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From the kitchen table

From the kitchen table

Thin may be in – but being body positive’s where it’s at!

There is way too much pressure on women to be thin, says our columnist, who believes social media, for all its wonderful aspects, is having a negative effect, causing ‘an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents’…

In the materialistic, image-obsessed world we live in, there are so many negative impulses and influences on us to have the body beautiful – especially for us women, so it’s vital we listen to the important messages our bodies are sending us. I mean, it may seem obvious but I’m going to say it anyway…we should respond to our natural urges to eat when hungry and to stop when full. Simple isn’t it!

  However, sometimes, there is an overwhelming pressure to judge and compare ourselves to others. This begins when a slow desperation creeps in and, very often it becomes impossible to conquer. This desperation is all about insecurity, survival and the will to control our own destiny. How do I know? Been there, done that! This desperation can even lead to destructive impulses; the type that are felt by every person who has suffered from the debilitating and chronic effects of the illnesses known as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa; ailments that are becoming far more common, but, popular to what sufferers believe, do NOT, in any shape or form,  create the body beautiful. In fact they destroy it!

  I thought I’d address this issue in light of last week’s appalling headlines surrounding Zara Tindall (Britain’s Princess Anne’s daughter) who was lambasted by unkind critics for turning up at that over-hyped and highly privileged pomp fest Royal Ascot displaying what critics are calling a ‘mum tum.’ Now while I feel no solidarity whatsoever with the British Royal family I do feel so sorry for this young woman who was forced to defend herself, even rebutting rumours that she was ‘pregnant,’ just because her hip bones don’t protrude far enough to set off airline security scanners.

  It’s my opinion there is way too much pressure on women to be thin and this fact was highlighted  earlier this month when the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland Bodywhys said they saw a 50 per cent increase in the number of people contacting their services last year for help. 

  Now, for me, this would be a cause for concern because it’s my belief that anorexia and bulimia can strike anyone at any time; however, many sufferers will never admit to falling prey to this heartbreaking disorder because they’re afraid of its implications. Due to this, I would advise that the most important thing for those who are suffering is to understand that they’re not alone and to remember that as they are vibrant, valuable members of society; are daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, husbands, brothers mums and dads; people will understand and will want to help.

  I don’t have any medical training but research has led me to believe that in most cases of eating disorders, the sufferer has previously undergone difficult life experiences such as bullying or has possibly been through the untimely death of a loved one. These experiences are nearly always accompanied by feelings of depression and/or a compulsive obsessive disorder which is likely to be a contributing factor.

  I also understand the myth that anorexia sufferers hate their food is just that…a myth. Sufferers actually like their food but their bodies are the one thing they can have complete control over meaning their bodies and food become the enemy. As I said, just my understanding.

  There’s hardly a day goes by that my Facebook page isn’t showered with images shared by friends of some photo-shopped, perfect, fabulous, flawless yet impossibly skinny model which surely must cause psychological and negative effects to many women.  I know I feel distinctly dowdy, frumpy, ugly and old when I see them. And last week when I was uploading a group photo onto Facebook one of the women in it warned me – now didn’t ask me mind, she warned me – not to attempt to tag her in it unless I’d first ‘instagrammed’ her!

  Yes she’s become all kinds of obsessed with Instagram and has, along with my two daughters become part of its reported 300 million active monthly users. This meant contouring her jawline, widening and brightening her eyes, making her lips look fuller, altering her skin tone and doing God knows what else rendering her totally unrecognisable to the beautiful woman she actually is.   

  “Seriously?”  I asked; “sure if you want to look like that love, we’ll need a Genie in the camera not a filter system,” but hey, given what happened to poor, put-upon Royal, Zara Tindall when some happy snapper caught her belly at a bad angle; I suppose my friend had a point and as I’m one of the few people who do not subscribe to Instagram…no, what ya see is what ya get with me; I had to bow to her wishes and didn’t upload the pic.

  But look readers, it’s no secret that the big bad world of social media, wonderful though it is, and much as I love and embrace it, has actually caused an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents; becoming a dominant, mostly positive but often negative force in their everyday lives with some allocating way too much time and putting way too much relevance on image-related activities in their desperate bid to self-objectify and reach their so-called perfect idyll.

