Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Flu! A Movie. Eating Tissues?

I haven’t posted here for quite some time now.  I just haven’t been up to it … I somehow got a particularly horrible viral flu that put me flat on my back for the better part of a week and then it took me a couple more weeks to shake off the residual effects and get through the things I HAD to do every day.  There was just nothing left in me at the end of any given day to sit down and put words on a page in a somewhat comprehensive manner.

I won’t bore you with all the details – ICKY - suffice it to say that I do not recall EVER being quite THAT sick as an adult! 

When I finally decided that “toughing it out” was not the answer and got myself to the doctor – who promptly ordered lots of fluids and bed rest (translate that as “sorry, its viral so there’s nothing I can give you to make you all better”) it was the Thursday in April that Boston police had the shootout with the Boston bombing suspects.  The next day, as I slipped in and out of what seemed like consciousness but was actually sleep (yeah, I was really that sick) the television was on and I saw most of the CNN coverage of the manhunt for the younger Tsarnaev brother.

Being an avid reader I usually do not watch much television, but reading becomes an impossible chore when your head feels like it is full of concrete and your stomach rolls in objection to every movement.  So, I resigned myself to watching television and became quite addicted to CNN.  I am now very well versed in the details of the Jody Arias case, the Boston Bombing, the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion, saw the Amanda Knox interviews and witnessed the rescue of the three female hostages in Connecticut.

I finally worked up the fortitude to reach for the remote control without both my head and my stomach revolting against the movement so I switched to watching movies.  The first one I came across was “The Devil Wears Prada”.

Trivia Tidbit:  Although the movie is set in the fashion world, most designers and other fashion notables avoided appearing as themselves for fear of displeasing U.S. Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who is widely believed to have been the inspiration for Priestly.  Still, many allowed their clothes and accessories to be used in the film, making it the most expensively costumed film in history.  Wintour later overcame her initial skepticism, saying she liked the film and Streep in particular.  (source:  Wikipedia)

I really am getting to my point, so bear with me here.

Anyone not familiar with the movie should know that it revolves around publishing “Runway”, a fashion magazine and image is very important theme.  As the Anne Hathaway character moves from being a normal (minded and sized) young woman looking for a job to being a magazine size-appropriate member of the publisher’s team many issues about body image are brought to the forefront.  That’s not the basis of the whole movie, but it fits into the topic I am working towards here.  In one scene a young secretary (played by Emily Blunt) has been trying to diet down to a size zero in order to be able to attend the Paris fashions shows with the magazine publisher (played by Meryl Streep).  Asked by the Anne Hathaway character how she manages to stay so skinny, she replied, “I just don’t eat anything at all.  If I start to feel like I am going to pass out I eat a small cube of cheese.  I am just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.”

Stomach flu, okay that was funny.  Then again, feeling the way I did, not so much.  I didn’t really think about the impact my flu would have on my next TOPS weigh-in because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself.  I knew I was on the mend when I started to feel hungry (of course!) but I still couldn’t manage to keep anything down (of course!).   But obviously not eating any solid food would definitely cause the scale to go down.  It did - dramatically!  But I also found out it was only a temporary fix, since it evened out when I started eating normally again.

I’ve been thinking about various topics for a blog post, but kept hemming and hawing and procrastinating because I really didn’t feel I had anything interesting to write about.  However, that one line from the movie stayed with me …

“I am just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.”

There has always been a controversy about actresses, magazine and runway models giving young women – ALL women – a distorted idea of the ideal body type.  These super skinny, air brushed images are just too difficult to live up to for the ordinary person, never mind someone who already has body and weight issues.  It’s enough to send anyone over the edge.

I really shouldn’t limit this to women as men are bombarded with perceived perfect body images too.  That elusive six-pack is always apparent when a male model or actor removes their shirt.

Trivia Tidbit:  As hard and long as Gerard Butler worked out before the filming of 300, he could never achieve the abs he wanted.  The solution was simple.  They applied body make-up to make up for what he could not naturally achieve.

So for all you guys out there, if you don’t mind getting make-up on the inside of your shirt, you too can have perfect six-pack abs.

Yes, although generally referred to in the context of the female population eating disorders, fad diets and body image issues are cross-gendered.

Today I spotted a little headline on my YahooNews page that immediately caught my attention.  The headline read “Eating Tissues: Ex-Vogue Editor Reveals Models’ Secrets”.

