“A picture is worth a thousand words,” right? So, what words do you think of when you see these photos?
Loneliness? Desire? Isolation? Longing? Fantasy? Reality?
This is the power of art. To convey and captivate emotionality, to transform, to inspire us to think and feel. And, recently, many female artists have been using their medium to explore and express body image and self-representation.
The above images are by Jen Davis, who has been creating evocative self-portraits that she is now sharing with the world.
…Davis spent roughly a decade photographing herself, using her camera to shape her own sense of beauty and as a way to develop her vision as a photographer.
Much of that work included photographing herself in ordinary situations: eating, relaxing, showering, etc. Her self-portraits also explored a private, fantasy space that were inspired by a sense of longing, though Davis explained that the line between fantasy and reality—especially when using photography as a medium—is easily blurred.
“Some of the images are real genuine feelings, and others are things I wanted to experience, and I used the license of the camera. … I wanted to know what it felt like to be held by someone or to be with a man, and the camera allowed me to have that experience,” Davis explained.
I am fascinated by this endeavor and the outcomes. Most of the photos feature Ms. Davis, on her own, in a variety of situations. But, all focus on her body in an honest, nothing held back way, which, as an overweight woman is rare, defiant, captivating, but often socially criticized.
The exposure also allowed her to work through that sense of vulnerability and insecurity.
“I was able to deal with the emotion and vulnerable state and release it,” she said. But something else happened during the process: She became upset with herself for not changing her body, and showing her work spurred her to take action.
“It was kind of shocking, kind of painful to look at myself and to see myself evolving and growing and understanding a deeper sense of myself but my body not being able to change after nine years’ time. I was shocked and thought ‘why can’t I take control of my life?’ and I realized I didn’t want to wake up at 40 and be in this body—I wanted to know what it would be like to be in a different body, and that was a painful realization,” Davis explained.
And so, Ms. Davis underwent Lap Band surgery, lost a significant amount of weight, and continued to document her “new” life of self-discovery, self-portraiture, and love.
But there is a resignation and loneliness that also pervades these photos of her “new” life as a thinner woman. I am most intrigued by this, the forlornness that is captured even after Ms. Davis went to such lengths to lose weight and find love. Perhaps this is a testament that weight is not the end goal, but representative of health and life as an ongoing search, as something to ever continue to strive towards? Or perhaps her message is a bit darker, that though we think something as culturally significant as realizing our dreams of becoming thin(ner) will change our lives, often it is our perception of ourselves that must make the shift or nothing in our reality will be any different?
And while Ms. Davis mainly explores her relationship with herself (and, occasionally, one other), another photographer is documenting herself directly in relation to others.
“Pictures of People Who Mock Me” was recently featured on Salon. “For years, strangers have made fun of me for being fat. But I got my power back–by turning the camera on them,” writes Haley Morris-Caffiero, who decided to document her struggles with strangers who inappropriately impose themselves in her life by subversively or forthrightly mocking her for being overweight.
Eventually, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Though I did go through phases of food restriction and over-exercise, I came to realize that I shouldn’t punish myself for something I can’t control. Self-criticism is a waste of time. I look worse with tons of make up and products in my hair. I am happy when I am not stressed — so I don’t stress.
That doesn’t mean the world is comfortable with how I look. Even though I’m a college professor, who works 12-hour days and eats healthy, even though I have none of the diseases constantly reported in the media as linked to obesity, I’m up against quite a few stereotypes as an overweight blond female artist. I’m constantly fighting strangers’ criticisms that I am lazy and slow-witted, or that I am an overly emotional slob.
I suspect that if I confronted these narrow-minded people, my words would have no effect. So, rather than using the attackers’ actions to beat myself up, I just prove them wrong. The camera gave me my voice.
Now, it is no secret that overweight people are often victims of bullying, criticism, hatred, shame, disgust, and even violence. It often seems that discrimination against overweight people is the last bastion of societally-acceptable bigotry. But Ms. Morris-Caffiero has decided to empower herself through the camera lens.
And I don’t get hurt when I look at the images. I feel like I am reversing the gaze back on to them to reveal their gaze. I’m fine with who I am and don’t need anyone’s approval to live my life. I only get angry when I hear someone comment about my weight and the image does not reflect the criticism. That’s frustrating: when I didn’t get the shot.
There are so many people in the world who feel they have the right – no, the obligation — to criticize someone for the way they look, and to be that recipient of those insults can feel so lonely. I got an email from a 15-year-old girl in Belgium who said my images made her “feel better and not care about what others think and live my life.” That made me proud. As for what the images mean, viewers may interpret the images as they see fit. I’m just trying to start a conversation.
And I hope y’all will join in this conversation. There is so much power in these images, so much raw emotion, so much that they have to say. Let’s continue to speak about them.
If there were an “MTV True Life: I’m Obsessed with Snacking,” I would be a featured participant (also, do people still watch this show? It’s definitely gone downhill. “I’m Dating a Mama’s Boy? Really?” Booo-ring). Snacking is a true joy: you can taste so many different things, you don’t have to cook a whole meal and formally sit down and eat it, you can satiate hunger on the go. But, of course, snacking is something that we have to be aware of as something SO GOOD can suddenly turn SO BAD for us.
