Archive for the ‘Body Image’ Category

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Judgments Based on First Impressions

November 20, 2009

It’s really funny to see people’s reactions when you change from this:

…to this:

Oh my goodness is that a brunette?!

Reactions have ranged from the complimentary “That’s a nice change, you look better as a brunette” to “oh, that’s… different…” (said in a high-pitched tone which really means “oh my God what have you done that was a terrible idea!”). I’m getting a good laugh out of it.

Being super blonde was too high maintenance. So earlier this week I asked my hair stylist to dye my hair the same colour as my roots. Apparently, this is my natural hair colour. I had no idea. I thought I was in the blondeish-light brown category. Nope!

Although the main reason for the colour change was to go back to my “natural” colour, I’m also seeing this as a great social experiment. I’m curious as to whether I’m taken more seriously as a brunette than a blonde. We can’t help but make assumptions about people based on their looks, and I know that there have been times I wasn’t taken seriously partially because I was blonde. So this will be fun to see if there are any changes in people’s attitudes.

Why am I talking about hair colour here? Who really cares? Well, apparently a lot of people do: according to a 2006 study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, resume applicants were “rated more capable and were assigned a higher salary when depicted with brunette hair color”. It’s easy to make assumptions based upon stereotypes, and even if we’re aware of the stereotypes and aware that there isn’t any factual evidence to support the stereotypes (for example, the “dumb blonde” stereotype), we still have difficulty in viewing blondes on the same caliber as brunettes.

Furthermore, when it comes to judgment and appearance:

– 83% of consumers believe that personal appearance is key to professional success, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery

– The Social Issues Research Centre found that 55% of people’s initial impression of you is based on your appearance and body language

– The current media height/weight ideal is achievable by less than 5% of the female population

– 81% of 10-year-old girls in America have already dieted at least once and at least 80% of women over the age of 18 are unhappy with what they see in the mirror.

This is saddening. Can we break out of this? I think we should try. The big issue is: how?

I was blonde for such a long time because I felt like a blonde. It felt right. I was comfortable with it. But just recently I decided it was time to go back to my roots (quite literally), and this too feels right. That is what we should be doing: asking ourselves what feels right and why it feels right, and then enacting that right-ness. And doing our best, as always, to be aware when we find ourselves making judgments based upon stereotypes so that we can try to adopt a more objective point of view.

What do you think?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for POM juice– you have THREE chances to win!

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Poll: Which inner voice carries the most weight when you’re deciding what to eat?

November 6, 2009

Last month’s poll

Our last poll asked the question, How do you like your bananas? We had 67 voters in total: 6% never eat bananas, 72% prefer their bananas au natural (peeled and eaten plain), and 22% like to mix and mash them into other foods. Bananas are such a classic standby and they are a major player in a lot of healthy/healthified recipes. Go bananas!

This month’s poll

Yesterday afternoon I got to spend a lovely hour with my nutritionist Nicole. We have so much fun together! I could rave about her and our discussion, but suffice it to say that I really enjoy our appointments.

Right now, we’re trying to work on bringing awareness to my emotional relationship with food. I (and, Nicole pointed out, nearly everyone) have control issues and mine tend to gravitate towards food and exercise. When I become depressed or stressed out, I use food and exercise as a release. We talked about how this is not a bad thing: it is simply that I need to be aware of when I am turning to food or exercise to deal with something, and that I need to identify my mood at the time and figure out what the root cause is. Then I can work on changing perspective. Instead of using exercise to burn calories, for example, I should look at it as a way to burn off the extra energy and emotion that has built up.

Most of the time, these days, I’m already doing that. But talking to Nicole reaffirmed this and I’m going to work on it even more. Unless I can fully comprehend and deal with my relationship with food and exercise, it will be too easy to slip back into negative reasoning and thought processes.

