Dietainment…The death of thousands

Have you heard of Dietainment?? It’s a means of advertising unhealthy eating habits by disguising diet ads as a form of entertainment, often targeted at young women and girls.

For example:

In this ad the reader is led to believe that there is only one body type that is a “beach body”. Realistically though, any body is a beach body. You do not need to strive for one specific set of ideals in order to have a “beach body” as this advertiser is suggesting to consumers.

Recently, Cheerios has released a campaign with the motto “help stop dietainment from reaching our girls”. While many individuals would argue that the messages in such ads are not damaging, my background in media studies has led me to conduct significant research into the suggestibility of children and teens. What I discovered through the course of my research is that children and teens are highly suggestible and prone to the internalization of media messages.

In addition to my academic background, I can also approach this topic from the perspective of someone who has personally been damaged by messages such as this. I can remember being dissatisfied with my body from the age of about 8 years old, so much so that I started asking my mom if I was fat. By the time I was 12 I had already started experimenting with dieting which quickly manifested itself as a full blown eating disorder.

When I was 16, I started cutting out ads such as this from magazines and taping them to the back of my closet door for motivation. I remember looking at these advertisements as a teenager in order to inspire myself to skip meals, work out more, and essentially malnourish my body in an attempt to achieve the ideal body portrayed in advertisements such as the latter.

Admittedly, there were a lot of other things going on that led me to start restricting and purging in order to lose weight; however, this does not change the fact that the advertisements taped to my wall acted as a fuel to the fire that was my bulimia. While I do not place 100% of the blame on the media messages which I saw as a young girl and teenager, I believe that such messages certainly had a significant negative impact on my self-esteem and my self-worth.

Speaking as someone who continues to struggle with disordered eating, I can attest to the negative impact that dietainment can and does have on the impressionable minds of young boys and girls. Conversely, speaking as an academic who has conducted extensive research into the susceptibility of children and teenagers to media messages, I can also attest to the fact that these advertisements are dangerous and damaging. Something needs to be done to stop media providers from releasing such content.

Society agrees that pornographic images are not fit for public advertisements as these messages can be damaging to the psychological health of children. If this is the case for sexual content in media, why is this not the case for dietainment? Both are proven to be damaging so why do we regulate one and not the other?

Girls, boys, men, and women all over the world are starving themselves in order to fit into the unattainable photo-shopped ideals of dietainment ads. People are dying from eating disorders which are often a result of the media ads that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Why is this okay? How do media producers sleep at night knowing that their content could be contributing to the death of thousands of people suffering from eating disorders?

Something needs to be done. Dietainment needs to be stopped.

Ayla

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How to respond to being ignored

“The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference”

~Elie Weisel

I’m sure we’ve all been there. One moment everything is going great and you’re feeling sure of your relationship with another person–whether it’s a best friend, boyfriend, girl friend, family member, etc.–and the next moment something seems…off.

They stop talking to you, won’t respond to texts, or show no interest in spending time with you. Often times this happens for a reason; however, sometimes this can be the result of miscommunication or misunderstandings.

Recently, I’ve been on the receiving end of the silent treatment due to my inability to provide enough support in the eyes of my friend. I can understand that the individual may be feeling that way due to my recent circumstances which have left me with very little extra emotional capacity to be a metaphorical shoulder to cry on. I recognize the fact that I have not been as available to my friend in terms of providing emotional support; however, I refuse to let myself feel bad about this because I’ve been dealing with quite a lot of my own stressful circumstances over the last week.

While I believe that it is incredibly important to be able to provide support and receive it from close friends, I think we also need to be considerate of what everyone else is going through as well. We all face stress in our daily lives so it is inevitable that at some points we will not be able to be the supporter because we may be dealing with our own overwhelming situations.

In these cases, I think that we need to cut ourselves and our friends/family some slack. If one of my close friends is dealing with a lot of stress then I will undoubtedly not turn to them to place my own burdens on them to help me work through. For this reason, it’s great to have more than one support system such as multiple trustworthy friends, family members, or a therapist. In fact, over the last week I have needed to draw on all three of the latter sources of support in order to handle my own emotional burdens.

While it upsets me that I was unable to provide my friend with the support that she needed in the moment, I keep reminding myself that I cannot be there for everyone during every moment of the day while also managing to take care of myself. As a result, I have decided to deal with this situation by giving my friend some distance for a few days before reaching out to her again. With that being said, I can only reach out to her so many times before I have to cut my losses and move on. I can’t change the fact that I was unable to support her and I cannot force her to move on and mend our friendship. There is only so much that I can do before I just have to accept the fact that the friendship is over. I hope it will not come to that, but I can’t blame myself for it if that is what ends up happening.

I can’t dwell on a past which I can do nothing to change. Sometimes you just need to acknowledge the mistake and move forward.

xo

Ayla

Should you become a therapist if you struggle with a mental illness?

As many of my readers know, I’ve struggled with a number of serious mental illnesses since I was about 10 years old. However, what most of you will not know is that my goal is to become a therapist and help other people who are struggling with mental illness.

When I tell people that I want to become a therapist–particularly people who are not aware of my own mental health struggles–I find it difficult to be honest about what inspired me to pursue this career simply because I fear that people will think that my own struggles make me inadequate for such a career. I am afraid that people will think that I am weak or that I am in no position to help other people recover from an eating disorder when I am personally still struggling with recovery.

To be honest, I’m afraid of those criticisms because I recognize their validity. In fact, this is the reason why I decided to take some time off of school before pursuing my master’s degree in order to become a therapist. I recognize the fact that I cannot possibly hope to help people if I have not first helped myself.

I know myself well enough to know that I need some time to strengthen my recovery as well as grow as a person before I try to help people with the things that I have struggled with for years. I know that there is risk involved in such a career path because their is potential for the struggles of others to trigger a relapse in myself. However, my therapist believes that if we continue to work together for the next year I will be more than prepared to pursue my career goals in a year if I am accepted into a Master’s degree program.

I am incredibly lucky to have found such a supportive and committed therapist. Her faith in me is unwavering and I have no doubt in my mind that if she feels that my mental health will interfere with my ability to help others she will be honest with me and work with me until she is confident in my ability to help others without sacrificing my own mental health.

Accordingly, I believe that it is entirely possible for someone to become a therapist after struggling with their own mental illnesses as long as the individual is recovered and mentally healthy and stable. If an individual is still struggling with a mental illness it would be irresponsible and unethical to work as a therapist and risk further damaging their own mental health or that of their clients’. However, in individuals who have recovered and successfully overcome a mental illness I think there is potential for these individuals to be even more empathetic and understanding because they have lived through it themselves. In this sense, I think that people who have recovered from mental illnesses can offer wonderful insight and advice to their clients.

My hope is that over the next year I will continue to make progress with my recovery so that I can pursue my dream career if I am successful in my application to the Master’s program which I want to pursue.

Wish me luck!!

xo

Ayla