One Dollar Diet project raises funds for African mission trip

29th December 2008

One Dollar Diet project raises funds for African mission trip

by Rachel

Remember the One Dollar Diet Project in which a couple lived on a dollar-a-day food budget to draw awareness to issues of poverty? Another couple are embarking on a similar project, this time to fundraise for their upcoming mission trip to Zambia, a country where living on just $1 a day is the norm. Karla and Amy started the organization Hope Heals to aid people around the globe who are in need. They begin their One Dollar project in January, but have already started blogging about their preparations and goals here. Complicating the project is the fact that Karla is gluten-allergic, but the couple plan to stick to their rules of accepting no free food or coupons. Their goal is to raise $5,500 by May. For more information or to donate money, contact the couple here.

posted in Class & Poverty, Fundraisers, Non-profits | 1 Comment

25th December 2008

Merry Christmas!

by Rachel
Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all F-word readers! Like many of you, I will be spending some much-needed time with family and friends in the coming days. I hope everyone has a joyous and happy holiday filled with family, good friends and yuletide cheer. In keeping with tradition, here’s a round-up of all things festive.

Christmas in America hasn’t always been the benevolent, family-centered holiday we celebrate today. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Company so feared Christmas’ pagan origins that they banned it altogether. Learn more about the fascinating social history of Christmas in Stephen Nissenbaum’s “The Battle for Christmas” — review and synopsis here.

The History Channel also offers a great history lesson on Christmas in America, as well as the origins of Santa, his famous reindeer, Christmas toys, the Christmas tree, yuletide traditions worldwide and much more.

The New York Times is renowned for its fabulous recipes and it now offers a searchable archive of its Christmas favorites, too. Reduce kitchen chaos with 101 simple appetizers in 20 minutes or less and the 60-minute gourmet or try your hand at Louisiana gingerbread or cane syrup popcorn balls.

Humming a Christmas tune but forget the words? Learn them all over again with these helpful song lyrics.

Speaking of Christmas songs… Canadian folk-rock singer Bruce Cockburn is not only my absolute favorite singer/songwriter for his songs of social justice and inspiration, he’s also my favorite Christmas song performer. Listen to samples of his Christmas CD on Amazon.

Hoping to meet a certain someone under the mistletoe? Find out how this romantic tradition got its start.

Clement Clarke Moore gained historical fame with his poem “The Night Before Christmas,” but did you know that the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea got its name from the New York country estate and grounds Moore owned there? Learn more about the man behind the poem and reread the classic taleor the 1914 version of it.

Many of us are familiar with the song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but the tune is far more than a repetitious Christmas melody with some truly odd gifts. Find out what it all means and why here.

After you’ve caught up on your Christmas history, quiz yourself with these online Christmas trivia challenges.

My family has always celebrated Christmas, but other religions and cultures have their own seasonal celebrations. Learn more about Chanuka (Hannukah) and Kwanzaa.

Christmas is all about giving, but it’s nice to get, too. Post your Christmas lists or share what Santa brought you in this thread on the-F-word messageboard.

And finally, holiday eating can spark fear into even the most merry of hearts when you struggle with an eating disorder or are a recovering dieter. I’ve compiled a list of tips that have helped me along with tips from other organizations on how to manage the minefield that is the holiday feast.

Most of my family recognizes Christmas as a religious holiday, but even so we were always more into Santa and his reindeer than we were Jesus and the Magi. Being Buddhist, I now celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, but these religious differences haven’t affected our family yuletide traditions. Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Arts & Culture, Arts and Music, Book Reviews, Eating Disorders, Personal, Pop Culture, Recipes | 1 Comment

24th December 2008

In-your-face guerrilla campaign targets sufferers of bulimia

by Rachel
German ad bulimia stickers

A German organization has launched a rather creative way to battle eating disorders and raise awareness of them. ProMädchen, whose name translates to “Pro Girl” according to Babelfish, has teamed up with ad agency red cell of Dusseldorf to create a guerrilla campaign that’s literally in the faces of those who struggle with bulimia.

