It is October and across the US it is breast cancer awareness month, the beginning of leaves turning, and hopes for cooler temperatures. Okay, in Florida we exclaim when the temperature drops a couple of degrees and everyone is ecstatic when hurricane season comes to an end. The breezes have just a touch of softness to the air and the promise of the season’s change.
What is the takeaway? How do we pause and reflect on the transition at this time, and bring our awareness to what matters most? Like breast cancer awareness: SISTERS get your mammograms and checkup if you are due!
I have worked in the field of eating disorders for many years. Here is a startling reminder:
Lifetime prevalence of breast cancer is 12%. Yikes, seems very high, doesn’t it? Lifetime prevalence of an eating disorder is 13.3! So can we piggy back on all the pink ribbons throughout October and bring attention to both breast cancer AND eating disorders?? Please, my request is not meant to disrespect the millions of women and men facing breast cancer. They absolutely need our attention, our loving support and to have the money for research to improve treatment and survival.
Can we add attention for the women and men, in the range of 20 million women and 10 million men in America who will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives? Anorexia continues to have the highest lifetime mortality rate of any psychiatric condition in the U.S. Overall people with Anorexia had a six fold increase in mortality compared to the general population.
Surely we can share the spotlight and make it AWARENESS for all who struggle? Can we focus on living well and providing the best care for our bodies as possible?
Examine carefully your own attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and prejudices about:
Food and feeding yourself!
Weight and your judgements about the numbers! Scale weight, size, reps, mileage, calories, grams, on and on and on….
Body image and the ways you put yourself down instead of lift yourself up! Can you focus on what your body does for you each and every day? It shows up miraculously for your life, regardless of how well or maybe not so well, you care for your precious body.
Physical appearance and the preoccupation with details that are not really important to be so critical of! What if you concentrate on the specific ways you appreciate your smile, your energy, your style, and your passions? What do you most appreciate in others? Remind yourself, it is not “perfection!”
Health and exercise are supposed to be for fun and wellbeing; not grueling punishment or another way to disconnect from your body! Are you listening to your body? Are you driving yourself beyond what you need to be doing? Do you rest when needed? Do you know what is a healthy balance of activities for “life”; rather than the “look”!
Pay attention to your attitudes that have evolved from the dieting mentality: The all good or all bad/black and white thinking that leaves you mostly feeling like a failure. The short term high of weight loss and preoccupation with labeling food as good and bad is inevitably short lived. But our unkind attitudes towards ourselves and our perceived body flaws and shortcomings seem to last indefinitely! WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? D-I-E-T: the worst 4 letter word I know…it does so much harm to so many.
Seek to change these attitudes in your everyday life—for example, if you edit photos of yourself before posting them on social media, consider why you do so, how you feel when you do it, and what message you’re communicating to yourself and others?
Truly and authentically reviewing your thoughts and feelings is the first step to replacing unhealthy attitudes with healthy ones. Pause and move from criticism in that conversation in your head, and shift ever so slightly in a different direction.
In the words of Mark Twain: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Talk to someone who can help. Your doctor, or anyone involved with breast cancer. Or reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association/NEDA: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Or contact the HELPLINE: (800) 931-2237.
No one deserves to live in fear of their bodies. Yoga offers an avenue to find peace with ourselves, our bodies, and to join a beloved community for healing, a sangha for living.
Namaste and love,