Kirstie Clements, a top editor of Vogue Australia magazine for thirteen years, has written a new book titled “The Vogue Factor”.  It is an account of her time in the magazine industry and she reveals not only some of the behind the scenes tidbits about publishing a fashion magazine but also some of ugly details about the extent that fashion models will go to in order to achieve that perfect (??) silhouette.  On “Entertainment Tonight” (May 22, 2013) Ms. Clements recalled one season when the models were particularly thin.  “I was having dinner with a new York agent who told me that a few of the girls had resorted to eating tissues.  I’d never heard of such a thing.  I said ‘Oh, what did that do?’  Apparently, they swelled in your stomach and made you feel full, and I definitely heard that some girls were unwell.  Over time, I did hear that.”  She also told “ET” that already slender models who aspired to becoming catwalk models in Paris were often expected to lose ‘a great deal of weight’ so they could fit into the sample sizes.  Runway models were typically thinner than the models that would appear in the magazine.



Some other examples of extreme measures models would take …

- Models would undergo breast reduction surgery to look thinner.

- Models were hospitalized and put on drips because they had   starved themselves.

- Already thin models would starve themselves down two more sizes so they would be  cast in overseas shows.  The Vogue office would say she had to be “Paris thin”.

Paris thin, where have I heard that before?  Oh yeah, just like in “The Devil Wears Prada”.  “One stomach flu away from goal weight”.

Ms. Clement does state that “some girls do lose weight for shows in a healthy manner, or simply have a very thin body type.  During the “ET” interview Ms. Clements also said she feels like she was part of the problem, referring to the fashion industry’s habit of lauding the super-skinny model.  “To tell you the truth, I thought everyone was complicit in it”, she explained.

Another modeling insider, Cynthia Bailey - a model, star of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and CEO of the Bailey Agency in Atlanta is quoted as saying she has seen models go through real extremes to avoid gaining weight but is surprised to see the measures made so public.  “I am a little surprised that a Vogue editor is speaking out about it because usually these are things that we just know about but we never talk about.”

Some critics have pointed out that Ms. Clements was fired in May of 2012 after 25 years at the magazine so this book revealing the “dirty little secrets” could just be a case of sour grapes.  Ms. Clements responded to these accusations on “ET’ stating that her book was not a “bitter expose”, but rather told the truth about what happen in the fashion publishing world.  “It’s honest and honesty.  It’s not bitterness.”

The newest editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia, Edwina McCann, told ABC News that she can only speak for the magazine as it stands today.  “We are vocal ambassadors for the message of healthy body images.”  I read that quote with more than a touch of skepticism.  When the magazine covers start to reflect her words, then I will start to believe it.  In the meantime I'll stick to reading books over magazines.

Although the portrayal of the industry is shocking I am certainly not surprised.  I wrote a piece on a similar subject several years ago, which only goes to prove that this issue has been around for a long time and frighteningly will probably be around for a long time yet to come.  Until everyone can agree that size two is not the normal (nor ideal) female figure we are condemning ourselves to a losing battle in the quest to be and eat healthy.  If anyone cares to read it, I will post it below.

Although we are all trying to live a healthier lifestyle and that includes eating properly, whether it be for weight loss or not and, for many of us that includes trying to coax those stubborn numbers on the scale down a little bit … my personal opinion is I’ll put up with the tummy rumbles, the cravings and the extra inches on my ass.  Hide the chocolate, pass the celery sticks and keep the tissues for the next time I have the flu!

As I mentioned above this is hardly a new issue.  For anyone interested enough to read on, this is something I wrote back in September of 2009.


Recently, when my home page popped up on my computer screen a link caught my attention.  It was entitled


I am one of those people who would never be described as petite or svelte or even thin.  I have always been “zaftig” or “rubenesque”.  In all honesty, I am a little tired of apologizing for it.

I am healthy and reasonably fit.  I come from a background where food was real and meals were enjoyed.  Admittedly looking back, some alternative choices could have been made but now I try to eat healthy.  But let’s face it – I love food.   And that old demon, chocolate, does whisper in my ear. 

I was thrilled, when a few years back, fashion runways agreed to ban models that looked anorexic.  As a woman and as a mother of daughters, that illusion of perfection was hellish to try to live up to. 

Television, being the primary source of entertainment for so many people, has always depicted girlfriends, wives and mothers as perfect role models.  In the opening credits of the show Mrs. Cleaver wore pearls and heels to clean her oven.  I wear what I affectionately refer to as “grubbies”.

Claire Huxtable was always impeccably dressed even in her own home.  When I get home from work I can’t wait to get out of “work clothes” and into “comfy” clothes be they sweats or jean and a tee shirt.

Jennifer Love Hewitt, star of Ghost Whisperer, had her picture all over the tabloid announcing how much weight she had gained … reality check here … a size two is NOT fat!

 When Roseanne hit the airwaves, there was finally a woman who was “plus sized”, but now she was portrayed as being slovenly, brash, ignorant and lower class than all those well dressed women who came before her.  Apparently there was no happy middle ground. 

