drift into our own minds. We need to stop worrying about everything out there that is bringing us down, making us anxious, filling up our space. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves what we need. It's an important question. One that shouldn't be overlooked.

So ask yourself, right now, "What do I need?"

Close your eyes, breathe deeply. Wait. Breathe again. Feel the air. Feel yourself. And ask yourself. "What do I need?"

Then help yourself give it to you.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Anorexia Versus You

Happy Tuesday, all! This is a poem I wrote in the summer of 2003. I marvel that I had the right idea even 4+ years ago to write this. It took me a while to work things out in my own head and heart, but eventually, in years to come, I took my own words to heart. I wrote this to myself--the good part of myself. Here's to hoping this poem will mean something to you. I know so many of you understand.

Anorexia Versus You

I ask myself such questions

Like “Am I okay or not?”

Unwilling to give myself

Or my own mind a shot.


I let It claw at me with nails

That could cut without much force;

I let It strangle me with passion

And I scream until I’m hoarse.


You try to pull me back,

Keep me safe from all It’s pain,

But sometimes I look away from you

And It just snatches me again.


You tell me I can beat It

And I know that this is true…

It has no power over me

If I’m with someone like you.


I know you try to help me

And I argue and I cry…

I wish I could explain It;

I wish I could tell you why.


I want to cling on tightly

And make you save me from it all,

But no matter how I try

It’s inevitable that I fall.


I know I’m disappointing

And I know I must be strong,

But it’s hard to give up something

That has held you for so long.


One day I will be rid of It;

It will be all in the past--

It’s something I’ll break free from,

But you’re something that will last.


It’s the last thing I should choose

And it’s the last thing I should do;

I keep holding on to It

When I should be holding on to you.

(c) Arielle Lee Becker 2003

Tell Your Tale Tuesday (#2)

I received a story from a 12 year old girl living in India--Meghna--for this week's Tell Your Tale Tuesday. She is sharing her creativity and her imagination with me and with all of you. Not only does she have great potential, but she is also brave enough to put her writing out there--both on her blog and mine. Thanks for sharing the workings of your mind, Meghna! Here is her short story: The Naughtiest Prankster.

The Naughtiest Prankster by Meghna

I woke up from the bed rubbing my eyes with laziness. I looked beside me and saw my very own image lying on the other bed. “Ah! Such a strange mirror! I said “I’m sitting on the bed and it shows me to be sleeping. And yeah, this mirror wasn’t there last night so how come it’s here now? Never mind!”

As I washed my face and returned to my senses, I noticed that it wasn’t a mirror image after all! It was a living body like you and me. I woke up that girl having a really spooky feeling inside myself. It looked as if Vegna (he...he that’s her name of course!) was wearing my mask over her skull.

She was just as surprised to see me as I was mind boggled! After some heated discussion, I discovered that she was my identical twin sister. Wow! Maybe…. We were separated at birth or Oh, you can assume it to be any story that you know about some twins meeting so late. Who cares?

Well I didn’t. All I cared about was how much fun I could have by doing all the pranks I knew about and then putting Vegna to fault! I soon ran around the house breaking my brother’s toys, troubling my mom and shuffling the papers on my father’s desk.

I spilled some oil outside the door of my brother’s room and hid in the corridor. I laughed to my heart’s content when I saw him fall yelling out loud. Later I put some pins on my father’s chair but this time I didn’t wait for the result because I was a bit scared. I then broke many utensils in the kitchen and had fun watching the troubled expression on my mother’s face!

When the whole house ran around yelling my name in anger I soon hid in the attic (my secret hiding place). Poor Vegna! She is the one who got all the scolding and punishment for my naughty pranks. I suppose she couldn’t speak out in her defense for she was too astonished to say even a single word. Anyways, I was glad at that news!

We, the twins, Vegna and myself, must have been real devils I suppose. I say so due to the stories or maybe myths I’ve heard about two twins being similar to each other. Arghhh…. Why did I play those pranks on Vegna, after all? I really acted like a fool and never thought that she too could trouble me in the same way as I did. Unluckily this is exactly what she thought and aah….did.

Vegna played naughty jokes on my family and talked rudely to my friends. The next day I was amazed that none of my friends talked to me and my parents scolded me unnecessarily for something I never did. Ah, it’s my fault after all. Anyways this really made me burn with anger.

To apologize for my bad behavior or actually Vegna’s bad behavior, I did some surprisingly good deeds. Everyone was surely amazed to see the other side of me. But that wretched Vegna, She took all the credit for everything I did. You must be wondering what I was doing at that time. So your answer is that I was shouting at the top of my lungs in the attic which used to be my hiding place. Vegna had found it out and had locked me inside the attic where no one could hear my voice!

The next on her list to trouble me was (Gasp) get really bad marks in….in…Oh, in my English Test. Can you imagine? English was my favorite subject, after all! I got very poor marks in the Test and my teacher scolded me telling that she had never expected such a thing from me. How could I tell her that it was not me who wrote the test but Vegna and I had been lying on the bed suffering from fever.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mirror, Mirror...

