Archive for anorexia

Is it wrong to feature plus-size models?
The debate ranges on


PLUS Model Magazine has caused quite a controversy with their recent “Plus Size Bodies: What Is Wrong with Them Anyway?” article, which questions the size and health of most models and pushes for more plus-size ones. As one of their pictorials points out, “Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for anorexia.”

PLUS Model also claims “50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller” and argues we need more a greater variety of sizes in retail stores as well.

PLUS Model’s editor-in-chief explains that her magazine is “a response to a fashion and beauty industry which continues to endorse a skinny ideal that is not always healthy and alienates a huge percentage of the market.”

Of course, the response to this story has been mixed.

Some people are thrilled about Plus Model Magazine, insisting it’s about time we show women in magazines who look more like the average American woman (a size twelve or fourteen depending on who you ask).

Salon admits “there can be no denying that the standards for beauty have drastically changed over the past several years. As Americans have been getting bigger, our lingerie models have been going on wackadoo ‘no solids’ diets to attain runway perfection. Thanks to the magic of photo editing technology, already slender models can be whittled down to near nonexistence.”

Still, others argue that showing size-fourteen women is endorsing obesity.

I’ve had the same kinds of comments on I Will Not Diet ever since I created this blog.

But it’s a false dilemma to say or imply that we have to choose between anorexic or obese models.

Most women who wear a size fourteen are not obese. I started wearing a size fourteen when I was in college. That was when I weighed 150 pounds; since I’m five-foot-six, that made my BMI 24, which is well within the normal range.

But I’ve always had big bones (my wrist is 6 ¾ inches), so I wear bigger clothes than most people who are the same weight as me. Some people think that saying you’re “big-boned” is just a euphemism for being overweight or “fat,” but it’s really not.

There are numerous thin people who have big bones (examples include Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and Nathan Fillion), and there are plenty of overweight people who have small bones (but I won’t name them here since doing so would only be cruel).

(If you want to find out if you’re big boned or not, here’s a simple way to do it—wrap your right thumb and longest finger around your left wrist. If your thumb and forefinger overlap, you have small bones; if they just touch, you have medium bones; and if they don’t touch at all, you have big bones. You can also use this chart or this calculator to determine if you have big bones. To read more about the big-boned-equals-fat misconception, go here and here and here.)

And big-boned women aren’t the only non-obese women who require a size fourteen. Tall women are another great example. I have several friends in the five-foot-ten to six-foot range and nearly all of them wear a size fourteen even though they are lithe and nowhere near obese.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

The point is that featuring women who are a size fourteen is not about endorsing obesity, its about endorsing variety, which is all but absent from the women we see everyday in our magazines, television shows, and films. As Plus Model Magazine points out, “Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.”

That’s why, as the magazine asserts, we need to pressure retailers to stop only catering to women who are smaller than the average American women. No one is saying this needs to happen at the cost of smaller women, but rather that we need models, clothes, advertising, and entertainment that reflects what a wonderfully diverse world we really are.

Cray cray on Capitol Hill

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Michaele Salahi or not.

To be honest, I wish I didn’t know who she was. But as fate would have it, I learned of her existence when she and her husband crashed the Obamas’ first state dinner last fall.

Crashing a presidential function in the post-9/11 era?

Not smart, Micheale. Not smart.

I could have written off that misstep as a one-time display of stupidity, but as of late, Real Housewives of D.C. star Salahi has been going after the stupid crown like Paris Hilton at a key party.

Because not only did the 44-year-old Salahi just pose naked for Playboy—classy!—she also revealed that she is completely cray cray in a failed attempt to deny she is anorexic. When an In Touch reporter asked what she thought of the rumors of her eating disorder, Salahi denied it and explained that “I start the day with a hot chocolate and cereal—I love Lucky Charms or Kashi GoLean—then some fruit. I don’t really eat a lot in the middle of the day. I have an early dinner, which is always a salad, with plain chicken, grilled or broiled.

The woman only eats cereal and salad and thinks she doesn’t have an eating disorder?

C r a z y !

To top it off, Salahi insulted all of us who are not as thin as she is when she said, “If [the women who call me anorexic] get out there and move, they will look like me and be thin, and it’ll all be good.

You can call me crazy if you want, but I don’t think that if we all stopped eating anything but cereal, hot chocolate, and salad, we would “all be good.”

