You can read what Robin is all about in the screen grab above — and guess why I liked her immediately (hint: Fried things are delicious.) Robin wanted to discuss this post I wrote back in March, about the troubles with fitspiration. In case you forgot — Fitspiration or fitspo is a term for all the sweaty hard body images currently bouncing around Pinterest, Facebook and the like, accompanied by:Read more...
Category Archives: Health
And I’ve got these delightful get well flowers* plus three cool-if-creepy holes** in my stomach to prove it.
So just a quick check-in to thank you all for the supportive comments and emails before my surgery last week. It was an intense day, followed by a blur of painful/painkiller-filled days. I’m definitely still recovering, but have turned a corner and no longer feel quite so much like death/can brush my teeth and even shower without immediately needing a nap afterwards.
Also, all of you who were so appalled to learn that I hadn’t gotten around to reading the Hunger Games yet: Good news! Read all three in three days and yep, you were right. They definitely go on the list of Brave Books for Girls (Not Princesses).Read more...
When I first came clean about my various health woes back in January, I promised this wouldn’t become a sad sack sick girl blog… and I’d say making you wait almost five months for an update achieves that goal.
So here’s the word: Tomorrow morning, Horace and all his little cyst friends are getting cut out.
I’ve been consulting with a fancy gynecologist who specializes in hard-to-treat ladyparts like mine for the past several months. We’ve tried the Pill — a low-estrogen version that isn’t supposed to interfere with my migraines. Horace is unmoved and continues to flare up with waves of stabbing pelvic pain and 12-hour migraines several times a month. The rest of the time, he wakes me up in the middle of the night, hurts when I pee, spasms when I do certain yoga poses and is generally annoying.Read more...
I’m so thrilled to be participating in my girl Ragen’s iVillage slideshow of Diet Quitters.
A) Because it’s really fun to be back over in iVillage Never Say Diet land for a visit.
B) Because I’ll be so stoked if we inspire even one woman to break up with an unhealthy diet/weight cycling pattern. And with 33 awesome women featured, I think those odds are good.Read more...
Longtime readers of this blog will know that I am usually a pretty big Michelle Obama fan. I’ve defended her right to wear un-American fashion designers, because she’s the First Lady, not First Barbie Doll. I had a whole lot of feelings when Rush Limbaugh called her fat. And there is a lot about her MyPlate program and the whole Let’s Move campaign that is just great.
But then, last month, Michelle Obama went on The Biggest Loser. And that’s where she lost me.
Because TBL is a show that glorifies pretty much everything we’re doing wrong about obesity in this country. It’s about getting thin at any cost. It’s about no pain, no gain. It’s about public humiliation. It’s definitely not about health, no matter what the coaches scream as “motivation.”
My friend Ragen Chastain, the amazing fat dancer and activist, has written a wonderful piece explaining exactly why Obama’s decision to appear on TBL was a mistake. I’m reprinting it here with her permission because she’s had trouble getting traditional media outlets to publish it (they’re afraid of pissing off the White House — really, guys? First Amendment, anyone?) and we need to get the word out. Just because a show glorifies weight loss doesn’t mean it’s good for your health.
When I heard that Michelle Obama was going on The Biggest Loser to congratulate the participants on being role models I knew that I had to do something. So I e-mailed my friend Darryl Roberts, filmmaker of America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments. We wrote a well-researched article pointing out the problems with Mrs. Obama endorsing the contestants as role models. That article is below.
It wasn’t meant for this blog, but it’s now been turned down by three major media outlets. Not because they disagreed with us, in fact all three said that they agreed with the article. It was denied in all three cases because the White House wouldn’t like, they were worried about damaging their working relationship with the White House, and it it made the First Lady look bad and out of touch. That confused me since I think the problem is that the First Lady IS out of touch, not that I’m pointing it out. And why does the media believe that, in America, we should be scared to question our government?
So I’m using my little forum here to get this out. But before I do, I want to make an invitation:
Michelle Obama – have lunch with me. I believe that you are a good person and that your intentions to improve kids’ health are good, and I don’t believe that you intend for the media to be too scared to publish pieces that are critical of you. I’m a champion athlete, a trained researcher, and a real live obese woman and I think that a good place to start is for us to have a conversation. Tell me where and when you’d like to have lunch and I’m buying.
In the meantime, here’s the piece that the media was too scared to publish:
Michelle Obama’s “Biggest” Mistake
By Darryl Roberts and Ragen Chastain
DARRYL: I have had the opportunity to get to know Health at Every Size proponent Ragen Chastain after interviewing her for my documentary America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments. I was coming home from a screening of the movie when I received an email from Ragen alerting me to the fact that our first lady Michelle Obama was going on The Biggest Loser to proclaim the contestants as role models.
