• Posted on May 1, 2017 8:48 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    3

    To my dearest anti-diet community, I get it. I totally get that every diet post, cleanse, and celebrity detox makes your skin crawl. I. GET. IT. I'm on your team, but I am not behind the shame storm that happens when someone decides to go on a diet or change their eating habits. Recently, I awoke at 3am (because my brain deems it a great time to wake up) and began scrolling through Instagram. I was taken aback by the diet war happening on Brené Brown's latest post. There were countless comments shaming Brené for her decision to do the Whole30. I then saw that Glennon Doyle Melton (my other 'she'ro) recently posted a Whole30 picture a few days earlier. The comments were inline with what I saw on Brené's picture.   All I have to say to my fellow anti-diet community is BE NICE. These two women have written best-selling books and changed countless lives, including mine. I am pretty sure they know what is best for them. My favorite mantra lately is 'You Do You'. Do what makes you happy and feel alive. Do what makes your heart beat a little faster. Take care of your body in whatever way you see fit. And if you feel like you need a little extra help and support, find a therapist and/or a nutritionist near you. I am happy to connect you. But whatever you do, don't shame others for their diet decisions. Advocacy does not mean shame and judgement. Advocacy is leading by example, promoting your message through your channels and being kind to others with opposing thoughts and feelings. Do I support the Whole30? No, it isn't for me. Any diet for me is a slippery slope back into my disorder. Also, my husband would literally die if we didn't have pretzels and beer in the house. I honestly don't know much about the Whole30, other than it is 30-days of eating 'clean'. It should also be said that the term 'clean eating' makes my skin crawl. I don't think my pretzels are dirty, but, YOU DO YOU and I'll do me. And I certainly won't insert my opinion on Brené or Glennon's life choices. Both Brené and Glennon are sober; I highly doubt they would judge me for my glass of wine so why would I judge them? Often times, we want to jump and say NO DIET! Trust me, my close friends can attest to receiving my anti-diet soap box over the years. I used to be very quick to judge, pleading with my friend and giving her all the reasons why she should not diet. Today, I still stand firm on my soap box, but I try to remind myself that the best way to promote my message is to live it myself - not shout it in unwilling ears. For many of us, a diet led to a lifelong battle with an eating disorder, crash dieting and all around unhappiness. I get how it can be triggering and you want to save everyone from the same dark rabbit hole. But for many other, diets will simply be that - a diet. Will the diet work for long term success? Probably not since diets have a 95% failure rate. But, again, you do you. My first encounter with the Whole30 happened in January. I was at a friend's house and her co-worker was over explaining how she was on Day 20 of the Whole30. I was intrigued and asked her about her experience. This woman knew what I did for a living and tried to explain it as a 'lifestyle change'. I went back and forth were a bit on why I hate the term 'lifestyle change' when it comes to diet, but she explained her reason for going on the program. Her fall had been fast and furious and the holidays followed. She did not feel good in her body, not necessarily from a weight perspective, but she felt sluggish and foggy. She went on to explain how much energy she has and how great she feels. Her diet is filled with wholesome food, no calorie counting or rigid schedules. She enjoyed the meal planning and prepping. So I get it. I get some people's reasons for wanting to reset. Some people need a plan to restart. I can totally get behind that. I don't agree with cutting entire food grounds or denying ourselves the calories we need to survive like many diets do. However, we have to remember that there are two sides to having a healthy relationship with food: flexibility AND meeting nutritional needs. It is a tough balancing act. In fact, lately I have been trying to get more veggies and fruit in my diet. The reason: my life has been fast and furious this spring and I haven't been feeding my body enough of those nutrient packed foods. I've been on the road, grabbing and going. When I finally landed home two weeks ago, I decided to take this next month to slow down, do a bit more yoga and get some color back in my diet. I also use my extra time to sit down and enjoy Easter candy and chocolate with my kids. It is all about balance, moderation and flexibility. But again, that works for me. I don't know what works for you. Now, would I recommend one of the young people I mentor to try the Whole30? Probably not. I would direct them to talk with their therapist and nutritionist if they feel like they need to make diet changes. The diet industry is sadly one of the most robust and booming industries. We can't rid the world of diets and guess what? That's ok! We can't stop others from dieting or changing their food habits whether it be by slowing down or doing the Whole30. We can lead by example, showing those around us what it means to love and take care of our bodies. We can admire and connect with like-minded people, people who make us feel good, people who challenge us, but we can't shame others for trying a diet or lifestyle change. We can't be quick to judge. Brené and Glennon share so much of their lives with us, but at the end of the day we don't know them. (Even though I claim them as friends in every talk I give "My bestie Brené/Glennon/Ellen says...") At the end of the day, we can't put people on a pedestal. We are all humans, trying to get through this thing called life as best as we can. No one is higher than the other. When we place people on pedestals, they will inevitably fall off and that fall hurts us more than it hurts them. Remember when your parents fell off? It hurts.   