This brings me to this month’s poll. Today’s question is rather a tricky one, but I’d love it if you all take the time to think about it and give the best answer you can! Nicole gave me a worksheet which describes the different “voices” going on in our bodies when we are making a food choice. Although there are usually many factors involved (we’re all about a holistic approach!), sometimes it’s one voice that crops up more often than the others. These are the basic voices from her worksheet:

1. Emotions: “Oh, I want that… I’m craving this… I must have that…”

2. The Mind: “I should eat that… I deserve to eat that… It’s not that bad…”

3. Tastebuds: “Oh, that would be tasty…”

4. The Inner Wisdom of your Body: “I know what would benefit me right now…”

Which voice tends to be the most dominant when you make your food choices? I think that my thought process, over the years, has gone, in general, from the Emotions (when I was a child) to the Mind (when my food issues first began) to the current Inner Wisdom, with bits of Tastebuds spattered throughout. I am not quite at the height of following my intuition as much as I would like to be, so that is my new challenge! Awareness is fundamental to everything that we do, so heightening and tweaking my awareness with intuitive eating is perfect.

Leave a comment below telling me about your thoughts on intuitive eating and to elaborate on your answer from the poll. I can’t wait to hear all of your opinions on this subject and your experiences with these kinds of struggles.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook!

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Book Review and Giveaway: “101 Things to Do Before You Diet” by Mimi Spencer

October 5, 2009

I received this book from Rodale Books not too long ago and “ate it up”, as it were. 101 Things to Do Before You Diet (because looking great isn’t just about losing weight) by Mimi Spencer is a practical guide full of useful tips on how to prepare yourself to be really, really, ridiculously good looking. As a fashion and beauty journalist based out of the UK, she has put together this book because feeling good and looking good are often interchangeable. She says that it’s okay to want to lose a few vanity pounds or to be a little slimmer. This book encourages the reader to figure out where our strengths are and to emphasize those strengths.

We learn throughout this guide little snippets of personal information, such as the fact that Mimi Spencer doesn’t love the way her stomach looks but that she has beautiful ankles to flaunt. Somehow these personal anecdotes- which are included just enough to make them interesting rather than irritating- are incredibly endearing. Her writing style is easy-going and her voice makes me want to sit down and have a chat with her. Sometimes books such as these, when written in the first person and thus incorporating personal stories, just seem narcissistic and boring. Not this one! I liked how her voice shone through. She doesn’t sound like she’s trying to sell anything. She’s just offering helpful advice that we would otherwise be completely ignorant of.

101 tips is a lot to ask for. Off the cuff, you might assume that they would all be of the same repetitive genre (drink water, walk for a few minutes each day, smile when you answer the phone ad nauseam*), but although some of the tips are of that ilke, most of them are genuinely useful for day to day life.

All 101 tips are separated into 10 chapters so that they are neatly categorized. The categories include topics such as changing your mindset, a step-by-step program to get out of a fattening rut, what to eat, how to dress thinner and create illusions, make up tips, ideas on how to get fit, and how your diet is your lifestyle. There’s a little something for just about every aspect of your life.

This book is specifically aimed at women, and especially targets an upper middle class group starting at about 10 years older than myself. Even so, I’m better off for having read this book. There are a couple recipes tucked in there and an entire explanation about the various kinds of shoes, and how certain types are slimming and others should be avoided. I like shoes. If you like shoes, you should read that part. Tip #68. It’s five pages of wonderful shoe-filled glory.

I really enjoyed reading this and some of it was stuff I knew, but with 101 thoughtful tips, there’s bound to be a fair amount that you hadn’t heard about before! I learned a few techniques that I’ll be putting into practice. Did you know that any kind of stripes, vertical and horizontal, are counter-productive to achieving a slimmer look? I sure didn’t (I should have read that section before I threw on a striped shirt at a party this past weekend…). If you ever wanted to learn the exact way to walk like a supermodel, improve your posture, or trot around in high heels, this book gives a crash course how-to. There are also many amusing quotes from various celebrities incorporated into the tips.

This is a lovely little book and a fun read. One of you can win this book for the price of a comment below! Tell me your favourite piece of advice for looking or feeling great. Who knows, maybe Mimi will write a sequel if we gather up enough quirky and unique tips 😉 I’ll be using the random number generator to choose the winner unless someone comes up with a tip that really rocks my socks off (because challenges are fun!). This giveaway lasts a week and the winner will be announced next Monday, October 12.

*These kinds of tips all very true and things that we should be doing, but we also hear them everywhere. They become redundant. I start to wonder if people even listen to them at all anymore, or if instead they just go in one ear and out the other so that we don’t even take away the message…

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The stigmatized vegan

September 21, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– Bowl of cantaloupe, apple slices, grapes, and 1/3 banana

– 3 oatmeal raisin scones with a small amount of almond butter and jam. For the scones, I subbed part of the whole wheat pastry flour for flaxseed meal, wheat germ, and 1 tbsp of FitNutz Pro. I also used unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze in place of the soymilk and added 1 tsp cinnamon (and the raisins). They were excellent.

