Tag Archives: anorexia

Tuesday Reviewsday–Harriet Brown’s Body of Truth

For today’s Tuesday Reviewsday, I am pleased to discuss Harriet Brown’s recently released book “Body of Truth”.  Harriet Brown is already well known for her previous book, “Brave Girl Eating” about her experiences with her daughter who suffered from Anorexia.  “Body of Truth” uncovers Harriet’s epiphany regarding her own weight obsessed life within a society who complemented her daughter’s svelte figure even when they knew she was recovering from anorexia.

Like many of us, Harriet’s weight obsession and body hatred started early in life and lasted through most of middle age.  It wasn’t until she saw the devastating effects of anorexia that she even began to question society’s readiness to conflate thinness and health and began to question her seeming moral obligation to have thin thighs.  Harriet describes her own struggle in the midst of her Jewish family and describes the dichotomy of being in a culture that loves food and values hostesses who provide abundance at the dinner table while being terrified of fat.

Throughout the book, Harriet’s journalistic roots shine through clearly.  She provides a wealth of current information and facts to back up her assertion that we as a culture are a bit off the rails when it comes to body image and weight.  Much of the ground covered here will be familiar to those of us who have studied this area for some time.  There are the statistics about the failure of dieting.  There is an in-depth discussion of the “obesity paradox”.  And she covers Flegal’s research and the ensuing shameful medical backlash.  She follows the money and describes the intense conflicts of interest displayed by so many who serve on boards and are paid to do research to support the “war on obesity”.  However, there is much recent research covered in the book, and a significant portion of the anecdotal materials (for example on Professor Miller) are new and fresh.

Above all, I feel Harriet does a terrific job of weaving her personal narrative with a tight journalistic style that presents facts and evidence in a way that makes for a fast and enjoyable read.  I really  enjoyed the book and I think it may especially resonate with middle-aged readers who are just coming to HAES at this point in their lives.  I strongly recommend this powerful and enjoyable book.

Now, before I close, on to a bit of business.  Have you heard about our new Fit Fatties Virtual Events?  Have you signed up yet?  It’s super cool and you don’t want to miss it.  This time around the events feature a quintathlon option as well as Fit Fatties Flair.  Learn more HERE!

Also, this year I am seeking to earn a new fitness certification and so I am offering special discounts off of my regular speaking fees.  To learn more, send me an email describing your speaking request to jeanette at the fat chick dot com.  Learn more about my speaking HERE!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Paris Cracks Down on Super Skinny Models

French MPs have voted to make it illegal to put models who are too thin on the catwalk.  Modeling agencies who put models on the catwalk who are deemed too thin face significant fines (up to $75,000) and even more astonishingly up to six months in prison.

The MPs are engaging in this crackdown in an attempt to help curb anorexia and other eating disorders in France.  The fashion industry, especially in Paris, has a very important cultural effect on young women.  And there is no question that the average Paris fashion model is startlingly thin.  According to the WHO, a BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight.  18 is considered malnourished and 17 is considered severely malnourished.  The average fashion model is 5ft. 9in. and weighs in at just over 110 pounds.  This makes the average BMI in the fashion industry a 16.  The French MPs have thus far failed to determine what BMI will be considered too low for the fashion industry.

The lower house of Parliament also voted recently to mark all photos of models that have been retouched to change body size or shape and to make promotion of anorexia on the Internet.  One supposes that it is fairly easy to legislate the first of these ideas, but I admit, I’m not sure how they will enforce the latter.

While we all know that BMI is an unreliable indicator of health, nevertheless extremely low weights (along with extremely high weights) are associated with health risks.  In particular, extremely low weights are sometimes indicative of Anorexia–a serious eating disorder which has proven the most deadly of all forms of mental illness.  While one could imagine that some of these women are simply naturally very thin, it is unlikely that all or even most of them have a natural BMI that low.  And first hand accounts from many models who speak of living on diet coke and cotton balls, and who pass out at photo shoots from lack of nutrition, lead us to believe that achieving a weight this low for many models requires extreme measures.

Naturally the fashion industry is fighting back.  They state that just because their models are thin, does not mean they are anorexic.  And there is a certain amount of truth to that.  If we are going to argue for body diversity, we must accept that some people are naturally very thin, just as some people are naturally very fat. And if we ban very thin models, shouldn’t we ban very fat ones too?

Personally, I think it’s important to recognize that the Paris fashion industry is not representing body diversity on the catwalk.  The average Paris fashion model’s body size is far, FAR below the national average for BMI.  And there is virtually no representation of even averaged sized women on the catwalk.  By focusing the fashion shows on body sizes that are way below average, the modeling industry creates a “new normal”.  As people come to see a body type that is not healthy or normal for the vast majority of the population as the right and most desired one.

So what say you?  Do you think these proposed French measures go too far?  Or not far enough?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Body Hatred–We have an “App” for That!

iphoneappsadArrrrrrrgh!  A good friend recently shared this link with me.  (Warning–following link leads to stupid picture and ridiculous article.  Please check your sanity points level before you engage.)  It’s an article about an upcoming Anti-obesity app that will show people how they will look in the future if “their diet and exercise habits don’t change”.  Developed by the same folks who created an anti-smoking app that shows people what they will look like if they continued to smoke, the idea is that people become so horrified at their future, fatter selves that they will magically stick to restrictive diets and vigorous exercise programs and will stay svelte and beautiful for-EVAH.

