Monday, 20 December 2010

Christmas is Coming.....

In the unlikely event that aliens do happen to be observing us in a non-interfering capacity, I bet they’re having a good giggle at us right now. “It’s that time of what they call a ‘year’ again”, they will say “when the entire of what they inexplicably call ‘the West’ (even though their planet is round) undertakes a collective binge and purge”. I don’t wish to trivialise the issue, but there’s no getting around the fact that in December and January, everyone essentially becomes bulimic.

Every television screen, newspaper, magazine, shop window and billboard in Britain currently sports some sort of tantalising gastronomic fare, gleaming invitingly, practically commanding us to consume it. Food and sex become inextricable and interchangeable at this time of year in the World of marketing. The advertising of food goes totally visceral. Guilt and pleasure intermingle in the message – “Go on! It’s Christmas!”. It’s vaguely embarrassing – I have to fight the urge to cover random children’s eyes as they pass a picture of a chocolate pudding.

Everywhere I look, at the moment, makes me dribble a bit in my mouth. I’m turning into Pavlov’s sodding dog.

With depressing inevitability, on the stroke of Midnight on January 1st, the message changes entirely. We are invited to repent our gluttony, to snap into discipline and self-flagellate at the torture alter otherwise known as the gym. We are reminded that there are only a few short months until Summer, when we will be forced by the presently absent sun to expose our naked flab to the critical eye of the public.

We spend anything between one week and one month (if the evidence of my friends is anything to go by) frantically huffing, puffing, sweating, aching, surviving on little but carrot sticks and willpower before declaring “I can submit myself to this regime no longer!” and diving into a bumper pack of cut-price tree decorations.

Well, I’m not having it any more. I will no longer be subject to such blatant manipulation. Because, blog readers, I have come to an important realisation:

Every year, on January 1st I prepare myself mentally for my birthday on April 28th with the promise that by then I will have thrown myself wholeheartedly into a balanced and healthy food and exercise regime which will see me into the forthcoming years (which is ridiculous, because I currently HAVE a balanced and healthy food and exercise regime, it’s just unformulated). I promise myself that my entire patterns of consumption and attitude to fitness will, this year, undergo a seismic change. By my birthday I am always, without exception, fatter than I was on January 1st. And so I say to myself “ok, well, never mind, the regime starts now, cos really this is my New Year, when you think about it” and about a fortnight later the entire thing is abandoned and forgotten.

Upon this abandonment and regime promise amnesia, I start to lose weight. By October, which is a time of year which holds no sentimentality or significance to me whatsoever I am always, without exception, thinner than I was on my birthday.

Although( if the aforementioned evidence is anything to base my opinion of myself on) I am a ridiculous specimen of a human being, I am quite certain I cannot be alone in this.

So, this Christmas, I shall eschew the pressure to pack as many calories as I possibly can into my body before the Great Purge of January begins. I’m sure that by the time my birthday rolls around I’ll be healthier and happier.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, 29 November 2010

An Interesting Bit of Research

So, from a utterly pointless piece of research to a genuinely interesting one.

As we know, when it comes to paradigms of beauty, it’s usual for people to pass the buck. “Fashion shoots are forced to use size 0 models because designers make size 0 sample clothes” is a classic. The least watertight excuse, however, is the notion that thin sells. Advertisers/marketers claim they use unhealthily slender models because that is what the public want, that is what we respond to and that is what prompts us to part with our hard earned cash. We want, they claim, to quite literally buy into a fantasy World inhabited exclusively by a demographic of people who, in reality, represent less than 1% of the Global population’s natural and healthy body shape. A World in which, conveniently for them, a pair of shoes, a lipgloss, or even a kitchen utensil can offer us a gateway into the fantasy World we apparently crave – A slice of the low calorie pie.

Well, a new study recently undertaken in Australia has decisively proven this long-touted theory to be, for want of a more elegant expression, utter bollocks. Hurrah.

A huge cross section of subjects were shown adverts depicting a traditionally slender model and a plus size model showcasing identical products and were found to be just as likely to buy the item in either case. They were not off-put by the more realistic image.

So, that now means that the powers that be will now have to invent another excuse if they continue to refuse to showcase a variety of different body types in their marketing. May I suggest the following:

1. We will not use plus size models because we are lazy and wish to continue as we always have.

2. We will not use plus size models because we are actively terrified at the prospect of change.

3. We will not use plus size models for unspecified religious reasons we have been instructed not to speak about publically.

Or, my personal favourite:

4. We will not use plus size models because we are evil body facists and want any member of the public who weighs more than 7 stone to feel like crap.

More Daily Mail Related Blog Fodder

We all have a friend who insists she is 3 sizes smaller than she is, when the most brief and perfunctory of visual assessments would prove her conclusively wrong. I blame lycra. Now it is possible to shoehorn yourself into clothes that are too small and, whilst camel toes, muffin tops and other unpleasant things may result, so will the continuance of her denial. My Mum never tires of telling me how, in the 70s “we all had flat stomachs because we had to hold them in because back then you didn’t have lycra and your clothes would dig into you if you didn’t ” (yes, I hold her responsible for the fact that in year 7 at school we were asked to write an essay on what we considered to be the greatest invention of all time and whilst other people chose sensible things, like the wheel, and penicillin and freezers I chose to wax lyrical about, yep, you guessed it, lycra. Well, I don’t imagine constantly sucking your stomach in can be much fun. Especially not if the facial expressions of a lot of models are anything to go by).

The ‘shocking’ statistic unleashed on us today by the Daily Mail online confirms that 1 in 4 overweight women is in denial over her fuller figure. Probably the least shocking piece of body-related research undertaken since the revelation that airbrushing has a detrimental effect on people’s self-esteem. Although the article did, naturally, prompt a lengthy procession of people with too much time on their hands and the collective IQ of a partially crushed digestive biscuit to launch a tirade of hatred against all the terrible, obese Britons who are sending this country to ruin, causing the global recession, stealing their hamsters etc. (My favourite comment? “Women kid themselves that men find fat girls attractive, sorry ladies, but we don’t want to make love to a bouncy castle!”. My response (internal, I’ve long since given up having futile cyber discussions with Daily Mail readers) “some men DO like making love to bouncy castles, it’s quite a specific fetish, I’ll grant but people are into all sorts of things. However, there is a significant and large community of men who absolutely LOVE having sex with fat women. There are forums and club nights dedicated to it. Oh, and hey, since we’re on the subject of speaking on behalf of our respective genders, may I point out that women do NOT want to make love to pathetic losers who vent their frustration at life by going online to pointlessly fat-bash for no apparent reason?”).

There is, naturally, a fine line between being content in one’s own skin and total self-delusion. I’m all for being happy no matter what your size or shape, as well you know, blog readers. However, inhabiting a dream-like state of inverse body-dysmophia has serious implications for the individual concerned and for her social circle.

Firstly, the individual is not happy with their actual body, merely the one they believe they have. In fact, perpetuating the idea that they are happy with their figure because they are a size 12, when in reality they are a size 16, is just as damaging as being distraught at the notion of being a size 16. Secondly, say this individual I have invented goes about telling people she is a size 12. The idea of what it is to be a size 12 is rendered even more meaningless than it was already (I’m now a size minus 1 in Marks and Spencers) and potentially damaging myths are allowed to fester in the collective mind-set. For, as we know, there is nothing wrong with being a size 16. Come on ladies, let’s come out of the curvy closet.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Anti Bullying Week UK

This week is Anti Bullying Week in the UK. An excellent proposition, which few sane people would disagree with. However, what is more contentious is the notion of what ‘bullying’ actually constitutes.

