Fat, Pop Culture, Sweet Machine

Things I am not shocked by, #3890587230587439

Kathy Ireland’s Shocking Weight Gain.”

Kathy Ireland has gained all of 25  pounds since she stopped working as a supermodel. She is also a mother of three, a CEO, and volunteer mentor. She is also 46.

Given the ultra-strict diets that supermodels are reportedly expected to maintain, I would honestly be more shocked if a supermodel DIDN’T gain 25 pounds when not modeling. I’m sure that some models are naturally quite thin, but everything I’ve read indicates that the pressure is always to be thinner no matter where you started from.

In other celebrity news, Scarlett Johansson is reportedly following Gwyneth Paltrow’s life-ruining diet and exercise routine in preparation for a role in Iron Man 2. Long-time Shapelings will no doubt not be shocked by this either, since people have been declaring Johansson fat for ages now.

102 thoughts on “Things I am not shocked by, #3890587230587439”

  1. Wow, Kathy and Scarlett eat breakfast AND lunch every day? What do they think this is, the land of plenty?

    I especially love when “news” stories about celebrity weight loss equate getting thin with “getting control of your life.” Actually, every time I’ve tried to diet I’ve lost control of my life– I have been too obsessed and hungry to deal with bills, laundry, or relationships!

  2. That article made me shout. I am so SICK of the, “The fact that a mother gained weight means that she must have been putting everyone else’s needs above her own” trope. No, the fact that she gained weight means that when you have kids you often gain weight. Also, when you have kids it is expontentially harder to devote several hours a day to counting points/calories and measuring food and punishing yourself with exercise.

    And yes, it is *also* harder, when you’re a mom, to get time away for things you enjoy and that make you happy. But, ffs, DIETING TO LOSE WEIGHT IS NOT “MAKING YOURSELF A PRIORITY”! Dieting is not “me time”! Moving your body *can* be “me time,” but not if you’re doing it because you hate yourself for not being thin enough.

  3. Although, having said that, I can see why that line works so well in diet commercials. Because I think a lot of the time, living with small kids just really has its sucky moments, and I know I found myself thinking that I wished I could be the person I was before — the person who could, you know, enjoy long periods of silence, or go to things in the evening, or have time to take on fun projects that require long periods of uninterrupted activity.

    And since women are so often judged by their looks, it’s easy to equate “being the person I was before kids” with “looking like I did before kids.” As though, if I could just “get my body back,” I’d also be able to do those other things. Which is bullshit, and misdiagnoses the problem entirely. Which I suspect is the point.

  4. This is also quite likely an intentional weight gain, as has been suggested on other sites, like thefatgirlblog.com (I smell something fishy — on sidebar). The celebrity site dlisted.com had as one of their “blind items” a couple of weeks ago the question of what celebrity intentionally gained 20 pounds and lost it in order to promote a new diet and jump start her career. Most people guessed Jessica Simpson, but looks like not.

    The whole celebrity/weight messages thing is unresolvable. It seems like the whole job of a celebrity is to be the target of opinions. From the audience side, people are amused because they don’t think of celebrities as real people with real feelings. From the celebrities’ side (or their agents or producers), any press increases the value of the product. That ugly dress or crazy relationship or weight gain could just as easily be a PR stunt as real life.

    I would much, much, much prefer to focus on helping and educating girls to recognize and ignore commercial messaging and on helping and educating everyone to treat the people they interact with with love and respect.

  5. My “favorite” part of all this is when the interviewer hold up her “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit cover and says “So how did you go from this to this?” (holding up photo of her with added weight.)
    Um, having kids? NOT being 20 fucking years old anymore? NOT being paid 10 million for being a twig? Actually having a fucking LIFE?!?!?!
    This makes me SO FUCKING MAD!!!!!!!!!!!
    How about we go pester MALE CEO’s of BILLION DOLLAR companies and ask THEM why THEY don’t look like Brad fucking Pitt?!?!?!

  6. How about we go pester MALE CEO’s of BILLION DOLLAR companies and ask THEM why THEY don’t look like Brad fucking Pitt?!?!?!

    Oh, Alyssa, don’t you know? It’s because they Haven’t Been Making Time For Themselves. Silly, neurotic, and defective as they are, they’ve been putting the clients’ needs ahead of their OWN, y’see. They need to put themselves back at the top of the list of priorities! And maybe with some cleansing breaths, a lifestyle coach, and psychotherapy they won’t be so broken and pathetic anymore.

    Oh, wait.

  7. … “news” stories about celebrity weight loss equate getting thin with “getting control of your life.”

    Yes. The body is an unruly ass, which must needs be broken to harness lest it overset cart and all.

    Then, too, it seems to me that these stories of the expansion and contraction of celebrity bodies are intended to be taken as morality tales, in which in some bassackward way the maintenance and display of physical beauty is conflated with discipline and virtue, and those who let themselves go in the pursuit of, well, anything else, are considered slothful.

  8. Trabb’s Boy, I don’t know about the PR stunt aspect of it; that may be. Either way, it makes it even less “shocking,” doesn’t it?

    Coincidentally, I just watched the series finale of “Extras” last night, and it had the best ever scene about celebrity mania, when Ricky Gervais’ character Andy is on Celebrity Big Brother (language NSFW). (I know Gervais has said some really awful fatphobic things to the press recently, but I still really love his TV work.)

  9. I think my favorite part of that was:

    “Does that mean she wants to get back into a bikini (as Valerie Bertinelli recently did on the cover of PEOPLE)?

    ‘No, that’s not my goal,’ says Ireland, who prefers to wear business suits at her job. ‘I want to be healthy, to be there for my husband and my kids.'”

    Now I realize that part of “her job” *used to be* wearing bikinis, but it’s not anymore.

  10. I am so SICK of the, “The fact that a mother gained weight means that she must have been putting everyone else’s needs above her own” trope.

    You know, that doesn’t bother me, because sometimes we SHOULD put other people’s needs before our own wants. I mean, if I really *wanted* to be thin (or at least thinner than I am), I’d need to exercise for hours each day, and eat little enough that I’d be tired, headachy, and cranky. I would not be able to meet the needs of my child, in my effort to fulfill my want of having a body of a certain size. And, I think a mature person realizes that sometimes they have to give up wants that get in the way of working to meet other people’s needs.

    I think the bigger question is why we think, as a society, that there’s something wrong with women deciding–at any point in their lives–that meeting some ideal of physical beauty isn’t a priority. Because that’s really what it’s about: not encouraging women to make time for themselves–you don’t see these same people getting up in arms that, after they have kids, women may have trouble finding time to read or knit or go out with friends or garden or paint or any of the billions of things women might genuinely enjoy for their own sake–but to make time to look whatever way society thinks they should look.

  11. ‘No, that’s not my goal,’ says Ireland, who prefers to wear business suits at her job. ‘I want to be healthy, to be there for my husband and my kids.’”

