Dr. Deah's Blog, Tasty Morsels, is about health and self acceptance no matter what size you are. This blog and our website are dedicated to eradicating the discrimination that exists towards anyone that doesn't fit the media's expectation of perfection.
UPDATE: Disney has closed the attraction as of 2/25 “until further notice.” Rumors suggest the attraction will be reworked, but at this time there is no scheduled reopening date.
When we wrote our write-up about the new Habit Heroes mini-attraction in Epcot’s Innoventions we had a feeling something wasn’t quite right in it’s message. Now health care professionals are calling for it to be closed.
“It’s so dumbfounding it’s unreal,” says Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa. “I just can’t believe somebody out there thought it was a good idea to pick up where the school bullies left off and shame kids on their vacation.
“Rebecca Scritchfield, an adjunct professor at George Washington University, said she was “disgusted” by the exhibit’s implication that weight is indicative of health, writing: “I would love to know what sickos thought this up.” Read more: Calgary Herald
Happily Ever After!!!
BUT WAIT...THERE'S MORE...SEND YOUR POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT LETTERS TO DISNEY AND SUGGESTIONS FOR A HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE (R) EXHIBIT!
“When you wish upon a star makes no difference who you are…anything your heart desires will come to you.”
I grew up watching the Wonderful World of Disney. It was a Sunday evening ritual in my family, gathering around the T.V. and singing along with Jiminy Cricket. Most of the stories were tales of justice with the good guy winning and the bad guy being punished. Most of the stories showed people overcoming adversity with an arsenal of little more than a good heart and an honest soul. And most of the stories did end Happily Ever After.
Of course when I was older, I realized that not everything was so wonderful in the world of Disney. Most of the stories had children with no mother, or an evil step-mother, or who experience the traumatic loss of a father. On closer inspection, the characters reinforced certain negative cultural stereo types, ethnic, ageist, sexist, and of course, size-ist.
I spent most of my childhood being jealous of the itty bitty waistlines of Disney princesses and I wish that Dr. Peggy Orenstein author of the wonderful book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, had been around back then to offer me an alternative way of thinking. Unfortunately when it comes to wishing, I learned at a very young age that all of the star wishing in the world would NEVER bring me thinness or the attention of Ronnie W, the cute boy sitting in front of me in class. In my world, the only aspect of Fairy Tales that ever came true was my mom dying when I was thirteen and the challenge of integrating a step-mother into my grief-stricken adolescent world.
But now Disney has crossed a line from fantasy-land into the real world, and what they are doing, I feel, demands attention and action.
In an article by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, we are introduced to a new anti-childhood obesity exhibit at Disney’s Epcot Center where the villains are the bad habits that supposedly lead to childhood obesity and are anthropomorphized into animated fat people who are depicted as lazy, gluttonous, and evil.
In another article published in the Orlando Sentinel, the exhibit is described rather benignly as a collaboration between a well-known giant health insurance company and Disney in an effort to curtail childhood obesity by arming kids with healthy foods to fight junk food wars, and to dance their way to health by getting off their lead bottoms and playing Disney Dance Dance Revolution. These interventions alone are not particularly problematic and I would be hard pressed to find anyone in the size acceptance or health at every size ® movement who would not agree that kids should engage in fun physical exercise, establish a healthy relationship with food, and eat well. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I have not been to the exhibit yet, (if someone would like to sponsor me to check it out as a research mission, I’d be happy to indulge you) but based on the articles I have read about Disney's Healthy Habit Exhibit, it shamefully stigmatizes and stereotypes fat people as lazy, gluttonous, and like Ursula the fat, evil sea witch, should all be banished from the kingdom!
The Binge Eating Disorders Association (BEDA) has initiated a Call To Action to inform Disney that this exhibit is inappropriate and hurtful and that this kind of shaming and stigmatization frequently leads to eating disorders. There are many ways you can jump on board.
Here is the email that I sent to Disney and to the Orlando Sentinel. Please feel free to plagiarize it and tweak it and send it as well.
“RE: the new Healthy Habits exhibit at the Epcott Center: This exhibit, while I am sure has the best of intentions, unfortunately misses the mark. Not all fat kids are fat because they are lazy and living on junk food. And not all thin kids are healthy, abstain from junk food, and engage in exercise. By targeting fat as the "wicked witch" and fat kids as the gang of evil thieves from Aladdin, the message of health for everyone is eclipsed. Many of the kids I work with are fat because of medication or other genetic/chromosomal conditions, and the children I work with who have anorexia or bulimia (eating disorders) look thin, thus pass for healthy, when they may, in fact, be using laxatives and throwing up after meals. This exhibit is shaming and ineffective. If Disney wants to help kids be healthier, how about making the rides at their theme parks more physically interactive and offering less junk food at the concession stands? And please stop characterizing fat people as evil, gluttonous, and lazy, it’s inaccurate and just mean.”
Whatever you choose to do, please choose at least one thing TO do. It matters!
Today is Groundhog Day. Before 1993, Groundhog Day was all about whether the infamous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, was going to pop out of his burrow and see his shadow or not. If he saw his shadow, he would retreat underground and winter would last for another six weeks. Personally, if I was Punxsutawney Phil, and I popped up out of my burrow and saw throngs of strange people standing around staring at me I’d pop back underground in a flash! Thinking back, I can’t remember a single time that Phil did NOT pop back into his hole and winter was predicted to end early, and living in New York, it sure never felt like it did!
But then, in 1993, the movie Groundhog Day came out and similar to the old Hitchcock flick, Gaslight, the phrase Groundhog Day took on a new meaning. If you are not familiar with the Bill Murray film, he is thrust into a reality where he keeps re-living Groundhog Day over and over and over. Each morning he wakes up and it is the same day. Each day he knows what is going to happen and eventually begins using the predictability in ways that are helpful to others. He transforms into a more aware and less self-centered person as he plays with the hand that fate has dealt him.