– 3 beanballs wrapped in nori, some mushrooms with hummus, and a salad (romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, cucumber, tomato, cauliflower, carrot, and hummus)

– 2 1/2 slices gingerbread with icing and peanut butter

– Some almonds and grapes (maybe a couple tbsp of each?), and 2 tbsp PB2 with raisins

– A couple handfuls of Guiltless Gourmet blue corn tortilla chips, a couple falafel balls, and some yam fries

– 1 barbecued Tofurky frank with homemade ketchup, 1/2 beer, a few tomato slices, and 1 barbecued cob of corn

Yesterday was a tough day- I really had the munchies but was having a lot of difficulty being satisfied (as you can tell!). This resulted in me eating far too much and by the end of the day just feeling over-stuffed… though I found that the falafel, chips, and Tofurky really hit the spot, strangely enough. This was the first time in the past few weeks that, although I wasn’t craving meat, I still felt dissatisfied with what I was eating. Mentally, I don’t seem to have any issues with being vegan, but I think that physically my body is starting to wonder where the animal products are. Either that, or being cooped up indoors with studying was making me go stir-crazy and munching out of habit…

Vegetarianism, veganism, and the stigma attached to them

A month(ish) ago, I would have been the first to openly state that I don’t believe veganism is a very healthy way to eat. In fact, looking back at previous posts, I’m sure that I made my position on veganism explicit. I’ve learned a thing or two from eating vegan and doing research, and now I understand that there’s a whole lot more to it than I thought- which is what we always will find when we do a little digging! But I’m shocked at the real animosity that exists between people with different diets.

There was recently an upsetting situation at VeggieGirl’s blog, when she was “accused” of posting photos with meat in them; the commenter slandered her for it and said some rude and hurtful things toward her about displaying photos of murder etc. For the record, these pictures were of meals. Regular meals on a plate. Our dear VeggieGirl is, after all, a food blogger!

Even though she had to deal with the uncalled-for cruelty of the commenter, VeggieGirl handled it beautifully in a follow-up post in which she made it clear that food is nourishment and something to be enjoyed, and no one has any right to judge anyone else based on their food choices.

We all have our own opinions as to what way of eating is a “good” way to eat. Most of you know my personal nutrition philosophy of eating real food and trying to avoid or limit processed food (or rather, *replace it* with the real stuff), but you can read more of that on the sidebar (and, er, please ignore the above tortilla chips/Tofurky etc… well, eating real food is what I strive for; I don’t pretend it’s something I always manage to achieve ;)). I very strongly believe in it, and am wary of diets that are very high or low in any one particular nutrient or of diets that promote processed foods and supplements, but that’s just me. If other people really want to try any of those kinds of diets, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’d urge them to do a lot of research to learn more to determine if it is a safe way to eat, but I think it’s also very important to not assume our expertise on the matter.

Me? I was wrong about veganism. I’m full of energy. I’m able to maintain my weight. I’m not lacking in nutrients. I’m not hungry or weak or ill. At this point I’m prepared to say that eating a mostly (key word!) vegan diet as a rule could quite possibly be one of the healthiest diets, in terms of our own physical health, environmental health, and financial health too.

Most people who, upon hearing I was going vegan for a month, immediately said “Oh but that’s not healthy, you need animals to survive”, probably haven’t done a great deal of research on the subject.* Some became downright hostile and said that they dislike people who eat this way “because they adopt a holier-than-thou attitude”. I think that’s a pretty big leap to make, and an unfair, discriminatory one at that. I don’t believe it’s a valid argument at all.

I recently found a passage from Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential to be absolutely appalling:

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold.

The assumptions he makes are insulting and hurtful, no matter what your diet is like. There are countless reasons for why any of us eat in any particular fashion; there are ways to be healthy and unhealthy for any kind of diet, and every individual has his or her own needs with the way their body reacts to certain foods. There are so many things that are rude, hostile, nonsensical, and just plain wrong with Bourdain’s passage** that I am going to hand over a proper analysis of it to Living Rhetorically in the Real World in the future.