    I can’t believe I skipped over that part. Arg! That pisses me off more than anything else.

    I mean, seriously? Kathy Ireland’s 25 pounds (or whatever) over her modeling weight is putting her health in such jeopardy that she is going to die and won’t be there for her husband and children?!

    Such a load of freaking BS. Every time I hear the “I just want to be there for my family” line, I want to puke. Fat people have been managing, throughout history, to raise their children to adulthood, get to know their grandkids, and enjoy old age with their partner. I’ve known MANY women who, at a size 14 or 16 or 18, are claiming they need to lose weight so that they can see their kids grow up. Do people honestly believe this? Have we been so brainwashed and misinformed about obesity that we really think that having a BMI of, say, 32 is going to lead to death before 50? Or is this just a handy excuse for trying to make weight loss seem like it’s selfless when it’s really just about vanity?

  12. If she had been wearing a top and trousers that fit, that so called horrible picture would have look fine. At least in my humble opinion :/

    Is it just me or have tabloids been getting desperate for ‘shocking’ articles? I think I remember when they ran slightly more of interesting stuff like sex scandals or at lawbreaking. All this ‘omfg! I see flaaaab’ is rather thin material, even for tabloids. xD

  13. Oh, and one more thing: If I were Ireland, I’d be far more concerned about having raised my teenage son to believe that it was acceptable to make rude and critical comments about people bodies (including his family members) than about whether I looked like I did at 20.

  14. You know, that doesn’t bother me, because sometimes we SHOULD put other people’s needs before our own wants.

    Lori, sure, and I agree with this. But — and I’m not sure we even disagree here — I think the expectation that you should find fulfillment erasing yourself for the sake of children/family is definitely gendered, for one thing. (It’s still seen as heroic when fathers do things with their children. When mothers do, it’s because that’s how women are inherently hard-wired to be nurturing, or some other such nonsense, so it’s not a credit to them.)

    But THEN, the same parties who help perpetuate the expectation that moms will do this, then turn around and blame her for being pathetic when the realities of mothering don’t leave her looking the same way as she did before. As though it reveals an embarrassing lack of self-esteem on her part, that in light of her changed circumstances she no longer considered it important or possible to lose weight or whatever.

    I just think it’s so transparent and disingenuous. “Oh, now you’re a Mom. Congratulations! Isn’t it just the BEST how you can be fulfilled by having every last bit of yourself squeezed out for the sake of the kids? It’s that mommy instict! It’s how you were hardwired! Oh, but make sure you don’t stop looking pretty, as defined by us! Because then we’ll know you’re a pathetic loser with no self-esteem, who allowed herself to have every last bit of herself squeezed out for the sake of the kids!”

  15. My grammar’s really bad today, incidentally, and possibly also my analysis, and I apologize. That cold I mentioned the other day? Is strep throat. I’m on antibiotics now, but still in quite the mental fog.

  16. Lori, I now read the rest of your comments, and *headsmack* obviously we’re both getting at the same thing. Sorry! See previous comment about the mental fog/strep throat. :)

  17. A Sarah, yeah, I think we’re on the same page here. ;) The issue is this conflation the media loves to make of “taking care of yourself” and “meeting your own needs” with “doing whatever you can to be thin.”

  18. A BMI of 32 isn’t going to lead to early death. Aren’t there lots of studies that show that being “overweight” is the healthiest and being “normal” or “obese” are next best and equally healthy, and that the least healthy is being “underweight”? None of that is a moral judgment, just a rebuttal to the stupid, “I just want to be there for my kids” fear that being “overweight” is a death sentence. Besides, isn’t being 25 pounds over model weight “normal” anyway?

    I know I’m healthier at a 32 BMI than a 22. 32 means I’ve been eating. 22 means I’m up to anorexic behaviors again.

  19. I saw the “shocking” photo of Kathy Ireland in People Magazine. If she had been wearing clothes trhat actually fit properly she would have looked just fine.

    I’m totally with Alyssa on harassing Male CEO’s about their looks. Can you imagine some guy CEO on the cover of Forbes bemoaning the fact he gained 25 pounds?

  20. OFFS, that Tracy Anderson creature needs to be stopped. I’m just waiting for her to cripple one of her high profile clients with her high-volume, make-it-up-as-you-go-along “routine”. The only upside to this is that by attaching herself to Gwyneth Paltrow and friends she’s probably “too busy” to damage a larger number of less wealthy people.

  21. WOW…that is one of the best fake-o “before” shots I’ve ever seen! Could they have gotten her to slump any MORE? (No I don’t believe her son snapped that while she was slumping around in ill-fitting clothes baking cookies)

  22. A BMI of 32 isn’t going to lead to early death. Aren’t there lots of studies that show that being “overweight” is the healthiest and being “normal” or “obese” are next best and equally healthy, and that the least healthy is being “underweight”?

    Yeah, that’s what the research I’ve seen has found.

    But, even if you do buy that being obese leads to early death, I’m pretty sure even the most fat-biased studies have found that by “early” it means taking like 5-7 years off your lifespan. So, for the average woman, dying at 78 instead of 83, not dying at 45 instead of living to 85.

    I have NEVER seen any study, no matter how fatphobic or biased, that indicated that women with BMIs of 30-35 (which is where most “obese” women fall, and the women I’ve heard this “I want to live to see my kids grow up” claim from) are dying in middle age, or are dying before they see their grandkids grow up, much less their kids. I don’t know where this idea that being fat is a death sentence that means you will be lucky to make it to your kid’s high school graduation or wedding came from, but it makes me crazy to hear.

  23. I gotta tell ya, I’m knee deep in research here, but still…I’ve worked out, I do my best…I’m disabled…I’m overweight. I’m not blissful about it, but I figure I’ve got enough going on to not become suicidal because of it. I’m not incredibly overweight, just enough to make me notice ya know? I think that I’m the majority of the american public. Maybe it’s just me. My point being…these crazy celebrities make MILLIONS like MILLIONS. If I made that kinda money…I think I’d still sit around.

    Maybe it’s just me.

  24. Wow. Can I just say how amazing this community is that I can read a dose of sanity and sense among all the messages we’re bombarded with every day?

    Not to hijack this thread, but I’m personally struggling with how to deal with these messages as I’ve been asked to head up a new “Wellness Program” at work, which is receiving special project funding. So far the suggestions have included a newsletter with employee contributions highlighting their own “wellness efforts” at work (every single one refers to losing weight, including a few with references to having to step it up to shed pounds for “bikini season.”)

    My boss also just informed me that one program he’d like us to consider planning is a “Biggest Loser” competition, as someone in the management meeting suggested how successful (and fun!) the program is they’re participating in at their church.

    I don’t even know how to respond, or how to handle this responsibility with seeming insubordinate. More personally, I kind of feel like I’ll be looked at as the lazy fat girl if I pipe up about the message we’re sending, etc. I did mention briefly that I was concerned about the validity of the message and was told “of course just include a ‘consult your doctor’ disclaimer and we’re covered.”

