On paralleling breast reduction and weight loss

Bri recently wrote a very thought-provoking post on the different perceptions at Shapely Prose between breast reduction and weight loss, in general. She argues that if it is acceptable to get a breast reduction in order to ease discomfort, why isn’t it acceptable to lose weight for the same reason?

I agree with what many of the commenters said, so make sure to read their comments if you haven’t already. But I’d like to offer my own analysis of the parallel, which really gets to the core of my particular brand of FA activism.

I tend to think of my place as an FA activist more aligned with trying to debunk what I see is a moral panic/crusade against fat and fat people, rather than promoting Health At Every Size or Intuitive Eating, as some other FA blogs do. That makes my take on this issue, I think, somewhat different than that of some other FA bloggers.

To begin, I think that weight loss in order to be thinner is a significantly more morally-charged issue than breast reduction (which leads naturally to weight loss). Regardless of how one gets there, thinner people are currently viewed on average as less lazy, smarter, more stable, more beautiful, and morally ‘better’ than fatter people.

I don’t think you get the same moral value judgment being made about women who get breast reductions. Sure, there is the issue of what is considered attractive or not, and some of the decision for getting a breast reduction might have to do with aesthetics, but it is nowhere near as morally charged an issue as losing weight in order to become, overall, thinner.

There’s also the difference in health outcomes and sustainability. No diet has been shown to be largely long-term (>5 years) effective, and weight loss surgery is significantly more dangerous than breast reduction surgery, both immediately, but especially in the long term.

But even if there were a procedure to safely, permanently, and with the same risks as breast reduction surgery make someone who is fat not so fat anymore (I’m not talking about 10 lbs of liposuction here and there, obviously), there’s still the question of the moral imperative to conform to what the culture currently considers aesthetically pleasing. Should that be a thing which an FA activist such as myself promotes?

If I’m trying to bust the moral judgments based on fat, then the answer would be a resounding, “no.”

So here’s my analysis: if there were a procedure as safe and permanent as breast reduction surgery that could make a fatter person more comfortable, and they want to get it, I have no philosophical problem with that. But there isn’t. If there were, and many used it as a tool to conform to thin aesthetics rather than for comfort, I would have a philosophical problem with that, because it comes with the natural conclusion that thinner people are somehow “better” in general than fatter people.

The parallel between that and breast reduction is, in general, people don’t consider someone with breasts big enough to cause discomfort “better” than a person with breasts reduced so as not to cause discomfort. Sure, there’s a pocket of the populace that’s obsessed with large breasts, but I don’t believe even they place moral value on bigger over smaller breasts.

In conclusion, the drive to be thinner, even if there were a safe and permanent way to do so, is morally charged and thus morally divisive, while the desire to get a breast reduction is not. Also there is, unfortunately, no way to safely and permanently ease the discomfort of fat people, so it isn’t intellectually rigorous to make the parallel with breast reduction.

For instance, here’s a bit of anecdata – as an obese person, I’m not uncomfortable at all. Therefore, in the existence of a safe and permanent method of weight loss, the question would be purely moral/aesthetic. I would not do it. Not to conform, and not to appear a ‘better’ person than the fatter me. The desire to lose weight in order to conform and be ‘better’ is precisely the kind of attitude I’m trying to fight. First I refused to be an enabler by buying into the fat/thin moral value system. Secondly, I decided to become an activist in order to spread the word that this moral value system exists, is wrong, and should be obliterated else the already-suffering victims of this moral panic/crusade will suffer much, much more.

What do you think?

Bad Fatty Revolutionary

Good fatties, bad fatties. For a long time there have existed the stereotypes of two groups which exist within the fat acceptance movement. I think the good fatty/bad fatty debate is an important part of outlining how FA can become a more effective movement, by taking a hard look at what kind of discrimination against fat people in which our own members engage.

The worst thing for a movement is to have some members who are engaging in hypocrisy, with that hypocrisy not being condemned by the more vocal members of the movement. It creates a weak spot at which our opponents can readily plunge a rhetorical knife. I think the hypocrisy in which some of our members engage, and a hypocrisy which threatens to kill the movement or at the least make it a joke, is Healthism.

Healthism, as I define it, is the act of making health a moral imperative. That is, to be a worthwhile, contributing member of society, you should attempt to be at the best health possible. If you do not, then your worth as an individual goes down. Healthism dictates that the unhealthy are harmful, unattractive, a drain on society, stupid, and otherwise deviant.

There seems to be a dichotomy within FA, in which some members engage in and support Healthism in one way or another, and others do not. Sometimes this is political – a fundamental belief in the importance of public health at times can breed a Healthist attitude – and sometimes it is personal.

It’s my opinion that the Healthist members of FA are the ones who are stereotyped as “good fatties.” Here is my list of the most common stereotypical behaviors associated with being a “good fatty:”

  • Outlining, in detail, their exercise regime.
  • Outlining, in detail, what they eat, or saying simply, “But I eat healthy, I’m a [INSERT HEALTHIST DIETARY GROUP HERE].”
  • Being Healthist in general – that is, claiming that being healthy is an important social goal and good and should be an individual goal for everyone – but decrying fat discrimination in the next breath.
  • Hinting that if there were a safe, proven way to become thin, they would abandon their fat bodies.
  • Being personally opposed to the same deviant behavior fat-haters blame on all fat people: laziness, lack of willpower, stupidity, bad hygiene – and breathlessly reiterating over and over again that they are not one of “those” fat people (sometimes by claiming those fat people don’t exist!).
  • Being so obsessed with mythbusting they don’t realize they’re creating a sub-deviant class within the group of fat people, which isn’t protected by their brand of fat acceptance – “bad fatties.”