One of the meta messages of the film was that for all of us, in some ways, life is like Groundhog Day. Each morning when we wake up, we have a chance to pay attention more closely to those around us and tune in to events that sometimes seem invisible to us because we are busy, distracted, or just unconsciously going through our daily routines. We assume that things may be the same because they look the same and we are not used to digging deeper. In fact, I am sure that some of you may have experienced a bit of that just now when you zoomed in on the billboard of the fat kids from Georgia.
“Enough already with this Deah, we’ve read about this already…so nu? You’ve decided to just keep writing about the same thing over and over and over? What is this…Groundhog Day?”
Well, yes…it is! But that’s just a coincidence. The reason I am writing about the billboards again is because there is an amazing event taking place TODAY! PLEASE READ ON!
If you haven’t heard about it yet, Children’s Hospital in Georgia is running an anti-obesity campaign that uses billboards of fat kids. In my last blog I wrote about the controversy surrounding these ads and the growing popular opinion that these billboards are more destructive than helpful. Whether or not you feel that there is an obesity problem among children, the question being asked by many is whether a shaming campaign is a reasonable solution?
Today there is a powerful action taking place to put a billboard opposite one of the Strong 4 Life’s billboards that challenges their use of shame as a healthful intervention when it also gives a message to bullies that it’s o.k. to shame fat kids.
Ragen Chastainhas teamed up with several people and has ignited a campaign today to raise money to buy that billboard in Georgia. She writes about it brilliantly in her blog (Ragen Chastain’s blog post) and offers the opportunity to donate anywhere from 1 -100 dollars. The goal is to get 1000 people to donate, in order to trigger Jay Solomon’s More of Me to Love matching fund of $5,000!
THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITYTO TAKE A STAND AND BE A PART OF SOMETHING REALLY MEANINGFUL FOR AS LITTLE AS ONE DOLLAR!!!
Look, I wouldn’t be asking if this wasn’t really important. I NEVER use this blog for raising money, I have no advertisers, and barely plug my own book on this blog (www.leftoverstogo.com). So if I’m breaking one of my blog tenets to do this, trust me, it’s a big deal.
In Dr. Deah’s Hollywood, The Georgia Billboards, LapBand Billboards and Bypass Billboards would all disappear. But for now, I will settle for one billboard in Georgia STANDING up for the rights of the kids. Won’t you join me? DONATE NOW BY CLICKING HERE
And if you haven’t heard the song STAND!! by Sly and the Family Stone for a while, after you have donated, go directly to You Tube and check it out!
11111112. No I’m not writing this blog in binary. That would have a zero in it I think…math…not my thing. Numerology? Also not my thing. But it’s hard to ignore that I am writing this blog on 1/1 and it is my 111 Tasty Morsels Blog Post and my first blog of ’12. Hence 1111112, and for some reason, that’s just cool.
I wrote my first blog post a year ago after Leftovers To Go’s web designer, Rocky Laber of DSD Interactive, advised that blogging would help generate traffic to the website and more people would learn about and purchase the Leftovers To Go Workbook/DVD set. I had never “blogged” before, rarely read other people’s blogs, and didn’t know how blogging would differ from my past writing experiences. My curiosity was piqued and ready for the challenge, I made the commitment to blog for one year.
I began by commenting on news stories and special events that focused on eating disorders, size discrimination and health at every size®. During the process, of researching sources and topics for blogs, it did not take me long to find that every day in some newspaper somewhere there was something to comment on. I found I was unable to postpone the gratification of commenting long enough to write my blog posts and began adding my voice in the reader’s comments sections. I gathered there was a greater likelihood the authors and other readers of the articles would “hear” my point of view there, rather than trust that the mysterious world of search engine optimization would bring people to the Leftovers to Go website. In doing this, I discovered an entire community of HAES(sm) and size activist bloggers diligently working to educate and offer support to the public. Therapists, Dieticians, Dancers, Doctors, Activists…all blogging away! Who Knew??!! I was so impressed with the mother lode of articulate and sane voices out there that I began using my blog to promote other people’s blogs, webinars, organizations and websites. While this did not accomplish the original goals of my blog (to increase book sales and other commercial endeavors) there was no turning back. I was on a mission and if there was a way I could use my small piece of the “interwebs” to fight size discrimination and promote self-acceptance, then I was all for that! How difficult could it be? There was no scarcity of material to draw from, and it is a controversial and important niche for engaging readers in constructive discourse and active diablogue. Piece of cake, right?
Don’t let anyone tell you that blogging is easy. It isn’t. I know many people think that a blogger just sits down at the keyboard, perhaps free associates or employs a technique of writing their thoughts down in a stream of consciousness as if they were talking to someone, and twenty minutes later they hit the publish button. But it really isn’t like that and I am in awe of people who blog daily. IN AWE! With time a valuable commodity, and never enough of it, I’m lucky if I write one post a week. Writing a blog is labor intensive and each post, a labor of love.
It isn’t easy on an emotional level either. Publically posting personal material puts the writer in a vulnerable position. (Wow, sorry about the alliteration!) There is a bond that develops between a blogger and their audience, a sense of trust and intimacy that builds up as people share difficult material. It is public and private at the same time. Over the year, I have expanded the voice of Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels from strictly an op. ed. style to include more personal stories about my work as a Therapist, Professor, Actress, Author, and Activist and it is a challenging balance. Too much disclosure is unprofessional in the therapeutic community, not enough personalization, and your empathy is unconvincing. Too many facts, you are writing a mini dissertation, not enough you are just ranting. Blogging is an art form that is developing as we speak, or write…as it were. As part of their teacher training programs, colleges and universities have developed new curriculum on how to use blogging as a gateway to literacy and a vehicle to facilitate improved social interaction and communication skills. What started off as a radical fringe journalism movement, has gained credibility and wide spread approval and acceptance. The parallel between the successful mainstreaming of blogging and the fight for inclusion that the HAES and size acceptance movements are currently engaged in is easy to see. Perhaps that is why blogging is a logical medium for communicating these “radical” concepts to dispel the prevailing myths about the obesity epidemic in our country.
