Tag Archives: obesity

What I’m Reading (And Writing. And Eating.)

Work In Progress

First, a little book update: Last week, I reached that stage of research where you (or at least I) start to despair that none of it is making any sense and everything I thought I knew was wrong. I’ve been exploring lots of disparate threads, having conversations with all kinds of eaters, and was not yet seeing the connections I need to find. I sent a panicked email to a wise writer friend, who immediately called me up and said, “Start writing. 500 words. Go.” And she was right. 500 words turned into 1000 words the next day, and 1000 the day after, and now here we are a week later and I have almost 7,000 words, 5,000 of which are maybe okay and the start of a chapter.

That mess on the big board above is my first stab at said chapter’s outline. Don’t zoom in! None of it is ready for primetime. But I promised behind-the-scenes peeks in this newsletter, so welcome to the inside of my brain. I like to map things out visually, so after I do a bunch of writing, I like to print it all out, cut it apart and puzzle piece it back together with Scotch tape and markers. (The metal board is a recent upgrade, to protect our walls from the creative process.) For some reason, my arguments make more sense when I can see them this way. And it’s just satisfying because suddenly it looks like I have a lot of work done.


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Does the Vogue Mom Give Away Our Childhood Obesity Fears — Or Our Beauty Obsessions?


Dara-Lynn Weiss and Vogue by Virginia Sole-Smith on Slate's XXfactor

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.


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[Never Say Diet] Do Women Need (To Be) Fat?

Why Women Need Fat Gaulin Lassek

The main thesis behind Why Women Need Fat (out this month from William Lassek, MD and Steven Gaulin, PhD of the University of Pittsburgh) is super fascinating and builds nicely on the Fat Trap business we were talking about yesterday: Your body fights weight loss tooth and nail because evolution has found fat to be quite handy in a survival of the species sort of way. So I went ahead and blogged about all of that on Never Say Diet.

But, full disclosure: I haven’t read the book yet. I’m still waiting to get a copy into my hot little hands, so I had to restrict my analysis to the unfortunate, red flag-waving subtitle (How “Healthy” Food Makes Us Gain Weight and the Surprising Solution to Losing It Forever — oh boy!) and, more encouragingly, the way Dr. Gaulin describes their research in this Salon.com interview.

So I’ll be back with a more in-depth post about the book itself once I, you know, read it. Ahem. Yes, tireless and thorough reporting is what you can expect around here.

In the meantime, let me clarify that I’m not blaming Gaulin or Lassek for the subtitle. My guess is that was the publisher’s doing, as part of their “now this is how you sell a book about evolutionary biology!” strategy. They’re probably not altogether wrong either. But it does put the researchers between a bit of a rock and a hard place because they are simultaneously trying to explain why we’re probably all supposed to be a bit fatter than the Beauty Trap (and the diet industry) allows — and yet also, that we’d all weigh less than we currently do if our diet wasn’t so heavy in highly processed omega-6 fatty acids or “bad fats.” (There’s another red flag.)

Depressingly, I guess that sounds about right: Read more…

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[Never Say Diet] Obesity, Custody Battles and the Good Divorce

iVillage Never Say Diet Obesity Custody Battles

Only everything, if you ask a certain class of divorce lawyers. Which the Wall Street Journal did. I’m finding the whole thing infuriating over on Never Say Diet today, and it’s not just because it’s offensive to fat people — and thus, to everyone with a body. To be honest, I’ve been riled up ever since I read Susan Gregory Thomas’s piece in the Sunday New York Times about whether “The Good Divorce” is really all that good for kids. She ultimately concludes that it can be, but along the way she cites research finding “children of divorce score worse in math and social skills, and suffer from lower self-esteem than those from non-divorce households, period.” And if you check out the comments over on Peggy Orenstein’s Motherlode post on the story, it’s clear that plenty of readers are skeptical of the concept as well.


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[Never Say Diet] Yes, You Can Be Fat and Healthy

Today’s Never Say Diet post is about a really exciting new study which finds that about 20 percent of obese people are perfectly healthy — as in, no clogged arteries, no OMIGODDeathFat (as Ragen likes to call it). Which is a big enough percentage in my book to end the debate and officially say no, you cannot diagnose someone’s health based on their size, Body Mass Index, or number on a scale.

Well you can. But you have a 1 in 5 chance of being wrong.

Which means we need to continue the discussion that we have on here all the time about how we can separate weight from our understanding of health so that when we talk about wanting to be healthy, we mean sustaining healthy lifestyle habits (eating well, exercising more, getting enough sleep, managing stress). And when we talk about wanting to lose weight, we’re talking about aesthetics and changing our bodies to meet a beauty standard.


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[Never Say Diet] How Diets Eat Your Brain Cells

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith diets eat brain cells

Another day, another Getty Stock Image of Hungry Girl Stares Down Food. It’s as stirring as their “Woman Laughing Alone With Salad” series, but with just a touch more ennui.

Regardless, today’s Never Say Diet post is about how your brain cells start “self-cannibalizing” to send you hunger signals when you diet a lot and don’t eat enough. But where I see a good reason not to diet, the War On Obese People sees…a new AK-47.

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[Never Say Diet] Why Loving Your Body Won’t Kill You

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Loving Your Body Won't Kill You

No matter what Glamour magazine tells you.

And full disclosure: I heart Glamour (and ladymags in general) and I write for them, so this isn’t an “ohh those damn women’s magazines…” kind of rant.

But I think Jess Weiner took a swing and a miss in “Loving My Body Almost Killed Me,” which everyone is talking about, including the Today Show. Check it out, then read my take over on Never Say Diet, and let’s chat about it. Because it kind of brings us back to that question Lauren asked a few weeks ago:


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[Never Say Diet] Shut Up and Be Nice To Yourself

That’s basically the gist of this new study that I’m talking about on Never Say Diet today. Not only is Fat Talk self-destructive (and boring for the rest of us), it actually makes you less likely to do the healthy lifestyle stuff that leads to weight loss. Or just being healthy.

And we want you to be healthy. It’s really what we come here to do.

PS. If you’ve been trying to comment over on iVillage and wondering if you’re technologically challenged: It’s not you! The site has some major comment glitch that is taking awhile to resolve. Fingers crossed we get it sorted out this week. In the meantime, you can always comment here or over on the Never Say Diet Facebook Page. I love hearing from y’all!

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    The Eating Insinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole Smith

    Pre-order now!