Tuesday, April 24, 2007

One Little Pig

By now, you've probably heard about Alec Baldwin's telephone rant to his 11-year-old (or 12, as Baldwin mistakenly notes) daughter, Ireland.

What I find most disturbing about this leaked voice mail message, after his threats to "straighten [her] ass out" upon their next meeting, is his reference to Ireland as a "thoughtless little pig." True, he modifies "pig" with "little," but being labeled a pig is the last thing an adolescent girl needs to hear. Especially when your mom happens to be Kim Bassinger. . .

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The New No-Diet-No-Exercise Weight-Loss Plan

Last night's ten o'clock news beckoned with a diet trick sure to inspire--a weight-loss method that requires no exercise or food restriction.

Following several stories and commercial breaks, the plan was unveiled: chew gum. As the reporter informed us, chewing gum during the afternoon results in 36 fewer calories consumed per day.

36. So, in about 100 days, if you're to chew gum every day, you may (if you're the norm) lose about a pound. How, I wonder, did this make the news?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Scales of Measurement

I’ve never owned a scale. It seems that weighing becomes highly ritualistic, and as others have written in the past, a way to determine one’s worth and mood for the rest of the day. That’s probably why I’ve opted out. But, recently, I’ve been thinking about how, even if we shun the scale, we may compensate by using other self-worth metrics related to body image, namely frequent mirror checks and/or an over-reliance on the fit of our clothes.

“Oh, I don’t weigh myself; I just go by how my clothes fit.” Sound familiar? What exactly does “go by” mean? Why must we rate ourselves at all? Weighing. Mirror-glancing. Checking the fit of our clothes. The self-esteem trifecta.

So, I’m curious: How often do you weigh yourself? How about checking yourself in the mirror or the fit of your clothing? What types of thoughts and feelings precipitate these behaviors? How do you feel after each behavior? And, finally, what would it be like to stop?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Just a Thought

Gwen Stefani is interviewed in People magazine's online site today, sharing her lifelong struggle with weight and body image. She reports that she's been on a diet since the sixth grade and that she continues to restrict (especially post-baby) in order to wear the latest fashions.

People reports:
Still, Stefani admits that she struggled to keep her size 4 figure even before her pregnancy. "I hate talking about it, but it's true," she says. "I've always been on a diet, ever since I was in the sixth grade. It's an ongoing battle and it's a nightmare. But I like clothes too much, and I always wanted to wear the outfits I would make." She adds with a laugh: "And I'm very vain."

She wants to be able to wear her line? Can't she, um, make some of the clothing a little bigger? We're always looking to designers to size up, in order to reflect the average woman--wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity to start?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Tall Tale of Fat and Thin

In Fat Is a Feminist Issue, Susie Orbach elucidates our collective drive toward thinness:

We know that every woman wants to be thin. Our images of womanhood are almost synonymous with thinness. If we are thin we shall feel healthier, lighter and less restricted. Our sex lives will be easier and more satisfying. We shall have more energy and vigor. We shall be able to buy nice clothes and decorate our bodies, winning approval from our lovers, families, and friends. We shall be the woman in the advertisements who lives the good life; we shall be able to project a variety of images—athletic, sexy or elegant. We shall set a good example to our children. No doctors will ever again yell at us to take off the excess weight. We shall be admired. We shall be beautiful. We shall never have to be ashamed about our bodies, at the beach, in a store trying to buy clothes or in a tightly packed automobile. We shall be light enough to sit on someone’s knee and lithe enough to dance. If we stand out in a crowd it will be because we are lovely, not “repulsive.” We shall sit down in any position comfortably, not worrying where the flab shows. We shall sweat less and smell nicer. We shall feel good going to parties. We shall be able to eat in public without courting disfavor. We shall not have to make excuses for liking food.

Who, given this, wouldn’t want to be thin? It’s not surprising that, barring those who are naturally thin, every woman does have an eating disorder. But, what Orbach conveys with sarcasm and what likely any thin woman can tell you, is how little of this is true. Thin women are still concerned with how they look and smell; the images they project; approval from friends, family, and strangers; still feel tired, sexually dissatisfied, and ashamed of their bodies. And, they certainly, as they are culturally instructed to do, make excuses for their eating.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Embrace the Greys

During the course of conversation with someone recently, I mentioned I was on my way to the gym.

"Oh, you're going to the gym? You're so good."

No, I'm not so good. I'm not even "being good." What I'm doing, at best, is something that will make me feel good (I knew my 160-page thesis on the psychological effects of exercise would come in useful somewhere!)

Way too often, we're confronted with "good" and "bad" in this area. "I had a good day." "I was bad." Good foods, bad foods, good behaviors, bad. There is no good and bad. These are arbitrary distinctions designed to make us feel "good" or "bad," while simultaneously allowing us to avoid what may really be helping or hurting us. Every action, every relationship, every morsel of food contains both good and bad. Considering both sides of the equation may help us eventually discontinue those which aren't ultimately that helpful and increase the frequency of those that are.

Monday, April 02, 2007

We'll Always Have Paris

In a recent issue of Ok! Weekly, Nicole Richie addresses some of the circulating rumors about her. With regard to claims that she has an eating disorder, that she underwent gastric bypass surgery, and that she's using the stimulant Adderall to stay thin, Richie states: "It's sad because what I've come to realize from watching TV and reading magazines is that it's not me that's weight-obsessed, America's weight-obsessed. It's either, 'This person has an eating disorder,' or 'How to lose 5 pounds in 10 days.' Everything is about diet and body image."

While the jury may still be out on Richie's eating disorder history, she utters wise words about our culture's fixation on weight, about how our media vacillates between diagnosing celebrities and offering their diet tips for sale. Everything IS about diet and body image.

Perhaps Richie can use this slant in her advisory role as a counselor in a wellness camp, where "Do as I say, not as I do" has never be more apropos.