Feel Good Friday

3rd September 2010

Feel Good Friday

by Rachel

Spousal/partner weight gain is a frequent letter seen among the sundry list of gripes and complaints seen by advice columnists and few columnists get it right with their responses.  The Washington Post’s Carolyn Hax has always been a moderate voice of compassion when it comes to such weighty issues.  She’s on vacation this week and readers are giving the advice.  Here’s a gem from today’s column in regards to a previous letter from a man who blamed his infidelity on his wife’s recent weight gain .

I’ve always believed that every woman is beautiful. Every woman. If I don’t see the beauty in one, that’s MY problem, not hers. It’s up to me to work harder to see the beauty, not up to her to make herself live up to whatever my standards might be.


posted in Body Image, Body-Affirming, Fat Acceptance, Rachel | 11 Comments

19th April 2010

2010 Love Your Body poster contest winners announced

by Rachel

Sorry for the light posting as of late.  I’ve had this sinus infection now for the past three weeks that’s really kicking my ass.  Oh, yes… and I’ve somehow ended up with not one, but TWO foster kittens, one of whom has a fractured foot.  Sigh…  When it rains it pours and it seems to be pouring cats here.   In the meantime, check out the winners of the 2010 Love Your Body poster contest.  The annual contest is sponsored by the National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation, a campaign of the Women’s Health Project.  Click on each image to see a larger-res version or to send as an e-card.

2010 Love Your Body poster contest
Deepsy Patel
Conyers, GA
Category 1 (open)

2010 Love Your Body poster contest
Sarah Neuser
Eagan, MN
Category 2 (university and college)

2010 Love Your Body poster contest
Shannon Wu
Orange Village, OH
Category 3 (high school)

2010 Love Your Body poster contest
Jerrika Shi
Intramuros Manila Phillippines
Category 4 (middle & elementary school)

posted in Body Image, Fat Acceptance, Rachel | 4 Comments

13th April 2010

More quick links: NEDA grant and NAAFA scholarship

by Rachel

If you’ve sent me an email in the past few weeks and I haven’t responded, I apologize.  I’m normally not such an inconsiderate clod, but I’ve been quite busy with real life commitments — family, animal rescue work, photo class, freelance web design job — as of late and your email may have also gotten lost in the veritable heap of spam I receive each day from Nigerian scam artists and lazy PR shills trying to sell me the latest magical weight loss pill or diet.  In any case, here’s a few opportunities from my overflowing inbox that I want to be sure to pass on.

NEDA Young Investigator grant — (3) grants at $10,000 each

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is pleased to sponsor this small grants program to support research in the areas of eating disorders etiology, prevention and treatment. Through the grants, the organization seeks to expand innovative eating disorders research while supporting investigators in the early stages of their careers in the eating disorders field.

Any junior investigator worldwide who works in the field of eating disorders and has completed their terminal graduate level degree and training is eligible. Trainees (e.g. students, grad students, residents) are not eligible and investigators must be within seven years following the end of their training. Individuals who previously served or currently serve as a principal investigator on a substantial externally funded grant (e.g. RO1, RO3, or K award in the U.S.) are ineligible.

For more information about research grants, please visit our website.  If you have any questions, please send them to  The deadline to submit proposals is April 21, 2010.

NAAFA HAES Scholarship — $1,000

In the hopes of encouraging further study across a variety of disciplines that incorporate Health At Every Size (HAES) tenets and principles, NAAFA is offering a new HAES Scholarship to be awarded at their 2010 Convention being held at the Westin San Francisco Hotel in Millbrae , California , August 5-9, 2010.

Undergraduate or graduate students from accredited academic institutions, which utilize Health at Every Size tenets in their studies and research are eligible to apply for the NAAFA HAES Scholarship. Students interested in being considered for this scholarship can find complete details and an application at:

The application deadline is April 30, 2010.

posted in Eating Disorders, Fat Acceptance, Rachel | Comments Off

23rd March 2010

Chicken pills and big bottoms

by Rachel

NPR yesterday launched a new online series called “The Kitchen Sisters“, which seeks to explore the hidden world of girls around the world and the women they become. The first series premiered yesterday and focused on girls and women in Jamaica, who go to amazing — and dangerous — lengths to achieve a cultural standard of the idealized woman.  Read the story and listen to the clip here.

