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Geneen Roth releases new book on women, food and god

13th May 2010

Geneen Roth releases new book on women, food and god

by Rachel

I discovered the works of Geneen Roth early on into my eating disorder and I found them to be immensely insightful and helpful in helping me come to terms with the emotions driving my own disorder.  If you aren’t familiar with her, Roth is a writer, teacher and founder of the “Breaking Free” workshops, which she has conducted nationwide since 1979.  She is also the author of Feeding the Hungry Heart, Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating, and When Food Is Love.  Now Roth has released yet another book, which I’m sure will be a “godsend” for many struggling with food addictions and other related behaviors.  Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything is getting rave reviews, including from such luminaries as Anne Lamott.  Here’s a blurb from Amazon:

…after more than three decades of studying, teaching and writing about what drives our compul-sions with food, Geneen adds a profound new dimension to her work in Women, Food and God. She begins with her most basic concept: The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. Your relationship with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation and, yes, even God. But it doesn’t stop there. Geneen shows how going beyond both the food and feelings takes you deeper into realms of spirit and soul to the bright center of your own life.

With penetrating insight and irreverent humor, Roth traces food compulsions from subtle beginnings to unexpected ends. She teaches personal examination, showing readers how to use their relationship with food to discover the fulfillment they long for.

Your relationship with food, no matter how conflicted, is the doorway to freedom, says Roth. What you most want to get rid of is itself the doorway to what you want most: the demystification of weight loss and the luminous presence that so many of us call “God.”

Packed with revelations on every page, this book is a knock-your-socks-off ride to a deeply fulfilling relationship with food, your body…and almost everything else. Women, Food and God is, quite simply, a guide for life.

This book isn’t for everyone, obviously — it seems geared towards people who follow the Christian faith* — but the emphasis on self-examination and understanding our food-related behaviors sounds promising.  If anyone has read it, let us know what you think.

* Thanks to readers who clarified that Roth’s concept of “God” is not necessarily Christian-defined.

posted in Book Reviews, Eating Disorders, Mental Health, Rachel, Recovery | 31 Comments

2nd February 2010

What We Missed

by Rachel

A new study of 1,000 American girls between the ages of 13-17 by the Girl Scouts finds that 9 out of 10 girls say they feel pressure from the media and/or fashion industry to be skinny.  More than 80 percent of the girls polled said they’d rather see natural photos of models than digitally enhanced or altered photos.

Specialists calculate life expectancy for people with anorexia to be 25 years shorter than average.  Patients who recover however, may expect full lifespans.

A Chicago mom and grandmother shares her story of finally overcoming anorexia after 25 years of battling the disorder.

Remember the mental health parity law that passed in 2008? The The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury jointly issued new rules this week governing the law.

The Website Realself.com tracked cosmetic surgery trends by region and even city with some surprising results.

New “groundbreaking” study shows abnormal brain function in people with body dysmorphic disorder.

Eve Ensler: Girl power can save the world.

The New York Times reviews Michael Pollan’s new book, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.”

posted in Anorexia, Body Image, Book Reviews, Eating Disorders, Fashion, Food Culture, Mental Health, New Research, Pop Culture, Rachel, Recovery | 8 Comments

5th January 2010

Scholastic brings back The Babysitter’s Club!

by Rachel

If you’re, say, mid-twenties or older and female, chances are you’ve read at least one Ann M. Martin book.  Martin, of course, is the author of the The Baby-Sitter’s Club, the series about a gang of entrepreneurial 13-year-olds that taught girls everywhere the basics of capitalism.  Now, in what may be filed thus far in “Best News of the Decade,” Scholastic is re-issuing the first two books in the out-of-print, 213-title series (213? whoa!) as well as a prequel.

Outdated uncool references to perms and cassette players aside, I think the series, which was published in the mid-80s, is still relevant to today’s adolescent girl.  The characters, all diverse and unique, struggle through emotional, family and friendship issues that transcend generations.  I mean, who didn’t cry when Mimi died?  And who among us hasn’t faced at least a snob or two in the daisy chain of angst that is middle school?  The series is also pretty body-positive — the one time I recall dieting mentioned is when Stacey’s ex-best friend Laine visits and they all think it kind of dumb.  The series is being revamped to appeal to younger generations — will Claudia get in trouble for Facebooking on the job?  Will Mary Anne get caught texting to Logan in class? Let’s just hope that in bringing the series into the 21st century doesn’t go by way of the recently re-released Sweet Valley High series, which saw the “perfect size 6″ twins Elizabeth and Jessica downsized to a “perfect size 4″ and the insertion of such colloquialisms as “omigod.”