I will admit that initially I didn’t quite believe this. The Biggest Loser is a show that’s exploits a very dangerous aspect of American life, the unhealthy ways in which we attempt to lose weight. Surely the First Lady had to know this. But it turned out to be true and, knowing what we know about health and weight, Ragen and I decided that we had to respond.
Mrs. Obama, we know you love our youth as much as we all do and that you want to see them healthy, but we would ask you why you chose a game show like The Biggest Loser as a platform to promote “getting healthy,” and why you continue to push weight loss even though it doesn’t meet the criteria of evidence based medicine.
Have you vetted what happens to some the contestants one of two years after the show?
The New York Times did some digging and this is what they found:
“The Biggest Loser has produced some amazing results for its obese contestants, but at what cost? Many see the pounds come right back, and it’s likely because they engage in dangerous, damaging behavior in the first place in order to win the weight-loss reality show, the New York Times has learned. Season one’s winner, who’s almost back to his original weight of 330 pounds, dehydrated himself to the point of urinating blood. “I’m just waiting for the first person to have a heart attack,” says a doctor.
This season’s first episode resulted in two hospitalizations, which is scary given the content of a release form obtained by the Times. It reads: “No warranty, representation or guarantee has been made as to the qualifications or credentials of the medical professionals [on the show].”
Shockingly, contestants who talk about being completely inactive sometimes for years have to attest that they are “in excellent physical health”. And while the Times got some tidbits — contestants apparently work out in as much clothing as possible when the cameras are off — few were willing to talk. After the paper started digging around, former contestants were emailed a reminder of the serious consequences that come with unauthorized interviews: fines of $100,000 to $1 million.”
A lot of our youth actually start off exercising and eating better. But when they don’t see the “desired result” on the scale, they stop because they mistakenly think that if their healthy habits don’t lead to weight loss then they can’t lead to health.
From my travels with the film and Ragen’s work as an expert speaker on Health at Every Size, we can produce health professionals from Harvard, Princeton, Michigan State, the University of Denver, UCLA, who will tell you exactly what we’re telling you.
RAGEN: This is an illustration of good intentions gone horribly awry. Calling these contestants good examples of health and fitness is deeply problematic. There are already firsthand accounts of Biggest Loser contestants being encouraged to engage in incredibly unhealthy behaviors, including working out against doctor’s orders, and manipulating their weight through dehydration.
According to Golda Poretsky’s interview with former contestant Kai Hibbard:
“They start teaching you that because you are overweight you are sub-human …There was a registered dietician that was supposed to be helping … but every time she tried to give us advice … the crew or production would step in and tell us that we were not to listen to anybody except our trainers. The doctors had ordered us to take [a solution to re-balance our electrolytes] and the trainers were like, “Throw it out, right now.” So I got to a point where I was only eating about 1,000 calories a day and I was working out between five and eight hours a day … And my hair started to fall out. I was covered in bruises. I had dark circles under my eyes … My period stopped altogether and I was only sleeping three hours a night. I tried to tell the TV show about it and I was told, “Save it for the camera.”
Exactly what’s wrong with the “lose weight” to be healthy approach?
RAGEN: Teaching kids about healthy eating and helping them develop a lifelong love of movement are excellent intentions. Focusing on the weight of kids in order to do that is simply horrible execution.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated recently that a program that shames kids carries “a great risk of increasing stigma for those children who are overweight or obese which, in turn, can reinforce unhealthy behaviors (e.g., overeating),” and also said:
“Studies suggest that overweight children who are teased about their appearance are more likely to binge-eat or use unhealthy weight-control practices, and weight-based victimization has been correlated with lower levels of physical activity. Not surprisingly, stigmatization of obese individuals, particularly adolescents, poses risks to their psychological health.”
Hospitalizations for eating disorders in children younger than 12 years old rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006 according to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics.
It’s not just that focusing on kid’s weight might hurt them, it’s also that it doesn’t help. According to research from the University of Minnesota “None of the behaviors being used by adolescents (in 1999) for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss[in 2006]…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors, including significant weight gain.”
Meanwhile there is not a single study that shows that weight loss works for more than a small fraction (about 5 percent) of people. The cold hard truth is that there is absolutely no evidence that supports the idea that the majority of fat people can become thin through diet and exercise.
Is There a Solution?
RAGEN: Absolutely. The fact that I’m a healthy fat athlete isn’t a surprise or a paradox, there are lots of us. A great deal of evidence (Matheson et. al., Wei et. al, the Cooper Institute etc.) points to the conclusion that healthy habits make healthy bodies in a wide variety of sizes.Read more...
You guys may have seen this news last week: California toxicologists tested a bunch of those supposedly “toxin-free” nail polishes… and found out that they’re actually toxin-full, as I’m reporting on Slate’s xxFactor blog today.
Hmm, what does this remind us of? If you said Brazilian Blowout (or lead in lipstick or carcinogens in baby shampoo or…) give yourself a high five.Read more...