On January 7th, my year is up. I have written 111 Tasty Morsels blog posts and am syndicated on several websites. I am honored that in a world filled with so many choices and so little time you select a “Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsel” to savor. I am thrilled when you take time to add your voices in the comments section. Supportive or argumentative, either way, it means I have ignited a thought, a feeling, a reaction and provided YOU the opportunity to find and share your voice and opinions. For me, it has been time well spent, and I may just re-up for another tour of duty.
Let’s play a game. I say, “East Oakland, California.”
You say, “____________.”
Before I moved here in 1989, I called the local police and checked in about the crime stats. After all, I would most likely be raising a family at some point and wanted to hedge my bets proactively. I was told that the neighborhood was,
“relatively safe with the occasional drive by.”
With that knowledge tucked under my belt, contracts were signed and I moved in. Two weeks later, the Loma Prieta Earthquake hit and my tiny little one story house, nonplussed, re-emerged safe and sound. It was like the airplane scene from The World According to Garp…I have lived here ever since.
The crime in my neighborhood has had its ups and downs over the years with the increases in crime seemingly in sync with economic downturns and desperation. I’ve been robbed once and on another occasion had a SWAT team (no, I’m not exaggerating or using poetic metaphor) in my back yard. But I still “hella love” Oakland.
One of the gems of this iconoclastic city by The Bay, and especially close to my heart, is Lake Merritt. The Lake is a remarkable place of refuge in the midst of a city known for its turmoil. It is a bird sanctuary, children’s playground, nature and science learning center and the walking, biking and running tracks for many an Oaklander. I joined that “team” of Lake Walkers in 2002 after a serious back injury and have been walking the 3.4 mile circuit almost daily in order to stave off the immobilizing back spasms.
I always walk in the same direction which means that I have, over the years, met about a dozen or so people who are “walking The Lake” at the same time as I but in the opposite direction. It’s amazing that hand waves and one to three word exchanges each day over the course of ten years weaves relationships with people whose names I don’t even know. But it does. When one of my regulars disappeared for a few months, my head was filled with questions about what happened to him…was he okay, had he moved, or merely changed directions? When I saw him one morning back in his regular spot, I waved, “Are you okay? I was worried about you!” He smiled and we high fived each other. Over the course of the week, as we walked past each other, I learned of his close encounter with a stroke and gradual recovery. Goosebumps ran up and down my spine as I realized that he and I are as much a part of the ecosystem there as the pelicans, cormorants and grebes who have their own special sections of The Lake and come and go with migration patterns as predictable as our daily walks.
But a few weeks ago, things changed. I was the victim of a drive by shouting. No, it wasn’t the first in my lifetime, but it was the first time at The Lake and it cut through me like a scalpel. I was happily walking my route, savoring the sun and grateful for the crisp breeze against my face. As a transplanted New Yawker, I still get a satisfied feeling each December when I can leave my house without a snow shovel and in a tee shirt. I had just passed one of my favorite regulars, a young man in his late twenties perhaps, who sports a pony tail and a black suit. It took about a year before I could elicit a brief two finger forehead salute from him and another year before the wave was accompanied by a smile. Today he actually said, “Hi!” and I was filled with a sense of satisfied connection. Suddenly a car, going in the opposite, direction sped by.
The driver aimed and fired,
“Walk it off Baby, Walk it off!”
And he was gone.
Gone before I could respond. Gone before I could recover. Gone Gone Gone. I was left fuming, stewing, hurting. Now please trust me that I do NOT take violent crime lightly nor do I think that a drive by shooting and a drive by shouting are the same. I know they are not. But if you would indulge me and work with my metaphor, you’ll understand why this type of “assault” is such a big deal to me. His words eclipsed any and all feelings of pleasure that I had been experiencing. I began to spiral down into a very bad case of the “should haves.” As I trudged along I went through a mental rolodex of: I should have said this, I should have said that. If I had his license plate number I’d find him and tell him this, or that. My imagination on fire, I was in Dr. Deah’s Hollywood.
“Hello officer, I’d like to report a drive by shouting.”
“You mean shooting?”
“Okay, yes…A drive by shooting off of a mouth.”
“Yes there were injuries.”
I even crossed into the territory of blaming the victim.
“Deah, why are you so sensitive? Why can’t you just let these things roll off your shoulders? Why give him so much power?”
My Big Ole Booty
I also considered his point of view… perhaps he felt he was helping. Maybe he imagined himself a male Jillian Michaels on wheels and was convinced he was shouting out supportive coach-like positive reinforcement because after all wouldn’t the ONLY reason that I’d be out there power walking around the lake be to walk off my big ol’ booty?
But in the end I kept coming back to the anger. If I saw him again I’d be prepared. I’d head him off at the stop sign. I’d lean in toward the car. I would aim and fire,
“Did I ask for your help??? What you said didn’t help. I don’t want your help! Your help is based on assumptions and a one sided point of view. How dare you intrude into my world only to wound me with your misguided bullets of support. The only thing I had to walk off, Babeee, was the anger, hurt, and humiliation you left in your so called helpful wake.”
Sigh. As if…
As a person who has devoted decades to repairing wounds inflicted by other’s good intentions, it is startling to find that I am still vulnerable when I am the target of an emotional drive by. But I am human and hence, an on-going work in progress. For a few days after the incident I noticed that I was more hyper-vigilant. There was less of a jaunt in my step, and I felt vulnerable. I wondered if everyone assumed that my walking regimen was motivated by my need to fit in to what society expects a woman’s body to look like?
I thought of T-shirts I could wear.
Walking 4 my Health NOT 2 B a Size 4
Who Asked U?
Occupy my Big Fat…
Well, you get the idea…
The good news is that my recovery time is quicker than it used to be and I no longer punish myself for not being perfect in the eyes of others. The inner “should have” voices are quiet again and the P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Shouting Disorder) symptoms have faded. I’m back at The Lake walking and reveling in all she has to offer. Yet as I write this I find myself back in Dr. Deah’s Hollywood where this post goes viral and finds its way not just to my fellow “victims” but to the perpetrators. In a cinematic montage we see the people who believe they are doing a good deed, through their unsolicited coaching and commenting, having an epiphany. In a classic light bulbs flashing scene we witness AHA moments, one after one.
“I get it…she isn’t a project that needs fixing.”
