Tag Archives: overweight

a mystery about weight and shame: two weeks under

here’s another book i read recently – two weeks under, by rivka tadjer.

doing these book reviews reminds me a bit of my aunt. she loved buying clothes but she’d often get sick of them real quick, and then she’d ask me if i wanted them. she was 40 years older than i so – well, as you can imagine, as a 22-year-old, i didn’t quite share her taste. but she’d always urge me to try them on anyway (we did wear the same size) and i was often amazed how good her pink polyester set or her brown tweed skirt would look on me.

two weeks under was a little like that. i’m not quite sure what you’d call the genre because i rarely read this sort of book; it did remind me a bit of confessions of a shopaholic (which i managed to read 2/3 through). what would you call that genre? let’s ask amazon. oh yeah, chick lit. two weeks under is also a mystery but not the mystery that i tend to read (i like tough-wounded-but-compassionate-guy stuff, and irresponsible-funny-guy stuff, that kind of thing; robert b. parker is my guy!) perhaps it’s chick lit mystery?

here’s the description from amazon:

elana diamond’s 35th birthday isn’t much to celebrate. she’s still alone and depressed, so this year the make-a-wish-candles can do you-know-what with themselves. and her archrival at work, who thanks to her flawless judgment also happens to be her ex-fiancé, is being groomed to fire her. fighting to keep her job, she can’t afford to pay attention to her non-existent personal life, much less the sudden rash of suicides going on in manhattan. all professional women, all just like her. then someone closely connected to elana becomes the next suicide. she can no longer ignore the dying women, or anything else. an intense, secretive reporter surfaces, claims to be a friend, but he’s a little too knowledgeable, a little too curious. reluctantly, elana tries to figure out why the suicide happened, and if this reporter is involved. she finds herself lured into a consuming world of shame and dieting, where going under a medically induced vanity coma to lose weight makes sense. a kind neurologist tries to help, but when elana finds out what really happened with the suicide, she’s in so deep she might not survive it. anyone who tries to help her won’t either. and no one seems interested in facing the truth. racing against time, and fighting her own demons, elana must try to find enough evidence for the truth to be heard, whether or not she makes it.

what i found interesting was the way tadjer treated the subject of being overweight.

145 pounds, 5-foot-6. disgusted, she studies her lumpy, clearly 35-year-old self in the shower.

honey, that’s not overweight. it’s a woman who, depending on her frame, may have some soft spots on her but overweight is something else. i couldn’t quite decide whether tadjer really believed that numbers like that were overweight, whether she wanted the reader to think that the protagonist thought that was too much when it really wasn’t, or whether she hadn’t done her research (the last option is unlikely – she teaches journalism at SUNY).

now i may be splitting hairs here – but if the target readership is women who are battling with weight, then they will probably ask themselves questions like that, too.

fortunately, rivka tadjer has a blog, so hopefully she’ll read this and help us clear this up. consider yourself tagged, rivka! (does the answer lie, perhaps, in your definition of the term “weightism”?)

tadjer does a good job at bringing out the deep yet only superficially articulated feelings of shame that plague women who are struggling with their weight, as well as the uneasy, disjointed and a lot of other un- and dis- relationships such women have with their mothers:

i spent a lot of time alone when i was a kid, so as horrible as it sounds, being alienated came kind of naturally. i guess you can inherit loneliness. and when you’re alone, you start guessing at what’s right, and you start judging yourself, harshly.

well, my mother was the first to do that. she always wanted me to be more – smarter, neater, better dressed, more doting, better looking. she told me i did things wrong all the time, didn’t show me how to do them properly, and then she’d pepper in that i shouldn’t push myself too hard, success isn’t everything.

on that same page, there’s also an intriguing sentence, “i’ve been the ayn rand of my own body.” i wonder what exactly is meant by that.

how cool, to be able to ask the author these questions. i’m looking forward to your answers, rivka!

if you’re looking for an easy read over the holidays but want something a little different than a mindless romance novel, two weeks under will hit the spot.

carnival of eating disorders #16

hello people! this is the new edition of the carnival of eating disorders. unfortunately, i’ve been having problems with the blog carnival site (the site that administers all the carnivals) so i have had only a few submissions this month, two of which i’ll be including.

to substitute for the slim pickins, i’ll feature this time a poem – last day of poetry month! – and two topics that twitter friends of mine have suggested.

a bulimia poem

imagine yourself in a room of people eating.
jaws break down and digest tiny nutrients
absorbed by miniscule pores, countless internal mouths
in the stomach lining, fissures in nerve tissue.
by the window, there is a girl frozen with fork raised,
distanced from the herd”a cautious lone zebra
crouching in the reeds, spying lions at the waterhole
and hiding her stripes.