Ask anyone over the age of 40, and they’ll tell you that general name calling, the odd isolated physical bashing and occasionally teacher imposed corporal punishment were not only an accepted part of their lives but also “character forming”. Similarly, ask anyone under the age of 40 whether they were ‘bullied’ at school and the answer is invariably ‘yes’, yet when probed it usually amounted to someone at school claiming they were gay, or commenting on the supposed untrendiness of their footwear. So where is the line between an individual’s sensitivity and a bullying perpetrator’s desire to inflict harm? What is bullying?

During my school days the following things occurred (in no particular order, as Dermot O’Leary would say): I was punched in the stomach for supposedly being a “lezzer”; I was sent a note saying that I was fat; a girl (whose name began with C) held me by the throat up against the lockers and told me if I ever spoke to her again she would ‘kill’ me; an incredibly racist snooty little cow (whose name began with L) chanted “your mother’s a n*gger lover” to me (in deference to my black step father) throughout the entire one hour and ten minutes of our lunch break. Also during those seven years: I got so frustrated with racist L and her ongoing taunts, I hit her over the head with a hairbrush; I grabbed C’s back pack as she was walking to assembly and told her to lay off or I’d punch her effing head in and I told another girl (whose name also began with L) that her clothes were “totally 1996” (in 1999).

Why am I recounting these trivial incidents? To prove a point. By modern standards I have both been bullied and, in fact, am a bully. Yet I would never lay claim to either of the above. Or in any way suggest that the eating disorder I suffered from for more than a decade was a result of any of these incidents. Am I being naive?

I wouldn’t wish to belittle anyone’s experience of bullying or the potentially devastating affect it can have on their lives. I fully support Bully UK and their ongoing endeavours to stamp out the presence of bullying

There is, however, one factor, something which affects all of our lives, which I can confidently claim bullies us all. I speak of the advertising industry and their insistence that one simply MUST fit a pre-decided and totally unattainable aesthetic in order to be happy. A message which is consistent, insistent and unyielding. In fact, surely this can only be described as consistent bullying inflicted on the British public. Imagine the billboards, the televisual messaging, certain glossy mags were a person. They’d be an incredibly clever sort of bully.

That’s why, once again, I’d urge anyone who reads this to go to www.bodygossip.org and learn how to take a stand in keeping with Anti Bullying Week.

Monday, 25 October 2010

The X Factor Issue

On Saturday, I returned home from a hard-days’ networking (at Lorlett Hudson’s fabulous ‘One Hand Can’t Clap’ forum) and, rather misguidedly, it turned out, thought to myself “right, time to usher in the weekend with a bit of light entertainment/escapism in the form of X Factor”.

Two-and-a-bit hours later and I was incandescent with rage, somehow resisting the urge to throw my TV out the window, in a rock star type manner.

Apparently, we now live in a time where Zeppellin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is a ‘guilty pleasure’ and it’s considered morally and socially acceptable for a contestant to perform it to millions accompanied by a karaoke style backing track, (with a bloke with a fake electric guitar miming to Jimmy Page’s solo). Is there nothing too sacred for Cowell’s empire to tarnish? Apparently not.

Naturally, I spent the next few hours listening to some more obscure tracks from Bowie’s back catalogue, which I was fairly certain X Factor wouldn’t take on, if only because, as one Twitterer aptly observed, the judges have “all the musical knowledge of a slightly stunned earwig”. Two large glasses of chardonnay and several Bowie tracks later, I was pleased to note I had achieved a positively Zen-like state of calmness.

Having established my emotional equilibrium, I got thinking about the Cher Lloyd issue.




Surprisingly, not one of the judges has yet thought to mention the blindingly obvious: i.e. her inability to sing. “I jooost looove watching yers” said Cheryl. Yes, but do we enjoy listening to her? X Factor is, we are reliably informed, after all a singing competition. That’s something it’s easy to forget, what with all the inexplicable fawning over Cher’s “stage presence”, dancing “skills” and ability to be “current”.

What message are we therefore giving the millions of young women who tune into this show every week? Simples:
1. It’s style that’s important, not substance.
2. Lack of talent is nothing when compared to the might of looking like Cheryl Cole and Amy Winehouse’s illegitimate lesbian love child.
3. Styling yourself like an urban Bratz doll is the quick way to get all the attention, adoration and wealth you crave.

By contrast, immensely talented vocalist Rebecca was told “I don’t like what you’re wearing”.

One day, I hope to be cool enough not to care about X Factor. However, the fact remains that, for now at least, it’s a hugely influential part of Cowell’s commercial empire and, as such, should acknowledge some sort of responsibility.

Some might argue, rather tediously, that being a “pop star” doesn’t necessitate top quality vocals, but is in fact about other things entirely. Whilst there is a smidgen of truth in this, that’s no reason to accept the state of affairs. Barry White and Stevie Wonder produced a lot of their own tracks. They composed the melodies, in addition to being able to knock out a lovely vocal. Cheryl Cole simply nicks her hooks off Kelis (the law dictates that I must state here: Allegedly).

Bring back the era of real rock and roll, sez I, where mad, attention seeking outfits and sex appeal were a bi-product of the music. Not only will it be huge step forward in the industry, it’ll contribute significantly and positively to the beauty debate.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Stupidest Thing Anyone has Ever Said? Cast Your Votes.....

Last night I indulged my latest addiction by settling down with a cuppa and watching ‘An Idiot Abroad’. Karl Pilkington, that dear dear round-headed Mancunian buffoon said ‘if you’re in a couple, and one of you is ugly and one of you is good-looking, it’s better to be the ugly one, because you get to look at something nice’.

At the time I thought this was the height of nonsensical (but highly amusing) bollocks.

That was until I happened to pick up my flatmate’s Closer Magazine and read:

“With an eating disorder you can get through it using therapy. But when you’re fat, you’re fat for life”.

Yep. Someone actually said that. In print. For all the World to collectively shake their heads in disbelief. Yet more evidence that the World is becoming increasingly bizarre and frightening.

This story was about an obese Mother (Ali Gilardoni) who had put her 8 year old daughter on a strict (and unhealthily restrictive) diet since the age of 2, whilst secretly gorging on junk food herself after putting her daughter to bed. Her justification was that she wanted to prevent her daughter from suffering the same fate of fatness, which she associated with a life sentence of bullying and misery.

Whilst, on the one hand, it is immensely refreshing to see someone acknowledge that it is possible to completely conquer an eating disorder, I’m not entirely sure it should have been stated with such flippancy, and in response to a GP’s advice that her daughter was likely to develop anorexia. The idea that years of anguish, starvation, hospitalisation and lack of energy for life’s pursuits is in any way preferable to being fat is so utterly ridiculous it doesn’t warrant comment.

What does fascinate me, however, is this notion of ‘being fat for life’.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being fat and happy. Just as there is nothing wrong with being slender and happy. But, if one is unhappy, one can change one’s diet and exercise habits and, if necessary, one’s mind-set in order to address it. This, surely, is logic. However, this delusional woman seems to live in a World where, once maximum weight has been reached, it can never be reversed, but must always be sustained. Imagine a World in which that was a universal truth…… Imagine what Oprah might look like.

Anyway, I digress. The Mother in question is essentially allowing us an insight into her thought process, in which she is making excuses for the fact that she quite obviously suffers from Compulsive Binge Eating Disorder, which is, in fact an eating disorder.

So, perhaps she should ‘get through it using therapy’? Just a thought.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

20th October 2010 - Body Gossip Your Status Day!

Tomorrow (20th October) is officially ‘Body Gossip Your Status' Day – An all-inclusive, never before trialed cyber event taking place on Facebook and Twitter.

We all have fleeting body-related thoughts, pretty much every minute of the day. Everything from ‘my hair needs cutting’ to ‘my back’s hurting a bit’ – So this is an event that everyone can hop on board with, regardless of gender, race, or location.

