Archive for March, 2012

Thanks, Guilt and Pity (But no thanks for guilt or pity)

March 31, 2012

My Oma-Would you want to make this woman sad??

Working in a hospital I am surrounded by the ailing and afflicted. I can’t say I am desensitized to suffering. I feel for many of those who are battling painful, frightening, and possibly life-threatening  conditions, as well as those who love and care for them. However when everyone you come into contact with has some type of malady, you do begin to reserve your sympathy and emotional energy for those who are truly in agony in order to preserve your sanity. Every so often I meet a person who touches me and I can’t help being drawn into their pain. My father once told me never to feel sorry for other people. I understand what he was trying to tell me. He isn’t a heartless person without concern for his fellow man. But rationally speaking,  feeling sad for others can accomplish nothing but just that: making you sad. Feeling pity for another person is passive rather than active, and actually can harm someone more than it can help them by further validating and solidifying their role as a victim when in fact most people don’t want to be viewed in this light at all. However it tends to be human nature for our hearts to go out to the weak and the suffering.

Today as I was sitting and eating lunch in the foyer of the hospital, a lovely elderly lady started to chat me up about nothing in particular. As we continued to talk she told me that her husband had just had a stroke and was getting out of the hospital that day at 4pm. He would require a home care nurse since he couldn’t walk properly yet, he had difficulty swallowing, his speech was garbled and it was unclear how much function he would regain. She teared up a little as she spoke, and I must admit my eyes got a little watery too. She wasn’t asking for sympathy, it was evident she felt alone and was reaching for someone, anyone to talk to. It was right about then that a young man about my age in a wheelchair approached a ramp leading up to the café. He was attempting to maneuver himself at the correct angle to enable him to go up the ramp and was having quite a bit of difficulty. He finally realized this feat, only to have to get up the actual ramp, which seemed to give him some trouble. I saw that there were many people watching him, and it seemed as if quite a few looked poised to jump in and push him. No one did though, and I believe it was because he looked so determined wheeling himself up that nobody seemed to know if this was the right thing to do. I assume they were afraid of embarrassing him or insulting him by insinuating he was unable to make it himself. The old woman and I watched him fight his way up the ramp silently, and then I felt her touch my hand with hers. “We are very fortunate” she said. I looked at her, this woman who felt blessed though her husband would very likely never say her name again, and I felt humbled. No, this woman didn’t need my pity. In many ways, she may be better off than I. I’ll explain.

On my way home, I started thinking about all of the little things I take for granted on a daily basis. The fact I have friends and family that love me, I live in a great city, I have a secure job and a roof over my head. I take for granted my health, and that I have enough food to eat. It may sound repetitive to talk about how deplorable it is that in North America portion sizes have increased 2-5 times since 1970 while obesity rates are epidemic, and at the same time there are people in the world still dying of starvation. But regardless of how often you hear it, it is still wrong. I am a second generation Canadian. My grandparents lived in Europe during WWII when people often didn’t have enough food to fill their stomachs. When they moved to Canada, they were extremely poor and had to work harder than I or my children will ever understand to make a life for themselves. To people like them and countless others who came to this country for a better life, being able to feed your family well was no small blessing, a validation for all of their tribulations. There was a time in history when being plump was a sign of high social standing. The poor could not afford good food and so were thin and wasted looking. It is alarming how things have changed such that now “thin is in”. In fact, with fast food and pre-packaged food usually costing less than fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meats, those in lower socioeconomic classes are more likely to be overweight than the middle and upper class in today’s day and age.

When you ask people what’s really important in life, one of the most popular answers is being healthy. Another is having enough food to eat. However, at any given time it is estimated that 45% of women are dieting.  At some point in their lives, most women will actively deprive themselves of food. While not all diets are harmful, and in some cases losing weight will improve health, many women engage in practices that are potentially dangerous under the guise of health, such as fad diets, detoxes, fasts or juice and soup diets. In the poorest nations such as India and northern Africa, the average caloric intake is between 1400-1900 calories daily for women. The daily requirement for most women is about 2000, with about 900 being the amount needed for human functioning. Many diets today recommend caloric intakes of 1500 calories daily or less making their devotees at least if not more malnourished than many “starving” women in 3rd world countries. When you think of the focus we put on our bodies in this light, it seems so shallow, doesn’t it?

I may sound judgemental but that is not my intention. I do not mean to be the pot that calls the kettle black. As a woman who has battled an eating disorder since a teenager I am no stranger to body image issues or depriving myself of food. I have likely binged and purged enough food to feed a small starving village. When I think about how important I once thought that being thin was or how happy I thought that losing 5 more pounds would make me it seems so irrational now. I know that an eating disorder is a disease and I have the insight now to understand that it isn’t really about food or how you look, but I still carry around a lot of guilt about the damage I did to my body and what I took for granted during the time I was abusing myself. One image that stays in my mind is the look of concern and pain on my Oma’s face whenever I would go over to her place for dinner and I would avoid eating the things she would prepare for me and try to shovel onto my plate in true mennonite fashion. For her, cooking for her family is showing love. I’m not sure how much she knows about my eating disorder, or even if she could fathom such a thing, but I know she realized I was sick by how frightened and sad she looked. Even now, every time I go there she is so concerned about what I can and can’t eat, and if I’m OK. I was relieved when finally the last time I saw her she deemed me “good and healthy”. Someone like her could never understand why a person would deprive themselves of food on purpose. She has seen what real hunger looks like. Her idea of a light meal is Rollkuchen (fried bread made of flour and whipping cream). Food nourishes your body and keeps you alive. It is vital to survival. It also can be an excuse to bring family together. My Oma grew up in a different time, but as I was reminded today, it seems we could all learn a thing or two from our elders.

The Skinny on Fat-Talk

March 31, 2012

“Ugh. I look so fat in this”

“Look at this roll”

“I have a spare tire in these jeans!”

