Tag Archives: photoshop

Don’t Exercise

Last night I gave a speech at Kaiser provocatively entitled, “Don’t Exercise”.  It was a big hit, so I thought I would share some of the highlights with you today.  The whole idea of the speech is that so often people begin to exercise because they believe that if they do so, their body will look a certain way, as if we could change our body as easily as changing our hairstyle and we could match our new body to a picture in a magazine.  Except this hardly ever works.  Most people are simply not genetically blessed in a way that makes huge biceps or six pack abs realistic or sustainable for them.  Sure there is a very small group of people–like 5 percent or even 1 percent who are genetically blessed in a way that makes big biceps or 6-pack abs reasonably likely.  That is not to say these folks don’t work hard to maintain those traits.  They do.  But there is no question that genetics makes big biceps and six-pack abs a lot more difficult for some people than others.  And sure there is an even smaller group of people who are not genetically blessed but still manage to sport big biceps and six-pack abs for a time.  They do this by being obsessed with big biceps and six pack abs.  And I’m cool with that.  Following Ragen Chastain’s famous underpants rule, they are allowed to spend whatever free time they are privileged to have in any way that makes them happy.  They are the boss of their own underpants.

Where we get into trouble is when we insist that most people can expect big biceps and six-pack abs as a likely outcome from their fitness efforts.  Because frankly, that’s a lie.  In fact it’s so much of a lie, that when you look at many modern ads for fitness equipment and weight loss schemes, following any of their more outlandish claims you may find an asterisk.  This asterisk typically refers to a tiny line of script at the bottom of the ad with three words: results not typical.  This disclaimer is there for an important reason.  The FTC and other governing bodies have sued so many of these companies for insisting that huge permanent weight loss and bodybuilder-sized biceps and butts upon which you may bounce a quarter are typical and even expected results that these companies are adding the disclaimer to A) avoid lawsuits and B) stay in business.  Because while these results are certainly, technically possible with any of these schemes.  These results are anything BUT typical.

So at this point a lot of people ask me what is wrong with those aspirational pictures?  If it gets people to go to the gym it’s a good thing, right?  Well, there’s a problem–which I like to illustrate with this picture:

Quite often I see this image held up as a great example of motivation.  To which I reply–“ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?”  This is a terrible example of motivation.  Here we have a rhino running on a treadmill looking at a picture of a unicorn.  If that rhino runs really hard and really fast and really long, is he going to become a unicorn?  Anybody?  Anybody?  OF COURSE NOT–and for two really good reasons.  1)Unicorns and rhinoceroses are two completely different animals.  There is no documented case of a rhinoceros EVER turning into a unicorn because 2)Unicorns don’t exist.  So, my friends, what happens after that rhinoceros spends several weeks or months at the gym and doesn’t look anything like a unicorn?

Yup, the rhino quits–usually just 4-6 weeks into their workout program (on average).  So DON’T EXERCISE in order to change your rhino body into a unicorn.  If you do that, your exercise program is most likely, statistically and in all probability doomed.  Because unicorn bodies are “*results not typical” for most fitness programs.

There are thousands of good reasons to exercise–many of which I have talked about extensively on this blog.  Exercise because it helps you feel better.  Exercise because it improves your mood or improves symptoms of depression or helps you avoid getting sick.  Exercise because it feels great and is fun and allows you to socialize with awesome people.  Exercise because it improves your quality of life in so many important ways.   Exercise for all of these reasons and so many more that are typical.

And if you want a picture to get you going, might I recommend the Flying Rhinos?  We have a brand spankin’ new store where you can get hats and mugs and posters and stickers and stationery and stuff to inspire you.  Get out there with your rhino body and just get rock ON with your rad rhino self.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come talk to your group?  Click HERE to learn more.

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Hey! Don’t “Shop” My Kid!

The girls of South Park learn about Photoshop.

Mahli had always been told that the birthmark on the side of her neck was a “beauty mark”.  So when the photos came back with the birthmark erased, Mahli was very upset.  As if an important part of her were taken away.  Unfortunately just like learning about Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Stork, at some point in our lives we need to learn about Photoshop.  But Mahli had a good excuse for not understanding.  Because Mahli was only six years old.

Mahli and her family learned the harsh realities of the alternate Photoshop universe when her school pictures came in.  Mahli’s picture was digitally retouched by the school photo company to remove the young girl’s birthmark.  They also digitally changed the color of her bow and removed a little snot off her face.  All of this was done without the parents’ permission.