go here for the rest.

anorexia promotion to be outlawed in france
the first topic suggekeira knightley, super skinnysted is by jan, who thought it would be useful to talk about a bill adopted by france’s lower house of parliament this month which could be the catalyst for the worldwide fight against eating disorders. the bill still needs to be approved by the senate but if that occurs, it would make it illegal for anyone — including magazines, web sites and advertisers — to publicly promote extreme thinness or unhealthy methods of dropping a few dress sizes.

here are three views on that.

girl – woman – beauty – brains says

with the jury still out on the cause of eating disorders, i can’t condone france’s hard line approach to dealing with the media. you know what happens when the government gets involved in free capital issues. not only does corruption loopholes or other means to circumvent the system arise, but usually the legislation and ensuing laws are ineffective.

looking at how this might play out in the courts, particularly in the US, carrie from ed bites takes a more favourable view, citing the ideas of a father of a person with anorexia who also happens to be a lawyer:

while the first amendment probably protects pro-dieting and pro-ed speech from government censorship, it does not protect that kind of speech from civil liability. the tobacco industry, for example, was nailed for huge money damages for failing to disclose the dangers of smoking and for evil practices like marketing cigarettes to children. those practices violated general tort law and consumer protection statutes and were found by the courts not to be protected by the constitutional right to free speech. it would be interesting to look at the marketing practices of the diet industry for examples of where it crosses the line. like failing to warn of the dangers of dieting.

finally, the people at 5 resolutions are pretty clear on their positive take on this and urge others to go along:

if you think the u.s. government should play an active role in eating disorders research, treatment, and prevention, go to the eating disorder coalition’s website and sign up for their newsletter. we just did.

what do you think? should any form of favourable communication about anorexia and bulimia be banned? or is that a form of censorship? what kind of effect would such a law have on people with anorexia or bulimia, and on the population as a whole?

anorexia and exercise
the second alert i got from my twitter friend rob cottingham, who pointed out that the april/may edition of the running room’s magazine has an article about eating disorders. i tried my best to find anything on the internet about that but wasn’t able to. going onto the running room’s forum, there is a small section on anorexia. interestingly, it has a poll asking whether anyone on the forum knows a runner with an eating disorder. 25% said they did. i think the idea of a sporting goods company talking about eating disorders is fascinating, and if any of you know anything more about this, please let me know!

and here are the two submissions that made the cut.

obesity and overeating
the weight loss continues to report on his particular way of losing weight – trying a new diet every week or so. here he talks about eating raw.

at small steps to health, people who are struggling with their weight are encouraged to

take a few days (at least one weekday and one weekend) to write down any emotion related eating. on a sheet of paper, put in four columns: triggers, behaviors, consequences, and action plan.

she then goes into a bit of detail for each one of these. this is a method that works well for people who are really ready to beat their demons. it works for any habit, and i highly recommend it.

so, people, that’s it for this month. if you have written an article on any of these topics or have seen one you like, please, submit it to the next edition of carnival of eating disorders, to come out on may 31. please use the carnival submission form.

(image by jo salmon

anorexia, obesity and sex – a discussion

there are some interesting comments on the anorexia and sex article (part of a series, the thread of which can be found at the end of this post).

one commenter is “dude with a mission”. normally i’m a bit hesitant to engage in conversations with people who don’t leave a valid email address, but dude has some points that are worthy of consideration, so i’ll dedicate this post to continuing this conversation.

is “hideous obesity” the norm?
dude had said that “hideously obese is now the norm” and gave this example

about two-thirds of u.s. adults are overweight or obese.[6]

all adults: 133.6 million (66 percent)
women: 65 million (61.6 percent)
men: 68.3 million (70.5 percent)”

i don’t know what is meant by hideously obese – i can only infer that what is meant is morbidly obese, which is typically defined as more than 100 pounds overweight. this is not contained in the statistics above, and it is not the norm. (of course, we’d need to come to an agreement as to what “the norm” is, but most likely it’s one or a combination of the statistical averages of mean, median or mode.)

having said that, yes, morbid obesity, along with overweight and obesity has risen dramatically – it would be silly to disagree with that.

fighting obesity
dude says

people do have a choice when it comes to being fat or thin. i lost about 60 lbs. eight years ago and have kept it off. it is not beyond our control. it simply takes getting fed up with our situation and a significant lifestyle change.”

