Thursday, September 06, 2007

How Not to Win Friends

The scene: sitting at a restaurant bar with a colleague I just met discussing a project we'll be working on together. The US Open plays on the television above us. . . .

The colleague: a sixty-something-year-old male, who does not specialize (to my awareness) in eating disorders

The dialogue: I mention, at some point, my interest in eating disorders and the book I'm currently writing. Conversation shifts and then returns to the book. He's curious what underlies the problem. "So, why do you think EWHAED?", he asks. I go through my typical spiel, the whole cultural piece, our societal obsession with thinness, how women are valued most for their looks and even more so for their bodies, yada, yada, yada. . . .

He draws my attention to the television screen, where Serena Williams sports one of her usual flashy get-ups. "Now, she's not thin," he says.

"Well, I might not call her skinny, but she's solid. She's pure muscle, and she's certainly thinner than the average American woman."

"She is?" he asks, seemingly surprised.

I provide him some stats on the average American woman (AAW), which last I checked (and this could be slightly different now) has the AAW coming in at 144 pounds.

"144?", he exclaims. "That's fat!"

"See, you're the problem."

32 comments:

PalmTreeChick said...

WOW! That's really all I have to say. Can't believe he said that.

Rachel said...

What's even sadder is that this comment comes from someone you described as a colleague, which I took to mean that he is either a clinical psychologist or on similar par. One doesn't have to specialize in eating disorders to know this kind of generalization can't be healthy.

Beth said...

I HATE it when guys are so judgemental about women's weight. They can't possibly know what some of us go through to "keep it off." But, having been 140, I do think it is approaching fat. That's my honest opinion, sorry if that's offensive.

Chicken Girl said...

But, having been 140, I do think it is approaching fat.

Saying "she weighs 140" is completely meaningless unless you also take into account how tall she is, what kind of body type she has, how muscular she is, etc. And if you know all that, the number is pretty much irrelevant.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rachel said...

Keep in mind anonymous, many women who do visit this blog have bona fide eating disorders. Their perceptions of "fat" may be a bit skewed. Hate-mongering on your part does nothing to promote body acceptance

disordered girl said...

Yeah, I think the hate mongering comes from language like anonymous.

The comments by this guy and and Beth though do really reinforce the problem. I had a DEXA test done and 140 for me would actually be UNDERWEIGHT (unless I started seriously losing some of my muscle). The skewed perceptions that are out there, or this idea that all women have one "ideal" to conform to is so off.

drstaceyny said...

I just deleted my first comment ever. I hate to do this, b/c I'm all for free speech, but I cannot tolerate verbal abuse on my site. Feel free to argue/debate all you want. Feel free to attack as many ideas as you see fit. But, when you're attacking each other, cursing at one another, that's just not ok.

Mollie said...

Beth, I appreciate your comment that 140 is approaching fat, but I think it's pretty inappropriate, even though you justify it by claiming it's your "honest opinion". Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive here but I can't help but take your comment personally. I'm a recovering bulimic, I'm 5'6, I weigh 145, I work out often and my BMI is nowhere near overweight. I'd be really grateful if you'd refrain from making potentially judgmental remarks on such a hopeful and recovery-geared site. Please think twice about what may be heard through the ears of someone who still has lingering ED voices. Every body is very different.

Miss Janey said...

Serna looks, and more importantly IS- amazing. Strong, focused, competitive. Of course, these are attributes that are all admired in men. One has to wonder how menfolk would hold up under the scrutiny about appearance that women have to endure.

Anonymous said...

Weight is a very irrelevant number. As is BMI. Serena would, more than likely, register as "obese" or "overweight" if we tested her BMI. We all know she is a powerhouse and fit as a fiddle.

Anyhow, I have throught about your Thesis - that Every Woman has an Eating Disorder - and would like to say that I do not. I look at food like I look at any other day to day hygene/health - I eat food that is good for me, and avoid food that doesn't meet that purpose. Sometimes I enjoy food that may not be "good for me" (understand that "good for me"'s definition can be individual). I never feel remorse over eating something.

