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.
There is a day for everything!!! I kid you not. March 14th is National Potato Chip Day. November 7th, Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day, and my personal fave, that happens to fall on my birthday, Dec. 13th, National Ice Cream Day! But there are dedicated days and weeks that I take more seriously and they are steadily increasing year after year. In fact, I need a calendar to keep track of all of the special days, weeks and months that pertain to reversing the cultural trend of convincing people to hate their bodies and adopt destructive behaviors. Of course I wish we didn’t need any of these days, weeks or months. Because when you really examine them, it is a sad state of affairs and pathetic reflection of our culture that we need to be reminded to:
Adopt the ideology of healthy weight awareness. (Third week of January)
And improve yourself (the entire month of September).
But let’s take a look at the one coming up on October 19th, Love Your Body Day.Does this day mean I should love your body? Or, does it mean I should love my body? As Bugs Bunny would say, “Ain’t language a stinkuh?” I am in love with language. If I could choose one super power it would be fluency in every language. In effect, I would have the ultimate Zoo Key that I could use to communicate with people in every culture.
Remember Zoo Keys? They were plastic keys, usually in the shape of an elephant, that were inserted in “talking boxes” around the zoo. When you turned the key a voice inside the box would tell you all about the animal. Without the key, if you were not visually impaired, you only had your eyes and perhaps your teacher’s or parent’s limited knowledge about the koala. But with the key, you knew Kool Hand Koala’s name, his country of origin, and that he had the hots for his cage mate, the lovely and kurvaceous Koolata. The mystery of the koala was solved thanks to the special plastic key that only some people were fortunate enough to own; and assuming, of course, they knew English.
But my love of language isn’t confined to the spoken word. It extends to the written word that has its own nuances and delightful mysteries that can be wonderful and pesky! For years when I was reading the name Hermione in the Harry Potter books, in my head I heard “Her-me-own.” My own name commands the same response from many people. When a reader sees my name written, Deah, they hear in their heads, “Dee-uh” assuming that it is like Leah with a D. It is in fact Day-(like the opposite of night) uh. Once someone knows my name, when they see it written, they can hear it in their heads as Day-uh as I now hear “Her-miney.”
These discrepancies inherent in “written pronunciation” are also, unfortunately, the cause of many arguments in the worlds of blogs and email. How many of us have gotten into arguments because what we wrote is not read with the lilt in our voice and twinkle in our eye that was there when we hit the reply key? Written language as a medium can be painfully two dimensional and it takes a true wordsmith to effectively convey sarcasm, empathy, and gentleness through their writing. Processing disagreements should never be addressed via email for just this reason and writing a blog on controversial topics demands hyper vigilance if one doesn’t want to be misinterpreted and potentially alienate their readers.
But auditory double entendres can also be delightful to play with. For example:
“I really hope you pull this off.” Or, “You are the last person he wanted to see.”
Depending on the context of these statements they can have totally different meanings ranging from hurtful and rude to sexy and logistical. “I hope you pull this off,” can be supportive, or brashly seductive. “The last person he wanted to see,” is fine if a doctor is scheduling an appointment with you, but not so great if the doctor is saying they don’t want to see you ever…at all! I know there are people out there who insist that words are “just words” and shouldn’t make such an impact. But are they just words…as in words of justice or fairness? Or just words as in merely or simply? Either way, thankfully, there are enough people who take words seriously, and understand that the context of words is vital for understanding their intended meanings.
There are those special times when either interpretation can be positive. If someone writes me a note and tells me, “I just read your blog.” This could mean that my blog is the ONLY blog they read, or that they just finished reading my latest post. Both are really good news. I love when that happens. So let’s take a look at the upcoming Love Your Body Day. Some read this and believe it is a directive to love their own body. “I love my body I love my body!” Today is the day that I, “Love my body!” Others read it and take it to mean that they should love someone else’s body. “I love your body, I love your body!” Today is the day to acknowledge that, “I love your body!”
Either interpretation in this case, reminds us to take a day, (which really should be EVERY day) to respect and appreciate each others’ bodies and the diversity of bodies and NOT give in to the prevalent message that is fed to us every day, that unless our bodies conform to a very narrow standard, they do not deserve our love.
So until there is a paradigm change and we mark our calendars that every day is Love Ourselves Day, bodies and all, let’s celebrate on October 19th. Spend the day appreciating your amazing body for everything it is doing, 24/7 to allow you to live the life you are living. Say thanks for the wonderful body that allows you to touch the world in your unique fashion that helps make the world a better place…and then when you wake up on Oct. 20th, try it again and the next day and the next day…
And don’t forget…to join me and other cruciverbalists on April 13th which just happens to be, International Scrabble Day!
I would ask you to close your eyes, but then you couldn’t keep reading and that would be awkward. So, imagine you are closing your eyes and think of a time when you felt completely in sync with your surroundings; comfortable in your skin from the inside, and at ease with where your skin just happened to be in that moment, on the outside.
Maybe it’s one of those rare times getting out of the tub, a pool, lake, or tropical ocean where the air temperature was similar enough to the water temperature so there was no jolt when you got out of the water.
Or waking up the morning after a presidential election and the candidate you voted for had won…and for a few hours your political belief system is one with an outside community of like minded folks.
How about a concert you went to where you knew EVERY word to EVERY song and EVERY person sitting around you did too? You, the band on stage, and everyone around you were joined in a musical simultaneous orgasmic vocal explosion! For those few moments there was no discord and all was right with the world. MMM…YUM.