Americans love to snack almost as much as we want to lose weight. But according to recent research by the USDA, our snacking habits are adding too many calories and too few nutrients to our diets. It doesn’t have to be this way, says Susan Bowerman, RD, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. “When done right, (snacking) keeps your energy levels up and gives you more opportunities to get in all your nutritional needs.”
Luckily this article does not SNACK SHAME us (how dare they!) by focusing on issues (fine, important issues) such as tooth decay and weight gain, but gives us some actually delicious sounding snacks that help burn fat. It’s not necessarily new information, but I like the way they think.
Ricotta cheese is rich in protein, and pears are a good source of fiber. Together with a teaspoon of cinnamon, they make a delicious snack for any time of day. Each serving contains 8 g protein, 5 g fiber, and 170 calories.
Eating snacks with the right ratio of nutrients, with the right calories, will help keep you body energized and help you lose weight. Protein (plus exercise) fuels the growth of lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolic rate and increases calorie burn. Fiber, meanwhile, helps improve digestion and keeps you from binging on fats and sugars. So while there’s no food that will literally “burn fat” while you eat it, smart choices with these ingredients will help your body operate at maximum efficiency. Bowerman suggests snacks under 200 calories, with 10 grams of protein and close to 5 grams of fiber. Here are 20 of our favorite fat-burning snacks.
Lentils are a good source of iron, a metabolism-boosting nutrient that 20% of us don’t get enough of. This savory recipe makes four 180-calorie servings, with 10 grams each of protein and fiber.
Thanks, yahoo! I definitely want to try the lentil dip…and there are plenty of other recipes to try. Does anyone else have any healthy, delicious snacking suggestions? Please do share!
(Images courtesy of Yahoo!)
Although it has since been cancelled, the reality TV show “Ruby” that began in 2008 is one of the most intimate and honest portrayal of the journey of significant weight-loss that I have seen. Other shows, such as “My 600 Pound Life” (which I just watched recently), try to condense and almost glorify the struggle, as they tend to gloss over the immense psychological and physical issues that these severely obese people face every single day. “Ruby” delves deeper, exploring the many realms and facets of family, friendships, childhood, adulthood, food, exercise, mental well-being, career, relationships that play roles in the weight-loss challenge.
“Changing her life to save it.” That’s an important motto that I think everyone, even those who don’t struggle with weight issues, can learn from. The changes she needs to make are absolutely vital.
[Ruby] starts the show weighing more than 477 lbs (she originally weighed over 700 lbs.) Ruby works with nutritionists, doctors, and trainers to lose weight, all the while commenting honestly and often humorously about the experience. The show also deals with the everyday life issues a morbidly obese person can face, such as the difficulty in using airplane bathrooms.
Each episode I have seen (and this has only been a few, but I’m still intrigued and inspired) has dealt with unique issues: a support group for obese women, a rekindling with an old romance, the question of whether motherhood is even an option when her weight is so out of control, supporting a teen to compete in a plus-size beauty pageant. And the episode that most impacted me was “The Thinner Child,” where Ruby and her friends go to a six day weight-loss retreat to deal with the emotional and physical impact of their history on their weight. They engage in talk therapy as well as alternative therapy opportunities, such as psychodramatics, while being coached and encouraged in their diet and exercise.
A role-playing game done for one of the participants proved successful. [One friend's] father abused her mother when she was a child. Other participants played the parts of the family, while [the friend] took out her anger by beating a cushion with a bat. And, she felt her negative feeling released from her body.
The group also had another session of “gentle eating,” which we saw in the previous episode. It’s about eating a meal slowly, smelling the food, and no talking.
The last of the “life mapping” was Ruby’s. Needless to say, it was an emotional undertaking as she went over her missing childhood and heartbreaks in romance. The theme in Ruby’s life is that “everybody leaves.”
The women left the six-day intensive retreat with a newfound confidence that they can better control their eating habits.
I found this to be very powerful, especially since I worked at a weight-loss camp (and, for older clients, a “retreat”) and found it extremely frustrating that the psychological aspects of weight-loss and weight gain were barely dealt with. Getting to the root of why your relationship with food is the way it is, why your relationship with your body is destructive and painful, and why each individual must go through their own unique journey in order to come to terms with themselves is crucial and too often ignored. And even though this show is no longer on the air, it contained a powerful message: that there are many facets to the change that is required for significant and long-lasting weight loss and that this process if most definitely a journey. And by sharing this process (with her friends and her audience), this journey does not have to be made alone.
(Image courtesy of Patheos)
Your hankering for that yummy Big Mac could suddenly vaporize if you knew how far you’d have to walk to burn it off.
We now have more access to the calorie content of food, on packaging and even some restaurant menus.
But a new study published in the journal Appetite out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found a different tactic might help.
Jill Richardson has an interesting article on AlterNet:
Did you hear the news? Now it’s healthy to be fat! It turns out that your smug skinny friend who eats broccoli and runs marathons should have been eating fast food and watching TV this whole time. Right?
Well, maybe not. A new study  published in the Journal of the American Medical Association…
The Processed Food Industry has been commended for creating foods that have made it easy for us to consume in our busy and hectic lives - but are these foods good for us? Here is what the processed food industry doesn't want the basic consumer to know:
- Processed foods are addictive and can cause you to overeat. Eating highly processed or highly concentrated foods can artificially stimulate dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter), which plays a role in addiction.