And here are the possibly well-known stereotypes of being a “bad fatty”:

  • Not caring about health.
  • Eating fast food more than once a month.
  • Eating convenience store snacks more than once a week.
  • Sometimes eating when they’re not hungry, or not eating when they are hungry.
  • Not paying attention to what food they are eating, and whether or not it is “healthy” by some standard or definition, or whether or not it satisfies a particular craving or it just happens to taste good at the moment.
  • Not exercising regularly, and worse, not acknowledging the importance of regular exercise as a health imperative.
  • Believing it isn’t anyone’s business what they are eating, how much they are exercising, and what constitutes their family dinners. Not recognizing a social moral imperative attached to health.
  • Not believing in public health.

Again, these are stereotypes, listed to make a point and to paint a vivid picture. Most people don’t fall neatly into these kinds of categories, adopting some or the other behaviors and viewpoints.

However, according to these lists, I’m very staunchly in the “bad fatty” category.

Why I believe the FA movement needs more vocal “bad fatty revolutionaries”:

Simply put, because the Healthist arguments subdivide fat people into “less deviant” and “more deviant” subclasses. When engaging in Healthist behaviors or making Healthist arguments, you must understand that you’re playing the fat-loathers’ game. You’re buying into their rhetoric, and agreeing with them that wanting to be healthy is indeed a moral imperative, makes a person more or less fuckable, makes an individual more or less intelligent, and so forth.

That means every myth-busting argument you put forth — “But don’t you understand that fat isn’t necessarily unhealthy?” — is played out on their turf. And you know what they can do, what they often do, that takes the wind out of our sails and stops us dead in our tracks?

Say, “You’re lying,” to whatever facts we present. “I’ve got more evidence to back up my claims,” they say, thrusting forward mountains of epidemiological studies that we’ve already debunked, convinced of our bias. “Any doctor you ask will tell you that being fat is unhealthy,” they continue, appealing to authority. “You’re just looking for an excuse to be fat,” they conclude, convinced of our bias, inexpertise, and emotional instability.

My question to all FAers out there: Why are we playing their game in the first place?

We need to change the conversation away from health. Sure, we know we can myth-bust until we’re blue in the face, and the more rigorous, less publicized evidence is overwhelmingly in support of our claims. It doesn’t matter. This is the age of science-by-press-release. Facts and hard evidence don’t have a prayer.

We need to become bad fatty revolutionaries. Instead of apologizing for behaviors that are acceptable amongst thinner people but not fatter people, instead of playing into the stereotypes and showing them that you’re an active member of their world and still fat, reject their world. Reject the moral imperative of Healthism.

Healthism is nothing more than a system of status-determination based on appearance. “You can tell whether or not someone is high or low status (read: healthy) based on how fat or thin (read: unhealthy) they are.” It’s easy. You don’t even have to know someone to know what your and his/her respective statuses are, whether or not you’re “better” than him/her. All you have to do is look.

Healthist FAers — “good fatties” — play into that game, though they slightly change the definitions. You can’t tell by just looking, they claim. You need to ask them about their exercise and nutritional regimes, perhaps their BP and blood sugar numbers, first. Perhaps also their family history of disease. Then you can make that determination. But still, status and superiority are determined — by health!

The hard truth is that Healthism hasn’t done a damned thing for the movement. Since we are in the age of science by press release, it makes us look like a bunch of crazy hypocrites. We look like we’re espousing health at the same time we are, ourselves, espousing unhealth (by accepting fat). No wonder we’re not taken seriously.

It’s time we make them play on our turf, and reject the moral imperative of health. Here are the points I suggest should be stressed:

  • Our bodies, our business.
  • Our health is between us and our doctor.
  • The concern of family members and friends for our perceived health does more harm than good.
  • We’re adults. Stop treating us as if we have the emotional and mental capacity of five year-olds. We reject your disgusting condescension.
  • Our bodies, our business. You have no right to tell me what should or should not go in my mouth. You have no right to demand that I exercise.
  • Beauty standards change. What’s fuckable today might not be fuckable tomorrow. Using body size in leiu of “health” as an excuse to determine fuckability is as capricious as using skin color, hair color, height, country of origin, religion, favorite book, etc. It’s not hard-wired, it’s a cultural creation.
  • Discrimination against fat people is always hate. Any excuse to find a fat person inferior in any way due to their fatness is bigotry. And yes, this extends to attractiveness. It might not be your fault that you’re a bigot, but you still are.
  • Grow up. What we eat and how much we exercise does not make us a more or less worthwhile person. It is not a determinant of willpower, control, sexiness, intelligence, hygeine, parental fortitude, femininity, masculinity, bravery, and so forth.
  • Our bodies, our business. Our health is between us and our doctors and yes, sometimes doctors are wrong, too. We must always be vigiliant that their techniques do more good than harm, because doctors are people, too. They can be bigots. They can make mistakes. Being informed patients is never, ever a bad thing. If we are wrong, they are free to explain to us why, or to refer us to sources so that we better understand why. Our bodies, our business. Our health, our and our doctor’s business.
  • The Obesity Epidemic is a moral panic, and the War on Obesity is a moral crusade. The torch-carriers are Healthists. Their weapons are science by press release, and the belief in the moral imperative of health.

