Healing the Hate: A Better Body Image for 2016

  • posted by Marci Evans
  • Monday, July 25, 2016

This post originally debuted in January and with the heat of summer upon us I had to re-share it.

Key Point: You cannot talk your way to better body image. If you treat yourself with hate you will continue to feel hate towards your body. In this video blog I share with you the why and the how to improve your body image through actionable steps.

After you view this video blog, I hope you will share what you plan to start doing that feels good to your body. What action step or steps will you start making today?


Big Butts, Burgers, & Weight Stigma

  • posted by Marci Evans
  • Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Are you interested in hearing my take on weight stigma? Check out my video below! In honor of weight stigma awareness week I tackle some tough topics and share with you some important research. But in addition to this video, there are some absolutely amazing blog posts I'd encourage you to read. I have been blown away by the content that the Binge Eating Disorder Association has gathered and organized for this year's event. They share research, personal stories, and lessons on advocacy on a wide range of issues. So dive in and share what you learn with those around you. Let's keep this conversation going!


Toddlers and Picky Eating

  • posted by Marci Evans
  • Sunday, May 10, 2015

This blog post has been in the works for quite some time but perhaps it's apropos to publish it on Mother's Day. For all the mothers reading this post- keep up the awesome work!

Several weeks ago I received a request to write a post about feeding toddlers. It's a fantastic topic! Many parents are incredibly cognizant that they want to raise healthy kids- well-nourished, healthy weight, and willing to eat a wide variety of foods (not just treats!). Since I am not an expert on the topic, I turned to my colleague Katie Bartels MS, RD. She is a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders and child feeding. You can check out her website here or follow her on Facebook here. I highlighy recommend following this girl on social media if you are particularly interested in how to feed your child well without fears of causing unhealthy food obsession in your kids. 

Below are Katie's thoughts on the subject of helping your toddler eat well. I will follow her thoughts with some helpful resources for you to consider. Happy reading, happy eating!

Babies and toddlers can be very different eaters. Babies grow rapidly in the first year of life so they tend to eat a lot! Babies under a year have not yet developed the insight to know that there is a difference between broccoli and a cake pop. I'm never surprised to see an under 15 month old when I hear a mom say "my child will eat anything."

As babies turn into toddlers, growth slows...as does appetite. Toddlers become more aware of their surroundings thus picking up on details of food more than ever before. Parents can get into the picky eating trap if they do not realize this milestone and only feed toddlers foods they readily accept. It's important to have a strategy when feeding kids and raising healthy eaters. I teach the 80/20 rule for feeding. Offer 80% nutritious foods and 20% fun foods. Fun foods are foods we just eat for taste...not nutrition. Its important for children to learn to manage sweets.

Parents can help with managing sweets by following Ellyn Satter's division of responsibility in feeding. Parents are in charge of the what, when and where and children are in charge of how much and if. I tell parents that they are in charge of what foods they bring into the house. Feed your kids the foods you want them to learn to like. Help them manage sweets by offering them in unlimited quantities every so often at snacks. A good rule of thumb is to offer more opportunities for sweets if your child is overly focused on them. Children who are obsessed with sweets have usually been restricted of sweets at some point. Other children could care less about sweets, so for those children parents may not have to offer them as often. Serve a variety of foods. Serving variety allows kids to challenge themselves with eating.

I tell parents not to label foods as "good" or "bad" as this may set the stage for judgement about themselves whether they eat the so-called "good" or "bad" food. Parents do well staying neutral about foods and quantity eaten. If parents do their job...children can be trusted to eat enough to grow into the body they were born to have.

Resources from Expert RDs

Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility

Ellyn Satter's Children, The Feeding Relationship and Weight - References

What to Do When Picky Eating Doesn't Get Better: 5 Part Blog Series

Jill Castle -  America's Childhood Nutrition Expert

The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act

  • posted by Marci Evans
  • Monday, April 13, 2015

Hey Readers,

It's not often that I talk politics on this blog. But after hearing Lizabeth speak at the MEDA conference a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I needed to have her write about this very important issue. Please, please take the time to read this. And if you have experience with this issue personally or know someone who does, consider following through on the call to action at the very end. Thanks for taking the time! The remainder of this post is written Lizabeth Wesely-Casella, Founder of BingeBehavior.com.