“Eureka! She has her own valid definition of beauty!”
“What is that you say? A health focused approach to living life and NOT a weight focused approach?”
We see them in their cars steering clear of The Lake, or if they do drive by, they smile a knowing smile, keep their comments to themselves and do not disrupt The Lake’s placid ecosystem. Change is in the air and all body self-consciousness has evaporated; cormorants fly by and we fade to black.
But until then, here in Dr. Deah’s Oakland, when I walk, I wear my ASDAH T-shirtand if anyone asks me how I feel about walking around Lake Merritt, my answer will be:
“It’s a great neighborhood, relatively safe, with the occasional drive by.”
I am a self-proclaimed Astrological Agnostic. I am not certain if that is a bona fide category in the DSMM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Metaphysics)or if I just made up the term. Either way there is something elegant about the fact that the word agnostic is tidily tucked away inside the word diagnostic. That is just cool.
So how do I define an Astrological Agnostic?
Someone who is skeptical about Astrologers’ claims that Astrology is an efficacious system of categorizing personalities and predicting possible events in the future.
Someone who needs statistical proof to eradicate their skepticism about these claims.
Someone who wouldn’t be particularly surprised to find that the claims were legitimate.
Someone who doesn’t judge others who do believe the claims are legitimate.
My cousin, Ralfee Finn writes a very well know astrology column called the Aquarium Age. (No that is not a typo, it really is Aquarium not Aquarius) and is sought after far and wide for charts and readings. I find her columns filled with words of wisdom and enjoy reading them although I tend to ignore the astrological references. I suppose there is a possibility that if Ralfee looked at my chart she would find that the configuration of my planets at the time of my birth is classic for someone who is an Astrological Agnostic. We could set up a study and interview all of the people who are Sagittarians with Capricorn Rising and Moons in Aries, etc. and ask them to describe their opinion of the validity of astrological claims. We could then aggregate and analyze the data, accounting for intervening variables and making sure we have a good control group, we may find that there is a statistically significant outcome of Astrological Agnostic responses e.g. “Well, if someone provided me with proof….etc.” associated with those birth charts. Those may be data worth noting.
But I also occasionally wonder about the month of December.
In a previous blog, It’s A Gift, I wrote about the month of December as a challenging month for people who tend to suffer from the Holiday Blues. What I didn’t mention was December is also the month filled with the most birthdays in my circle of friends. With over a dozen births to celebrate, could there be any astrological meaning to this? I am not talking about my family’s birthdays. I am talking about close friends I have chosen all of whom have birthdays in the same month. Is there a reason why I am drawn to people who are considered Sagittarians?
I have no idea. I wasn’t planning on talking about astrology at all, so let’s put the zodiac aside, and talk about birthday wishes. Having just celebrated hug-fuls of birthdays with my December friends, I found myself noticing the moment of wishful blowing. Men and women alike seem to take this traditional candle blowing-wish making moment very seriously. I honestly cannot think of a single person who had a nonchalant or laissez faire candle blowing approach. Each person paused, closed their eyes, and solemnly reopened them, inhaled and then exhaled with the intensity of a dragon. I don’t know if making a birthday wish before blowing out the candles is an international cultural tradition and I’d be curious to hear from my readers who were not born in America about that.
But here are some observations.
Even the most germ-phobic people do not seem to care about the germs and spittle that are being spread over the cake in the process.
The people waiting for the cake to be served, without any authority figure telling them to be quiet, take on a supportive silent stance in the wish-making pre-candle blowing moment.
The only exception to this is if someone is documenting this momentous moment with a photo and asks the birthday boy/girl to wait a moment so they can prepare the shot.
And of course the ultimate rule,
IF YOU SAY YOUR WISH OUT LOUD, THE WISH WON’T COME TRUE!
This rule is so ingrained in all of us that no one even asks you what you wished for.
Well I am here to tell the world (well, that’s a bit grandiose) I am here to tell my wonderful readers that not saying your wish out loud has NOTHING to do with a wish coming true. If that were the case I would not have wished the same wish year after year after year. It would have come true and then I would have had the chance to create a new wish each subsequent year. But somehow during the 364 days that elapsed between opportunities to manifest anything my heart desired, I would forget that it hadn’t worked the year before.
Each year I would remind myself not to waste the wish, not to blow it on something superficial and unimportant. After all it would be another year before I had this much power in my corner. And yet in the final moment…the game-making play…the moment of truth…the birthday genie beckoning, without exception, I would wish
to be thin.
Exhale. Done. No take-backs.
Wishing to be thin trumped:
Happy healthy life
Happy healthy kid
Cure for AIDS
A new car
I was indeed a superficial horrible person and on top of that I was totally inconsistent. After all isn’t it the ultimate Agnostic Hypocrisy? How could I fervently continue to believe in the magic of birthday wishes despite the preponderance of proof that they did not come true and still be an Astrological Agnostic?
This pattern continued for decades, until two years ago. First of all, I gave myself permission to be inconsistent after all isn’t that what being open minded is sometimes about? I gave myself permission to love my body as it is and stopped wishing it would be what it wasn’t. Instead, I wished that my son would get into the college of his choice. He did. Last year I wished that a close friend of mine would make it through her 5th year being cancer free. She did!
This is a good trend; and no, I don’t really believe my wish had anything to do with the outcomes of the two examples I just gave you. After all correlation is NOT causation. But for some inexplicable reason I feel a twinge of sadness when I think back on all of my birthday wishes wasted. For what? To be thinner waisted? What a waste.
As I am writing this, It has been 360 days since my last birthday and when I go to blow out the candles on my cake with my loved ones around me I will have another chance to tap into the magic of the birthday wish. And while I can’t tell you what I will wish for, I bet all of you know what I will NOT wish for!
Warning: This is a blog rant. It is not a clinically substantiated post; nor is it a touching memoir. Above all, it is NOT a carefully constructed social commentary. It is a rant. That being said, I hope you choose to keep reading.