Change the dialogue. Give up on Healthist rhetoric – it does the movement more harm than good. Make health a private matter. Don’t apologize for being fat, or qualify your status by explaining how you’re still a “good person” because you buy into the edicts of Healthism.

Our bodies, our business.

Our health, between us and our doctor, and we have a duty to be informed patients and challenge our doctors who are themselves people and therefore fallible.

Science by press release has taken facts out of the public dialogue, which ultimately dooms fat-accepting Healthist arguments.

Our bodies, our business.

We’re adults. I reject your condescension, your attempts to infantilize me which are directly connected to your desire to gain as much status over me as possible.

Healthism is a class system. It creates deviant classes which the superior classes are free to treat as subhuman and worthless. Reject Healthism. It is ultimately incompatible with fat acceptance, since it forces Healthist fat people to reject un-Healthist fat people, which is no acceptance at all.

Food Ethicism or, The Cult of the Salad

Almost everyone believes there are such things as “good” and “bad” foods. The notion is inculcated within us from a very young age, and right now various agencies are pushing to make the notion of food ethics formally taught in schools.

The problem with food ethicism is, of course, that it has no real definition. Some believe raw foods are the only “good” foods, some believe fats and sugars are “bad,” others believe carbs are “bad,” some believe high-calorie foods are “bad,” some believe only whole-wheat, fruits, and vegetables are “good.”

Food ethicism is pervasive and, like other ethical systems, defines moral worth or immorality based on how close one adheres to the ethical dictates, or how far one strays from those same dictates. In other words, if you eat “bad” foods, you are a bad person, or at the very least, morally bereft.

Putting aside food ethicism which corresponds to non-health-related values (like animal rights, for instance), most food ethicism judges “good” foods at how closely they help you achieve a socially acceptable weight. The best food, almost bar-none, is the green vegetable. Anti-calorie, anti-carbs, anti-fat, anti-sugar, anti-salt, and anti-processed ethicists are delighted by the green vegetable. Salads are the composition of the green vegetable, in which it prevails, sprinkled with non-green vegetables, and also possibly meat, carbs, and dairy (in heavy moderation).

The cult of the salad has reigned supreme since Day One of the War Against Obese People. When eating out with others, ordering a salad — the more green, the fewer condiment/meat/dairy/carbs is viewed almost universally as a sign of dietary “goodness.” Of course, one cannot live on salads alone. Which is the food ethicists’ great dilemma, across the board. Salads — in their purest form — are extremely low energy, and give you far less nutrition than you’d get popping a multivite.

Salads are, in their purest form, merely hunger-curbers. I.e., accessories to starvation.

So I’ll take liberty to define “eating junk food” as how far one has strayed from adherence to the Cult of the Salad.

BeingGirl: For girls, by liars

This morning, Harriet Brown had a wonderful post to which I felt compelled to respond upon a bit more digging.

“BeingGirl: For girls, by girls,” a site hosted by Proctor & Gamble, is one of those places that draws in teenage girls with cutesy graphics and shitty writing (by the staff), and better writing which populates the rest of the site (posts by the girls themselves). Some of the posts are heartbreaking, and the articles themselves (esp. the ones concerning weight) are filled with virulent lies, and ‘methods’ of weight-reduction which read like a pro-ana site.

What dangerous nonsense…I hope my teenage, computer-literate, soon-to-be step-daughters haven’t ever stumbled into that den of lies.

Here’s a quote from the “Express Yourself — Creative Expressions” part of the site:

All that I can think about are the calories in that food

All that I can think about are the calories in that food Constantly counting and adding to make sure I don’t eat too much I know that it is bad to diet, but being thin makes me feel good That feeling of the fat on my stomach is annoying to touch So 900 calories a day is all that I can allow People tell me how much weight I’ve lost, but I just don’t see it I’m scared to eat more than that I don’t want the weight, not now People saying “Eat more, eat more” makes me just stare at it and sit Yes, food, food, everywhere, but I’m scared to eat it up You want to help me Well, I’m way beyond help I’m lost…

It was given 1046 positive “votes,” which means that resonates with at least that many girls on the site (the ones that bother to vote, anyway). It looks like the average number of positive votes is about 1000, from what I can see.This one, lower on the list, makes me feel very good, however:

Being Me

I have always struggled with weight issues and until recently I have
never really accepted myself. I always had self esteem issues and
would hide behind a facade of friendly compliments to other people and
big clothes. I figured out that I really needed to accept myself, so I
really stepped back and looked at my choices. Not just my eating and
exercising habits, but also my dressing and grooming habits. Going out
and buying that dress that I have always wanted but never felt I could
pull off.

I found that by stepping outside my safety zone I found more
confidence in myself and began to accept me for who and what I am.
I have found myself actually pursuing romantic endeavors I had never even dreamed of before.

I just wanted to let anyone who is having self esteem issues know that if you can step outside of your safety zone, as hard as it can be, you can
truly make a difference in your life. It has in mine.