These bright moments are exhilarating; sometimes in calm, peaceful ways, other times joyful and energizing. Whatever form they take, these surprises in life, when we feel at home within and without, make living a WONDERFUL adventure.
I entered the theater confident that I would be part of an audience that “knew all of the words to the same songs that I knew.” What I didn’t know was whether the film would strike the familiar chords and cover the play list the audience was hoping for. After all, making a documentary about the extraordinarily complicated interrelationships among food, weight, health, eating disorders, and dieting, is no easy task.
Darryl Roberts, Director
Meet our protagonist, Darryl Roberts, a man who loves food and hates exercise. Darryl is visiting a doctor for the first time in ten years and is hit with a cyclone of bad news; his blood pressure is high and his heart has some irregularities. The doctor, following medical protocols, prescribes two blood pressure medications and sends a deflated Darryl, on his way. But the storm only worsens and he is hit upside the head with the news that the medications have (im)potential side effects. Finding this a hard, so to speak, pill to swallow, it dawns on him that he isn’t in Kansas anymore. And so, we are invited to join our not so little “Darryl Gayle,” as he sets off to find the Wizard of Weight Loss. This wizard will be great and powerful, will grant his wish to be healthy and bestow upon him a more uplifting way to avoid the stroke that is surely lurking around the next bend.
Darryl's journey has all of the required elements of a classic odyssey; a trip tik of funny, tragic, and outrageous run-ins with good and evil witches, fierce flying monkeys, and fellow truth seekers…aka a realistic sampling of well-meaning but sometimes insidious members of the diet, medical, eating disorders, nutritional, and fitness industries. And because it is Hollywood, Hollywood, (with more connections than Dr. Deah’s Hollywood), there are some riveting cameos including: Deepak Chopra, Secretary of Health, Kathleen Sebelius, and the Arch Bishop of New York, Timothy Dolan. (Unfortunately there is no Dr. Oz, although the irony of that would NOT have escaped me!) This passionate star studded supporting cast speaks their truths about weight loss, health, and diets and add to the intrigue of Mr. Roberts' quest.
But perhaps what makes this film so successful is the accessible like-ability of Darryl Roberts. He is a down to earth man ,we cannot help but identify with; as he attempts to stick to a 28 day regime of organic raw food and colon cleansing during which time we find out that his heart is NOT the only part of Darryl’s world that is irregular…if you catch my drift.
We are in the kitchen with him as he eats his “last hurrah” meal before the diet. Standing up, as binge eaters frequently do, we are co-relishing in what is certainly, in that moment, his last piece of chocolate cake, EVER. We are walking side by side with him as he finally snaps from one too many tofu kebabs and dives into the comfort and greasy satisfying joy and “joyness” of fried chicken.
I do not think I was the only one champing at the bit to run to his defense when a diet doctor shows disdain for fat people by admonishing them for staying fat because they are too lazy to stay on a diet. Dr. Shapiro opines and challenges Darryl to dispute the fact that deep down inside everyone, if honest, wants to be thin.
As his quest continues, he establishes our solidarity with survivors of weight loss surgeries and eating disorders, taps into our empathy for the obsessive exerciser who would rather workout than have a relationship. (She is emphatic that her happiness would inevitably lead to weight gain). He opens our hearts to the boys who are members of an eating disorders group and a woman struggling with anorexia.
As the movie progresses, he ignites our anger by deftly connecting the dots and illustrating that the reinforcement we give and get for losing weight and working out can backfire; and what begins as a spark of disordered eating billows into the raging fire of a fully fledged eating disorder.
Roberts recruits our activism when his questions about government subsidies for corn and the possible connection to obesity were not responded to by Kathleen Sebelius, Director of Health and Human Services who ends the interview by remarking that she doesn’t know about eating disorders or the diet industry.
As he explores the over inflated importance that the National Institute of Health places on BMI as an indicator of health, he jump-starts our outrage at the questionable connection between certain high profile health professionals and the Weight Watchers® advisory board.
He garners our admiration for Ragen Chastain, a 250+ pound dancer, and other people who are living happy healthy lives but have to battle stigmatization and dispel the myths about fat and health on a daily basis.
And finally, he conducts the audience in a chorus of sighs of relief after listening to psychiatrists and other health professionals: Dr. Norman, Jon Robison, Paul Campos, Judith Matz, Linda Bacon, and Evelyn Tribole, ( a partial list click here for the full cast) explain that according to longitudinal studies, restrictive diets lead to weight cycling NOT long term weight loss nor are they the answer to lowering high blood pressure. Instead we are offered a saner, alternative that is health focused instead of weight focused. The Health at Every Size® approach proposes that a balance of fun physical activity, in Darryl’s case bicycling, combined with mindful-eating, results in stabilized health markers and removes the deleterious co-morbid conditions associated with weight fluctuations.
But that is my clinical jargon seeping out and I am wearing my Dr. Deah’s Hollywood Film-stanista hat… and as I watched the film I was purring with contentment. There I was immersed in one of those bright moments when my beliefs and surroundings were congruent. Still purring, I left the theater feeling curious about how the mainstream audience will react as many will be exposed, perhaps for the first time, to a comparison between the two self-help roads to self-health ideologies, Health at Every Size® and Dieting. They will watch a well crafted documentary filled with glimpses into some funny, some ludicrous and other truly painful experiences that living in a culture obsessed with thinness has inflicted upon many of us. They will witness how the desire to live healthy lives often paradoxically results in adopting unhealthy behaviors and attitudes. And with all of that being said, I predict (and hope) they will breathe a sigh of relief; and experience their own bright moment when they learn there is another way. We all have a choice that doesn’t require going somewhere else and breaking the bank in order to attain self acceptance and a healthy way of life. Close your eyes and think about that! MMM...YUM.