In a previously written and less "ranty" blog, I wrote about the Narwhal Factor (N.F.). In brief, the Narwhal Factor was my step-mom’s name for the phenomenon of learning a new word or concept e.g. a narwhal, and then seeing or hearing about “narwhals” everywhere for the next few days. Each time it happens I am compelled to ask myself,
“Was it always this prevalent and I just didn’t notice it because I didn’t know about it? Or is it a cosmic re-focusing of The Lens of Knowledge that results in a mystical creationistic event and I am, in fact, manifesting narwhal stories and references everywhere I go?”
***Digression Warning, you can skip this paragraph as it has little to do with what I am writing about: Allow me to point out that the N.F. is different from an Ear Worm, which is when you can't get a song out of your head Ear Worm Implantation (E.W.I.) usually occurs because the song is a popular tune and you are, in reality, hearing it so frequently that it gets "stuck".
HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu
Unlike the adorable and intriguing narwhal, I am now experiencing a nightmare version of the Narwhal Factor. It is as if David Lynch and Wes Craven got together to create the worst Narwhal Factor Experience (N.F.E.) in Dr. Deah’s Hollywood, EVER. My latest “narwhal” is The Muffin Top. When did The Muffin Top emerge on the scene as a specific body part? How and why has it become so prevalent in my day to day life? On top of it all, why is the top of the muffin considered so atrocious that everywhere I look someone is telling me that there is something WRONG with my muffin top? Not just wrong, but abominable! Look, if YOU don’t like the way YOU look or feel with some fat around your hips and want to take a cutesy little label like muffin top and change its name and personae to: THE Muffin Top, a creature of Cthulhulic proportions go ahead. But why do you feel compelled to make those of us who just may be ok with our hips, hate ourselves? AAARRGGHH!! RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!
I told you this would be a rant. If it weren’t I would have methodically researched the history of the term muffin top and collected data to prove or disprove my thesis that its origins are somehow tied to what a real muffin looks like when it comes out of the tin. I would continue to explore why there is a societal redefinition with negative associations of the term muffin top and suggest that it is based on the Diet Industry’s already well documented modus operandi (M.O.) of selling products to cure an unforgivable social ill. There would be diagrams illustrating the Cyclical Marketing Strategy (C.M.S.) employed by the diet industry and their marketing firms:
Step 1. Sell muffin top hatred
Step 2. Sell muffin top removal system
Step 3. Sell muffin top replacement plan
Step 4. Repeat step 1.
Step 5. Repeat step 2
Evil Muffin Man
And the green grass grows all around all around … It is infuriating. Honestly, if I didn’t need a computer for my work, I would disconnect from the internet for ever…really! All of a sudden it is the same ad over and over and over, “Kiss your muffin top goodbye,” Get rid of your muffin top in time for the holidays.” And then what happens once the holidays begin…after I have followed your altruistic and sage instructions to banish my muffin top? Am I supposed to continue to follow your advice and eat all of the holiday treats that you are advertising alongside your Muffin Top Removal Products? Why can't I just keep my muffin top in the first place instead of losing it and gaining it back over and over? Isn’t that what all of these crash diet ads are really about? Get really thin really fast and then before you know it you will look good enough to eat, um, that is good enough to start eating again!
And speaking of looking "good" from what I can tell, the only time a muffin top really exists is when women, in order to conform to fashion fascism, are wearing pants that are too tight. If you wear a looser waist band, not only are you more comfortable but voila! No more evil muffin top!!! Hey I just discovered the way to kiss your muffin top goodbye…wear comfortable pants or stay naked! It’s like when we are told that any fat that bulges out from our bra straps is unsightly and needs immediate intervention. Hey I have an idea….don’t wear a bra! Or wear a looser bra…. Or….just tell people to shut up about bra bulge. Is it really destroying their world???
Do men have muffin tops? I don’t think so. They get to have beer bellies. Mmmmm beer, I could use a beer right about now.
Muffin top muffin top tell me when your mother drops, I’ll be there to pick her up…
Oh, that’s mutton chops, never mind. Anyone remember that song? I haven’t thought about that bratty little sing-song rhyme in a long time. Not surprising that I would now. This whole topic makes me feel bratty and petulant and damn, now I have initiated the mutton chops Ear Worm!!! If you don't know what I am talking about go back and read the ***Digression Warning paragraph.
This whole blog is making me want a muffin right now. A toasted corn, (that’s what they are cawled in New Yawk. You go into a cawfee shop and order a “toasted corn.” You don’t even have to say, "muffin" they know what you mean.
Classic New Yawk "Toasted Corn"
What’s your favorite muffin? I don't have to ask what your favorite part of the muffin is, I am guessing that you are one of the 99% that prefer the muffin top!! And if you don't...no judgment from me, just invite me to share a muffin with you!
“Kiss your muffin top goodbye,” the ads scream at me! If I could reach my muffin top I would kiss it, lovingly and adoringly because my muffin top is actually fairly new in my world and moved in when my menstrual cycle moved out. Frankly, I’d rather have a full time muffin top as a roommate than my old monthly sub-letter that made me crampy and cranky the third week of every month for 40 years. But alas, even with all of my yoga abilities, kissing my muffin top is a stretch I just can’t figure out. In the meantime I don’t think my boyfriend has any problem kissing my muffin top and I’ll tell you this, you ain’t felt nothing til you’ve had your muffin top kissed and caressed!
I’m thinking it’s time for all of us to reclaim the label Muffin Top and restore it to its natural place as a good thing! It is, after all, the best part of the muffin. It is the part of the muffin that everyone wants to eat first. The part of the muffin that is so good that if you split a muffin with someone and you give them the top it means you really really love them. Perhaps I will even start a website where we can all blog about the virtues of The Muffin Top and wage war against the evil campaign to impugn and malign it.
Look for the inaugural issue of Dr. Deah’s Muffington Post!
Maybe I can recruit Marilyn Wann, author of Fatso? to be a contributor. She just announced the release of her new daily planner that includes a whimsical non-stigmatizing section of muffin top art.In fact thinking about that section is actually cheering me up quite a bit right now. Wow, sometimes writing a rant blog can be really motivating; I can't thank you enough for letting me vent. Really, you ain't seennuthin muffin yet!
