Body shaming and fat talk: they need to stop.

As always, this is a post that’s been brewing in my head for some time. 
No time like the present to babble, right?

So here’s the thing. Body shaming and fat talk NEED to stop. I don’t think there’s a single person out there who would disagree. But there’s a problem, a disconnect. Because despite everyone agreeing – it’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. Fast. 

I could get into the statistics of eating disorders, of body image issues, I could tell you real-life stories and point you to news clips and articles. And every single one of you will nod your head, agree that this is a huge problem, that it needs to stop.

But very few of you will do anything. The majority of you will go to work tomorrow and talk about how many “points” you’re eating during lunch. You’ll talk about how you want a piece of candy mid-morning but that you shouldn’t. You’ll compliment your co-worker on how she looks, which will make you think about what you don’t like about yourself, and more likely than not, she will dismiss it with a, “yeah right, I wish.” You’ll then start the back-and-forth of well at least you fit into a size ___ and well that’s only because I went to the gym last night and yeah, I wish I could eat anything I want. And the funny thing, that’s not so funny? It’s pointless. It will leave you feeling worse than you did before. And maybe you’ll realize that, maybe you won’t. But it fuels the fire. And my god, this fire has got to be put out.

Now. That’s a huge generalization. I realize that. I’m trying to make a point. And yes, there’s commiserating. There are absolutely days that I complain to a co-worker or a friend about how I’m bloated or don’t love my outfit, or just feel uncomfortable in my body. I might make a comment and move on. Because I’m human. And in that case, it’s beneficial. But the opposite? Where that turns into the constant back and forth that truly is less about comfort and commiserating and more about who has it “worse”? Pointless. Ineffective. Makes everything worse.

Ask yourself. When you’re sitting at lunch with your co-workers, does it REALLY make you feel wonderful inside to engage in 20-minute conversation about who ate more or less, who is or isn’t losing weight, who has the worst body image, who has or hasn’t gone to the gym for how many hours? Really? Or does it make you feel better if you have a pleasant lunch, talk about work or your families or the news or LIFE, and allow the food to go into your body to nourish it without consciously or unconsciously making yourself feel guilty for it?

Body shaming and fat talk need to stop because they don’t accomplish anything positive. And, they need to stop because as they continue to be present in our day-to-day interactions, they’re ruining our relationships. Sometimes if I’m around certain people, I almost feel like I can’t contribute to their conversations unless I engage in body shaming conversations. It’s all people talk about. I’ve sat at lunch before, silent, because I have absolutely nothing to say other than “for the love of god, PLEASE stop talking about this.” Somehow, our relationships have become largely about competition, about dragging each other down, about focusing on flaws and negativity and spiraling it further and further for each other. 

I know this isn’t going to change anything. You’ll nod and silently agree. And then, most likely, nothing will change tomorrow. But maybe? Just maybe…you’ll hold back those comments tomorrow. Maybe you’ll talk about the weather, about work, about a book you’re reading. Maybe you’ll notice what someone else is eating and silently acknowledge it without focusing on it. Maybe when you find yourself wanting to tell someone how “lucky” they are, for whatever body/food reason, you’ll let that thought float out of your head. And maybe you’ll realize – you’re happier that way.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained”

That is the quote that I have heard umpteen times from my mom. My brother and I used to joke about it, because Mom said it so often. Of course, unsurprisingly, she was always right. We’d hear that when we were worried to ask a teacher for an extension on an assignment, when we were anxious about roommate troubles, when we wanted to negotiate jobs and salaries. A million times I’ve heard it. And it’s always been true. 

Mom would always remind us that the worst thing that could happen is someone would say “no”. No, I can’t give you that extension on your paper; no, I won’t wash my dishes; no, your job start date isn’t flexible. The worst that would happen is hearing that “no,” and yet, hearing that “no” wasn’t so bad at all. It was always worth it to know, rather than wonder, What would’ve happened if I had asked/spoken up? Plus – we could spend our whole lives thinking about doing things, wishing we were, or we could just DO them and see what happened, because chances were that what would happen would be a good thing.

And that’s how I feel about blogging. Yet another perfect example. I was scared to blog, then I was scared to tell my close friends and family, then I was scared to share it on Twitter and Facebook. And, for what? I spent so much time thinking about what would happen if people read it, wondering what their reactions would be, but once I actually did it, I felt great. I heard Mom’s voice in my head, advising me, “The worst thing that could happen is that people don’t read it, or they don’t like it.” And you know what? That’s not actually so bad. Because ultimately, this blog is for ME. And I’ve always maintained that if even one person gained something from even one of my posts, it was successful.