I don’t want to give away the ending…but take a minute, click your heels 3 times and say, "There's no place like home."
There is no place like home!
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There are many terms for it; I choose to say that I am a reformed dieter. This means I no longer embark on diets or join programs designed for weight loss. My reasons for this are many and my decision making process may be helpful to some; so from time to time I write about those aspects of my personal journey in my blog, Tasty Morsels. But today I am writing about something else.
As I review my futile quest to find the perfect weight loss technique, I see a road littered with detritus from countless attempts at a variety of programs. Some more renown than others, I have left in my wake a trail of Jenny Craig bar graphs, Weight Watchers Lifetime key rings, and Atkin’s dip sticks; all tangible proof of my countless endeavors to lose weight in order to be happy.
There are many common themes embedded in each pit stop on my way to “diet cessation” but one of the most irritating is how I perceived my successes and failures. Each time I lost weight, I sang the praises of the diet. “I love the South Beach; Grapefruits are the shot, me and Jenny forever!” And each time I inevitably gained the weight back, I would wail the dirge of self-hate, “I am a failure.”
All of the credit went to someone else and all of the blame went to me.
It is a double standard I can no longer accept.
Writing about low self-esteem as a component of body dissatisfaction and serial dieting is nothing new. There are few, if any, Weary Weight Warriors who hate their body AND have a healthy self-esteem. Body dissatisfaction is not created in a vacuum and is usually the result of someone being told that something is wrong with them. If someone feels they need to lose weight in order to be loved by someone else, they are most likely going to feel unworthy in other arenas as well.
Because the motivation to lose weight is usually extrinsically foisted upon us and then externally reinforced by the diet industry selling the solution, we can understand the ease with which we give credit to the Stillmans and the Jennys. We feel flawed so how can it NOT be our fault if we can’t fix the problem by using these undisputed efficacious diets? Placing the blame on ourselves instead of on the failure of the diet is part of the cycle of self hate that is inherent in using restrictive dieting as a solution to weight management, eating disorders and fighting the so-called war against obesity. The proponents of diet programs are counting on the self-hate that they have helped to create, to fuel our appetites for trying the latest fad diet and Jennifer Hudson-esque intervention.
Breaking the self hate cycle is no easy task. Ask any fellow salmon swimming upstream and the ones that make it will tell you it takes perseverance and motivation. But the motivation MUST be intrinsic. The choice to engage in a health based lifestyle instead of a weight based one must start from within and be fueled from within; not to please anyone else, not to live up to someone else’s expectation and NOT to be measured by any scale or tape measure. And guess what? Because there is no double standard, the credit and kudos for maintaining these lifestyle changes may just be able to swim, with abandon, in a new direction…inward.
So lose the double standard and gain some self esteem.
Those of you that read Dr. Deah's Tasty Morsels know that I have an enormous amount of rage about the Lap Band(r). My reasons are both personal and professional. A close relative of mine had the lap band procedure and it was, by all statistical measurements, unsuccessful. The fall out from the procedure was toxic both physically and emotionally for her and those around her. In my post, WWJD, I discuss the acne-like proliferation of the 1800GETTHIN billboards and how misleading they are. The radio and billboard ads give the impression that a person can zip in and zip out of lap band surgery...(what's next...drive thru lap bands?) and a person's life with be miraculously transformed from fat, lonely, enslaved, and miserable to skinny, happy, and free.
If this pseudo approach to health and well being offends you at all, you may be interested in two opportunities to voice your dissent that were passed on to me by Marilyn Wann, author of FATSO?
The first is a petition created by Katie Koumatos California Gov. Jerry Brown has until Oct. 9 to sign legislation that includes stricter accreditation requirements for the sort of clinics that do lap band surgery. While I am eager for total recall of these devices, until then, it seems useful and lifesaving to make it more difficult for clinics that fail one accrediting agency's standards to skip to another rather than improve.