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Yes you read that correctly. I am promoting a restrictive diet and I am inviting you to join me in my Guilt Loss Program.
One of the comments I hear frequently in my work is some version of:
“I really want to embrace the Health at Every Size™ point of view. In fact I do embrace it. I live it, I breathe it, and I believe in it. But I’m still attached to wanting to be thin. I feel guilty about that. Do you still like me? Can I still be a part of your club? Am I ok???”
The answer is, “Yes, you are human.”
I know it’s hard to believe that there is a point of view where you can define your own standard of &lsquoerfection’; a point of view that is NOT based on comparisons or where someone else capitalizes on your feeling that you are not ENOUGH.
And your skepticism makes sense because there is a paucity of places in our lives where we are allowed to just “be enough.” Even in places we assume would be guilt-free safe havens, turn out to be hot beds of comparisons, insecurity and feeling guilty about not “doing it” right.
Take yoga for example. I used to take yoga. I lived on an ashram and everything. It was the most competitive environment I had ever been in! My poses weren’t &ldquoosy” enough, my gauzy drawstring pants weren’t gauzy enough and my mat was a towel. We were supposed to be going inward as we went downward dog; but a quick glance sideways inevitably revealed that everyone was looking at each other to see if they were stretching as far as the person next to them. I don’t want to digress and have people think I don’t love yoga. I do. (And there are fabulous exceptions thanks to yoga teachers out there like Anna Guest-Jelley, Curvy YogaTM. But for me, when yoga turned into X-TREME ASS-ANAS with the heat cranked up to 90 degrees and the sun salutation was done in fast forward…well let’s just say I didn’t want to be Jane Fucking Fondananda and feel the Bikram Burn*(see disclaimer). It got in my way of reaping the benefits from the practice.
So enough with the guilt already!
An inclusive movement means just that, INCLUSIVE! A size acceptance movement means just that, ALL sizes accepted.
A self acceptance movement means that our goal is to accept ourselves and each other at every size, at any size.
This does not mean you have to stay fat.
This does not mean you have to love every minute of being fat.
This does not mean you have to stay thin.
This does not mean that you don’t have personal preferences.
This does not mean that you don’t wish you could fit into your pre-menopausal weight gain clothing because you don’t have enough money to buy new clothes because you have to pay for your expenses to go to a conference and sell your book so you will have money to buy new clothes…(oooh, see how I made that all about me??)
It especially does NOT mean that you should be bullied or ostrasized for being whatever size you are.
Seriously, how much happier would we be if we just lost The Guilt? We weren’t born with The Guilt. We can survive without The Guilt. It is not a primal instinct. It doesn’t feed us, clothe us, keep us safe, and it certainly does not make us happy.
Guilt is NOT the same as remorse. Someone who is able to feel badly about hurting another living being or committing some other egregious act against society is showing that they have a conscious. They can tell right from wrong and hopefully learn from the experience and change. Remorse and empathy can be liberating. Guilt? Guilt just festers…It’s like a black mold that begets more black mold and more until you are completely filled with guilt and feel like a failure.
Who needs that?
So, I’m embarking on a lifestyle change today. Some people are gluten free, I am going to be guilt free. I am not going to feel guilty about feeling what I feel. Except perhaps feeling guilty…still working on that paradox.
I am going to give up the self-destructive habit of constant comparison with others. I am going to accept that doing this may be difficult, and that’s o.k.
I invite you to join me. And if you choose not to, please don’t feel guilty. I still love you.
* Disclaimer: I don’t judge anyone that enjoys the Bikram Method. It’s just NOT for me.
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I know I know seasonal blogs…we are all filled to the brim reading about Halloween…and it won’t be long before every other blogger and I will be writing about Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then a nice hiatus before we get to write about “The New Beginnings of Spring Tra La!” But I really have a few things I want to say about Halloween. So please indulge me for just a few minutes.
Halloween could have been my favorite holiday. It had all the makings for The Perfect Good Time. Running around dressed up as anything or anyone you wanted, collecting and eating massive amounts of candy, not having to sit through some long drawn out ritual or service before being allowed to run around at night collecting and eating massive amounts of candy. And let’s not forget the lovely after-glow of the candy lingering in the house…sometimes for as long as a week. THAT made the 8 days of Chanukah pale in comparison.
It was also the perfect inter-generational holiday. There was no age limit to participate. You were either the giver or receiver and dressing up was allowed no matter what age you were…except for those two pesky years of adolescence when you felt it was totally un-cool to dress up. But even then, no one said you couldn’t. It was your choice. I remember during my “twick or tweening” years, feeling a little sorry for the kids who still had to trick or treat with their parents. It wasn’t until decades later, as a mom, that I realized it was the other way around. It was the parents who were relishing in the few years our kids allowed us to accompany them! And THAT was a TREAT! We were all grown up but gallivanting from house to house, anonymously clad in costume, and reliving the hedonistic pleasure of taking over the night and abetting our kids in hauling in massive amounts of FREE candy. Why do you think we call it Hauloween?
I was born in Queens, New York and then moved to the burbs of Long Island when I was eight. In contemplating the ultimate Halloween question, “Which is better, city or suburb trick or treating?” The city wins hands down! If quantity is the barometer for a successful Halloween, then trick or treating in apartment buildings in New York is the indisputable victor! Imagine floor after floor and door after door…lined up…each handing out candy. It was a one stop shop candy jack pot…most amount of candy, least amount of effort.
The suburbs, on the other hand, made you work harder for your treats…trudging from house to house, up looong driveways, climbing stairways to giant web-laced doors just to get pennies for UNICEF and apples with razor blades. (Just kidding about the apples; but for some reason, it wasn’t until I moved to the “burbs” that I heard stories of tainted treats). But there were still massive amounts of free candy. Granted you had to cover more ground to get the same amount of candy that you got in the city, but the candy was dandy nonetheless, and the neighborhood streets were swarming with kids who had been waiting for dusk since school let out at three. (Because the unwritten rule was that you couldn’t start trick or treating until it was dark).