“I think I gained 10 pounds over Christmas!”

“I look like a stuffed sausage in this dress!!”

“Look at my thunder thighs, I can’t leave the house in this skirt!”

Sound familiar? If not, you’re probably in the minority. Research shows that most women at one time or another have engaged in this type of self-deprecating banter, which has been coined “fat-talk” by Dr. Mimi Nichter, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and author of ‘Fat Talk:What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting’ . Why do we do it? According to Nichter, it is most likely to gain a sense of solidarity with our peers. She also says that it can be a way of expressing frustration about a bad event or bad day. “Saying, ‘I’m so fat,’ is not just about your weight, it’s really a statement about your sense of self at that moment.” It has been well documented that s woman’s emotional state of mind can greatly impact her self image, and that this can change even within a single day.

A study in the March 2011 issue of Psychology Women’s Quarterly showed that 93% of college women engaged in fat-talk with their peers with most believing it made them feel better about themselves. The results of the study showed the opposite. Rachel Falk, the study’s lead author said that “several participants remarked that they want their friends to tell them they’re not fat, but they don’t really believe it when they hear it”. Say something out loud enough times and you’ll start to believe it. This behavior is almost exclusive to women of normal weight or below, most likely because women who are overweight do not necessarily want to call attention to it. So why would “fat-talk” have negative consequences on thin women? Because according to Falk it “results in more body monitoring, which women are already spending too much time doing.”

A more recent study published March 2012 by study researcher Analisa Arroyo of the University of Arizona showed that “the ritualistic conversations about one’s own body or others’ bodies “predicts lower satisfaction with ones’ body and higher levels of depression”. So while the intention may be to seek approval from ones’ group of girlfriends to feel validated, constantly dwelling on perceived or even fictitious flaws may have the opposite effect of convincing oneself of their existence. As a matter of fact, we would all be better off to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Research shows that faking a smile makes you feel happier. Maybe forcing ourselves to reflect on our assets and give ourselves positive affirmation instead of criticism will finally allow us women to feel comfortable in our own skin and believe in our own brand of beauty, even if different from what we’re taught to aspire to. We have better things to talk about with our friends, like who Ryan Gosling is dating now 🙂

CAN YOU SPOT THE DIFFERENCE??

March 29, 2012

I had intended to blog about something entirely different today, but while researching the topic I came across something that disturbed me so much I had to rant about it. Take a close look at the picture above. What strikes you about it? You might notice that all the girls look similar. You may notice that they are similar in shape and that their poses are very alike. But look very, very closely.  You will realize that in fact their bodies are all EXACTLY same. This is an H&M ad campaign. Each of these girl’s faces has been pasted onto an identical body. This alone would be disturbing. But there is more. This is not just the usual photoshopping that is commonplace today in advertising. The body that you see does not belong to a real woman. It is a computer generated image.  According to a Swedish press spokesman for the company, photographers “take pictures of the clothes on a doll that stands in the shop, and then create the human appearance with a program on a computer.”  The company feels that by doing this, the focus is kept on the clothes and not on the models.  H&M’s US spokesperson Nicole Christie said “This technique can be found in use throughout the industry. This is not to be seen as conveying a specific ideal or body type, but merely a technique to show our garments. It is regrettable if we have led anyone to believe that the virtual mannequins should be real bodies. This is incorrect and has never been our intention.” These images are shown throughout their website and print ads. It is unclear how customers would be expected to believe they are anything but real women, except for the fact that they are absolutely flawless and their bodies are essentially humanly unattainable.

The controversy surrounding the altering of digital images in advertising is old news. Whether to sell clothes, to sell magazines, to promote music or to further an image it seems that beauty is essential and that the reality is never as good as the fantasy that can be generated with a few strokes of the keyboard. The computer can do as little as fix a blemish or a shadow or completely change a woman’s body. In 2009 Ralph Lauren released an ad featuring model Philippa Hamilton which was altered to the extent that her waist was smaller than her head. She looked so out of proportion that it drew outrage and mockery from several media outlets and blogs. In fact, the real model was a healthy and normal looking young woman. She was subsequently fired from the brand, she claims for being too “fat”. Below is this example as well as other notable examples of digital alterations.

Phillippa Hamilton photoshopped (left) and natural (right)

Katie Couric

Jessica Alba

There does seem to be some hope on the horizon, as people seem to be speaking out about this type of media deception. As discussed in my last entry, certain countries are establishing or trying to establish guidelines which would require advertisers to disclose when images have been photoshopped or altered.  It seems magazines may be listening too. Glamour magazine recently polled its readers and found that 60 percent don’t want ads to mislead them, and that  78 percent were opposed to slimming a body to look even five pounds lighter. As a result , the magazine has decided to limit it’s retouching. It has vowed “A pimple or wrinkle may be removed, but making a celebrity impossibly thin or otherwise altering the face or physique of its models will no longer be tolerated at Glamour, even if the celebrity asks for it.” Bravo. Now maybe if magazines start hiring models that are the size of normal women, we might get somewhere.

 

 

 

THE ISRAELIS ARE WINNING

March 28, 2012

Ad banned in the UK for "highly visible ribs"

 

On Monday, Israel put into effect a law regulating the use of extremely thin models within the Israeli fashion industry. The law bans fashion houses and advertisers from using models with a BMI less than the World Health Organization standard of normal (18.5). Models must provide a medical report no less than 3 months old at every shoot or fashion show stating she is not malnourished. The law also forces advertisers to put a disclaimer on any image that has been edited or altered in way which makes a model appear thinner so that young girls and women will know the image is not realistic. This rule does not apply to foreign publications imported into the country. The legislation comes as a response to the relatively high incidence of eating disorders in the country, where approximately 2% of girls age 14-18 have anorexia or bulimia. This is similar to rates in other developed countries. While Israel isn’t exactly a mecca of high fashion, this ban has created a buzz all over the world, and we can only hope other markets will follow suit. It shows that someone is paying attention to the effect the fashion industry has on its consumers, and how the fashion industry responds will show how much accountability they feel to the people who perpetuate and escalate its growth, both the models who sell the clothing and the women who buy them.