    I’m now having some work anxiety over this project, and wish I could convey one ounce of the reasoning and mindset you guys share here.

  25. @ Eucritta: The body is an unruly ass

    I just love the thought of my ass as unruly. YEAH BABY! My ass draws your attention! It refuses to conform! It is all over the place, and you cannot escape from it!

    *shakes her unruly ass on the Shapely Prose Dance Floor*

  26. And estrella just posted while I was busy shakin’ it on the dance floor… BIGGEST LOSER PROGRAM AT CHURCH?!?!?!

    Makes me clutch my Anglican prayer beads.

    Funny. At my church we’re more concerned about whether or not people have enough quality food to eat, not restricting consumption.

  27. I saw the “shocking” photo of Kathy Ireland in People Magazine. If she had been wearing clothes trhat actually fit properly she would have looked just fine.

    Also, perhaps, if she stood up straight. I’ve got a gut like that when I slouch like that . . . of course, I’m also significantly heavier (and shorter) than your average model, but still small enough that the gut disappears when I stand up straight.

    I also generally wear too-big clothing while standing around baking cookies, not too-small clothing, but YMMV.

  28. Oh man, estrella, that’s awful. How strict is your boss about you having opinions? Can you just flat out tell them that you cannot be in charge of this if weight loss must be a part of it?

  29. Estrella –

    Maybe you could slip in some things like this government brochure (http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/active.htm) on how activity is good for everyone’s health? Or how persistent changes are better than short-term ones (you could slip in the HAES study Linda Bacon did for that one – http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/mar06/health0306.htm).

    Can you try to direct it to behaviors (walking, playing tennis or basketball or tag or soccer, swimming, etc) not weight lost or cake skipped? Or counting increasing fruit / veg consumption, and perhaps on Fridays the company can provide a morning fruit and bagel tray for breakfast? :)

  30. It is stupid, as many have mentioned, &, as you have also mentioned, models are not at a ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ weight, so Ireland was doing who knows what during her modeling years to keep herself underweight? Bearing children & aging had most likely helped her to reach a weight which might have been her normal weight anyway had she not become a model & lived that life of self-starvation & excessive exercise. No, Kathy Ireland has never been fat & to call herself fat is an insult to all of us.

    And, indeed, virtually ALL research shows that heavier people live longer & that the biggest risk factor for premature death is being male. It is enough of a risk that an average non-smoking 350-pound woman has a good chance of outliving a 6 foot, 170 pound man by 3 or 4 years. A woman around my size, about 200 pounds or so, is likely to outlive that lean guy by about 7 years. So, no, except perhaps in those extremely rare cases which they LOVE to show on TLC or Oprah of people who are extremely fat & supposedly immobilized by it, being fat does not shorten life. However, being very thin sometimes can & dieting & WLS definitely can & do. Deliberate attempts to lose weight are so dangerous, in fact, that by the time one reaches my age (I am nearly 60), dieting increases your risk of dying. As Garfield used to say, DIET is DIE with a T.

    Fortunately, I do not follow celebrities, so I would not have known about this diet publicity ploy had it not been for the coverage in the fatosphere. I don’t intend to allow Kathy Ireland or anyone else to infect me again with body hatred or to tempt me to diet.

  31. volcanista, I have yet to test those waters and am searching for the right approach. Your direct statement of refusing to head this up with weight loss as part of it is truly what I feel in my conscience and my heart. And while I’ve been told it’s not the focus, every single proposed action has involved weight loss as a main goal.

    It’s just so widely accepted that we ALL should lose some weight, the only variant being who needs to lose how much. The concept is treated as straight fact in these discussions, as accepted as if we were saying “smoking is not good for your body.”

    I feel a tiny bit ashamed that I think I would be far more vocal about this right from the get go if I were thin. I have to admit I fully accept every body except my own, and I’m working on it. I just still have some sensitivity to being looked at as the fattie when we’re discussing these issues, especially given the other females involved are slim and STILL griping about bikini season.

  32. So, if we “have” to lose weight for “bikini season,” doesn’t that mean we have to gain it back for “sweater season?”
    Fashion is so confusing!

  33. estrella, how in charge would you be? Any change of subverting their suggestions into programs like Find the Exercise that Fits Your Lifestyle and Abilities, or Exercise Buddy Matching, or Rainbow Eating, or whatever?

    Also, I feel like you don’t need to be ashamed about being uncomfortable about speaking up. As a thin person, I’ve felt a lot of privilege speaking up about these issues. It sucks.

  34. And estrella just posted while I was busy shakin’ it on the dance floor… BIGGEST LOSER PROGRAM AT CHURCH?!?!?!

    Makes me clutch my Anglican prayer beads.

    As a fellow Episcopalian, I share your horror. Seriously, if my church had a “Biggest Loser” program, I’d run, screaming. How many children starved to death today? Like 10,000 or so? How on earth can any church justify running a program focused on having members compete to see who can diet the best?

  35. As Patsy Nevins points out, being male is a huge risk factor for earlier death, and yet you never see men getting sex changes so they’ll be there to see their grandkids. Selfish of them.

    My favorite line (well, okay, one of my favorites) was, “I saw someone who looked overwhelmed, overstressed, overweight, over-everything.” Over-everything? Really?

    Of she didn’t really mean everything–she meant “lots of negative things”–but I thought her choice of words made for a nice ironic statement that captured the essence of dieting. “There is too much of me. I am imposing myself on the world. I must get rid of some of myself so that the world doesn’t have to put up with me so much.”

  36. living400 & volcanista – I really appreciate your suggestions. I think the best approach is to do my own research (including the links and suggestions you provided) on wellness that would actually, you know – promote wellness. I have a feeling this will be met with “you can include that too, after the weight loss tips and Biggest Loser sign-up info.” It’s at least worth my best shot – I’m definitely willing to give this my teaspoon’s worth and then some. I can’t see how management would turn down an “Exercise Buddy Matching” in lieu of the current suggestion of “Join So and So’s Group As They Walk on Breaks to Each Lose 20 Pounds by June 1st!”

    I will add this charming anecdote – when I mentioned privately to one co-worker that I was struggling with this project because weight is really not a true indicator of wellness, he replied “oh yeah – I have this one friend who actually teaches kickboxing, and is really athletic, even though you wouldn’t know to look at her because she’s really dumpy!” Well, uh, good to have your support?

    Lori – as for how any church can justify a dieting competition – apparently their motivating scripture is the one about our bodies being temples for the Lord. (And apparently God must be small, hence only prefers tiny temples in which to dwell.) Sigh.

  37. Lori – as for how any church can justify a dieting competition – apparently their motivating scripture is the one about our bodies being temples for the Lord.

