10.10.2008

Is everyone some shade of anorexic?

First of all: required reading if you want to completely understand why I'm so worked up:

Margarita Bertsos - Glamour Magazine "Shape-up" Blogger introduces herself.

More from Margarita - The one where she brings her own food to restaurants.

Jezebel's commentary on diet blogging. They've already done it better than I will, but I'm going to go ahead and rant.

As a disclaimer, this is meant in no way as a criticism of Margarita's diet OR her blog. I admire her candor and her courage in writing so freely and honestly about things that are typically so wrapped up in shame that people won't admit to even thinking about them. God knows, I wouldn't have the guts to write so in-depth about my issues with food and my body on such a highly publicized stage.

That being said, it seems like a version of something I've done in the past and something I've heard other people planning to do - entering into a semi-codependent agreement to go on a crazy diet with someone else. I call it "keeping me honest" and I guess it is helpful to have someone help you be accountable for your actions (ingestions), but it seems like Margarita didn't necessarily enter into a healthy agreement with her thousands of avid readers (brought to her by the Glamour Magazine publicity department). It seems instead like she was frustrated at not advancing out of her "Executive Assistant" position and saw that in her chosen industry, she would have to be thin to be successful.

And so she volunteered to put her insecurities on parade and embark on a project of precipitous weight-loss (looks like about a hundred pounds in just over eight months, though I don't know her height, so can't really gauge) in order to advance in her work. If diets involved sleeping with her boss, she could level the company with a sexual harassment suit. (And I realize I'm being a little reactionary here, as the company doesn't seem to have approached her and said, "it's too bad you're not skinny, because you'd make a great health editor," but I am, I think, rationally pissed off at the tacit understanding that anyone working at any level in fashion or related fields must be thin. See also the diet Emily Blunt had to go on in order to pretend to work in Fashion for the movie The Devil Wears Prada, as well as the really unhealthy pressure that Anne Hathaway's character succumbs to - and to which she also seems to have bowed in real life... girlfriend is THIN now.)

Anyway. This is all hooked in with my body- and food-issues. The standards for what is overweight these days seem entirely insane. Sizes of clothing keep getting smaller and smaller, while the population's size as a whole doesn't seem to radically be changing. This results in lots of perfectly normal-size women looking for a lone size 10 in a sea of 00s left over at the end of a season and in other women (myself included, in some stores) never fitting into even the largest of sizes that stores stock, (and here the issue is not that they don't make clothes that fit me, but that they don't make them available. I, for instance can't try on a pair of jeans in the Gap store I most often shop in because they don't STOCK a size 14 Long. They stock a size 2 Long, but not a 14 Long. Because THAT'S logical.) without being fat. (And here I don't mean to imply that "fat" women deserve to not fit into any clothes at the Gap... I'm simply trying to point out the illogic and unfairness of the way retail has changed to reflect the radical thinness that is in style in fashion magazines and on runways. It is NOT a realistic ideal, even for the naturally-waif-thin women of this world.) There is also, for the record, a gulf between where "normal" clothes stores cut off and where "plus sized" clothes stores pick up. That's where I live. And while I think I've actually got a pretty great body (at the moment and for the first time in a REALLY long time), I don't look good in almost ANYTHING I wear because I'm in this no-man's land.

I'm a tall woman. 5'11" on a short day and, though I don't know my weight (I step on the scales backward at the doctor's office because the number makes me uncomfortable and I prefer to judge my body by how it feels and not how it measures. This is because some Crazy Person inside of me thinks that I should still weigh the 125 I did just after my 6 inch growth spurt.), I do know that my BMI (Body Mass Index, for those who aren't even a little bit obsessed) puts me just over the edge into Overweight. Though I measure as Overweight, I also think I would look kind of scary if I lost the approximately THIRYTY pounds it would take to put me squarely in the Normal category. (a. I HATE that they label it Normal. b. I understand there are medical theories behind the BMI, but it's supposed to account for men and women equally. I, however, have probably 25 pounds of boobs (I read somewhere that your averabe D-cup weighs between 15 and 20 pounds, and I've moved on past the D-cup, to be honest) but I just can't believe that breast tissue and the accompanying fat can be accounted for in a measure that is also supposed to work for a man who has the same height and weight as me.

But I digress. I'm falling into the trap that Jezebel put thusly:
Even more than that, I wonder if diet blogs can be positive at all. It's good for women to have spaces where they can speak freely about their issues and feelings, but whenever we do posts about weight, discussion always devolves into people posting their heights and weights down to the decimal point.
It's not about my weight or my clothing size or my food issues. It's about the culture of thinness and the pressure put on women to conform to an ideal that, if they attained it, would certainly cause bad health and possibly even death. I just think that our society needs to broaden its understanding of what's thin, doctors need to either explain to me how my boobs fit into their BMI or come up with a system that fairly tells women (who have all the parts they came with) what's healthy and what isn't, and stores need to actually cater to their customers, 95% of whom are NOT shaped like their models.