“I don’t want a perfect photo,” said Mahli’s mum, “I want a photo of my perfect child.  It’s her first school photo from primary school, and that’s kindergarten gone.”

Now some of you might be thinking, “Big deal!  Photos are altered all the time.  My 10-year-old nephew is brilliant at it!”

But it is a big deal.  Mahli’s parents had spent time carefully teaching her daughter that her birthmark was part of her.  That it was part of what made her special and beautiful.  Mahli had learned that this was a part of her that she need not be ashamed of or hide.  And then the photos come back with that part of her erased.  What message does that send to a little kid?  Suddenly, that part of her has been digitally removed as if it was too terrible to be seen by the public.  Suddenly she learns that the wider world has different standards than her parents taught her.  And that from now on, any images of Mahli that are for public consumption, must be changed to present an acceptably homogenized view free from “blemishes”, “uninspired fashion choices” or even the “odd accidental booger”.  Because it’s not important who you are, it is only important how you appear in the yearbook, or daddy’s wallet or grandma’s social media feed.

Mahli’s mother is not having it.

“We’re very concerned about what that’s doing to her body image. When she’s 18 how is she going to feel when she looks at that photo and she still has the birthmark but the photo doesn’t?

“Why instill in a six-year-old that she needs to have a complex about what she looks like?

“She’s not doing a fashion shoot for Cosmopolitan magazine, she’s having her photo taken for the family album.”

These are very good questions indeed.  I’ve seen a  lot of commentary online blaming the school and the photo company.  Some have even noted that while Mahli has been honored for respecting others and their things, the school and the photo company didn’t afford her the same courtesy.   But the company that altered these photos without permission (Academy School Photography and Production) surely didn’t just digitally alter this one photo.  Undoubtedly they have retouched many, many school photos, probably for years.  And nobody seemed to complain.  In fact, they probably found that when the photos were retouched, the parents BOUGHT MORE PICTURES.  Academy School Photography and Production is a business.  They would not engage in a time consuming and expensive process unless the net result were more sales.

It’s pretty easy to see how it happens.  Any schoolteacher can tell you that no matter how carefully you prep your little darlings for school photo day, by the time the kids arrive in line to be immortalized on photo day, things have probably gone seriously awry.  Hair is mussed.  Shirts are stained.  Faces are smudged.  A little hair straightening here, a little teeth cleaning there, a little spot removal and voila!  The kid in the photo looks the angel that walked out the door in the morning.  And thus sales go up.  Ah and if a little extra alterations, a few pounds shaved, a few freckles removed, eyes brightened and all that jazz help the parents maintain an illusion that their kid is “perfect” and “media ready” so much the better.  Sales go up and up.  And that comes down to the parents.  Unless parents insist on raw, unaltered photos.  Unless they refuse to buy pictures that have their kids prettied up in post, this process will continue.  Parents need to make a stink about this process.  Not just one parent who tried extra hard to instill body love in her little girl–all parents need to say something.

Because what is at stake here is not just a school photo or a beauty mark.  What is at stake here is how kids learn to perceive themselves and their bodies.  This is part of the process that makes six-year old kids worried about getting fat.  This is part of the process that makes kids under 12 one of the fastest growing groups of eating disordered people.  This is part of the process that makes grade school kids torture each other both online and in person about differences until their very young victims consider suicide.  It’s all part of the thing.  Part of the thing that causes us to find skilled graphic designers to “fix” our dating site profile pictures–the thing that robs us of our humanity and makes us present ourselves as perfect pictures of ourselves rather than our authentic selves.

It reminds me of a surprisingly touching moment in the television show, “South Park” (of all places).  Wendy sticks up for a girl on the cheerleading squad who is less conventionally attractive than the other girls.  All of this changes, when the girl’s newly (and dramatically) retouched photo appears on social networking.  Suddenly all the boys want to date her.  The girl’s boyfriend can’t wait to flip out his phone and show off pictures of his “hot, new girlfriend” to his friends. Soon all the girls at school are doing it…

…except for Wendy.  When Wendy protests that these images aren’t real, when she speaks up at school and even the local news about the process of retouching these photos, she is accused of being “jelly” (jealous) and is told if she doesn’t shape up she’ll be sent to “Jelly School”.  The final scene of the episode as Wendy ultimately caves to the peer pressure is surprisingly poignant and marks the first time ever an episode of South Park made me cry:

So what’s the upshot here?  Who’s to blame?  The school?  Yes.  The photo company?  Of course.  But we, as a society are all complicit in this problem.  And as a group, we will need to buy the photos with the funky hair part and the freckles.  And we will need to speak up when our imperfections are erased for public consumption.  Because a world where a tough, independent minded, intelligent girl like Wendy’s character on South Park, still feels the need to learn Photoshop so she can create a social media acceptable image of herself makes me so, so sad.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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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)

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A Killer Green Dress and other Fashion to Die For

Recently I heard about Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century a new exhibit at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada.  The centerpiece of the exhibit is a bright green ballgown from 1860.  Like many other fashions of the time, the bright green color was accomplished with a dye created with arsenic.  The vivid green color was very popular at the time because it looked beautiful under the new electric lighting.  Other arsenic-laced fashions on display include electric green shoes, gloves and other items.

These arsenic laced items were known at the time to be dangerous to the fashionistas who wore them.  Arsenic was absorbed through the skin when the wearer perspired and frequently caused rashes and worse conditions.  And the garments were not only very dangerous to those who wore them, but also to those who created the fabrics and made them into clothing.  Similar to these dangers in dressmaking were the frequent poisonings by those who created the fashionable hats of the time.  The demand for a larger number of felted fur hats, required cheaper fur which used mercury in the finishing process.  Mercury is known to cause a wide variety of damage to the brain and nervous system.  The poisoning of hat makers became so well known that the phrase “mad as a hatter” came into widespread use.  Add to this the generally poor working conditions for those working in the garment district including terrible fires like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and you see a whole class of workers dying to help others look good.

The desire for using cheaper materials to replace more expensive ones, led to an explosion in products available to the middle classes, but sometimes it simply led to explosions.  On display at the exhibit you will find some hair combs created from celluloid rather than the more expensive tortoiseshell combs.  The material was so flammable, that houses burned when the combs came too near a fire.  The material was also used as a film base for motion pictures, and theater fires at the turn of the century were dangerous and sometimes deadly.’  Also on display in the exhibit are tightly-laced corsets and extremely narrow shoes and gloves which were considered fashionable during the day.

One might be tempted to believe that we have moved beyond all that and are no longer willing to die or kill for fashion.  But I wonder if this is really true.  We certainly have stricter regulations regarding the dyes we use in clothing.  And many items are now fire retardant.  But there are some studies indicating that the fire retardants themselves might be bad for our health.

Studies in laboratory animals and humans have linked the most scrutinized flame retardants, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, to thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems, delayed mental and physical development, lower IQ, advanced puberty and reduced fertility. Other flame retardants have been linked to cancer. At the same time, recent studies suggest that the chemicals may not effectively reduce the flammability of treated products.

And while corsets are more often decorative than function in modern fashion, how often do we use spandex “shapewear” to smooth our bodies under certain kinds of clothing?  Even though we know that it literally squishes our internal organs and makes us more prone to yeast and bacterial infections?  And some women go as far as painful and dangerous surgery just to look better in their Jimmy Choos.

Fashions are still based on a very narrow vision of beauty attainable by no-one without a huge budget, great genes and Photoshop.  Women are still dying in droves trying to make their bodies conform to a size and shape that may not be attainable by anyone without significant photo retouching.

And plenty of people are still dying to create inexpensive fashions.  We may have created work regulations that make the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire  unlikely here in the U.S.  But plenty of people are dying in other countries in order to offer us the cheap clothing we still desire.

All of which leads me to ask this question.  When will it end?  When will we decide that it is unfashionable for people to die so we can buy more clothes?  When will we start demanding clothing fit us instead of asking our poor bodies to be starved, mangled, stretched and permanently damaged to fit clothing?  When will we stop impregnating our fabrics with chemicals that cause brain damage and cancer?  I hope it’s soon.  But however fast it is, in my opinion, is just not fast enough.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

In EPIC Wardrobe Malfunction, Target Creates Thigh Gap by Removing Young Woman’s Lady Bits

Close up of gruesome wardrobe malfunction. EEEK!