This is not the first we’ve heard of a country or city putting restrictions on models used in shows. In 2006, in Madrid, the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers was the first body to put a ban on overly thin models. While not a law, there was a guideline put in place that models have a BMI of at least 18. At that time, Cathy Gould of New York’s Elite modeling agency accused the agency of using the fashion agency as a scapegoat for anorexia and bulimia. The ban in fact originated after backlash following the death of a 22 year-old anorexic Uruguayan model of heart failure after starving herself for a show, and shortly thereafter the death of a Brazilian model of complications of anorexia. Following fashion week in Madrid, Milan followed suit that same year. In Milan models were required to produce a medical certificate declaring them healthy with no eating disorder, and stating a BMI of at least 18.5. The models also needed to be at least 16 years of age. This was also not an outright ban, but a guideline requiring “self-regulation by the fashion houses”. Even Mario Boselli, the head of Italy’s National Fashion Chamber did not seem to take it very seriously, stating that only “maybe one girl in a hundred’ in the shows was too skinny. In fact, the average model is 5’11’’ and 117 pounds. This gives her a BMI of 16.3. She would have to weigh 133 pounds to achieve a “normal” BMI of 18.5. The average US woman is 5’4’’ and weighs 140 pounds and has a BMI of 24.  Designers had mixed opinions about the ban. Many supported it, such as Emanuel Ungaro designer Giles Deacon who said  ”At a certain period in time, the fashion industry was portraying this image of a totally unrealistic woman, women who are not allowed to be themselves. It’s just all a bit wrong.” Many did not approve of the change. Outspoken Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld said that fashion is about “dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women.” Oh, Mr. Lagerfeld. There are no words.

There are many arguments that have been made against regulating the fashion industry. Some may say BMI is not a great indicator of health status or nutritional status as it is unreliable. It is true that BMI calculations can be unreliable in some cases, for example in children or the elderly, people who are very muscular, or women for example with very large breasts, or even amputees. I can’t think of a fashion model who meets any of these criteria. Some argue that there are women who are just naturally very thin and we shouldn’t punish them for this. I agree that there are those women who are naturally tall and skinny. We all have those girlfriends who for as long as we’ve known them have been twigs, eating twice as much as anyone you know and never being able to gain a pound. That girl everyone tells “You should be a model” even when she’s in her awkward ugly duckling stage because girls that tall and skinny are always models. But these girls are few and far between, and even these girls are very often not as bony as the girls we see on the runway. Should a girl like this be excluded because her BMI is 18.3 instead of 18.5? Maybe not. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere. And as for Mr. Lagerfeld’s  statement that women like to look at “illusions” on the runway? I think that most women would rather see clothing on a real woman. When a woman looks at a size zero model wearing an outfit and she is a size 10, she has no “allusions” that outfit will look the same on her. (Hahaha)

Fast forward to now and we have actual government legislation in place in a country protecting models in an industry that up to now has promoted an unhealthy body image, as well as helping shield impressionable young girls and teenagers from images of unachievable ideals. There is some rumbling of similar legislation being discussed in France and in the US. An ad was recently banned in the UK for portraying a model with “highly visible ribs”. Australia has come up with a new code of conduct for the fashion industry. If key recommendations are met, such as not using female models that are excessively thin or male models that are excessively muscular, not using cosmetic surgery or rapid weight loss ads in magazines, putting disclosures on altered photos, not using models under 16 and stores stocking a wide variety of sizes then the fashion labels, modeling agencies, and magazines which comply will be awarded with the youth minister’s stamp of approval. We are not anywhere close to being there yet, but people are recognizing there is a problem and talking about it, and that is a good step in the right direction.

Will you buy what the kids are selling?

March 27, 2012

Dakota Fanning for Marc Jacobs Lola perfume

 

There has been a lot of controversy lately surrounding the use of very young actresses as the faces of campaigns for everything from makeup to perfume to high end designer clothing. Dakota Fanning was the cover girl for a Marc Jacobs campaign at the age of 12, and now at the age of 17 she is the face of his Lola perfume ads. Her younger sister Elle (13) is showcasing his Marc by Marc Jacobs line. 14 year-old Hailee Steinfeld, best known for her Oscar nominated role in True Grit was the face of the 2011 Miu Miu campaign. 15 year-old Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass) has just been named the MaxMara 2012 face of the future and is doing an advertising campaign for them. 19 year-old Emma Watson has been doing campaigns for Burberry since 2009. Using young celebrities in advertising isn’t a new concept. In 1980, a 14 year-old Brooke Shields was the young centerfold in Calvin Klein jean ads, alongside the very suggestive logo “Nothing gets between me and my Calvins”. However the number of underage girls in the media seems to be increasing, and their age decreasing. Also, with the technology of today, media reaches a much broader demographic of people. It is hard to believe there is any race, culture, economic class, religion or age of person who is not affected by advertising today.

Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu

 

It is true that a lot of models are ‘discovered’ at a very young age, sometimes as young as 13 or 14. They can be doing runway shows and booking fashion shoots while still going through puberty. But let’s face it. When you see a stream of models walking down a runway, one angular, expressionless girl after another, you can’t really distinguish a teenager from a 25 year-old.  No one has any of the features that distinguish them as women, such as breasts or hips. These girls and women are alike in their androgeny. Case in point: one of the biggest models in the runway world right now is Andrej Pejic, a gorgeous Serbian who has walked numerous high-end women’s runway shows this last season. He is a man. Looking at him in the stream of other models, one would never guess he was any different from any of the female models on the runway. It is bizarre that designers believe their clothing looks best on women who look nothing like women at all, but instead like prepubescent children.

