Thursday, June 28, 2007

Day at the Beach recently posted a bit on Kelly Clarkson's six-month battle with bulimia in high school. Accompanying the text was a newer photo of Clarkson, snapped at the beach.

As of this writing, 249 comments poured in, and I had the chance to scroll through some of the them. I sometimes forget, writing a body-friendly blog, about the angry, hateful voices that surround us. True, the domain name should have warned me, but some of these (original writing preserved) were still quite alarming:

"Beached whale!!!"

"From the looks of that picture, she should think about starting up again."

"She looks like a very thin and unattractive woman that was stretched fat. There is no shape to her such as an hourglass figure and she definitely is fat. It is quite remarkable that she is so tubby yet not at all curvaceous. That body does nothing for a man. Sex with her would be a fitting punishment for minor crimes."

"I think this pic was snapped just as she started to hurl. Way to go Kelly! There is a thin you trapped somewhere in there."

"Wow! Kelly Clarkson bullimic? yeah right! if she was ever skinny, then i was a girl in my previous life. which i still am...only i have no boobs, an extremely large penis and...well, Long Story Short, im a guy. but in other words...i'd still do her. with a bag over her head of course."

One commented. . .

"She is NOT FAT at all. I dont see cellulite, rolls or a belly. she's just not super skinny. Part of the reason people become bulimic is because of comments like this."

. . . but was quickly rebuffed:

"I don't think so, celia. the reason people become bulimic is because they take extreme pleasure in overpowering and torturing people, namely, themselves."


It's a dangerous world out there.

Or, as one commenter noted:

"Wow. Do most of you peeps have lives of your own? I'd love to see how you measure up against an incredibly normal-looking human being having fun at the beach. I love this website, but man, so many of the commenters have really fucked up views of what is good/beautiful/acceptable/normal. You're all so brainwashed to think that women who are so Hollywood thin are normal. They ain't. Kelly looks incredibly normal and healthy there. If she wants more in the boobage area, there are nice padded bras to wear. When you're having fun at the beach, who gives a fuck? And who should, frankly?"

Well put.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Is the Tortoise Catching Up?

Yesterday, out and about in New York, I happened across not one, but two body positive t-shirts. The first, by the designer Joie, stated boldy across a woman's chest, "Diets Stink." The other, pictured above, reads, "If the definition of beautiful gets any thinner no one will fit." Cleverly, the word "fit" falls just outside the box. This shirt and others can be purchased at New Moon, an EWHAED-endorsed, grass-roots, advocacy organization that publishes an advertisement-free magazine for "girls and their dreams." Another t-shirt in their catalog? "I Can Be My Dream." I kinda like that one, too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Big Girls

23-year-old, Lebanese-born Mica Penniman (aka Mika) hands us this latest pearl in the size acceptance movement. A celebration of the (larger) female form, catchy lyrics, a campy beat--check it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Back in February, the FDA approved Alli, an over-the-counter version of the weight-loss drug, Xenical. Alli, which cleverly sounds like a comrade in war or a girlfriend you'd meet for brunch (depending on how you pronounce it, though the correct pronunciation is the first), hit store shelves last week to an uproar, as expected.

The $50-something Alli starter pack sold out in hours in many pharmacies, in a furor typically reserved for a life-saving remedy. The Los Angeles Times interviewed Santa Monica pharmacist, Roe Love, who equated the Alli sellout with the post-9/11 anthrax-induced Cipro dash, reporting that the bulk of Alli purchasers at her store have been women, adding, "And they're not fat."

Love's store is in Santa Monica. Did we really think they would be?

If you haven't heard, Alli, which results in weight loss due to blocked fat absorption, comes with some minor side effects, of the gastro-intestinal sort. The manufacturer's (GlaxoSmithKline) website euphemistically refers to these as "treatment effects": 1) gas with oily spotting
2) loose stools 3) more frequent stools that may be hard to control.

Not terrible, but the site goes on to say: "You may feel an urgent need to go to the bathroom. Until you have a sense of any treatment effects, it's probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work." That bad, huh? And, manufacturers warn that the product won't work without the adoption of a low-fat, low-calorie diet and commitment to an exercise plan. Seems like what we've been told for years. . . without the need to change our oily, loose-stooled pants.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Last week's cover of In Touch Weekly featured photos of Nicole Richie and Angelina Jolie, tagged: "Scary Skinny! Alarming new photos of Nicole and Angelina spark more fears for their health."

But, are we really worried about their health? Sure, they look unhealthy, and perhaps we pontificate about the consequences of their being too thin, but are we really concerned about their lives? What needs to happen in order for there to be bona fide concern, in order for us to stop trying to look like them? Richie and Jolie are just the latest faces of celebrity emaciation. Their predecessors (Kate Bosworth, Keira Knightley, Kate Moss, etc.) either gained weight or somehow escaped the too-thin radar. For now.

Somehow, we've learned that the consequences of being too thin aren't that serious. Somehow, we've ignored the passing of South American models. And, somehow, we've denied the fact that anorexia has hightest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

This weekend's New York Times featured an article on cocaine, New York's party favor du jour. The substance, as common at bars, parties, and clubs as vodka tonics, has proliferated recently, in part, because of a recent absence of publicized drug-induced casualties. As Herbert Kleber, of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, is quoted as saying, "'Drug use tends to be cyclic. . . . As some of my colleagues said, John Belushi had to die before people believed that these drugs were really dangerous.'"

Is that what it will take in order for us to wake up to the dangers of anorexia? Do we need, at least on American soil, a star to lose her life? Do we really need another Karen Carpenter?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Drug of Choice

This weekend's New York Times "Style" section featured an article tracing the cupcake craze, the proliferation of bake shops across the country specializing in the fourth-grade birthday party signature treat, cupcakes. The article suggests our interest in cupcakes represents a return to comfort food (others find a similar path toward mac and cheese) and discusses how far from comfort, a la our diet culture, we've strayed. Lesley Balla, blogging food writer comments on the advent of cupcake stores in L.A.: "Do we really need another bakery? Probably not. But Angelenos have been starving for sugar and carbs for so long that the bakeries seem like a breath of fresh air."

Balla's wise words capture the principle of psychological reactance, defined in the APA Dictionary of Psychology :

. . . a motivational state characterized by distress, anxiety, resistance, and the desire to restore that freedom. According to this model, when people feel coerced or forced into a certain behavior, they will react against the coercion, often by demonstrating and increased preference for the behavior that is restrained, and may perform the opposite behavior to that desired.

The beauty of reactance theory is that it, despite its psychobabble, succinctly captures why diets fail (or at least the psychological reasons they fail). The more we're told we can't have, the more we want. Proponents of reactance theory might even argue for legalization of marijuana, gambling, and prostitution.

And so, since Atkins/South Beach/other diet of the moment has expressly forbidden sugar and, gasp, white flour, we begin to crave these ingredients to such an extent that we find ourselves secretly bingeing on them, or patiently, but urgently, lined up outside a cupcake bakery, waiting for our fix.

When I first visited Magnolia Bakery (a cupcake shop with its own wikipedia entry) in New York City*, I wasn't yet living here, but a friend thought I'd enjoy the experience. On a cold winter day, a line wrapped around the West Village block, and we were ushered in in two's and three's, allowed to box our own cupcakes, but warned of the cupcake limit (12). My friend apyly commented, "There's really no difference between this and a crack house." It's just a different drug of choice.

*for the record, now a permanent New York City resident, I prefer Crumbs, which offers 1) more flavors 2) a moister cake portion 3) frosting that isn't too sweet 4) an indoor line