Who benefits from the media obsession with obesity?

moneyI’m writing a feature for the magazine about fat. Not that Beautiful magazine is all about that, it’s not. In Beautiful magazine we cover a diverse range of subjects including celebrities, food, reviews, fashion and beauty to name a few. But you know our policy is to only show models size 12 and over and to ban diet advice etc etc. So the way we view size and body image is my thing. I’ve been a body image coach for five years so it’s what I write/think about most. I’m compelled to write and speak out about it.

I know a lot about why people eat too much or too little and I know about the role that weight plays in the problem of food regulation. I understand what’s going on in the mind of an overeater because I am one and an undereater because I’ve been there too, but also because I’ve spent 20 years reading obsessively about it and five years talking to hundreds and hundreds of women about their thoughts and feelings on food, eating and body image.

It’s my specialist subject and I’m a writer so I do write about it a lot.

I read about it a lot too and I’ve known that with the way the media is in fat hatred frenzy I’ve always got plenty to read. I just didn’t realise how much! A couple of days ago I set a Google alert with the word ‘obesity’. Google alerts just let you know the daily news on any subject of your choosing. So if you type in the word ‘goldfish’, you’ll get a list of all the news that contains the word ‘goldfish’ delivered to you in an email every 24 hours. I’ve got quite a few subjects of interest Google Alerted but none have delivered like the one for obesity.

Today’s obesity alert has delivered the following news:

Bicycle charity joins fight against childhood obesity

Moms Talk: Is There a Link Between Childhood Obesity and Exposure to Food Ads?

Fast food outlets face ban in drive to tackle child obesity

Obesity and pregnancy guidelines stir debate

Obesity Raises Risk for Early Death in Nonsmoking Women

US Military Fights Battle of the Bulge

US study on cutting rates of Pacific childhood obesity

Fat Tissue Provides Clues to Treat Obesity-related Diseases

Meat, potatoes cause obesity?

How Do Food Prices Affect Childhood Obesity?

It’s like this every day. There’s no other subject that delivers like this one. And because I know a great deal about the subject I can also see that much of the news on obesity is twisted and misunderstood. A lot of people make a lot of money from propaganda about obesity and it has consequences. Let’s just take one of these headlines at random and look at it closely to see how twisted it is and who loses out and who benefits.

Obesity Raises Risk for Early Death in Nonsmoking Women.

Actually, I can’t. I’ll have to come back to this because it is so stupid and so dangerous and full of misinformation and half truths that it’s making me too angry to write. It’s not too far-fetched to say that if this ‘news’ report stops just one person giving up smoking or drives a non-smoker to take up cigarettes because they think it will help them to lose weight, it could be directly to blame if that person dies of a smoking related disease. More than one person will give up their plans to stop smoking after reading this so the likelihood is that the report will be responsible for more than one death.

If you smoke because of this irresponsible journalism, you won’t lose weight, you’ll just become a smoker of the same weight you are now. Think about who benefits from this ‘news’. Here’s a clue, it’s not you.


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We are change!

Feminist picture

The New Feminist's strong typing arm

Everything’s moving along so quickly now with Beautiful magazine that my feet feel like they’re barely touching the ground! Now quarterly, the Summer issue is due out in May and we’re going to be monthly from Jan 2012. The amazing news is that our predicted readership figures show that by our Autumn issue we’ll have close to 120,000 readers, which is not only exciting business-wise, but because we’ll be making positive changes to women’s lives!

I was going to say that with the day to day running of a magazine and the stress and pressure of it all, it’s easy to forget Beautiful’s mission, but it’s not easy and it’s always in the forefront of my mind. LOADS of similar magazines are now springing up out of the woodwork and rather than seeing them as competition, I am thrilled as we’re all in this together and we are a movement for change. We’re the new face of feminism.

It’s like the 1970s all over again and there’s so much passion and anger and driven determination and thousands and thousands of women are fighting for change. I feel proud to be right at the head of it and because I’ve been fighting so hard for all of the changes for more than five years now, I feel that some of my own philosophies are responsible for this huge tide of activism.

We’re still pretty much ahead of the rest of the media science-wise and our understanding of disordered eating, body image psychology and diet thinking and behaviour means that Beautiful will always be the market leader. So even if we were competitive and this was all just about business, I wouldn’t be worried. As it is business is a good second in line to a burning desire to make a difference to women’s lives.

