Monday, March 31, 2008

The Inflated, Overblown "Cost of Obesity"

Daniel Engber (associate editor at Slate) wrote an excellent op-ed for Sunday's Dallas Morning News slamming politicians for consistently blaming the "obesity crisis" for the rising costs of health care. In fact, our country's abysmal body image problem is the crisis we should really be talking about.

Research shows that body image has a bigger impact on overall health than weight does. Moreover, the rush to institute childhood obesity prevention programs may actually be turning kids on to disordered eating habits--and eating disorders certainly won't minimize health care costs. "[P]residential candidates should pledge support for a federal ban on weight-based discrimination," writes Engber. "If we stop blaming fat people for our problems, they might start feeling better – and start saving us money." [Dallas Morning News]

Illustration: Dan Page

Friday, March 28, 2008

I'll Be at WAM! Will You?

I'm off to Cambridge for the Women, Action, and Media conference this weekend. If you're attending, please say hi!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Miss Bimbo" is a Virtual Nightmare for Girls

In case you haven't heard, there's a new membership website called "Miss Bimbo," where girls can earn points and cash them in for virtual plastic surgery and diet pills while they search for rich boyfriends so they don't have to work. Is this a joke? Or perhaps a ridiculous publicity stunt to get a flood of pageviews from outraged parents? According to the Guardian, the British version of the game already has nearly 200,000 players, most of whom are girls aged between 9 and 16. There are 1.2 million players in France. Now let's look at some other numbers:

More than 333,000 adolescents 18 years or younger underwent plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures in 2005, says the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

40% of 14-to-15-year-old girls in a recent U.K study admitted they don't eat breakfast and 25% of those girls also skip lunch. Over 50% of them listed their appearance as their number one concern in life.

Sadly, the line between the real world and this frightening virtual Bimbo world is getting increasingly blurred.

"Miss Bimbo" allows girls under 18 to register with parental permission, which they obtain by asking girls to input their parent's email address--a nudge, nudge, wink, wink process that can be easily circumvented by any girl with basic knowledge of email and the internet. "At we're committed to your child's online privacy," the site reads. Okay, so they might be sending her into a lifetime of disordered eating and body dysmorphia, but rest assured! Your kid's privacy is safe in their hands.

And for the parents who knowingly allow their daughters to be members? We're thinking Child Protective Services might be interested in learning more. But then again, we do live in the country that produced Rocky the wackadoodle stage mom. No one's coming after her. Except for VH1, that is.

Do You Blog About Eating Disorders?

Over at The-F-Word, Rachel is conducting an anonymous survey of bloggers who write about their own recovery from eating disorders or their current struggles. She hopes to discuss her findings at The National Eating Disorders Association conference this fall in a presentation that will explore the role that blogging plays in eating disorder recovery. The survey has 40 questions, so set aside some time if you want to participate. Take the survey here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jamie Lee Curtis Goes Topless for AARP

Jamie Lee Curtis is one hot soon-to-be-senior citizen. The 49-year-old (she turns 50 this November) decided to show some skin and confront the youth-obsessed Hollywood beauty standard for the May/June cover of AARP The Magazine. "If I can challenge the old ideas about aging, I will feel more and more invigorated," Curtis said. "I feel way better now than I did when I was 20. I'm stronger, I'm smarter in every way, I'm so much less crazy than I was then."

Curtis has proven herself to be a dedicated advocate for healthy beauty and positive self-esteem. In 2002 she appeared in More magazine in her underwear to show women what she really looks like without the help of expensive lighting, retouching, and an army of makeup artists and stylists. That photo shoot was inspired by her children's book, I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem. [ABC News]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Are You Wearing Your Sweater Today?

Here's a fashion statement we can get behind. To honor what would have been Fred Rogers' 80th birthday, March 20th is "Won't You Wear a Sweater?" Day. Mr. McFeeley will tell you all about it.

Okay, neighbors. How are we doing on that heartwarming news we promised this week? Pretty good, right?

Medical Students Don't Want to Be Primary Care Doctors. The Money is in Botox and Eye Lifts.