The BSC re-release is set for April.  Until then, check out this LiveJournal page called “Stoneybrook High School” with character bios on everyone the babysitters go to school with, complete with their celebrity alter egos.  Yep.  Or refresh your adolescent memories with Raina Telgemeier’s BSC comic book adaptations.  And finally, find out which babysitter you are with this handy dandy pop quiz.  I always considered myself a kind of Mary Anne/Claudia hybrid: shy and bookish, but also artsy and creative.  Who’s your favorite babysitter?

posted in Body-Affirming, Book Reviews, Pop Culture, Rachel | 14 Comments

28th December 2009

Open Post: What are you reading?

by Rachel

When I was younger, our parents would have us fill out our Santa wish lists weeks before Christmas.  As the sole bookworm in the family, I, of course, always requested a long list of books — Oliver Twist in the third-grade, Shakespeare at the age of 9 and later, in my teen years, Stephen King.  My list must have not made it to the North Pole because instead I got things like a makeup brush kit or a t-shirt screenprinted with a picture of a black labrador.  One of the joys of marrying a man who used to do all his Christmas shopping at Walgreens on Christmas Eve is that now all I do is fill out my Amazon wishlist and know that most, if not all, will be wrapped and waiting under the tree.  I’ve already devoured the two fiction books I received — Stephen King’s new book, Under the Dome and The Strain, coauthored by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro — and am now ready to dig into my non-fiction gifts.  In no particular order…

So, what’s on your reading list?  Any recommendations for the rest of us?

posted in Book Reviews, Class & Poverty, Eating Disorders, Fat History, Feminist Topics, Food History, Race Issues, Rachel, Recovery | 30 Comments

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

16th October 2009

The Digest: F-words making the news

by Rachel

Hard to swallow:  Washington mom Juliet Lee has eaten five pounds of ribs, 43 inches of cheese steak sub, 31 dozen raw oysters, 13 slices of pizza, 13 pounds of cranberry sauce, and 13 date-nut-bread-and-cream-cheese sandwiches — all within minutes.  Oh, yeah… she weighs 100 pounds and wears a size-zero.

Not only are “plus-sizes” considered taboo in high fashion, so too are large breasts. The well-endowed journalist Venetia Thompson delves into the issues supporting the busty bias in this Daily Beast editorial.

Progressive or just prejudiced?  After months of guised jabs at Rep. N.J. gubernatorial challenger Chris Christie’s weight, Democratic State Committee Chairman Joe Cryan blatantly “pounded” the issue home to supporters: “What would it feel like if the next governor weighs 350 pounds?” he asked the crowd.  Meanwhile, Sen. Raymond Lesniak told the New York Magazine that Christie “looks hideous! And unhealthy… That doesn’t portray the discipline that’s necessary to lead this state.”

Fat studies scholar Amy Farrell appeared on Colbert Nation this week to discuss fat-shaming, health at every size and her new book, Fat Shame.

Fox and Burger King apologize for mocking Jessica Simpson’s weight.

Meghan McCain: Still Republican, but I can’t help but like her anyway.  In an editorial for the Daily Beast, McCain responds to the Simpson bashing with a call to stop the fat jokes.  “My weight is the great constant in my life, no matter where I am or what I am doing it is an issue that comes up,” she writes.  “I could probably cure cancer and solve all the Republican Party’s problems, and people would still make fat jokes.”

A new study finds that the simple act of exercise itself can improve body image even if you don’t lose an iota of a pound.

D’oh!  The British government is spending more than a million U.S. dollars recreating a “healthier” version of The Simpsons in an effort it says to reduce the two-dimensional “obesity epidemic.”  The campaign, which began last Monday and will run through Christmas, replaces Homer’s much-loved beer and doughnuts with fruits and vegetables and ditches the image of the family sitting on the sofa at the beginning of each episode (the fact that families need to be slumped on the sofa to even view the campaign is overlooked).  No word on how Mr. Burns, the thin-as-a-rake, delicately fragile food minimalist, will be portrayed.

For more news that didn’t make the blog, follow us on Twitter.

posted in Advertisements, Body Snarking, Book Reviews, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Fitness/Exercise, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Politics, Pop Culture, Rachel, Television & Film | 10 Comments

14th October 2009

Food for thought: Deny the body, deny the soul

by Rachel

Now that I’ve finished grad school, I’m finally able to get to those towering stacks of books I’ve amassed throughout the past few years but have never had time to read.  I’m currently reading Michelle Stacey’s Consumed: Why Americans Love, Hate and Fear Food.  Stacey is also the author of Fasting Girl, which examines the case of Mollie Fancher, a young Brooklynite in the late eighteenth century who turned into a kind of circus attraction based on her claims to have eaten next to nothing for more than a decade after a debilitating street car accident (it was obviously proved a hoax).  Consumed was published in 1994 when obesity, while certainly vilified for its aesthetic revulsion and a growing public health concern, had yet to rise to Terror Alert Level on the mass hysteria scale, but the work is concerned not so much with the present as it is with how we got there.  The subsequent work examines the long history of food hype and hysteria in America, from the religious Puritans of the 19th century to the modern-day Puritan health advocates.