In it’s quest to ensure that all its models are sporting an appropriate thigh-gap,  Target PhotoShop artists appear to have removed a junior model’s vagina altogether.  The image was pointed out by several watchdog groups and blogs not only for it’s garish wardrobe malfunction, but also for the fact that it appears the junior model in question may have also been mutated into an alien creature with a very long torso and very long arms, best seen in the larger version of the photo here:

The photographic evidence of Target’s tampering have since gone viral and Target has issued an “apology” stating:

“In response to your query about the swimsuit image on Target.com, this was an unfortunate error on our part and we apologize. We have removed the image from our Web site,” a company spokesman said. Asked how the mistake occurred, “It was the result of a photo editing error on our part.”

Which leaves me with a few things to say to our friends at Target.  First of all, in your “apology” I have to say that I don’t think that word means what you think it means.  Sure, your PhotoShop guy or gal messed up.  I can certainly understand how that happened.  I doubt that it’s some sort of malicious protest on the part of the graphic designer as some have suggested.  I really don’t imagine that some designer wanted to point out the brutality inherent in the system of PhotoShopping images by blatantly messing up and releasing a picture.  I’ve produced websites and games and DVDs.  I understand that stuff slips through the cracks.  That poor graphic artist is probably not being paid less per hour than your minimum wage checkers and is probably working 80 hours per week on “salary” in a web sweat shop somewhere.  And the junior manager or producer doing Quality Control on those images is probably working just as hard and not getting paid very well either.  And if anybody gets fired over this whole mess, it will probably be them.

Apology? Hmmm. Maybe not.

But I’m sorry to say Target, that you apologized for the wrong thing.  Don’t apologize to me that a graphic artist messed up and released a photo that makes it blatantly obvious that you drastically altered a young woman’s body to convince 12-year old girls that they need to be seven feet-tall, size 00 and have a thigh gap that could hold a soccer ball.  Don’t apologize to me that you got caught.  Apologize to me for feeling the need to PhotoShop these images this way in the first place.  Apologize to me for altering photos to create impossible beauty ideals to products aimed at 12-year-old girls in an environment where hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 are up 119% (see Pinhas et. al.)  Apologize to me for being so certain that your model needs to sport a thigh gap, a trendy body trait that is nearly impossible to maintain for all but a microscopic percentage of the human race, that you were willing to graphically stretch her on the rack and excise critical bits of her anatomy to accomplish it.  (You could consider the techniques shown in the video below.  These are kinda cool actually.)

Target, you make me sad.  I adore your wide, bright aisles and fun POP displays.  I love your colorful and fun, yet generally affordable housewares, camping gear and sporting goods.  But this has GOT to stop.  It’s time for you to retract your fake apology and give us a real one.  Then tell us how you are going to stop digitally dissecting the already beautiful bodies of your models to sell us a dose of unreality we just shouldn’t have to swallow.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Once upon a body…Comparing Ourselves to Pretend People

Melissa McCarthy is almost unrecognizable in these American and UK posters for the movie "The Heat".

Melissa McCarthy is almost unrecognizable in these American and UK posters for the movie “The Heat”.

In popular culture it can be pretty difficult to find examples of bodies that represent how most people in our world actually appear.  While the average American woman is a US size 12 on the top and a US size 14 on the bottom, the average American actress, pop music icon or model is closer to a size 0 or even a size 00.  Both of these sizes are quite a distance from what most of us see in the mirror every day.  But even these sizes often prove too large for film studios and record labels and fashion magazines.  Even the size zero girls are likely to be “shopped”.

By “shopped” of course I mean digitally retouched in an image editing software package like Adobe Photoshop(R).  And sometimes this digital retouching is done without the will of the original actress, model or performer.

Just today, I’ve run across two amazing examples of Photoshop culture.  Apparently, one of the few plus-sized actresses in Hollywood, Melissa McCarthy was significantly “shopped” in both the American and UK version of the movie posters for her upcoming movie The Heat.  In the American version her image is seriously washed out, and this over exposure seems to make both her signature dimples and her double chin disappear.  The UK version is even more noticeably retouched.  In fact the slimmed down face, redrawn chin and tiny head in relation to the body not only render her as unrecognizable, but also, not necessarily human.  She just looks weird.

beyonce_shopped

In other news, Beyonce was severely Photoshopped into a “model artists rendering” of herself in order to display a Roberto Cavalli dress.  Not only does she not look like herself, but she also doesn’t look quite human with those impossible, stick-thin arms and legs and ludicrously elongated body.  Which seems especially ludicrous when you compare these images with real images showing just how gorgeous she looks in this dress in real life.

beyonce2Even Minnie Mouse is not immune to being “shopped” to sell a dress.