The group is slapping stickers in the shape of bloody vomit on toilet seat lids in schools, universities, colleges and canteens. The sticker’s message reads, “Bulimia is curable” and lists contact information for additional help. I think this is a clever and effective way to specifically target those who need help the most. Kudos to ProMädchen.

posted in Eating Disorders | 12 Comments

24th December 2008

Stay away from these 30 diet pills, warns FDA

by Rachel

It’s the time of year when cloying New Year’s weight-loss resolutions abound, so this warning by the FDA is an especially timely one. The government is warning consumers to stay far, far away from 30 new weight-loss products that contain unlisted and potentially dangerous ingredients. According to the Associated Press:

The pills are advertised as “natural” fat busters and have intriguing names like Imelda Perfect Slim and Zhen de Shou. Some suggest they are innovative “herbal” remedies from Asia.

But the Food and Drug Administration on Monday said the concoctions contain unlisted ingredients, including powerful appetite-suppressing drugs and a suspected carcinogen. …FDA lab testing found 28 dietary supplements that could land unsuspecting users in the emergency room.

Many of the supplements contain sibutramine, a powerful appetite suppressant described as a “chemical cousin of amphetamines.” Chances are, it probably won’t induce weight loss, the real and lasting kind anyway, but it just might give you a heart attack, stroke, heart palpitations or other health problems. Other supplements contain phenolphyalein, a chemical traditionally used as a laxative, but is now being withdrawn from the market because of cancer risks. Neither of these ingredients are disclosed on diet pill labels.

The FDA is considering criminal charges against some of the below companies, because they have not responded to requests for recalls. No one should be taking diet pills anyway, but if you’re still looking for that mythical and magic weight-loss elixir, be sure to avoid these products at least:

Fatloss Slimming, 2 Day Diet, 3x Slimming Power, 5x Imelda Perfect Slimming, 3 Day Diet Japan Lingzhi, 24 Hours Diet, 7 Diet Day/Night Formula, 7 Day Herbal Slim, 8 Factor Diet, 999 Fitness Essence, Extrim Plus and GMP.

Imelda Perfect Slim, Lida DaiDaihua, Miaozi Slim Capsules, Perfect Slim, Perfect Slim 5x, Phyto Shape, ProSlim Plus, Royal Slimming Formula, Slim 3 in 1, Slim Express 360, Slimtech, Somotrin, Superslim, TripleSlim, Zhen de Shou, Venom Hyperdrive 3.0

posted in Diets, Drugs & Medications, New Research | 4 Comments

23rd December 2008

“Biggest Losers” or “Longest Sustainers” ?

by Rachel

Anyone who’s ever bought a lottery ticket or played a slot machine knows how powerful a motivator money can be. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that well-designed monetary prods can spur weight loss, too. The basic premise of the study is this: The government should put monetary incentives where fat people otherwise put their food.

For-profit weight loss isn’t anything new. Paid spokescelebrities have been doing this for decades in the promotion of diet plans and pills. NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”, which just crowned its sixth season winner, is perhaps the best example of the extreme and often dangerous lengths people will go to for a $250k cash prize and national notoriety. Remember season one winner Ryan Benson, who lost 122 pounds in just 12 weeks? After the show’s end, he fully admitted to losing the weight by drinking mostly lemon water spiked with cayenne pepper, fasting for days on end, and exercising like a rubber suit-wearing Richard Simmons on crack. By the end of the competition, he was severely dehydrated and was peeing blood. In the five days after the show’s end, he gained 32 pounds in just water weight alone. And he didn’t stop there; his current weight is now comparable to his pre-show weight. Other past contestants say they have to exercise four hours a day, six days a week just to maintain the weight loss incurred in the show’s total-exercise-immersion environment. And to give you an idea of just how truly drastic the Biggest Losers’ results are: This season’s winner, Michelle, lost 110 pounds in just four seven months. During my year’s bout with anorexia, I lost just 65 pounds more than her and my behaviors and attendant weight loss qualified me as mentally ill.

Multiple studies have shown that it’s not extra weight so much that contributes to health problems as it is the vicious cycles of yo-yo dieting that’s to blame. In other words, it’s better to be consistently fat than to be fat, thin, fat again, thinner, fat once more, thinner again, ad nauseum. Government reviews of weight loss studies put the failure rate of diets between 90 and 95 percent, with most dieters regaining not only the weight they lost but more within five years. The health risks of yo-yo dieting are well established, with other studies confirming that dieting, ironically, tends to make fat people even fatter. Don’t get me wrong: Lasting weight loss is entirely possible in people who are at higher-than-healthy-weights for them; I’ve personally maintained a more than 100 pound loss in a healthy and non-dieting way for five years now. But those select few who do succeed in sustaining a weight loss for any length of time will be the first to tell you that they do not diet and that it’s generally more difficult to sustain a weight loss than it is to lose the weight. (The latter is not as difficult for me because the lifestyle changes I adopted that aid in my weight management are as much spiritual and ethical in nature as they are for health.)