    I’m a theology geek, and I just have to say:


    Bad hermeneutics make Jesus cry! Learn to historical criticism!

  38. Also, if we’re proof-texting and treating historical texts ahistorically:

    Isaiah 55:2, people. So there.

  39. apparently God must be small, hence only prefers tiny temples in which to dwell

    Not according to Psalm 92

    Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; (Psalm 92:13-14)

    Or Proverbs 28:25
    He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.

    Funny how newer translations tend to change that to “made prosperous” – the original word is literally “made fat” and only symbolically prosperous. The Biblical God warns against resting on the good things he has given us and turning away from him in our pride, but the Bible doesn’t present fat as a bad thing in itself.

    Not Episcopalian but equally appalled at the idea of a church having a “biggest loser” contest going.

  40. A Sarah, can you elaborate?

    I’m afraid if I googled anything bible related the very act of touching my keyboard whilst on a religious site would make the keys leak blood and the motherboard melt. And if I tried to touch an actual bible? there’s be sizzling.


  41. Liza, glad you asked! (Although considering that googling Bible passages doesn’t burn the fingertips of those who use it as a weapon, I find it hard to imagine that you’d be in any danger. :) )

    Isaiah 55:2: Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness.

  42. I have a feeling this will be met with “you can include that too, after the weight loss tips and Biggest Loser sign-up info.” It’s at least worth my best shot – I’m definitely willing to give this my teaspoon’s worth and then some.

    That just really stinks, but I really commend you for trying to do something about this.

    Re: the Biggest Loser competition, even with the whole “check with your doctor first” disclaimer, if anybody in the office has or has had an eating disorder, the whole thing would undoubtedly be really, really triggering, and could create a hostile work environment for them. I think sometimes as long as nobody looks skeletal, there’s an assumption that 1) nobody has an eating disorder and 2) everybody could stand to lose at least a couple of pounds. But, that’s just not true, and there could very well be people who are attempting to recover from an eating disorder, and this sort of thing could really set them back. There have to be ways to promote wellness–or even weight loss, if the boss is insistent–that wouldn’t be so potentially damaging. I personally just have extremely, extremely negative feelings about these sorts of Biggest Loser competitions, and I’m still shocked that people think it’s appropriate to have them in workplaces (not to mention churches ;)).

    I’m just so taken aback by workplaces nosing into their employees personal business like this. I mean, one could argue that having sex regularly is good for people–physical activity, a deeper bond with your partner, etc.–but it would be wildly inappropriate to have some sort of competition to have teams in the office compete to see who can have the most sex. I tend to think it’s just as wildly inappropriate to have competitions centered on who can lose the most weight, and I know I’d be extremely uncomfortable in a work environment where that was going on.

    Anyway, I’m sorry you’re in this position, and I really hope something that works out that you’re comfortable with.

  43. Yeah, Liza, old Isaiah (well, there were at least two and probably three of them, but wev) is always good for a rejoinder to the dominant culture’s crap.

    There’s also a great passage from (I think) St. Gregory Palamas, where he talks about how different people have naturally different body sizes and naturally different levels of hunger and satiety, corresponding to different levels of food intake, so you shouldn’t judge what someone else is eating. And also that it’s fine to eat until you’re just shy of being satisfied, are satisfied, or are a little more than satisfied… but anything more than that might interfere with prayer. I think it’s Palamas. Doesn’t someone here study him?

    But hey… Er, estrella? Hey, I’m really sorry, I realized I just launched into theological indignation, but I never said that I admire you for thinking carefully about how to handle this. I do, very much. And it sucks that you’re being put in that position. I didn’t say much about it because I have no idea what I’d do.

  44. if anybody in the office has or has had an eating disorder, the whole thing would undoubtedly be really, really triggering, and could create a hostile work environment for them.

    This seems like potentially a good angle to approach your management with, estrella (perhaps along with the fact that anorexia is the most deadly psychiatric disorder in the US).

  45. estrella, to piggyback on SM’s comment, is there going to be room for the idea that “healthy” necessarily includes mental health? Maybe you could center the idea of stress management as the healthy goal, especially considering that light, moderate, fun exercise is an integral part of mental health, if one is capable, which might be enough to satisfy the OMGBIKINISEASON folks.

    And yeah – I don’t think I have a diagnosable eating disorder, but I certainly don’t have a good handle on me and food and something like this would totally make me freak right the fuck out. I don’t think my boss or office or whatever has any goddamn right to be inflicting this shit on their workers. I’m not there to be your happy healthy family, assholes. I’m there to get paid.

    You can always tell when I get mad (and work-mandated shit about things that have NOTHING TO DO WITH WORK is one of my biggest pet peeves; like people don’t have their own lives and goals; it’s infuriatingly infantilizing) because I just can’t stop yelling “Fuck!”

  46. And also, estrella, you have my sympathies. I’d want to go all renegade with something like this, but ultimately would likely freeze up and deliver something far more in line with that dumb “biggest loser” shit than my own politics, just to keep my head down. Sometimes I feel like I’m weird enough.

  47. Aarrgh. I hardly know where to start. First, Estrella, I am so sorry. Ditto what everyone else has said–eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s sad that wellness has become so equated with weight loss.

    What gets me about Kathy Ireland is that her son took that picture, apparently to shame or mock her–and she simply accepted it and called in a trainer. I find that profoundly disturbing on so many levels.

  48. Exactly, Sara. Her son’s behavior was totally wrong, and her focus should be on that, not her weight.

    Plus, the pose she was in, and the too-tight tank top, were all part of it. After three kids, I don’t think anybody is going to have a stomach that doesn’t pooch out when they stand that way, short of starving themselves into having no body fat or having cosmetic surgery.

  49. Estrella, in your shoes I’d be so tempted to say “Sure! Let’s make it about how Healthy Can Be Gorgeous. We’ll have a belly dancing instructor come in. We’ll eat some beautiful food, drink some fine wine. We’ll have a fashion show for all shapes and sizes. We’ll have an arty photographer come in and take really nice portraits of all of us.”

    All of that would be healthy, yes? And none of it would involve pressuring people to change shape or size without regard for their health or happiness.

  50. My apologies if someone else said this already, but… I have the answer. All of the super models have ALWAYS looked like the photo in question. It’s just that this is the first one published without being photoshopped ;-)

  51. Where do they get this “fat people don’t live to see 50” stuff? Oh, probably from watching fat celebrities drop dead OVER A QUARTER CENTURY AGO FROM MASSIVE DRUG ABUSE, that’s where. (Exception: John Candy, who had a history of early heart disease in his family. He also outlasted the druggies by a good decade.)

    Now, it used to be common for people to die of first heart attacks in their 50s. That’s no longer true, and hasn’t been for a couple of decades. Yep, with increases in weight, all those fatties, almost nobody is dying of a heart attack at 55 in front of the telly anymore! Nobody really knows why, whether it’s because of decreased smoking or improved nutrition or fitness (yes, really), or who knows, maybe being a fatass is actually protective, because not only are people having first heart attacks later, but they’re more likely to survive them.