Last month, in Why Fit is the New Thin, I explored how the “fitspiration” phenomenon can be uncomfortably reminiscent of the “thinspiration” phenomenon. They aren’t entirely identical; thinspiration is pretty much always about collecting pictures that glorify an unhealthy and unattainable standard of beauty (skinny). Fitspiration can be about motivating and empowering yourself to try rock climbing, do a handstand, run a marathon or reach some other kick-ass physical fitness goal. But it can also be about glorifying an unhealthy and unattainable standard of beauty… and because it all gets dressed up as “fitness,” the unhealthy parts can be a lot harder to pick out. I offered some guidelines that help me separate the “this makes me want to run outside and be sweaty and awesome!” stuff from the “this makes me feel like dog poo if I can only go to the gym for 35 minutes instead of 45 minutes today.”Read more...
Last week’s Dara-Lynn Weiss debacle reminded me of one of the biggest problems with this whole, endless is weight health? debate: When we focus relentlessly on weight and beauty, we teach girls that their entire value comes from their weight and/or beauty. Just ask all those teenage girls posting YouTube videos about it. This is why I push to separate conversations about health from conversations about size. In our culture, right now, the latter is just too tangled up in the Beauty Myth — start talking about weight or BMI as a non-judgmental health marker and you’ll all too quickly veer into fat-shaming territory with all its moralizing rhetoric. When we don’t even know for sure that it’s the actual excess weight causing the problems, why go there? Let’s talk about enjoying nutritious foods, finding fun ways to stay active and other healthy lifestyle choices that can be taught in a less judgmental fashion.
But it’s not enough to get the Fat Talk out of our health conversations. Girls are hit with the Holy Trinity of Pretty/Pink/Princess from infancy (for a more thorough explanation of how that happens, check out this post on Peggy Orenstein‘s Cinderella Ate My Daughter). So even if you can teach them that these things have nothing to do with health (a major victory in and of itself), they’re learning that they have everything to do with making friends and being popular, liked by boys, successful, and so on. Pretty/Pink/Princess may not sound so evil on the surface, and to be clear: I’m writing this as a former girl who ardently loved all things pretty/pink/princess and I hope to one day have a daughter and I will certainly enjoy the heck out of it if/when she goes through the PPP phase.
But when we narrow our girls’ options down to nothing but Pretty/Pink/Princess, we’ve got trouble. Because that’s when they start thinking the “Am I pretty or ugly?” question is the most important thing ever, that’s when it gets more difficult to unpick Pretty from other valued character traits, that’s when the cycle continues.
All of this is a long way of telling you about a fun baby present that I put together for my friend Amy, who is expecting a baby girl in June. I have no doubt that Amy is going to teach her daughter that the world is wide open and full of possibilities in addition to Pretty/Pink/Princess. (Because this isn’t about eradicating the PPP — I probably can’t make that clear enough. It’s about presenting plenty of other options, so the PPP stays in its place and doesn’t become the all-powerful narrative of a girl’s life.)
Awhile back, Amy had mentioned wanting suggestions of books to read to the baby so I put together a collection of all of my favorite books from childhood featuring brave (non-princess-y) girls as the main characters. My mom (who is awesome and responsible for making sure I read most of these in the first place!) and sister (also a prolific reader who now works in education) brainstormed with me to pull together the ultimate list. Then I winnowed it down to my favorites, which was delightfully difficult. There really are a huge number of amazing books with strong heroines out there — despite how many times you had to read The Red Badge of Courage in school (blergh).
So here’s my list, pictured above and Amazon-linked below. Appropriate for ages 3 (or however young you can push Madeline on ‘em?) to 18 (and really, well beyond), with nary a princess in sight. Okay, there’s one but she’s very ordinary. There’s also one garishly pink cover (thanks publishing industry!) and some of these girls happen to be pretty, but that’s really not the point.
And I can guarantee that none of them ever so much as mentions their weight.Read more...
I admit, when this whole Vogue Mom story broke, I had to take some serious deep breaths. (In case you’ve been under a rock all week: Socialite Dara-Lynn Weiss wrote an essay in the April Vogue — the “shape” issue, ha! — about her obsessive efforts to get her seven-year-old to lose 16 pounds.) And when Ms. Weiss then announced that her fun anecdotes about screaming in Starbucks and forbiding her daughter to eat cupcakes (before sneaking two herself) resulted in a book deal… I had to take a lot of deep breaths. Because that is a thing. That is happening. Yeah.Read more...
You guys, I am seriously SO OVER this story. By which I mean: I am so over the fact that there is still a story to tell here.
First of all, we’ve known — anecdotally, at least — that keratin hair straightening treatments contain toxic chemicals ever since Siobhan and Alexandra were inspired to write No More Dirty Looks because of their $400 hair disaster.Read more...