Just to pluck an example out of thin air, as I type I am thinking ‘I wish this desk-chair had an inbuilt cushion, it’s hurting my bum bones’. Which has inevitably led to the thought ‘why don’t I have a J-lo/Beyonce style pre-cushioned arse of fabulousness, then I wouldn’t have to worry so much about my upholstery?’. (Also – ‘I bet J-lo doesn’t need that many scatter cushions in her house but has them anyway, for who can resist a scatter cushion and what simpler way is there to transform your home’s interior?’ – Although that’s not strictly body related, just demonstrates my love for cushions – Which I’m fairly certain I genetically inherited from my Mother).

The thought I tend to have every day, though, is how wonderful it feels to be healthy. I can still recall distinctly the feeling of waking up during the bulimia wilderness years, after bingeing and purging the previous day, despite my last ‘episode’ being almost three years ago. The immediate sensation I encountered on those days would be a mixture of shame, exhaustion and dehydration.

There’s a split second when we wake up each morning when we register the physical but our emotions/thoughts have yet to catch-up. Usually, it happens when you’ve split up with your boyfriend, cried yourself to sleep, awake abruptly to the thought ‘what in Bowie’s name is wrong with my eyes and why have they been replaced with tiny balls of fire in my cranium?’ and then suddenly remember ‘oh. That’s right’. A friend of mine was experiencing this on a daily basis, following the termination of her 3 year romance, and found that if she immediately pressed ‘play’ on her CD player, before she had time to wallow in her misery (in which was invariably a Russell Brand audio-book) she could dampen the feelings of dismay, the awful sinking feeling of dread where all her emotions and memories rushed to the surface in a great big tidal wave. (I’m pretty sure that the fact that she’s now convinced Russell is making a momentous mistake marrying Katy Perry on Saturday and that she is, in fact, his one true love is largely unrelated. I think).

A similar thing used to happen to me – I’d open my eyes and think ‘why the pounding head, sore throat and aching limbs. Why the sense of shame?....Oh right’.

If it never rained, we wouldn’t learn to appreciate the sunshine. In a similar way, for the past three years I’ve noted with glee the lack of constant flu-like symptoms, the absence of mental anguish surrounding food and the changes which have occurred in my healthy body. Little things others take for granted, like the presence of brand new, thick hair framing my face, and my nails no longer sporting deep ridges caused my vitamin deficiency, are things I can acknowledge and be grateful for.

I always describe the memories of my eating disorder as being rather like they happened to an old friend – Someone to whom I was very close at the time, but have since lost contact with. In recovering I rediscovered my true self. It’s a shame, then, that the stubborn notion that eating disorders are a life sentence, something to be battled every day, even in recovery, remains ever present. I have encountered some prejudice, in the same way as someone who has a previous drug addiction might, even though it ceases to have any impact of their life today.

So, tomorrow, I’ll be tweeting tweets and facebooking statuses (statii?) of joy, as I contemplate the fact that I can bound out of bed, ready to face the day, every nerve and sinew robust. I can celebrate my abundant curves and my naturally muscular frame. I can make evident my love for my body in its natural and healthy state (bony bottom included).

To get involved in tomorrow’s event, simply tweet of facebook your body gossip and tag #bodygossip. For more information go to www.bodygossip.org.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The World has Officially Gone Bonkers

I’m having a nervous breakdown. Everything I thought to be righteous and true in life is turning topsy turvy in terrifying, apocalyptic style manner.

First came the news that X Factor contestants are covering David Bowie ‘Heroes’ as this year’s for-a-good-cause-but-still-hugely-manipulative-and-a-bit-rubbish charity single. I fear that combining the entity from which emulates everything which is good about music and life, i.e. Bowie, with the artistic void which is X Factor will inevitably lead to a black hole above the universe and we are all destined for obliteration. Apparently, also Simon Cowell is badgering Bowie to appear on the show. In the eventuality that this travesty against everything occurs, we can only hope that Dave does the ‘Bing Crosby/Kenny Everett alien death stare of coldness’ throughout (hard core Bowie fans will know exactly what I mean). The whole concept is enough to drive one to despair.

Anyway, all this has little to do with the beauty debate (issue of Bowie being genuinely original in seemingly just feeling like donning bizarre garb, unwittingly creating media frenzy and every artist since copying this by deliberately attempting to be outrageous aside). The news that has really affected the sphere of body confidence is the recent story of Christina Hendricks going on a diet.



Now, as those who know me can testify, I am an assured woman, confident in the fabulousness of my curvaceous attractiveness. However, the Hendricks news has induced some genuine insecurity. For, if the one size 14 role model in Hollywood has felt such immense pressure as to compel her into starvation, what hope is there for the rest of us?

I’m simply baffled. Why? A quick straw poll of my male acquaintances revealed her to be, without exception, the most lusted-after starlet since Marylin Monroe. Why the quest for androgyny? Why diminish one’s sex appeal? The only response I can reasonably fathom is that Hollywood is so calculating and evil it’s caused her to take leave of her senses.

Christina, in the extremely unlikely event that you happen to be reading this – For the love of everything DON’T DO IT. Millions of curvy (read: curvy, NOT fat) women throughout the Globe will be left disillusioned and you will be left considerably less fabulous. (Also, I will be very upset).

Awaiting news now: “Nigella Lawson slimmed down to size 8 reveals new streamlined shape shocker”. That really would clinch it. Think I need a little lie down…….

Friday, 15 October 2010

Size 16 - What Does it Mean?



This is me. My name is Natasha Devon and I am a SIZE 16.

Michael McIntyre does a hilarious sketch with a (perhaps unwittingly) serious message, involving his wife becoming increasingly alarmed, distressed and aggressive, as she ‘changes size’ from one shop to the next. “She stays the same size” he declares, bemused, “but in one shop she will be a size 8 and then it’s a good day. Yet in the next she might be a 12, and then we have to go home”.

Whilst men might be baffled by this phenomenon, it’s something most women can relate to. Taking a philosophical standpoint (as is my wont), the whole idea of approximating one’s body shape to the nearest pre-defined set of stats and declaring oneself to be ‘that size’ is a bizarre ritual. The sort of thing that would perplex aliens, should we happen to be under extra-terrestrial observation.

Clothes, after all, are meant to fit our bodies and yet, as times have moved on from the bespoke era (a marvellous, Jane Austin style time where everyone’s clothes were made to measure – How I’d like to usher those days back in, if only to stamp out once and for all the Era of the Muffin Top), we’ll hear women screech ‘I want to get back down to a size 10!’ in tones of abject despair. Yet size 10, as the experience of McIntyre’s wife testifies, is an abstract, ever changing and unregulated ideal. So what is it exactly we are working towards?

In the World of Fashion, sizes are a little more finite, strict – Fascist, even. They have remained staunchly unchanged since earliest memory. Hence why my extremely slender former catwalk model mother still refers to herself as a size 12-14, even though the most perfunctory of visual assessments would place her at no more than a 10 on the High Street.

Hence, also, why I will always refer to myself as a Size 16, which is usually met with gasps of disbelief. I’ve realised that the perceived notion of a size 16 differs somewhat from the ideal as it stands in my head. For me, being 5 foot 10 and a size 16 means I have nicely proportioned curves. I see no shame in the admission whatsoever. Yet, for Joe Public, a size 16 seems to evoke images of Rubenesque decadence.

I asked a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless owing to her somewhat controversial opinion) her thoughts on this issue. “It’s because” she said with some vehemence “fat women always say they are a size 16, even when they’re blatantly about a size 24”. So is it, perhaps that a size 16 is the last socially acceptable size before the official and dreaded ‘obese’ classification? Interesting theory.….

Trinny and Suzannah once did a show where they invited (I think) 100 women into a room who all believed they were a size 16. They varied wildly, and not just because of the height factor. Yet, as discussed, there are no regulating bodies, it’s not like a driving licence where you have to go and take a test before you can declare yourself a size 16, so really it was more a reflection on where they shopped than any sort of self-delusion.