I’m still early in the book, but I wanted to share this passage by anthropologist-turned-chef Mark Miller with you, because I think it is so very spot-on.

Too many of our food choices are being drives by psychological perceptions of what the food is about, and ideas of status.  People feel that olive oil has higher status than lard, so it’s okay.  But what’s happened is that we don’t have rituals with food, we don’t understand the importance of food, we’ve lost the connection with farms, the connection of food with the land and the sea.  People don’t really want to discuss food.  We don’t have a food culture.  It goes back to the Puritan days when people were put in the stocks for having spices in their kitchens.  It’s turning away from life.  Food would make you sensual, it would make you real, it would make you alive.

Food also feeds the soul, but we are isolating ourselves from those ‘soft issues’ of food.  Living longer doesn’t make a difference.  Anthropologists rank societies based on their aesthetic levels, not on science — not on how long they live and their health programs.  Do you fulfill your human potential by living longer, or by being more creative and more experiential?  Food is part of the availability of richness in life, richness that adds to enjoyment and pleasure in life.  Most cultures have nurtured that sense of the value of experience, but what we’re doing is denying that.  We’ve got a scientific way of looking at things, and it’s not a qualitative, cultural, experiential way of looking at things.  If you feed the body and starve the soul, you still have a dead spirit.

We’re not developing a food culture that is rational and sensible and that can create a nutritionally, balanced diet while also being part of the great enjoyment of life.  We’re cutting ourselves off from food experience, which is worse for our soul upkeep.  For instance, most chefs I know are probably a little overweight.  Do they have stressful lives?  Yes.  But do they enjoy life?  Have they had more experiences?  If you added all the experiences and enjoyment they’ve had out of life, they’ve had seven or eight lifetimes.  I think more people should pay more attention to their psychological health than their physical health.  But instead we’re starving ourselves for real experiences.  I feel that there’s this whole existential starving going on out there.

I think that Miller’s passage underscores a lot of what I’ve found in my own research on evolving American beauty standards, food culture and food-related disorders.  Our obsession with what Kim Chernin calls a “tyranny of thinness” is not an obsession with fitting into those skinny pants at the back of our closets or even in leading healthier lives; it’s an obsession with the idea that we can consciously and deliberately manipulate our mortality through a vigilant control over what we eat and how much.  We seek to transcend centuries of evolution through a panopticon of self-restraint and corporeal discipline and in the process, become so anxiously concerned with living life by the numbers — of accounting for every calorie, carb and fat gram so as not to exceed the recommendations of the nutrition cognoscenti or diet-mongers — that we forget to live life by the moments.

And with that, I’m off to fix a batch of my delicious vegetarian veggie soup.  My soul is hungry.

posted in Book Reviews, Fat Bias, Fat History, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Rachel | 6 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

17th September 2009

10 Questions for Stephanie Armstrong

by Rachel

Stephanie Armstrong - Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat

Stephanie Armstrong is the author of the new memoir Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat: A Story of Bulimia, in which the now 40-something, recovered, married mother of one daughter and two stepdaughters documents her descent into bulimia in her early 20s and describes her struggles as a black woman with a disorder consistently portrayed as a white woman’s disease.  The Brooklyn native also examines the “bootylicous” black woman stereotype and why the black community’s “code of silence” often leaves black women with eating disorders suffering in silence.  The work is being hailed as the first book by and among black women about eating disorders.

A playwright and screenwriter currently living in Los Angeles, Stephanie’s commentary on black women and eating disorders, “Digesting the Truth,” has been featured on NPR.  Her work has appeared in Essence, Sassy, Mademoiselle, and Venice magazines, among other publications. She authored the screenplay for Contradictions of the Heart (20th Century Fox), starring Vanessa Williams, and her plays Three Stories Down, The Outside Sisters, and The Long Journey Home have been performed in theaters in Los Angeles and New York.  Her essay on bulima, “Fear and Loathing,” is included in the forthcoming anthology The Black Body (Oct., 2009).  She also sold a TV treatment, Kimchi and Cornbread, which led to a talk-show deal with MTV.

Now in a must-read interview, Stephanie takes the time to respond to questions from me and the-F-word readers.

Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Body-Affirming, Book Reviews, Bulimia, Class & Poverty, Eating Disorders, Family Issues, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Interviews, Mental Health, Race Issues, Recovery | 11 Comments

2nd September 2009

Glamour to show more naked fat women in November issue

by Rachel

You’ve no doubt heard of Lizzie Miller, the un-airbrushed size 12-14 model Glamour published a photo of naked save for a thong in its September issue.  Unlike SELF magazine, which received a barrage of reader backlash for openly and proudly digitally slimming Kelly Clarkson on its current issue, Glamour has received a large and effusive outpouring of reader support.  Glamour editor Cindi Lieve told Matt Lauer on the TODAY show:

You get a reaction like this and you can really see it. It’s also a sign of the times that women are really looking for a little bit more authenticity and a little bit less artifice in every part of their lives. Will it change our approach? I think it will.”

As Mo Pie points out, an unobtrusive photo on page 195 of Miller’s saggy pooch and full thighs among countless other waif-like models is hardly groundbreaking in a story purportedly on body acceptance, but Lieve wasn’t just paying lip service, either.  Glamour is now focusing its lens again on plus-size models in its November issue.  Photographer Matthias Vriens shot Miller again, along with her curvy colleagues Kate Dillon, Jennie Runk, Amy Lemons, Ashley Graham, Anansa Sims and Crystal Renn.

Reader M Jordan sent me a note this week with a link to a debate currently raging at the site Lemondrop about a few new young adult books that depict fat heroines/heroes.  The objection to the plump fiction seems to be that it somehow “encourages” people to follow an “unhealthy lifestyle” rather than hating themselves losing weight.  It doesn’t appear as if any of Glamour’s plus-size models wear larger than a U.S. size 16, but I’m sure the mag will also encounter the same vitriol.  Since the opposition is focused on health, of course, I think it’s interesting to note how the great majority of the models to be featured in Glamour have struggled with an eating disorder or at the very least, disordered eating and body image insecurities, before becoming healthy and happy plus-size models.

Renn, as you may remember, was once a wraith-thin model who was encouraged to lose more and more weight by her modeling agency despite a very serious eating disorder.  She’s now authored a book on her experiences, Hungry, which is set to hit bookstands on Sept. 8.  In an interview with The Telegraph, Renn explained how her disorder developed and persisted:

With catwalk stardom at the front of her mind she made friends with iceberg lettuce. Breakfast was some vile-sounding stuff called Fiber One and steamed vegetables. Lunch was lettuce and Diet Coke. Dinner – more lettuce. ‘I knew I had an eating disorder, but I was so focused on the job, I didn’t care’.

With a swimwear shoot looming, she forced herself to work out for nine hours, two days in a row – ‘My body literally felt like it was crumbling’ – before seeing her bookers again. ‘They looked me up and down and said, “Your legs. You need to bring your legs down.”‘

Anansa Sims is the daughter of legendary model Beverly Johnson, the first African-American model to grave the cover of Vogue.  When Sims was 18, she left for New York to become a model despite Johnson’s objections.  As Johnson explained to People, she herself suffered from anorexia and bulimia throughout her modeling career and didn’t want the same inevitable outcome to befall her daughter.  Sims went anyway and quickly discovered the wisdom of her mother’s warnings:

Before I left, I starved myself and worked out four hours a day for three months. Then once I was there, they kept telling me, “Just lose 10 more lbs.!” I made it to a size 4 and I was on my way to a 2. I ate an apple and a bowl of soup a day. Finally I said, “If this is what it takes, I don’t want it.”

Once called “Overweight Kate” as a kid, Kate Dillon developed an eating disorder at age 12 after watching a TV movie with an anorectic character (that the character also died seemed inconsequential to Kate, she says).  She also told People:

Five years later, in 1991, a severely underweight Kate was discovered by a photographer in her hometown of San Diego. She came in third in Elite’s Look of the Year contest, winning a $75,000 contract. The 5’11″ Dillon was soon slinking down Paris runways and appearing in Vogue and Glamour. Yet by age 19, her lifestyle, sustained by a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit, had taken its toll. “I just couldn’t keep starving myself,” she says. Dillon visited a nutritionist and quickly added 15 lbs. but lost her modeling cachet. “I was only a size 8, yet I was told I was huge and disgusting,” she says.

In an interview last week, Renn told stylelist that she portends a greater degree of body acceptance on the horizon in the fashion world:

“It starts with the sample sizes and I think designers are becoming more aware. I think there have been many positive changes. I’ve done all of the Vogue’s and Dolce & Gabbana ads. It’s just a matter of time before it’s brought back to mainstream.  Women want to see themselves in the pictures — they want to see their size, color and height. I think if that happens, it’ll make women feel more empowered and they’ll love themselves more.”

What do you think?  Will fat become the new thin any time soon?

posted in Anorexia, Body Image, Body-Affirming, Book Reviews, Bulimia, Fashion, Fat Acceptance, Recovery | 21 Comments

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