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This week, BALANCE is pleased to feature Maha Kahn, the founder of the blog Islam and Eating Disorders. With the Ramadan holiday beginning earlier this week that is a challenge for many who have or are struggling with eating disorders, we wanted to celebrate Maha’s advocacy within the Muslim community.

After struggling with her own eating disorder for more than fifteen years, Maha was inspired to raise awareness, especially within her community. She started the Islam and Eating Disorders blog six years ago as a way to share her own recovery journey and provide support to others. Today, her blog reaches many and is a place full of resources, hope and inspiration.

Recognizing and understanding firsthand the unique challenges that come with being in recovery and feeling pressure to fast during Ramadan, she has been outspoken on the topic.

Khan shared with World Eating Disorders Day that "people going through this need to know they should fast responsibly," and "need to know their calorie intake, consult dietitians, and also make sure they have someone supporting them, whether that's friends, families, or the imam at the mosque."

On her site, there is a “Healthy You, Healthy Ramadan” guidebook that encourages others to partake in healthy and safe fasting behaviors. She also invites her followers and readers to reach out if they would like to be a part of a support community during this holy month of Ramadan.

With Eating Disorders being a growing problem in the Muslim world, Maha's work is evermore important during this time of year and always!

Make sure to follow Islam and Eating Disorders on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook. 

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Living in a society that normalizes unhealthy and disordered behaviors often for the ironic sake of 'health,' it can be difficult to find a neutral relationship with food. If you feel that your relationship with food is not the healthiest it can be, you are not alone. According to one study, 75% of women surveyed endorsed unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies. The good news is, it is never too late to start rebuilding a healthy relationship with food and your body! Below are 7 steps and shifts that can help you find a healthier relationship with food. 

1. Accept That 'Perfect' Eating Does Not Exist: With the many mixed messages about food, eating and dieting we get in a single day from celebrities, media and those around us, it can be hard to let go off this perceived pressure that there is a 'perfect' way to eat. The truth is that there is not one right way to eat that is correct and perfect. By adopting this mentality, the easier it will be to begin accepting your own wants, needs and preferences around food rather than the 'shoulds' you may be allowing to influence your choices now.

2. Let Go Of Food Labels: It is common for our society to label foods as 'good' or 'bad' or 'healthy' or 'unhealthy' and furthermore, to then internalize the message that one is 'good' or 'bad' for eating said foods. But our bodies need certain nutrients to work, just like fuel in a car; and to fuel ourselves, we can incorporate foods of all kinds. And yes, that includes often villanized carbohydrates and fat! All foods can be a part of healthy, balanced eating without any judgement necessary. When we stop looking at food with labels and don't keep certain things 'off limits,' we are able to tune into what we are actually wanting and in return will feel more satisfied. 

 3. Begin To Trust Your Body: We are all born with an internal regulatory system that intuitively tells us when we are hungry, when we are full, when we are satisfied, or have a craving. For example, a baby has no idea what a calorie is, nor how much they 'should' be eating. But with their internal regulatory system, they are guided to recognize hunger, fullness and satiety. When we diet, we override our internal regulatory system and become disconnected from it. So instead of ignoring a craving or the feeling of hunger, try honoring it. Our bodies are extremely smart and when we begin to re-trust our bodies signals and instincts, we are able to build a healthier relationship with food.

4. Step Away From The Scale: If you find yourself relying on the scale to dictate your food choices amongst your feelings towards yourself and body, stepping away from the scale is the wisest choice you could make. When our food choices are influenced by a goal to lose weight or control our weight, we are often compromising listening to our bodies. By letting go of the scale, you are making a crucial step in trusting your body. 

5. Find Healthier Ways to Cope: If you struggle with emotional eating, try to connect and name what you have felt in the moments you have found comfort in food. Whether it is anxiety, sadness or loneliness - try to think of what you may need in those moments. Maybe it is a listening ear, love or support. We cannot avoid uncomfortable feelings, but we can better equip ourselves to handle these emotions when they come up next time. Watching TV, listening to music, writing your thoughts out, or going for a walk can all serve as a a great distraction and a healthier way to cope. 

6. Disengage with Diet Culture: To embrace a non-diet approach to eating, it is important to disengage with things that reinforce our society's toxic diet culture. This can include a variety of things such as unfollowing social media accounts and not purchasing magazines that promote dieting or beauty ideals. You could also make an active choice to not partake in conversations with loved ones or peers when diet talk comes up. By distancing yourself from that narrative, you are reminding yourself that dieting and restriction holds no place in your life. 

