Friday, November 30, 2007

Tipping the Scales: Responsible Reporting on Eating Disorders

Reporters search for facts and figures. Stories with shock value are tantamount to striking gold. And that's why when we hear about eating disorders in the news, we get numbers and we get extremes. Two recent examples:

Israeli model Hila Elmalich tragically passed away from anorexia; practically every blog and news outlet made her weight at the time of her death the focal point of their coverage. For a reporter, this number is a crucial piece of information. For most readers, the number instantly distances us from her experience. There is a voyeuristic, freak show effect that washes over us. We shake our heads at the sad reality that someone could make herself so sick. But the truth is that eating disorders are all around us, in every shape and size. We never give details about how much weight we lost when we were suffering with eating disorders for exactly that reason (and to avoid triggering pro-anas, of course). Those numbers are not a measure of our suffering.

A few weeks ago we posted about the Salon story on Diabulimia. Claire noted that the symptoms and behavior described in the article were not new, but the term "diabulimia" certainly was. Reporters quickly latched onto it. Although this eating disordered behavior has long been a problem, it didn't get extensive coverage until it got repackaged with a sexy new name. Check out writer Nancy Matsumoto's account of the personal conflicts she faced when covering diabulimia for People magazine.

If you are a reporter, editor or writer, we encourage you to read these tips on responsible reporting from the National Eating Disorders Association. As a media consumer, remember that every time you see a sensational story about an emaciated anorexic who starved herself to a shocking XX pounds!, there are millions of other people with eating disorders. Their weight might not be so shocking, but their pain is very real.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Monstrous Regiment of Women: Loose Ladies With Chips on Their Shoulders

I'm compelled to wander away from our body image beat for a minute to share a true gem. Y'all are going to want to add this to your Netflix queue immediately. I actually thought it was a joke at first. But no, it's the real deal.

This trailer is for The Monstrous Regiment of Women: Extolling Femininity, Blasting Feminism. It's a film by the Gunn Brothers, who specialize in "faithful, Christian filmmaking." The cast of characters includes Phyllis Schlafly (naturally) along with a woman who used to be in the "abortion business," a representative from Ladies Against Feminism, an ex-cadet who holds up the rampant sexual assault of women as the reason women shouldn't serve in the military, a Quiverfull mom who thinks most people in the world hate children, and the author of Raising Maidens of Virtue: A Study of Feminine Loveliness for Mothers and Daughters. Lest we forget, some women really do believe they should live their lives according to Ye Olde Misogyny.

Pregnant Christina Aguilera Gets Naked

The blogs are a-buzzin' about the January cover of Marie Claire, featuring a very pregnant (and very orange, we might add) Christina Aguilera baring her belly and some boobage.

Kelly Mills at Strollerderby writes, "Lord knows I have no problems with nudity (in fact I'm on the pro side of it) and sure, pregnant women can be sex symbols. Be my guest. But I'm starting to get irritated with the phenomenon because of course the burgeoning stars are given the same treatment as everyone in magazines, meaning they are airbrushed and shrunk down and reshaped into this bizarre aesthetic."

The Jezebel gals think Christina looks "vaguely demented in the face." They also point to Maxim's latest "9 Hottest Pregnant Women, Ever" slideshow. Can you guess which models and actresses are on that list? Hmmm, Angelina? Check. Halle Berry? Check. Brooke Burke? Hell to the yeah. You get the idea.

Back in Skinny Jeans is on the fence: "I'm a Christina fan. I love her talent, flair, and panache but honestly, I don't know what to think about this cover and layout... I'm all for the idea of promoting the image that during pregnancy women can still be sexy and fashionable. But, do you have to pose half naked in leather on a magazine cover to communicate that message? I don't think so."

And Meredith at the Baby Bump Project puts it simply, "I will say that the public (and sexy) pregnancy has been well and truly cemented in popular culture and I definitely think the exposure of pregnant bodies is here to stay."

In the world of women's magazines, what you see is not what you get. Real-life blemishes and wrinkles are nowhere to be found, so you can certainly forget about spotting stretch marks. Mainstream media now seem particularly obsessed with serving up these fantasies of flawless, glowing pregnancies and miraculous baby weight loss success stories. Meanwhile, pregnant women and new moms are feeling more and more pressure to look perfect, and younger women are already wondering how they'll be able to endure the body pressures that go hand-in-hand with becoming a mom. Coincidence? We think not. What do you think?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ana Carolina Reston: Died of Anorexia, November 15, 2006 | Hila Elmalich: Died of Anorexia, November 14, 2007

We have just learned that Israeli model Hila Elmalich passed away as a result of anorexia. She died on November 14th, almost exactly one year after Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston lost her battle with the same eating disorder. Reston's death prompted us to launch our 5 Resolutions to Transform the Fashion and Beauty Industries. Today we got another sobering reminder that this work must continue. And we take comfort in the knowledge that we are not alone.