my sincere congratulations. i know how hard that is (have done it myself). so of course it is possible to lose weight and keep it off. however, for some people, overeating is truly an addiction, and addictions are very hard to overcome, as we know.

we also might consider forcing our politicians to act and institute zoning requirements so we are not being tempted by fast food with no alternative every block.

i agree with dude 100%.

what exactly is meant by “anorexic”?

people are now so used to seeing fat people that they have begun to call the chubby people thin and the thin/healthy people epithets e.g. “anorexic.” it seems pretty clear that porn marketers have picked up on this and labelled their content thusly.

whether “people” do that is a matter of discussion but let me tell you that i personally don’t automatically think of thin people as anorexic. anorexia is a mental illness, not necessarily a state of weight. however, when i go back to those posts, i see that i talk about “very slim” and “very thin”. i did that because i wanted to speak a language that makes sense to everyone, including people who feel ambiguous about the term “anorexic”.

this brings to the fore a problem with language and labels, and particularly with words that have a strong emotional connotation on the one hand and have a specific professional label on the other. the word “anorexia” can broadly refer to a condition that has the hallmarks of unhealthy thinness, brought about by intentional and obsesessive 1) lack of caloric intake and/or 2) purging and/or 3) overexercising

(sidebar you can also look up the DSMIV definition here; this definition is quite circumscribed and talks about anorexia per se as well as some anorexia-like phenomena that are then gathered under EDNOS. in that sense, btw, it’s unclear that calista flockhart was truly anorexic ; not eating enough for a period of time because of stress is not the same as anorexia).

so there are slightly different uses of the word “anorexic” and i think that’s where the original disgreement between dude and myself stems from. would it have been better if i had only used the word “anorexic” and clearly defined it? i honestly don’t know.

the science of it all
in my first response to dude, i said “i’m not suggesting that people who like anorexic people are perverts”. dude replies

but you state above: “…things and ideas that mainstream community sees as – what would the word be? unwholesome? unhealthy?”

it is presumptuous at best (junk science at worst) for you to make your statements based on a conclusion that people searching those terms are in fact looking for actual anorexics.

there’s that question of that word “anorexic” again. while i agree that we’re dealing with something very ambiguous here, i think the best thing we have going for us is that people used the word “anorexic” – so let’s just assume they meant it!

dude then explains how this little investigation could have been done better. good ideas. but it looks like he didn’t read my disclaimers all over the place that i didn’t say this was a scientific study : )

… begin with a hypothesis stating simply that “anorexic porn” searchers intend to receive results displaying images of actual anorexics engaged in sex acts … let’s assume that you prove the hypotheses. your next step should be to identify whether the searchers of actual anorexics engaged in sexual activities are searching for said images to gratify sexual desires or if it the searches are based on curiosity about a topic they saw/read/heard …

you seem to have taken it as red that the first two hypotheses have been proved. this is irresponsible.

i don’t think i said that anywhere. and it’s important to point out that i didn’t go into this with a hypothesis. i went into it with a number of questions. i didn’t know what was going on. of course i had my little ideas and judgments (just like dude has judgments about “hideously obese” people) but i sincerely hope that that didn’t distract too much from the investigation. then i did the investigation and now i think we have a little bit more information about this. by the way, that’s how all science goes. “amazing scientific breakthroughs” are often overturned later on. and that’s good. we just keep on learning.

bad, bad pornography
earlier on, dude felt that i had said that people are bad for looking at pornography. as an example, he points to what i said here: “one thing that was almost absent was an understanding that the interest in these images is a type of objectification. it is, after all, a form of pornography. only one reader addressed that as an aside.” dude argues

now unless you plan to tell me that you intended to use “objectification” in a neutral or positive sense, you are implying that there is something objectively distasteful about the viewing of pornographic materials.

dude, thanks for bringing this up. my wording there was poor. “the interest in these images is a type of objectification” is wrong. part of the interest may have a connection with objectification but i don’t know that. also, there is no question that large parts of pornography are about objectification but one should not conclude from the part to the whole. so what i should have said is that what was absent was an understanding of the connection between pornography and objectification.

dude then goes on to say

while there is certainly a large group of pornography subjects who do not wish to be involved in the industry, there are also healthy, self-confident individuals who are proud of the way they look and unashamed of their sexuality. the enormous volume of home-made amateur pornography testifies to that. if i am an exhibitionist and want to have others watch me engage in intimate acts — neither i, nor my gender, race, etc. is being “objectified” in any negative sense of the word.

to a large degree i agree with dude – the only doubts i have about some of the home-made pornography because not all of it may be truly consensual and not all of it truly home-made.