Last night I had a first date with a guy I’d spoken to on the phone a few times. He, naturally enough, had asked on the telephone what I did for a living and, in my response I mentioned that I do occasional plus-size modelling. He, rather normally for a bloke, had no idea what that meant, so I had to elaborate and I said I was a size 16.

During our date, he confessed that he had a totally different idea of what I would look like in the flesh (hence me waving at him frantically from the entrance of Spittlefields Market for a few seconds while he looked at me in a confused manner when we first met). “But…..there’s nothing of you really” he said (using an endearing, times-gone-by style phrase), “the way you describe yourself, I expected you to be, well, big. Not that that would have been a problem” he added, manfully.

The next 30 minutes were spent with me trying, moderately successfully, to convince him that I don’t suffer from body dysmorphia. I stopped just short of showing him the ‘size 16’ label on my coat – One must not resort to empirical evidence when the cunning weaving of words will do just as well. “A plus sized model is just a normal-sized person” I explained “that’s why it was so stupid when they wouldn’t let us model clothes (which are designed for normal people)”.

As anyone who regularly reads my blogs will know, even if someone does fit the pre-existing notion of a size 16 person (as encapsulated by the recent MP calling another MP an elephant debacle – anyone who read the story will catch my drift), that doesn’t prevent the possibility that they are completely, mesmerizingly, fantazmororically beautiful, in my mind. Fat and beautiful are not opposing concepts as far as I’m concerned. Kate Moss is beautiful. So is Dawn French. So are about a gazillion women whose size falls somewhere in-between.

As my (fat, beautiful) cousin pointed out the other evening, the problem with our society essentially boils down to the fact that when an anorexic says “I can’t eat this quarter of an orange, I’ll get fat” our default response is “no you won’t”, when in fact it should be “and what’s so wrong with that?”.

So perhaps the solution is to ban all talk of sizes, for, as evidenced by my experience last night, it’s essentially meaningless and gives no indication of how you’re perceived by others. All I can declare with certainty is that to me, size 16 is a fabulous thing.

Monday, 11 October 2010

To Have and to Hold.....

Yesterday, a friend asked me a bizarre, nonsensical and utterly baffling question. “Do you want to get married one day?,” she asked. For a split second I thought she might be proposing;, that her panic at her impending 30-and-single status and the apparent non-existence of any normal single men in the World had driven her to lesbianism. But no, upon further examination it transpired that she meant exactly what she said – Did I want to get married one day?

‘To whom?’ I enquired. ‘Whoever’ she said. ‘You know, someone’.

‘But……’ I responded, brows knitted in earnest ‘….I’m not even seeing anyone’.

‘Yeah….but…. Do you want to get married? One day? To someone’.

After several minutes of this seemingly impenetrable conversational loop we established that she perceived marriage as a stand-alone ambition. Something one worked towards. Like becoming an Executive, or travelling round the Globe. I differ somewhat fundamentally, in that I always envisaged that, in the eventuality of my entering into nuptials, I’d meet someone and think ‘I’d rather like to marry YOU’. To me, marriage is person-subjective. But, it seems, if the evidence of my mate is anything to go by, a lot of women are walking around nurturing the idea that THEY WANT TO GET MARRIED.

I’m intrigued. How do these women function, cerebrally? What’s it like in their universe? Are they constantly assessing every man they encounter, thinking ‘ooooh, I could marry you’, or not, as the case may be? The mind boggles.
Anyway, the entire conversation got me thinking, unusually, about wedding dresses and their implication for the body confidence debate.

Now, I’m aware that there are lots of different types of wedding dresses and what I am about to say may potentially be a hugely offensive mass generalisation, but one can only speak from experience.

The reason I have a fundamental objection to the prevailing wedding dress trends is this – They are designed to conform to the generally quite patriarchal structure of a bygone society, as is in fact the entire traditional wedding ceremony. “Giving the bride away?” suggests that she is property to be passed ceremonially from one man to another like cattle. “Love, honour and obey” – Obey? Hardly words inspired by enlightening times.

The strapless bodice and enormous great puffy skirt trend instantly transforms the most independent, capable woman into someone who has all the appearance of a six year old at her first tea party. Fairy princess chic is a contradiction in terms, as far as I’m concerned.

If life takes me on a meeting-someone-suitable-for-marriage type trajectory, I envisage myself wearing something that makes me look like a formidable Amazonian Goddess Queen type person. That makes me look like a grown up. For pledging your life to someone by means of a legally binding contract is a really rather grown up thing to do.

I saw a grown-up vision of resplendent elegance in a Bride once. Admittedly, she was my mother, who I can confidently assert shares at least some of my views on the whole marriage issue. She got her dress from Bodice and Bustle, a boutique run by a woman so devoted to finding you a flattering dress and, more crucially, fitting it correctly (if you will insist on the six year old at a tea party look it is at least important to NOT look as though you borrowed the dress from your Mum), I have my doubts as to whether she ever sleeps.

So, brides to be, do it for me – I want to start a revolution with this blog – A trend for women who look like women when they marry their dream man (or, at least, a half decent man, if you’re the ‘I want to get married’ type). A protest against all the androgynous, little-girl-lost images we’re so used to seeing in fashion and therefore shouldn’t be seeing in aisles up and down the country. Go to www.bodiceandbustle.com

Friday, 24 September 2010

Advertising Anorexia

Disclaimer: Dear Blog Readers – Please do excuse me if today’s blog isn’t up to my usual standards of sarcasm/wit or, in fact, makes no sense whatsoever. I am writing at the tail-end of a flu induced malaise. I have spent the past 5 days experiencing what I can only compare to the worst kind of drunken dizziness, stumbling into my furniture (even more than usual), or sailing around on a tidal wave of snot as it gushes, vast and untethered from my sore, protesting nostrils. I know - delightful imagery. The whole debacle has left me feeling about as energised/attractive as a 4 day old piece of dry toast that’s been lost down the back of a dusty radiator. However, this week saw the emergence of some important eating disorder related news so I felt compelled to blog:

This week, two awareness-raising advertisements, designed for an Iranian organisation to highlight the dangers of eating disorders, were released for the scrupulous assessment of the public.

The first shows a funeral procession, carrying a coffin as they walk through a bleak looking landscape with the message “15% of women who suffer from anorexia will die this year”. The second shows an emaciated mannequin in a shop window with the tag line “anorexia is not fashionable”.

As could have reasonably been anticipated, there was a horrified backlash as the easily-offended collectively gasped, huffed and tutted at the inappropriate use of ‘humour’ and shocking nature of the images.

Let us turn our attention to the first image, of the funeral. As I said to all my horrified mates when I was in year 10, as they bleated about being ‘traumatised’ by the music video for Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’ (which we’d all stayed in specially to watch on Top of the Pops in the days before MTV) – “Bad stuff (in this instance, little baby seals getting clubbed over the head) happens and if you don’t like it, do something about it – Protest, give money to a charity, sign a petition – But don’t complain about the people who show the realities of life because it’s not quite palatable to you”.

Anorexia kills – FACT. It has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. I read that some 60% of anorexia sufferers die prematurely – That means it is more likely to kill you than not. Terrifying? Yes. True? Also, yes. Denying the right of awareness-raising organisations to show an image depicting death in relation to an illness which causes death is the equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and saying ‘lalalala! Not listening!’ Which isn’t terribly mature. So the simple message here is: Get over it.

Now, the issues relating to the second image, the mannequin, are more complex. Perhaps there is something seriously amiss with my sense of humour (although if the recent conference delegate who suggested I should be a stand-up comic after witnessing my seminar is to be believed then probably not), but I fail to see anything funny in the picture. I also fail entirely to see how it could be construed as such. I have analysed every nuance, every facet, every angle, willing myself to detect an iota of hidden humour and yet there the advert remains, being not funny.