    But oh please, people, can’t you just admit it’s vanity that makes you want to lose those 20 or 25 pounds? Just admit it. Say it with me: “I don’t care if it costs me ten years off my life, I want to fit into that hot slinky blue gown and have 14-year-old boys and their adult equivalents whistle.” See how easy?

    Estrella: Get Linda Bacon’s book. Hand it to your boss, tell him you’ve read it and you’re going to design a program similar to Linda’s at UC Davis. Crash dieting is NEVER for “health,” never never never never.

  52. About the theological weight loss, as someone raised Catholic (who isn’t too sure what she is now but too ashamed to admit that to her family yet) I can say I’m not surprised at all. Perhaps it was just something with my neck of the woods or perhaps it’s just something specific to Catholicism (after all, there is the whole Lenten fasting thing, and the fact that a huge arch of guilt seems to be supported by the faith) but hearing about biggest loser competitions in churches saddens me and doesn’t surprise me at all. The body as a temple thing is right on, I heard it over and over again and every year for forty days got the message from God that I had to deny myself (the other 325 days of the year society was telling me to deny myself since I was a stout little girl who was always growing, always gaining and loved sweets). This is a big reason why the whole “thinness as holiness” or “thin-worshiping as religion” idea makes a lot of sense to me. I even remember seeing this weird movie once about a girl who wanted to be a nun and literally tried to cut her stomach OFF with a knife to be thinner since God didn’t like fat people because all fat people committed the sin of gluttony.

    Christ, I had got a lot of fucking twisted messages when I was a kid.

    Also, I remember when I was like 12 I saw this magazine article about people losing weight by praying. So now, not only was I not dedicated enough and healthy enough to be thin like my peers, I wasn’t pious enough either. And I wasn’t even all that fat to begin with! Not that it would have mattered if I was of course, the way I treated and thought about my body for years would have still been unhealthy and unwarranted had I been as fat as I was convinced I was (or gasp! fatter! ohhhh noes!), but gah, it just kills me sometimes when I look at pictures of myself when I was say 12-14. I was never thin, but I definitely looked as athletic as I was and I was cuuuuuute! Again, not that it should have mattered so much if I was as horribly ugly as I thought I was, but, gah – WHY did I hate myself so? *sigh* Even worse, for years I thought my self hate was only self created and I hated myself even MORE because I was always so down on myself. Because of course the fact that I hated myself couldn’t have been due to the fact that society, my family, and even that dude supposedly in the clouds watching every cookie I put in my mouth all gave me the message that I WAS WRONG and WOULD NEVER BE RIGHT unless I was THIN THIN THIN.

    Blah, sorry. I always post intending for intelligent shit and I always wind up just skipping to ranting shit.

    But estrella, I’d say it’s worth a shot to point out how very triggering it could be for someone with an ED or someone at least with disordered relationships w/ food. I’m painfully reminded of an unfunny episode of The Office where they tried a weight loss competition between office branches and Kelly tried to starve herself and actually passed out. I think they meant it to be funny, but to me I just saw it as a horrible reminder of how fucked up our culture is. – blah, ranting shit again, sorry. Shutting up now.

  53. Okay, so I just spent way too much time trying to figure out this Gregory Palamas thing from above on this thread. It caught my attention because while I know relatively little about Palamas, the description of the passage reminded me of something from Thomas Aquinas, and I have studied him in some depth.

    I found the Thomistic passage (ST II-II.148.1) about gluttony and, you know, it’s really quite reasonable. The driving issue behind gluttony as sin is unchecked desire. There isn’t an immediate connection between that movement of the soul and body size. If you look at his discussion of temperance, it becomes clear (um in a Thomistic sort of way ST I-II.63.3) that temperance is relative to the internal desire of the individual. The sin is not overeating, in that case, and it is definitely not fatness. It is the failure to regulate the movements of the soul.

    Regulating the movements of the soul is really quite complicated and technical, but just to clarify, Aquinas is building on an earlier monastic tradition, which reaches back to Evagrios Pontikos (4th century CE). Evagrius is even clearer that gluttony denotes any undue fixation with food, not only the over or underindulgence in it. In that case, fasting itself can be an occasion for sin. And so it can be, inasmuch as all eating disorders easily fall under this heading of undue fixation with food.

    In both Evagrios and Aquinas, the conversation has to do with the movements of the soul and has nothing whatsoever to do with body size. Let us recall that Aquinas himself was, in fact, fat.

    When ideas about thinness and health are mapped onto fasting and abstinence in Christianity by people who don’t understand the underlying theological issues, they actually miss the point entirely. I’m not saying people don’t pull out that “body is a temple” line, but that isn’t actually what the key texts of the tradition are about. The theological point is that the movements of the soul to be regulated by reason, specifically. That can work in any number of ways. I have been too thin and believe me, my fixation with food during that time was nowhere near regulated by my reasonable faculties.

    As for a Gregory, Aquinas does cite Gregory in that passage (Moral. 30.18), but I think it’s Gregory the Great (6th-7th century CE), not Palamas. I think it’s a reference to Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Iob. I couldn’t find it anywhere online to double check, so that might be mistaken. Aquinas could not have been citing Gregory Palamas, though, because he died before that Gregory was born.

    I couldn’t say whether the same themes appear in some form in Gregory Palamas, but he was a monastic, and he certainly would have known Evagrios Pontikos, so it is quite possible he picks up a similar thread. I just don’t know his work.

    You’re all enthralled with this pedantry, I’m sure. :)

  54. Diet club stuff inspired by tv or advertising is everywhere. Both the druid message board for my order and my local horse board have long-standing threads going called something like “Weight watchers or “biggest loser.” I must admit I have avoided both. Not enough sanity watcher’s points.

    I did wade in when someone on my dog breed list (where we don’t stay on topic and have mostly been members for more than ten years) announced she was having WLS. I pulled up lots of good links for her on the danger of it, and on HAES. I was then accused by the others on the list of ‘raining on her parade’ and “bumming her out”. Being ill forever after and saying ‘why didn’t someone warn me?”, and probably keeping off very little weight after all that suffering, will rain on her parade a lot worse.

    Yes, I would find a Biggest Loser type campaign in my workplace absolutely intimidating. Like they need to be getting *more* of people’s attention on the size of their and other people’s asses?

  55. Like they need to be getting *more* of people’s attention on the size of their and other people’s asses?

    Ex-fucking-actly Keechypeachy! I was already certain that body-policing and harassment were already huge problems at work. You’d have to be utterly brain dead not to have a sneaking suspicion that this is just going to cause more fat-hating body-policing discriminatory, bigoted, hateful, snide comments between the cubicles. Considering that it’s already being framed with phrases like “bikini season”, two guesses as to which gender is going to be policed the worst? Second guess doesn’t count.