Plus – there would never be a “perfect time” to do it. I started to realize that I would never wake up one day and be 100% certain that I wanted to share my inner thoughts with the world. But if that perfect time was never happening….I might as well just go for it. And maybe someone will read it and be glad I wrote. Or maybe not. It doesn’t matter.

So I’ve already gained something from it. And I’m glad I ventured out.

Thanks, Mom! <3 

Learning Rambles 2

I have been avoiding writing this. Shocker, I know. I (still) feel like I have to justify my writing, put out the disclaimer that it might not be that good, so that if it ISN’T that good, I already prepared myself and won’t be let down. Or something. But anyway.

I wrote Learning Rambles the other week, and more and more thoughts are swirling in my mind. I finished reading Your Brain on Childhood, and we just finished two horrendous weeks of administering MCAS (state testing), and all of that combined is making me think.

Our education system is SO messed up. For all students. And/but especially for mine, who are all special ed students.

During MCAS, my students were required to sit in a room and read grade-level texts, and answer grade-level questions, when they often aren’t at grade level. My 7th grader struggled through the reading comprehension part. She reads at a 2nd grade level independently. She got frustrated. Yes, I could read out loud to her. No, that didn’t help. She has a language disorder among other learning disabilities. The point is that there is this push toward getting all kids on grade level. And this push is doing more damage than good.

There is SO much research to state that kids don’t learn best when they are stuck in a classroom all day. Many studies, even other countries who do it better than we do, demonstrate that less homework, more time outside, more free play time, and more time to focus on what they’re interested in, make happier, more creative kids. AND, most importantly, it does NOT hinder development of intelligence! That’s the problem. That’s the fear, the false belief. Neuroscience, psychology, it all shows that kids are meant to learn and develop in one way. And our educational system is forcing them into another way.

And we wonder why anxiety, depression, attention issues, etc., are all on the rise? 

Grade level shouldn’t be the goal. That’s not to say that learning isn’t important, that acquiring new knowledge isn’t important.

Grade level doesn’t mean anything. I’m sorry, I know that’s a bold statement, but it doesn’t. Many of my kids are nowhere near “grade level” but have far more skills in various other areas of intelligence than I do. “Grade level” does not equal happiness. It does not equal success. It does not equal a future.

“Grade level” is an idealistic term, a way of trying to cram every student into a box, when in reality, most students don’t fit in that box. “Grade level” is why I hear parent after parent of elementary and middle school kids stress in IEP meetings, saying, “If she isn’t reading at grade level, how will she ever graduate high school or go to college?” 

Along with the “grade level” issue is the “teach to the test.” I wrote, a few weeks ago, about how my students seem to learn more, and are happier and calmer, more creative and more interested, when we are learning about things THEY want to learn about, things they naturally stumble upon. And oh, how I want to do that all day every day. But I feel like I’m in a constant battle. I can’t NOT teach them how to answer inferential comprehension questions from random reading passages, because that’s what’s required for them to pass MCAS, and to graduate high school. And even for those parents, and there are so many of them, who have similar opinions as I do – what are they supposed to do? We are in the minority. What will we do – band together and decide to boycott MCAS and extracurriculars and homework? Sounds pretty ideal and great to me – except when, because the system is so flawed, these kids aren’t going to get into college, because despite being clearly intelligent and creative, they don’t have a high school diploma (not from not learning, but from not passing a standardized test that in no way captures what a student actually knows and is capable of), nor do they have 100 hours of extracurriculuar activities to “prove themselves”. 

I just don’t get how that is fair. I don’t get it at all. It frustrates me to no end because I feel stuck. I have these beliefs and what I know are truths – and I also have the system. And I’m not strong enough to fight against the system. 

If you have made it through this incredibly disorganized and not even remotely logical rant, kudos to you. Dare I say it, I want to hear what you have to say. 

Do you understand what I’m saying? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you have a way of explaining what I’m trying to get at that’s much more succinct and cohesive than how I said it? Is this an uphill battle that isn’t worth fighting?

What do you think?

 

Thoughts that have been collecting

Included, but not limited to:

-I hate MCAS. Hate it hate it hate it. That’s about as profound as I can get right now on that topic.

-During a break from MCAS with one of my 5th graders, I witnessed pure bliss and joy as we scripted a Garfield episode. His smile and laugh – amazing.

-Yoga tonight was sweaty and exhausting and great. I was in my body and grounded and feel wonderful.

-Fat talk needs to stop now. Period.

-I did two things that I had been avoiding and feel so good about it

-Today felt and smelled different – very clearly Spring-like. Hopeful.

-Hearing different philosophies and beliefs about the soul, the body, what happens after death, is incredibly draining but very thought-provoking, and dare I say, somewhat comforting.

I found my calm.