Did you know that there's a shortage of family doctors in America? Today's top-tier medical students are fighting to get into the most competitive residencies: dermatology and plastic surgery. These fields offer the best hours and the biggest paychecks. Not surprisingly, they are attracting the most ambitious and successful students with the highest medical board scores.

“It is an unfortunate circumstance that you can spend an hour with a patient treating them for diabetes and hypertension and make $100, or you can do Botox and make $2,000 in the same time,” said Dr. Eric C. Parlette, 35, a dermatologist in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

We're not saying that dermatology and plastic surgery aren't legitimate and valuable professions, but will anyone deny that the skyrocketing popularity of these fields is at least in part (and we'll argue that it's a big part) a reflection of how our culture values physical appearance over everything else? Those values are now evident in our health care system, which could certainly do with a makeover anyway. [New York Times]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beauty Myth Wednesdays: The Retouching You Might Not Think About

Designers might use that tired old line to justify their selection of super-skinny runway models, but when it comes to clothes you see in magazines, that flawless clothes hanger effect is achieved through something entirely different--retouching.

When models wear clothes, the fabric gets wrinkled, the fit might not be exact, and if it's cold on the shoot, there's usually a little something extra that shows up in the top half of the picture. But all of that can be fixed on a computer (Of course if it's a shoot for Maxim, they'll probably leave the nipples, or retouch them to make them more prominent). Just as I've had my waist thinned, my teeth whitened, and my breasts enlarged through the magic of retouching, the clothes I've modeled have also been digitally altered. Bra straps have been erased, colors have been changed, and pants have been lengthened. Retouching isn't just for faces and bodies; it's for clothes, products and pretty much everything you see on the glossy page.

Read all Beauty Myths

Related: A Year in (Retouched) Pictures

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jezebel Bans Body Snark. You Can, Too.

It's not easy being a pop culture junkie and an advocate for positive body image. Those two passions don't always play nice. That's why it helps to have some practical ground rules.

Back in January, Jezebel made a resolution to put a stop to negative comments about people's bodies. This was not a ban on celebrity gossip, fashion, or snark in general (because frankly there are some of us who might melt away without them)--just the mean-spirited body bashing that can spring from the intersections. They're sticking to their guns, too. Every day Jezebel editors choose the best and worst out of hundreds of comments submitted on their blog. The offenders are often those who can't stop themselves from making a nasty dig about a celebrity's weight.

This is the kind of stance that can shift people's thinking and change conversations and behaviors for the better. It's really as simple as creating and enforcing community policies that match your values. Wish women would stop talking trash about their own (and each other's) bodies? Well, fellow bloggers and media makers...we can all start in our own backyards. By the way, our blog also has a permanent ban on body snark. But you probably knew that already. [Jezebel]

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Monday: Happy Heart Princess

We're no Cute Overload, but we're going to do our best to deliver some feel good content this week because we're burned out on bad news for the moment.

How about we start with some princesses? Truth be told, princesses typically annoy us. The Disney princess-i-fication of America is pretty darn frightening, actually. But railing against the corporate plot to sell a gazillion plastic tiaras and fluffy pink princess costumes does not change the fact that so many girls (and a shocking number of grown women) want to wear them. So instead of a total ban on princesses, we're offering up an alternative: On Being a Real Princess: Secrets of the Happy Heart Princess.

This book (and accompanying line of merchandise) is based on the idea that being a princess starts with having a happy heart. Awww. Girls get to explore some positive character traits and inspiring messages such as "A real princess can think for herself and knows the difference between right and wrong" and "A real princess knows that she can always learn from her mistakes!" That sure beats "Someday my prince will come." [Happy Heart Princess]

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Drunkorexia, Stressorexia, Orthorexia, Diabulima. Is Healthy Eating Extinct?

Does it seem like every week there's a "new" eating disorder making headlines? Let's see, we've got diabulimia for diabetics, drunkorexia for college girls, stressorexia for working moms and orthorexia for eccentric celebrities. Meanwhile, more eating disorders are affecting younger children and record numbers of middle-aged women are being treated for anorexia. The media can slice and dice disordered eating behaviors to come up with endless sensational stories and clever buzzwords. But let's just step back for a minute and call this situation what it is: one steaming hot mess of food and weight issues.