Hearing about how VeggieGirl was treated by another vegan, and hearing omnivores railing against vegans, is very disheartening. Why is there so much stigma? Why is there so much judgment?

I can’t help but think that everyone would have much healthier physical bodies and much healthier body image if we got rid of that stigma.

Questions are good. We learn by asking questions. Asking why one person eats that way and someone else eats a different way can broaden our perspectives and help our whole selves to become healthier. That kind of healthy curiosity is good for us all, especially because it will reduce the likelihood of making judgments and jumping to conclusions. If we find ourselves making assertive judgments on a certain nutrition plan, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to delve into some research on that topic.

Have your thoughts and opinions changed on a particular subject recently after doing more research and learning more about it?

*Yes, I do agree that we need animals to survive. On a number of levels. Hence my earlier statement about eating a mostly vegan diet.

**I’ve read about three pages of Bourdain’s book, so there’s always a chance here that I’ve completely misinterpreted his words. Maybe he has a really warped sense of humour and didn’t intend for the passage to read as it does. But I’m not very impressed with it as it stands alone.

Edited to add: Check out Westwood’s post, Pretty in Plastic, for an interesting discussion on the ethics of plastic surgery!

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Defining Eating Disorders

August 7, 2009

Over at Living Rhetorically in the Real World, we’re talking about definitions, so I thought I’d bring the conversation over here. Check out the post there to discuss how you define yourself in terms of fitness (me, I’m calling myself a runner and an athlete these days).

My question here at Living Healthy is this: what is the definition of an eating disorder? This month’s poll is about the physical and mental affects of gaining or losing a few pounds, so I’d like to add that to this question. If, for example, you have the physical symptoms but not the mental symptoms of an eating disorder, does it constitute as an eating disorder?

These questions were sparked after reading the New York Times article about dieting monkeys living longer than the ones that are not on a restricted-calorie diet. I have qualms about this study right from the start. Even if animals live longer on this diet, known as calorie restriction or CR [edited to say: CR is a very specific lifestyle diet which you can read more about here and here], do they have the same quality of life as animals that eat a normal amount of food? The research shows that some monkeys have died in ways unrelated to age- but are the deaths related to the fact that they were on a CR diet or because they would have died in the situation anyway? The reasons for these deaths include anesthesia, gastric bloat, and endometriosis. All of these causes of death could have been directly linked to a poor immune system. A weakened immune system could definitely have been the result of going on a CR diet.

I know that some readers here have tried calorie restriction so I would really love your input as I do not know very much about it. I don’t wish to step on any toes, but the way I see it, calorie restriction seems to have a dangerously close relationship with an eating disorder. CR can create the exact same physical issues as anorexia, but some medical professionals promote it as a lifestyle, and the diet has many followers. If you’re restricting calories (as low as 1,000 calories a day or fewer), and you’re doing it on a calorie restriction diet so it has nothing to do with your body image etc, does that mean that it is not an eating disorder because the mental symptoms are not there? If it’s called “calorie restriction” rather than “anorexia”, does that make it a safe practice?

At our trusty Dictionary.com, an eating disorder is defined as “any of various disorders, as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, characterized by severe disturbances in eating habits”. The next entry describes an eating disorder as a psychological disorder “that involves insufficient or excessive food intake”. Those kinds of definitions still make me wonder about calorie restriction.

What do you think? Am I muddling up my definitions? Are you a CR follower and can you enlighten me? Share your input in the comments.

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Maintaining a Healthy and Realistic Attitude toward Body Image during the Summer Months

June 10, 2009

First, if you haven’t read Monday’s guest post please check it out. We’re all talking about the summer months and having a healthy body image these days, and it’s no wonder why: “bikini season” is screaming at us from every medium available.

A recent post written by Dara at You’d Be So Pretty If… really captures just how far we have lost sight of the meaning of summer and a swimsuit. As she points out, practically all of the information thrown at us about summer and having fun revolves around the presumption that every single one of us a) are insecure about our bodies and thus looking for a way to cover ourselves up as much as possible, b) have “flaws” that absolutely must be concealed lest someone else realize that we don’t in fact look like an airbrushed supermodel, or c) are in the ongoing process of trying to lose weight. Because why wouldn’t we want to lose weight? That’s what we’re supposed to spend our lives doing, right?