  We would do well to take a leaf out of the unperturbed Zara Tindall’s book when she replied to those unkind harpies following the circulation of her unflattering photos, dismissing them with “I’m just a normal girl.”  Er, “Normal Girl” with millions in the bank sweetie. But nonetheless she’s a girlie who oozes self-belief and self-esteem and I for one, tip my tiara to her.

* For more information/help on eating disorders log onto www.bodywhys.ie or PH: 1890 200 444 or 01-2834963

 

 

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman!

Well readers, some weeks’ ago we had the disturbing ‘Kylie Jenner Challenge’ where vulnerable and highly susceptible teens were openly encouraged, through a massive social media campaign, to ‘suck shot glasses and blow up your lips to double their size.’

  The painful practice involves young people – and older women of my acquaintance who really should know better – placing their mouth over the opening of a glass or a jar and sucking inwards until the resulting air vacuum caused their lips to swell to an enormous size in the hope of looking like Kylie Jenner.

  The result was a raft of injuries with some teens even requiring hospital treatment due to extensive bruising. Then, just as we thought it was safe to turn on the TV, we were treated to the scary news that soon, in a bid to ‘mammy up’ her image, we will have yet another Kardashian to ‘keep up with,’ when Kim, desperate to keep her publicity generated ‘showmance’ with Kanye alive, announced she’s expecting a playmate for daughter North West.

  Now while I’m delighted to hear a new life has been created and will forever celebrate the wonderful miracle of parenthood, seriously, does the world really need another offspring of a daft-as-a-brush rapper who thinks he’s Jesus and a narcissist who likes to star in her own sex tapes and who cuts the baby out of selfies when she needs to keep the focus on herself?

  Alas it didn’t end there. 48 hours later, we had the promised but over the top unveiling of Bruce “call me Caitlyn” with a ‘C’ and not a ‘K’ Jenner, in order to break with the firm’s sorry family’s tradition of using the letter K as the featured consonant of their forenames.

  How utterly daring and original of you dahling! The world rejoiced, the internet broke and we celebrated a watershed moment as Bruce, (now Caitlyn), the 65-year-old former Olympian and patriarch of the Kardashian/Jenner dynasty prior to his/her transition, decked in a basque, displayed herself seductively across the cover of Vanity Fair and gushed how, deciding on her new moniker and the manner in which to spell it was “one of the hardest things in life.”

  Wow, well aren’t you just a fun filled little sweetie pie, rolled in honey and tripled dipped in your own self-importance! Look readers, as I’m perfectly happy being a woman and have absolutely no idea what it’s like to go through what must be the agonising heartbreak to live life as one gender, while all the time wishing you were another, I have to say the beautifully sculpted, enhanced – if square-jawed and shovel-handed – Caitlyn is hardly entitled to be hailed and celebrated as the new poster girl for the trans gender community, even if some may see her as one.

  In my opinion, and while I respect Caitlyn’s choice, (and envy her fabulous hips), and indeed, I support everyone’s choice to live life in a manner that makes them happiest, there is nothing at all ‘typical’ about this woman’s gender identity struggle.Why?

  Because as Bruce, Caitlyn was a stinking-rich, high profile, powerful celebrity and today, she still is. She still has her millions, she still has her media pulling power, she is still part of brand Kardashian which means she will still command major fees when giving interviews and making guest appearances.

  She is not, in any shape or form – even if that shape is now a fabulous 36-24-36 – ‘typical’ of many in the transgender community who are eeking out a life on the sidelines, are sadly shunned by family and friends and disgracefully often forced out of their jobs and communities due to certain individuals’ inciting hateful discrimination campaigns against them; dramatically and negatively affecting their mental wellbeing.

  You see, due to Jenner’s enormous wealth and celebrity status, her ability to talk pink pedicures with the world’s media, not to mention the fact that her triumphant transformation and global unveiling as a former toothy, all American male athlete to magazine cover girl following a gruelling ten-hour facial feminisation surgical procedure, our heroine will never be disproportionately affected by the ugly realities of life and will continue to enjoy being sheltered and pampered.

  While I congratulate Caitlyn and wish her every happiness, while I salute her for her courage and for raising awareness and recognition of the transgender community, I am profoundly sad that so many people who are enormously resilient, many of whom are young children and teens, are still being forced to spend a lifetime – one that’s very often cut short – supressing their much-yearned for and what they believe to be, true identities.

