Transgender and Eating Disorders

Transgender and Eating Disorders

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD
Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

It has long been said that eating disorders don’t discriminate: we know they affect people of all ages, education levels, ethnic backgrounds, lifestyles and genders.  We’ve become clear that it affects middle-age women at an alarming rate, is on the rise in underdeveloped countries and impacts males as well as females. Yet little has been researched on the prevalence of eating disorders among the transgender community.  However, the research is slowly emerging, giving us some insight on the impact felt in this community.

One study of 289,024 college students found that transgender students, compared to cisgender students, are almost five times as likely to report an eating disorder and two times as likely to use unhealthy compensatory methods (e.g., vomiting) for weight control.*  Another study of almost 2,500 teenagers shows that transgender individuals are almost three times as likely to restrict their eating, almost nine times as likely to take diet pills, and seven times as likely to take laxatives.*

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Learning to be the Expert of Your Own Body

Learning to be the Expert of Your Own Body

Stephanie-Burstein
Stephanie Burstein, MFT, Registered Intern, Child & DBT Coach

We live in a society filled with mixed messages about body image, health, and what loving ourselves truly means – it can be overwhelming!  How do we navigate the confusion and learn how to be experts of our own bodies?  What does it take to deconstruct social myths about health, replacing fallacies with a greater understanding that each body is unique and wonderfully different? 

Luckily, there is an organization dedicated to teaching others how to have healthy relationships with their bodies.  The Body Positive, based in California, empowers individuals through trainings and public awareness.  This past month, I was thrilled to participate in The Body Positive’s professional training at Florida Atlantic University.  Participants learned about the Core Competencies of Intuitive Health Model, found in the organization’s book, embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice!).  I am excited to share what I learned and hope you embark on your own journey towards body acceptance.  The following competencies can stand alone, but when combined they create an enormous feeling of empowerment and positive change.   Here is my take on each competency:

(1) Reclaiming Health

Working at the Oasis has taught me to take an intuitive and mindful approach to life.  By developing a mindfulness practice that has helped me identify my body’s needs, I have embraced a health-centered approach to self-care versus society’s weight-centered tactics.

(2) Practice Intuitive Self-Care

Self-care is not a cookie cutter process – it’s about listening to your body’s needs, not what society thinks you need.  My intuitive self-care routine varies from movement to creativity.  If I am feeling restless at my computer, I will walk.  Intuitive self-care helps you cultivate a more authentic version of yourself.

(3) Cultivate Self-Love

Learning to love yourself will help you discover self-compassion.  Self-compassion means practicing care and understanding for ourselves, and providing validation when things don’t go our way.  The more self-compassion and love we have for ourselves, the more likely we are to take chances and make life-affirming choices.

(4) Declare Authentic Beauty

Once we have cultivated self-love, we open ourselves to authentic beauty.  Authentic beauty means that we are able to see others and ourselves from a compassionate perspective rather than society’s perspective of superficial beauty.  We are able to appreciate our own beauty for its uniqueness.

(5) Build a Community

This competency espouses finding people who share your vision of self-compassion and health.  Individually, we may find it difficult to change the media and society, but together we are able to empower each other by creating a community where principles of self-love and compassion take precedence over harsh judgments.

I look forward to incorporating The Body Positive’s core competenticies into my life, both personally and professionally.  For more information,  visit thebodypositive.org.

Early Morning Movement by Anni Johnston, MS, LMHC, BC-DMT

Anni Johnston1

Our lives can be so busy that we can burst past opportunities to enjoy the “slow moments” of our lives.  The first moments upon waking are such an opportunity.  Rather than jump out of bed and get moving straight away, why not try the following body-focused techniques to promote greater peace, gratitude, and centeredness in your day.  Done together or as you please on a daily basis, it can change the way you relate to loved ones, your work, and yourself.

First thing even before opening your eyes, try taking a few moments to place your hands upon your uppper chest and notice your beating heart and moving lungs.  This is a way to connect to the wisdom that pulses through you all day, every day.  Before moving your hands, try focusing on those things for which you feel gratitude, big or small, and allow this sense of gratitude to permeate your chest.  The same approach can be taken with the diaphragm (the soft area just below your rib cage).  Let your hands rest very gently here and notice the ease at which your breath moves through your body.  A beautiful meditation option is to bring into focus small ways in which you have received gifts, support, or unexpected good events.

You can take the time to do some simple stretches even before you leave the bed.  Of course if you still have a sleeping spouse or partner, you might choose to do these on a carpet, but if you’re able, it can feel quite luxurious to stretch while still cozy in bed!  Here are some ideas – pick one or two, or do the whole sequence:

• Circle your feet, first in one direction, then in the other.  Repeat this with your hands.

• Stretch your arms above your head while simultaneously stretching your feet away from your hips. Hold this for a few moments, then repeat.

• Let your head turn all the way to the right, then extend the left arm at an angle away from the shoulder joint.  Repeat on the other side.

• Bring your knees up into a tent position; let them fall to the right and then twist the upper torso to the left.  Hold this for a few moments.  Repeat on the other side.

• Prop your upper torso up upon your elbows and let your head hang backwards while opening up your chest, follow this with laying flat again and curling your knees into your chest.

• End with some invigorating breaths such as “breath of fire”.  While keeping your mouth closed, breathe deeply and vigorously, emphasizing the navel contracting strongly towards the spine.  15-25 is plenty to energize you, but you may add another sequence if you are feeling sluggish.

These are some simple suggestions for interjecting new ways for self-care.  As always, honor the limits of the body and approach these as gifts you can give yourself.  Enjoy!

Got FATTITUDE?

In May, Team Oasis had the pleasure of meeting Lindsey Averill, feminist activist, scholar, and filmmaker.  Averill, a PhD candidate at Florida Atlantic University, is currently working on her first documentary.  Fattitude explores representations of overweight people in popular culture, which often include unflattering stereotypes, discrimination, and ridicule. Through interviews with scholars and activists, Fattitude reveals to viewers that every body is worthy of love, pleasure, and acceptance.

Ms. Averill shared the Fattitude trailer, as well as unreleased clips.  After viewing, we spoke passionately about the objectification of women’s bodies, the false correlation between thinness and health, and even fatkinis.  It was evident to all in attendance that cultural perceptions of body image need to be examined and discussed openly, regardless of the reactions of others.

Fattitude is an ambitious project currently in its post-production stages.  Fundraising efforts have already generated over $44,000; however, costs have proven to be higher than anticipated.  Here is what we ask of you:

  1. View the trailer at:  http://www.fattitudethemovie.com/
  2. Help spread the word!  Discuss Fattitude with friends, family, and co-workers.
  3. Follow Fattitude on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  4. If you feel compelled to give, make a tax-deductible donation.

Just this past weekend, body shaming made national news.  We cannot wait for Fattitude to change minds and hearts.  What are your thoughts?