Tag Archives: eating disorders

5-year-olds on a Diet

Sometimes people ask me why I do this.  I work in Hollywood.  Writing a blog doesn’t really pay all that well.  And it can be a solitary process at times without a lot of feedback.

But sometimes I come across something that reminds me why.  Like this study which talks about “dietary restraint” (the cognitive restriction of food intake for the purpose of controlling weight) among 5-year-old girls. Five. Years. Old.

At five kids should be coloring and tormenting their older siblings and screaming and playing and dressing up.  They should not be worrying about the size of their thighs.  They should not be counting carbs.  They should not be worrying about fitting into their skinny jeans.

But according to the study, nearly 35 percent of the 5-yr-old girls were displaying “dietary restraint”.  The study points out not only is dieting at age 5 distressing, it is also an important precursor or marker for eating disorders in the future.  And that future might not be very far away for a number of these girls.  The study states:

Despite eating disorders typically emerging during adolescence, cases have been reported in early elementary school children.

The study reviewed the influences that caused these girls to restrict their food intake.  While most of the girls were pretty happy with their body at the moment, over 50 percent showed some evidence that they had taken the “thin ideal” to heart.  And the girls who had clearly taken the thin ideal to heart, that had experienced more media that represented the thin ideal and had more discussions about appearance with their peers, were the girls more likely to be restricting their food intake.

Which leads me to ask some questions.  If we know that BMI report cards are ineffective, and we know that kids are learning behaviors that lead to eating disorders as early as age 5, why don’t we work harder to include body image education into the curriculum–the earlier the better?  Anorexia is deadly and notoriously difficult to treat.  Why don’t we put some real, sensible, research-based curriculum in place at the earliest possible age to help these kids not develop this problem?  And since adults who hate their bodies are fairly likely to project these feelings onto impressionable children, why don’t we require training for teachers and strongly encourage training for all adults who deal with kids?

We have an opportunity to make a world where girls don’t grow up hating their bodies and hating themselves.  That’s why I write this blog.  That’s what I do what I do.  I add my tiny voice to the growing chorus singing the song stating that we are beautiful, we are worthy of love, we are okay just the way we are.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hear me talk about body positive at your school?  Click HERE.

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More Victims Dying to be Thin

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I recently read about this story about student Ella Parry who died after accidentally overdosing on diet pills she bought from the Internet.  The pills were found to contain Dinitrophenal or DNP.  This highly toxic industrial chemical has been determined to be unfit for human consumption.  There is no known antidote to the toxin once it is ingested.  Ella, an otherwise healthy 21 year old woman bought 100 of the slimming pills online for the equivalent of about $100.  She did ingest more pills than the label suggested.  But very shortly after taking the pills, she started to feel quite ill.  Not long afterward, Ella drove herself to the local emergency room.  Her metabolism began to soar, and despite efforts by the doctors to bring her temperature down, Ella’s body “burned her up from the inside”.

Now there is no question that people fall victim to Internet scams all the time, and it’s easy to find illicit substances online.  But it leads me to wonder if Ella is simply a victim of an Internet scam, or if there’s more at play here.  How much pressure do young people get to be very, very thin?  How much have they heard that being thin is easy and anybody can do it if they try?  What happens when they find out it is not easy for them?  What lengths will they go to in order to achieve an “acceptable body”?  I can’t help feel that this is just another casualty of our culture’s obsession with thinness, and our culture’s utter inability to educate us about natural body diversity.  This leads to many potentially fatal problems including eating disorders.  And it leads to desperation that might cause an educated, intelligent young woman to buy pills off the Internet and consume them without even understanding what is in them or how dangerous they are.

This is why the war on obesity is not just a war against fat bodies, but about all bodies.  Because fear of not having the perfect body, fear that a body could become fat one day, leads people of all sizes to make poor choices with sometimes devastating consequences in order to fit into their skinny jeans.  This is why I will continue to fight for body diversity and for better education about the real facts about bodies and weight.

If you’re interested in joining this fight, perhaps you would consider participating with us in the upcoming Fat Activism Conference.  We’ve got a call for participation HERE.  It’s a very simple form that you could fill out in just a few minutes.

And I’d like to remind you, that if you are interested in joining us in our upcoming Fit Fatties Virtual Event, there are just a few short days left to sign up.  You can learn more HERE.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hear me speak about body diversity?  Learn more HERE.

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.

“You look great! Have you lost weight?” And other phrases on “What NOT to Say!”

