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Posts from — November 2007

Women have to be “perfect” to lose weight?

I just saw Oprah’s latest weight loss show, “The Woman Who Lost 530 Pounds,” (11/28/2007) and I was particularly struck by two statements made by Bob Greene, Oprah’s diet/fitness expert.

Twice, Bob Greene said, “Women have to be perfect” to lose weight. The first time, he made the statement in relation to weight loss without an intense exercise program:

“If a woman is inactive, she has to be perfect with her eating. And who is perfect with their eating?”

The second time he used the expression, Greene was explaining why men seem to lose weight faster and easier than women (this quote is on Oprah.com):

“Bob explains that men tend to lose weight faster than women because of the hormonal advantage in the way testosterone acts on fat. ‘Women almost have to be perfect. A woman has to be active at least five to six days a week,’ he says. ‘Men can get away with three or four times a week and have even better results.'”

In no way was Greene trying to make viewers feel bad; he was trying to highlight how difficult it is to lose weight. However, I found the use of the word “perfect” to be jarring. Often, women torture themselves in an attempt to reach some notion of “perfect,” believing “I’ll be happy when I have… the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect body, etc.

Later in the program, Greene himself commented on the danger of “I’ll be happy when…” thinking:

“If you start to [think], ‘Oh, I’ll be happy when I’m this weight,’ that’s when problems start because one of two outcomes: You never reach that weight and you’re not happy, or you reach that weight and realize it had nothing to do with your happiness.”

While I’m glad that he saw fit to mention that weight loss is not a cure for unhappiness (happiness must come from inside), I think that the message of the show was most certainly, “Lose weight, gain happy.” And to do so, as a woman,you must be “perfect,” never letting up on diet and exercise. Therefore, if you aren’t able to achieve your “perfect” weight, then it’s probably because you weren’t “perfect” enough to begin with. That’s a crushing pressure to bear.

November 28, 2007   No Comments

Curvy style: How to make an entrance

‘Tis the party season, and sure, the dress, the hair style, and the makeup are all important; however, the best way to stand out in a crowd and to own the room is to make an entrance. I love these suggestions from the October 2007 issue of More magazine, from the article “Things You Should Know By Now: How To Make An Entrance:”

“Slowly!” says Stephanie Braxton, who played Tara on All My Children. “Lag behind in the receiving line, in the elevator, wherever,” and walk in alone. “It’s an old theater trick. On stage you always isolate the figure you want people to focus on.” Silently acknowledge everyone around you. “This makes them your ‘audience,’ even if you’re just entering a conversation. It’s also calming.” Now focus on staying in the spotlight. If there’s a photographer, move into the middle of a group of men, advises Dallas philanthropist Heidi Dillon ( “You’ll look like the belle of the ball”), and to the far right in groups of women (your name will be first in the caption).

November 21, 2007   No Comments

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

The death of Donda West, mother of hip-hop artist Kanye West, has generated a lot of media discussion about the risks and dangers of plastic surgery. There have always been risks associated with plastic surgery, yet you wouldn’t know that from the way plastic surgery is depicted on television. There seems to be an endless variety reality TV shows such featuring plastic surgery: Dr. 90210, Plastic Surgery New York Style, Ultimate Plastic Surgery Before & After, Plastic Surgery Beverly Hills, and Big Medicine. Not being a great fan of the genre, I can’t say for certain, but I would assume that these shows don’t feature a lot of stories where patients die after procedures.

These shows have a powerful effect: a study conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons revealed that “first-time patients seeking cosmetic plastic surgery are directly influenced to have surgery by the plastic surgery reality television shows they watch.” (Click here for details.)

And so it seems, from the number of shows featuring plastic surgery, that everyone is doing it. However, Washington Post writer Robin Givhan has observed an interesting undercurrent in the media coverage of Mrs. West’s death: “the underlying message became that indulging in plastic surgery is inherently selfish and narcissistic,” that people seeking cosmetic surgery are “courting tragedy” and looking for “easy answers.”

Below is an excerpt from her article, “Plastic Surgery’s Allure Cuts Both Ways.” I think that she makes a compelling argument about the messages we receive.

“There’s no way to know what was going through West’s mind. But her death makes one marvel at the way in which popular culture pushes, pushes, pushes people toward an ideal. And then tut-tuts when they take the bait.

No matter that the most conscientious surgeons emphasize that cosmetic surgery cannot transform a patient’s life, the promise remains. With a snip and a tug, faces can be made younger and more attractive. The patients believe they will not only look better but also feel better, which will lead to greater confidence, which will strengthen their cultural currency.