Once in a while you’d ring a bell and a wise guy (usually a dad) would open the door dressed as a monster. We’d squeal with delight and yell in unison, “Trick or treat,” and with a twinkle in his ghoulish eye he’d say, “Trick.”
We would freeze…not knowing really what that meant…or what we were supposed to do…and just as it started to get tense, The Grim Reaper would grin a self satisfied smile, put down his plastic scythe, and dole out handfuls of candy corn and bite sized Snickers™.
How could this NOT be a great holiday??
And it was, until around fourth grade, when my trick or treating days changed forever. That was when I found out I was fat.
Food became my enemy and CANDY, the Darth Vader of my universe. In my household, at any given time, my mother, father, or the kids were on diets. This of course meant no treats in our house or in our mouths. As I was indoctrinated into the lifestyle of weight cycling diets in the attempt to please those around me with a thin, lithe body; Halloween became the perfect opportunity for bingeing. Better yet, it was sanctified by all of the Powers That Be. Passover Shmassover…THIS was the holiday that begged me to question, “Why is this night different from all other nights???” And the answer, “Because on this night you can collect and eat all of the candy you want.” The TV showed it, the movies showed it, the magazines wrote about it, let’s face it…it was National Annual Binge on Candy Day!
And it terrified me.
More than any haunted house, more than any midnight showing of Night of the Living Dead, even more than the Kappa Delta Nu “greaser gang” waiting in the shadows to pummel us with eggs; the scariest part of Halloween for me, was the candy. For years I woke up the morning after like an alcoholic waking from a bar hopping tear…incredulous at the amount of candy wrappers surrounding me and the weight of guilt I had gained by engaging in the simple pleasure of Halloween. I found it hard to fathom why my friends’ candy would last for weeks and weeks eventually becoming too stale and hard for their braces it would be unceremoniously tossed. Mine was gone within a week.
The treats were no longer a treat for me.
And then just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. In my early teens I became aware of a whole new trend in dressing up. All of sudden, there were costumes being advertised, that somehow in my pre-pubescent naiveté I hadn’t noticed before…They were the same costumes I had always seen, the black cats, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, belly dancer, nurse, only now they were SEXY…seductive…flesh revealing and titillating. Next to ads with centerfolds of mini Mounds(tm) bars and candy corn were centerfolds of young girls with mini mounds protruding out of their Xena Warrior Woman costumes, and the Wicked Witch?
Well that had a Whole New Meaning.
New questions were formulating in my brain. “How could I be expected to gorge on candy and fit into a skimpy costume? When did Halloween become about my body?” And under my anger was a longing to fit in, and the realization that if I dressed up as a sexy cowgirl, I’d be called a Cow Girl. I yearned for the days when I could dress up for the fun of it and not worry if I looked good, or pretty, or sexy, in my Costume!
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not a prude about sexuality…but seeing 13 year olds dressed up as cowgirls who look like hookers…just…well…disturbs me. Now when the Grim Reaper opens the door and responds to the chorus of, “Trick or Treat” with, “Trick!” It has a whole “nuthuh” meaning!!!
So what’s a “mutha” to do? Because so many of us regard chocolate and candy in general as FORBIDDEN FOOD, when a holiday like Halloween comes along, it may be difficult to maintain our ghoul…um…cool. Many parents have rules about what their kids can do with their candy. Some allow the kids to eat as much as they want for that night and then the rest gets thrown away. Others dole it out one or two pieces a day for seven days or until it’s gone. I understand a parent’s intention and need to set limits and help kids establish healthy food habits, but care needs to be taken as to how this is done. Presenting candy as the enemy (assuming there are no allergies or medical conditions to take into consideration) may lead to sneak eating or bingeing. Sometimes these eating patterns get generalized to other holidays, events, and meals ultimately developing into more complicated disordered eating behaviors.
It is important to teach kids about mindful eating early on and resist the temptation to introduce restrictive diets that label foods as “good” food “bad” food. I remember when I was 16 and realized that those mini-candies were available ALL YEAR LONG! That was the LAST time I binged on them on Halloween. Knowing I didn’t have to eat them all in one night or the few days that followed (because it would be another YEAR before I could eat them again), de-fused the compulsivity and drove a wooden stake into Count Choculah’s heart. If candy is not an evil food that shows up once a year like the Jason movies, then the urge to binge is lessened and the fun is in the collecting and the dressing up, not in the consuming.
The part about girls having to dress as hookers…I haven’t figured that one out yet. Stay tuned.
Do you have a favorite Halloween story or parental candy strategy? I’d love to know!
My eyes open. I languidly stretch my body. I feel gratitude for my strong legs and murmur words of love to my round belly. I roll over onto my side and serenely admire how my butt looks like two plump croissants nestled next to each other. And as my thighs kiss each other good morning, I slip out of bed filled with excitement, self-love, and joy! Today is the first day of my new diet!!!
I walk into the bathroom and step on the scale. Wow! What an amazing number! I love that number! I am going to play that number in the lotto today!! That is how freaking great that number is! It must be a sign!! I write the number down in my new Captain’s Log, after all this is a journey I am embarking on! Sailing on the Good Ship Nutri-Pop! I grab my robe and march towards the front door.
It’s still dark outside as I pick up the newspaper from the driveway and peel off the plastic wrapper dripping with dew. The crickets are cacophonous…who would think in East Oakland, California we’d have so many rural sounds? Crickets, jays and that other bird with the beautiful song that I’ve never seen but always hear. What a wonderful world! The snail slime is glowing, a luminescent magical trail spiraling back to my house, my neighborhood still in slumber. I’ve always been an early riser and have one of those freakish internal alarm clocks making it impossible for me to over sleep.
I walk into the kitchen, euphoric about my life. Everything is so wonderful and on top of it all, today…I get to go on a diet!! I start my “cawfee” (I grew up in New York) and open the pantry door. Well, it’s just a cupboard. Grandiose of me to call it a pantry, really. I guess that is a throwback to having grown up in a larger house in New York. The place we kept certain kinds of food like breads and cereals, cans and nuts was called the pantry.
I pull out the box of prescribed breakfast muffins and unwrap this marvel…this miracle…this melt in your mouth,
“If you eat me for breakfast you will be thin and happy forever muffin.” I am elated.