I’m just so proud to be a part of these wonderful changes.

We’re right at the beginning of what is definitely a revolution for women. It’s utterly thrilling!

The Summer issue of Beautiful, which is a very special issue indeed, will be in the shops in May. If you’d like to subscribe or order one to be delivered to your home, please email us by clicking here

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Half ton man

Patrick DeuelIf you watched Half Ton Man, part of Channel 4’s BodyShock series last night and you can’t understand why this poor man is eating himself to death. If you listen carefully you’ll hear the explanation quite near the beginning of the film when the narrator talks about Patrick Deuel’s childhood and how his mother tried to ‘help’ his big appetite.

“Betty banned sweets.”

There you go. The answer in one sentence. It’s always there in every one of these programmes.

It was the same for 34 Stone Teenager a couple of years ago. I remember her ‘one sentence’. This time from her mother, rather than the narrator:

“She was a big baby so I put her on a diet when she was three.”

Why not keep watching BodyShock to listen for it. Along with Half Ton Man you’ve got Half Ton Mum and Half Ton Dad coming up. See if you can spot the root cause in one sentence and post it here.

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We’re glossier than Vogue

…and all the other women’s magazines, too. Beautiful is going to be fabulous in print. Even if I say so myself. Everyone’s worked so hard on producing the magazine (which isn’t finished yet!) and people have been so lovely, generous and helpful. I just want to say thank you to all the writers, fashion and beauty people, photographers, layout designers, editorial assistants and of course, the beautiful models who have contributed towards making Beautiful something really special and different.

Beautiful is on its way!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about see the post below!

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Want to be happy? Buy this…

Bulimia Barbie

Lunch will ruin the line of this dress

I think it is a great shame that you don’t see people with buck teeth and sticking out ears any more. Well, you do see them in real life, but not much in the media.

Appearance has become so standardised and that what we really genuinely and internally find attractive has to be labelled as ‘wrong’ and replaced by a kind of prosthetic and moderated version that is a received notion of attraction.

There’s a post early on in this blog about how we don’t choose what we find to be beautiful. It’s not really something that we have control over and I, for one, definitely like wonky teeth. Patricia Arquette, for example, has got slightly wonky, very English teeth and they are lovely. Kirsten Dunst used to have them but I’m not sure if she has any more and Isabella Rosellini has them.

I also LOVE a ginger man with ginger eyelashes. And I also like fat blokes and think they’re sexy (Ray Winstone). I like to look at bigger than ideal women, like Jane Goldman and Nigella Lawson.

But all this is besides the point really and just a rebellion against the ideal. It’s not the ideal itself that is the problem, it’s having an ideal in the first place.

Appearance is important to us but the aspect of appearance that we think of when we think of beauty – especially our own beauty – is always focused on physical flaws that we’re convinced other people can not only see but that they will accept or reject us for. But attractiveness is not about teeth or body fat ratio or hair colour, it’s about something intangible.

A soft voice, the way someone turns their head, the way a person smiles or the light in their eyes. If you look at someone you know and like, whether they’re beautiful or not, it’s not their definable looks that you like it’s their quirks, their essence, something about them that makes you warm to them, want a part of them, want to be with them.

So it’s the same for you. People aren’t looking at whether you’ve gained a pound or two or have got a spot on your chin or had a hair dye disaster, they’re looking for that intangible air that is you, that makes you different from other people. They’re looking for your quirks, internal energy – the light inside you, your confidence, your focus, your attention, your ‘you-ness’.

That’s why, when you look at someone who isn’t particularly physically ‘ideal’ and you find them as sexy as hell, you find them as sexy as hell!

And you’ll find that the people you do think of as sexy and attractive are the ones who care less about what other people think about how they look and who are relaxed and self confident. The most unattractive people on the other hand, are those who are obsessed with appearance – even the ones who think they look good have an air of tension and instability. When we feel self conscious about looks, we seem stilted and devoid of charisma.