7. Reach Out For Help: If beginning to rebuild a healthy relationship to food seems overwhelming, know that this is a completely valid feeling! Unlearning many of these thoughts ideas, thoughts and actions that seem very normalized by our diet culture can be challenging. If you are feeling stuck and are struggling to find your way out of the diet mentality, seeking the support of a non-diet, HAES registered dietitian can be a great step in finding food freedom. 

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It's Friday, which means it's time for another Feature Friday at BALANCE!

In honor of Mothers Day this week, we wanted to feature the incredible Debra Schlesinger who is the founder of the support organization 'Mothers Against Eating Disorders.' This organization aims to provide a safe space for mothers to talk and help each other as they support their children with eating disorders.

Debra was motivated to start this group when her only daughter passed away after a long 10-year battle with anorexia.  Through her grief, Debra sprung into action to fill the gap of support she wishes she had in the midst of her daughters fight. Mother's Against Eating Disorders aims to first and foremost encourage mothers to support other mothers but to also promote awareness of eating disorder treatment issues and engage in advocacy work.

Ultimately, it creates a much-needed support network within the eating disorder community. Today, the MAED network has almost 2,000 mothers engaging in the group. Additionally, Debra has created active groups for advocates, professionals, and one specifically for those who have a lost child due to an eating disorder. 

Her continued advocacy work is pushing for changes in Washington DC, in treatment settings and the entire narrative around eating disorder recovery. We at BALANCE would like to thank and honor Debra for her strength, courage and amazing work to encourage others to remember there is hope and that recovery is possible.

Lastly, we share this powerful statement from Debra via a Center For Discovery post

“No parent should ever outlive their children. When a child dies, you, the parent, have two choices: to survive or to die. I chose to live to help others —and in return, it helped me.” 

If you are are a Mother to someone with an eating disorder and are looking for support, you may join the MAED Facebook group here.

You can follow Debra on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. You can also follow MAED on Twitter. 

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Last Sunday, May 6th was International No Diet Day and BALANCE celebrated by hosting a Twitter Chat! We joined together with our community to discuss why a no-diet approach to eating is a positive choice and the importance of committing to a #DietFreeSummer in the midst of the 'beach body' and 'summer body' narrative we are often bombarded with this time of year. 

Our new #DietFreeSummer blog series will share posts leading up to and throughout the Summer on embracing and maintaining a no-diet approach to eating when diet culture is in full swing. To kick off this series, our Founder Melainie Rogers shared some thoughts on why diets don't work and the negative consequences of dieting. Read it below!

Why is Dieting Unhealthy? 

When we live in a culture that is obsessed with dieting and weight loss, it can be hard to determine how this normalized behavior can be unhealthy. With science and research to back this up, I as a certified eating disorder registered dietitian can confidently say that dieting can be harmful and very unsafe. Why is that you may ask? The answer is that dieting creates a stress on the physiological body. The body actually experiences a diet as a real psychological starvation as it cannot differentiate between lower caloric intake from a diet versus the lower caloric intake due to a shortage of food such as starvation or famine. 

The body then begins to slow down the metabolic rate which slows down essential processes in the body in order to conserve energy, prioritizing survival over functionality. Due to this physiological trauma and stress, every system in the body is affected by this starvation mode. So while diets are usually presented to be the only route to optimal health, it is certainly not a 'healthy' thing to undertake. 

What Are the Psychological Effects of Dieting? 

The psychological harm to the relationship with food will often have longer lasting effects than the physical dieting.  We know that when there is food restriction, the brain pushes us, for survival, to seek out food. Food is no longer neutral, to be enjoyed, or to be eaten when hungry. It becomes "good" and "bad", "healthy" and "unhealthy". We label food and attach a moral judgment to it. We therefore by default are either "good" or "bad" human beings according to our food choices.  Often times, shame and self-criticism follow. We confuse the natural and appropriate hunger urges, with a "lack of discipline" or "lack of willpower." Our self-worth and self-esteem begin to take a hit. 

How to Know If Your Relationship With Food is Non-Neutral? 

A sign that food is losing its neutrality is if you find yourself thinking about food for a large part of the day, or daydreaming about certain foods that you "shouldn't have", or feeling out of control around foods that you have sworn off or worse yet, been told to not eat something by some fad diet. For many, this is how bingeing starts.  This "fall off the wagon" mentality is where we not only start to eat our old favorites, we eat beyond fullness because our body is demanding calories to be restored, for our body weight to be restored, in order to go back to optimal functioning and homeostasis.

Because of our dieting culture, more people than ever have developed an unhealthy, non-neutral relationship with food.  Deprivation - physically and mentally - are to blame.

What Can I Do To Rebuild A Healthy Relationship With Food? 

A lot of people tend to develop a non-neutral, unhealthy relationship and fear of food while dieting.  Unfortunately, it even tends to carry over after the diet plan is abandoned leaving people self-critical and judging themselves as "not having a strong will" and "lacking discipline".