Perhaps it was an attempt at capturing Irony, Humour’s cousin. Which would be a valid argument if it didn’t worryingly resemble the shop windows we see in our high streets on a day-to-day basis, but for a few protruding bones adding a touch of realism.

I do have a problem with the mannequin message, although not the prevailing ‘anorexia isn’t funny you sick bastard!’ attitude that it seems to have provoked. Saying ‘anorexia is not fashionable’ is like saying ‘there’s no such thing as propaganda’. In an ideal World, it should be true, and yet all the evidence points to the contrary. The fact is, the mannequin resembles your average straight size model and models are, by definition fashionable. The fact that anorexia is undeniably in vogue is the entire reason there needs to be a campaign in the first place. Perhaps something has been lost in translation.

Of course, you could argue that anorexia is a form of self-harm, induced by private feelings of emotional turmoil that have no cultural context. However, at the nub of all the lifestyle and beauty-based evil in the World is the idea that thinness provides an escape from life’s problems and that is something perpetuated by fashion, so it’s a mute point.

The mannequin picture didn’t need a slogan. It speaks for itself. The addition of a skeletal structure which would be present on a real human body to a plastic imitation the same size as we regularly encounter is an image worth a thousand words.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Quest for Eternal Youth. Yawn.

Last week, I was horrified and fascinated in equal measure to see that Demi Moore had resorted to the sort of behaviour usually reserved for 16 year old girls with self-esteem issues (and an inexplicable and insatiable desire for reassurance from random pervs) and posted a picture of herself on Twitter in her undercrackers. Not a professionally taken picture, backlit, lounging casually by her pool. Oh no. It was a point-and-shoot-we-can-clearly-see-the-camera-flash-in-the-mirror job.

Despite appearances, the woman is 47 years old. After 47 years, you’d think if she wanted a bit of attention she’d have enough knowledge to say something fabulously outrageous, controversial, intelligent and interesting, rather than resorting to getting her cosmetically-enhanced baps out.

What beggars belief to an even greater degree, is that The Mirror (gawd bless their total disregard for anything approaching responsible journalism or ventures outside the realms of celeb bodies, paedophilia and Iraq) went with the ‘My, doesn’t she look amazing for her age?’ angle.

I think I can categorically say that Demi Moore doesn’t look ‘amazing for her age’. Not by my definition of the phrase in any event. Helen Mirren looks amazing for her age. Joanna Lumley looks amazing for her age. Growing old with a smidgen of class, perhaps doing a few sit ups, dressing appropriately for your shape, moisturising and having an air of dignity all fall within my definition of ‘looking amazing for your age’. Paying someone to suck out/replace or tamper with all vestiges of the body Mother Nature bestowed upon you in an exhausting and fruitless quest to capture the essence of youth is lazy, dangerous and damaging to the self-esteem of Middle aged women everywhere. Beauty not only comes in all shapes, sizes, races and colours, there’s room for a spectrum of ages too.

Fifty years ago, women rarely shaved their legs (just shoved said pins into a pair of 40 dernier stockings which covered a multitude of sins) and their beauty regime tended to be restricted to a slick of lippy and a bit of pressed powder. Today, we would consider that a lazy way to approach grooming. Even I’d tend towards that opinion. What concerns me is that we are heading towards a time where botox, face peels, implants and even knee skin realignment (a procedure which Demi is rumoured to have undergone) are considered an essential part of one’s beauty regime. Will those who don’t succumb to these invasive and potentially harmful procedures be considered ‘lazy’?

I sincerely hope not. I hope that the backlash against the increasing pressure to conform to a fixed beauty aesthetic perpetuated by projects like Body Gossip save us from a bizarre and plastic future, where women like Demi are hailed as Goddesses without even having to open their collagen-injected mouths.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

What a Brilliant Idea......In Principle

Anne Milton, the new Health Minister, has suggested that doctors should tell overweight patents that they are 'fat' rather than 'obese'. Her reasoning being that 'obese' doesn't have the same negative implications as 'fat' and is easier to justify in one's mind ('I have an under active thyroid, bad genes' etc). She says that 'fat' is a shocking term, which will compel patients into losing weight action.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/28/doctors-feat-obese-warnings-health

Whilst, obviously, this is nonsense ('fat' is a subjective and potentially self-esteem damaging term based on a visual assessment, whereas 'obese' strikes fear into the hearts of most people), I am fully supportive of the current obesity criteria being scrapped.

Back in January, I posted a blog called 'the B in BMI' after my 5 ft 6, size 10 friend came home from a routine check-up at her GP in tears, having been told she was 'technically obese'. Any sensible human being with eyes would have looked at her and said she was slender, yet it appears that her doctor didn't take the requisite moment to glance up from his BMI chart in order to ascertain this.

The statistics which are parroted ad infinitum about our increasingly 'obese' population are therefore rendered meaningless.

If, in the unlikely eventuality that Anne Milton is not being fascetious and a tad judgmental and ACTUALLY means that doctors should use their common sense to assess whether a patient is 'fat', rather than using their dreaded Bollocks Mass Index charts, then I say bring on the revolution! However I fear I am perhaps giving her a little too much credit and what she actually meant was 'let's chase those deplorable fatties out of the country with STICKS!'.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Cr Christian Jessen -vs- Common Sense

I am frantic. The deadline for the first issue of Evolve Magazine is looming and as Features Editor I have my work well and truly cut out. I’m having about 37 simultaneous heart attacks* and have drunk my body weight in nice, soothing cups of tea. However, so disgusted was I by today’s events, I thought I’d cease having heart attacks briefly to indulge in a good old rant.

*Not really, please don’t call an ambulance.

You may recall, Blog Fans, that last year Giles Coren incurred the wrath of Body Gossipers everywhere when he shouted random, increasingly ludicrous statements in a maniacal fashion at Ruth Rogers on Radio Five Live. It was ok, though, because Giles Coren is just a food critic with (I suspect) borderline anorexia (not a medical expert, or a person whose opinion should be trusted on anything outside the realms of the quality of one’s gravy) and judging from the listeners who phoned in, most people were able to use their noddles and judge (correctly) that he was spouting utter tosh.

However, I was decidedly more disappointed to note that Dr Christian Jessen has today written a piece condemning plus size models as unhealthy role models in an increasingly obese population, (which was the argument that Mr Coren’s nonsensical rantings also essentially amounted to, if you were able to decipher it between his frothing at the mouth and waxing lyrical about Kate Moss’ arse). So often, people seem to be posing the question ‘why all this emphasis on eating disorders when the REAL problem is obesity?’ and now Dr C has jumped on the bandwagon.

There are a few blindingly obvious misconceptions which need to be addressed, and I am shocked that it didn’t occur to Dr Christian to do his research (back to medical school for you, I think):

1. Compulsive overeating is a type of eating disorder. It has the same common root as anorexia and bulimia (low self-esteem) and should be treated with equal gravity and sympathy. Low self-esteem is generated, in part, by the expectation to conform to an unrealistic beauty aesthetic. Therefore it’s perfectly possible that the sight of a gazelle-like, airbrushed slip of a thing could have you reaching for the Pringles.

2. Whilst there is evidence to support the idea that seeing extremely thin models on television and billboards has an adverse effect on self-esteem, there is no corresponding evidence for feeling the overwhelming desire to binge after an episode of the Vicar of Dibley. Obese ‘role models’ are there to represent, not to inspire.

3. Even if this were the case, we are talking about ‘obese’ people in any event. Traditionally, a ‘straight size’ model is anything between a UK size 4 (US size 0) and a size 8. A ‘plus size’ model is therefore defined as anyone who is over a size 10. A size 10, 12 or 14 person is not ‘fat’, particularly if they are, as is often the case, 5 foot 10 or over. (Yes, that’s even by the standards of the Bollocks Mass Index charts, I think you will find).