  Last month our little country made history by supporting marriage equality; last week, Tánaiste Joan Burton announced the application process under the Gender Recognition Bill which will (for those 18 years and upwards) adopt a self-declaration approach allowing for formal recognition and the issuing of a new birth certificate for transgender people who wish to change their name and gender. Ireland, at last, is coming out of the dark ages and there is light at the end of the tunnel for all its citizens. Hmmm, I wonder how many of them will manage to break the internet!

Thongs but, ahem, no thongs!

Most right-thinking readers will probably agree with me when I say that 8-year-old little girls do not need to be sexualised! However, certain buyers in well-known, family-friendly fashion stores are, er, apparently, not most people, because they’ve stocked their shelves with itsy, bitsy, barely-there swimwear…for children!

  It’s a delicate subject I agree, but one I feel I have to address. You see last week, the light of my life, the child who can do absolutely no wrong, my granddaughter, made her First Holy Communion back in Dublin, and while I’d helped her mammy to kit her out for the big day and had the medal and the special card stuffed with the aul spondulicks ready for her – well what are Nanas for if not to spoil their grandchildren – I decided I’d go one step further and surprise her by making up a hamper of holiday clothes for her week away in the sun.

  Now, while I’m all for kids looking fantastic, I firmly believe they should still look like kids, but such was the calibre of skimpy, spaghetti-strapped triangle bras and thigh-high cut-thong briefs displayed on the store rails, rendering me, a very liberal, live-and-let-live type of person, so shocked and disgusted I decided to go out to the front of the store again, you know, just in case my muddled, menopausal mind had missed the memo that Ann Summers had set up shop in Roscommon and I’d unknowingly stumbled into it.

  Locating the manager in this well-known chain store, I asked if anyone working in this organisation had children and if so, which of them decided that body-revealing items of clothing were appropriate, informing him that in my opinion his stock was highly unsuitable, unnecessary and potentially harmful; especially given that the age range was from 3 to 12 years.

  I mean, some items even had padded cupped bras!!! And no, there is nothing at all wrong with your eyesight, that’s what I wrote. Look, call me stupid, but I was under the impression padded cups were for the sole purpose of providing support for boobs, and what 3-year-old has boobs? But hey, what would I know?

  Look, I’m definitely not condemning anyone for putting a bikini on their little daughter (not even you, Kim Kardashian). After all, I was trying to buy my granddaughter swimwear and wasn’t fussy as to whether it was a few bikinis or some fru fru all in one swim suits – and while I know that most parents retain a modicum of common sense and dress their children appropriately – there are obviously some diehards who see nothing immoral in allowing a small child to don a pair of dental floss knickers and a push-up bra, because, as the store manager hummed and hawed, he did have a point when he said, “that’s the fashion madam, shoppers want this type of gear for their kids.”

  “Why? Are their 3-year-olds going to get invited to poolside cocktail parties while on holidays? And don’t call me madam!” was my retort!

  Look, if this is the case and parents are favouring such skimpy attire, I’m afraid there’s a simple cure for these idiots – it’s called locking up! However readers, while I agree with this manager’s logic, I do have to say that chain stores who stock this type of suggestive clothing are bound to court controversy and criticism – and by the way, who the hell manufactures this kind of provocative fashion for kids? However, at the end of the day, yeah, he’s right, the parents are buying it and it’s up to them to call the shots and protect their kiddies by refusing to allow them dress in the type of sluttish attire that looks like it should come with matching hooker heels, a set of tassels and a complimentary pole!

  And, while I’m at it, what parent wants to draw attention to their little girl’s body? None that I know of! Now don’t get me wrong…for the record, I’ve nothing against thongs and sexy underwear at all. I like them, and believe there are two reasons why an adult woman should wear a thong: (1) To look and feel sexy; (2) To eradicate a visible panty line.

  However, when it comes to innocent little children who adore wearing the latest fashions on their sun-soaked holidays, like my own granddaughter, I’m all for the good serviceable armpit-hugging pair of Nana-knows-best-bikini bottoms and tankini-style tops being the order of the day.

  Our tweenies should never, ever be encouraged to express themselves through their clothing, and while this is probably the most contentious issue that any parent will have to deal with, my advice to them is to stop allowing your kids to use the likes of Rhianna, Kylie Jenner or that shameless exhibitionist and cast-off from the Big Brother house Aaron Frew as a template. It’s up to you, their mammies and daddies, to stop being wimps and stop giving into their demands by just saying NO!

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