So why is hiring very young celebrities for designer ad campaigns any different? First, my soapbox: In general, I think that the modeling world is very hard on young girls, and when a teenager is put in a position where her success is based solely on how she looks, it can set her up for a lot of disappointment, rejection, and self-esteem issues. It can also send the wrong message to girls regarding what is really important. But if a parent wants to allow her daughter to model at a young age, I think it is important to look at the appropriateness of each job with respect to what that girl is selling and how she is selling it. It’s appropriate for a teenager to model a teen clothing line. If a teenager is modeling for an adult line and she is made up to look like an adult as many teens can, it may be appropriate as long as she is not placed in inappropriately adult or sexualized poses. When it comes to celebrities, these girls are household names. People are aware that they are young, underage girls, so automatically people are going to question the appropriateness of hiring them for adult clothing lines, even if they are made up to look older. The reality is that for a lot of these campaigns these girls are purposely painted and posed in order to highlight their youth and innocence. They are put in pretty dresses, or in silly, childish poses. In some of the more sinister photos, such as the Lola perfume ads featuring Dakota Fanning, there is a juxtaposition of Dakota’s youthfulness with her ‘sexuality’ where she is sitting in a cute frilly dress looking innocently at the camera, holding the bottle of perfume with a large flower top in between her legs. There are other ads that use a similar juxtaposition showing extremely youthful celebrities wearing very adult clothing and posed in a very adult manner. The Lola perfume ad was banned in the UK for sexualizing a child. The company that makes the perfume, Coty, responded that it did not feel the perfume was inappropriately sexualized because Fanning is over the age of consent (16), and also because no body parts and no sexual activity is shown. To them, the ad is “provoking, but not indecent”. Hmm. A Miu Miu ad featuring Hailee Stenfeld was also banned in the UK because it showed her wearing a very short skirt and sitting on a train track. It was banned not for the skirt, but because it showed the child in a hazardous or dangerous situation. They are referring to the railway track and not the fact she is 14 and already a sex object.

Casting a celebrity for an ad campaign is very different from hiring a beautiful yet unidentifiable model. When hiring a model, the designer is only looking for the person whom they feel will best showcase the brand. Is she beautiful? Will the clothes look great on her? When hiring a celebrity, that person will be recognizable to the general public. Celebrities have predetermined reputations to take into account, and designers have to additionally think about whether the person will affect the integrity or image of the brand. Often that is why celebrities are used, to reach their vast number of fans and help to expand the brand’s consumer base. One has to wonder what a designer is thinking when he decides to hire a child for a women’s clothing campaign. What message is it designed to send, and what message are women receiving? I can only speak for myself, and when I see a 14 year-old in a dress on a billboard, it doesn’t make me want to go out and buy that dress. It might make me say “Awwwwwww…”, but I don’t know any 30 year-old women who want to show up at a party in the same dress as their 15 year-old niece. Are these designers then trying to reach out to a younger client base? Are they trying to expand to the preteen/teen crowd? This could be a risky move. While these starlets will likely attract the attention of girls in this age range, I don’t know that a lot of them will have the allowance to purchase the digs from Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, or  Burberry. The demographic most likely to buy these brands would relate much better to actresses that have been in movies that do not begin with Twi and end in light. Many women who covet these labels may not even know who these younger stars are, and therefore would not be swayed by their use in ads. It has been suggested that a reason for using such young stars in ads is because our culture is obsessed with youth. There may be some truth to that. But I certainly have no desire to relive my teenage years. Looking at a girl in an ad campaign who is 13-17 years of age doesn’t make me think: “Oh, to be young again”. It makes me think: “That poor girl, she doesn’t know what’s going to hit her”. (I mean emotionally, as in those hard teenage years, not literally, as in that train that is apparently going to hit Ms. Steinfeld on the railway track). Show me a 20 year-old in an ad with gorgeous, wrinkle-free, flawless skin, hair that shines, and a radiant, youthful glow, and yes, I’ll buy what she’s selling. I may even get the urge to run to the next Botox clinic. But when I see a kid gyrating against a bottle of perfume in a magazine? I just want to call her mother.

Chloe Moretz for Max Mara

 

HONEST KATE

March 24, 2012

Supermodel Kate Moss graces the cover of W magazine this month. The most famous among those who started the trend towards exceptionally thin models in the 90’s and inspired the terms “waif” and “heroin chic”, she is also likely the most controversial. Her figure, drug use, choice of men and parenting skills have all been called into question. Yet she is revered for her beauty, flair for fashion and longevity in an industry that tends to chew people up and spit them out.  She is a woman we love to hate. This is a woman who in a 2009 Woman’s Wear Daily interview stated her life’s motto to be: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. On one hand, I completely agree with the many outraged parents who worried what kind of message this statement sends to the children and teens who look up to Ms. Moss. Unfortunately this statement has been adopted as the mission statement for many “pro anorexia” websites all over the internet. As a woman who understands all too well the mentality such a statement arises from, it makes me sad to think that there are girls and women who will hear, internalize, believe and repeat this statement. But that is the topic of a whole other post.

Today, I am focusing on the fact that although there is one part of me that is completely disgusted reading this quote, there is another part of me that respects her honesty. It’s refreshing to hear a supermodel basically admit that you have to starve to be skinny. Maybe that sounds insane. But I feel like some people will read her quote and say “Hmm. Maybe it is better to be skinny than to eat.” I feel that a whole other (and I would like to think larger) group of people will say “Well, if I can’t look like Kate Moss and still eat, then I guess I won’t look like Kate Moss. Pity.” (The pity is said in an English accent because Kate Moss lives in London). Sometimes it’s nice to know that these creatures we see in magazines and on TV are actually human. I want to know that they don’t wake up in the morning looking like goddesses, and that their bodies are not genetically predisposed to repel fat. It is why although we try to look away, we are magnetically drawn to the “Guess which celebrities cellulite this is?” and “Who has the worst beach body?” tabloid issues at the grocery store. We don’t want to wish anyone ill will, but my god does it feel good to know that Giselle Bundchen has cellulite on her ass. She has millions of dollars, Tom Brady, a body to kill for, amazing hair and she is one of the most beautiful women in the world. But she has cellulite!!!!! That knocks her down to my level. She’s just like me! I’m just like her! We’re equals!!