The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (PEWPA), Senate bill 620, is bad legislation that reduces employee protections and promotes discrimination within the workplace.  Though the title is deceptively innocuous, this bill allows corporations to invade personal privacy, cherry pick which employees get insurance coverage, and it allows corporations to penalize employees who find themselves unable to comply with arbitrary metrics potentially unrelated to health.

Front and center in this legislation is the fact that employee protections will be rolled back almost entirely.  The protections provided in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) will not be available to those who challenge an Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant wellness program because this bill strips those protections.  Practices that are currently prohibited by antidiscrimination legislation such as asking for genetic information from family members of employees and asking for mental health histories, will be allowed during program screenings should this bill pass.  Additionally, obesity related protections under the ADA are in jeopardy; protections that need to be strengthened, not repealed.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will no longer be the guiding source for rules and regulations in these matters because this act is intended to supersede the Commission’s oversight.  

Additionally, allowing corporations to cherry pick which employees they will insure, using intrusive screening and arbitrary guidelines, the act undermines the ACA, which mandates that preexisting conditions be covered by insurance.

The driving force behind this legislation is the reality that corporate wellness programs are by definition a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to the question, ‘How can corporations contain health care costs across the board’?  Certainly there are some well crafted programs that address the overall health of workers, programs that cover prevention, chronic disease, mental health and are designed by treatment teams rather than human resources departments, however these programs are the exception rather than the rule.  It’s quite common that workplace wellness programs are designed and managed by human resources departments and consulting groups who benefit financially from reducing the insurance costs customarily born by the employer; also called “cost shifting”.

The ACA was originally designed to encourage voluntary wellness programs, however, S 620 distorts the spirit of the “voluntary” language by giving corporations the power to pursue cost shifting through punitive fines for noncompliance, some as costly as $4,000. These fines are a subterfuge for shifting health insurance costs onto people with chronic diseases.  For corporations, this bill is a windfall; for employees, this bill is a disaster.

For many groups of people, compliance with an employee wellness program is impossible; it is the opposite of supporting wellness.

For example, it’s estimated that nearly 15 million people in America suffer from eating disorders.  As we know, people who suffer from eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, from frail to large bodied.  The person in the large body with binge eating disorder (BED) may not fit into the BMI guidelines of an employee wellness program and therefor be encouraged, incentivized or threatened with punitive fines if they don’t reduce their weight and size.  Eating disorders are a mental health condition so beyond the fact that being weighed and measured for compliance and being given health advice by anyone other than a medical professional or treatment team is inappropriate, these activities are likely to cause distress and have dangerous, unintended consequences.

Other examples include people who carry significant weight due to medications, health conditions or genetic predisposition.  The point being, weight metrics based health programs, influenced and administered by people without medical expertise are no supportive of health and overall wellbeing.  When implemented, programs using this model target people in large bodies and cause discrimination through fines, fees, loss of insurance, and possibly loss of employment.

Language exists within the ACA that allows employees to seek a “reasonable alternative health standard” if the wellness program goals are contraindicated for their personal health, however, research by the Obesity Action Coalition shows that a majority of employees are unaware of this language and therefore would not invoke the remedies were they needed.  S 620 scales this protection back, allowing employers to require employees seeking alternate accommodation to complete all medical requirements and request processing within 180 days, which for many people is impossible for a variety of reasons including geography, resources, expense, time off work and bureaucracy.

The bottom line is S 620 is a dangerous piece of legislation that strips employee protections, encourages weight discrimination and completely dismisses the importance of employee engagement.  If we want robust health in our workplaces, we must address how programs are designed and demand that they support job security, personal choice and individual needs.  

Call to Action

We are asking for letters describing negative experiences and outcomes related to corporate wellness programs and people with EDs of any type.

Stories of:
Failure to inform or provide "Reasonable Alternative Standard” policies
Any other harms
These stories will be aggregated and submitted to the Administration and/or the EEOC to help inform and strengthen the employee protections that are currently in jeopard due to Senate bill 620, the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act. This bill proposes changes to existing employee protections that would allow employers to ask invasive medical history questions including those about mental health and genetics. Also, it would allow businesses to penalize employees who choose not to participate in the programs with fines up to $4,000.