But this post only got 422 positive votes, compared to the negative body image’s post of 1024. :(

These article writers (not the open-forum posts by regular girls like the ones quoted above) seem like they’re ALL nasty liars. Here’s another quote, from “Teenage Girls Fear of Fatness”

You would think from the words Carrie uses…guilty, bad, cheating, hate…that she was talking about something more immoral or harmful than snacking on potato chips. You would think she was worried about the osteoporosis, anemia, obesity and cardiovascular disease that might be made worse by eating certain foods [emphasis mine]

Anemia? Christ, that’s a new one. Where the hell are they getting this garbage, anyway? Or is it just “known” that OMG FOOD!1! is a toxic substance that causes diseases, and we need to try so hard to find the ‘wisdom’ to abstain from it?

The rest of the article is filled with confused contradictions, at one moment claiming rightly that body image is horribly skewed in the teenage girl population, then wondering “what causes” this when their own site is replete with panic-mongering bullshit, ending with :

Learn to see yourself through your grandma’s eyes not that distorted mirror you rely on. There’s no need to eliminate any food you enjoy from your diet. Just learn to make trade offs and balance unhealthy foods with healthy ones. And keep on the move. The safest and most appropriate obesity prevention strategy is to get rid of those “automobile feet” and exercise.

And when they don’t “prevent obesity” that way (exercise has been shown to be a largely ineffective way to lose weight, though it’s very effective in increasing health), what then? How are they going to feel? Like they need to start ritualizing food, just like they thought? That they aren’t good enough, and the answer is just to exercise ‘more’?

I could go on and on with this site. Instead, I’m just going to end with a few gems that you can discuss (and, of course, feel free to go to the site as well):

The Runaway Eating Epidemic

A recent study by the National Longitudinal Study for Adolescent Health revealed that in the five years between 1996 and 2001, about two million teens joined the ranks of the clinically obese!

Uh, yes, revising standards downwards in order to label more people obese (in 1997 or 1998, I forget) is going to make the ‘ranks of the clinically obese’ go up (don’t you love how ‘clinically’ obese makes it sounds so uber-scary and real, even though it’s an arbitrary number based on the bullshit skewing and misemphasizing of the Nurse’s Study’s statistics?)

Dieting Myths

This article “debunks” dieting myths—and also let’s you know which ones are “true”! The poll questions are the standard stuff, but one of them asks:

To keep weight off, you should take off how much a week?
1. at most 5 pounds
2. at most 2 pounds
3. at most 6 pounds
4. at most 4 pounds

The real answer, of course, is “at most 0 pounds.” “Taking off” weight doesn’t work for the vast majority of dieters, and to expect that one can “take off” some magic perfect number a week and “keep” it off is dangerously fallacious. To suggest to teenage girls that permanent weight loss is achievable in any fashion as long as they do it the ‘right way’ is abominable, and goes against the preponderance of evidence.

Fitness and Diet

This one is confusing, filled with dangerous contradictions:

When Should You Diet?

Unfortunately, women today are often pressured to measure up to a certain body type so they “diet’ to achieve that goal. But there are many body types and some people might have bigger shapes just because they’re built that way.

Just think of it in nature. Some cats are naturally skinny, some are husky, and some are heavier. Different builds and body types in animal are natural. And it’s the same with people. Each person has an ideal, individual weight range where they are still healthy. That range could be higher or lower, depending on the person. So just because you don’t look like the skinny actress on the cover of an entertainment magazine, don’t worry. And don’t go crazy dieting.

Sometimes going on a diet can really help you — if you’re overweight and need to lose pounds, for example. More than 1 of every 3 American adults is considered to have an unhealthy weight. Because of these excess pounds, they are more susceptible to disease. So being very overweight can be unhealthy, and is a good reason to “diet.” [emphases mine]

Huh?? One moment we’re all “different,” the next minute overweight is unhealthy and should be dieted off??? I don’t have the energy for this last one. Please tear into it for me.

My to-be stepdaughters shall be warned away from this site.

Edited to correct typos and provide emphases.

Eat right = Eat thin = Starve

Food is bad for you.

You shouldn’t have too much fat, sugar, salt, carbohydrates, and meat. You should “eat right” they say, before or after the qualification that this is necessarily related to losing weight, gaining health, or both.

“Eating right” means there must exist such a thing as “eating badly.” “Too much,” they say. “You mustn’t eat, drink, etc too much. Everything in moderation.” What they mean, of course, is that you shouldn’t eat too much “bad” food, with “too much” equaling “any.”

“Eat right” means “eat thin.” Everywhere I see “eat right,” it’s followed with flowing praises of vegetables and whole grains, with the qualifications that whole grains needs to be moderated because they can be high in calories. “Also,” they continue. “Make sure to take a daily multivitamin!” —ostensibly implying they’re concerned about our nutritional intake. Why, oh why, would they be concerned, if we were truly “eating right”? Isn’t nutrition what food is for?

Because these days, “eating right” means “eating as few calories as possible without dying.” When WW is touted as a “healthy” plan and promotes recipes which feature Splenda as the main ingredient, you’ve really got to scratch your head and wonder what crackpot nutritionist put the rubber stamp on that one (if any).