And with that, Captain Obvious signs off for today.

8 comments:

Blume said...

I've moved on past the D-cup, to be honest

Heh, me too, and I just realized it a few weeks ago, all in a flash. And in that second, my old D-cup bra became unbearable, and I was like, Take me to Nordstrom NOW.

But I've never even considered the effect that breasts have on BMI calculations. I always weigh in at right under the border to "overweight", and I've always contributed that to being 'stocky'. I can't decide if my taking a new 'justification' for my weight from your post is a positive thing, or an example of exactly the thing that Jezebel was pointing out. It is a minefield indeed.

EEJ said...

Yeah. I don't know if I'm trying to rationalize my weight away or if it's an actual problem with the system of measurements in place. But it seems to be a real issue... I mean, my boobs have a mind of their own... it doesn't really matter if I'm working out or eating sticks of butter with my hands... they grow or they shrink as they like with no correlation. I assume it's hormonal. And that seems like it must throw their calculations off... That much weight fluctuating of it's own accord must have some effect on the accuracy of their measurements. Especially given that men don't have that issue. The idea of trying to apply the same boxed-in measurement system to men and women really just pisses me off, seeing as we are, in many ways, such different organisms. And why, if we are otherwise healthy, should we have to fit into that "Normal" category anyway? I mean... I may be ten pounds or fifteen pounds outside their "Normal range," but I don't have any weight related health problems.

The Wannabe MD said...

I think the health profession uses BMI because it's the only simple system readily available to start categorizing "healthy" vs. "unhealthy" weight. That said, it's probably overly-convenient, and there are a lot of people who consider it a lousy approximation. (To see why, check this out: http://www.slide.com/r/uet94zHu6j-YreOA3OK9S_DGh_6PGiFB?cy=un)

Even from a health standpoint, the notion that "overweight" people should be singled out for diets and exercise seems ridiculous to me. Fatty food and inactivity are just as bad for skinny people as they are for heavier ones, because we're all susceptible to the same cholesterol and plaque build-up that cause circulatory problems. Obesity may factor into diabetes, arthritis, etc. for some people, but others are just built to be big, and as long as they're taking care of themselves within the same standards that apply to everyone else, there's nothing wrong with it. (I can't pass that off as a medical opinion yet, but I'm pretty sure it's true!)

Re: the clothing size issue... the American clothing industry has actually been increasing the circumference of its size zeroes to make women feel better about themselves. I am an "unhealthily" small (by BMI standards) person who has been at the same weight for years... yet, with every passing year I have a harder time finding even size double-zeroes that won't fall off my butt. My two favorite pairs of jeans actually came from a juniors department (which is also a difficult place to shop, because skinny does not necessarily equal short). It makes me neurotic that there's something wrong with my weight, too. So really, people at either fringe of "normal" are getting screwed over.

Heather A said...

In modeling school, they told us that anything above a size 8 was "fat". I was a 10 at the time, and you know I'm tall, so they put me on this basic starvation diet, not letting me have more than 800 calories a day. Sometimes it was only 700. Well, that severely screwed my metabolism and now it's impossible to lose weight unless I'm eating less than 700 calories a day . . . screw that. And if there's all that poundage in a D cup . . . what's there in a FF? Can I write that off somewhere? "But what would I weigh if I cut off my boobies?! You have to take that into account!"

lebrookski said...

i have nothing really to contribute to the conversation, since i think you completely hit the nail on the head. i just wanted to say that i always thought you were quite the looker with a great sense of style. i still think that (just in case i mislead you with the usage of the past tense)

EEJ said...

@ the Wannabe MD: Yeah, I totally realize that people like you (who are naturally thin - i.e. don't have massive eating problems and are still very thin) have it bad too... When you get to be a fabulous women's doctor, why don't you come up with some reasonable standards for us? Also, you're totally right... I'm *really* close to the "normal" range, but I realize there are some major issues with my lifestyle that I should work on (i.e. stop being completely sedentary - thank you grad school, and stop eating a stick of butter a day - since I inherited some cholesterol issues), so them telling me "you're normal" wouldn't change the fact that I'm not *actually* healthy.

@ heather a: DAMN. I didn't know you went to modeling school. But to the point - WOW. Shitty diet to put you on. And isn't it amazing that one crash diet like that can fuck with your metabolism? I say you're better off out of the modeling world. Not a good place to be.

@ lebrookski: Aww... thanks! And, I'm really glad you're reading here, even if it is pretty boring most of the time! Hope you're well in HH!

Liz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

BMI is essentially worthless. They are superficial, in that they don't take bone or muscles density into account at all. Using a traditional BMI places Michael Jordan into the Overweight category. Preposterous.

Is it that stores don't stock your size, or that your sizes are so common, they sell out quickly?