We’re told right from birth, though, that the definition of beauty is in the detail – the hair must be straight and shiny, the teeth must be straight and white, slimness is essential, skin has to be clear and features have to be regular. So we strive for it and in doing this we lose the light and the uniqueness that really makes us attractive. We start looking for signals that we’re doing the appearance thing right and so are never relaxed enough to give anyone else a glimpse of our inner light and confidence. We don’t even bother looking outward at who we’re with at all and so the world is filling up with empty and shallow and ‘perfect’ plastic dolls.

Have some courage and make yourself happier by severing the thought control and coming to your senses. There’s an episode of Red Dwarf where the crew of the ship get hooked on a virtual reality game called ‘Life’. They wear a headset and experience the game as if it’s real. Everything in the virtual reality world is exactly how they want it – they have all the money and luxury and admiration they’ve ever wanted. Meanwhile, their real bodies are wasting away because they stop eating or sleeping or talking to each other.

If you’re heavily influenced by the media pressure to look a certain way, you live in the same kind of game. Except the world is far from perfect and you are continually promised the money, the luxury and the admiration you crave. The game is fixed so that you’re forever chasing something you can never really reach. Meanwhile, real life is passing you by and your real self is withering away and so are your genuine connections with other people.

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Teacher, leave them kids alone

"Go on then, Mummy, just this once. I'm back on my diet tomorrow."

It’s wouldn’t be a shocker if I were to tell you that a UK magazine had airbrushed a cover model’s arms to make them look thinner would it? But if I added that it was Practical Parenting magazine and the cover model is five months old, then how would you feel?

And what if I told you that someone in the US had been denied medical insurance because they were ‘obese’? No matter whether you think it’s right or wrong, or how informed you are about the real causes of obesity, you’d either feel angry towards the health insurers and the government legislation that makes it possible or angry at the obese person for eating too much and not caring about their own health. But when I tell you that the person in question is an infant that’s still breast feeding, then what would you think?

When babies are being airbrushed to remove their chubby creases and refused health care for being too fat when they have yet to eat a solid meal, things have gone far too far. The result is that babies as young as five months old are being taken to gyms across London to work out, to quell the fears of their image conscious yummy mummies who don’t want to be seen to have had a fat child. And even my friends are choosing to give their children Diet Coke, which contains a sweetener that is a chemical drug of questionable safety, rather than give them a drink that contains sugar because they’re worried about their child’s calorie consumption.

I’m usually irritated or angry about this kind of thing when it applies to adults but now I’m actually scared.

I have a lot to say about children and fat and about the massive drive in schools to coerce them into healthy eating that is going to backfire in a way that right now we can’t even imagine. It’s already affecting our kids as what used to be called ‘puppy fat’ precisely because it disappeared when the stored energy was used in adolescent growth spurts, is now staying put into adulthood. Which, if you can drag your eyes away from the fat itself for one second and look at the causes, is a big sign that the eating problems created by the interference with a child’s natural regulation of food are growing in parallel with the ‘healthy eating’ advice churned out and poured into the impressionable brains of our kids via the classroom by the Government and in the media.

Hundreds of medical trials and scientific studies have found that if you interfere with a child’s natural food regulation, you will cause your child to grow up with an eating disorder. Dieting mothers ‘infect’ their daughters with disordered eating and problems with self esteem and negative body image. Coercion into dietary restriction in children causes them to crave the banned foods and makes ‘unhealthy’ food more desirable. Just have a look at one small but widely ignored experiment conducted by the BBC’s The Truth About Food A couple of years ago.

When you give your child an eating disorder by teaching it that foods are good and bad and by trying to control their weight you could give them any of the disorders on the ED scale and that could be anywhere between anorexia and morbid obesity.

And morbid obesity is an eating disorder. Unfortunately, our society’s obsession with image and thinness means that when an eating disorder causes extreme thinness it gets a medical name that describes the disorder itself but when an eating disorder causes extreme fatness, it gets a medical name that describes the most socially unacceptable side effect rather than the actual problem.

And the statistics show that it’s much more likely that you’ll have a child with morbid obesity than anorexia. Luckily for you as a parent, morbid obesity kills your child much more slowly than anorexia does.

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Don’t watch this video

First of all, before you watch this video, I want to apologise to all of my Facebook friends who work for women’s magazines (most of you). It is funny and sort of true though. Well, it is actually 100 per cent true but I’m trying not to be offensive for once. Must be in a good mood.

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