Eating for “health” is equated to eating as few calories as possible due to the prevalence of the fallacious stereotype that adipose tissue is some kind of toxic, alien, unbeneficial, unnatural substance that clings to your body like the brain suckers from the original Star Trek (okay, I’m a nerd), except this tissue invades like a virus, permanently corrupting your cells and turning you into a lifetime, diabetes-riddled fatty, regardless of your family history.

The idea that the anyone took this study seriously is evidence that the popular notion of fat tissue as simply ugly has evolved into some diseased, toxic substance (which is still ugly).

To truly eat right, one must have fats, and sugars, and salts. I’ve got chronic low blood pressure (thanks, Gram!) that sometimes requires medication, depending on the season. My cardiologist routinely gets on my butt to make sure I’m eating enough sodium. And, indeed, it makes me feel much better when I have a goodly amount of sodium in my system. Too little and I’m woozy, depressed, and can’t breathe that well.

Though most people have normal and not too-low BP like myself, it can be argued that food — all food — serves a purpose. “Eating right” being equivalent to as severe calorie restriction as is physically possible, depending on the individual, their activity level, their age and gender, and so forth — as long as you take your multi-vite!— is simply promoting lifetime starvation.

Starvation as healthy eating?

Welcome to 2008.

Editing for clarification: this post was meant to stress not that healthy eating is bad, but that when (most!) people talk about healthy eating these days, they’re actually talking about dieting, not about balancing what they eat in order to get the right nutrition from their food (and not solely from a multivitamin since the rest of their diet consists of Splenda and water). Cheers, thanks to hotsauce for pointing out the confusion! ;)

Now even “normal” isn’t thin enough

On a new study as reported by Reuter’s Health Blog: Now even a “normal” BMI may not be an indicator of whether or not to lose weight.

It seems that measuring body fat, rather than tracking your weight on a body mass index scale, can more accurately identify whether you need a lifestyle overhaul to lose weight. Excess body fat is a risk factor for a myriad of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

Two assumptions made here: the level of body fat on a person’s body is due to lifestyle (and is a “choice”), and the last line about how excess body fat is a “risk factor” of disease X, Y, and DIABEETUS. Fat is not a choice, it has not been shown that fat causes diabetes.

But wait, there’s more:

Researchers found that the BMI Index usually under identifies risk, meaning that even those categorized as “Normal” might have a risky level of body fat.

Yes, haven’t we suspected all along this isn’t really about “normal,” is it? This is about thin. This is about anti-fat, anti-jiggle anywhere on the body. This is about a hatred of people who have any fat on them.

Wait a minute, what about large-breasted, large-assed women? Do they have a “risky” level of body fat? Oh, you say that that kind of body fat is okay, it’s just that icky stomach jiggle that causes risks?

Colombo and colleagues recruited 23 men and 40 women, aged 20 to 65 years, to undergo body composition analysis. The volunteers were healthy, but led sedentary lives and were not following a low-calorie diet.

Wait a minute, you mean that people can be healthy even if they lead sedentary lives and don’t follow a low-calorie diet? Better not let that information spread too far, or some people might actually want to attempt to free themselves from the oppression of calorie-counting and minute-counting.

The BMI Index calculations identified 11% of the group as strongly needing to lose weight, while waist circumference measurements identified 25%.

“Using criteria based on body adiposity (fatness) rather than body weight would result in a much greater proportion of the study population receiving recommendations for weight loss,” Colombo said.

Great, that’s what we need: an even tighter ‘crack-down’ on our smallest jiggle. For those of “normal” BMI who could have a “risky” amount of fat, check out the BMI Project.

Note: I accidentally published this instead of saving it as a draft, so it’s going to get a couple more edits before I’m done this morning (notably, filling in a couple links).

Fat Wedding 6: “Bluff and Buff Your Way to a Better Bridal Body”

Here’s part 6 in the Fat Wedding series, an exposé of the stresses and pressures on a bride to “look her best” (read: be skinny/ier) for her “big day.”

You & Your Wedding – Mind & Body

The introduction to the “mind & body” articles is “Get body and beauty confident with our special section.”

Well hey, that’s great! I’m already body and beauty confident. I think I look great, I have wonderful hair I can’t wait to get styled, and great skin I can’t wait to beautify. However, I could always use more confidence, right? There may be some great tips in these articles on how to, say, get sleep the night before to improve wellness (body), make sure I eat energy-rich healthy foods to keep myself going through the “big day,” (body), how to destress the night before (mind), and how to keep my cool in front of so many people (mind), right?

Scanning…scanning…oh. Hmm. Well, there are a few of these articles. Wedding Hair Style Inspiration looks cool. I was thinking of going kinda nature-y with my ‘do – maybe flowers, or laurels, something like that. DIY Facials looks kind of neat. I probably can’t afford to get a facial, so some DIY tips are welcome. Fragrance Advice from Roja Dove might be an interesting read.

However, surprise surprise, what subject comprises the greatest majority of articles? Weight-loss. There are even articles on cosmetic surgery (and cosmetic dentistry).

Of the 38 articles listed on the page: 47% (18) are about losing weight or getting “in shape.”

Heh. I guess we know what pre-wedding “beauty & mind” is REALLY all about.