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Want to start out with a trigger warning.  I’m going to be talking about illness-induced weight loss and our society’s often idiotic response to it.

Part of my recent health journey includes a little bit of illness-induced weight loss.  Some of it is explained by the fact that the pain and the pain killers made me not want to eat, and part of it as a result of some anemia that I’m facing.  Which has led a few nice, and well-intentioned people to remark and then ask, “You look great!  Have you lost weight?  How did you lose in?”  Now I know that they are trying to be kind, but it’s honestly kind of hard to keep the sarcastimonster in check.  Because the sarcastimonster wants to shout, “I do not look great, I look terrible.  I am a little thinner because I’m in excruciating pain and because my body is not processing food properly right now.  But thanks for the compliment.  If you’d like to try out my ‘Excruciating Pain Weight Loss Program’ (patent pending) I can arrange it for you.  Just come a LEETLE bit closer while I grab this hammer.”

Yup, the sarcastibeast gets a little, um, TESTY when I don’t feel so well.  But the sarcastibeast is right about one thing.  It’s always risky complementing somebody on their weight loss.  First of all, “You look great.” coupled with “Have you lost weight?” implies that before the person lost the weight, they didn’t look as great.  In fact, you’re saying before they probably didn’t look great at all.  Which is decidedly not cool.  Secondly, unless the person you’re talking to has been talking ad nauseum about their latest weight loss program you never know why they are losing weight.  If they have lost weight through deliberate weight loss, they are most likely going to gain that weight back again in the future.  And you just told them that the weight loss made them look great.  If they haven’t lost weight through deliberate means, they may have started smoking again or they may be grieving or they may have cancer.  And you’ve just told them that when they get better, they won’t look as great.  And their weight loss may not have been healthy at all.  I got a lot of compliments the last time I went through a major crazy weight loss program.  I was living on less than 1,000 calories a day.  My bowels no longer moved and my hair was falling out.  My menstrual cycle had stopped completely.  I was cold all the time.  I was very sick, and truth be told, I didn’t look that well at all.  Yet people complemented me all the time about how healthy I looked.

Complimenting somebody on weight loss may cause somebody who is already coping with something that is kinda a big deal to have to cope with something else.  They make come to see their illness-induced weight loss as a silver lining.  Think I’m kidding?  Joan Lunden has been battling a particularly aggressive form of cancer.  She even appeared, bald and smiling, on the cover of Time magazine.  (I’ll bet nobody said to her, “You look great!  Have you lost hair?”)  Last week, during a wonderful interview on the Today show about the challenges and lessons she’s experienced while coping with cancer, Joan started talking about the hidden “benefits” of cancer.  She mentioned how contemplating your own mortality tends to focus your life and help you see what’s important.  And then she leaned over to Hoda (who also has battled cancer) and smiled knowingly as she mentioned that since she started battling with cancer, she’s lost weight.  (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)  This reminds me of a friend of mine who admitted she has a whole closet full of clothes that don’t fit her.  She bought a whole bunch of clothes when she lost weight during chemotherapy.  And now that she’s well again, those clothes don’t fit.  But she doesn’t give those clothes away, because when she was wearing those clothes, during chemotherapy, people said, “You look great!  Have you lost weight?”  Which leads me to another point.

Saying “You look great!  Have you lost weight?” gives somebody who may be sick something else to worry about.  And something else to worry about is the last thing somebody needs when they are sick.  Because the sick person begins to wonder, what will happen when they get better and regain the weight?  What happens when they stop smoking for good or recover from the eating disorder?  What happens when they stop chemo and recover from cancer?  What happens when their red blood cells multiply and their body starts getting oxygen again?  What happens when they are no longer in pain and they start eating again?  What if all this wonderful stuff happens to their body and they start gaining weight?  Will they no longer look great?  It may even make the person wonder if getting better is such a good thing.

Which is patently ridiculous and extremely unhelpful.

On today’s episode of my new show, “What NOT to Say!” I’d like to make a suggestion.  As a society, we’ve learned that unless she’s wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “baby on board” we’re never to ask a woman if she’s pregnant.  I’d like to suggest that commenting on a person’s weight loss should be in the same category.  It’s invasive.  It’s potentially risky.  It’s potentially rude.  And we just shouldn’t do it any more.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie, AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Want me to speak about “What NOT to say about Weight Loss” to your group or organization?  Click here to BOOK ME.

P.S.S.  Want to join my mailing list and get FREE STUFF?  Click HERE.