We need your help in flooding the EEOC and humanizing the reasons why invasive questioning, wellness programs based on weight metrics, Biggest Loser style competitions and punitive fines are direct discrimination to the 15 million Americans with EDs – many of which are part of America’s workforce.

Please send your stories, or stories of how your practice has been impacted by these programs directly to Lizabeth Wesely-Casella at admin@bingebehaivior.com at your earliest possible convenience – time is of the essence.

Thank you for your prompt attention and support in this activism. Your stories matter!

Fat Fashion Part 3 & Marci's Musings

  • posted by Marci Evans
  • Monday, February 02, 2015

Picture Source

I’m excited to share with you the final post in my series on larger lady fashion. While the first to posts were quite practical, this one provides you with some excellent points to ponder as well as some handy tips. Her writing is in response to the New York Times Article Plus-Sized Fashion Moves Beyond the Muumuu. Enjoy and feel free to share your own thoughts! 

While reading this article, several things stood out for me, like the usual "ooh, a designer used a plus-size/curvy model!" who turns out to be size 10! But the part I'm still processing is the suggestion that larger women subscribe to clothing rental services (WHAT??) because high-end designers believe that "When you’re taught to look at your body as a work in progress, you’re not going to spend $1,000 on a coat to last forever because you’re not hoping for it to last forever." We've been talking about this for a year! This is precisely what self-acceptance is not. The very thought of women renting clothes, as though their bodies are some sort of extended-stay hotels they don't really live in but are just passing through! I may need to write a letter to the editor about this....

One really good point the article makes is that "there's no Vogue for the plus-sized." This is what troubles me the most about plus-size fashion. There was a gorgeous, short-lived magazine years ago called Mode. Most of the clothes were very expensive (e.g., Marina Rinaldi, Anna Scholz) but beautiful and edgy. And the models were stunning and photographed like high-fashion models, not cheesy catalog posing. It was a revelation, that there could be such a beautiful, high-quality, high-end magazine for plus-size women. Everything about it was fine: the photography, the copy, the paper, the ads. My heart broke when through several editors and then finally went out of print.

Which brings me, I guess, to why it's been so hard to think of plus-size blogs to recommend. Most of them don't inspire me; my style is changing, but it is nothing like what most of the bloggers like, especially the younger ones. A lot of it looks cheap and disposable. The best two I've found are Stephanie Zwicky's Blog and And I Get Dressed, but what I really love are the French "street style" blogs and posts I find on google or Pinterest. I've always gone for "investment" clothes--buying a few well-made, classic versatile pieces I can mix or match and wear for years (as in decades, sometimes, like my winter coat and a few sweaters). My best style revelation happened in the mid-1990s when I lived in London and needed an outfit to wear as my friend's "best ma'am." I went to Liberty and met an amazing sales assistant named Nora (or Norma). We hit it off because she had family in NY and she was of West Indian descent. She introduced me to designers like Issey Miyake and Shirin Guild, whose clothes were sculptural and inventive--they suited me perfectly and made me feel beautiful and chic. Liberty's women's department isn't large but it's amazingly curated--clothes as works of art, dressing as adornment and self-expression, not trendy and also not particularly youthful (I was always the youngest and poorest woman there). I couldn't and wouldn't wear most of the clothes, but I learned a lot just spending time looking around and studying the clothes and how they were put together on the manequins--and also studying the other shoppers' style and confidence.

The Nordstrom website has a huge, excellent plus-size section with very good sales (over the holidays I cleaned up on some Eileen Fisher sweaters). Ebay is also really good. I can't afford paying retail for Issey Miyake, but a lot of his stuff is available practically new from Japanese sellers. His Pleats Please line is amazing--stretchy, comfortable, and colorful (though there are plenty of neutrals, too).

One issue that I've been thinking about over the past week or so is internalized self-hatred--and whether that's part of my not liking most of the plus-size blogs. I'll look at them and think, oh god, do I look like THAT? And I hate that in me.... Much to discuss, I guess....

I hope this series has each of you thinking about your own relationship to your bodies- how you treat them, how you invest in them, and how they do or do not reflect your own feelings of worthiness. I hope this evolves into a meaningful thought experiment for each of you. Clothing and fashion is incredibly personal. For some it matters very little. And for others, it is a representation of how you feel about yourself. At the end of the day, each of you are deserving of self-love. And how you choose to make the manifest in your life is a journey I how you will embark on thoughtfully.