body image

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Are you ugly? Are you like me?

by Colette Coughlin posting for Theresa Sullivan

My friend Theresa has struggled with anorexia and body image for as long as she can remember, and has just started blogging about it in hopes of helping her teenage daughter get through some really difficult times. I am posting one of her recent blog entries that really touched me. You can follow her blog and give her some encouragement to keep sharing so honestly at:

 Are You Ugly? Are you like Me?

It is funny how my daughter always seems to pick up on the underlying current beneath the obvious daily routines. Yesterday she showed me a song....Are you ugly? The "Exies" do this song. The words that echo in my head....... Are you ugly.... a liar like me........ a sickness so pure's no cure... we are dirt.... we are alone......we are afraid...... you know it's far from over.......I'm sure the words are not complete or in the correct order, but to me the message is clear..... Are you ugly? Are you like me?

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Body Image Drugs

By Judith Brisson

I work part-time as a landscaper at my pal Bar’s golf course and last week I overheard a sustained bout of shouting coming from the direction of the club house. Later, when I asked him what all the yelling was about, he explained that he reacted badly to the news that his daughter was planning to become a plastic surgeon. Even though in previous entries I’ve taken a stand mostly against the use of plastic surgery as a means to looking prettier, I don’t feel the same kind of electric revulsion as my friend Bar.

I even visited a plastic surgeon one time to discuss options, costs and risks associated with the types of surgery I was considering.  Pregnancy for me meant a weight gain that nearly doubled my size; this was followed by intense dieting that was nearly anorexic, so there was a lot of loose flesh floating around. Instead of spending my money on plastic surgery, I decided to start exercising.

The gain and loss of nearly 100 pounds within two years produced a bad case of hypoglycemia, a condition I still have to this day. Even though I didn’t take the risk of surgery, I did damage my health by insisting on losing the weight so quickly. All this misery accomplished even without the help of body image drugs.

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Mind vs. Body wars; binging, purging and other disorderly nastiness

by Colette Coughlin

Finally we are in an era when people are more openly admitting to having deep inner struggles with themselves. Eating disorders have slowly started being acknowledged by at least a few of those who suffer from them, albeit usually only in the past tense, and when there is a victorious outcome to report. No one wants to talk about it when they’re in the midst of it, probably because they don’t want to admit to having so little “self-control”.

Yet, in my experience, that’s exactly what it’s about… control. Or lack of it, the desire to maintain some, or the helplessness of not having any, or enough. Taking firm control of what we eat or don’t eat, when, where, with whom, and how much, is often a quite normal reaction to feelings of powerlessness in other areas of our lives. We may be feeling dependent or restrained by parents, a spouse or a colleague, by our financial situation, our life’s work or our self-esteem. Any of these issues, when unprocessed, can wreak enough havoc to cause the mind to declare war on its best friend, the body, because it’s not getting what it wants, when it wants, in the way it wants it. And it (the unconscious mind) simply doesn’t yet have the tools to deal with things differently.
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There is a Should Not

By Judith Brisson

The credo there is no should when it comes to the expression of our deepest sexual desires needs to be accompanied by a small caveat writ large - between consenting adults.

The myriad forms of sexual practice pass muster today, at least legally, in most Western nations, reflecting Canada’s Justice Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s attitude, in 1967, when he said

“there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”.

That statement introduced an Omnibus bill into the Canadian Parliament legalizing homosexual sex and abortion, and transforming the social countenance of Canada in one fell swoop.

Where there is a should, or better phrased, a should not, is in the realm of the sexual exploitation of children. Recent reports in the media of priests, teachers, principals, or coaches transgressing the sacred line that divides the adult from the child to consummate a sexual relationship indicates that the parameters that delineate these moral distinctions are in flux.

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by Colette Coughlin

If we don’t like our bodies, there’s a good chance there’s something deeper about ourselves that is not quite in line with who we truly are and how we really need to live our lives.