The Childhood Obesity Challenge

Uuuuugh!  Well we’re halfway through “Harass Kids About Their Weight Month” otherwise known as “Let’s Build Eating Disorders As Young As Possible Month” or “Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”.  I’ve mentioned before how I feel about this.  I can’t think of any adult or child in this country who is not aware that the dominant culture likes little kids to be thin.  I don’t know of any kids who aren’t aware, by age five or six, that thinner is better.  And this whole month seems designed to amp up the shame felt by larger kids and parents of larger kids to “11”.

This was brought home to me in a very visceral way today as I read a facebook post by a parent who had a negative reaction to being nominated for “The Childhood Obesity Challenge” on facebook.  I have no idea how widespread this “challenge” is.  Apparently a “friend” in this woman’s feed posted an apres workout “sweaty” (that’s a selfie where the folks are sweatin’ y’all) with the following text:

“Another sweaty for (fb friend)’s call to action for childhood obesity. Children learn from example. I will challenge some amazing parents I know to do the same. You all inspire me and make me better.”

Only problem, the parent with the negative reaction had been a fat kid.  She understood the real challenges of being an obese kid in a fat-hating world.  And her kid was also not as thin as some in society deemed acceptable.  And her kid was facing health challenges that made exercise difficult.  Yet there she was, nominated to post a picture of her sweating after a workout to prove to kids they shouldn’t be fat.

Seriously.

Yes, kids do learn by example.  And if we want our kids to be healthy, here are a few options of things we could model:

1.  Let’s choose not to judge by appearances.  You don’t know what is happening in another person’s life by looking at them.  You don’t know if they are healthy by looking at them.  Let’s not make snap decisions about a person’s health or moral worth because of how they look.

2.  Exercise can be fun!  Let’s not ruin exercise by making it about arbitrarily changing our body size.  Let’s make it about getting together and having a great time!  Because sometimes moving our bodies feels awesome!

3.  Exercise can be fun, but it’s not a moral obligation.  And exercise is a whole lot easier for some people than for others.  Let’s decide not to worry about how much exercise other people are doing.  And let’s decide on exercise for ourselves based on our own bodies and how we feel.

4.  Let’s not panic about our body size!  People come in all shapes and sizes.  There are greyhounds in this world and there are pit bulls.  Everybody looks a little different than everybody else and that’s okay.

5.  Let’s not boil down a very complex issue like childhood obesity into some silly facebook game, okay?  Let’s choose to accept that body size is influenced by a wide variety of factors–both inside and outside of our control–and learn to love our bodies as they are.  That way we won’t feel quite so much need to judge other people’s bodies, okay?  (See point #1).

And if modeling points 1 through 5 doesn’t work, we could always model how to fake a sweaty. (A little blush, a little water spritzed on the face and hair and TA DAAAA instant sweaty!)

Or if you want to be more professional about it:

I can’t help but be frustrated by the whole notion of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month as it currently stands.  It’s time for a Childhood Weight Stigma Awareness Month.  During this month we could talk about how to help kids avoid eating disorders, we could talk about how bullying based on size is at record levels, and we could talk about how social media is pressuring kids and parents more than ever to have “perfect bodies” at all times.  That’s a movement I could get behind.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Want to hear me speak with YOUR group about how to teach fitness to kids in a way that isn’t damaging to them?  Book me to speak!

P.S.S. Want to get free stuff?  Join my list!

Talking to Kids About their Bodies

I am sad to say that September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  I cannot see the need for this particular marker.  I don’t know a single adult who isn’t aware that there are fat children in the world.  And the vast majority of them are wringing their hands and worrying about what we should do about it.  Schools are still sending kids home with BMI report cards despite significant evidence that this practice is not only not helpful but is often actively harmful.  And most doctors still tell parents to put kids on a diet when kids vary even slightly from the statistical norms.

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And it’s not as if kids are unaware of “the childhood obesity crisis”.  Hospitalizations for eating disorders are up 119 percent among children under 12 years of age.  80 percent of all 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat and 42 percent of all 1st through third grade girls want to be thinner.  Just who is it that remains unaware of a societal desire for kids to be thin?  The whole thing is so deeply depressing I didn’t know how I was going to write about it.  That is until I came across an article somebody posted to Fit Fatties yesterday about a dance teacher working to change the language she uses to talk to kids about their bodies.

Worried about how her words as a dance teacher were affecting the body image of the girls taking ballet lessons, dance teacher Amanda Trusty took several weeks off to work on the language she used in her classes.  Trusty noted that many of the traditional commands from dance class like “tuck in” or “suck in your belly” or “pull in the butt” were not only imprecise, but tended to confirm a societal notion that kids bodies should be smaller and tummies and tushes should disappear.