Bridal Boot-camp

medicinenet.com – How to lose weight before the big day – and avoid the ‘heavier ever after’

Fleming recommends starting a bridal “boot camp” at least six months before the wedding that includes a balance of cardiovascular and strength training for about an hour a day, three to four days per week. Procrastinating brides and grooms who have less than six months to work with should plan on spending more time in the gym.

“Boot camp” — thank you, thank you, thank you for finally just saying it! “Boot camp” – a time of personal suffering that will, on the other end, pop out a ‘better you.’ It’s understood that it will be torture, but hey, it’s worth it to have a thin(ner) bride in the pictures, and to finally wear that dress that shows off your shoulder bones, right?

Once future brides and grooms set their minds to a weight-loss and fitness plan, Fleming says, they are usually successful. Many pick up healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Oh hey, does that mean that:

1. These women have never dieted or heard of calorie-counting before, so the idea of “eat less move more” was completely foreign to them prior to their pre-wedding “boot camp” ritualistic starvation regime,

2. or that “many” never gain the weight back? If so, they’re defying the overwhelming evidence that virtually all people who diet gain the weight back. We need to find these people, and make sure they’re included in the next diet study, because obviously they were missed before! The studies must not have been on anyone who’d convinced themselves they needed to lose weight for a wedding, I guess. Perhaps it’s the whole idea that this is a “wedding,” and you’re now becoming a “bride,” that somehow keeps the weight off, eh?

“It is amazing to me how focused and motivated they become during this frantic, crazy, panicked period in their lives, and it’s the one thing that they stick to,” says Fleming. “If you need to use the wedding day to get you started, that’s OK, but most people continue to work out, feel great, and look back at the pictures and say, ‘Wow, I can do this.’”

Once people start losing weight with the idea that it will improve their looks or self-esteem, it becomes obsessive? I’ve never heard of that phenomenon, before. :P

Once a couple says their “I dos,” they may be at risk for a honeymoon holdover effect. Research shows that newlyweds gain weight at a faster rate then their single peers.

Oh hey, do you think that might have anything to do with the fact that they, yanno, crash dieted in the months preceding their wedding? Naw! It’s just some weird, coincidental magickry that makes you gain weight faster when you slip that wedding ring on your finger.

“Married people are heavier than people who have never been married,” says researcher Jeffery Sobal, PhD, associate professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University. “They are also somewhat heavier than people who have been previously married, divorced, separated, and widowed.

“Recently married people eat about half or more of their meals together,” he says. “So marriage really is a huge influence on what you eat, its caloric value, nutrient composition, and all of those things.”

What seems to happen, Sobal says, is that newlyweds eat more regularly, and more formally, than they did in their single days.

Gasp! Eating more—hush—regularly! You mean, getting married makes you abandon your single-life, low self-esteem semi-starvation regime you succumbed to because you believed you’d never deserve love unless you strove towards some impossible, airbrushed ideal?

Sobal says his research has shown that when you control for other variables, like age and having children, the “marriage effect” seems to go away to some extent in women while it persists in men.

“It suggests that there is something about being married that makes men slightly, but not hugely, heavier,” says Sobal. He says more long-term studies will be needed to determine the exact nature of this marriage effect on weight.

I dunno, do you think it has anything to do with the fear of being labeled a “heavier ever after” wife? Or having your character and person constantly judged by your fat, because you’re a woman? Or having hate songs written about killing fat wives by popular bands for the crime of getting heavy while married?

Ugh, I’m done with the crap article. This pre-wedding “get in shape for your big day” bullshit is just a cultural ritualization to put the woman/bride in her ‘place,’ in that she has to ‘earn’ her big day by adhering, perhaps even for the first time in her life, to what this society currently deems is the woman’s highest value — her appearance being ‘acceptable’, i.e., thin enough.

The proof, besides the humble digging I do, when the fancy strikes? Check out this study, as reported on by the New York Times.

More than 70 percent of brides-to-be want to lose weight before their wedding day, according to a new study from Cornell University. To reach the perfect wedding-day weight, more than one-third of them use extreme dieting tactics such as diet pills and fasting. And while most of us buy clothes that fit, about one in seven brides-to-be buys a bridal gown that is one or more dress sizes smaller than she normally wears.

Which has been shown, over and over, by not only the brides-to-be I’ve quoted, but in the expectations of “body/beauty/fitness” sections of bridal sites.

Dr. Neighbors found that 91 percent of the women were worried about their weight, reporting that they wanted to lose weight or were actively trying to prevent weight gain. By comparison, national data show that about 62 percent of similarly aged women have the same concerns.

Among the 70 percent of women who were trying to lose weight, the average desired loss was about 21 pounds, not counting three women in the group who were trying to lose more than 100 pounds each.

I think those three women are very significant. Funny that they weren’t counted. Maybe they shouldn’t count the women who wanted to lose only a few pounds each, as well, since there are ways to weight every average. I don’t think they’re abnormal, by any means – on the discussion boards and so forth I’ve perused, I’ve come across more than one woman who wanted to lose more than 100 lbs.

Nearly half the brides-to-be were willing to adopt extreme dieting strategies to reach their goal weight by their wedding day. Among extreme dieters, skipping meals and taking unprescribed diet pills and supplements were reported most frequently. About 10 percent of the women used liquid diets, while a fraction of the women started smoking, took laxatives or induced vomiting in order to lose weight.