I am so sick of celebrities who claim they do nothing to look amazing. Oh, I can eat whatever I want. I never diet. See. I’ll even let you take a picture of me holding this cupcake. Do you have the shot?? I don’t need to exercise. I’m naturally athletic. I’m outdoorsy. I’m 65 and I have no wrinkles and my eyebrows are at my hairline, but I have NEVER had a face lift. My breasts are real, they naturally punch me in the chin. I didn’t have a nose job, half of my nose just magically disappeared. (Ashley Simpson-did you really think we wouldn’t notice??) I gave birth 20 seconds ago and now I’m 5 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight, but I didn’t diet or exercise. I lost weight because of breast feeding. BREAST FEEDING? Give me a break. I know you burn a few extra calories but you just had a BABY! Your stomach stretches out the size of a basketball. It’s not normal to have a flat stomach 2 weeks later. I love you Heidi Klum, but you are a freak of nature. I ran into a friend I went to University with and could have sworn she was pregnant. Good thing I didn’t ask, because she had given birth 2 AND A HALF MONTHS AGO!! Celebrities don’t owe the public an explanation about anything, but if you agree to do an interview there is some expectation of disclosure. At least don’t insult our intelligence by lying.

Here are some celebrities who are refreshingly honest:

Elizabeth Hurley losing weight after giving birth to her son- “I’m on a good old-fashioned low calorie diet-I’m going to bed hungry.”

Gwen Stefani-“It’s a daily struggle. I work out five days a week, I can’t imagine not doing it. I’d like to have no rules and eat what I want, but I’ve learned over the years that I’m so disappointed when I can’t wear the clothes I want to wear..”

Julianne Moore-“I still battle with my deeply boring diet of essentially yogurt and breakfast cereal and granola bars. I hate dieting. I hate having to do it to be the ‘right size’. I’m hungry all the time.”

Kristen Bauer-“The other day I realized that as long as I’m in this business I’m going to be hungry.”

Samantha Janus (soap star)-“I spend most of my days thinking about food and I’m hungry all the time…When I finish working as an actress there is a size 22 woman desperate to get out and just sit and munch.”

Portia de Rossi (recovered anorexic and television star)- “I don’t remember if I was hungry all the time. I’m sure I was hungry some of the time, or even most of the time, but I do think that after a while I didn’t even recognize that I was hungry. I felt very empty and I felt very anxious. It was worse than hunger. I felt like my brain wasn’t functioning”

There are many other celebrities who are open about the work it takes to be camera ready. I feel this is important, because it helps people to realize that media images of models and celebrities are not readily achievable, nor are these people always happy and healthy. The media drives what the “ideal” is, and people will tend to strive towards this. When these revered idealized people become more real to us and we understand the struggles and demands they themselves face, perhaps women will stop being so hard on themselves for not meeting ridiculous standards.

Leave the Children Out of It!!

March 22, 2012

Almost at my goal weight!

The other day I was at Whole Foods buying some overpriced organic groceries when I overheard a mother telling her elementary school-aged daughter to put the  Snickerdoodles  she had picked up back because they were too “fattening”.  Now I understand that in this day and age gluten and refined sugar are the body’s enemy, clogging up your system wherever they go, but as far as I know no child has ever porked up from a single Snickerdoodle. It is far from my place on my childless pedestal to judge, but it hit a nerve to hear this woman force her food issues onto her young child. While I agree that parents should be concerned with their children’s nutrition, and certainly there should not be a free-for –all mentality when it comes to junk food. But what message does it send to young girls when their mothers tell them they should fear certain foods? Do these children have the skills to think critically and understand that their parents don’t want them to become obese and unhealthy, or will they start to think that they must be as skinny as models in magazines or the thinnest girl in their class in order to please?

I came across some pretty startling statistics:

Among children in grades 1-3, 42% want to be thinner

Among 8-10 years old, 50% are dissatisfied with their body size

Among 10 year olds, 81% are afraid of becoming fat

Among 9-11 year olds, 46% are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

82% of these 9-11 year olds families are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

Among 13 year olds, 80% have tried to lose weight

Among 9-15 year old girls, 50% exercise to lose weight, 50% restrict their calories, and 5% steal laxatives or diet pills from their parents

35% of people on a diet develop some sort of pathology around food

Of this 35%, 20-25% develop a full-blown eating disorder

Why do our kids have such low self-esteem and body-image? Similar to the rest of us women, they are exposed to the endless stream of media images depicting unrealistic depictions of women. Children are likely even more susceptible to these images because they are less likely to be able to appreciate the discrepancy between the women in the media and real women. Young children may not realize the extent of the retouching, plastic surgery, makeup, dieting, personal training etc. that goes into making the models look like they do. Children and teens are also highly influenced by their peer group. Often groups of kids will engage in fat-talk which only feeds into their low self-esteem. They may feel pressured into dieting along with groups of friends, or forced to “compete” with smaller friends.

Parents cannot control the media or peer pressure. However, the influence of parents and home environment on children’s behavior and attitude towards food cannot be overlooked. It is well established that how parents, especially mothers, feel about themselves and their approach to weight issues will influence their daughter’s self-image and tendency towards disordered eating. Statistically, young girls who report they have dieted or are dieting are more likely to report that members of their families are also dieting or have dieted.  A study in the European Journal of Child Adolescent Psychiatry in 2009 called Influence of Parent’s Eating Attitudes on Eating Disorders In School Adolescents examined 258 boys and girls with a mean age of 11.37 being either at risk of an eating disorder or a control. The study looked at disordered eating attitudes, body dissatisfaction, BMI and eating disorder diagnoses in the children at beginning and 2 years later. The parents were also examined for disordered eating attitudes. The results showed that mother’s drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, and father’s drive for thinness and perfectionism were related to long-term eating disorders. Predictors were being female, mothers drive for thinness, social insecurity and adolescent body dissatisfaction, and father’s perfectionism. BMI was not a predictor.