Hello, Ms. McGuire: I am writing to ask that you reconsider the advisability of offering advertising space to 1-800-GET-THIN(TM). The Los Angeles Times reports deaths and serious complications that people have suffered after these surgeries. Several lawsuits are now in process, alleging false advertising claims. For example: - http://www.1800getthinclassaction.com/lawsuit-update - http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-get-thin-lawsuit-20110907,0,4090876.story On Dec. 7, 2010, Los Angeles Public Health Department Director Jonathon Fielding, MD, asked the FDA to investigate the 1-800-GET-THIN(TM) advertising... "The LAP-BAND(R) weight loss procedure is marketed directly to consumers in Los Angeles County through billboards, bus placards, and direct mail with slogans such as 'Diets fail! The LAP-BAND(R) works!' These ads fail to provide the relevant warnings, precautions, side effects, and contraindications related to the procedure...Given the harms of medical complications and unrealistic expectations resulting from the misleading promotion of this product, I strongly recommend that FDA to take the necessary steps to ensure that 1-800-GET-THIN(TM) Weight Loss Centers' LAP-BAND(R) promotion does not constitute misbranding of a restricted device." - http://zev.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/lapband-letter.pdf
The same concerns would apply to this advertising campaign in San Francisco County and in the Bay Area. This month, BNET contributor and former Adweek managing editor Jim Edwards posted an opinion piece called, "Lap-Band Deaths Pile Up As Sales Decline," in which he called Allergan's lap band device "a product discontinuation waiting to happen." - http://www.bnet.com/blog/drug-business/lap-band-deaths-pile-up-as-sales-decline/9600?tag=fd-river14#ixzz1XR44dAWU Medical research questions the safety and efficacy of lap band surgery. A European study published in July, 2011, found that 50% of people who get lap band must later have it removed. - http://archsurg.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/extract/146/7/807 One of the few longterm follow-up studies on lap band outcomes, published in 2006, found that 33% of people had serious complications and 22% had problems requiring further surgery. Researchers wrote that lap band "should no longer be considered as the procedure of choice for obesity." - http://www.springerlink.com/content/w563743386t13181/ I understand that MTA advertising policy requires no advertisement be "false, misleading or deceptive." I hope you will reconsider whether 1-800-GET-THIN(TM) advertising meets your requirements. Since 2000, San Francisco has included height and weight in the list of characteristics protected from discrimination here. It would be tragic if people in San Francisco were swayed by false, misleading, or deceptive advertising to undertake medical treatments that risk serious complications and even death, in the hope of escaping weight discrimination. Thank you, Marilyn Wann
No matter what you may think about the detrimental health effects of the widely publicized "obesity crisis" I hope we can find some common ground and agree that the quick dubious fix of the Lap Band is not the way to address eating disorders or what may be viewed as an unhealthy weight.
Take some time and Slap the Hand of the people promoting the Lap Band.
I have to write about food. This week is the Jewish New Year, I’m from New “Yawk,” therefore, I have to “tawk” about food.
I’m not going to write about the countless ways food and fat are related or the countless ways they are not.
I am not going to write about the gross misconception that ALL fat people have an eating disorder.
I am DEFINITELY not going to write about diets, calorie counting or Kirstie Alley’s latest weight loss miracle.
I just want to talk about the food I ate while I was growing up, in all of its glory and schmaltz.
I was a red diaper baby. For those of you that are unfamiliar with that term, a red diaper baby is a child brought up by parents who sympathized with the United States Communist Party. In my part of the world, Queens, a borough of New York City, red diaper babies were frequently the children of atheist Jews involved in politics with a communist or socialist bent. As a child, this meant attending Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson concerts, learning pro-union songs and attending family summer camps in upstate New York or the Berkshires with names like Camp Kinderland and Midvale. Because they emphasized the importance of social justice and peace, these camps were considered subversive organizations in the late 1940’s and I attended both of them as a child. I have fond memories of music, marshmallows, swimming and being far far away from the blistering heat of Far Rockaway, my hometown.
Being a red diaper baby also meant that I had minimal involvement with religious Jewish rituals. I learned early on that there were Cultural Jews and Religious Jews. We were the former and hence my sisters and I did not miss the multitude of school days that the Religious Jewish children did, (BOO), nor did we have to attend religious school on the weekends, (YAY)! But thrice a year we passed over the line and joined the Religious Jews for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and one night of Passover.
My father was very clear about the reasons for these “visits.” They had less to do with god and religion and more to do with discrimination and oppression. In regards to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest of holy days, he’d explain,
“If we were living in Nazi Germany they wouldn’t give a flying f*#k if we went to temple or not, we’d be killed just because we were born Jewish. Today you stay home from school to let everyone know that you are a Jew.”
It was an early life lesson about the irrationality of prejudice and an opportunity to watch weekday cartoons. Needless to say, we still weren’t fully in the camp of the “temple attending” Jews.
As far as Passover was concerned, that was all about pleasing my grandmother who had both feet firmly planted in the Religious Jew category and both hands firmly creating the most amazing potato latkes I have ever tasted to this day.
I want to talk about the food; the food that accompanies Jewish holidays. The food I grew up with that offered comfort, closeness, community and cohesiveness.
I don’t want to talk about the calories or the confusion that grew as I grew older resulting from being told to eat and then criticized for being fat. (I did write a blog about that last year and here’s the link if you are interested.)
Mostly, I just want to reminisce with some of you and introduce others to a world of flavors and textures that filled my senses. I didn’t know it then, but eating my grandma’s cooking was an exercise in mindful eating because in the world of mindful eating it is important to really appreciate food, to relish it, to conquer ones’ fear of it and to recognize satiety.
But satiety was not just about my stomach being full when it came to my grandma’s cooking. It was about my heart being full of her happiness that we were all together and my arms being full of loved ones and my small hands full of dough as I helped Grandma shape the knishes. Spoons and ladles overflowed as we fed each other tastes of the proverbial Jewish Grandmother chicken soup that, to borrow a metaphor from Ruth Reichl, was heaven “distilled in a spoon.”
kAnd her kugel, mouthwatering slippery egg noodles, buttery goodness, snuggling in between pillows of sweet pot cheese and a blanket of raisins. The top of the kugel was a comforter of crispy brown noodles. How did she get the top so crispy and keep the inside so soft, smooth, and velvety?? Miraculously there were leftovers and the next day we would eat it cold. To my delight, it was just as yummy but with a whole different array of textures on the tongue.