And if you are thinking of going on the Whole30 or a diet, I would simply caution you and ask you to reflect on your motivation. Weight loss does not equal happiness, despite what society says. On the other side of the coin, there is NOTHING wrong with wanting to feel good in your skin. Remember that health is mind, body and spirit. Do what you love, move your body in a way that excites you and challenge yourself to make every day count.   So to Brené and Glennon, rock on. You do you and I'll do me. And I'll keep loving you, buying (and recommending) your books, quoting you, photoshopping myself into pictures with you and claiming you both as my bestie. With a WHOLE (see what I did there?) lot of love and gratitude, McCall

    Body Image, Brene Brown, Eating Disorder
  • Posted on April 2, 2017 3:31 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Lorelei splashed in the tub as I gently washed the shampoo from her curly hair. She is the first born of one of my dearest and oldest friends, Katherine. I spent the week with them during my Chattanooga speaking tour. "My curls are tiny!" Five-year old Lorelei exclaimed. "Some people have bigger curls and some people don't have curls." "You are absolutely right," I said. "I used to have tiny curls like you, Lorelei! They are so beautiful and they make you so special." She nodded in agreement and we went on to talk about other things that make us different. "My friend has dark skin and doesn't need sunscreen, but my skin is really white and needs lots of sunscreen," she said proudly. We talked about tall/short, curly/straight, dark/light, large/small...all things that make us each uniquely different and beautiful. After bath, Lorelei, her mom and I snuggled in bed watching a quick cartoon before bedtime. Lorelei happily chomped away at her night snack before her mom turned off the TV. She kissed me goodnight and headed upstairs for her final bedtime routine. I went into the living room and began thinking about my night with Lorelei. Suddenly, my heart sank. In a few years, Lorelei will start questioning all of those wonderful things that make her uniquely beautiful. The world is going to tell her that her hair should be straighter, longer. Her skin should be tanner. Her body taller, smaller. While we can't rid the world of these messages, I know we can and will do everything to protect Lorelei's ears from these unwanted messages. Luckily, Lorelei was born into an extraordinary tribe of women. First off, her mama is one of the most ferocious, compassionate, sensitive and bright women I have ever met. Her aunt, Charlotte, is always there, along with her tribe of Green Cove aunts - ready to remind Lorelei that what she hears from the outside world is noise and we don't listen to it. We measure our worth by what is inside and how we treat others. My time in Chattanooga was closely followed by my annual camp reunion weekend. A weekend filled with yoga pants (no yoga, just the pants), wine, cheese and mountain sunsets. It is a weekend where my tribe comes together to laugh and refuel our tired spirits. We are all so very different, living in every corner of the US. We love different partners, we believe in different faiths, we are tall, short, big, small, dark, light, curly and straight. No matter how different we are, we stand together, lift each other up and support each other through life's trials. I'm fairly confident I would not be alive today without these women. Established in the 1980s, our bond runs deep. In a few years, our children will run and hike the same paths we did as children. Marjorie, Lorelei, Cecilia, Kate, Harper, Woods, Ramsay and many others will find their tribe. Marjorie and Lorelei will remind each other that their curly hair rocks and they can be girly AND strong. So while my heart momentarily broke for Lorelei, I quickly realized my heart should rejoice. Because Lorelei will be forming her tribe soon that will help her tune out that outside noise. Lorelei will forever know and be reminded that tiny curls are amazing and porcelain skin is beautiful. We are all beautiful, in every way, every color, every body. So to my sweet Lorelei, never listen to the haters - find your tribe and know you are beautiful and amazing just as you are. It is never too early to start talking to your little ones about what makes us different. Knowing that we come in all different colors, faiths, bodies is a wonderful thing. Start embracing these differences before they hear the world tell them otherwise! Who knows, you might learn something! Sometimes our biggest lessons come from the tiniest messengers.  