- Jojo

Alyssa said...

When I was Anorexic I weighed 140. I am 5'9" with a medium frame. I was losing my hair, had stopped menstruating, and was freezing all the time. In San Diego. In June. And yet, as miserable as I felt, there are times when I would dearly love to get back down to that weight. I wish that colleague could live as one of us for a week. Maybe then he would have a clue.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone has already expressed my biggest concern, but I'll put it in anyway-I have a friend that's something like 4'9" that, yeah, maybe 140 would be a bit much on. and another that is 6'1" that would need medical intervention if she got that low. you can't just use an average for people with so many other factors and say if it is or isn't fat. I can't believe that this guy didn't know that 1 weight isn't for everyone. and I do like beth's comment about guys being judgemental. I have looked at crazy online personals that would specify how a girl should be "slim to athletic" despite the fact that the guy clearly wasn't. which I know doesn't really relate, but still

Beth said...

Disordered Girl and Alyssa- I am sorry to have had my comment affect you personally. You are probably both much healthier (and taller) than me. I should have said approaching fat for my height (5'4"), frame, etc. I don't critize others' bodies on a frequent basis as i do my own. Oh, and I meant you both probably have a healthier mentality to body image, not just healthier bodies. I do love Serena's muscle tone, though!

Anonymous said...

I want to know what he looked like. I bet he weighed a bit more than 140 lbs. I've had men who weigh twice as much as me criticize me for being fat and "pear-shaped." The hypocrisy makes me sick. What gives them the right to judge me?

WifeMomChocoholic said...

To be honest, I'm surprised the average is so low.

At 144 I looked great! Of course, I was also hungry all the time and obsessed about food and eating constantly...and exercised 2 hours a day...but I looked good.

Charlynn said...

I hope you were able to set your colleague straight. Maybe next time he'll think more critically about his perceptions and words.

Caroline said...

Yeah, screw him, I'm 5'9. 144 on me is relatively thin, or at least healthy.

I guess at under 5'4 (the height of the AAW, right?) 144 can look pretty chubby on some people though.

Persephone said...

Do you think that average = healthy?

apri

Anonymous said...

The problem with comments like "140 is approaching fat" is that, in addition to being meaningless without knowing anything about the height and composition of the body in question, so many people lie publicly about their weight. I can't count the time I've seen some actress/model/whatever blab on about how she weighs 110 lbs when it's obviousl that she's nearly six feet tall, and her skeleton, along with her hair, fake boobs and capped teeth all put her over that number. The public ends up with a very skewed idea of what these numbers really look like.

LG said...

Geesh. My dad is nearly 70, and he frequently makes comments about fat people like the one you posted about. He also makes fat jokes, even though my mom is overweight. (How insensitive is that?! I wish he knew the kind of damage his words made on me!!!

EVR said...

People, 144 on the height of the AAW is approaching overweight - face it, the average American, male or female, is overweight, with 75% of people obese in this nation. It shouldn't shock anyone that the AAW is not slim or athletic or slender at all - most women in this nation are not thin; that's not to say that a fit, healthy lifestyle is not possible, because I myself am an athlete and read Oxygen magazine (hey, profile some of them, doc! Should be interesting - their food fixation is quite different) all the time, displaying women who live one, but the reality is that most of America is not healthy. We totally can be - we are just no the norm, and we wouldn't be part of the statistic, of course.

Sarah said...

Evr, if I weighed 144 pounds, my BMI would be absolutely normal. And being in the "overweight" range doesn't make a person automatically unhealthy. In fact, people in the "overweight" category actually live longer - studies have been done by the American Medical Association.

Plus, can you back up that statistic of 77% of people being "obese" in this country? Sounds absolutely outrageous and made-up to me.