So, here’s what I propose: Instead of paying those “biggest losers,” let’s instead pay those “longest sustainers.” Or, here’s another novel idea: Instead of providing financial incentives for people to lose weight, let’s instead use those federal funds to subsidize fresh fruits and vegetables, so that people of all socio-economic levels will have more of an “incentive” to eat healthier foods.

posted in Diets, Feminist Topics, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, New Research | 7 Comments

22nd December 2008

Win it: “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters”

by Rachel

Courtney Martin’s “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women” was released in paperback recently and I’m giving away a copy to one lucky reader. For details on how to enter and win, read on… Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Body Image, Book Reviews, Eating Disorders, Fat Acceptance, Personal | 11 Comments

22nd December 2008

Open thread: Holiday baking

by Rachel
christmas cookies

The New York Times had a heartwarming story out yesterday on 79-year-old Jean Scardinia, who bakes more than 6,000 cookies each year as gifts. The San Franciscan senior stays up to 3 a.m. each season to bake the more than 500 batches of 16 varieties of cookies she gives away to about 85 people each Christmas, a tradition she started in 1951.

Like Scardinia, my mom used to also bake cookies and make candy to give as gifts when times were tight and money scarce. Cookies are relatively cheap to make, they’re a gift from the heart and everyone loves them. Our recipes were of the standard variety — snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies dotted with thumbprints — but the moments spent in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother were what I most remember and treasure. I baked some cookies yesterday for Brandon and last week took cupcakes and banana bread into work, but they’re all made from mixes, requiring only an egg, stick of butter and/or spoonful of applesauce and the setting of the oven timer.

How about you? Does your family have similar baking traditions? Do you have any special and treasured family recipes to share? What are your own favorite holiday baked goods?

posted in Arts & Culture, Personal, Recipes | 22 Comments

19th December 2008

Experts debate making binge eating disorder official

by Rachel

It’s estimated that anorexia affects about one percent of the U.S. population and bulimia 4 percent. Binge eating disorder eclipses both, affecting about 10 percent of the population but it has yet to be recognized as a diagnostic eating disorder unto itself. Despite the vast range of eating disordered behaviors, there are exactly three disorders one can be classified with: Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia, and Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (ED-NOS). Binge eating disorder falls into the latter category, a vague catch-all diagnosis for people who don’t fit one or more of the criteria for anorexia and bulimia. Those classified with ED-NOS can range from a morbidly obese binge-eater to a 90-pound girl who meets every criteria for anorexia, except she still menstruates.

That might soon change. According to the New York Times, panels of psychiatrists are in the process of updating and revising the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). The current edition of the manual, the DSM-IV, was published in 2000. The manual’s importance cannot be overstated. It’s used by doctors to make a diagnosis and provides insurance companies with diagnostic codes without which the insurers will not reimburse patients’ claims for treatment. Conditions now up for debate to be added as official diagnoses include compulsive shopping, gender identity, conditions affecting children, sensory processing disorder and also binge eating.

The American Psychiatric Association publishes the manual and according to the Times, the process has become such a contentious exercise that for the first time the APA has required its contributors to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Those scientists who accepted an invitation to work on the new manual, a prestigious assignment, agreed to limit their income from drug makers and other sources to $10,000 a year for the duration of the job, so as to better insure that pharmaceutical perks don’t unduly influence the authors’ decisions.

The fact that binge eating disorder is up for consideration is certainly encouraging news, but it’s not yet a done deal. There are some mental health experts who don’t think that it should be classified as a disorder at all. Dr. Michael First, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia who edited the fourth edition of the manual but is not involved in the fifth, is among them. As quoted in the Times article:

“A lot of people want that included in the manual,” Dr. First said, “and there’s some research out there, some evidence that drugs are helpful. But binge eating is also a normal behavior, and you run the risk of labeling up to 30 percent of people with a disorder they don’t really have.”