So ladies, remember when you were a teenager and you screamed at your mother that you were going to be a better parent than her? I know at the time you meant you were going to let your daughter stay out late and date all the boys she wanted and have her own phone in her room, but now you have the chance to do something better. You can shut up about how fat you feel today or how many calories were in the grande chocolate macchiato extra whip you just drank and how disgusting you feel, or how you need to go on a diet. It’s no good for you, and it’s toxic for your daughters. Both of you deserve better.

For $1000 it better be better than a face lift!

March 21, 2012

Is it worth $1000?

Estee Lauder has just launched their luxury skincare line ‘Re-Nutriv Re-Creation’. The face cream and night serum will set you back a hefty $1000 while the eye balm and night serum for eyes is about half that amount. The active ingredient in all products is ‘Glacial BioExtract’, a concentrated essence which is purported to boost the skin’s collagen network, restore skin’s strength and resilience, improve skin’s clarity and inner radiance, optimize hydration, reduce lines and fade discolorations. In short, they seem to be promising a miracle. According to the April issue of Flare magazine, the Glacial BioExtract is actually a glycoprotein that “switches on dermal fibroblasts, which are cells that crank out the proteins needed to keep skin youthful.” It was first discovered in the Antarctic in bacteria which were able to withstand the treacherous conditions as a result of this protective glycoprotein. It is now produced in a lab, and the process is very costly. The cream also contains other high end ingredients: ancient algae, micro-minerals, colloidal gold, South Sea pearls. Much thought and money was also invested in the aesthetic appeal of the product. The packaging is streamlined and elegant, but not gaudy or showy. The bottles are grey and gold, and come on ‘pedestals’ for display.  It is lightly scented with water lotus, hyacinth and orchid, and feels silky to the touch. It is designed to make you covet it. But the question is-who will buy a $1000 face cream?

 

Estee Lauder is certainly not alone in the luxury skin care market, although this new skincare line is one of the pricier ones, especially from one of the more recognized department store brands. Other exorbitantly priced products include Revive Peau Magnifique ($1500 for a 4 week supply), Revive Intensite Volumizing Serum ($600), N.V. Perricone M.D. Neuropeptide Facial Conformer ($570), Kanebo Sensai Ex La Crème ($500), and Cle de Peau Beaute La Crème ($475) just to name a small handful. If sales of these and other luxury brands are any indication, it seems there are a lot of people willing to fork over a thousand dollars for a face cream. According to CNN, in 2010 prestige skincare sales in US department stores was 2.7 billion, an 8% increase from 2009. So if people are buying, these creams must be delivering on all of their promises, right?

 

This is a hard question to answer. It seems that every cream claims to be able to turn back the hands of time, offering ‘clinical evidence’ of anti-aging and damage reversing effects. In addition to being physically appealing, the most costly creams also contain the most lavish and valuable ingredients. These include things like caviar, crushed pearls, gold, and extracts from plants found only in exotic locales. Other ingredients which drive up the price are proteins and other cellular components that are involved in cell renewal and other processes which make them useful against aging skin cells. The problem is research and development as well as production can be very expensive. Is all of this money well spent?  Forbes.com states that “In the cosmetic industry, the term “clinically proven” is often more marketing than science. Typically, the phrase means that at least one component of the cosmetic product has been shown, in one study or another, to have had some biological action, such as helping wounds heal faster by stimulating cell division. That the product has been demonstrated by a well-controlled, independent clinical study to have significant effects in skin, however, is not necessarily true”. Unlike drugs, cosmetic products do not have to undergo rigorous, double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies to prove their efficacy. Claims made are often subjective rather than measurable. “80% of women saw a reduction in wrinkles”. Even when outcomes are measurable, they are rarely measured against outcomes from similar products. Tools called corneometers can measure skin’s hydration level before and after application of a face cream to prove it is increased by said cream. So while all of the ingredients in a $500 cream sound luxurious and are ‘clinically proven’, how do we know a $10 face cream would not increase skin’s hydration just as well? The drug store brand creams, while costing significantly less, make similar claims of efficacy to the much more expensive department store creams.

Being 31, I’ve started to look at products that use words like ‘reduce’ and ‘minimize’ rather than ‘prevent’ when referring to lines and wrinkles. I have noticed a line on my forehead that seems to be there even when I’m not furrowing my brow in thought. There are a couple of ‘laugh lines’ under my eyes which I would like to prevent from becoming ‘crow’s feet’  although I’m not sure of the distinction other than I prefer the sound of the former. I’m not alone. Women spend billions of dollars annually on skin care in order to reverse the signs of aging and reclaim their youth. I recently had to buy a new eye cream. I was at a “beauty mart” where several brands were displayed side by side. I felt overwhelmed by the seemingly endless choices in front of me. I was not looking at couture brands, but mid-priced department store brands ranging from $20-$50. All made essentially the same claims, to reduce wrinkles, firm skin, reduce circles etc. I must admit, I felt more drawn to the more expensive creams. Part of it was that the packaging of the more expensive lines was more appealing. However, I think the main reason is that on some subconscious level I believe that the more expensive something is, the better it must be. I have heard similar comments from others, and not just about skincare products. If there are 2 brands of olive oil, the more expensive one is better quality, brand name must be better than generic, the most expensive car is the best.  I ended up buying a $46 cream. I still have wrinkles under my eyes, but I’m certain I will be one of the 80% who will notice an improvement in 4-6 weeks. Another reason women may be shelling out cash for youth in a bottle is to increase their happiness. A study on PsychCentral led by Cornell University researchers showed that people were more likely to make more expensive purchases when they were feeling low, and they were most likely to pay with their credit card, perhaps to offset some of the guilt about the purchase. It seems that purchasing a luxury item, like an overpriced face cream, can temporarily lift a woman’s mood.