Elmalich's friend, fashion photographer and agent Adi Barkan (pictured at right, with a hospitalized Elmalich over two years ago), is raising awareness among Israeli fashion agencies. Over 30 Israeli CEOs have agreed to hire models for their advertisements only after they pass a health exam. [Israel 21C]

We have also called for health exams, and our own survey showed that both medical professionals and fashion industry professionals agree that of all the proposed recommendations, exams would be the most effective way to protect the health of models. But despite support for the idea, in the U.S. it's still just that--an idea. Other industries have figured it out. There's no reason why the fashion industry can't, too.

Barkan put it best when he said, "They say a lot but they did nothing yet, so let's do it! Because from talking nothing will move." Ready to start taking some action?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder

A holiday centered around food and family is a huge challenge for those who suffer with disordered eating. Today as we rush off to share meals with our nearest and dearest, we are especially grateful for recovery. We remember clearly where we came from and how much we want to help and support others who are still struggling. Our thoughts are with all of you who are working so hard to get healthy. We believe in you--we are thankful to count you among our readers.

12 Ideas to Help People with Eating Disorders Negotiate the Holidays

Eating disorders information and referral helpine: (800) 931-2237

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Place Your Bids: Auction to Support Eating Disorders Awareness

As "Black Friday" approaches, here's a way to put the spending towards a good cause (and avoid the retail madness). The National Eating Disorders Association is running an online auction. Items up for grabs include beauty products, jewelry, travel packages and celebrity goodies. We know there must someone on your list who would appreciate a Metallica-autographed guitar. Bidding is open until December 2nd. Good luck!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Does This Photo Look Familiar?

This is a 1989 Herb Ritts photograph of the supermodel old guard. There's Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Naomi and Tatjana. And now for something completely different...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kanye West's Mother Dies as a Result of Cosmetic Surgery Complications

This news just breaks our hearts. Publicist Patricia Green has confirmed that Dr. Donda West, mother of Kanye West and and manager of the star's businesses and educational foundation, has died at the age of 58 after complications from a cosmetic surgery procedure.

Donda West was the author of Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star. She had a 31-year career as an English professor, eventually chairing Chicago State University's English department before leaving academia in 2004 to help manage her son's career.

Ms. Green said: "May Donda's work and deeds be an inspiration to each of us, may we start each day knowing that support of family and community are central to purpose." [BBC] [Telegraph]

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Dr. West's name to the Kanye West Foundation/Loop Dreams Teacher Training Institute.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Do You Think I'm Fat?

This PSA was produced by the National Eating Disorders Association:

There are some striking similarities between this spot and the much-discussed Dove "Onslaught" campaign. For the record, we love both. But given the recent criticism of Dove (thanks to Kelly at Strollerderby for the link), we do think it's important to make the distinction between advertising and a public service announcement. So let's be clear. The message above has absolutely no affiliation with any global corporation responsible for online games like "Is Your Shower Hottie Ready?"

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Eating Disorder + Diabetes = Diabulimia

Remember when everyone was talking about how Halle Berry claimed to have cured herself of Type 1 diabetes? Then doctors chimed in to say she must be mistaken because it could be life-threatening for a Type 1 diabetic to stop taking insulin. Well, there are thousands of girls and young women with diabetes who are willing to take that risk. The reason? Weight loss.

Salon reports on an eating disorder called diabulimia.
Sufferers are Type 1 diabetics who willingly skip their insulin shots because of the effects it has on their weight. If they take insulin, they plump up and have to carefully regulate everything they eat. If they skip the insulin, they can binge all they want and watch the pounds melt off. But this miracle diet also results in hair loss, extreme fatigue, confusion, and tingling extremities. And that's just in the short term. In the long term, sufferers will likely go blind, lose a limb or suffer a heart attack. Size 2 today and dialysis down the road? Because a high percentage of diabulimics are teenagers, the future dangers may be harder to grasp than the present benefits.

Diabulimia is not a new disorder. I worked at an eating disorders organization ten years ago and we got several calls a week about diabetes and eating disorders. The connection between diabetes and eating disorders makes sense when you consider how carefully diabetics must structure their lives around food and weight management. What is relatively new, say doctors, is the ease with which diabulimics can find each other online and trade tips and tricks. Yep, there are pro-diabulimics online, too.

In a recent study conducted by the Eating Disorders Institute, of 87 patients diagnosed with diabetes in childhood, 36 percent admitted to misusing insulin in order to control their weight -- but only when they were asked a decade later. Patients with diabulimia have a mortality rate of 34.8 percent per year. It is the die in diabulimia that is the harshest wake up call. [Salon]

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Has Spock Joined the Fat Acceptance Movement?

Leonard Nimoy (yes that Leonard Nimoy) has a new book of photographs called The Full Body Project, featuring images of full-figured women. It also includes a foreword written by one of our favorite authors, Natalie Angier. Admittedly, our first reaction was something along the lines of "Huh?!?" However, Nimoy actually sounds pretty serious about the cause.