Audiences like nothing more than a beauty makeover. The ugly duckling turns into a swan. Cinderella got a fairy godmother of a stylist and won the heart of the prince. It was beauty that charmed the beast — not the young woman with the scintillating personality.

But beauty makes folks envious. They want to be assured that others work hard to maintain their appearance (even if they’re looking for the easiest ways to maintain their own). Consider the notion of aging gracefully. What does that mean, really? Folks are demanding that the enduring beauty of matrons and dowagers be earned. They want them to maintain a six-day-a-week workout schedule that includes walking on a treadmill to nowhere and a life that is devoid of meat, dairy, alcohol, sunshine, sugar and anything else remotely pleasurable. Is that natural? Is that grace?

There are virtually no women who have the genetic good fortune to arrive at age 60 looking like a Catherine Deneuve, Sophia Loren or Diahann Carroll without a surgeon’s expertise. Most people in the public sphere do something, Botox to boot camp, to fend off the effects of time. They are encouraged and expected to take action. If they don’t, they will be judged harshly. But they must take care not to let the effort show — don’t reveal any hairline scars or improbable perkiness. Otherwise, our judgment will be even harsher.”

November 19, 2007   No Comments

Curvy fashion: INC International Concepts

Today on “The View,” co-host Sherri Shepherd was wearing a dress that made me think of this dress from INC International Concepts, a curve-friendly brand:

INC Beaded Henley Dress

INC has both Misses and Plus sizes ( Misses: S-XL; Women’s:14W-24W),  so whether your curves are large or small, you can find something striking.   I shop for INC at Macy’s, but the line is also available at Bloomingdales and online at Macys.com.

November 19, 2007   2 Comments

The Simpsons, living the curvy life

Simpsons fans know that Homer often faces issues related to weight and body image, but this week’s episode (11/18/2007), “Husbands and Knives,” finds both Marge and Homer feeling bad about their bodies.

Marge feels insecure in comparison to a cardboard cutout of Wonder Woman (the equivalent of a comic supermodel), and worries that she has lost her “perfect 26/26/26 figure.”  When she tries to join the local gym “LA Body Works,” she finds herself wishing for a gym “for us regular ladies.”  She opens “Shapes,” with the rules, “No men, no cell phones, no mirrors, no shame.”  The women of Springfield line up down the block to join, and “Shapes” becomes a national success.

As Marge becomes a power broker, Homer becomes insecure about his appearance. Out of fear that Marge will trade him in for a trophy husband, Homer gets gastric bypass surgery.  He loses weight, but ends up with mounds of loose flesh.  He returns to the doctor, complaining that , because of the surgery, now he is embarrassed to show his body to his wife.  Homer’s solution: “Now I want you to give me every plastic surgery you have so I can look good.”  The freakish result is appealing to no one–the townsfolk brand him a “monster” and chase him with pitchforks.

Of course, the episode ends with Homer returning to his old look, and Marge loving him just the way he is.  Homer finds acceptance, but it seems as if Marge is still hitting the gym.

Even the Simpsons face the challenges of living the curvy life!

An interesting aside: the parallel storyline of the episode involved the comic book industry, and appropriately enough, the portrayal of the female body in comics continues to be a source of debate and controversy. (To read more about this, see the Wikipedia article, “Portrayal of Women in Comics.”)

November 18, 2007   No Comments

Gorgeous curvy model

I love this spread in Plus Model Magazine.   Curvy, sexy and beautiful, Anabelle Ursulet, is one of the most striking print models around, at any size.  We need more images like these, images that demonstrate beauty beyond size 0.

 

November 18, 2007   2 Comments

Some belly love

We’ve been appreciating our hips and thighs (see previous posts), so I figured it was time for some belly love.

While I am opposed to dissecting our bodies and analyzing the pieces, rating our breasts, hips, thighs, and stomachs like cuts of meat, I must acknowledge that some parts of my body have been easier to love than others. In Western culture, breasts and hips are sexualized, and big or small, someone somewhere has a preference for a type. However, bellies are often stigmatized, with anything other than ripped abs (for female and male alike) being considered “acceptable.”

So, if you’re belly could use a little positive attention, I encourage you to visit HonoringYourBelly.com, the website of Lisa Sarasohn, who is a bona fide belly activist. Her book, The Woman’s Belly Book,

and her workshops present women with information, journaling activities, and yoga-based exercises to inspire and empower belly love. I’ve taken one of her workshops, and I can honestly say that it forever changed the way I look at my roly-poly belly.