I also don’t think that if we just “get out there and move” we’ll all suddenly look like Salahi, nor do I think most of us want to look like a middle-aged version of Back-t0-the-Beach Barbie.

Unfortunately, the answer to our obesity epidemic is not that simple, and I guess I should have known that someone who is so desperate for attention would probably not understand the intricacies of our country’s weight problem.

This whole thing just reminds me of something I already knew . . . never crash a Salahi party, especially if I haven’t eaten.

Monkey see, monkey do

CRYSTAL RENN, AGE 16

198 pounds

I just started reading Hungry by model Crystal Renn, and to be honest, so far I find the whole thing pretty terrifying. I’m about one hundred pages in, and I cannot believe the things Renn did herself to be a model. I’ll write a full review of the book when I finish it, but for now, I want to talk about the effect that reading the book is having on me.

As I confessed here last year, I went through an incredibly brief period of starving myself when I was fourteen. My attempt to become anorexic only lasted two and a half days, but I ate next to nothing that entire time. So much so that I almost passed out on the third day, and then, thankfully, gave up my “dream” of becoming anorexic.

Why did I do it?

Many, many reasons, but most of all because of a desire to be more thin and more attractive. But another big reason I did it was because I was reading about it all the time—in countless magazine articles and in dozens of young adult novels.

In fact, there was one specific book that outlined in full detail how the narrator learned to starve herself without detection, and, for a brief time, this book was my bible. I didn’t really think about not eating until I read it, and while I did, I got caught up in the protagonist’s obsession with losing weight. I was supposed to be disgusted by her choices, but instead I found myself rooting for her. And, eventually, hoping I could become her. I guess in some way it all seemed very glamorous to my foolish and naive adolescent self.

Scary, I know, but what’s even more frightening is that as I’m reading Hungry, I find myself thinking the same things. I find myself wondering if I could lose weight if I tried some of Crystal’s tricks—like working eight hours a day or eating lettuce every meal—and then I think to myself, What the hell is wrong with you??? You have a blog called “I Will Not Diet,” and you’re sitting here fantasizing about dieting in incredibly unhealthy ways!!! You are really messed up!!!

I also, just as disturbingly, find myself rooting for the sixteen-year-old Crystal to lose enough weight to have a “gap” between her legs, and then I say to myself yet again, What the hell???? Why do you want her to be that thin???

I think the reason I find myself rooting for the young Crystal to become thinner is because I want her to become the model she dreams of being, and that is almost just as messed up. Shouldn’t I want her to be something more healthy like a lawyer . . . or a college professor????

As it turns out, there is a still a part of me—at the age of forty, no less—that can relate to the adolescent desire to be thin and beautiful and . . . wait for it . . . famous. I’m disgusted with that part of me and also incredibly ashamed to admit it to you.

But I am admitting it because I think we can learn from it.

If someone who thinks dieting is so unhealthy that she blogs about it twice a week can start rooting for an adolescent model to be anorexic and even consider trying some of her f***ed up weight-loss techniques, what chance do young girls have of not parroting her choices?

The answer is almost none.

That is, without our help.

While I was walking today, I was thinking about this frightening epiphany I’ve had while reading Hungry, and I realized that the only thing we can do is talk to the young girls in our life about these issues. We can’t stop them from reading these books and articles—first of all, they’re ubiquitous and, second of all, the last thing we want to do is tell people what to read. But we can talk to them about what they read.

And once I’d figured this out, I also had to admit to myself something else that’s pretty scary, and it’s this: I would have NEVER felt comfortable discussing those YA books about anorexia with my own mother.

I’m not sure why—maybe it was because my mother always struggled with her weight, making me nervous about broaching the topic with her and hurting her feelings. More likely, though, it was because we never talked about body issues. I was always fit. (I hesitate to say “thin” only because I’ve been trained all my life not to think of myself as thin, though in truth, I was thin until I was twenty-six years old.) Because of this, there was no obvious reason to talk about my body. But my brief foray into anorexia proves that there really was a reason to talk about it. I should have been talking to my mom about my body issues all the time, but I wasn’t.

Instead I was reading a novel about a young woman who almost killed herself trying to be thin, and I was trying, rather desperately, to be like her.

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