Check HERE for more Photoshop fun (and make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom…)

More and more often, stars are speaking out about the process of being digitally retouched against their will.  They understand the impact that these impossible images are having on  the way women, and especially young girls feel about themselves.

It’s no longer enough to compare ourselves against the very small, and elite number of actors and performers who happen to wear a size 0 or a size 00.  Now we are expected to compare ourselves to artist renderings of impossible people.

Until we say “Basta!” or “That’s enough!”  The only way for us to move beyond the tyranny of these images is to identify them as fictional constructs, and then refuse to buy products from companies that feel the need to display their wares on pretend people.

In other words, it is in our power to decide, “If it ain’t real, it don’t appeal”.

So what do you think?  How do you feel when you see Photoshopped images?  Are there any examples you’ve run across that are particularly misleading and damaging?  Can  you share them with us and let us know how you felt?  Can you share stories about how you presented these images to your friends, your students and your kids?  Or have you noted any amazingly and refreshingly honest images about how real people look?  Please feel free to share those examples with us.

And in the meantime, you can resolve to stop comparing yourself to pretend people once and for all!

Love,

The Fat Chick

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California Gov. Health Organization “Photoshops” Kids Picture to Fight Childhood Obesity

blog1

Good job California.  So you passed Proposition 10 to collect a fifty-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes.  You’ve used that money to create First 5 California, also known as the California Children and Families Commission which is:

dedicated to improving the lives of California’s young children and their families through a comprehensive system of education, health services, childcare, and other crucial programs.

And the commission you created with this money, chooses to use those resources to drastically retouch a picture of a little girl to make her look fat for an ad campaign designed to scare parents into limiting the amount of sugar they feed their kids.

Awesome!

Here’s the original photo, next to the retouched version:

First of all, whatever amount of state tax money that was used to do that image retouching is waaaay too much.  I could get far better design work than that done on fiverr.com for $5 USD.

Next, I have to ask, why would we spend any amount of state tax money on shaming fat parents and fat kids in the face of the fact it just doesn’t work?  In fact  study after study shows that stigmatizing and bullying kids about their weight not only fails to create thinner kids, but also tends to trigger more participation in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking, substance abuse, binge eating and other forms of disordered eating.

So why exactly are we spending state tax money to create ads aimed at preventing childhood obesity that are actually more likely to increase levels of childhood obesity while at the same time encouraging our kids to engage in higher levels of destructive behavior?

I’m sure that some of the fear-mongering, hand-wringing, head-shaking folks that created this glorious ad campaign will ask you to “think about the children”.   They will cite statistics about childhood obesity and suggest that something must be done to protect the health of these poor kids.

To which I would reply, “Yes.  All kids deserve to be healthy.  So let’s focus on stuff that does that.”  Shaming kids does not make them thinner or healthier.  But there are some things we can do.  In fact, in honor of First 5, I’ll give you five suggestions:

1.  How about making sure kids have a safe place to play?

2.  How about reinstating some of the physical education programs that have been cut from schools for lack of budget?

3.  How about making sure that kids of all sizes have access to a variety of high-quality, nutritionally dense foods?

4.  How about we help fat kids learn to accept and love themselves so that they are more likely to exercise and treat themselves well?

5.  How about we add “body size” as a category for school anti-bullying programs.

Sure, these programs would be more difficult than cranking out a basic bus shelter advertisement.  And undoubtedly some of these programs would cost more than hiring the world’s worst graphic designer to “fatten up” the image of an innocent kid.  But given the fact that some of these programs might, I don’t know, help some kids live healthier lives, maybe we should just fund those instead.

As a final note, the folks at First  5 may find themselves facing some pretty well-organized and powerful opposition.  It’s already started in the form of an awesome homemade protest flyer at the site of one of the bus shelters:

Blog2But as some folks in Georgia found out, folks can get pretty riled up and do some pretty amazing things when you shame and frighten their children.

So maybe we should take a step back and a deep breath and try again.  I’m sure, upon some calm reflection, we can find better ways to promote good health for children of all sizes.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

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