This simple statement really challenged my thinking (and my desire for flat abs):

“Your body’s center, your belly, is home to your core life force. It’s the site of your soul power, the source of your passion and creativity, your intuition and sense of purpose, your courage and confidence.

Yes, urged as we are to “trim our tummies” and “attack our abs,” it takes guts — courage, determination, and daring — for a woman to honor her belly and discover the soul power it contains.”

As soon as she said it, I knew it was true: disdain for the belly represented disdain for intuition and power. And, how did I know it was true? I felt it in my “gut,” squarely in the center of my solar plexus.

So, spend some time today honoring your intuition and your power, give your belly a rub and send it some love. Sounds corny, but it works.

November 18, 2007   No Comments

“Big booty=big brain” and other cool headlines

“Big booty=big brain” is the alternate title for my previous post (scroll down to read it). The Today Show is teasing this story as “Learning Curves.” Here are some of my other ideas for headlines–I’d love to hear yours:

“Junk in the trunk, junky no more”

“Curvy girl, brainy girl”

“Clever curves”

“Get smarter–eat”

“Fat ass=smart ass”

November 13, 2007   1 Comment

Curvy Science: Baby got back… and brains, too

“When a girl walks by with an itty-bitty waist and a round thing in your face…”

…she’s probably pretty smart, or so says a new study just published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

You’ve got to love this quote, based on a summary of the study:

“Curvy women are not only intelligent, attractive and live longer, they also give birth to intelligent children….” (DNA-India)

Scientists studied 16,000 women to determine if there was a measurable link between waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) (the size of the waist in comparison to the size of the hips) and cognitive ability (IQ) of the women and their children. The study revealed that women with hips larger than their waists (think “pear” shape) had higher IQs than women with small hips or linear shapes. The children of big-hipped women also scored higher on cognitive tests.

The researchers suspect that a prevalence of Omega-3 fatty acid, found in female hips and thighs, contributes to the growth of the fetal brain during pregnancy. Belly fat contains more Omega-6 fatty acid. This difference in composition of fat may also explain why, in women, lower body fat seems to have a protective effect on the heart (see Diabetes.org for more on the subject).

Thus, big booties=big brains=big health.

Waist-to-hip ratio is becoming a new area of interest in the study of weight and health. Studies consistently reveal that WHR is a greater predictor of overall health in women than BMI. (To calculate WHR: divide waist measurement by hip measurement–w/h–a measure of 0.8 or less is considered healthy for women. To read more about WHR vs. BMI check out the article, BMI:Freaking out about nothing, on Reuters.com.)

I am curious to see how this study is going to be covered in the mainstream media. Will this study be used to challenge the ongoing and continuous attack on fat bodies, or will it be minimized? Even worse, will this data be used to beat on curvy bellies? It will be interesting to watch.

But in the meantime, let’s take our big hips and big brains and get out there and take over the world!

November 12, 2007   3 Comments

Curvy Health: Extra weight won’t raise death risk — new study shows

A study appearing in the November 7,2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates that being overweight (by as much as 25 pounds) does not raise a person’s risk of dying from heart disease or cancer. Further, in the cases of emphysema, pneumonia, injuries and various infections, extra weight actually increased the rate of survival. (“Extra Weight Said Won’t Raise Death,” Associated Press)

This is not the first time that studies have demonstrated actual health benefits to being overweight. For example, always hidden in the obesity-causes-breast-cancer articles is the fact that, the weight-breast cancer link only appears in post-menopausal women; in pre-menopausal women, being overweight is actually a protection against breast cancer. (See this article in the Chicago Tribune for such an example.) Overweight is also a protection against osteoporosis.

If these studies were treated like the “overweight-kills” stories, then doctor’s should be encouraging young women to gain weight pre-menopausally as a primary means of preventing breast cancer, and the headlines should read “Fat saves lives.” (Though I have to give kudos to the headline for this story on Wired.com–“Chubby Could Be The New Healthy.”)

Keep this in mind when reading “overweight-kills” stories.

For amazing insights into the spin put on medical studies, read:

Rethinking Thin, Gina Kolata

The Obesity Myth, Paul Campos

November 7, 2007   No Comments

Embracing our curvy beauty

Here is an extended response to the Leonard Nimoy project from gogopussycat. She moved me to tears.

I read one of the articles about the full body project, I thought it was really sweet that he has become a size activist. The only part that I didn’t like was at the very end of the article they said “while he isn’t sexually attracted to full figured women, he does
think they’re beautiful.”