And who are you to judge who is "healthy" and who isn't? Do you go around and collect medical statistic on all the "unhealthy" people you see?

drstaceyny said...

mollie--"every body is different." Exactly!

mj--good points.

jojo--I'm sure she would. I don't think that EWHAED, but I think many do. It's just a catchy title, for now. I'm glad you have such a healthy relationship with food.

alyssa--I'm glad you've recovered. It has such a strong pull, doesn't it?

anon6:03--I've seen those, too. Posted on them once. . .

beth--thanks for clarifying.

anon10:07--good question. I think his weight, though, is irrelevant. People of all shapes and sizes make these comments (men and women--as obvious here).

wmc--so, 144 was not healthy for you.

charlynn--maybe. . .

caroline--well, it depends. Height is certainly a variable, but there are others. . . .

persephone--I don't know. I would have to take average to the doctor to see. Seriously, I can't make any blanket statements about what weights or sizes are healthy. Bring me a woman, we'll take her to a medical doctor (b/c that I am not), check her BP, her blood, take an EKG, look at her bone density, and a host of other factors, and then we'll know if she's healthy.

anon--good point.

lg--can you ask him to stop? Can I? ; )

evr--the AAW may not be healthy, but it's not necessarily a reflection of her weight, but rather that she isn't active enough or doesn't eat a balanced diet.

sarah--it is an individual thing.

Alyssa said...

Beth: Isn't it funny (in a sad way) how we can be totally accepting of everyone but ourselves?

Evr: I used to read "Oxygen," until there was a comment by one of the editors criticizing J-Lo and Beyonce for not "working hard enough" to lose their booties. IMHO, it's more a mag for women who want to compete in fitness competitions, or at least look like they do. That is NOT a criticism, it's just that many women, say with jobs and kids, (in my case, 2 kids with autism) are unable to spend hours working out. That's not to say there can't be a happy medium, lol! But I think we all agree that the focus should be on health, rather than fat or thin.

There was a recent study showing that people with high cholesterol who added healthy foods to their diet lowered their cholesterol by more points than folks who followed a traditional low-fat, low cholesterol diet. (They added specific foods, like eggplant and almonds, among others.) So the new advice may be to focus on what you can eat, rather than what you can't.

margrocks said...

yay for you, dr. stacey!!! i'd be curious to hear how he reacted to your comment that he's "the problem."

Michelle said...

Ok, there is no obesity epidemic!!!! 400,000 people do not die a year from obesity, these things have been disproved. Anyway, 144 at my frame is downright nice, I haven't been there in over 100 lbs., but I remember it well, and I thought I was fat!!, but you should see the pictures!!

Lindsay said...

Did you pummel him over the head? I can't believe he really said that.

said...

How can you say that 144 pounds on the AAW is overweight, when the AAW is also 5'7" (or last I heard) which is right dead in the middle of normal . Which, of course, reinforces my belief that BMI doesn't mean crap since having a "healthy" or "normal" one still gets you treated like you're severely obese (at least in my town).

Anonymous said...

For God's sake, the "average" woman who weighs 144 is 5'4" tall, NOT nearly 6 feet tall like Serena!!! If Serena weight 144 she'd be a stick figure.
No, she's not "thin" but her body ROCKS.

Spectra said...

Amazing. It's comments like "140 lbs is fat" that kind of pushed me into my exercise compulsion. I was at the doctor for my physical and I had just started running (I had lost a bunch of weight, going from 190 to 140 by diet alone. I decided to add exercise to drop the last few pounds). My doctor told me: "You're at a pretty ok weight, but you could lighten up a bit so you can run better". That comment (coming from my doctor, no less) really hit home. At 5'3" and with a muscular frame, 140 on me had me at only 23% fat and a size 8. I immediately started working out a little more and eating less and now I'm down to 100 lbs and I'm too thin to menstruate. I'm trying to break the cycle so I don't end up killing myself. One thing that also pisses me off is men who say they like women "with boobs and a butt", yet any woman that actually does have curves (like Serena or Britney or someone like that) is called "fat" by men. What do they want???

nursemeow said...

Wow. I'm 5'5 I have worked on my body for about 2 years, going from 230lbs to 140lbs. I was really happy with my body and my new healthy lifestyle until I came accross this post, After reading it, I discovered that most actresses in my height range average 107lbs, even Jessica Beil who seems to muscular and fit it only 112lbs at 5'8! Guess it's back to square 1 :(