  56. About the Wellness at work thing – I know a couple of places that do that, and honestly I think the best thing is when they focus on ACTIVE things people can do that *don’t* push competitiveness in the workplace. (From what I’ve observed, most of the supposedly ‘fun’ competitions actually just tend to heighten any existing workplace tensions and cause more problems, or add ammunition for people to use.)

    Some fun things that might be considered and aren’t, imo, obsessed with weight loss:

    Ballroom dance classes – seriously good fun, most people can do it, and very inclusive if you get a good teacher. (The one I went to, the teacher was excellent about showing variations to people who couldn’t do the exact step for whatever reason.)

    Active community volunteer activities – a couple of years ago someone I know organized for a bunch of people to go and help with Big Brothers and Sisters for a day in the park where the kids were encouraged to exercise – not in a dieting/weight loss way, but in a normal kid-playing-outside-games way, which a lot of the kids didn’t get much of because of lack of play areas and that kind of thing. Another option might be helping to clear up community walking paths or helping with gardening.

    Speaking of gardening – what about some kind of guest lecture or article about growing your own vegetables and fruit? Include container gardening for people who don’t have yard space.

    Cooking lectures of some type, aimed not at ‘diet’ eating but maybe using a different ‘unusual’ piece of produce every time (so people learn more ways to cook things/what to do with that funny fruit in the store) or using locally/seasonally available items. You could also do something along these lines as a fundraiser type activity, where people are encouraged to submit recipes for unusual ingredients or local/seasonal products, which are compiled into a cookbook and then sold with the profits going to XYZ charity. (A local food bank would be an AWESOME recipient for this one.)

  57. Are there other non-work-related pursuits, outside of things like company sports teams, where this kind of competition would be acceptable? I can’t think of any, and I wonder why we’ve come to think that competitive weight loss is not only okay, but healthy?

    My understanding of how these contests work is that people break into two teams, and the team that loses the most weight wins. That means that people won’t only be focused on their own weight, but on the weight (and weight loss) of the other people on their team. I’m sure that most people could keep the attitude that it’s all in fun and not get on their colleagues about it, but all you need are one or two super-competitive jerks, and that’s going to create a situation ripe for all sorts of problems. Not to mention that there’s going to be an expectation that larger people will lose more weight and lose it more rapidly, and so undue pressure would be put on whoever on the teams was the largest.

    Again, I’m just appalled at these competitions, and have no idea why we so readily accept them. Even if people believe that weight loss is healthy, I don’t think anybody believes that rapid weight loss is, and that’s exactly what these sorts of competitions encourage.

    People have great ideas. I especially like Kris’ idea about bringing in somebody to talk about gardening. I’ve been involved this year with a gardening program in Detroit that is just awesome. For a very small membership fee (like $10) you get like 40 seed packets, 150 vegetable transplants, access to tools and compost, a whole bunch of workshops on various aspects of producing your own food, and just all sorts of resources to help people be more self-sufficient and have access to healthy foods. It’s such a better way, IMO, to promote “healthy living” than encouraging weight loss or talking about the evils of processed foods.

  58. A Sarah, I googled Isaiah 55:2 and came up with a page (http://bible.cc/isaiah/55-2.htm) that displayed that verse from various translations — and some of the translations obliterate the fatness! Arg!

    Such as: Why do you spend money on what cannot nourish you and your wages on what does not satisfy you? Listen carefully to me: Eat what is good, and enjoy the best foods.

    Sounds like a healthy lifestyle to me!

    (And an argument for sticking with King James.)

  59. If you follow the link to the Gawker piece about Scarlett and Gwyneth, I don’t recommend following the link in that piece to Gwyneth’s blog. At first it made me roll me eyes, then I started to get sucked in– highly triggering for my compulsive dieting side that’s been lying dormant for a year now. Funny how it sneaks up on you just when you think you’re way past all that.

  60. I think the whole thing is a scam. The picture of her looks fake to me. I can’t imagine her walking around like that and then just standing there while someone took her picture. I could be wrong, but I think the whole thing is a set up to sell books and boost her profile for her products.

  61. Anastasia, do I know you in real life? If not, um, how can we make that happen? Do you go to the AAR? In other words, WHO ARE YOU, WOMAN?! LOL. Because your comment made me weep with joy.

    Katia, huh, that’s interesting about the translation differences. I wonder what it is in Hebrew. It’s possible that “enjoy the best foods” would be a better rendering, I suppose. But in any case I doubt that by “the best foods,” the author of the Isaiah passage had in mind Gwyneth Paltrow’s detox plan, KWIM?

  62. @Bald Soprano — One of my fantasies is making a sign with that passage and picketing Weight Watchers.

    Except that, you know, picketing places frequented mostly by women with signs bearing Bible quotations… well, there’s not enough ironic distance in the world to make me feel okay doing that. Still, the “Why do you spend your money on that which does not satisfy?” just takes on so much more resonance and depth when applied to good old WW.

  63. When I worked at a nursing home, some employees tried to get a workplace WW group going.

    A few weeks later, it was canceled due to lack of interest.

    Workplaces should not have mandated wellness programs or in-house Biggest Loser competitions, period. There is already enough job-related stress to go around, why throw intentional weight loss into the mix? If someone is losing weight, it should be a private matter. Unfortunately, along with this and states wanting to charge fat people more for their health insurance based on the Bullshit Mass Index, it appears that shaming larger employees into becoming smaller at all costs is the in thing to do right now. Thank God I work for a small nonprofit and I have my own private health insurance.

    I think I have found my topic this weekend for my blog…thanks estrella!!!

  64. As someone who works in the self-funded health insurance industry, I can tell you where some of these company-imposed wellness programs come from – the desire to save money. (In self-funded plans, the employers pays the medical claims – please note this is a very, very basic explanation of how it works, but this is what it boils down to.) I think a lot of this falls under the “fat = unhealthy = health problems = $$$ medical claims!” misconception, and some employers (not all) will get very invested in their employee’s health if they are the ones paying for the medical bills.

    Unfortunately, they don’t realize that the “worst” (which to them often means “most expensive”) medical claims aren’t because of weight. Just another example of how people have bought into the idea that healthy = thin, despite the fact that plenty of thin people have plenty of expensive medical claims. (Trust me, I see these claims all the time.)

    @estrella, I think the idea of reshaping some of the language is great. You might not be able to remove all of the weight-loss language, but hopefully you can influence it to be a more positive program. I have seen a few out there, that focus on being healthy and eating well and being active… not on every single pound that may or may not be dropped.

  65. Stephanie, thanks for the warning. I think this should be a general warning to everyone, actually: do not read Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog/newsletter GOOP, for any reason whatsoever.

