Cellulite is Beautiful

cellulite-is-the-new-blackIf you’re like most women and maybe even many men, you cringed or scoffed — or both — when you read the title of this post. After all, cellulite is supposed to be unattractive. The cosmetic companies certainly want you to believe that, so they can sell you creams to combat it. And you know the fitness industry makes a bundle off promoting the image that it’s undesirable. Even your besties might tell you it’s gross. Almost everyone thinks it is. But have you ever really thought about where that belief came from?

If this is the first time you’re considering this, your immediate reaction might be that you’ve always known that cellulite was undesirable. But how did you know it? Were you born with the certain knowledge that dimpled fat was not only ugly but somehow wrong? Or did that information come from your mother, grandmother, sister, father, brother, friends, billboards, the Internet, radio or TV? Chances are very good that it was from a combination of any or all of these, and probably other sources as well.

It might interest you to know that people didn’t always view fat this way. Hundreds of years ago, it was actually a sign of wealth to be heavy. In a world where food was scarce for many, you had to have a good amount of money to be what we now consider overweight. Because of this, being skinny was a sign that you were poor, and having ample weight was definitely a sign of your social status. So how did we get to the belief that women being thin is pretty (a rather frivolous view, since world hunger is rampant) and that cellulite is ugly? Especially considering that you don’t just get cellulite from being overweight: hormones, genetics, standing for long periods of time or even too-tight underwear that blocks blood flow to the legs can cause it. (And let’s be clear here: I’m not advocating obesity or being unhealthful. But even that’s subject to perception. I’m reminded of a documentary I saw once about a dance troupe of women who were all in the 250-to-450-pound range. They danced five nights a week and watched what they ate, yet none of them lost any significant weight over the months they spent practicing for their recital. So clearly not everyone is fat because of poor diet and lack of exercise.)

The point I’m making is that we often take on other people’s perceptions, whether they’re about cellulite or virtually anything else you can think of. When you really think about it, how many of your beliefs and perceptions came from conclusions you arrived at on your own? There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting input from others; that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just suggesting that if you absorbed your beliefs about cellulite without questioning them, what else might you have taken on without giving it much thought?

By: Stephanie Stacies

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How Bias Affects Our Choices

Gershwin-quoteWe may think that our beliefs are based on solid facts and reason, but, in the words of George Gershwin’s old song, “It ain’t necessarily so.” The way our minds work actually limits our ability to discern the truth or make rational decisions. Psychologists have been studying the way we think for many years, and have identified several biases that cause this.

Prejudices and preconceptions
We all tend to pick and choose information that supports our prejudices and preconceptions while ignoring a heap of evidence to the contrary. Right or wrong, climate change deniers provide the most obvious example today, focusing on a tiny minority of expert opinion and brushing aside the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists. Similarly, most of us don’t listen carefully to politicians’ speeches or analyze their policies in detail. Instead we pick up the fragments of information that reinforce our party preference.

This “confirmation bias” even penetrates scientific thinking. For instance, the evidence for the reality of paranormal phenomena is far stronger than the evidence for the effectiveness of many pharmaceutical drugs. And yet most scientists reject out of hand any suggestion that psychic abilities are real because they don’t believe they’re possible. In less-dramatic ways, confirmation bias distorts our thinking and decisions about many aspects of life. Despite my high level of education and career as an academic, I frequently catch myself doing this.

The attraction effect
Another source of bias in our thinking is the “attraction effect.” Imagine you’re comparing smart phone options, and are drawn to the cheaper Basic contract rather than the more expensive Advanced one because it meets your needs adequately. Now suppose that you’ve been offered a third Luxury alternative that costs more but provides no more benefits than the Advanced contract. Research shows that the presence of this third option increases the probability that you’ll choose the Advanced contract. One possible explanation is that the Luxury option makes it easier to justify your choice by claiming you’ve got a bargain — perhaps our decisions are normally biased towards ones we can easily justify rather than what is best for us?

The framing effect
Three decades ago, a third type of bias was identified. The “framing effect” leads us to make choices depending on how the information is presented. In one classic experiment, people were asked to imagine an outbreak of disease threatening a village of 600 people. Plan A would definitely save 200 lives, whereas Plan B would have a 1 in 3 chance of saving An example of how bias affects rational thinking everyone, and a 2 in 3 chance of saving no one.

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Suicide Questions

live-and-let-liveTragedy struck close to home this week with the painful announcement that a family member of a close friend had committed suicide. At times like these, being empathic feels more like a curse than a blessing. I feel acutely the agony of those he left behind — his wife, his daughters, his parents, and all those who loved him. In their struggle to understand the journey that led him to make this fateful choice, they lean on their faith, which is now amplified by the hope of forgiveness, redemption, and a merciful God.

I want so badly to tap them on the shoulder and politely interrupt their mourning to ask them if they would like some insight into this man.
I wonder if it would provide relief or more turmoil for them to know that their beloved did not share the family’s religious views; that he only pretended to because it was easier for him than facing their condemnation. I wonder if the slightest bit of Unconditional Love — the kind that is not predicated on the fulfillment of a pre-defined role or maintaining a certain set of religious standards — might have given him hope to continue living.

Though his family ponders why he would choose to take his own life, I do not. I understand very clearly the depths of his despair. The fear of his family’s alienation kept him trapped.  He spent his whole life struggling to reconcile the glimpses of his inner knowing with the doctrine that was shoved down his throat. He was expected to swallow every bit of the dogma whether he enjoyed it or not, with no consideration for his own personal preferences.
Yes, I understand the torment of a deeply spiritual man who never felt free enough to explore outside of ‘the box’. I do, however, have an entirely different set of questions:

·    How often within the family unit, does one member suffer silently, fearing the judgment and persecution of those  who claim to love her/him the most?
·    When did our culture start withdrawing love and acceptance as a means of punishing the dissenters?
·    Why is the fear of disapproval so much stronger than the courage it takes to trust our own feelings?
·    Why should anyone feel the need to hide their true self? Especially from their loved ones?
·    Do parents and family members understand how damning their condescension and criticism feels? Do they care?
·    Why does it take something as drastic as a suicide for others to consider an alternate, compassionate approach?
·    Is it possible to prevent others from making a similar choice?
·    What would it take?

When I look at this situation, my heart aches for every person who is affected by his death. The loss of a father, son, brother, and friend is tremendous — and when you add the weight of confusion and guilt, the burden may be quite difficult to bear. We can all stand to learn from their experience.

If you recognize yourself as one who is trapped, I am grateful you are reading this. You need to know that you are not alone. Your thoughts and ideas have a basis outside of the limited trappings of religion and you are valued for your uniqueness. There are others who deeply empathize with you and are willing to offer you encouragement and support as you build up courage to acknowledge your truth.

And for the rest of us — we can do more to reach out to those who feel isolated within their own circle of family and friends. Let us extend unconditional love and acceptance to everyone. I invite you to co-create an environment of safety and trust, so that our friends and family members have full confidence they can explore their own questions without fear of condemnation or any kind of repercussion.

by Janet Louise Stephenson

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