And as we would wait for the oven to do its job, she would cut a Macintosh apple in half, scrape out one side with a teaspoon and feed me instant apple sauce…and if her apple tunnel connected to the other side of the fruit without breaking the dividing core with the seeds, I would squeal with pleasure. Then her face, usually furrowed with worries that I didn’t understand, smoothed out, and was replaced with a look of satisfaction with her accomplishment.
Her knishes were flawless; the flaky pastry that my cousin Susan and I would help her prepare were filled…no stuffed, with spicy peppery potatoes and the crispy top was so alluring that I would burn the top of my mouth every year because I just couldn’t wait to taste one.
And then there was the tsimmis, the only dish that could transform a prune into a good time for anyone under the age of 20 and the brisket that evaporated on my tongue, if it got there, it was so tender it would often slip through the tines of the fork.
Grandma’s matzoh balls would go down like a cloud but live in your stomach long enough to warrant jokes about issuing the knadlach a tenant’s lease, charging it rent and giving it a name!
My grandmother had very old china and each dish was dedicated to a specific portion of the meal. A covered bowl was the vessel for the kasha varnishkes, health food before health food was health food…who knew kasha would later be a staple during my hippie days? Years later I would be living in a tipi in New Hampshire, where I was one of the only Jewish people around, cultural or religious, and shopping at the co-op one day, I found kasha living off the radar, safely hiding underground under the alias of groats!
So here it is, the week of the Jewish High Holy Days. And as I think about the food that accompanied my childhood years of celebrations, I find comfort in knowing that there are ways to connect with my family and other Jewish people that transcend our personal beliefs about god, or our worries about calories. Instead we sit down to a family style banquet that has to do with nurturing, and embracing our culture. I am satiated as I take in the smells, tastes, textures, memories and company, all ingredients of the holiday food that surrounds me.
Is there any wonder that it is called comfort food?
For women of a certain age, the slogan, “You’ve come a long way baby,” will light up memories of a certain ad for a certain cigarette. In 1968, capitalizing on the feminist movement, a brand of smokes was introduced with an ad campaign intentionally targeted towards women. Never mind that the slogan used a demeaning term for women or that using the product was suspected to shorten the very lives being recognized for having come such a long way; the ad was specifically designed to recruit new women smokers or seduce women smokers to wrap their lips around Virginia Slims.
Yes, the cigarette was actually called Virginia Slims and it was a very slim and slender cigarette; dainty and frilly and oh so feminist. Take a deep breath now and inhale the irony that the Women’s Tennis Association Tour was sponsored by Virginia Slims back in the day. Ahh those were the days…days of feminist fire breathing tennis players. But lest you think this is a tale of a time long ago, in 1990 Virginia Slims introduced their Virginia Slims Super Slim 100’s! Because we all know you can’t get slim enough! Four years later, we were asked to suck on their Virginia Slims Kings…ironic really. I would think that a cigarette with such strong feminist roots would call their product Virginia Slims Queens. But perhaps that is more telling than it seems.
As I write this piece, it is fall, and no longer the 1990’s. For most of the country, this means leaves changing colors, people turning back the clocks, and fashion articles about runway shows with special magazine inserts devoted to style style style. And like the swallows to Capistrano, we are "visited" by the token plus size “fashionista” article, the outrage of underage underweight girly model stories, and pieces by writers like me opining away about the cancerous proliferation of eating disorders.
But this year, as I thumbed through the Style Magazine of the N. Y. Times, I noticed a drastic difference in the models; The MALE models. Without exception, each was exceedingly thin, dressed in clothing that hung on them like shrouds…shapeless and limp. Toothpicks of men standing next to toothpicks of women. In the wake of hurricane Irene, I couldn’t help but flash on images of trees snapped in half by the wind as I looked at these bodies barely able to stand; looking equally frail and vulnerable.
Body dissatisfaction and eating disorders, once completely associated with girls and women, are now increasing among boys and men. Because I work in the field of ED (Eating Disorders, NOT Erectile Dysfunction a totally different male affliction) I have been aware of this trend for a while via journal articles and conference sessions. What has been missing for me, however, was seeing evidence of this in my day to day life. Unfortunately, the prevalence of ED and Body Image issues among girls and women cannot be ignored. Every day is a new day filled with reminders of that cultural trend, but I hadn’t been bombarded with the male side of it until now.
A few days later, I read the article, “For Once the Guys Go First,” in which Eric Wilson writes about the male fashions during fashion week. He is excited that the men are finally getting top billing in this predominantly female-centric arena, one of the few I might add, and the article did a spectacular job of keeping up with the “Janeses” by including the mandatory accompanying photos of models looking blankly into the camera. One photo stood out; a rail thin soldier boy startling in his apathetic and anemic pose and pout. If these are the boys being shipped overseas to fight in wars of “men” I’m afraid for their lives. Honestly, I think I could take them down in hand to hand combat. Kidding aside, my heart ached for them and I wondered why are men volunteering for a war that doesn’t need to be waged? In the past, male eating disorders were frequently triggered by photos of buff muscular men with biceps like big cigars and abs like…well…six packs. Male body image dissatisfaction was centered around not being manly enough, and not wanting to look like the 98 pound weakling on the beach. Some folks will say this is progress! Skinny men are considered beautiful now. Woo hoo! And I'm not saying that skinny men aren't attractive but at the risk of being a Dr. Deah Downer, this is a different brand of potential body hate that will ignite a different set of disordered eating behaviors tragic and as potentially deadly as tar and nicotine.