    Body Image, Motherhood
  • Posted on March 8, 2017 4:27 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Today is International Women's Day. And I feel fat. Gasp. How could  McCall Manning Dempsey, a positive body image speaker, feel fat? Oh the horror! Well, folks. We all have our days. But here is the difference. I know that fat isn't a feeling and that when I start thinking and having anxiety about my body, I know it is really about something SO much more (i.e. stressful move, work, tiny humans and cramps). As women, we are programmed by society to go to war with our bodies. Our bodies are seen as the solution to happiness and world peace. If we can whittle down to the perfect size, then we will find ultimate happiness. When I realized it was International Women's Day, I thought 'Hell yeah'. I thought about my personal she-ros: Ellen, Brene, Glennon, my mom, sister and countless friends. I thought about my daughter and nieces. I thought about my friends who are stay-at-home moms. I thought about my camp tribe, my therapist tribe, my high school tribe and my college tribe. I thought about the countless women who have shaped my life into what it is today. So many extraordinary women in my life. How blessed am I?! But no matter how awesome they are - each and every one of them knows what it means to feel fat - aka feel less than. It really isn't about feeling fat. I mean, seriously, how amazing is my body? How amazing is YOUR body? For me, it is about feeling less than. Because as a woman I am split into a million little pieces and jobs: the mom, the maid, the working mom, the carpool lady, the speaker, the writer, the wife, the dog groomer, the accountant..the woman, the myth, the legend. Being a woman is hard y'all. So damn right we get a day. I know everyone reading this can relate to being divided into a million pieces and feeling like you are so split you can't do one thing right because you are doing it all half ass. Well, today is about embracing our half ass(ness). Today is about holding up our countless jobs and responsibilities and shouting, "I am good enough. I am woman. Hear. ME. ROAR. Damn it." Today is about giving the middle finger to society's standards and saying, "I am awesome just as I am. My body is miraculous. My mind is exploding with intelligence and I AM WORTHY." I refuse to go to war on my body any more. I did that for years and guess what, I was a size perfect and I was MISERABLE. I was dying. I'll never forget feeling inferior when I was in my teens and twenties by men who would comment on my body as if it were some inanimate object, like a toaster. I was too ashamed to speak up. I wanted so badly to talk back to the sexist comments, screaming that my was not some new shiny convertible car they could comment on. Sadly, I didn't have a voice so instead I focused all of my energy on changing my body instead of changing the world like I was born to do. Well, not anymore. Today, my voice is strong. It may shake from time to time, but it shakes with passion. It shakes because I am using it. A voice can't shake if it is silent. I speak up and stand up for women today because I was once that silent girl, muted by society's standards. I'll spend the rest of my life speaking out for that girl. I will never stop screaming back at the gremlins in my own head who continue to tell me I'm not good enough. Because I am. I am not perfect, but I am worthy. Worthy of love, of belonging and worthy to have a voice and take up space on this planet. If you are at war with your body, if you are confused about women's day, then let me set the record straight. You do not have to be a civil rights leader or international activist to mark your place in history. You are marking your place right where you are by being who you are. You are cementing your place by standing up for others and yourself, wherever you are. Talk back to those gremlins, look in the mirror and say I am worthy. Because that is what International Women's Day is all about. Always remember you are WORTHY, valuable and loved just as you are. I no longer waste time feeling fat or unworthy because I'm too busy changing the world to change my body. Oh Happy day ladies!  