Frankly, I don’t understand how experts like Dr. First recognize bulimia as a legitimate mental health disorder and not binge eating disorder. Sure, binge eating in itself can be a natural, non-disordered behavior — food eating competitions are just one example, stuffing oneself beyond fullness at Thanksgiving is another — but like all eating disorders, binge eating disorder is about much more than food. The generally accepted criteria for it reads similar to that for bulimia, except people with binge eating disorder don’t try to rid themselves of the extra calories through self-induced purging or exercising. Otherwise, the psychological anguish and emotional torment is much the same. In addition to psychotherapy, there are medications that have been shown to help people with binge eating disorder (Topamax and Wellbutrin, for example). If binge eating disorder were included in the manual as a legitimate eating disorder, those people who struggle with it might have an easier time getting insurers to cover the treatment and medication they so desperately need.

In any case, the fact that binge eating disorder is up for serious consideration for inclusion in the new manual is encouraging. As noted, psychiatrists involved in the new manual are under a gag order, but they also say that its too soon for them to have made any concrete decisions. The book is still at least three years away from publication, so only time will now tell.

posted in Eating Disorders, Mental Health, Personal | 17 Comments

18th December 2008

You’ve come a long way, baby — or are we going backwards?

by Rachel

“When ends don’t meet it’s easier to justify the means…” Bruce Cockburn

My dad, now 52, began smoking at age 14. He also has asthma and, by medical standards, is morbidly obese, both of which, coupled with his nicotine habit, contributes to his poor health and mobility. For my older brother and myself, the daily images of seeing our father hack, cough and sputter his way through life, not to mention the many hospitalizations he’s had for illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis, have always proved a deterrent to smoking. I’ve never been tempted to light up, not ever, but it didn’t stop my younger brother and sister from taking up the habit.

And my siblings are in good company. According to the American Lung Association, nearly 6,000 children under 18 years of age start smoking each day; of these, nearly 2,000 will become regular smokers for a total of 800,000 annually. The ALA estimates that at least 4.5 million U.S. adolescents smoke cigarettes, or about one in four teens. Anti-smoking groups have tried valiantly to discourage teen smoking, from raising cigarette taxes to implementing school-based efforts and state and national campaigns. After being diagnosed with cancer in the 1990s, the ubiquitous Marlboro Man appeared in TV spots warning of the dangers of smoking, while edgy “Truth” TV ads try to appeal to kids on a hipper plane. Activist groups have harped at length on the health dangers of smoking, including the big ones heart disease and cancer. They’ve initiated lawsuits, enacted smoking bans, posed as Cops in Shops and lobbied for congressional reform.

But there’s one tactic anti-smoking activists haven’t tried, and according to a new study, it may be the strongest tool yet in the anti-smoking arsenal: Smoking will make you fat. Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Arts and Music, Body Image, Diets, Fat Acceptance, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, New Research, Personal | 5 Comments

17th December 2008

Contributors wanted for girls self-esteem book

by Rachel

A fellow Feministing is writing a book on self-esteem for girls and she’s asked the community for some help. Her goal, as she describes, “is to write a book that will encourage girls to be brave, smart, enthusiastic and conscientious people in this world.” That’s certainly something I and I’m sure many readers here can get behind, so I wanted to repost the request here as well. Here are some of the questions posed to readers:


1. When was the first time you remember someone made a comment about your weight? What was the comment? How did you feel about it afterwards? Did you do something about it?
2. What were the comments you most remember? Do think they affected your life in any way and how so? Did these comments prevent you from doing things like going to school, going out with friends and so forth?
3. Have you ever been on a diet? Or have you ever exercises heavily? If so how old were you when you started? What kind of weight loss plan was it? How do you feel about loosing weight?
4. Do you still continue to diet or exercise heavily?


1. How did you learn about menstruation?
2. How did you learn about sex and reproduction?
3. How did you feel after you learned about it? Did you feel more positive about your body or negative?
4. Is it something you openly discuss with other people?
5. Did anyone ever make comments about your body parts such as body hair, breasts, and so forth? Did these comments affect your daily life?


1. What do you love about your body today?
2. What do you dislike about your body today?


1. What do you like about your personality, your mind, your talent etc?
2. What do you dislike about your personality, your mind, your talent etc?


1. If you could give a self-conscious girl who is 10 years old a piece of advice what would it be?
2. If you could give a self-conscious girl who is 15 years old a piece of advice what would it be?
3. If you could give a self-conscious woman who is 20 years old a piece of advice what would it be?

Send your answers to rootedwillow (at)

posted in Body Image | 4 Comments

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