In some African cultures, being fat is a symbol of wealth and beauty. Indeed in Nigeria, young women there often enter “fattening rooms” for six months to a year and are sometimes even force-fed before they are considered robust enough to marry. This trend of associating fatness with wealth and prosperity is most often seen among the more have-not developing nations, but for a long while also proved to be the cultural norm in the U.S.  In Jamaica, the “healthy body girl” is at least between 160 and 210 pounds and men especially admire women with “big bottoms.”  Carolyn Cooper and Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, lecturers of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, and Carol Turpin of St. Catherine, Jamaica, who is the head of the 4-H Club, explain in more detail:

“Most males, they love to see women with big bottoms. The whole idea of Coca-Cola bottle shape,” Turpin said. “I don’t want a meager woman,’ that’s how the men would speak. … They’re figuring if you look meager, you look poor, in the sense that you’re not being taken care of.”

“If you have a big bottom that means you’re sitting on a lot of power,” said Cooper.

“If you have no meat on your bones, the society can’t see your wealth, your progress, your being,” said Stanley-Niaah.

While it might be refreshing to know that me and my fat bottom would be crowned queen in Jamaica, it’s important to remember that beauty ideals exist precisely because they are often unachievable for most people.  And in Jamaica, a dangerous trend emerged in the 1990s among Jamaican girls and women desperate to pack on the pounds in the form of “chicken pills” — the same pills farmers give chickens to make them grow faster. The Jamaican government has banned the chicken pill for both chickens and women, but it’s still available across the island in farm stores and on the street.  Dr. Neil Persadsingh, a dermatologist in Kingston, says the pill, which contains arsenic, can have severe side effects, ranging from numbness, diarrhea and dermatitis in people. And arsenic is a cumulative poison that can build up in the body and cause cancer.

But as globalization takes hold of the island nation, another competing form of beauty is emerging: the idolization of white thinness. Although rotundity is still seen as beautiful, slim and trim is also quickly coming into vogue, as well as the longtime goal of appearing “whiter.” Donna Hope, a lecturer in reggae studies at the University of the West Indies says that, like women in all cultures, Jamaican women are using all kinds of artifice, hair extensions, eyelash extensions and skin bleaching as a form of enhancement. The cosmetic concoctions – a mix of toothpaste and curry powder — and are sold in unmarked plastic bags in downtown markets. They’re rubbed on the skin and “work” by literally burning the epidermis.

The complicated body politic in Jamaica might seem polarizing at first, but it isn’t all that contradictory when you consider that the nation emerged out of slavery. Here’s Cooper again:

“There’s a kind of anorexic, Eurocentric model of beauty. Also, a much more Afrocentric body type that is valorized,” explained Cooper. “We still have a racist legacy in which the perception is reinforced that the lighter your skin is, the more beautiful you are, the further you can go in the culture, the more socially accepted you are. Still, in Jamaica, a lot of positions of power are occupied by people who are light-skinned. And the attitude is, if light skin is in, I can get it, too.”

But Cooper sees signs of optimism, too. Jamaican beauty contests traditionally crown lighter-skinned contestants, but three years ago, Zahra Redwood — a Rastafarian woman with organic dreadlocks, broad nose and full lips – won Miss Universe. Fifty years ago, that kind of image would never be paraded on a stage as beautiful, says Cooper.

Fat bottoms. Chicken pills. Bleaching powders. It all may seem strange and bizarre to the rest of us, but the whole discourse of dissatisfaction and anxiety about the body is a common thread among most, if not all, cultures.  In Jamaica, women take chicken pills.  In America, we down Fen-phen and diet pills.  If women have anything in common with our sisters worldwide, it’s that the natural body is never enough.

I’m excited to hear the rest of the series — and they’re looking for more stories. Call the NPR Message Line at 202-408-9576 or share your photos, audio and video here.

posted in Body Image, Fat Acceptance, Feminist Topics, Race Issues, Rachel | 11 Comments

22nd February 2010

NEDAW: 10 Facebook groups you should join

by Rachel

This week marks National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW), and so we will be posting tools/resources/tips/personal stories and more this week in support of eating disorder recovery.  To kick the week off, how about checking out and joining these supportive Facebook groups (because isn’t everyone and your grandma on Facebook?).

  • Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action: The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action promotes the recognition of eating disorders as a policy concern. This Facebook group was created so that people will know that there is hope. It is for everyone who is alarmed by the prominence and danger of eating disorders, but is unaware of what can be done to change it. We can ask our government to help create actual policies that will translate into advancing the goal of eating disorder prevention and recovery…
  • Blogging for [ED] Awareness & Recovery: A group of bloggers that write specifically about eating disorders, whether a loved one has been diagnosed or you have been yourself.  This group is *NOT* for pro-ed blogs! These are strictly recovery and awareness-minded bloggers!
  • I’m making fat socially acceptable and I’m not sorry:  This is a fat acceptance group. This group is for people who one day stumbled upon the truth that fat is not as bad as it is made out to be. In fact, most of the time fat isn’t bad at all – and even in the cases where it is (where is causes mobility or other issues) it isn’t being treated properly, and fat hatred is only hurting the issue…
  • Dear Eating Disorder,: This is a group for those of us who suffer from an eating disorder can come and write a letter to let ED know exactly what we think of it. Whether you are recovering or recovered. Whether you are struggeling or in a good place. Whether the Eating Disorder is runining your life or the life of a friends or family members its time it should know. Tell your Eating Disorder your thoughts and feelings about it. Breakup with the Eating Disorder if you want!!!
  • Start a Revolution.  Stop hating your body.: is an attempt to raise awareness about the vast array of problems that stem from body consciousness and lack of esteem including, but not limited to: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder, binge eating disorder, depression, and general dissatisfaction. Furthermore we acknowledge that society today has constructed a multi-billion dollar industry designed to perpetuate the desire for unattainable beauty while capitalizing on products for self-improvement. Our mission is to end corporate dominance over body esteem.
  • Men Get Eating Disorders, Too: is a web and publicity campaign that aims to raise awareness of male eating disorders to enable men to get support. The site provides essential information and advice, links to support and a message board.
  • Academy for Eating Disorders: The AED is a leading global professional association committed to promoting innovative eating disorders research,education, treatment and prevention.
  • Eating Disorders Anonymous: For those with eating disorders looking for support OR someone with a loved one suffering and needing advice as to what to do OR supporting friends with eating disorders OR wanting to know more about eating disorders and their danger [this group’s content is public, so be forewarned that it’s not exactly “anonymous,” per se).

And, of course, be sure to join The-F-Word’s Facebook page, as well as friends of the blog: Big Fat Deal and Feed Me!. Know of any other great Facebook or MySpace groups? Give them a shout out in the comments below!

f you’re slacking off at work or just killing time,

posted in Anorexia, Binge Eating Disorder, Body Image, Bulimia, ED-NOS, Eating Disorders, Fat Acceptance, Mental Health, Rachel, Recovery | 1 Comment

9th December 2009

Win it: “Rethinking Thin” by Gina Kolata

by Rachel

The New Year’s weight loss self-flagellations resolutions are returning in gale force again.  Why not trade in those tired (and probably oft-repeated) resolutions for something more purposeful and constructive?  Like, say, a copy of Rethinking Thin by New York Times science writer Gina Kolata. That’s right.  I’m giving away not one, but TWO hardback copies of the book to two lucky readers now through Dec. 13.

Interested? Details and entry form after the jump Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Administrative, Book Reviews, Contests, Fat Acceptance, Rachel | 8 Comments

7th December 2009

Obsess less, enjoy more

by Rachel

I shouldn’t complain about the weather, considering that Charlynn is braving subzero Wyoming temps, but the Arctic freeze — and the fact that it gets pitch black now by 5:30 p.m. — really puts a damper on my fitness routine.  During my eating disorder recovery, I made a personal commitment to only engage in physical activities that I enjoy – biking, rollerblading, hiking, powerwalking, gardening, etc.  So far, it’s worked fabulously for me with only one niggling problem: Most, if not all, happen to be outdoors activities.  For me, the benefits of exercise justify the means, so the past few weeks have seen me back at my company’s on-site gym, scaling the Stairclimber to Nowhere while devouring magazine after magazine in an attempt to keep my mind from exploding from the insanely boring monotony.  I was perusing my latest edition of Time the other day when I read this rather ironically amusing tidbit in the mag’s 10 Questions feature with Al Roker.  Roker, as you might recall, is the formerly rotund Today Show weatherman (and new fiction author) who underwent weight loss surgery years ago and unlike other stars (ahem, Star Jones), has been very public about his weight loss struggles.

Looking back, would you go through [gastric bypass surgery] again or try another method to lose weight?

Yes, I would go through it again, because I tried every other method. But I’m not an advocate for gastric bypass. It’s dangerous surgery; 1 in 200 people dies from complications. It’s a very complex decision that people have to make for themselves, not because somebody on TV made that decision.

I should note that I support a person’s informed decision to have weight loss surgery even though I’m wary of the often underplayed serious health risks of such procedures, so I thought Roker’s response to be an appropriate one given that he is one of the most famous of “success” stories.  Then I read the next question…

Any suggestions for the rest of us on keeping the weight off?
It’s an amazing secret: if you eat less and exercise more, you will either maintain your weight or lose weight. It’s crazy. I’ve just discovered this.