    Advocacy, Authentic, Body Image
  • Posted on February 7, 2017 3:43 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    2

    A guest post originally written and posted on Project HEAL's Blog Dearest Lady Gaga’s Belly Roll, You are causing quite the stir in the social media stratosphere after Sunday’s spectacular Super Bowl Performance. But, if I’m being honest here, I didn’t notice you. I’m so sorry. I completely overlooked your big debut because I was entranced by the performance. To my shock and dismay, Monday’s news headlines were not about the overall extraordinary Halftime show, but your appearance. Seems odd, right? Especially, when everyone I know has a belly roll. So what makes you so different? I mean, don’t get me wrong. You are beautiful! You’re a great looking belly roll. But we all have belly rolls, some smaller, some bigger, some with stretch marks. You get the idea. My belly rolls have actually become my favorite part of my body. I used to despise my belly rolls. Like, really, really hate them. I would lie on the floor in agony, pulling at my rolls wishing to rip them off my body. I would tear and scratch and my belly, taking all my mental anguish out on it. I thought if my belly rolls would disappear so would the monster in my brain. Turns out, no surgery, diet pill or diet would heal the war in my mind. Thankfully, after years of hard work in recovery, I have made peace with my beautiful belly. My belly helps me stand tall and it carried my two precious babies. I love my belly rolls more than I ever thought possible. Last week, I went on my first vacation with my husband to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary. As I laid on the beach, I looked down at my belly rolls and smiled. There is such peace when you no longer have to hide or hate your body. I snapped pictures liberally, without fear. I took a selfie from below and immediately thought, ‘Oh, gosh, this is going to be bad. Such a horrible angle.” I clicked on the photo app to see what I knew was going to be a ‘bad’ picture, and laughed. I loved it. I suddenly realized, I no longer had a bad angle. My belly and belly rolls are beautiful from EVERY single angle. I put my phone down and continued to bask in the sun. Maybe it was because I just had this experience, I didn’t notice you. I’m sorry for the hurtful things people have said to you. I pray they can look at their own bellies one day and love their rolls. These people don’t understand the impact they have when they body shame others. The damaging ripple effect runs far and wide. When I was in my eating disorder, if I read the things people wrote about you, I would look down and question my own belly, “If they think that about Lady Gaga’s belly, what would they say about mine?” Thus, catapulting me further into self-hate and self-destructive behaviors. None of us are the same – not our skin, our beliefs and definitely not our bellies. Why can’t we all just raise our shirts and love our bellies? And ourselves for that matter? For what it is worth, I think you are beautiful and I am so thankful you were brave enough to show up and be seen on Sunday. You and Lady Gaga rocked that performance! Give Lady Gaga my best. With love and warm [belly] hugs, McCall Dempsey

    Body Image
  • Posted on August 6, 2016 7:48 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    The signature Wal-Mart yellow face smiled down on my mom and me as we slowly pushed our buggy through the back to school aisles. I was just a few weeks away from moving out and into my college dorm at Ole Miss. Most freshman fear the move away from home, making friends or getting into a sorority. Not me. I only had one huge fear. One MASSIVE fear that trumped any other fear: Gaining the Freshman 15.  