So enter the 21st century and television that is suddenly filled with images of full-figured people, both real and fictional.

Hurrah you might say, but not so fast …

These full-figured people are not portrayed as healthy, successful, everyday people just living their lives.  These shows actually focus on their size.

MORE TO LOVE – twenty women ranging in size from 14 to 22 are guided through a “The Bachelor” type show trying to win the love of a man.  The man himself being 6’3” and 330 pounds.  The height and weight of the women, as well as that of the man flashed on the screen as they were being introduced in the first episode.

Yup – that takes all the focus off the body type!

DANCE YOUR ASS OFF – 12 contestants, weighing a total of 3,000 pounds lose weight through dancing.  Good for them for being ready to make a healthy change, but the focus is just a little different from that of “So You Think You Can Dance”.

DROP DEAD DIVA – a model wannabe dies and comes back as a plus size attorney.  Does that sound like a reward or a punishment?  Or a life lesson?

RUBY – tells the story of Ruby Gellinger who topped the scales at 716 and has now dropped to 350 pounds.  Ruby is an amazing lady, who has a sense of humor and who loves life.  But that takes a back seat to the scales in this show.  A very strongly emphasized side line to Ruby’s journey is that the “love of her life” left her, because she got too fat.  She wants to be loved unconditionally but now that she has lost a tremendous amount of weight, this man has waltzed back into her life and she has allowed him to!  I personally applaud her awesome effort and achievement and I hope she is an inspiration to many people fighting the same battle, BUT what kind of message is this relationship sending to the people watching the show … I am not worthy of being loved unless I am thin and perfect?

The September issues of fashion magazines are usually filled with pages upon pages of stick-thin models wearing the latest haute-couture for fall.  Would you expect a “normal” looking woman to be sitting in the middle of the magazine naked and exposing, dare I say, even showing off a “normal” body?  Glamour magazine did just that.  Twenty year old model Lizzi Miller who at a size 12 is considered a plus size model in the fashion industry.  (Puh-leaze!!!!

From the press release … “She is shown in a sideways pose, her arms covering her breasts, only the string of a string bikini visible at the waist. The shocker: Her belly hangs over the string and rests just a bit on her thighs.  Not only that, but she’s laughing AS IF SHE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW.  There’s a roll in her belly that looks like every woman over the age of 16.  And, there she is, looking happy and confident and like she loves life and like she’s the sexiest thing the world.”

Reaction to the photo has been overwhelmingly positive with comments like, “I am gasping with delight” and “I love the woman on page 194”.   My own comment … its about damn time!

So in light of all this, am I going to give up my gym membership … NOPE!

Am I going to give up my treadmill … NOPE!

Am I going to let my TOPS membership lapse … NOPE!

Am I going to continue to try for healthy meals … ABSOLUTELY!

Am I going to ignore the demon chocolate whispering in my ear … MOSTLY!

But I am also going to remember that I am 50 years old … age, gravity, child bearing and life have taken their toll.  Shirley Valentine had it right … they are the scars and lines of life and of a life being lived well.

Coincidentally, the following arrived in my email (as a joke) about the same time as I was reading these articles.  I thought it was apt but not necessarily funny.

Recently, in a large French city, a poster featuring a young, thin and tan woman appeared in the window of a gym. It said:


     A middle aged woman, whose physical characteristics did not match those of the woman on the poster, responded publicly to the question posed by the gym.
 To Whom It May Concern:
     Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans).  They have an active sex life, they get pregnant and have adorable baby whales.  They have a wonderful time with dolphins and stuffing themselves with shrimp.  They play and swim in the seas, seeing wonderful places like ..Patagonia.., the Barren   Sea and the coral reefs of  ..Polynesia.. . Whales are wonderful singers and have even recorded CDs.  They are incredible creatures and virtually have no predators other than humans.
They are loved, protected and admired by almost everyone in the world.
Mermaids don't exist.
If they did exist, they would be lining up outside the offices of Argentinean psychoanalysts due to identity crisis.  Fish or human?  They don't have a sex life because they kill men who get close to them not to mention how could they have sex?  Therefore they do not have kids either. Not to mention who wants to get close to a girl who smells like a fish store?
The choice is perfectly clear to me; I want to be a whale.

    P.S. We are in an age when media puts into our heads the idea that only skinny people are beautiful, but I prefer to enjoy an ice cream with my kids, a good dinner with a man who makes me shiver and a coffee with my friends. 
With time we gain weight because we accumulate so much information and wisdom in our heads that when there is no more room it distributes out to the rest of our bodies.  So we aren't heavy, we are enormously cultured, educated and happy.  Beginning today, when I look at my butt in the mirror I will think,
"Good gosh, look how smart I am."

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