It’s despicable that a perfectly healthy person can feel fine about themselves and be proud of what they’ve got and not have any issues with wearing a bikini, and then open up a magazine or glance over at a billboard and begin to second guess themselves that maybe they ought to lose another five pounds. What is five pounds going to change when you’re a healthy person? I firmly believe that when you look good, you feel good, but I also believe that I’m probably the only one who is going to notice if I lose or gain a few pounds. It’s still going to leave me within the healthy range of the BMI, and I doubt it’s going to put a huge strain on the fit of my clothes (except for those skinny jeans. But that’s because they’re the lie-down-on-the-bed-to-wriggle-into-them type, and that’s first thing in the morning before I’ve got any food in my stomach).

When I was reading this article about changing your mindset to lose weight for health reasons, this line really jumped out at me when they discuss mantras to say to yourself: “I am happy RIGHT NOW and I am choosing to lose weight to improve my health”.

Let me repeat that: To improve my health.

That does not include vanity pounds.

When did this cycle begin? When did everyone I know begin to say “I’d really like to lose another five pounds”? Poor or distorted body image seems to plague all of us. LoveIN My Tummy wrote a beautiful post about this in which she writes:

Even though I’m fairly certain my body fat hovers around the 15% range, if not lower, and I was in the gym, busting out 45 min. each on the elliptical and in the weight room, working hard  to ‘tone up’… This got me thinking about all the different ways of eating I’ve tried in the last several years and how my body really hasn’t changed that much (well, aside from carting a few babies around in my uterus).  But why am I always searching for the NEXT BEST THING?  Why am I not good enough just how I am?

Ask yourself the following questions:

Is it your job to look like a supermodel?

Are your thighs airbrushable when you’re going about your daily life?

Are you at a healthy weight (which may or may not be within the Body Mass Index, depending on how much muscle you have and your body type)?

Do you eat fairly well and exercise regularly?

Are you capable of (without ailments preventing you from) playing in the sun?

If you answered “no” to the first two questions and “yes” to the last three questions, then ask yourself these ones:

Am I happy with how I look? If I’m not, why am I not?

Chances are, those “flaws” that society tells us to conceal because they are just so ghastly aren’t even noticeable by anyone else. Because, let’s face it, if we’re looking at all this magazine junk about bikini season, we’re probably doing it to improve ourselves, whatever that means, and really not caring much about how other people around us look.

When I was an au pair living in Spain, my house mother once noticed that my thighs had “unsightly” stretch marks on them and she asked me in a tone of fascination and disgust, “What are those?”. She then made a couple other derogatory statements regarding weight and stretch marks which I’d rather not repeat here, but suffice it to say that I lounged by the pool in my bikini the very next day in defiance.

These remarks came from not only a 40 year old woman, but also a mother of two. I find it very hard to believe that she, unlike the rest of the population, did not have stretch marks somewhere on her body. It’s a fact of life, people.

I don’t know about you, but I’m wearing a bikini this summer, just like I do every year. Life is too short to worry that we might not have perfectly toned legs or a sculpted washboard for a stomach. We’re all swimsuit ready! If you’re reasonably healthy and do not have medical concerns, then stop thinking that you need to lose the vanity pounds and start enjoying life.

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What do you think? How’s your body image treating you these days? Is anything holding you back? Share in the comments and we’ll persuade the confidence to come shining through!

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Guest Post: The Transformation to a Warped Body Image

June 8, 2009

This post was contributed by Nicole White, who writes about masters of health care degree. She welcomes your feedback at Nicole.White222 at gmail.com.  After graduating from college Nicole started freelancing and writing for online education sites.  She has a particular interest in living a healthy and happy lifestyle and loves to write about it and share with others.

Does anybody really know when the exact moment was that it suddenly became chic to look underweight?  Centuries ago, it was a sign of poverty to be seen as underweight and subsequently the rich went to great lengths to portray themselves as robust.  Even the beginning of the twentieth century observed pop culture icons like Marilyn Monroe exhibiting a healthy weight size for her body type.  So the real deliberation is when did this long-lasting fad of appearing “healthy” diminish in lieu of a new overarching trend which now threatens to kill so many young girls today?

Supermodels of the 1980s were entirely different from the related models of today; the “Big Six” of the late 1980s (Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell) were still held to be positive role models for young girls.  While most of these supermodels were thinner than the average American woman, they still maintained a seemingly healthy BMI and appeared to enjoy the curves that most women have.  However, Kate Moss was the first exception to this otherwise healthy atmosphere and began ushering in a new “heroin chic” look which became the staple of the new fashion world.  The media began to question “how thin is too thin” and with this becoming a major topic in the fashion industry, this new breed of model was born.