I. DIE. I spent the summer compulsively reading every article on how not to gain the weight. As my mom pushed the buggy, I told her my plan for avoiding the dreaded beer weight gain. "I won't eat late night and I'll avoid beer. Oh and I definitely won't go to the dining hall - they said it is LOADED with calories..." My mom (unaware of my eating disorder) did what every loving and amazing mom does: she offered advice and encouragement. "I use a scale to keep my weight in check." She said, "I hop on every few days or once a week to gauge where I am and know if I need to cut back a little." Her innocent suggestion led us to the scale aisle where I purchased my first scale. Before you start judging my mom, remember that we are all doing the best we can - especially as parents. We love our children and often don't have the tools or education on how to cultivate a strong body image. (See below for parent/body image resources) The simple white scale became my best friend, my worst enemy and my measure of worth. Every morning the little dial rotated and sprung back and forth until it landed on my weight worth of the day. My once day weigh-in quickly escalated to over thirty times a day. I once missed class because I lost track of time obsessively stepping on and off of the scale. So did I gain the Freshman 15? Nope. I lost weight - and it was met with high praise. "McCall, you look so good. ... What are you doing? ... You have such willpower ... College is treating you well!" The compliments fueled my obsession. How low could the scale go? I watched with joy as it showed me a lower number every day. But what goes down, must eventually come back up. And when the number crept back up, life really spun out of control. I was going out and allowing myself to drink and even eat late night. I practiced the college diet rule that many students do: restrict during the day, saving all daily calories for alcohol - also known as drunkorexia, a dangerous and deadly practice that is all too common. Alcohol lowered my inhibitions and ability to stay away from food. After eating late night with friends, I would sneak down the hall, scouring vending machines and even garbage cans for leftover, thrown out pizza. I would wake the next morning with such shame and guilt, too mortified to ever reveal my secret, my struggle...my ILLNESS. On the outside, I was your All-American sorority girl. I experienced a fantastic rush, pledging Kappa Kappa Gamma. I had a wonderful roommate and friends. My grades were off the charts amazing. But behind closed doors, I was literally killing myself. To this day, I still wonder how I didn't drop dead during college or the years following. The war in my head and the way I abused my body should have caused major health issues - those didn't come until nearly ten years later. Shame kept me silent. I continued to struggle throughout my college years, bouncing between anorexia and bulimia, addicted to that bathroom scale and playing the picture perfect girl all the way through. So I am sure you can guess my solution to how you can avoid the freshman 15... DO NOT BUY OR STEP ON A SCALE! Often times your roommate or even the dorm or sorority house has a scale. It is impossible to never encounter a scale. (Side note: if your dorm or sorority house has a community scale, stop reading this and email me: mccall@southernsmash.org). While we can't stop others from purchasing and depending on scales, we can choose to not step on it ourselves. We can choose to measure our worth on who we are as a person not what we weigh. College is a time to find yourself, to try new things, meet new people and yes, eat late night and drink beer. I don't know anyone who has discovered their passion or found new friends by standing on a bathroom scale - trust me, I tried. To all college students, especially you freshies: LIVE life. Live YOUR life. This is your time. It is going to be amazing, hard, difficult, hysterical and full of new adventures. You can't fully experience life with lingering anxiety/obsession about the number on the scale. And if you are experiencing ANY type of anxiety - go TALK to someone. Your school has a counseling center on campus. Again, email me and I will help connect you to locals in your area. I lost so much of my college experience to my eating disorder and I will do whatever I can to make sure you don't do the same.  Whether you're a Rebel, a Tiger, a Tar Heel, a Bulldog, an Aggie, part of a Wolfpack or God forbid a Gator, Blue Devil or Roll Tide (JK...not really), I am here for you. You are not alone.  Get off the scale and let your freshman year be about YOU, not your weight. With love (and a Hotty Toddy!), McCall Body Image & Parenting Resources About Face Body Image Health Ellyn Satter Institute A Mighty Girl Beauty Redefined Body Image Articles Reclaiming the “F” Word:It’s For The Children It’s Not Just Girls. Boys Struggle With Body Image, Too Raising a Girl with Positive Body Image  

    Advocacy, Body Image, Eating Disorder