In her article Amanda says,

I realize now where all my insecurities started. They started in first position at age seven at the barre.

 

And now here I am, 20 years later, catching myself doing the same things to my own seven year old students.

 

Oh, but I refuse. Nuh-uh. No way. I’m a body love advocate. How can I tell my ballerinas to suck it in and tuck it under, knowing how much that shaped my childhood?

So Amanda consciously and thoughtfully worked to change the language with her students.  The new language was not only more imaginative and precise, but also managed to remove body judgement from the equation.  Now rather than telling them to tuck the butt under, she asks the students to imagine they have beautiful tail feathers.  And she asks the students to send their tail feathers down rather than out.  Instead of asking kids to lift their chins, she tells them to imagine they are wearing a beautiful necklace and she asks them to display the necklace to everyone else.

Kids are perfectly well aware that many, many grownups are freaked out beyond all reason that their bodies are not thin enough.  We don’t need a month dedicated to getting adults more freaked out about childhood obesity.  And we don’t need a month dedicated to convincing fat kids that they should not exist, that there is a worldwide movement to eradicate them from the planet.  What we need is a month dedicated to thinking about how we talk to kids about their bodies.  We all need to take a time out like Amanda did, to figure out ways to communicate health and wellness to kids in a way that isn’t damaging to their body image and doesn’t send them charging down the road towards a life of eating disorders.  Now that’s a month I could get behind.

 

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Want to hear me speak with YOUR group about how to teach fitness to kids in a way that isn’t damaging to them?  Book me to speak!

P.S.S. Want to get free stuff?  Join my list!

Don’t Slim me Down! Wooooo!

A very good friend of mine turned me on to the story of model Meaghan Kausman’s very public outcry over recently released images that have made heavy use of Photoshop to slim down her physique.  The notion of models having their images retouched with Photoshop is certainly not new.  Slimmed down hips and arms are fairly common.  And some infamous images have been retouched with such a lack grace that some models have found themselves missing very important body parts.

What is unusual in this case is that the model is speaking out very publicly against the retouching of her image.  She posted the original image versus the retouched on her Instagram account.  And she was quick to point out that the image below is how she really looks.  This may have something to do with the way she was raised.  You see Meaghan’s father is one of my colleagues.  Dr. Rick Kausman is one of Australia’s leading advocates of Health At Every Size and one of its most outspoken opponents of body shaming and diet culture.  Maybe this important grounding in body love is one of the reasons that Meaghan spoke out about the situation.  “They had drastically altered my body, thinning out my stomach and thighs in an attempt to box me into the cultural ideal of beauty,” continued Kausman. “Above is their version, below is the real version. My body is a size 8, not a size 4. That’s my body!”  You can take a look at an interview with Dr. Kausman, Meaghan, and the photographer on the Australian version of “Today” HERE.

So naturally, given the way my brain works, I woke up with the ELO classic “Don’t Bring Me Down” running through my head.  Except the lyrics were now magically changed to “Don’t Slim Me Down” in honor of this story.  In fact, I’ve come up with a whole new set of lyrics:

You gave me thin thighs and a really big head
You made me look like I’ve never been fed

Don’t slim me down, no no no no no
Don’t change my weight
I already look great
Don’t slim me down

Removed a rib and my arms are too long
Lifted my booty and now I just look wrong

Don’t slim me down, no no no no no
Believe it or not
I already look hot
Don’t bring me down

Don’t bring me down, Grroosss
Don’t bring me down, Grroosss
Don’t bring me down, Grroosss
Don’t bring me down

Here’s the original music video so you can sing along: (P.S. note amazing drum majorette neon animation!)

All kidding aside, I am so inspired by this model and her amazing dad.  And I am so inspired by all the models, actresses and others who have spoken out about having their bodies publicly “shopped” against their will.  Because for every one of these iother-worldly, weirdly-elongated, hyper-skinny, totally fabricated model images, there are hundreds and thousands and even millions of young girls trying to mold their bodies into shapes like these pictures.  They are trying to mold their bodies into shapes that are completely make-believe and don’t exist in nature.  Which sets them up for a lifetime of frustration, weight cycling and in thousands of cases, for a lifetime of eating disorders.

So hurrah for Meaghan who took a stand and said, “Don’t Slim Me Down!”

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Want to hear me talk about body image, photoshopping and Health At Every Size to your peeps?  Book Me!

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