One of the true signs that a legitimate problem exists is if there is an association devoted to the problem. I visited the National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (N.A.M.E.D.) website and had an email exchange with its director Christopher Clark. Mr. Clark was very helpful and the newly updated website is filled with informative articles, resources, and statistics for anyone seeking more information or guidance. It also provided ample proof that eating disorders is no longer just a female problem and that men have succeeded in breaking through the not so enviable glass ceiling of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. Females may still be leading the pack, but the males, unfortunately, are gaining ground. This is not what the Equal Rights Movement had in mind, is it?
You’ve come a long way baby.
DR. DEAH'S BLOG, TASTY MORSELS, WILL BE TAKING A BREAK UNTIL OCTOBER. SEE YOU THEN!
The expression no strings attached has its origin in the fabric industry. If a piece of cloth was imperfect, a string would be placed there to let people know that there was a flaw. A perfect piece of material, therefore, had no strings attached.
The expression no strings attached is also associated with traps and deception. Elmer Fudd would place a big juicy carrot under a box with a string, Bugs would grab the carrot, a string would be pulled, the carrot would disappear and the box would twap the wabbit. A truly free gift of a carrot, therefore, has no strings attached.
People struggling with eating disorders and body dissatisfaction frequently find themselves tangled up in the strings of their loved ones’, families’, and friends’ support. It’s a delicate subject to address because:
Their intentions come from a place of love.
Their concern is authentic.
The source of their actions is from the heart.
But a bribe is not support.
When someone says, “When you reach your goal weight I will buy you a new wardrobe,” that’s a bribe.
Or, “When you reach your goal weight I’ll give you five dollars for every pound you lost (or gained), that’s a bribe.
Conversely, if someone were to say, “I know you are strapped for money and if you need help buying clothes, please let me know,” that’s support.
Or, “I know money is tight right now and you want to join a gym, so if you need help paying for that just let me know,” that’s support.
There is a huge difference between the two. One is truly caring and supportive with no strings attached. The other is a bribe, completely based on the premise, “If you do this for me, then I’ll do this for you.”
Now I know, people will insist they are not saying that you need to change your weight or your eating habits for them. More likely they insist, “I am only thinking of you and want to help and support you.”
And in my opinion, most people REALLY believe this is true down to their core. In most cases, our families and friends ARE concerned about our health and happiness. Unfortunately they are also convinced that optimal health and happiness are attached to a certain number on the scale. But what happens if I accept the support aka bribe? Does that mean that if I reach my goal weight, you buy me new clothes and I gain the weight back again, that I am unworthy of the support you offered in the first place? Have I used up all of my “help cards?”
So what if we remove the words, “When you reach your goal weight,” and replace them with, “How can I support you in your decision to adopt healthier and happier lifestyle habits?” Ahhh, big difference! Then you are entering into a supportive relationship with your loved one that is NOT outcome based, but process based, on-going, infinite. And isn’t that what loved ones, family, and friends are really there for?
I am not saying this is easy. This fine line between support and bribery, as I mentioned before, is a delicate subject. Extrinsic positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator. And most of us are used to different kinds of reward systems for attaining goals. But when the goal is an ongoing lifestyle change that is not attached to a specific weight or waist size, I’d like to suggest that any support offered or taken have…
NO STRINGS ATTACHED; like a perfect piece of fabric.
Fierce, Freethinking Fatties is participating in the monthly Blog Carnival hosted by Voices in Recover (ViR) to raise awareness of the Binge Eating Disorder Association’s (BEDA) first annual Stigma Awareness Week from September 26 through 30. Today’s post is in response to the Blog Carnival’s question for August: How does weight stigma increase body dissatisfaction?
I found out I was fat in fourth grade when my neighbor’s uncle told me that I had “legs like a man.” That was also the year everyone was wearing Danskins®. Some of you may remember those leotard sets with tight-fitting shorts, pants and tops that came in horizontal stripes or solids. They were super-stretchy and perfect for climbing trees, playing kickball and riding bikes. (Was it only just the year before that those were my favorite things to do?) I’d throw on my clothes, without a thought as to how I looked, and tear out of the house to play.
Fourth grade shouldn’t have been any different except we moved to a new neighborhood, and around the corner were two girls about my age. Heidi and Jan also wore Danskins. But they had the horizontal striped sets while my mom always bought me the solids. I didn’t know why at the time, but in retrospect it was because the stripes would make me look (heaven forbid) wider and fatter. That, of course, was unacceptable.
Heidi and Jan were skinny. I was not. I started to feel that I was ALL wrong and they were clearly ALL right. It wasn’t their fault. They were really sweet girls. When I cried to them about my evil uncle’s comment, they tried to soothe me. They assured me with all of the knowledge and confidence that comes from being in fourth grade that it was just baby fat and I’d grow out of it. We continued to read comics and go bowling together, but somehow I knew they were better than I was because they were thin.
But why? It was inexplicable to me! I ate less and exercised as much as they did, yet as summer approached, I was still carting around my “baby fat” and buying my clothes in the dreaded husky department. I was a failure. And now I could see that my uncle wasn’t the only one who knew that. The movies told me that, the teen magazines showed me that, and my family wouldn’t let me forget it.