Good morning, all! I hope this finds you well and ready to start a new week.

This is more of a helpful idea or tip than anything, but I find it extremely comforting and positive.

Try putting one (or more) positive or self-affirming quotes or sayings on your bathroom mirror. I know that for me, looking in the mirror used to bring on all kinds of negative words. When you look in the mirror, you inevitably think certain things about yourself. Having positive things up there on your mirror seriously helps. You see them and they remind you of your better self. I absolutely love it. When you do this, you seem positive sayings every day, multiple times a day. They get in your head. You begin to feel differently when you look in the mirror.

Try it!

These are the quotes/sayings that are on MY bathroom mirror. They've been there ever since I moved into my house. It's amazing what a little constant positive reinforcement can do!

"Beauty is not a state of body. It's a state of mind." This is one of my favorite sayings, so it needed to be on my mirror where I see it--and MYSELF--every day.

"Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got." - Janis Joplin. One more reason to be a fan of J.J. This is such a smart quote. It really spoke to me when I first read it. Now it's there every day, speaking to me on my mirror, letting me know I should love myself.

Don't forget, you only have until this evening to email me whatever you'd like to share for Tell Your Tale Tuesday. My email is only a click away! (arielle.becker@gmail.com)


Saturday, November 3, 2007

At Last

I wrote this (At Last) a few months ago in a particularly good mood. It's short and sweet, but it says a lot.

I position myself in the billowing breeze,

Just to see if I’ll waver,

And I say what I please.


The triumph I feel when I stand on my own

Lifts me up to the sky

Unlike all else I’ve known.

(c) Arielle Lee Becker 2007

Hope you are all having a good weekend. There are only a few more days until Tell Your Tale Tuesday. I'd love to hear from you in any way...nosy questions, ponderings ,poetry, rants, etc....anything you'd like to know or share. Please email me! arielle.becker@gmail.com


Friday, November 2, 2007

Inward Battle

I wrote this--Inward Battle--4 years ago. The simple rhythmic beat of this poem made me feel as if I was beating the questions of it into my own head...looking for a way out...hoping for a way out. It took me years to find my way out. I can't say this poem has a recovery feel to it, but it is comprised of an honest understanding of what I was going through...and what many of you are going through.

Softly falling like the rain--

No one hears or sees my pain…

Will I gain, oh will I gain

As I’m losing?


Echoes in this hollow cave

Don’t allow me to be brave…

I’m a slave, oh I’m a slave

As I’m falling


In this contest with my mind

I often seek and do not find…

Could it be that I am blind

As I’m losing?


What a sad and lonely tale--

Never ever can I fail…

But it is all to no avail

As I’m falling


I tell myself I will not cry,

Ask and ask why, why, why…

So many must be stronger than I

As I’m losing


Strange for those who do not know--

I try hard not to let it show…

But sometimes days, they are slow

As I’m falling


Must be pretty, must be smart--

Must look like a work of art…

You cannot stop once you start

As I’m losing


I am empty like a bowl;

It is hard to feel whole…

And it is all about control

As I’m falling


I know that bowl must be filled--

And eaten, yes, never spilled…

I must try; I must build

As I’m losing


Tell me how I got this way--

Counting, nervous every day…

I don’t know, but I can pray

As I’m falling


(c) Arielle Lee Becker 2003

I'm happy to say my praying and hoping was NOT to no avail. I hit a low low before I came to realize a lot of things about myself and my problems. The reason I'm posting this poem is so that you know you are not alone. It hurts...and makes you feel crazy...and makes you want to scream...and makes you sick...and makes you cry...but eventually, given healing and time and the right amount of self-love and honesty and strength, there is a way out.


The girl who once wrote this poem was in a deep dark hole...and no one could throw her a ladder or a rope, because she was too weak to climb. And no one could give her their hand, because they weren't strong enough...and because she really wasn't ready to get out.

But others threw their good thoughts down to her. They threw her their love and their hopes for her future. They threw her their worry and their concern. They threw her food. These things made her stronger, but still she was alone in that hole with no way out.

She cried in that hole and starved in that hole. She slept in that hole. She LIVED in that hole. She was a miserable wreck for a long, long time.

So, finally desperate to live in the light instead of the dark...finally ready to live above and outside that deep hole...finally able to see what she could do...she used her tools...the only ones she always had and always has--her mind, her emotions, and her own two hands--and with her heart she wanted OUT. And with her determination she made a plan. And with her anger, she beat at the walls of the hole to make grooves and shelves and footholds. And with her strength, she climbed up...up...up.

It was always up to her. Even with the help of others, she still needed to use her tools to get out of that hole. She needed not one or a few of her tools, but all of them. She needed her desperation, her readiness, her realization, her determination, her anger, and her strength.

After all, the hole was very deep. It took her several tries to actually get out without falling back in. But get out she did. And now--she spends her life living in the light and making sure she never falls back in that hole.

Much love to you all,