Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Original Image by Andrea Parrish - Geyer via Flickr
Original Image by Andrea Parrish – Geyer via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

If you were to ask a group of girls or guys if they have body dysmorphic, it’s not an appropriate or useful question to ask. Many of us have at least one feature about our body and/or appearance we would like to change.  Although, we may notice these features, we accept these aspects of our body and it doesn’t interfere with our daily lives.

How do you differentiate the mere notice of one’s beauty imperfections versus body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)? Those with BDD (aka dysmorphophobia)  fixate on their perceived imperfections and flaws for hours to days.  Common perceived flaws are associated with body weight, teeth, lips, wrinkles, skin, hair, nose, chest or stomach. These negative thought battles are a constant presence in daily life, with one struggling to accept and believe other’s compliments and praise.  Missed days of work, plastic surgery, withdrawal from social events and/or social isolation may occur as it’s perceived it’s easier to retreat to solitary activities to limit opportunities for criticism of flaws.   While those with BDD find the flaws prominent and significant, in reality, these flaw minor or nonexistent.

1% of the American population are said to have BDD, with men and women equally diagnosed.  The specific causes are unclear and can be multifactorial, including environmental and genetic predispositions.

BDD can lead to: low self-esteem,; camouflaging with clothing, makeup, body position, hair; comparing body parts to other’s; seeking surgery; repeatedly consulting with medical specialists; fixation with one’s appearance in mirror; extreme self-consciousness; feeling the need to be housebound; the need to seek reassurance about appearance from others; avoiding mirrors; strong belief that imperfections make one’s ugly; skin picking; excessive grooming; excessive exercise and/or changing clothes excessively.

It’s common for those with BDD to also suffer from anxiety, depression, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and/or eating disorders.  Identifying BDD can be hard as it has a lot of the same overlapping symptoms of eating disorders, but it is a precursor for the development of eating disorders (i.e. anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, EDNOS, etc.).  By curbing negative BDD actions, one can prevent or curb impending negative thought and eating disorders.

A scientific diagnosis can only be obtained by someone with expertise in BDD.  However, taking a self test for adults and adolescents can help one assess current thoughts and status of BDD.  With the help of a trained health professional, use of group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or antidepressant medications, BDD symptoms can be alleviated.

Please talk to your primary care physician or reach out to a loved one for help, if you find yourself struggling with BDD like symptoms.


Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating



By: Nikki Nies eating disorder_comic

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) is a tricky subject to talk about since it’s considered a disorder, but one may exhibit overlapping characteristics of the anorexia, bulimia and/or binge eating category, yet they deserve equal attention and awareness.  With more than 70% of eating disorders (ED) categorized as EDNOS, it’s important to note that EDNOS patients/clients can exhibit multiple ED symptoms–i.e. severe calorie restriction + bingeing/purging.  Additionally, one may exhibit all anorexia nervosa (AN) symptoms, but do not have weight loss or one exhibits bulimia nervosa (BN) symptoms, but do not display inappropriate compensatory mechanisms.

Often times, ED patients are in the care of a multidisciplinary team, as it’s a serious illness and is the leading cause of mortality of psychiatric diagnosis.Specifically, EDNOS has a mortality rate of 5.2%, higher than anorexia and bulimia.  If

S&S: md149believeinyourselfposters

  • Exercise obsessively
  • Deny one’s hungry
  • Preoccupied with cooking, calories, nutrition, weight and/or food
  • Weigh frequently
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Feel ashamed/guilty for eating
  • Eat alone due to embarrassment or shame
  • Eat until uncomfortably full
  • Feel cold even though body temperature is normal or sightly cool
  • Lose hair or experience thinning of hair
  • Can’t voluntarily stop eating

If you recognize some of these signs or symptoms in your daily routine or in someone you care, help can be found at:

  1. Renfrew Center FoundationFirst residential ED facility; has provided help to more than 60,000 clients in 11 locations
  2. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD): Provides education and support to all those impacted by ED
  3. Change the Message: A local campaign that focuses on changing the way women and girls think about themselves and how they talk about their bodies.
  4. National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA): Provides support to those battling with ED, along with loved ones;
  5. Alliance for Eating Disorder Association: A nonprofit organization that promotes positive body image and the prevention of ED; offers mentoring and education services
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Medline Plus (UDHHS): Provides ED medical info, including causes, s&s and treatment options
  7. Women’sHealth: Provides information on ED, body image, excessive eating and/or overexercising
  8. Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment (FEAST)An international organization that provides support for families of ED patients

Although, EDNOS usually develops in adolescence or young adulthood, it can occur at any age and with men or women. If left untreated, EDNOS can lead to electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, cardiac complications or worst case scenario: death. Yet with these resources, treatment and recovery are possible!


Healthy vs. Attractive Weight

By: Nikki Nies

Depending on one’s cultural and personal views, the perception of what’s healthy and attractive can or can not be synonymous. By medical standards, many Americans meet the criteria of overweight to obese.  Yet, critics of the BMI measurement state it is not always an accurate measurement of healthy and/or attractiveness.

A lot of critics suggest the lack of adequate nutrition in the Western diet has led to the current obesity epidemic, yet it seems some people are comfortable or sometimes prefer extra cushion or being “thick.”

Original Image by Kiran Foster via Flickr
Original Image by Kiran Foster via Flickr

A healthy lifestyle is subjective, but a standard measurement is how one’s lifestyle is linked to overall nutrition, obesity, physical activity and one’s risk for chronic diseases–heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  When looking at lifestyles, one’s cultural specificities of how food and fat operate in body according to class, gender and ethnicity, need to be evaluated as well. A study led by Lovejoy et al., 2001, found Black women tend to be more satisfied with their weight, size and appearance than their white counterparts.  A possible explanation for this difference may be the “afrocentric aesthetic”, which may allow blacks to resist mainstream beauty and that black men prefer larger women than white.