There are different theories relating to the birth of the overtly thin model in the 1980s: some blame the advent of street drugs like heroin and crack which led to an emaciated body type while others blame the birth of the HIV virus which left many with the same sunken-eye look.  Because of these various influences of a new underground culture, a new look was born within the fashion industry and while it was based on seemingly negative connotations, it is a look which has lasted over two decades.  Since the beginning of this craze, young girls have been easily influenced by ultra-thin models, ushering in a plethora of eating disorders which have since reached epic proportions.  Girls view these models in magazines, on TV, and believe that this is the socially acceptable weight they should be at, regardless of any outside factors like height and bone structure.

The fashion world itself almost promoted this new influx of ultra-thin models and a new “anorexic” message by promoting their models to be smaller and smaller in order to compete on runways and for ad campaigns.  What they did not realize for years was that rather than gaining contracts, they were losing many models and followers around the world to the silent killer anorexia.  The international modeling industry has since taken drastic steps to curb this new obsession with weight by putting their models through various tests in order to determine if they have a BMI of at least 18.5.  Additionally, healthy snacks are now offered backstage at most runway shows and “plus-size” models have begun to make a come-back.  However, there are still a great many models and celebrities for that matter who promote this unhealthy look, appealing to girls all over the world.  How did it happen that girls in Western countries envy the starving people of third-world nations?  Aside from being incredibly selfish and inconsiderate of other peoples’ misery, this has become an international problem created by the fashion industry and an unstoppable force.  Many fashion icons contend that the new “thin” look will not be replaced by a more “voluptuous” size 6 look anytime soon, which leaves it in our hands to educate young girls of the dangers this warped body image sends out.

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Exploring Phnom Penh

April 29, 2009

I am “home” in Cambodia! The flight was ridiculously long. I arrived in Phnom Penh at about 10pm on Monday night.

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On Tuesday my dad took me out on a tuk tuk and showed me the Independence Monument, the Silver Pagoda, and the Russian Market.

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The Independence Monument

We drank some fantastic fresh and all-natural lemon strawberry juice and spent a lot of time catching up and people-watching. My dad’s apartment building has a gym so I made good use of it in the afternoon, when it was far too hot to be outside. At the Russian Market I picked up this shirt and scarf (everyone wears these scarves, they are the best invention ever for dealing with the heat):

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In the evening, we went to the Khmer Kitchen restaurant to immerse ourselves in some real Cambodian fare. We shared some fresh spring rolls (veggies and shrimp wrapped in rice flour paper) as well as lok lac, which is a beef/onion dish. It is served with steamed rice and a delicious mixture of salt, pepper, and lime juice to dip the beef in. Unfortunately I only remembered when we were almost finished eating to take a photograph:

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Today, Wednesday, I have been exploring the city on foot. Phnom Penh is not very pedestrian-friendly but it’s still doable! This morning I went to the Silver Pagoda. It was very beautiful.

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Tomorrow I will be taking a cooking class and this weekend my dad and I are going up to Siem Reap for a few days. I doubt I’ll be able to get much of a chance to read all of your wonderful blogs- so if you don’t find many comments from me over the next few weeks, just know that I will be back reading regularly after I am finished adventuring 🙂

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Back home in Canada, I’m used to being overlooked by most people. My friends and I will be out together and suddenly someone will say “wait, where’s Sagan?”, only to realize that I’m standing right next to them. That’s what happens when you’re not very tall! But here in Cambodia, people are openly staring at me. We picked up some fresh produce at the grocery market yesterday and a group of girls stared at me the entire time I walked past them, looking me directly in the eye with total fascination. My blonde hair is rather conspicuous! It’s so unusual to be watched like this. Feels like I’m wearing a banner on my head. Not that it’s a bad thing or that it makes me feel uncomfortable; it’s just different from what I’m used to! It’s really funny.

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Something else I find really interesting is that my dad told me that many of the girls here use a skin-lightening cream, basically the equivalent of all of those self-tanning lotions in North America. The grass is always greener. Take some time today to appreciate who you are! We’re all special in our own way.