I was constantly compared to Heidi and Jan and the thinner-than-thin girls in Seventeen Magazine, and I always came up short. This was another problem! Not only was it wrong to be fat but to be short and fat… EVEN MORE WRONG! I didn’t know it at the time, but at ten years old it was the first of many lifelong lessons in genetics.
I was a loser in the gene game. My gene pool was a cesspool. It just wasn’t fair. Heidi and Jan ate massive amounts of Downyflake® frozen french toast dripping with butter and syrup. They ate double Carvel® ice cream cones dipped in chocolate. They had junk food in their house with no limits on when or how much they could or should eat. It was a virtual gold mine of Yodels® and Ring Dings® and donuts, oh my!
They ate and ate and ate, and they were still skinny. As they were getting taller and taller, my self-esteem and confidence were getting smaller and smaller. I hated my body, which meant I hated myself. I started dieting, and by the end of junior high I was not only fatter, but had transformed into someone who saw food as the enemy yet, paradoxically, used it as a soother.
Over the years I have done an enormous amount of work on my body dissatisfaction and disordered eating: I have identified the emotional reasons for using food, given myself permission to enjoy food, and adopted a more mindful and conscious approach to eating. The internal chatter in my brain about food is practically a thing of the past and I am a healthier person psychologically.
But as the years passed, I realized that while I was making progress with the food “addiction,” the thin “addiction” was still running the show. What began years ago as constantly comparing myself to H&J blossomed into decades of scrutinizing the bodies of other women in order to measure my own self-worth and beauty.
As my involvement in Size Acceptance grew, my personal definition of beauty widened as well, but that too came in stages. It was easy to look at other big, beautiful women and see them as gorgeous and sexy, but the standard I held for myself seemed to be different. It would be years before I exorcised my uncle’s voice, and learned to accept and love my body type. It took hard work to opt out of the self-destructive “If I Looked Like Her I’d be Happy” game, and arrive at the place where I didn’t look at my legs and see limbs of shame.
Today, when I look at pictures of me in 4th grade, I see an athletic girl. Short? Yes. Stocky? Yes. Skinny? No. Self-loathing? You betcha.
It saddens me that I spent so many years living in self-hatred because the focus was on my weight and not my health and abilities. I am certain that had I been given more positive messages about my body early on from my family, television, magazines, and health care professionals, I would have been spared years of suffering.
It gives me hope, though, that someone reading this will do what I did and call a “DO OVER!” No, it didn’t give me back those years of shameful hiding and all of the experiences I missed because I felt too fat to show up. But I’ve had, and still have, many years to enjoy my life as I am.
And if those Danskinleotard sets ever come back into style… I may just buy the stripes if I want to! Sorry Mom. ">
My niece is getting married. She is the bride. Her dress is important. Mine? Not so much. And yet I find myself in my own personal episode of, “What Not to Wear!” There is an aura of importance surrounding my attire for this wedding. After all, I am the one in the family that is strident about self-acceptance. I am the one that writes a blog about redefining beauty and challenging societal standards of perfection. I am the member of the family who is the co-author of a book about size acceptance and women calling a truce in their battles against their bodies.
My niece is getting married. She is the bride. I will be scrutinized. This is not narcissistic, grandiose, or ego maniacal. This is fact.
The last time I had to dress up for an important family event was six years ago for my son’s bar mitzvah. (My blog post, The Other Woman, discusses that in all of my “Jewish Mother’s Glory.”
When I was shopping for that dress, I was a “nouveau riche” size 4. I had never been that thin…and of course I was “just visiting.” I was so inexperienced in shopping as a thin person, that I accepted Sax Fifth Avenue’s offer of assistance from a Personal Shopper.
“I’m sorry I’m such a challenge. It’s my butt and these thighs; they must make your job so much more difficult.”
Did I mention I was a size 4? And there I was apologizing to my personal shopper for not being a size 2.
Today, six years later, the “mother of the bar mitzvah boy suit” that I purchased won’t get past my shoulders. And I no longer have a personal shopper. Flying solo, I dared to go where all too many women before me have dared to go…into the belly of the beast…charge card in hand.
But I was not shopping completely alone.
I entered the store with the belief that I deserved to find a dress that made me feel good. I shopped with a self-confidence that hugged my shoulders with an attitude of, “I can look just fine…beautiful even…at this size.” Most importantly, I was accompanied by my newest companion, ME.
I was NOT shopping with the eyes and opinions of my family or the media. I was clad in the bullet proof vest of MY eyes and MY opinion. I was draped in a comforting serape of conviction that how I looked and what I chose to wear was the only opinion that held any weight!!
I began looking around the store. I focused on fabrics and colors that I found pleasing. Then I included the elements of comfort and a dash of pizzazz. I was almost enjoying myself! I wasn’t obsessing over what size I was or whether my arms, thighs or butt would be offensive to someone. In a way, that opened up a wider range of possibilities.
A sales woman approached and I waited for my usual wave of apologetic embarrassment to wash over me. It didn’t!
“That’s a gorgeous dress,” I said pointing towards the rack of Elie Tahari designs. “Expensive but beautiful!”
“This dress is a classic. You’ll be able to wear it forever!”
I smiled when I thought of the size 4 bar mitzvah suit gathering dust in my closet. The personal shopper had told me the same thing and I hadn’t been convinced. After all, a part of me knew I was “just visiting” the land of size 4.
But this time I had a feeling she was absolutely correct! After years of working personally and professionally on size acceptance, my years of yoyo dieting and shape shifting had finally come to an end!