"The average American woman," he writes, "weighs 25 percent more than the models selling the clothes. There is a huge industry built up around selling women ways to get their bodies closer to the fantasy ideal. Pills, diets, surgery, workout programs. . . The message is 'You don't look right. If you buy our product, you can get there.'" Right on, Leo. That all sounds so, um, logical. Sorry! We couldn't resist. And we are definitely not doing the Vulcan hand salute right now. [Digest]

Related: Does This Photo Look Familiar?

Update: One of our commenters tipped us off to this excellent NPR interview with Nimoy.

Fashion Statement: Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert has proven himself to be quite the fashionista. When introducing Nancy Pelosi at Monday night's Glamour Awards, he had this to say:

"I am here tonight because I love Glamour. I love its lifestyle. I love the magazine. I have my own personal do's and don'ts. Do work a retro up-do, with a little headband. Don't criticize the president. And I just love fashion. This season, I love high-waisted pants. I adore Oxford pumps—no, ankle booties! And if you have a sweater dress? Make it even better—belt it! If it wasn't so cold tonight I would have ditched my wing-tips and worn my platform mandals... And I think we all know that the fashion moment of the year has to be Nancy Pelosi marching the S-CHIP bill up to the White House in her Veto-Me pumps."

If we had more time, we would create a Stephen Colbert fashion show, but for now those images will have to live in our imaginations. Want to flex your Photoshop muscles? Send your Stephen Colbert models here: 5resolutions[at]insidebeauty[dot]org.

[NY Observer]

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dove Launches "Reality Diaries" Series

As part of its Self-Esteem Fund, Dove has just released Reality Diaries, a six-week web series following four teen girls:

Sydney has a mom whose idea of bonding is a trip to the plastic surgeon's office for a mother/daughter neck lift and nose job.

Chelsea is a pageant girl who doesn't know much about herself except that she never feels pretty enough or thin enough.

Jordyn dates players, including one guy who told her he only likes girls with dark hair. So she dyed hers. She says she's always wearing a mask when she interacts with other people.

Irene is the only Asian girl in her school and she's starting to wake up to the fact that the "cute" names her classmates call her ("China," "Spicy Asian Won Ton") are actually pretty racist.

Reality television has long been built on the issues of young women with low self-esteem. From The Bachelor and The Real World to Rock of Love and The Hills, Americans are used to seeing weepy girls self-destruct and make terrible choices in front of the camera. The difference here is that the goal of Reality Diaries is to stop the girls from self-destructing and to give viewers (who will sadly but surely relate to these girls) the tools to get their self-esteem in check, too. Watch it and tell us what you think.

Related: Dove "Onslaught" Campaign

Monday, November 5, 2007

Tyra Touts Queen of Botox as "Body Image Expert"

On last week's episode of America's Next Top Model, Tyra sat the girls down for a serious talk about body image in the fashion industry. Not surprisingly, the discussion was one of Tyra's trademark mixed messages gab fests that basically amounted to, "Girls, even though you are all beautiful and I don't think you need to lose any weight, those other mean people in the business are going to tell you to get thinner and that makes me really mad. But you kinda have to do what they tell you. Just make sure you do it in a healthy way though, 'kay? And remember, I think you're beautiful."

To reinforce her point, Tyra introduced Dr. Laurie Polis, whom she described as "having a facility and an organization that deals with beauty from the inside out." What a coincidence. We have an organization that promotes beauty from the inside out, too! Except our organization doesn't perform chemical peels and collagen injections. See, Tyra didn't mention what facility Dr. Laurie Polis runs. Google helped us out with that. It's called SoHo Skin & Laser Dermatology (a.k.a. medspa to the stars. Dr. Polis does acupuncture in addition to cosmetic treatments, but we're guessing that's probably not the bread and butter of her business). Really, TyTy? Couldn't you have tracked down an expert who actually deals with, I don't know, body image? And how are your girls supposed to smile with their eyes if their faces are frozen from Botox?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Exciting Game of Career Women: You Can't Win

You show too much cleavage. Bad for: Executive.
You are angry. Bad for: Every job. You should be nicer. No wait, you should be more assertive. Actually, maybe you should just stay home.

We've come a long way from What Shall I Be: The Exciting Game of Career Girls. Or have we? Women's career options have certainly expanded, but there are still wage gaps, double standards, and a whole set of conflicting rules and messages about how we're supposed to wield our feminine "personalities" in the office.

The New York Times reports that professional women just can't catch a break. Expressing anger is a plus for men, but it's a big negative for women. Women executives are seen as incompetent if they show cleavage (Secretaries, you can sex it up all you want. Your colleagues will still see you as competent. Mad Men, anyone?), but please don't be unfeminine, ladies. No one likes a butchy boss. And that's pretty much the bottom line. “Women have to choose between being liked but not respected, or respected but not liked,” says Joan Williams, who runs the Center for WorkLife Law. When people are asked what qualities they value most in a leader, it doesn't seem to matter what qualities they name. In every case, they say women are lacking. Ouch.

Is there a silver lining here? Study after study clearly shows that gender stereotypes are alive and kicking all of us in the ass. Most researchers agree that companies need to step up and do something about it. Perhaps we can get things started with a fun-filled night of playing board games with our co-workers? [New York Times]