I could continue, but I have lost the will to type, so filled with despair am I at this apparent overlooking of the facts and the potential damage it could do to the progress being made in the beauty revolution. I used to love a bit of Super Size –v- Super Skinny but I’ll be boycotting it from now on. Very, very poor show, Dr Christian. Hang your head in shame.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Cosmetic Surgery: Beautifier or Beast Maker?

It’s ironic, really, how the programmes which are deemed suitable to be aired before the watershed often result in the most potential controversy. Perhaps it’s because we’ve come to associate daytime television with recipes for cheesecake and ex Big Brother contestants scoping out holiday destinations – As we prepare to be awash in a sea of bland non-offensiveness, suddenly someone chucks in a shark.

Today’s ‘ouch’ moment came, perhaps less surprisingly, courtesy of Katie Price, who declared in her usual brash and flippant manner that everyone, absolutely EVERYONE has had botox. With a little bit of creative interpretation, I managed to decipher that she was referring to her celebrity peers, emphasising that at least she is up front (as it were) about it. I’m actually with Pricey on this one – There should be some sort of law which compels celebs to be honest about the ‘work’ they have had done, just as there should be a whacking great sticker slapped across most ads, billboards and music videos stating ‘AIRBRUSHED’. (Interestingly Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone said as much in a recent interview in the Times so perhaps this might become a reality, although it might take some persuading for the Tories to confess the extent to which their recent election campaign bore the signs of digital enhancement).

However, this disclaimer in place, Katie’s statement was more than a tad idiotic and potentially damaging. In fact, NOT ‘everyone’ has had botox. I, for one, fail to see the attraction of allowing someone without any formal medical qualifications to come anywhere near my face with a syringe full of poison. Perpetuating the idea that most people have had the procedure done suggests that you are somehow at a disadvantage if you abstain from this latest fad.

Coincidentally, not 12 hours beforehand I was discussing the thorny issue of cosmetic surgery with Sherryl Blu on Bang Radio, following everyone’s sudden, inexplicable simultaneous realisation that perhaps Kim Kardashian might have had a bit of facial reconstruction (you don’t say).

The increasing availability of cheap cosmetic surgery is something that worries me on a sociological level, and not just because in the year 3,000 I foresee a strange and plastic land where we all look like identikit Barbie hybrids. Shudder. It concerns me because we appear fear too quick to jump to the conclusion that a boob job, liposuction or whatever will magically solve our self-esteem issues.

I was shocked when I took my body confidence campaign to schools and learned that 14 year olds (who have little idea what their fully developed shape will turn out to be) were already saving for their first cosmetic procedure. Long gone are those innocent times when a makeover meant a trip to Boots for some sparkly rimmel lipgloss.

The very existence of the possibility of having surgery, coupled with the ever growing myth that ‘everyone’ is doing it, simply puts increasingly aggressive pressure on every day people to reach the giddy heights of some fabricated ideal of perfection. In the 1950s, the average woman knew she was never going to look like Marylin Monroe. My Nan would have positively scoffed at anything more self-indulgent than a touch of pressed powder and a dash of lippy. Yet she still knew she was beautiful, (as did my Granddad). Yet, as the possibility of emulating our celeb counterparts becomes more and more real, so our collective self-esteem plummets. Coincidence? I think not.

A great honking pair of huge melon-like breasts may be visually arresting and they may attract some superficial type attention, but I can guarantee they’ll prove a fruitless sticking-plaster, vainly attempting to hold together the vast chasm that is low self-worth. The thousands of pounds we are pouring into changing our bodies would be much better spent on changing our minds and appreciating ourselves just the way we are.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Beauty Gaff of the Moment

Apparently, the person responsible for the post-production of a photograph of the resplendent, amazonian gorgeousness that is Crystal Renn justified 'airbrushing' her from a her usual size 14 to an estimated size 6 by saying 'it is my job to make women more beautiful'. Words fail me.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Sex & The Curvy Lady

My mate Claudia is the kind of woman who reduces red-blooded men to dribbling wrecks. Her abundant, barely contained hourglass curves scream ‘sexy’, her long lashed peepers have a constant mischievous glint and her plump pout is practically demanding to be kissed. Any objective observer would describe this lady as dangerously beautiful.

Until recently, Claudia was dating a guy who not only physically repulsed her, but his constant attempts to undermine and ridicule her had a damaging effect on her self esteem. She remained in this sham of a relationship for almost a year. When I ask her why, her shocking response is that she did not think she was worthy of the kind of man she found attractive because she considers herself to be overweight.

I know from personal experience the price of selling yourself short. My ex is what can only be described as a Poisoned Dwarf, with no physically or emotionally redeeming features whatsoever. I mean, like, none. And when I met my current beau, who is impossibly handsome, in addition to being funny, caring and possessing a number of other qualities which I cannot list in a public forum without rendering it x rated, my default reaction was to assume that he was out of my league.

By pure coincidence, today a news story broke concerning actress Cheryl Ferguson (Eastenders’ Heather Trott)’s romance with a “penniless Morroccan toy boy goat herder”. Now, far be it from me to suggest that Cheryl is not desperately in love and that her penniless toy boy has anything but the most sincere of intentions, or anything. I’m just saying, potentially, there might be some synergy in our stories. You know, to make it topical and that.

Claudia, Cheryl and myself represent a worryingly high proportion of women in the UK – Professionally and socially confident ladies who are lacking our usual self-assurance when it comes to romance. Claudia says “I always felt like I was on the back-foot, like the guy I was with was doing me a favour or making some kind of concession by being with me. I look at really desirable guys and assume they want to be with someone slim”.

Women are by nature self deprecating creatures and we find all sorts of reasons to put ourselves down. Being curvy, however, must cease and desist as a potential reason. After all, if men are to be believed, it’s an asset.

It seems that despite this, however, the thin = sexy idiom is prevailing. So, in our first ever issue of Evolve Magazine, I will be finding out what men really think of fuller figures and to get tips from sexually confident plus-size women on how to work it in and out of the bedroom. This exciting first issue will also feature plus size fashion, health, beauty and lifestyle as well as arts and entertainment and will be out on 31st August 2010. Join the Evolve Magazine Facebook page for regular updates and remember the Evolve motto – Be Proud, Be You!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Importance of Perceived Health

Back in 2002, at the peak of my brief and ill-advised foray into the World of straight-size modeling, I was called into my agent’s office one morning and asked in solemn tones if I had an eating disorder. ‘Of course not’, I lied (fairly transparently). After all, I was a size 10 at that particular moment in time, which is monsterously fat by model standards and I didn’t want my agent to think I couldn’t hack the weight-loss pace.

‘Good’, she replied. And that was that. What I didn’t know was that around that time, the media, gawd bless ‘em, were putting increasingly aggressive pressure on the fashion industry to ensure that models who were known to have eating disorders were not paraded on the catwalk. The problem was, and continues to be, that no one is sure a) how an eating disorder is detected and b) how this rule should be enforced (and by whom). The concept has its heart firmly in the right place, but, much like communism, it doesn’t work in practice.

Eating disorders are, by their very nature, secret. Despite all the speculation in celebrity glossies about who might or might not have one, no one really knows for sure. I know one might find this difficult to believe, but it is entirely possible that your favourite fashion model does NOT have anorexia. What IS, however, empirically evident is the fact that uber-skinny celebrities are being used as ‘thinspiration’ and, however unwittingly, encourage unhealthy behaviours in the people who idolize them.

I have therefore reached the conclusion that perceived health is what must be enforced.