Eating habits and body image are reflections of our emotional health. And all of these disorders, whether official diagnoses or not, point to the pretty obvious fact that our culture is not in the best place. But you know what? We're bumming ourselves out with all this bad news, so next week we're going to focus our energies on spreading some good cheer. Got some positive news or projects to share? Send them our way. Look for sunshine and rainbows starting Monday.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Girl Scouts Sell Cookies in 100-Calorie Packs With Calorie-Burning Tips for Girls

It's that time. Thin mints, Samoas (er, make that "Caramel deLites"), Peanut Butter Patties. Yum. But this year your friendly Girl Scout troop will have some new offerings, including 100-calorie packs printed with activities that girls can do to burn off the cookie calories. “Girls can burn calories and have fun with 30 minutes of activities like these: Ice Skating—126 calories. Gymnastics—72 calories…” Oh, no they didn't.

I feel for the Girl Scouts. I really do. I'm sure they've come under fire for contributing to the much-discussed childhood obesity epidemic when they're just trying to raise money for their programs by selling some sweet treats. Their ABC Smart Cookies website is clearly an attempt to show that they care about girls' health, which they shouldn't have to prove to anyone considering that the organization has been helping girls since 1912. I'm all for encouraging girls to be active, but providing calorie counting and burning tips is a slippery and dangerous slope. This seems like a glaring example of an attempt at obesity prevention that is just ripe for major backfiring. And research shows that many similar initiatives are resulting in disordered eating and an unhealthy fear of fat in kids.

To be honest, my stomach drops when I imagine girls eating their little packs of Cinna-Spins, then checking the Girl Scouts calorie counter to see how they should burn off the calories. Actually, I think I feel too sick about it to eat any cookies now. [Ken Levine] [Girl Scouts]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Designer Bradley Bayou Pushes for Changes After His Own Daughter Suffers from Bulimia

Top designer Bradley Bayou gained very personal insight into the downside of fashion's glorification of thinness when his own daughter Alexis developed bulimia.

"I never fit into any of his sample sizes," Alexis said. "As a teenager and as a young adult, I thought I should be able to fit into his certain size (the tiny sample sizes) … because I was his daughter. And I just — didn't. I wanted to be thin. I wanted to fit in. You know — I wanted to be beautiful. … I've always been so proud of him, and I always ... I always kind of wanted to fit into his world."

When Bayou realized that the pressures of his industry were contributing to his daughter's illness, he became an advocate for change. "Just because a small, elite group has told us that thin — skinny, forget thin — emaciated is in doesn't mean it's in," he says. Bayou spoke at Harvard on Tuesday night (along with Miss America Kirsten Haglund) for a panel "Redefining Perfection: Beauty, Fashion and Body Image." [CBS News] [Boston Globe]

Doin' It for the Kids: A Tribute to Moms

Kelly over at Fitness Fixation wrote a very moving piece this week about how her six-year-old daughter is already hearing the "F" word at school. No, not that "F" word. The other one: Fat.

“You know how everyone has that extra skin and stuff at the top of their leg? Two boys pinched me there and said, ‘You’re fat.’ But I’m not, everyone has that,” Kelly's daughter reported back to her one afternoon. While her little girl didn't seem to be devastated by the comments, Kelly was enraged, frustrated, and motivated to cancel her women's magazine subscriptions.

"I get a lumpy throat if I think of a slightly older her, critically examining her legs in the mirror, wondering if they are big or jiggly and maybe she ought to eat a few less cookies and try some stupid cream and will she get dates with legs like that? Did I say lumpy throat? Make that nauseous," she writes.

There's no sugar coating it. Moms who are working every day to instill healthy body image and strong self-esteem in their children are fighting an uphill battle. But you know what? It's a battle well worth fighting. So to Kelly and all the other amazing moms out there: keep up the incredible work. Your daughters and sons will thank you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Beauty Myth Wednesdays: Mannequins and Catalog Models

Magali: Wrong, wrong, wrong. Regardless of whether you're a skinny mini, a plus-sized gal, or somewhere in between, that chic ensemble will never look as perfect on you off-the-rack as it does on the mannequin or the catalog model. The reason? Those clothes are pinned. If you haven't seen this done, check it out next time you're shopping. Take a peek at a mannequin's backside and you'll see that the clothes are fastened on that form to create just the right lines. It's the same deal for clothes you see in catalogs. Trust your resident model. Those outfits are styled and pinned on the human mannequins the same way they are on the plastic ones. So give yourself a break. Then go make friends with a good tailor.