Healthy eating has been criticized due to the limiting consideration of food practices and has negatively played a role in the addition  of dieting.I’m not sure when the loathing of fat was introduced in American society, but it has had a double edged sword.  Being healthy promotes a healthy weight, but often times it’s mistaken as an attractive weight, yet healthy and attractive weight are not always the same thing.

With the cultural pressure to meet and remain a smaller size, it has led to body distortion, eating disorders and/or poor body image and self esteem.

Modern media has dictated what an attractive weight is, which isn’t always realistic.  “Penalities”for being overweight or obese is less severe for black women than white. While a person’s weight is part of the assessment of one’s physical appearance, it’s unfortunate that in our society so much emphasis and acknowledgement of weight is part of mainstream news and attention.  Physical attractiveness has been noted to help one’s prospects in the labor markets, in romantic relationships and throughout various face to face social interactions.

Although discrimination against weight can’t always be proved, it’s been widely scrutinized as responsible for social exclusion, public ridicule and the development of depression and/or isolation.


  1. Ali M, Rizzo J, Heiland F. Big and beautiful? Evidence of racial differences in the perceived attractiveness of obese females. Journal Of Adolescence [serial online]. June 2013;36(3):539-549. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 26, 2014.
  2. Kokkinos P. Nutrition and exercise: The safest way to health. Hellenic Journal Of Nutrition & Dietetics [serial online]. January 2011;2(1):19-22. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 26, 2014.
  5. Ristovski-Slijepcevic S, Bell K, Chapman G, Beagan B. Being ‘thick’ indicates you are eating, you are healthy and you have an attractive body shape: Perspectives on fatness and food choice amongst Black and White men and women in Canada. Health Sociology Review[serial online]. September 2010;19(3):317-329. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 26, 2014.

Healthy At Every Size (HAES)

By: Nikki Nies

It can’t be emphasized how much one’s BMI has to be assessed with a culmination of other factors.  While BMI is the quickest, easiest way to calculate one’s health status, it’s noted that it comes with flaws.

For example, if someone is listed to have a BMI of 27.7. That’s technically almost 3 BMI points “overweight”, but it’s important to assess the proportion of muscle and fat.  For an individual with a BMI of 27.7, they can still be considered healthy and can be considered “Healthy at Every Size” (HAES).  logo

HAES is an initiative based on the premise that the best way to improve one’s health is to honor one’s body. Instead of emphasizing weight control, HAES focuses on adopting healthier habits for overall wellness and health.

HAES focus includes:

  • Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
  • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.

As the new peace movement, HAES recognizes health can be achieved independently in regards to size. To show your commitment to HAES, sign the HAES Pledge at to show your support!


No Fat Chicks

This song is very sad, but its message is real. Girls need to stop being consumed by our materialistic image obsessed world. R. Souljas sees all girls are beautiful, just as they are.

What’re your thoughts? What do you think?

Redefining Beauty with Selfies

I wish more girls and their mothers had the opportunity to participate in this Selfie Transformation. Thank you Dove for redefining beauty!

Mind the [Thigh] Gap

By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Bernard Goldbach via Flickr
Original Image by Bernard Goldbach via Flickr

I had heard about the countless thigh gap pictures on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, but it appears the thigh gap phenomenon has spilled over to other realms of the world, including real life.  Having a thigh gap has turned from a cultural aspiration to an obsession.  The thigh gap craze is exactly what it sounds like, a gap between one’s upper thighs when knees and legs are together.

The thigh gap obsession speaks volumes of this society’s definition of beauty and the lengths people are willing to go to achieve the gap.  More people don’t have a thigh gap than do and evolutionary dictation, the likelihood of one achieving a thigh gap healthily is slim.  When looking at pictures of thigh gaps, people forget that it’s not healthy to be that slim, photos are often altered and thigh gap is viewed as an “ideal” gap.

 The craze is so bad, there’s multiple sources of “how to” guides to achieve the ideal gap as well as pages dedicated to girls proudly showing off their gaps.  The attention to thigh gaps fuel the concept of distorted body image and can lead to an eating disorder.

So, what can be done?

  • Limit use of social media pages and/or sites that advertise thigh gaps as healthy
  • Embrace ALL womanly curves and sizes
  • Take a self esteem inventory: Write your strengths and weaknesses out
  • Set realistic expectations: It may help cease negative thinking and evaluate where you head is
  • Identify your accomplishments: Let go of perfection, it doesn’t exist
  • Get to know yourself: You might surprise yourself, open yourself up to new opportunities
  • Stop comparing yourself to others: I know, it’s easier said than done, but it’s got to happen for you to take control of your life; you should only compare the past YOU to the present YOU

I hope you don’t mind, but I like my thighs just the way they are.  I don’t need a guide on how to do that, do I?


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The Most Beautiful Ugly Person in the World

By: Nikki Nies

Not only is the word ugly such a cruel, mean word, but to throw that word around to describe some one is one of the lowest lows. With a country obsessed with image and beauty, there’s too much emphasis on outward beauty. Lizzie Velazquez, a 24 year old women, has been labeled as the ugliest women in the world.

Lizzie’s only 1 of 3 Americans that has a rare disorder that does not allow her to gain weight and made her blind in her left eye. While she could be down about her situation, she has turned it into an opportunity to talk about her struggles and ability to overcome bullying.

Lizzie’s story is an inspiration for all. I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about what I look like, but spending more time honing in on innate traits can help someone be more confident and comfortable in his or her skin. Check out Lizzie’s motivational speech and next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself, look to her for strength!