Many women swear to the effectiveness of these very expensive luxury creams, to the extent that some of them even have a cult-like following. Crème de la Mer is revered by so many Hollywood celebrities you would think it was Botox in a bottle. So, if you have $1000 to burn, go ahead and try Estee Lauder’s Re-Nutriv Re-Creation Collection. Just don’t expect a miracle. Me, I think I’ll just work on embracing my wrinkles. (While continuing to use my antiwrinkle serum, day cream, night cream, dark circle minimizer, eye cream and blemish fighter).

Are you skinnier in the morning?

March 19, 2012

Can your body really change in one day??

A friend said to me yesterday: “I think I’m skinnier in the morning”. I can’t tell you how many times I have been on the receiving end of some variation of this sentence. “My body looks better in the morning before I eat anything”, “I look skinny in the morning, but then I’m fat again at the end of the day”, “I think I gain 10 pounds during the day”…..It begs the question: Is it these women’s waistlines or their self-confidence that is fluctuating so wildly throughout the day?

 

First of all I would like to talk about the physiological. Overnight you obviously don’t eat or drink anything for the amount of time you are asleep, usually about 6-8 hours. So when you wake up you are in the fasted state and often slightly dehydrated. This is because as you sleep you lose water through respiration (small water droplets are lost in your breath) and transpiration (you lose water through your skin). Water weight loss overnight can be as much as 2-3 pounds or even more if there is a lot of perspiration. Also, a lot of digestion occurs overnight, and any food in the stomach moves further along the digestive tract, which can give the appearance of a “flatter” stomach. When dehydrated, a lean person’s muscles can appear more defined which makes them appear more toned (this is a common trick bodybuilders will use pre-competition). This may be a reason women like their bodies best first thing in the morning. During the day as food and fluids are consumed the water weight lost overnight is regained, Women may feel that their stomachs are no longer “flat” once it has been filled with food (whether this is true or imagined) and sometimes the food consumed, for example a high-sodium meal, can lead to water being retained and the appearance of a larger stomach due to bloating. Weight fluctuations throughout one day can be up to 5 pounds, and this is mainly due to water retention and loss. Certain factors, such as eating a very large meal before bed, constipation, and water retention can in fact cause people to weigh more or be very bloated in the morning. However, it does in fact seem as though some women may appear “skinnier” in the morning, even if this is only due to normal physiological changes that occur in everyone and in no way represent any actual fat loss overnight.

 

So are there psychological factors involved? Before looking at any data, I want to shed some personal light on the matter. When in therapy for my eating disorder, a recurring discussion theme was that of control. A theory about eating disorders is that often they are triggered by emotional or traumatic events and that women use the eating disorder as a coping mechanisms. If you can’t control what’s going on in your life, at least you can control what you put into your body. In group therapy, I learned a common goal for women with eating disorders (including myself) was to eat as little as possible, or that only certain foods were allowed. If you ate “too much” or something unacceptable, you had failed. However, each morning was a fresh start. In the morning you were not yet defeated, you had a new chance to stick to your plan and you felt revitalized. I am not insinuating that when a woman says she feels her “skinniest” in the morning that she has an eating disorder. My point is that I think that for all women, each morning is a clean slate. Ideally you are rested and revived, your mind is alert and the emotional tone for the day is still to be determined as no events have occurred to influence it. So whatever your goal is for the day, it seems within reach. Studies have shown that mood influences body image. A 1995 study in Behavior Therapy titled ‘Body image disturbance, memory bias and body dysphoria: Effects of negative mood induction’ showed that when women were induced to be in a negative mood, they perceived their body size to be larger than it currently was and had increased body dysphoria. A 1992 study in Behavior Research and Therapy showed similar data. So perhaps throughout the day, women’s body image worsens due to daily stressors and our emotional responses to them, and the morning is the only time we are free from this effect.

 

Another thing I learned in group therapy is that it for women with eating disorders, the feeling of having no food in your stomach is the feeling of success. It is a comfort. Even as I write this statement, I know it will be hard to comprehend and shocking to many. It’s almost metaphoric really, because when you are in that place you feel empty in all respects because you have isolated yourself and your whole life has become consumed by your disease. Even sometimes today after waking up with that hollowness in my stomach that I used to relish, when I eat my first meal, and I can feel my stomach filling up and pressing just slightly harder on the waist of my pants, I can’t help but feeling like I’m suddenly heavier. I no longer strive to feel hungry, but sometimes disordered thoughts like this interrupt my life. It makes me wonder if other women have these thoughts? When a woman says she feels “skinnier in the morning” is it partially because she hasn’t filled her stomach with food and when you feel hungry, you have an artificial feeling of lightness?  Does simply feeling satiated make a woman feel heavier?

 

As women go about their day, they are exposed to hundreds if not thousands of media images. Many of these images depict artificial, retouched models and actresses representing what the “ideal” woman should be, and it is an unattainable goal for most if not all women to achieve. There are over a hundred studies proving the negative effects of these extremely thin images on a clear majority of adolescents and women. Not only do women feel greater body dissatisfaction upon exposure, but they also report more depression, stress, insecurity, guilt and shame. Many studies have shown that when body image and body perception are measured right before and right after exposure to media images of very thin models, women will report a more negative body image and falsely perceive themselves as heavier than is accurate. So it’s possible that exposure to so many of these images throughout the day, can contribute to a more negative body image later in the day vs. first thing in the morning.

 

I’m sure there are many other factors that can affect why women may feel differently about themselves at different times of the day. Women are complicated, and body image and self-esteem are very complex, multi-faceted issues. However, it does not appear that beyond any normal physiological changes, women are any “skinnier” in the morning. However, sometimes by the end of the day a woman may feel like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, so she sure may feel heavier at the end of the day.