“What size are you,” she asked flipping through the hangers?
Let’s talk turkey. Well, maybe not turkey. I don’t really like turkey. I think that may be because my mom was a horrendous cook, most renowned for her horrific mashed potatoes, second only to her infamous cinder block turkey.
Swanson’s TV dinners were a godsend in my house. Compared to my mom’s cooking, sitting down to that predictable, geometric aluminum tray of food that at least bore a semblance to what it was supposed to taste like was a welcome relief to the members of my family.
And you even got to have dessert! That teeeeeeny bite of brownie or apple brown betty was the best part because my mom’s limitations in the kitchen were not confined to main course disasters, but baking atrocities as well.
These prefab meals probably paved the way for my secret adoration of airplane food (when they still served airplane food) and my later lack of disgust for the Jenny Craig food phase I went through on one of my many weight loss endeavors.
So let’s not talk turkey*. Let’s talk french fries.
I would imagine that many people would rather talk french fries than turkey. In my opinion, french fries are the greatest food ever. I love them. They are the one food I would choose if I was stranded on a desert island.
If I had to choose a last meal before my execution… definitely fries. I’ve eaten french fries all over the world. My true attachment to fries is shown in a clip from the play, Leftovers, the Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater, but perhaps someday I’ll write a book, Fries I Have Known and Loved… and the Few Fries I Have Despised.
But why do I want to talk fries? For those of you who follow my blog, Tasty Morsels, you will know that once in a while I’m asked to review a book. I welcome these requests. I’m an avid reader, author, and blogger, and have a great deal of respect for the written word and those that venture into that domain.
I am flattered when someone wants my opinion about their labor of love and, of course, I’m also worried. What if I hate it? Who am I to write anything negative about someone else’s work, especially when it’s so obvious how hard they worked on it?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that my opinion has enough clout to effect someone’s book sales in either direction, but although I am honest to a fault, it would be difficult for me NOT to give someone a positive review.
When I was a university professor I had very rigid rubrics for grading; specific, clear criteria, like a nice Swanson’s TV dinner, each academic objective to be assessed in its own subsection and with its own grade percentage. If this hadn’t been the case, every student who showed up and didn’t fall asleep in my class would have gotten a B, and an A if they actually participated. But I didn’t want to be labeled an easy grader, nor did I want to overcompensate to the point where I was too strict, so I followed a set of carefully crafted guidelines.
When I write a book review, however, it falls into the realm of personal opinion, which often butts up against my political beliefs and subjective outlook on life. My evaluation of the book is not just whether the grammar, length, and structure of the writing fulfilled the assignment. Thus when I agreed to read a book sent to me by an author, I greeted it with my usual mixture of anticipation and utter terror.
So, the book arrives and, to my surprise, it’s a cookbook! I’ve never been asked to review a cookbook before and immediately wondered how many recipes I should try before I could accurately attest to the quality of the book.
I have to add at this point that, unlike my mom, I am told that I am an excellent cook, and despite my vast resume of things I am insecure about, I don’t have any reservations about my qualifications as a taster. I’ll match my taste buds up with the best of them! But there was another challenge in reviewing this book.
The title and illustrations on the cover and back of the book startled me.
Now, I had some wonderful exchanges with the author, Randi Levin, via email and Linked In, and I knew that her motivations for writing the book were to promote healthy eating habits in children and healthy food preparation habits in adults.
I really wanted to LOVE this book! Even as I read the forward, I tried to push aside my bristling as the author discussed weight and obesity in terms that were not syntonic with my point of view. Still, I felt I owed it to the author to thoroughly read her work before coming to a conclusion, so I pushed my reservations aside and opened the book randomly to a page… and would you believe it? I had turned to the recipe for french fries!
It was kismet! I liked that Ms. Levin explained that french fries did not need to be completely eliminated from a person’s diet and that she validated the absolute joy of the fry. Her recipe even included oil, not a cooking spray substitute, and the fries tasted amazing!
I randomly chose four other recipes to cook and each one was mouth watering, made of real ingredients, and did not attempt to fool me into thinking that I was eating a brownie that was not a brownie. In fact, the authenticity of the recipes was a wonderful asset of the book.
Ms Levin also acknowledges the difficulties that working parents can have with time management and that cooking frequently must be done on the fly. Hence the proliferation of the nostalgic, non-nutritious TV dinners of my past; but she offers some wonderful problem solving tips that address those concerns.
In the past month, three books about putting kids on diets have crossed my path. All three of them have a punitive feel, as if the child is to be blamed for being fat and that the stigma attached to them is excusable. All of the books just push for the kid to lose weight in order to be happy. And even though I don’t agree with all that Ms Levin has to say about childhood obesity, the book does speak out against size discrimination and cautions people and parents against shaming fat children
One of the biggest Risk Factors related to being an overweight, potentially obese or obese child is feeling the brunt or negative effect of another’s caring actions and words. Therefore please know that although most are made with good intentions, pointing out and telling a child that they are fat and must go on a diet is not only ineffective, it is mean and reinforces negative emotions and behaviors.
So, if you are looking for a resource for fabulous, healthy, and really delicious recipes, this may be just the thing to order off the menu, but as I told Randi, I would cut off the “crusts” of the title and book jacket before putting it on my bookshelf, skip the appetizers of childhood obesity theory, and go right to the main course and start cooking!
*Let’s talk turkey: Where did that expression come from?