‘Perceived Health’ can be summarized thusly: If you look anorexic, you cannot be a model. This might seem unjust – You might find yourself feeling sympathetic towards all those people who might naturally exhibit protruding bones and a gaunt physique. Well, to the less than 1% of the population for whom that organically applies I am afraid I have to say what the fashion industry has been saying to anyone over a size 6 for years: Tough. Find another profession.

The firm line I have taken on this issue was further reinforced today when I saw shocking pictures of Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely, ribcage on display for all to see, in a news feature alongside a description of her as “one of the World’s most beautiful women”.

Plus size super model Crystal Renn makes an interesting observation in her book ‘Hungry’ – She says that when Kate Moss debuted in the fashion sphere in the 1990s, she set a new standard for skinniness - standard which went on to be perpetually exceeded. I happened upon the pictures of one of Kate's first shoots with Calvin Klein just the other day and contemplated how true Crystal's statement was. Compared with Rosie’s latest pictures, Kate looks positively Rubenesque.

It's little wonder, then, that society’s perception of beauty is woefully skewed and we must crucially devote time and energy to setting a new, visibly healthier standard. Deciding the criteria for this standard will be time consuming, difficult and expensive, but it will save lives.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Big Breast Debate

If there is one thing Western Society doesn’t need, it’s for more of our attention to be focused on boobs. However, the nation’s cleavages were once again thrust into the limelight today as the Daily Mail’s Bel Mooney published a witty and well-reasoned repost to Kathryn Blundell’s controversial article in a magazine for new mothers, which declared breast feeding to be ‘creepy’.

Now, I’m going to preface my contribution to the Great Boob Debate by telling you what qualifies me as a brexpert (breast expert). My tits are close to my heart, both physically, figuratively, metaphorically and symbolically. No one can fathom from wence they came, being as I am the product of two Dynasties of Modest Curves. Inexplicably, after my recovery from anorexia in 1996, I literally woke up one morning with a magnificent chest, totally out of proportion with my frame (or at least that’s how it seemed at the time). At university, I soon became known as ‘the girl with the boobs’ and celebrated and lamented them in equal measure, as I attracted admiring glances from the campus’ male dwellers but struggled to be taken seriously in my beloved debating chambers.

Bizarrely, when you consider I was in the grip of a new eating disorder by that stage, I made peace with my plentiful bosom relatively early on. There was (and continues to be) absolutely no disguising them, so I decided to make them a feature. Many years of IRG’s (inappropriately-revealing-garments) later (if you can’t do it in your mid 20s when can you?) and I’m now totally au fait with the art of the modest cleavage. I’m also reconciled to the idea that the vast majority of heterosexual males find my breasts unfathomably fascinating.

My chest was thrust upon me and as such became part of my identity (although it doesn’t totally eclipse it, fortunately). It’s usually the first thing people notice about me, and forms an element of their descriptions of me. If I devote any time to counterbalancing any subsequent bimbo assumptions, I do it so utterly unconsciously that I haven’t noticed. I’m quite happy to acknowledge that “yes, they’re huge” (34H in case you’re wondering) before moving onto the next, infinitely more interesting subject.

Having said all of the above, I do, perhaps surprisingly, have some rather strong views on the way women’s chests are sexualized and perceived and I’m thoroughly opposed to breast implants for solely cosmetic reasons. Working with teenagers is a fantastic eye-opener in this regard. Whereas men my age are, as a general rule, adverse to the idea of dome-like, rigid, plastic bosoms, guys in their teens and early twenties appear to regard them as normal. They can hardly be blamed for this. When was the last time you saw a natural looking breast in a magazine, on the internet or on television? Even those ever-decreasing minority of celebs who haven’t succumbed to the allure of plastic surgery (hang your head in shame at your glaringly obvious departure from this minority, SJP) are edited in post production so that their cups positively runneth over, and apparently they’ve now runneth’d as far as the general expectation of the collective male minds.

Girls as young as 12 are now asking their parents for birthday boob jobs, so conditioned are they by the idea that massive boobs = instant attractiveness. Once, it was relatively unusual to see implants in real life. Now, they’re as normal as fake nails (with the crucial difference of course that one cannot simply remove them at the end of the night). Again, it’s what this represents, rather than the girls themselves, that I resent (I don’t walk around emanating transparent hatred for the great plastic masses, just mild pity) – i.e. the terrifying departure we are making from natural beauty into the realms of cyborg-like uniformity.

Newsflash, boys: Sorry to disappoint but breasts are for babies. They are there to nourish our offspring first and foremost and your mysterious ability to derive sexual pleasure out of them is a secondary factor (and in my case, an unexpected bonus). Blundell’s article, which placed the blame for her aversion to breastfeeding at the door of, to paraphrase, not wanting droppy tits, is not only a testament to our increasingly aesthetic obsessed society, it’s also vaguely pathetic. There I was thinking I was, to an extent, defined by my breasts and here is a woman so chest-centrically-obsessed she is prepared to sacrifice the wellbeing of her own children in her quest for perkiness.

Bel Mooney hits the nail squarely and spectacularly on the head with her observation that this is an example of our changing (for the worse) attitudes towards femininity and you can read her article by clicking http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1290442/BEL-MOONEY-How-sad-mothers-seen-sex-objects-breastfeed-child.html.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Julien MacDonald - Face. Bovvered.

Now, far be it for me to suggest for one moment that Julien MacDonald made his recent remarks in the press about plus size models being a ‘joke’ to raise publicity for the impending televisual flop which is Britain’s Next Top Model (the American version can be vaguely amusing, if you enjoy your soul slowly being sucked out of your eyes in a tornado of vacuous cattiness- but does anyone actually watch the British version?)……However, he quite obviously did.

I’m therefore not going to devote a great deal of my time to explaining WHY his remarks are idiotic (as I credit the readers of my blog with enough intelligence to figure that out for themselves).

I will merely say this: MacDonald represents the kind of archaic, head-in-my-own-posterior mentality which is, mercifully, gradually being stamped out in the fashion industry. In the meantime, he should stick to designing for Debenhams. After all, perhaps if he devoted a little more time to considering designs which would flatter real women they wouldn’t have to reduce his line by 70% every sale season just to shift it off the shelves.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Why the Beauty Issue is More than Skin Deep

Yesterday evening I attended the Ogunte Women’s Social Leadership Awards on behalf of Ruth Rogers, who had been finalized in the ‘Campaigns’ category for Body Gossip (woo!). I wore my lucky hot pink suede stilettos, and as such was confident she’d scoop the prestigious gong, but sadly on this occasion, they remained merely fabulous footwear and didn’t work their usual magic (we was robbed). I did, however, feel right at home in a room populated entirely with women incredibly passionate about social change and prepared to chew your ear right off in order to achieve it.

Most of these women were incredible, inspiring and equally interested in our campaign as I was in there’s. One of them, conversely, shocked me with her rudimentary understanding of Body Gossip. She lollopped up to me, examined my name tag and remarked in tones dripping with sarcasm ‘oh yes, Body Gossip, that’s people moaning about their bodies isn’t it? Like it’s the end of the World if you don’t like your body. Ha!’. Momentarily stunned I simply replied ‘not exactly, no’.

I was then treated to what was obviously a very well-rehearsed 20 minute rant about climate change, how no one appreciates the urgency, how it’s the most pressing social issue in today’s society, the root of most natural disaster and human tragedy and of course the implication of all this being that Body Gossip paled into insignificance by comparison.

I felt my 18 year old self (the champion Oxford Union debater) stir within me. I tried to placate her by eating black 4 olives on a skewer. She wasn’t having any of it. Olives were apparently no substitute for the joy of a decisive rebuttal. Finally, I turned to face this walking mass of self-righteousness straight on and said ‘perhaps there are issues which you perceive to be more worthy than body image. However, I think you will find most people are far too crippled with insecurity and self-loathing to give a tiny little rats arse about the environment, so perhaps you had better jump on board, love’.