Like, don’t think you are getting away with being sexually attractive fat women, you can be acceptable, but not sexy. I mean, did they ask him if he finds Jewish women sexually attractive when he did the Shekina project?

At the very least he himself is doing something wonderfully positive for feminism and size awareness, it was just the journalist who had to throw in that traditionally snide, just to keep fat women in their place style comment.

So overall yay fat women! Its always amazing to me to see that and think, how not offensive are their bodies are! Fat women are made to feel that the very presence of their bodies are offensive, like you can’t wear enough clothes to be socially acceptable – and the irony is that they are actually more beautiful naked. ( For one part its due to the horrible plus size fashion selection!)

Im always struck by how much more interesting plus size bodies are, and so organic, it looks much more like a living thing in nature, like a tree, or earthen shape. Which brings me around to fat modeling, like how interesting would it be to make clothes
and have fat models where you could actually see the fat shapes through the clothing,
and not just massive body shapers and corsets (fat women are so threatening they’ve
been sent back in time to the turn of the century).

There are some picts of Velvet on Contraband, where shes wearing a thin Jersey dress, and think no body shapers or underwear, so you can actually see her cellulite dimpling, and flesh folds. And can I tell you how amazingly not unbeautiful nor offensive it is. Everything about the photos were typical to a magazine spread – makeup, hair blown back, soft lighting….and body fat. The last thing you expect to see associated with glamour and style.

It was fabulous.

I felt a whole consciousness shift, like I couldn’t remember why I ever thought that it
was hideous or unacceptable when that would happen to me trying on a dress or pants
where the material was “too thin” or “too tight”.

And that’s the power of an image.

November 7, 2007   1 Comment

Leonard Nimoy’s Full Body Project

Leonard Nimoy’s latest photography project, The Full Body Project, features the voluptuous women of the Fat Bottom Revue, a plus-size burlesque troop.

It is so rare that fat female bodies are visually portrayed as anything other than ridiculous or grotesque. Not only are these photographs visually stunning artistically, the power and confidence of these women are breathtaking.

Heather MacAllister, founder of the troop (with a degree in anthropology to boot), made the following profound statement:

Any time there is a fat person onstage as anything besides the butt of a joke, it’s political. Add physical movement, then dance, then sexuality and you have a revolutionary act.

These women are no joke, and their movement and sexuality, captured on film, is a revolution long overdue.

The Full Body Project is an art exhibit at R. Michaelson Galleries in Northhampton, MA (through January 15, 2008), as well as a book, available through the gallery website.

The gallery provides some great links to Nimoy’s artist statement as well as to several articles discussing the project. Click here for the list.

You can also purchase a Full Body Project tee. Very cheeky.

November 7, 2007   1 Comment

To be fat and proud is political


Any time there is a fat person onstage as anything besides the butt of a joke, it’s political.
Add physical movement, then dance, then sexuality and you have a revolutionary act.
–Heather MacAllister

I thought that this quote bore repeating.

November 7, 2007   No Comments

Another shout-out to Figure Magazine

I just received the Nov/Dec 2007 of Figure, and they’ve included clothes by INC International Concepts (pictured above), IGIGI, Carolyn Vaile (Bloomingdales), Jones New York Signature, Ralph Lauren, and others. These pieces are combined with Lane Bryant, Catherine’s, and Fashion Bug pieces, thus more accurately representing how women shop. I have to add, the Charming Shoppes pieces hold their own against the department store brands.

Figure is finally positioning itself to be the brand inclusive plus size fashion magazine that is so desperately needed.

November 7, 2007   No Comments

A shout-out to Figure Magazine

In a previous post I expressed some of my problems with Figure Magazine, particularly the absence of plus size fashion not available through Charming Shoppes (Lane Bryant, Catherine’s, Fashion Bug). Well, with the Sept./Oct. issue of the magazine, my complaint is no longer valid–the magazine features non-Charming Shoppes clothes.

In what has to be one of my all-time favorite fashion layouts “Blue Lines”, Figure featured six “real” women modeling the “perfect” jeans for their body types. Not only did they model Lane Bryant and Catherine’s jeans, they featured Old Navy, Svoboda, and Lee jeans. But what made this layout fantastic was the four-page spread: two full pages with the models shot from the front, then two full pages with the models shot from behind. These women are so awesomely cute with their perfect jeans hugging their bodacious booties!

November 7, 2007   1 Comment