So, Al tried “every other method” to lose weight EXCEPT eating less and exercising more?  He just now discovered this “amazing secret” even though it’s been widely regurgitated now since the late nineteenth century?  Really?   I’m sure reducing his stomach to the size of a thumb and amputating and rerouting parts of his digestive tract so that he can’t absorb calories and nutrients has absolutely nothing to do with him maintaining or losing weight.  Nope, just eating less and exercising more.  That’s it.  *Headsmack*

Look.  I’m not saying that eating less and exercising more won’t result in weight loss.  I lost 175 pounds in a year during my eating disorder by following virtually that same recipe, albeit by taking it to extremes.  What I am saying is that for many people, the simplistic calories in/calories burned equation simply doesn’t always parlay into any significant or lasting weight loss.  I maintain an ever-growing list of more than a dozen peer-reviewed studies from the past two decades that show that virtually every attempt to make fat people thin without risky surgery has failed completely and utterly — very few manage to keep it off.   At most, even WLS makes fat people only less fat and even then the weight regain rates among those who go under the knife are high.   Why doesn’t “eat less, move more” work?  Twin studies and adoptive studies show that the overwhelming determinant of your weight is not your willpower; it’s your genes.  Just as people are now taller than ever, so too are people now fatter.  And as Gina Kolata details in Rethinking Thin, studies show that fat people who lose large amounts of weight often see their normal-functioning metabolisms crawl to the point where they are clinically in starvation mode.  There are other forces at play, too.  For example, new studies coming out are finally confirming what so many people who take antidepressants have suspected for years: that many psychiatric medications carry weight gain as a side effect.

I don’t have many regrets from my eating disorder days.  Sure, I would love to have that time back for more constructive goals and I am sorry for the strain my disorder placed on my family, friends and coworkers, but I realize now that I was suffering from a psychiatric illness and so I try to focus on staying well and moving forward.  I do have a few regrets however, one of which are the false hopes I gave to those who sought me out for weight loss tips and advice.  As I dropped size after size, so many family members and colleagues approached me, imploring and begging me to share with them my “secret” for weight loss.  I wasn’t about to tell them that I exercised for hours on end each day and ate nothing for days and even weeks at a time before exploding into an all-out binge fest that left me cradling the toilet and calling Poison Control because the Ipecac hadn’t come back up.  No, instead I chirped brightly, “Oh, I just eat less and exercise more.”  I hated the lies I told them, but I hated the lie I harbored even more.

I’ve since maintained a weight loss of more than 30 percent healthily in the past five-plus years — without amputating my digestive system — and what I have discovered is this:  Maintaining a weight loss is hard and it’s not so easy as eating less and exercising more.  I eat a healthy diet and workout several times a week and yet the specter of weight regain always hovers at the periphery.  Despite doing everything “right,” I’ve still had an unexplained weight gain of about 25-30 pounds in the past four years.  Does it worry me?  Sure, but only because of my lingering psychological hangups about weight and not for my actual physical health, which is stellar, according to my doctor.  There are still times when I will run into someone from my past who knew me at my highest weight and they’ll ask for weight loss suggestions or for my “secret.” I don’t tell them that I eat a healthy, low-glycemic vegetarian diet, make fitness a priority and indulge in chocolate whenever the craving strikes because while that may work for me, there’s no guarantee that it will work for them. My advice, hard-earned and time-tested, is always the same: “Obsess less, enjoy more.”

posted in Body Image, Drugs & Medications, Eating Disorders, Fat Acceptance, Fat Bias, Personal, Rachel | 7 Comments

4th November 2009

New biz markets fashionable clothes for fat girls

by Rachel

While still sadly lagging in both range and affordability, plus-size clothing has come a long way from the shapeless elastic pants and sack-like tops usually reserved for fat teens and women (find great plus-size fashion tips and reviews at Pretty Pear or Young, Fat and Fabulous).  Yet there still seems to be a relative dearth of similar fashionable options for the 6 million overweight kids in the U.S. who are too large to fit into mainstream youth offerings.  According to one report, the girl’s plus-size apparel market is a $3.2 billion market that is only 16 percent served!  Capitalism, it would appear, is no match for fat-stigma.

