It’s #GivingTuesday today. Did you know? Yesterday was Cyber Monday. The day following Thanksgiving, was, of course, Black Friday. But today, it’s #GivingTuesday.
And so today, I want to talk about a cause, a movement, a bright light that I so believe in. REbeL.
I’ve written about REbeL several times over the lifespan of my blog. It is a non-profit organization which was the brainchild of a woman whom I know and love dearly. A vision to re-shape the way that young people see themselves and the world around them. And her vision is now, very much, in action. It is actually creating change. And not just in young people. In people at all stages of their lives.
I wrote about REbeL in the past because, when I was in high school and early college, I struggled to understand how to balance my emotions and food. I struggled to find control over life and so I took it out on my body. And I struggled to wrap my mind around the fact that beauty is not something that can simply be seen on the outside.
I wrote about REbeL again because, as I became a mother, I realized the beauty in that. In the way the human body functions to create another human. It made me thankful in ways that I never knew I could be for the beauty of the body. And not the beauty of my weight. Or my size. But of the beauty-full force that a healthy body can be when given the opportunity.
And today, I write about REbeL again because I have cancer. In September, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And as jarring and life-changing and world-altering as the time since has been, the one thing that I haven’t had to fear is losing my beauty. And I credit this to REbeL.
How can that be? Because REbeL is redefining my personal feelings of beauty every day. It reminds me that I am thankful for lungs that can breathe. It reminds me that this illness can’t take my smile. And it shows me that the beautiful things aren’t truly the most beauty-full.
My hair started to go shortly after I began chemotherapy. And so, we had a head-shaving party. And I was surprisingly okay with the GI Jane look. In fact, it was oddly liberating. Freeing. An opportunity to sleep later and put all of my hair products in a basket in my closet and not have to think about all of that for a bit. It was incredible to know that even without my flaxen, envied locks, I could still be the same girl I’d always been.
In just a few short months, they will remove my breasts. A symbol of femininity and sexuality so valued by our culture. And yet, for me, something that I cannot wait to get off of my chest. Because they are doing me no good at this point. They are attacking my otherwise strong, healthy, capable body. And so, as I talk reconstruction, I am very upfront with my thoughts that if I have no breasts but I have my life and my boys and my husband, I imagine I will be happy to have no breasts. Because while I will have scars, and I will look different than other women my age, I know that I will still have the heart that beats beneath where those scars lie.
My nails and skin have been a bit up in arms with the treatments. My eyebrows are starting to thin out. And they tell me, my eyelashes will go. My body is changing every single day. My outward appearance is transforming into a person I’ve never known or looked at in this life. But I don’t like her any less. In fact, I kinda think she’s a badass. Because they also tell me, through all of these physical changes, I will likely become cancer-free. And just like that, I can see all the beauty, once again.
Cancer will take parts of me. But I won’t let it take my spirit. I won’t let it steal my smile. Or my joy. I won’t let it deplete me of my positivity. Or my wit. I won’t let it strip me of myself. My beauty-full self.
And this, is mostly, because I’ve heard and believe the message of REbeL. Because I know that outer beauty has nothing on inner beauty. That the form and function of the human body has multitudes more to do with what it can do on the inside than how it can appear on the outside. I know that when people ask “how are you so skinny?” while you have cancer, you would gladly take 20 or 40 more pounds on your frame if it meant you’d be free from the sickness that is inhabiting your body. And I know that when I envision what my new breasts will be like, the only thing I really care about is that they are healthy.
In having children, I realized how much I adored my body. How much I appreciated its super powers. And now, with cancer, I once again find myself indescribably thankful for the fact that the beauty of the body is so far beyond skin deep.
REbeL is currently hosting their year-end online fundraising campaign. And today, on Giving Tuesday, I invite you to read about the cause, the change that it is creating, the impact, and find out how you can get involved. Consider making a donation and making a difference. Because the organization has made a huge difference to me. And made the physical changes of cancer feel much less heavy. And made this journey so much more filled with beauty.
It really is a beauty-full world. So REbeL, be you. Love you. And be compelled, daily, to REbeL.
by Ashli Eickman Brehm
Family meals are becoming a thing of the past. During the early and mid-20th century, family meals, especially in the evenings, were commonplace. In America, as we become more and more starved for time, fewer and fewer families are taking time to sit down together for meals. According to a 2003 Gallup poll, slightly more than a quarter (28%) of adults with children under the age of 18 report that their families eat dinner together at home seven nights per week – down from 37% in 1997. Another quarter (24%) report that they eat together three or fewer nights per week (1).