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Don’t forget to answer this month’s poll!

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Interpretations of Marketing Strategies: Botox for Dogs

February 11, 2009

This is a billboard that I walk past every day on my way to work:

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Cute, right?

I find this ad really difficult to wrap my head around, besides the fact that it’s a very intriguing form of marketing which captured my attention immediately. The most obvious question to ask is why is there a dog in this ad when the message is directed at people? (No doubt “botox for pets” will soon be all the rage, but as far as I know we thankfully haven’t reached that point just yet).

Using the image of an animal rather than a person could actually take away from the usual negative feelings that ensue when we see pictures of models and are told that we ought to look like them. With an animal, that pressure is eliminated. It’s not too often you see an ad for botox that depicts a furry creature rather than a woman, so right away that grabs attention. Because of that, this ad could potentially have less of an impact on self esteem than some other ad featuring a fresh-faced airbrushed supermodel. Animals are less intimidating.

We cannot deny that the dog in this ad is really cute. With the wrinkles. That just begs the question of why we’re trying to get a smooth complexion in the first place. Who wouldn’t want to be that cute? If anything I’m more turned off of the idea of botox than I was before. Aren’t dogs and babies all the more cute and appealing because they’re so wrinkly? You wouldn’t want to take away their wrinkles, so why are we supposed to get rid of ours as we age?

And that leads to the next observation that this particular dog looks like a puppy. If you’re young and thinking about botox, then I think you need to reduce some of the stress in your life or lighten up a little. On the other hand, the ad might be implying that young people need it too, like this botox ad which states: “Temporarily smooth moderate to severe frown lines for people 18 to 65 years of age”. Me being at the ripe old age of 20, I guess I’m well within the age range to qualify for some nice toxin injections!

Or maybe I’m interpreting this ad all wrong, and it’s demonstrating that we aren’t dogs, so we can’t get away with the wrinkles=cuteness association, and therefore we do need botox. Looks to me like the pets are getting the better deal here, either way.

Regardless, I can’t help but smile at the ridiculousness of this ad. What do you make of it?

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Documenting Eating Disorders

January 14, 2009

Last night I watched the first part of the film Thin, a documentary following several women struggling with anorexia. They are all being treated for it but each of them has varying degrees of wanting to get better.

As someone who has never been anorexic nor had such an extreme case of disordered eating, it was really shocking. Even after hearing about some of your own anecdotes of eating disorders and having read a fair amount about the issue, it’s not the same as seeing it “documented”.

Several parts of the film really stood out. Like the way that at the treatment center, only one napkin was allowed per person at mealtimes to ensure no one hid any food. And the way one woman said how she attempted suicide after eating 2 pieces of pizza. One girl started calorie counting at age 11. Even at the treatment facility, you can see that there is an underlying competition to be the thinnest person there, to be the most ill. There was one woman who tried to keep her calories under 200 a day (when the average person requires somewhere around 2,000), and another who joined the air force for the sole purpose to lose weight.

Your heart goes out to them, that this is what has become of our society, this is what has become of our obsession with food and our twisted view of “beauty”. A young teen in the film relates a fond memory of how she and her mum would chew and spit together- their shared eating disorders created a bond between them. Really thinking about it, about how half the world is starving because there’s not enough food and the other half of the world is starving themselves on purpose, it doesn’t seem to make sense. But as noted in the film, and as most of us can attest to, any sort of disordered eating after all isn’t about the food. We in the first world just have the luxury of choosing food as our outlet, as the object to control.

The documentary showed one woman’s birthday at the treatment center. She was given a cupcake and had to eat it. At first they were all joking and laughing, but then when she started to eat, her discomfort and anxiety became more and more apparent. Afterward, she was crying.

This documentary was moving. And eye-opening. It was also disturbing. It explains a lot about the disordered eater’s mind, however, and is useful for understanding it in that sense. And that’s the reason for documenting this or any issue, right? To raise awareness and increase our understanding of it so that we can prevent it from happening, can try to help each other.

At the same time, I wonder how many people have become disordered eaters because of films like this. Does increasing awareness of these issues also increase the potential for the issue itself to be spread? How often are these mediums abused by the viewers? It’s a worrisome thought, but I believe that we do need to have mediums such as this because the awareness and understanding is a crucial part to helping to solve the issues.

“I used to have a personality”

What are your thoughts on this?