OPEN LETTER TO GWYNETH PALTROW

March 14, 2012

 

Starve 12 weeks and you can have this body too!


Dear Gwyneth Paltrow:

I think you are really pretty. You are not a bad actress either. I went to see your movie Country Strong, and it made me cry. I read an article where you talked about what a “nightmare” it was for you to gain 20 pounds for that movie, and how panicked you felt to have to give up exercise because the director didn’t want you to have any tone at all to your body. I must admit, you did look pretty thick. I couldn’t see any of your bones jutting out at all. I would even go as far as to say you looked skinny (eek) and not  emaciated, and that just doesn’t cut it in hollywood. Thankfully as soon as filming was over you could get right back to your macrobiotic diet and strict exercise regimen and lose all of that flab. I saw you on the cover of the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t buy the magazine or anything, but I did flip through it in the grocery store and perused your enthralling interview. I just wanted to wish you luck on your 12-week detox. I didn’t realize you were allergic to gluten, dairy and sugar, and that you needed to do seasonal detoxes to cleanse your body of all of those nasty toxins when your system gets too inflammed. Poor you. On the other hand, it’s so great you’re so in tune with your body that you know when your ‘adrenal cortex is too high’ (as you put it) without any type of medical opinion.  Because feeling tired and cranky couldn’t possibly be symptoms of anything other than a ‘high adrenal cortex’. But you should know that if your adrenal gland is really overfunctioning, this could be a serious medical condition called Cushings syndrome. You should get this checked out by a doctor to find out what’s going on, because in some cases overproduction of adrenal hormones can be the result of an adrenal tumor and you don’t want that to go unnoticed. Unfortunately this can’t be healed by meditation or yoga or accupuncture. But regardless, detoxing is probably a great idea anyway. Especially for 12 weeks. I mean, just because there is absolutely no medical evidence of any benefit to detoxing or fasting (except for small studies in epilepsy and cancer in rats), and our liver and kidneys will get rid of essentially all toxins introduced to our systems, you will probably feel SO good after 12 weeks. I mean, it definitely makes sense that you would have MORE energy and feel just so invigorated after starving yourself for that long.  And it sounds so new-age to say “I’m detoxing right now, I’m like totally purifying my body.” Plus you’ll lose a TON of weight. But you can’t fast all the time, so I was really happy to read in your interview that when you’re not detoxing, you eat whatever you want. “Bread and cheese and wine…”  Oh. I thought you were allergic to gluten and dairy. And I think there is sugar in wine. It’s so convenient for you that your allergies come and go!! Wow, it’s so wonderful that you can delight in real food every so often. Of course, from what you describe you eat your children’s leftovers for breakfast and liquids and salads or rice cakes or half an avacado for lunch. You claim to be more of a dinner person. I’m sure you really pack it in with gusto then. I mean, you truly must a food expert, with those cookbooks you have and all that foodie advice you give out on your website. The next time I want food advice I will look to you because you look like a person who has indulged in enough cuisine in her day to know her flank steak from her fois gras. You might weigh 100 pounds, which must sting, since that would make you heftier than Angelina Jolie, that bitch who’s dating your ex. But she’s got nothing on you. She’s a lowly UN ambassador, not a lifestyle guru like you! You’re so lucky you can eat so much and never gain a pound! I guess it’s the hour and a half of exercise you do every day!
But the real reason I’m writing to you is that I’m a little concerned about you. I heard you are promoting/selling a cleanse through your GOOP website for the economical price of $425. From what I understand it is essentially the Clean cleanse developed by Dr. Alejandro Junger, which you have promoted on your site before. You seem to be a huge proponent of cleanses. I read an interview where you said that during a cleanse you “dropped the extra pounds that you gained during a majorly fun and delicious ‘relax and enjoy life phase'”. First of all, I think it’s sad that you can’t relax and enjoy life all the time. Secondly, I wonder if that’s your usual tactic: a phase of overindulging followed by a cleanse which is really just like a phase of restriction and elimination? This sounds a little bit like binging and purging to me, and that is a classic eating disorder symptom. But that’s just my opinion. You say it’s really healthy and good for you, and it must be, because it’s developed by a DOCTOR, so who am I to say? The thing is, I’ve noticed you seem to talk a lot about your elimination processes. I’m worried that it might ruin your sexy image if you keep talking about your poop so much. A little mystery is always good. Between advocating for cleanses, and talking about colonics all the time, I think everyone is suffering from TMI when it comes to your bowel movements. I’m also wondering if you know that your digestive tract is a wonderful organ. Food goes in, and is eliminated all on it’s own. You don’t even need to flush it out at all!!  In fact, a lot of the herbal diuretics and laxatives in cleanses can cause side effects like cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, renal failure, electrolyte imbalances, and arrhythmias, Some herbals can cause aplastic anemia or liver failure. Colonics can cause these same side effects but because of the fluid inserted into the intestine, it can also cause rectal perforation, back and pelvic abscesses, gas accumulation in the mesenteric veins with air emboli which can cause death, perineal gangrene, colitis and fatal infections. The equipment used is not approved by the FDA and the practitioners are NOT licensed by any certified licensing body. Just looking out for you Gwy. So maybe keep your BM’s in the bathroom.
Well, that’s all for now, Stay hot!
KK
P.S-We all know by now that you’re total besties with Jay-Z and Beyonce. You remind the world in every interview. You don’t need to keep telling everyone. We all know you are trying to gain coolness points back after marrying Chris Martin, the man who is responsible for cursing the world with Coldplay. I know you tell everyone you aren’t photographed together to avoid the press. We know the real reason. We understand.
P.P.S-It’s not too late to change your kid’s names before they get to junior high and their lives are ruined forever. Or home school. You are superwoman. You can do it all.

Starve 12 weeks and you too can have this body!