Now a new company hopes to fill that gaping void in the children’s clothing market with fun, age-appropriate designs and sizing to fit both average and plus-size girls ages 5-12.  The mission of RealKidz Clothing is to “enhance girl’s self-esteem by providing them with age-appropriate clothing they look good in and are excited to wear.“  RealKidz founder Merrill Guerra was inspired to start the business after experiencing frustration in finding clothing for her own plus-size daughter.   Just check out some of these adorable designs:

RealKidz PLus-Size clothing for girls

I normally dislike the labeling of “real” in describing women because it all too often dismisses naturally slim women, but in the case of RealKidz, it’s entirely appropriate.  The RealKidz K-I-D-Z Sizing Model is designed to fit Slim (K), Average (I), Above Average (D) and Plus (Z) girls ages 5-12.  This system ignores industry standards and takes a much more granular approach to sizing, which, according to Guerra, “moves as close as you can find in the industry toward tailor made.”  And because the clothes are primarily sold in home-based parties (and online), girls are able to see and try on clothing in the comfort of their own or a friend’s home.  The pieces are pricey for children’s clothing, ranging from $24 for a pair of capris and $34 for a flare top, but not unexpected for a new and independent clothing line.  RealKidz is also developing an online social network group that would allow parents to “share their challenges, suggestions and joys” and also provide information from experts in fields that affect childrens’ health.

I’m sure this start-up will have the lunatic MeMe Roths of the world picketing at its virtual doors for somehow “promoting” obesity by allowing fat girls to wear something other than a potato sack, but I’m betting that it’s met with more positive reception than negative.  Even if childhood obesity is the raging public health and national security crisis it’s purported to be — despite statistics that show it hit its plateau years ago — fat kids need clothes too and othering them with a lack of options and styles only serves to further erode what are often already fragile self-esteems, which can not-so-ironically lead to even greater weight gain and health problems.   Bravo, RealKidz, bravo.

posted in Body-Affirming, Fashion, Fat Acceptance, Rachel | 13 Comments

20th October 2009

‘Too Big for My Skin’

by Rachel

Need a quick self-esteem pick-me-up?  Check out this video campaign by Desdemona. Writes the artist: “Too Big for My Skin is not just a poem. It’s a mind state. It’s an international campaign that invites you to leave your response to the video in the comment section or to submit your very own video response. It’s about positive body image, acceptance and strength. It’s about finding your voice and speaking. Join us in the campaign. More is to come!”

Read the full lyrics here.

posted in Body-Affirming, Fat Acceptance, Feminist Topics, Rachel | 9 Comments

12th October 2009

Ralph Lauren Photoshops supermodel into Olive Oyl

by Rachel

French-Swedish supermodel Filippa Hamilton is thinner than 99 percent of American women, but she’s still not thin enough for Ralph Lauren.  After legally threatening the website Boing Boing for posting a horribly digitally altered Ralph Lauren advertisement of Hamilton in which the model was Photoshopped to give her an impossibly skinny body (“Dude, her head’s bigger than her pelvis”), the fashion house admitted to Extra, “Oops, our bad.”

Here’s the image, originally posted on Photoshop Disasters for obvious reasons.  Photoshop Disasters also received a similar threatening letter and took the image down.

Ralph Lauren Filippa Hamilton Photoshop Disaster

Ralph Lauren issued the statement: “For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman’s body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately.

Quality and integrity?  There are many, myself included, who would argue that Ralph Lauren’s normal “brand” caliber presents very distorted images of women’s bodies on a daily basis, but frankly I doubt the company cares much or at all.  Jenny Lauren, the niece of Ralph Lauren, developed a serious eating disorder as a teen — her disorder, like others, was complex in nature, but she admits in her deliberately titled memoir Homesick that fashion and her family played a “huge role” in affecting her “psyche” — and even now as a mostly recovered adult, still suffers mentally and physically from it.  Violent bingeing and purging caused Jenny’s colon to herniate so that her small intestines dropped to the space between her rectum and vagina, sparking a lifetime of living with chronic pain and ailments.  Her search for relief has taken her from the Mayo Clinic to a spiritual healer in Brazil, from the East Coast to Tucson, Arizona, and she suffers still.

Ralph Lauren doesn’t seem to care that his upscale rail-thin images contributed to his niece’s eating disorder and subsequent debilitating ailments; why should he care about all the other girls (and boys) who develop eating disorders in attempts to look like the digitally slimmed models gracing his catalogue and website?  The only reason the company objected to this ad is because it went too far and made the brand an object of ridicule and not aspiration.

posted in Advertisements, Anorexia, Book Reviews, Bulimia, Eating Disorders, Family Issues, Fashion, Fat Acceptance, Fat Bias, Personal, Rachel | 28 Comments

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