  66. I’ve said it before here…but we have a Health and Wellness Program at my work. Its primary goal is to save the company on insurance premiums. I’d say half of us are on it, half of us are not. And the half of us that aren’t are pretty bitter that company work time is used for people to work out and we get to pick up the slack doing the work that keeps the business running. We are also surrounded by “good/bad” food talk all the time. There’s actually a chart in the kitchen that separates the foods into categories. I sometimes read it when I’m bored waiting on the microwave…and I happened to see that 2% milk is listed in the “sometimes” food with okay nutrition section and diet/caffeine free soda is listed as a “all-the-time” food, good nutrition section. The whole thing is just infuriating. At my 2nd job, there was a biggest loser competition. I just rolled my eyes when it was brought up at a meeting. After that I just kept saying diets don’t work under my breath. I just keeping crossing my fingers that it’s all a fad that will just go away.

  67. Anastasia and A Sarah – Thanks for the theology lessons! I took some history classes on the early Christian church in undergrad and thought it was just fascinating. This discussion makes me want to drag out “The Body and Society” again and reread it…

  68. I remember screaming about the Biggest Loser competition in my office on here last year…well, it was held again this year, but only targeted at the other department. I’m wondering whether that was because no one from my department participated last year, or if our management asked that we not be included, as both my boss and her boss were very open about how stupid they thought it was. I don’t know, but the shrinking of the contest is positive, and I’ll take it!

  69. @Nina — omg, Peter Brown is my boyfriend! (No, not really, alas.) Say, you might also like Virginia Burrus’ Begotten, Not Made. It’s in the same vein but more explicitly feminist, looking at constructions of masculinity.

  70. Thank you all so much for the ideas, encouragement and support. I honestly feel like there is no one I know in real life who truly gets how I feel in this situation; even my best friends seem to think “just because something’s not for you doesn’t mean most people wouldn’t respond well and enjoy it.”

    To those who noted how triggering and potentially damaging this type of program could be for anyone with an ED or history thereof – thank you. That is critical to bring up, and may open a door toward shifting the focus completely off weight loss.

    Thank you for the fantastic alternatives to promoting wellness – dance classes, cooking, gardening, active community involvement… All of those and the others are really solid proposals that I’d feel really good about putting out there.

    And to those who brought up the motivation behind programs like this – it is absolutely clear to me that money is driving this. For as much as there is discussion of wanting to boost morale and improve employee health (in a time when furloughs and layoffs are abundant, and short-staffing to the point that one person’s sick days cause workload stress on everyone in the office), behind that are the factors of productivity, efficiency and insurance premiums: bottom line = money. Yet to launch a program that I know could cause personal stress to a number of people, while sending dangerous and false messages (with which we’re bombarded everywhere else anyway) – this just cannot be the solution.

    I am fighting the part of me that wants to freeze up and stay quiet about this, the part that will turn so red in the face when the moment comes for me to say my piece. I tend to get emotional when talking about things I care about, especially when going out on a limb on sensitive issues (and ones I struggle with daily still.) But I think I can do it for everyone I know would be affected if I don’t, myself included. Thank you guys for reinforcing the importance of this, and for helping arm me with the perspectives, resources and ideas that I will strive to convey in a way that might reach the “minds that matter” in terms of ultimate decision-making.

    I can’t reiterate enough how valuable this community is.

  71. Just wanted to add that I went into our break area to refill my water bottle, and there were 3 signs (2 in the kitchen areas and one on the breakfast order form to the guy who delivers food we can custom order the day before) reading: “REMEMBER! NO MEAT on Fridays!!!”

    Bzuh? Also, I work for the government. Good times.

    (The signs are in the trash now. Is that wrong?)

  72. Twenty-five pounds? What an amateur. If she wants to create news, drama, and death fat, she needs to be carrying like, fifty-five pounds beyond what the beauty gods dictate. I know this because that’s how many, roughly, I have, and of course everyone is concerned I’m going to OMG die, except of course for the people who keep telling me how I’m actually not fat (?!). Either way, it’s a denial of Me. And that’s what’s getting to me, more and more, as I read SP and Shakes and other FA and feminist blogs… it’s just… it’s always all about how we belong to everybody around us, it’s never about us, except then people like my boyfriend say things like “geez, you never take care of yourself,” or “why do you worry so much about what other people think?” Listen, it’s not what other people think so much luv, it’s what they say, and trust me, they feel very free to say and say and say, until I feel like I don’t have any say.

    Thus, it irritates me most here that she is being taken so far out of the picture. Because, even though the problem is that she just doesn’t take CARE of herself anymore, the whole thing really isn’t about her, you know? Even taking care of herself isn’t really about her, it’s about her husband and kids and how she wants to be healthy “for them.” And about her adoring media public who is all up in arms about what she might or mightn’t be doing with her own motherfucking body.


  73. All I have to say is I totally agree with Lori about this “not living to see my kids grow up” bullshit. It has been bothering me for years.

    estrella, I am so sorry about that program. My friend had a wellness competition at work that didn’t involve weight loss–just checking off boxes if you drink x amount of water or exercise or whatever. I still hate that kind of thing (hello nanny employer), but it is miles less objectionable than a Biggest Loser contest. Maybe you could suggest that as “something everybody can participate in, since healthy behaviors are good for everyone and a Biggest Loser approach would exclude thin people and those with eating disorders”? AND FAT PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT TO WASTE THEIR TIME IN A SELF-FLAGELLATING FUCKED-UP WEIGHT LOSS COMPETITION, but you can just think that part to yourself. :)

  74. estrella, I think those signs were Lent related. This should be the last Friday of that particular prohibition.

  75. estrella, I certainly would have trashed those signs. Then again, I have 13 years of Catholic schooling to back up my disdain.

    If you are worried about not being able to speak your opinions clearly about this office weight loss fiasco, try writing down what you want to say. I’ve found it easier to remember the words I want to say (especially in a emotional situation) if I’ve written them down previously.

  76. spacedcowgirl – “AND FAT PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT TO WASTE THEIR TIME IN A SELF-FLAGELLATING FUCKED-UP WEIGHT LOSS COMPETITION, but you can just think that part to yourself. :)”

    TOTALLY!! This just cracked me up at my desk, and I needed the laugh today. :)

    liberalandproud – Yes, I’m relieved this will be the end (this year) of the religious-themed food restriction reminders in public spaces of a government office, just dismayed that someone thought that was okay to begin with. (Especially as I am one of the civil rights trainers here.)

    JR – Great suggestion on writing it out first. I’ve done that before when facing emotional conversations (though personal and not work-related), and I think it could really help keep me clear, confident and focused (and not all voice-warbly and deep-blushy. I hope.)

  77. Estrella, it’s not clear from your mention if the Lent-related meat sign was in a public space or just intended for the food-delivery person. If it’s the latter, it makes sense to me from the perspective that if most of your particular employees will not be eating meat on Fridays, delivering meat on Fridays would result in wasted food. So it could be as simple as a waste-reduction, money-saving measure.