One of the best-known ways to deal with these feelings - aside from not going on any of these diets in the first place! - is to acknowledge and accept your body for what it can do, does do, and for its functionality, more than the external appearance.  When we place so much emphasis on our external appearance we are setting ourselves up. Two factors have ultimate control on our appearance - genes, and the aging process! We cannot control either, yet we spend so much money and effort attempting to do so.  

If you are willing to embrace your body overall and reject the idea of your body being an ornament, it helps you to better focus on nourishing your body with your food choices, as opposed to disciplining and torturing it through restriction and elimination.  And remember, fun, delicious foods of all kind absolutely need to be included in your eating repertoire.

Research shows that approaching food with an "all foods fit" model is very helpful in undoing some of this psychological damage from dieting.  Eating is about moderation, and being tuned into our natural internal regulatory system - aka hunger, fullness and satiety cues. These cues are incredibly sophisticated, driven by a vast array of chemical signals in the body to keep our weight at its most optimal for all systems to function, and stable (ie homeostasis). Unfortunately when we diet, we wreak havoc on this sophisticated system and can cause long-term permanent damage to our relationship with food. In order to be the healthiest version of you - food needs to be neutral!

What Evidence is There Dieting Does Not Work? 

95% of people who attempt weight loss, will eventually regain in the next 2 - 5 years, if not before.  The true test of a diet, therefore, is not whether you can lose weight. If you cut calories - any calories - you will lose weight...no matter what the latest fad diet tells you. However, the real test is if the body will allow you to keep the weight off. 95% of the time, it will not. And in going through the yo-yo dieting cycle, because of the stripping away of muscle that occurs, we see people regain weight and then some.  Meaning, that from the beginning to the end of a diet cycle, a participant is highly likely to end up at a higher weight than when they first started! And that is the true cycle of a diet. This is one of the more unhealthy things you can do to your body and your health.  Dieting is certaintly not healthy. 

 

Stay tuned for more #DietFreeSummer blog posts!

Interested in guest blogging for this series? We would love to have you! Email Emily at emilyc@balancedtx.com 

 

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Today's Feature Friday is Grace Ritter, a 24-year-old student in Perth, Western Australia who kicked-off this month by launching her Weigh Free May campaign!

Weigh Free May is one part challenge, one part movement. Grace is encouraging others to ditch diet culture and step off the scale for one whole month in an effort to embrace themselves exactly as they are. Weigh Free May was started by Grace with the hope that other people can think more critically about the things they say and the way they feel about their bodies. 

She was inspired by her own eating disorder recovery to start this movement. Through her own journey, she has found power in letting go of the diet mentality and embracing body positivity. But like many, she has found it hard to hear so many around her talk about wanting to lose weight and hating their bodies. Her goal is to help others find the same empowerment as she has accepting and loving her body as is! She hopes that others can realize all the wonderful things they could do if they pursued other dreams with the same passion and intensity as losing weight. 

Grace believes that everyone deserves to love themselves regardless of their size & hopes that Weigh Free May can help spread this message. We could not agree more and wanted to honor Grace and her creative movement today! 

Want to get involved? Sign the Weigh Free May Pledge here and commit to challenging diet culture and loving yourself this month. 

Make sure to follow Weigh Free More on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

 

 

 

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International No Diet Day is this Sunday, May 6th!

To celebrate, BALANCE has planned a Twitter Chat to have our community come together for a conversation about the importance of this day and embracing a non-diet approach to eating every day.

With Summer quickly approaching, this conversation is needed more than ever! Diet culture is in full swing promoting "beach bodies" and unrealistic beauty ideals. We would like to join you in combating these toxic messages by spreading some advice, words of wisdom & encouragement for others to pledge to a #DietFreeSummer rather than chasing that 'summer body.' Want to join us? Great!

The Twitter Chat will start Sunday night at 8 pm est. over on Twitter.

Will you be joining us? Please contact Emily at emilyc@balancedtx.com to let us know you are participating or if you have any questions. 

We hope you can join us! 

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Today's Feature Friday is the incredible Founder & Executive Director of Realize Your Beauty, Stacey Lorin Merkl! We are so pleased to work with Stacey and once again sponsor Realize Your Beauty Day happening on Sunday April 29th at BALANCE! 

Stacey Lorin Merkl is a native of Denver, Colorado. She holds a BA in Theatre Arts and a BA in French from the University of Northern Colorado. She has taught theatre and music to children and teens at various arts centers in Colorado, Seattle, Paris (France) and New York City. Stacey founded Realize Your Beauty, Inc. in 2010, combining her love of theatre arts with her passion for social change and education. She is a longtime volunteer for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and is a trained facilitator for NEDA’s Body Project. She is a member of Endangered Bodies NYC, IAEDP Denver Chapter (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals), AED (Academy for Eating Disorders), Colorado Nonprofit Association and the American Camp Association.

