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!


TBM: My Own Body Image Journey

  • posted by Marci Evans
  • Monday, June 22, 2015

Is Thowback Monday a thing? I'm making it a thing with a republishing of this blog post I originally wrote in the summer of 2011. I think you'll enjoy it.

A client asked me a question recently. It was a semi-personal question and I felt that it was something worthy of sharing here. To be quite honest, this is a bit unusual for me as I don’t talk in a personal way very often on this blog. I hesitate to do so for a number of reasons, but her question and my response might be helpful to others.

Question: Marci, can I ask you a slightly personal question?

Marci: Sure, I might not answer it but you can ask.

Question: Well, it’s not that personal. I’m just wondering how you deal with your own body image stuff. I mean, are you just immune to it all? Does society’s unrealistic expectations ever affect you? Like, do you ever have a bad body image day?

Great question, huh? I thought it was. And here’s the gist of what I said in response.
Yes, of course I have days that I feel unattractive, bloated, and downright uncomfortable in my body. But I’ve learned some things over the years that have helped put it all in perspective.

1. Physical Appearance- less important than it used to be
It’s normal to have moments where you don’t feel so grand about yourself. Given our culture and the constant expectation for perfection, it’s gonna’ happen! BUT, when your physical appearance isn’t the most important thing in your life, it’s not THAT big of a deal to have those moments. Imagine a pie chart divided into sections. And imagine each section representing the various parts in your life that are important to you (work, relationships, physical appearance, hobbies, physical spiritual and emotional health, education, etc). Now think about what percentage each piece takes up in your life. I’ve learned that if I place too much value on my physical self, bad hair days and jeans that feel too tight are much more upsetting. But if it’s a small part of what makes me, me, I can shrug it off and know that bad body days happen.

2. Acceptance
Part of finding peace about my physical appearance has required acceptance about what I'm genetically meant to look like. Growing up with very fair skin in Arizona felt like a curse. As a teenager I'd burn my skin to a crisp and coat myself with stinky tanning cream to try to fit in. It was painful, expensive, and ineffective. Now that I'm older and wiser, I could care less about my white legs and put on a skirt or pair of shorts without thinking twice. I'm not meant to be tan and I never will be. Gotta' move on! Similarly, my size 7 feet would feel awful if I tried to squeeze them into a 5, just as it would feel awful to starve and over-exercise my body into a pair of jeans that were too small.

3. Focus on self-care
I am CONVINCED that if we continually ask ourselves- “what would be the most nurturing and caring thing I could do for myself” our bodies will find a healthy place on their own. Sometimes the best, most healthy thing is getting some exercise. Sometimes it’s saying no to a second helping because your stomach is full. But sometimes you need rest rather than a run. And sometimes you need a chocolate chip cookie because a craving hits. Learning your own boundaries for self-care is essential and takes time.

4. Limit media exposure
Please know that I am not saying that my approach to limiting media is the best or only approach. It’s the way I naturally live my life. I simply have too much going on for a lot of media intake. Due to a busy schedule, I’m pretty selective about what I read and watch. I want to fill my mind and spirit with things that encourage, excite, and uplift me. As a consequence, I'm exposed less frequently to all of the self-esteem zapping messages and articles that are out there.

So no, I am not immune to the litany of negative and unrealistic expectations placed upon me. But by putting my physical appearance in perspective, accepting who I am and what I’m meant to be, focusing on self-care, and filling my life with positive stuff, I’m A LOT better off.

I hope this is helpful. I’m curious to know- what works for you in your journey for peace and self-love?

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

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 at your earliest possible convenience – time is of the essence.

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

21 Day Fix from a Passover Perspective

  • posted by Marci Evans
  • Thursday, April 09, 2015

Rachel shared her blog post with me and I wanted to share it with EVERYONE as quickly as possible. She addresses a universally important topic- how we as women speak about our bodies and the damaging domino effect- that is relevant whether you celebrate Passover or not. Read it, re-read it, and share it. The original post can be found here

No More Egypt
It's a mere few hours to go before Pesach begins, and I have just spent the better part of the day cooking and cleaning and otherwise engaging in last-minute preparations. I've made a bunch of nutritious meals and snacks to get me through at least part of the week, and I've also been mentally preparing myself for the two seders ahead--spending hours around a dinner table packed with people, even when they're people I love, is not this introvert's idea of a blissfully good time. But I've worked hard to be ready for Pesach this year, and I feel prepared. I can be in the moment. I can enjoy people's company. I can stay up late and it will be fine. And, I can eat whatever I want, because I'm in a place where I can do that.

So all things considered, I'm feeling pretty good...or at least I was, until I signed onto Facebook (I know, probably a mistake) and came face-to-face with a friend's status update, which (through text and photos!) outlined her latest achievements in the "21-Day Fix." Now, this isn't a new thing--obviously, I've been seeing posts like this for 21 days--and I have tried hard to react to them in the best way I know how; mainly, I ignore them. I mean, I love this friend of mine and I am happy for her that she's feeling good in her body and all of that...but, really, enough is more than enough.

It continues to blow my mind that so many women buy into the entire concept behind the "21-Day Fix" phenomenon. First of all, ladies, are you broken? What is there to fix, really? You are fine the way you are. And if you feel you're NOT fine the way you are, might I suggest exploring that feeling a bit further and seeing what's behind it, before jumping onto the "quick-fix" bandwagon? Usually, when we feel negatively towards our bodies, it's not our physicality that needs's our way of thinking about ourselves. How about spending 21 days working on fixing that?