Huh. Think they’ll gain the weight back after the wedding, or just gain an ED? Or both?

Since it is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, it’s important to note here that it’s very possible some ED’s have their root in this pre-wedding ritual.

This next paragraph, however, is extremely important: god bless the effing study authors. Nice example of highly educated biological scientists who can’t see the forest for the trees.

The prevalence of extreme dieting behavior among brides-to-be is important because rapid weight loss usually isn’t maintained. But the study authors note that because brides-to-be are highly motivated to lose weight, doctors should use an upcoming wedding as an opportunity to discuss more healthful weight loss and eating behaviors.

Yeah, capitalize on her fear, and her anxiety! Don’t let the ED start on its own, give it a little shove, too! Yeah, that’s exactly what I need when I go for my check-up in the fall. “Oh, lovely ring! You’re engaged?” “Yes, sir.” “Lovely. Then you’re going to be losing some weight, right?”

Ai yai yai.

But wait, there’s more:

At the time of the study, the women were still about six months or more away from their big day. But the average weight loss achieved was already about eight pounds, although the numbers varied widely.

“If these losses were maintained after marriage, they would be significant weight management achievements,’’ the authors noted. “Given the pressures of the wedding and beginning a new life as a couple, engaged women should be encouraged to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle rather than striving for a fleeting number on a scale or a temporary dress size.’’

DESPITE the fact that the authors themselves noted that 50% of the women used “extreme measures” like pills, fasting, liquid diets, and vomiting to attain their “significant weight achievements”?

Funny, I feel a little like vomiting myself, now.

But mostly I feel royally pissed off at this ignorance, in the FACE of such horrifying results. I guess when doctors praise us for losing weight without asking how we did it, they’re just following suit of the biological scientists who write the papers they read. Weight loss at any cost. Let’s use the wedding as an excuse to get those fatty brides thin! And let’s drive them into a panic in order to make sure they don’t gain any weight when they get married, oh no! Vomiting before the wedding? Let’s make vomiting a lifestyle choice, instead of just a ‘temporary solution.’ Indeed! Argh.

Fat Wedding, Part 5: Horror Show

 This is a “pulse-taking” of bridal motivations to lose weight, how much they want to lose in what time-span, and what they say they need to do and why.

I searched for “lose weight wedding” in Google. These are from hits on the first  search resuls page.

43 Things.com – lose weight for the wedding

This is one of those odd “goal sites” where people set goals, and others adopt the goals. The pages of goals are set up in comment-form style, and you get to see the comments of different individuals. I found some very horrifying, self-deprecating, ignorant, infuriatingly hateful comments, as well as some extreme goals.  Here are a smattering of comments, each from different posters.

WE NEED TO MOTIVATE each OTHER!!! I wanna see some progress notes up here… I am 5’4 have an 11 month old baby and I want to – no I WILL loose 40 pounds before my wedding… I weigh 180 now… AND I WANT TO BE HEALTHY FOR MY WEDDING AND MY HONEYMOON… The BMI scale says I’m OBESE! I’m marrying the man of my dreams and I want him to be proud and giddy to have me on his arm!

This is the showcase piece of my whole post, I’m thinking. It epitomizes what I’ve been observing about weight and its relationship to earning one’s “big day.” She equates losing 40 lbs after pregnancy to being “healthy,” disgusted that the “BMI scales says I’m OBESE!” (which we’ve been taught to think, via bullshit science and media scare-tactics, equals “unhealthy”). The last sentence is just really, really sad. Will the man of her “dreams” be less proud if his new wife and likely mother of his new child is 40 lbs “overweight”? Will she deserve to marry him less?

This next poor lady, who wants to lose 90 lbs, is definitely buying into the moral value argument tie-in to marriage.

I have a while to go before my Sept. 2008 wedding but I’m starting my weight loss now! I’m around 230 and want to get back to my high school weight of 140.

One of my dreams is to make him cry when he sees me! He always tell me how beautiful I am, I want to take it to the extreme for my wedding day. I want to see a tear or two roll down his cheek! :)

I’m not doing anything special to lose weight but working out & trying to eat right. Any suggestions or ideas to keep me on the right track?

90 lbs is definitely quite extreme. I’d say she’s doing exactly right to work out and try to eat right. Unfortunately, that’s not going to make her lose 90 lbs. And that is absolutely okay! Will your groom love you more if you walk down the aisle 90 lbs lighter? Have women, in our culture, really internalized the connection between weight and worthiness of love to that extent?

This next one makes me feel sick to my stomach. It feels…really wrong somehow. Thinperior tone. Ugh. It really drives home the point that the wedding day isn’t about “getting healthy” but losing weight (even though it seemed she had to do so by accident).

I was already small but I had bought a UK size 6 wedding dress as I’d ordered it from US and I was confused about the sizes so I ordered it too small!! Left it till the last minute to lose weight, I lost about 9lbs in 2 weeks!! Not the healthiest way to go about it but at least I looked good in the dress!!! haha

This one is very sad:

I’m getting married March 18th and just put my dress on last night to get it altered and it’s TOO small! I’m busting out of it. I thought I was going to cry. So I have 3 weeks to lose as much weight as possible. Today I’m fasting, well, liquids only. I want to shrink my stomach so I will fill up faster when I start eating again tomorrow. Starting tomorrow I’m going to do the no carb diet and then 10 days before the wedding I’m going to do this: http://www.healthynewage.com/lose-10-pounds.html. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck and let me know if you have any advice!