Realize Your Beauty Day is only one of the organizations empowering events. RYB travels to schools, festivals, and local theaters to present educational plays, presentations and workshops. These workshops focus on fostering inner beauty - taking the focus away from societal standards and the pressures to be 'pretty.'  RYB encourages students to put their energy into kindness, integrity and respect towards themselves & others, and focus on developing their own unique inner qualities. Through these workshops, students discover a new way of thinking about themselves, their bodies and about beauty.

Stacey is truly making a difference everyday by empowering people of all ages to find their worth and embrace their uniqueness! 

This weekends RYB day will be a day of celebrating inner beauty, kindness and self-love! Find all the info & purchase tickets here. We hope to see you there!

Can't make it? People from all over the world participate in Realize Your Beauty Day by planning a celebration in their community. Individuals can mark the day by carving out time to do an act of kindness or by spending an extra moment on self-care and reflection. 

Make sure to follow RYB on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Find more about the organization on their website here. 

Thank you Stacey for all the wonderful things you do to make our world and community a better place!

 

 

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Our founder Melainie Rogers was interviewed by our colleague Megan Bruneau for a Women@Forbes article about her journey overcoming her own eating disorder and opening BALANCE! 

Read it here

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Today's Feature Friday is model Hunter McGrady who is the special guest at next weeks Realize Your Beauty day that will be held at BALANCE! 

Hunter is a body positive advocate who uses her platform as a model to help change the worlds perception of what is beautiful. Hunter is a rookie in this years Sport's Illustrated Swimsuit issue and made history by being the curviest model to ever be featured in Sport's Illustrated in 2017! Hunter was also featured in the "In Her Own Words" photo project where she was photographed with the self-chosen words including worthy, fearless & confident painted on her body. She proudly shared this photo and inspiringly shared with her followers "I am no longer bound by the chains that society has put on me to fit a certain mold that has been so confining and brainwashing." 

In 2017, Hunter took her advocacy to social media launching the #AllWorthy hashtag campaign to encourage others to realize they are worthy just as they are! 

Hunter is also passionate about changing the conversation in the modeling industry by encouraging the use of the term size-inclusive rather than plus-size. Hunter said in a recent interview  that the biggest and best message she can promote, is inclusivity.

BALANCE is counting the days until Realize Your Beauty Day and for Hunter to join the festivities! 

We hope you will join us & Hunter in celebrating Realize Your Day 2018 with this unique event for kids, teens, and families that will feature guest speakers, live music, crafts, and other activities that celebrate personal empowerment for kids and young adults! 

If you want to learn more about the event, check out the Eventbrite page here. 

Make sure to follow Hunter on TwitterInstagram & Facebook

Hunter McGrady Talks Curves & Sports Illustrated - YouTube
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Today's Feature Friday is Akira Armstrong the founder of Pretty BIg Movement! Akira is the headline speaker at the upcoming Realize Your Beauty day that will be held at BALANCE on April 29th! 

Akira is an incredibly talented dancer and performer who formed Pretty Big Movement in response to the bias faced by plus-sized dancers like herself. After being in not one but two Beyonce music videos, Akira still had a hard time finding an agent to represent her due to her size. On a mission to change that narrative and empower other plus-size dancers, she started Pretty Big. Akira's personal accomplishments outside of this successful company include being an instructor at various dance and art schools including the Leaps and Bounds Dance School in Brooklyn, the Harlem School of the Arts and Alvin Ailey.

"Pretty Big Movement" is Destroying Dancer Stereotypes | Iris - YouTube

The Pretty Big Movement company performs, conducts workshops, and travels across the US providing empowerment tools for women and the community who need to be inspired, elevated, and encouraged to recognize their inner and outer beauty! Today, Pretty Big is the 1st Plus Size international dance company. The company was even contacted by Lane Bryant and was later featured in their #ThisBody campaign in 2017. 

Akira's main goal through all of her amazing work is to empower and encourage everyone she meets to reach their full potential and to remind others that size has no barrier. 

BALANCE hopes you will join us in celebrating international Realize Your Day 2018 with this unique event for kids, teens, and families that will feature guest speakers from the body positive movement, live music, crafts, and other activities that celebrate personal empowerment for kids and young adults! 

We are truly looking forward to hearing Akira's words of wisdom at Realize Your Beauty Day! If you want to learn more about the event, check out the Eventbrite page here. 

Learn more about Akira & Pretty BIg Movement here

Make sure to follow Pretty Big Movement on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook


 

 

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