Additionally, it strikes me that our culture is so acclimated to body dissatisfaction and weight-shaming that it is considered not only normal, but actually admirable, for people to continuously post intimate details and images of their workouts, diets, and attempts at body transformation on social media. I mean, it actually frightens me. What kind of social environment have we created, here? It's not helping with the whole, "female respect" thing (I acknowledge that this affects men, too, but in my experience the worst social-media offenders are overwhelmingly female). Do we actually want to be perceived as having nothing better to talk about than food, weight, and body? Do we truly want our bodies to be the first (or only?) things that other people think of when they think about us? Furthermore, can we honestly say that we want our children, students, etc. to inherit the current norm of being totally preoccupied with "fixing" our bodies? If the answer to those questions is, "no," then we have to start changing the culture in which we operate by not adding fuel to the body-shaming fire.

I recognize that this post sounds a lot like a rant, and I suppose it is...but it comes from a place of frustration with the sensation of "swimming up the cultural stream" that I so often experience in recovery. I am tired of working so hard to have an intuitive approach to eating, and a loving relationship with my body, only to have it made harder by the societal pressure to go the other way. That's one thing I wish everyone who puts their diet updates on social media would understand: that by broadcasting their "successes" with the latest diet and exercise fad, they are actually making it harder--not easier--for other women to accept their own bodies.

Luckily, though, this unfortunate experience on Facebook happened to me on Erev Pesach, and after stewing about it for a few minutes, I remembered what this entire holiday is about: freedom from our "narrow places," and liberation from whatever it is that enslaves us. At that point, I had two choices: 1) Judge myself unfavorably in comparison to this friend of mine, and consequently restrict my eating at the seders; or, 2) recognize that my recovery is about being free from all of that craziness, and therefore grant myself permission to eat what I want...and enjoy it, without guilt. I have put in my time worshipping the god of thin-and-fit, and I'm done with that. I don't have to try to manipulate my body; I get to love my body by eating normally, exercising naturally, and--yes--enjoying treats without compensating for them. It's a better, freer way of life, and I've worked hard for it. So, this Pesach, no more Egypt for me...or, I hope, for any of us. This year, may we be truly free!

Lent: Supporting or Derailing Your Health?

  • posted by Marci Evans
  • Friday, March 27, 2015

This post is written by Sarah Patten, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Marci RD.

I hesitate to type these words for fear of jinxing what I'm about to say, but after being pummeled with blizzards for the past few months and experiencing the official snowiest winter in Boston's history, it seems as though the worst is over and that there is a hint of spring in the air. The sun feels a bit stronger, the days are a tad longer, and we've had a couple of days now where the temp feels slightly more tolerable. Things are looking up!

With the onset of spring comes thoughts of flowers blooming, birds chirping, and for those who observe – the lent and Easter season. Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. Traditionally, it's a time to reflect prior to the Easter celebration. Not all churches observe Lent, but those that do encourage a period of “fasting, repentance, moderation, and spiritual discipline.” Though it's roots are in spirituality and religion, the forty day period of Lent has somehow transformed in our society for many people to be a time to “give up” or “deprive” oneself of something that they enjoy or feel “indulgent” around. Almost all of us have heard chatter surrounding other's Lent goals – most typically we hear about people giving up chocolate, fried food, junk food, meat, dessert, eating after 6, or maybe even snacking altogether.

How has this religious tradition morphed into an opportunity for us to create even MORE rules around food? For some, this may be a challenge they choose to embrace with the best intentions. But for others, it appears to be more of a guise to diet and restrict their intake in the name of spirituality.
All of these thoughts came to mind after meeting with one of my clients a few weeks ago, just as Lent was beginning. I have been working with this client for quite some time on healing her relationship with food, rejecting the diet mentality, giving herself unconditional permission to eat, and not basing her self worth on the number displayed on her scale. This client has made tremendous positive progress in her relationship with food and has been increasing her focus on improving her body image and the way she talks to herself. It's been a pleasure to watch her evolve along this journey, and I was blown away when she came into our session a few weeks ago reporting that upon hearing all of her friends and coworkers talk about what “bad foods” they were planning to give up for Lent, she decided to put a different spin on this period of reflection. Instead of depriving herself of the foods she enjoys, she decided to give up negative body comments and negative self talk for forty days!

I was truly inspired by hearing these words. How fabulous to spend one's energy devoted to fostering a positive body image and speaking kindly to oneself rather than creating yet another set of temporary food rules. That's not to say this new challenge has been easy. My client has continued to notice these automatic negative thoughts popping up, but with her heightened awareness, she is able to catch them and reframe them much more quickly. Through our weekly sessions since Lent began, I've heard her speak about how much more beneficial it feels to have an encouraging and supportive inner voice rather than a critical and negative internal dialog. She's hopeful that the changes she's made in self talk will remain long past the Easter holiday – a profound shift that couldn't have been accomplished by giving up something like chocolate. Although the season of Lent is approaching it's end, I would encourage all of us to learn from this example. We all deserve to speak kindly to ourselves and our bodies 365 days/year – why not start today?

What goals, for Lent or otherwise, have had a positive impact on your health?