Except maybe not.

It’s instructive that the story suggests that people using the app will be able to enter queries asking “what I will look like in four weeks, eight weeks, 12 weeks, 26 weeks or a year.”  Because one year is about the point at which many weight loss attempts start to go south and regain becomes common.  It’s interesting that the article does not suggest you will be able to ask what you will look like in five years.  Perhaps that’s because by that point, you have a 90-95 percent chance of looking the same or even larger than when you started.

Also, it’s been widely reported that bodies metabolize food and exercise very differently.  I’m wondering how this “app” will account for that.  We all know there are some people who eat a lot of junk food and spend a lot of time watching TV but never gain weight.  We also know some people eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and exercise quite a lot but don’t lose a lot of weight.  So how will this app account for those differences?  My guess–it won’t.  It will be based on some ridiculously over-simplified, generic, set of statistics that are custom-built to have the biggest impact on your “avatar” that has little or possibly even NO basis in reality.

beforeafterThere are many things about this upcoming app that make me angry and a little crazy.  But maybe one of the things that makes me most upset is the notion that this app, built by researchers at a freaking UNIVERSITY are working with the notion that shame will help make people thin.  Just how many research studies do we need exactly to prove that shame doesn’t make people, especially young people thin?  Seriously?!  And does the app have a convenient “Thinspo” feature that allows people with eating disorders utilize these visualization features?

Come on colleges and universities!  I mean, totally fabulous “Love Your Body Week” programs aside, you’ve got a way to go here.  It’s not just Professor Terrible that’s the problem.  It’s the fact that you approve and even allocate funding for projects like this stupid app.  It’s the fact that fat people are less likely to be admitted to your universities than thin people.  Maybe it’s time to stop focusing so much on people with big fat wallets and start focusing on being fair to people who are simply fat.

Love,

The Fat Chick

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Lady Gaga’s Response to Body Comments

Yesterday’s post was all about how bodies don’t come with a comment button, and that we are under no obligation to make our bodies look the way other people want them to look.   As you might guess, if ordinary people feel pressure to comply with societal standards about visual appearance, celebrities also feel a great deal of pressure.  That’s why I was somewhat excited to read about Lady Gaga’s response to the recent uproar about her “getting fat”.

Recently some photos and nasty articles were released that showed Lady Gaga looking a lot heavier than before.  There is a lot of discussion about the apparent distortion of these pictures, making Gaga appear shorter and heavier, being caused either by squishing them in Photoshop or because of the flattening effect of certain camera lenses.  In other photos and videos from these exact same appearances, Gaga looks notably thinner.  However, Gaga readily admits that she has gained about 25 pounds.  She says that she is “dieting now” and that she has gained weight because “she loves to eat” her Dad’s amazing Italian cooking.  But before you start wondering why I’m talking about her on my blog let me share with you that she also states, “I really don’t feel bad about it, not even for a second.”

Yesterday, Gaga shared on her site, LittleMonsters.com that has been dealing with anorexia and bulimia since she was 15.  She also included some photos of herself (with her eyes closed) wearing just a bra and panties.  And she launched a new subsection of her site called the BODY REVOLUTION.  Some copy on the new section reads:

My mother and I created the BORN THIS WAY FOUNDATION for one reason: “to inspire bravery.” This profile is an extension of that dream. Be brave and celebrate with us your “perceived flaws,” as society tells us. May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous.

She also popped up this past weekend in Paris wearing this dress.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I can’t hold Lady Gaga up as an unflinching paragon of size acceptance.   Not that long ago she was criticized for her “pop stars don’t eat” twitter post.  One might wonder whether the photos in her undies are as much about proving her relative thinness as they are about revealing her soul.  But I do think she’s trying to shine a lens on the ugliness of body snarking and the intense pressure girls and women face to be thin.  And I think in revealing her lifelong struggles with anorexia and bulimia, she is admitting that she doesn’t claim to have all this body stuff figured out.  It’s a process.  It’s a challenge.

But I am excited that at least part of what has come of all of this is one of the pop icons of our times inviting fans to embrace themselves as they are on her site stating:

Hey Guys its Gaga… Now that the body revolution has begun, be brave and post a photo of you that celebrates your triumph over insecurities.

Time will tell whether this movement towards body acceptance will stick with Gaga or drop along with her 25 pounds.  She may stay on this path.  She may be hawking weight loss products in six months.  I don’t know.  But it’s hard not to see that all celebrity bodies seem to come complete with a comment button.

So my little Chicklettes, can we take some good from this?  Sure!  First, let’s note that some of the “sexiest” and “most popular” women in the world struggle with body image.  And while I wouldn’t begin to compare your struggles with the struggles of anyone else, it’s good to know that we all have those struggles in one way or another.  Next, let’s take a minute to celebrate your triumphs large and small over body insecurity.  And finally, I’d love for you to remember that wherever you are on your journey to body acceptance, we are all works in progress.  Nobody is perfect at loving himself or herself.  But with gentleness and kindness we are on our way!

Love,

The Fat Chick