We think it’s all up to us… we think we make all the choices… but do we? Just how much control do you think you really have over your existence, your talents, your circumstances… and over your looks? Do you think it was up to you whether you’d be black or white, male or female, homosexual or heterosexual, tall or short, big-busted or flat-chested? Even for your parents, most of these things about you came as complete surprise!

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Female body image; the search for REAL visuals

by Colette Coughlin

This is one of my less-flattering self-portraits; not only could I not stand the sight of myself that day, I was also in a nasty mood. I took pictures anyways and later turned this one into a drawing.  By the time I'd finishing sketching my scowl, I'd forgotten the disgust I felt about the picture. Everybody has rotten days, feels ugly, wishes things were different sometimes. So what? This too, passes... yet the visual models (as in examples) most of us feel we need to live up to are rarely less than super-models. Super made-up, super-fixed-up, super dressed-up people with ideal figures who we see on every magazine cover, poster, publicity, movie, and TV show we come across. It's become so pervasive that we've forgotten it's not real life!

I share my scowling self with you hoping it might make you feel better about how you look... but how often do we really see people, regular people, at their less-than-best, particularly when it comes to nudity?

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Something For Every Body: Self Reflection

(At The Mirror, Otto Dix, 1921)

By Millie Jackson

The world, like a mirror, reflects back to us who we are. Anais Nin said it well:

“We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are."

We have a choice whether to look at ourselves or not. I assume that all things have deeper meaning than what is at face value and that everyone and everything I encounter is showing me aspects of myself. Reflecting on my life’s circumstances and whom and what I experience expands my opportunities to learn about me.

I look at things metaphorically. This is how I see our bodies’ physical symptoms. Fixating on just the physical often misses the point. True healing can occur when the issues that underlie our physical symptomology are addressed, be they mental, emotional and/or spiritual. This may seem like a cumbersome way to experience life, but being stuck in unproductive patterns can be far more burdensome.

Have you ever looked deep into your own eyes? It was a profound experience for me, the first time I did. Louise Hay, guru of positivity, introduced me to “mirror work”, a simple yet amazingly effective tool for getting in touch with our body and improving our self-image.

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Naked in the Bush

by Judith Brisson

I spent some time in Nature this week, a respite from the break-neck rhythm of the city that slows only in the wee hours. Something about being in Nature makes me want to rip of my clothes, and roll, like Margret Atwood’s heroine in Survival, in the clean filth of leaves and mud.

It’s an instinct I felt the first time I moved to the countryside as a young mother. Never having truly inhabited the forest before, I would sneak out of the house when things were quiet and disappear into my secret, sacred moss-covered spot where I would strip down to my bare essence and sit on a rock. It took a few weeks before I understood this compulsion: it was the expression my desire to fully connect with the natural world around me.

It was if the natural world had its own set of eyes free from comparisons, judgments and assessments of the sort that one feels when walking into a Gamercy Park party dressed in gardener’s clothes. One yearns to be engulfed and caressed by the gentle brushing of leaves, washed by the tender drizzle of rain and not ranked by brands, labels and looks.

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CRIPPLED BY IMAGE CONCERNS; Mind-based body battles

By Colette Coughlin


Author’s note: I have been working on body image using myself as a model for quite a few years now. Although I have come to a place of relative peace with my body over the last year, I recently came across this frustrated entry in a diary I had written shortly before things starting getting better for me. Although there were some outside influences that helped, the transformation was mostly from the inside, and it took some uncomfortable soul-searching to unravel the knots I describe below… can you identify with this?


Style / image / branding / performance /make-overs /age-defying / enhancing….


“How do I look?”


My boyfriend knows the only possible answer to this question is something along the lines of “fabulous” or “perfect” or “stunning”. “Beautiful” will do, too, but nothing less than that, ever!! And he knows that if I disagree, no matter what he says he can’t change my mind anyways.


My brain is crippled by caring too much about how I look. My mind wastes hours every day worrying about my weight, my skin, my hair, and my clothing. It is difficult to get out of the house every morning, for work or for play, unless I can convince myself that I’ve passed my self-imposed damn-near impossible tests of acceptability.

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