While the occurrence of family mealtimes continues to follow a downward trend, research continues to show the benefits of meals as a family. Eating meals a family yields stronger relationships, improved health, higher self-esteem, and improved academic achievement. Some studies have even found that children who eat meals with their families have a lower incidence of depression, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy. Family meals provide structure and exposure to a wider variety of foods. In addition, eating meals as a family has been shown to aid in the development of manners and a more extensive vocabulary. According to a study published in the June 2011 issue of Pediatrics, eating meals as a family 3 or more times per week reduces the odds of overweight by 12%, eating unhealthy foods by 20%, and disordered eating by 35%. This study also identified that the number of family meals consumed per week was negatively associated with teens’ risk for eating disorders. A common belief is that most teens prefer to avoid meals with their families, but this study found that “adolescents . . . would most like their parents to prepare healthy meals at home. It seems that there is . . . receptivity in participating in family mealtimes, eating healthy foods, and learning about nutrition.” For children and adolescents with disordered eating, family meals help to provide structure and an opportunity for parents to identify signs that could lead to eating disorders (2, 3, 4).
Making time in our busy lives to sit down for meals as a family takes effort, and each family member must play their part in making mealtimes a priority. It is important to develop a plan and to do so thoughtfully. First, it is important to set realistic goals. Choose which meals each week everyone can sit down for a meal as a family. Be sure to consider all activities, work schedules, and weekend plans. There is no magic number, but some research suggests that families who eat meals other 4 to 5 evenings per week reap the benefits (3). Here are some additional ideas as you develop your family’s weekly family mealtime plan:
Once you have developed your family’s plan, write it out and post it in a visible place like on the refrigerator or on a chalkboard in the kitchen so everyone is on the same page. Once your meals are planned for the week ahead, create an organized grocery list, and once you have supplies, stay organized. Consider utilizing time on the weekends to prepare meals or certain meal components.
During meals, it is important to focus on conversation and eliminating distractions by turning off the television and asking family members to avoid bringing electronics to the table. It can be challenging to come up with ideas for dinner table conversation, especially with teenagers, who tend to be particularly challenging to engage. Looking for ideas for conversation starters and more mealtime conversation tips? The Family Dinner Project is a great resource!
by Sally Kochtanek, MS, RD, LD
McCallum Place Eating Disorder Treatment Center, Kansas City
1. Kiefer, Heather. (2004, January 20). Empty Seats: Fewer Families Eat Together. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/10336/empty-seats-fewer-families-eat-together.aspx
2. Hammons, Amber & Fiese, Barbara. (2011) “Is frequency of shared family meals related to the nutritional healthy of children and adolescents?” Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics. 127(6).
3. Fischel, Anne. FAQ. Retrieved from: http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/resources/faq/
4. The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Multiple articles referenced from: www.eatright.org
The older I get, the more I strongly believe that we all have the power to change our worlds. Whether in subtle or earth-shattering ways, we can all create change. Fortunately, I heard this message from my parents early in my life, and it was then further nurtured by a handful of incredible change-makers along the way. But not everyone hears this message or is empowered to believe they can make an impact. Now, as a parent, psychologist, and nonprofit founder, I see this as one of my most important jobs: to help others realize their agency.
As author J.K. Rowling has said, “We do not need magic to change the world. We have the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.”
We do not need magic. THAT is why the concept of the recently launched Chat Series is so important. Through live events that “engage, entertain, educate, and inspire,” the Chat Series clearly sends the message that we are all a part of creating change. While most of us will never achieve the status or celebrity of their featured speakers, we can learn from them, engage in conversation about the messages shared, and consider how to use our unique talents to make our own mark. In a world of magical Instagram filters and the bland highlight reels of social media, isn’t this what we desperately need? Real, authentic dialogue that facilitates genuine connection, understanding, and growth.
REbeL was created with this very goal in mind. REbeL works within the realm of body image and disordered eating, and we advocate for a world in which individuals are valued for who they are rather than how they look. We imagine better. Perhaps this is a cause you want to throw your energy behind as well. Or maybe you want to increase access to books for those in need or raise awareness of rare diseases. The bottom line is you CAN create change. You CAN make an impact. There is something we all can do.
“I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” – Helen Keller
There is something we all can do. We need more “chats.” More young people who believe in themselves. More individuals “rebelling” against doing things the way they’ve always been done. More open discussions about making our communities better. And more companies willing to give back to make this happen.
Just remember, we do not need magic. We need you.
*Appreciation and thanks goes to the Chat Series and Bishop McCann for working to be a catalyst for change and for giving back by inviting those who might not otherwise have the chance to hear these messages.
By Dr. Laura Eickman, Psy.D., REbeL Founder