I am so happy with my body! I am so happy with my life! And this muffin “rawks duuude!” I write this down in my Captain’s Log along with the time I am eating it, how hungry I am before eating it, what I am wearing, who I want to sleep with, and the calories, fat grams, and sugars hiding in the crevasses of this mind blowing muffin. I take a sip from my cup and then take a bite of the muffin.
Who am I kidding? Has anyone ever started a diet from a place of self-love and self-acceptance?
The alarm rings. I wake up with a start! I resist the urge to snuggle deeper into my cocoon and as I roll over I feel my stomach jiggle and my legs feel like two over inflated balloons. I “greet” this day as I do every day with the mantra, “I hate my body.”
Then I remember, today is the first day of my new diet! With a tremor of hope and anticipation, I roll out of bed and death-walk to the scale. I am filled with disgust as I record the number in my diet log, which I have used a million times before; for a million different diets. I thumb back to the beginning of the book and my eyes, still crusty with sleep, well up with tears when I see how small the number was the first time I used this log. It is difficult to imagine why and how much I hated myself then! If I weighed now what I weighed then…I begin to spiral down… “SNAP OUT OF IT!!!” I grab my robe and go outside to get the paper. It is cold and dewy and I am greeted with the usual East Oakland morning concert of sirens, screeching cars, and the incongruent bucolic chirps of the crickets.
I make my cawfee and open the package that contains my prescribed morning muffin, which costs as much as a meal at French Laundry and is to be my breakfast. Dutifully, I write down in the food log, what time it is, how hungry I and what I am eating.
which is the size of a ping pong ball, mocks me in its miniscule-ness. It is not big enough to cut in half and enjoy the way a muffin is meant to be enjoyed…one luscious half at a time. It is dry, it is brittle, it is tasteless, and it taunts me:
“You wouldn’t have to eat me if you weren’t so fat and you weren’t such a failure! If you had any self control you never would have gotten to this place. So nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah….I am all you deserve and in fact I am too good for you.”
I dunk it in my cawfee, partially to shut it up, but also to hydrate it… and it dissolves…leaving me with one itty bit left on my plate.
Surely a tiny bit of schmear couldn’t hurt? I mean really, this can’t be considered a breakfast?
My diet resolve has shifted gears now, and has moved to resentment as I pull the cream cheese from the fridge. “At least it’s not butter! If it was butter I’d really be bad! This is just a schmear!”
I put a dollop on the impostor muffin and pop it into my mouth.
“Mmmm, much better,” I purr as I take a sip of from my “You are the best mom ever," mug. I feel a twinge deep down in the inner mommy place as I think of my son, off at college now. He always loved me, no matter what size I was. How bad could I be if I was such a great mom? A feeling of familiar emptiness punches me in the gut as I look down and see that now I have a clump of cream cheese left over on the knife…it is yearning for a mate…like the back pages of the free newspaper listing singles ads, this schmear is undulating to be spread on something delectable. Thoughts of my son replaced, like the yenta I truly am, I remember the raisin bread in the fridge…such a match!
I marvel at my self control as I wait for it to toast…if this was a real binge, I’d be eating it cold from the fridge, right?
But by now I have shifted gears again…in fact, I am in overdrive scrambling eggs, cutting up fruit and making myself a real breakfast with real food, schmear and all. My fuel is anger, my fuel is the quest for self-soothing and yes, my fuel is hunger. Real hunger… why do you think breakfast is called breakfast? Because you have been fasting for 8-10 hours and you need to break the f#*kin’ fast!
“Write this in your damn log,”…I tell myself after I have finished every crumb.
Too full, I ate more than I wanted…the myriad of emotions triggered by the deprivation and restrictiveness of this diet plan eclipsed my awareness of my body’s hunger/satiation signals. What began as breakfast morphed into a whole new creature that in the end left me filled, not just with food…but with self-loathing. Another day and I have proven to myself that I am a failure. Schmear and self-loathing inLas Vegas.East Oakland.
It has been a very long time since I lived in that particular hell, but I can recall every nuance as if it happened this morning because those days are etched in my psyche, part of a painful legacy. But now that I have found and incorporated the recipe for living my life in concert with food and my body, instead of in conflict with food and my body I know and trust that those days are truly history. Perhaps because of this past, I find myself becoming increasingly vehement in my anti-dieting stance as I engage with those struggling to find peace with food and their bodies.
What I hate most about diets is the total lack of self love included in any of the programs. No one starts a diet from a place of loving themselves. Restrictive diets, even when embarked upon for health related reasons, are accompanied by such an enormous lack of self love and a surplus of desperation that when combined are a certain recipe for failure.
I know someone is thinking, “But Dr. Deah, some people must be on diets for their blood pressure, or diabetes, or food allergies.” True, but that is really not the point I am making here. Nor am I condoning unbridled unhealthy eating and suggesting that we all start living on M&M’s® and milkshakes 24/7. What I am saying is that diets often use a goal weight as the measurement for success. This is problematic because too many people find that when they reach the magic number they are still unhappy. Then what? They choose a lower number and another, and another. They are living in a state of suspended animation with self-love the ever elusive carrot on a stick.
Should we really be weighting to love ourselves??
In Dr. Deah’s Hollywood, it makes much more sense when loving our bodies/selves is a motivator for change. Self-love does not mean that we have nothing left to learn about the world or ourselves, or that we don’t want to make changes in how we are living. It DOES mean that we don’t have to achieve all of our life goals before we can begin to love ourselves.
I know it isn’t easy. We’ve been trained to NOT love ourselves as we are right now, at this size, in this moment. But honestly, it is worth the effort. There are much kinder mantras than, “I hate my body.” And I guarantee you that trying to change from a self-hating to a self-loving mindset is much more pleasant than eating those blasted turd-muffins for breakfast every morning.
My eyes open. I languidly stretch my body. I feel gratitude for my strong legs and murmur words of love to my body. I roll over onto my side and as my thighs kiss each other good morning, I slip out of bed.
No scale. No diet. NO WEIGHTING.
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