This morning I was anxious. Probably for a few reasons I could figure out, for a few others that I’m ignoring or avoiding, and a few that have not yet been excavated.

Anyway, I debated going to yoga or staying home on the couch under blankets. I love the Saturday morning class. But I had gone to yoga Thursday night, seeking grounding and calm, and got frustrated with myself. I couldn’t get out of my head, I couldn’t ground myself, I couldn’t quiet my thoughts. I left yoga judging myself MORE (productive, right?), texting a friend, “Yoga is supposed to be the ONE place where I can ground myself.”

Now, obviously judging how you’re feeling is like, the least productive thing in the entire world, but when you’re in the moment, it’s easier said than done. But, nevertheless, I got dressed and went to yoga. The anxiety in my stomach was swirling but I walked into the studio, put my mat in my favorite spot, stretched a bit, and lay down on my back, putting my hand on my belly, trying to feel myself breathe.

All of a sudden, a sweet voice popped into my head, saying, “Find your calm.” It was Brooke, an adorable, amazing girl, that despite never having met in person, I feel a deep connection with from the way her mom invites us into her head and her life, and because she reminds me so so much of all of my wonderful kids I work with. 

“Find your calm” became my mantra as I breathed in and out, and by the time class began, I had found it. My thoughts slowed down, my heart slowed down, I breathed deeply and felt myself relax.

Brooke: I hope one day I can tell you this, and I hope you understand, but please know that YOU helped ME find my calm.

Initiation

When my students have Occupational Therapy testing done, one item that is evaluated is their ability to initiate a task. I joked to a coworker the other day that initiation is the measure I would score lowest on.

There is often so much that I need to do and want to do. And I know that if I just started, I would get going, and I’d feel better about it. But I cannot, for the life of me, get myself to start.

I sit there knowing I would feel better if I just DID the thing I was avoiding, or putting off…..and yet, I can’t do it.

Why is that? What is it about starting a task that seems so dreadful, so daunting, so much that we end up avoiding? Why is it that this occurs even for pleasurable tasks?

How do we just DO IT, at least start it, especially when we know we will feel so much better once we get the ball rolling?

Do you ever avoid tasks? Do you struggle to begin something? What works for you?

Learning rambles

This is going to be incoherent but I have to write before I lose the thoughts and the concepts deep into the folds of my brain, never to be even partially articulated. 

I’m reading a book. It’s called Your Brain on Childhood, by Gabrielle Principe. I’ve only read about 60 pages so far, but I’m captivated. It’s very research-heavy, citing lots of studies regarding child development, animal development, and ultimately the clear theme is that our kids aren’t being kids. Between phones, ipads, computers (all screens), lack of true “play” time (which is actually a necessity for kids! It’s how they learn – truly learn! Not just memorize what they’ve been taught), and a push to be fastersmarterwisermoredeveloped, we’re causing more problems than we’re solving. In trying to help our kids be smart and brilliant and successful, we’re actually doing the opposite sometimes.

Now, I speak as someone who is NOT a researcher, not an expert in human development, not (yet) a mother. So I can’t speak with fact or certainty. But I can speak intuitively, and I can speak from experience, with about a zillion kiddos, all across the spectrum.

And I can observe. And notice what is hardly a surprise: that the rise in learning disabilities is increasing. That more and more kids are on IEPs. That more and more kids are falling behind in school, and more and more kids are hating school. That anxiety and depression are consuming kids younger and younger. I can’t convince myself that this is random, that there’s no reason behind this. Why is it, well, I can’t state with certainty. But from my observations, of my own students and my friends’ children? I’m observing the amount of homework is increasing. That kids have less and less time to play. That more of an emphasis is placed on MCAS and other state testing. That the “fun” units can’t be taught in school because there’s no time. That kids are taught rules and things to memorize but there’s no time to learn what they want. There’s no more time to learn naturally. 

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that my most successful speech/language therapy sessions are the ones in which we veer off course and have a completely child-directed, randomly-flowing, session. It can’t be a coincidence that my students seem to learn more when we’re talking about something that they brought up or noticed. It can’t be coincidental that what they seem to retain most comes from natural learning opportunities, and often ones they have brought upon themselves.

I don’t know what else to say. There are clearly a lot of thoughts in my head and I realize this is anything but coherent, and probably full of vast accusations and gross generalizations. But I gave you the disclaimer that this is based on absolutely no fact, nothing but my own brain, my life, my experiences. I’m sure they’ll be more to come, more to say, and maybe some cohesiveness eventually. But in the meantime?

Does anyone else, whether you’re a student, a professional, a parent, get this? Feel the same way? Totally disagree? Tell me your thoughts. It’s okay if they’re not based on anything other than the neurons firing in your head.