Read all Beauty Myths

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lisa Marie Presley "Forced" to Reveal Her Pregnancy

It's official. Lisa Marie is in a family way. That was information she had planned to keep in the family for a while, but when the Hollywood Bump Watch/Stalkarazzi published photos of her looking larger than usual, the mean gossip spread fast. Of course London's Daily Mail was among the top offenders, running the photos with this sensitive headline: “Like father like daughter? Bloated Lisa Marie is now the double of dad Elvis.” Classy.

Understandably, Lisa Marie felt cornered into defending her weight gain. "You KNOW if you were pregnant and you felt you were expanding uncontrollably by the moment as a result, and the worldwide media started badgering and harassing you for it, plastering you everywhere in an unflattering light, you would be mortified as well," she said. And wouldn't you know it? Following her announcement, The Daily Mail has changed its tune, saying that Lisa Marie looks "radiant and every inch the happy mother-to-be." Today's headline reads "Pregnant and Proud: Lisa Marie Presley Shows Off Her Baby Bump." Yeah, pregnant and pissed off is more like it. [MSNBC] [Daily Mail]

Australian Prime Minister Addresses Body Image Issues on International Women's Day

You're probably aware that March is Women's History Month, but did you know that Saturday, March 8th was International Women's Day? There was barely any mainstream media coverage of the day from what I could tell, so I was happy to see this article, which mentions Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's decision to recognize International Women's Day by taking part in the Get Real Forum. The event was organized to raise awareness about body image issues.

"International Women's Day... provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and contribution of women in our society," Rudd said. "However, too often the focus on women is about their body and image. Women and girls are often bombarded with unrealistic images of females which can have adverse consequences on their body image, health and wellbeing." [The Age]

Friday, March 7, 2008

5 Resolutions. 10 Questions

Want to know what we would do if we had a magic wand? Read our "Just 10 Questions" interview on, a new website where you can learn about creative solutions and share your own ideas about making the world a better place.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Listen to Our "Letter to My Body" Interview Featuring Jess Weiner

Women are certainly used to talking about their bodies. But what would you say if you were talking to your body? That’s the question at the heart of BlogHer's new “Letter to My Body" campaign, which encourages women to write letters to their bodies and join a groundbreaking conversation about how each and every one of us can promote positive body image in our own lives.

To kick off this conversation, we talked to author and self-esteem expert Jess Weiner, who shared her tips on everything from dealing with unrealistic media images to understanding disordered eating.

Listen to this exclusive BlogHer podcast to hear Jess’s advice along with excerpts from some of the amazing letters submitted by BlogHer members.

Beauty Myth Wednesdays: A Primer on Pores

Makeup artist Christopher Drummond dishes about pores this week.


Christopher: Totally false. Think of your pores as a rubber band. The band is always the same size. The only way to change the size of it is to physically stretch it out. It doesn’t automatically open and close. Your pores are just the same. They are one uniform size. The only way for them to look bigger is if you have oil buildup, which stretches them out, and makes them appear larger. Skin care products will NOT “tighten” the pores.

Read all Beauty Myths.

Monday, March 3, 2008

More Eating Disorder Sufferers are Children

Children of younger and younger ages are developing eating disorders, and at least one expert is pointing to cultural pressures to be thin.

"We have seen a 300 percent increase in the number of calls from preteen patients," said Amy Gerberry, program director and therapist at Remuda Ranch's children's program. "Eating disorders are increasing rapidly in preteen girls. It's because of our culture's obsession with dieting and thinness."

"Children are being targeted with messages and products promoting diets and body image dissatisfaction," adds Gerberry. "There are more and more sexualized and objectified images of children in the media today than in the past."

Outside of treatment centers, 63% of elementary school teachers now say they are concerned with eating disorders in their classrooms. [Fox News]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Join the 5 Resolutions Facebook Group

We're like so 21st century now. If you're on Facebook, join our group! After all, one of our 5 Resolutions is to stay connected. This seems like a pretty good way to do it. See you there!