  78. Estrella, also I’m right there with you on the Biggest Loser thing. Someone just proposed one to the wellness team I’m on at work. I responded with a number of points including, ” I worry that a program focused on weight loss competition ostracizes fat employees and triggers people with eating disorders. ” (Phrasing probably stolen from an FA site somewhere.)

    And the response from a team member, paraphrased to avoid trouble from copying, “Let’s not overanalyze this and worry about hurting people’s feelings.”

    Uh, ok, set aside that this is not just about feelings. How is it hurting people’s feelings promoting wellness? It’s ok to insult people in the name of health?

    The thread died, but maybe I’ll ask that question if it comes up again.

  79. Technically, the no meat on Fridays is an every week rule. But no one pays attention to it except in Lent, at which time it can get into a disordered eating competition, complete with binging cycles.

    After coming to terms with the fact that God loves my little dyke butt, coming to terms with god loving my little fat butt was a snap. I think if my parish tried a Biggest Loser competition, I’d walk out.

    With my tithe money.

  80. I’ve got a special place in my heart for the Catholics of my region, who in the face of the no-meat on Fridays prohibition, embraced the deprivation by deep-frying fish in beer and eating them with fries and mayo-encased slaw. And more beer. That’s the sort of underhanded obedience that I’d like to see more of.

  81. “Technically, the no meat on Fridays is an every week rule. But no one pays attention to it except in Lent, at which time it can get into a disordered eating competition, complete with binging cycles.”

    I thought the no meat thing got thrown out with Vatican II. That’s way too much catholic school though.

  82. Speaking of “our culture is so f’ed up about claiming dieting is for health it’s not funny”: http://www.wetv.com/save-your-life/index.html

    Does the woman in the banner look like she’s going to keel over and die from an obesity-related disease within the next five to ten years? Nope.

    Does she have any health effects from her weight? I can’t tell; I’m not a doctor and I don’t have her chart in front of me. I mean, she could have some joint problems, and some doctors believe those are exacerbated by over-average weight. But those can be treated pretty easily by strengthening exercises, and leg presses don’t make for good television.

    Is the “Diet Detective” in charge of the show a doctor? Well, he’s training for his Ph.D in public health. Oh, and he’s got a J.D., which is technically a Juris Doctor. Funny, I haven’t seen any nutrition or exercise classes in my law school’s catalog. But maybe Fordham’s curriculum is different.

    Now, if the Diet Detective had titled his show “I’m Going To Try To Make You Thinner” I wouldn’t have thought anything of the billboard. If it was something like “Look Better Naked”, I would have rolled my eyes and moved on. But implying a woman’s life is in danger because she’s moderately fat?

    I miss the days when weight loss was about vanity and not health.

  83. Yes, even though the vanity is misguided and shaped by misogyny.

    OTOH, it’s almost a sign of progress that the diet industry has to use people’s health fears now. It’s like women realized, “Hey, I’m still pretty attractive even though I’m not a size X!” The diet industry then created this “It’s for health! You’re doing this for your health!” idea.


  84. Here’s something that might make Biggest Loser style competitions at work less attractive to bosses: people who are dieting aren’t as focused as people who aren’t restricting calories. Dieting negatively impacts productivity.

    I feel that employers have no business meddling with the health of employees. I fully support the right of everyone to drink, smoke, and be as unhealthy as they like because I believe that health is, 100%, a private matter. I think if your employer can police what you do in your off hours, we’ve moved from being employed to being owned. Unfortunately, the law has yet to agree with me.

  85. If your employers really want contests, as other people said, there are contests that can be done that aren’t weight-loss related (explicitly). Someone I know participated in a stair-climbing contest at work, where each team counted the stairs they climbed in a week, and the highest cumulative score won. That’s really ablist so I don’t recommend it in particular, but the concept isn’t entirely bad.

  86. @volcanista, I agree that’s better than a Biggest Loser competition–pretty much anything would be!–but even something like that could be problematic. If somebody is prone to being very rigid or self-punishing about these sorts of things, I think any contest could cause problems.

    For a while I was tracking my steps each day. It seemed like a low-key, non-obsessive thing to do: I just wanted to see if I was getting in 10,000 steps. But I am REALLY prone to getting obsessive about diet and exercise, and soon I was getting into the mindset of “If 10,000 steps a day is good, 12,000 is better” and then “I took 14,000 steps today, so if I do any less than that tomorrow, I’m a fat lazy slug.” I finally decided that, on days when I do track steps (which I do still do occasionally), as soon as I hit 10,000 I take the pedometer off and don’t give it a second thought. Point being: if my workplace had a contest about climbing steps, if I did participate I’d probably end up making it into some sort of self-punishing exercise where if I wasn’t in the top 3 or so of people at the workplace, I’d start hating myself.

    I just don’t understand why these sorts of things need to be contests. To me, “wellness” and that sort of competition are two very different things. It’s not like people are known for keeping up behavior begun in a contest, anyway. Even something seemingly innocuous like having people see who could be the most consistent at drinking 8 glasses of water a day is probably not going to translate into a long-term change.

  87. A Sarah — the original Hebrew uses “deshem”, which literally does mean “fat” (in the adjectival sense). It also means more generally “juicy”, especially in reference to meat, or can refer to olive oil or to fatty ashes.

  88. Lori, I second Sweet Machine’s “word.” May I borrow that phrasing for the wellness team?

    Godless Heathen, I get what you’re saying. Personally I think that if my employer is going to have a wellness program, I may as well join it and be subversive and productive from the inside and try to promote HAES rather than weight loss. And I do think it’s fair that if my employer bans smoking on all of our property (not even in a car in our parking lot), it is good to at least provide help for people to get through withdrawal and quit if they so choose.

  89. @cripkitty, Vatican II said you can either eat meat and do other acts of penance, or not eat meat and tra la la along your day.

    However, there are catholic churches [see what I ddi there?] that don’t recognize Vatican II, such as the Anglo-Catholics in the Episcopal Church. For us, the no meat on Fridays is a requirement. However, us being Episcopalians, it’s only a requirement if you feel it will enhance your spiritual journey, because as the prophet Isaiah says in chapter 58:

    6Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the thongs of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?

    Technicality: not eating meat is abstaining. Not eating a meal altogether is fasting from that meal. In the Episcopal Church, as in many other catholic churches, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are fast days.

  90. (On the theology sub-thread.) I always liked C.S. Lewis’ take on gluttony from the “Screwtape Letters” where he describes the “patient’s mother” as someone susceptible to the sin of gluttony despite the fact that she “only wants a piece of dry toast, very crisp” because she puts food above basic courtesy. She uses it as a weapon to demean and inconvenience those around her.

    My all time favorite (apocryphal?) “fact” about Aquinas (though I do like him and am possibly the only non-theology student in the history of the world to own the Summa) is that he was in fact SO fat that he had to cut a hole in the table for his belly so he could reach the plate. It’s just so absurd.

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