So much for “health.”  Just pay for the alteration, it’s better than destroying your body for the last few weeks before your wedding, which you’ll get through in a starved, sick fog.

Well, I read the entries so far and I get the sense we are all in the same boat. I really don’t want to be a heavy bride, I want to feel like a “woman” and love what I look like and forever be proud of my wedding pictures. Well at 236 pounds and 5 feet 1 inches – there is no way I will come near achieving any of that. I’m getting married in July 2007… I know that seems pretty far away but to lose 100 pounds, without surgery, I am going to need 18 months. I know the only way to do this is to diligently count my calories everyday and to get into a committed exercise regimine. One day at a time, but today, it just seems like so much work is going to have to happen to have my goals met. I simply doubt myself that I can do this. But I am willing to try…. and I need some support.

So fat females aren’t “women”? Fat brides aren’t “women”? The only way you’ll be “proud” of your wedding photos is if they feature an acceptably thin bride? The ceremony, the decorations, your groom, the wedding party, the church, the reception, the guests, those photos won’t make you proud, only if they feature a bride with razor-sharp collarbones?

My brain hurts.

Fat Wedding, Part 4: “The Bride Wore Very Little”

Image from NYTimes.com

This is going to be a short one in the Fat Wedding series. I read this NYTimes article last week and have been meaning to get around to talking about it.

I’m picking out this article in particular NOT because it out-and-out rails against fat brides, or gives you a diet plan, etc, but because of its general assumptions that brides all want to lose weight and/or look thin, fit, ‘in shape,’ toned, good naked, etc for their wedding day.

I think this piece it epitomized in a line by Ms. DaSilva, an interviewee:

“I want to look back in 20 years and feel like I looked hot on my wedding day.”

That’s it, isn’t it? “..feel like I looked hot…” Not that “It was a beautiful ceremony, I looked beautiful,” but that she “looked hot” to the attendees of her wedding and society as a whole. And what is hot these days? Tall, thin, large breasts. So it a revealing wedding dress which shows miles of thigh, making the shortest person look taller, and showing off how hard she worked to “attain” the upper-arm-like circumference to her upper thigh. Low-cut gowns show cleavage; and thinness, of course, is displayed by mermaid-style sheath dresses.

In addition to the dresses shown in the NYTimes article (included above) here are some sample images I’ve gathered from this season’s bridal fashions:

The above dresses are from designers mentioned in the NYTimes piece, and they’re designs from the 2007 bridal season. These particular styles are those that look like they’re designed to show off a very thin frame. There are many, many, many of these styles by famous designers, especially since the dresses are made to look good on models that look like those above, who are excruciatingly thin.

“Young women increasingly look to the red carpet for style ideas,” said Millie Martini Bratten, the editor in chief of Brides magazine. “They are very aware of how they look,” she added. “They diet, they work out. And when they marry, they want to be the celebrity of their own event.”

I see. So women who don’t diet or work out before their weddings aren’t “aware of how they look”? Oh sure, we just go and grab the white-ish muumuu off the rack the day before the weddin’, yee-haw! (with one hand, since the other is stuffing food into our face) We have no interest in fashion, or looking good. Because, apparently, ‘looking good’ is synonymous to ‘being thinner.’

But of course, there’s more!

Catherine Cuddy, an insurance analyst in New Jersey, was similarly focused on turning heads when she married in Bryant Park in New York last October. She dispensed with the customary long, fitted sleeves and train in favor of a halter style that dipped to the small of her back.

Even a veil was too much for her. “I didn’t want to cover up my dress,” said Ms. Cuddy, 33, a self-described Rita Hayworth type. Or the torrents of curls that rushed past her shoulders. Or, for that matter, her gym-toned back.

To get in shape for her gown, a white lace sheath that appeared to have been turned on a lathe, she stepped up visits with her trainer from one to three sessions a week. Ms. Cuddy had no thought of defying tradition or making a statement of any kind. She simply wanted to make the most of her curves, she said.

Again, there’s the sense that one has to “get in shape for her gown,” rather than, yanno, buying a dress that fits. Have we so ritualized the wedding day that the wedding dress has become more like a priest’s robe a woman must fast and self-harm in order to earn?

I don’t know if this is more a fat issue or a feminist issue, at its core; regardless, it is a reinforcement that body shape and size is a moral issue, in this case in particular for a woman (most sites focus on helping the bride lose weight, not the groom). She is “sexy” when she can wear slinky sheer trumpet-style wedding gowns with a slit up the leg, and hence more desirable, and hence more worthy of marriage.

I also, of course, want to note that also Ms. Cuddy wanted to make “the most of her curves,” she “stepped up” her personal trainer sessions to, I’d imagine, get rid of some curves! And I agree that she had no thought of “defying tradition;” the idea that women have had to self-harm and self-efface in order to ‘deserve’ to be married is very, very old. The idea their bodies equal their worth is also old. The marriage of the two concepts, no pun, is the tortured, starving dieter, willing to do anything to shed X pounds in order to “look good on” her “big day.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to stand for it. I plan on looking wonderful for my “big day.” But I don’t plan on dieting in the 18 months between now and then.