I then treated her to a catwalk style pivot, head swish and onward saunter, if only to demonstrate that there is no law against pioneering for social change AND conditioning your hair.

If history has taught us anything, it is that sweeping issues under the proverbial rug is the least effective means possible of solving them. We might not like to think of ourselves as the kind of ‘superficial’ people who might get swept into life-crippling body image obsession, but until we face our demons, we’ll be rendered incapable of thinking about much else, including, but not limited to, climate change.

Attempting to abstain from society, opting out, not getting on the celebrity worship merry-go-round and snorting derisively at the entire situation doesn’t help either. The fact is that we live in a world where an estimated 30% of young men and 70% of young women cite their relationship with their body as their number 1 worry. These young people have the potential to be anything (they could even go on to be scientists who discover an alternative for current fuels, you will note, Climate Change Lady), but they are flittering away this potential by pouring their energy into obtaining an elusive ‘perfect’ aesthetic. 1 in 10 people under the age of 25 allow this to develop into an eating disorder, with millions more opting to exhibit their dissatisfaction in other ways (body dysmorphia, depression, self harm, alcohol abuse etc).

Whilst perhaps not as dramatic as a natural disaster, lack of self esteem is, undoubtedly, killing people. Furthermore, however much we dislike admitting it, we are all responsible for the state of society and we all have a responsibility to fix it.

Would I consider campaigning for climate change? Absolutely. But I’m going to work on the self esteem and mindset of as many young people in this country as I can first.

After all, everyone has a different passion. Mine is ensuring teenagers are allowed to fulfill their potential and succeed in their chosen field without having their lives blighted by the physical and emotional problems which accompany low body confidence (and getting the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders changed…… and enlightening people about the genius of David Bowie…….. but those are for other days). Ruth’s is ensuring real people’s body stories are given a powerful voice, so that we can appreciate natural and realistic beauty. Climate Change Lady’s is saving the environment. No one is more worthy or urgent than the other. Just like there’s room for all types of bodies in the beauty spectrum, there’s room for all sorts of causes in the concept of social change.

So, the moral of the story is, if you wish to confront me and question everything I stand for at a public event, please feel free to do so, but do be prepared to be put down spectacularly by Oxford Union Girl (I cannot control her, I’m sorry, she is a force unto herself) and then to be the subject of one of my blog-rants. Don’t say you have not been warned.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Ditch the Diets!

Oh, you wonderful Daily Mail Online readers, you have done it again! I never cease to be amazed by the level of anger and self-righteousness you display, or your willingness to exhibit opinions on topics upon which you clearly have little to no expertise.

Who are these people who become so enraged by other people’s perceived lack of healthy lifestyle/fatness? Every health related headline in the DM might as well read ‘how this person’s laziness/greed is consuming YOUR hard earned money in NHS tax funding. Let’s drive them out of the country with sticks!’.

This week’s particular little nugget of wisdom comes from Lizzie in London who, in response to a story of how hypnotherapy helped one lady go from a size 24 to a size 14, says:

‘The hard work in excercising [sic] and eating well is down to her own will power and sheer perseverance.

Hypnotherapy is not a magic bullet to slimming and weight loss There is still hard work involved!’

First of all, Lizzie, please learn to spell, lest I chase your presumably slender yet woefully uneducated self out of the country (using sticks).

Secondly, as Mark Newey, certified hypnotherapist and catalyst for countless successful weight loss endeavors points out, this thing we refer to as ‘willpower’ is actually our conscious mind, which is a measly 9% of our overall brain mass.

If we indulge in a particular behaviour for a sustained period of time, be it a positive activity (exercising, driving) or a negative one (smoking, overeating) it is adopted by the much larger unconscious brain as behavioural programming, thus freeing up the conscious to think about other stuff (like the yummy bloke we happen to be dating and what happened on Eastenders last night and why you never see a baby pigeon….ok perhaps that’s just me).

Ever read to the bottom of a page and realised you weren’t paying attention and can’t remember what it said? That’s your unconscious mind saying ‘aaaah, I know how to read. I’ve read stuff before! Let me take over this activity’. Your conscious mind wanders and before you know it you’re chastising yourself for not paying attention and having to repeat the entire reading process.

Now, say you make a decision that you would like to change a particular behavioural programme. What’s essentially happening is that 9% of your mind is taking on the might of 91%, attempting to affect change when the massive and powerful unconscious is willing you to continue acting as you have always done. And then we wonder why ‘diets’ don’t work in 90% of cases.

Hypnotherapy is merely a way of bypassing the conscious mind and accessing the unconscious to make permanent and fast changes. It can break long-standing behavioural patterns and wipe the slate clean. Mark tells his weight loss clients ‘now I want you to go away and not give a damn about what you eat’. They stare at him in disbelief, not quite able to comprehend the idea that, after all these years of desperately trying in vain to restrict themselves, they can now eat absolutely anything they want.

The key factor, however, is that because their attitudes towards food, their bodies and themselves have been changed in the unconscious, they will naturally make healthier choices, selecting foods according to what will nourish them, rather than those which will satisfy their emotional cravings.

Which leads me neatly onto my next point. People do not overeat because they are greedy, or lazy or selfish or even because they have an insatiable apatite. Generally, people overeat because it brings them an instantaneous (if very short lived) feeling of pleasure. Comfort eating is merely another crutch, allowing us to feel that we are effectively coping with feelings of loneliness, stress or anxiety. Of course, all it really serves to do is distract us from those feelings (and add an expanding waistline onto our lists of worries).

Guess what other change can be quickly and permanently made in the unconscious? Yes, dear Blog Groupies, we’re back onto my favourite subject – banishing feelings of low self esteem.

And that is why I’m very sorry to have to report that Lizzie in London is, shockingly, wrong.

To find out more about the Winning Minds weight loss programme go to http://www.winningminds.co.uk/therapies/weight-management/.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Ilona Burton -v- Phillip Schofield - My Two Penneth!

Blog fans will know I am not adverse to expressing a potentially controversial opinion – I’ve been known to incur the wrath of the established medical profession on many occasion and “steady on, Tash” must rank up there amongst my friends’ most frequently repeated phrases. Freedom of speech is one of the main reasons I’m so very glad I was fortunate enough to have made my debut into this mental thing we call the World in Essex, England, where you can rant ‘til your hearts’ content without fear of imprisonment/death and I like to exercise that particular human right whenever possible.

I hope that the above demonstrates how genuine I am when I say I am absolutely divided in the Ilona Burton – v – Phillip Schofield (Nikki Grahame) debate as it rages on, fueled by the two penneths of the general populous and our nation’s favourite silver fox’s vehement tweets. Hard as it may be to conceive of, I have chosen to sit on the fence on this one.

For those of you unfamiliar with the entire debacle, here’s a summary:

Nikki Grahame has written a book about her anorexia battle, went on GMTV to promote it and was asked by host Phillip Schofield about the “tricks” she used to resist recovery, which she duly described in some detail. B-eat ambassador and recovering anorexic Ilona Burton then blogged furiously, claiming that Nikki and GMTV were irresponsible to broadcast what was essentially a Guide to Staying Sick.

Que unfathomable mayhem as Nikki Grahame fans, Ilona supporters and the hefty might of the GMTV watching public engaged in a war of words. Nikki was described as “marmite”, Ilona was described as “ignorant” and there were a few choice words of an unrepeatable nature thrown in the direction of Phillip Schofield, too. Phillip and Ilona went head-to-head in Tweetland – throwing balls of indignation like cannon fire into cyber space.

Naturally, as someone who works with the media, having had personal (and rather extensive) experience of an eating disorder and also heavily involved with Body Gossip (for which Nikki Grahame is, it has to be said, an excellent ambassador) I couldn’t resist sticking my oar in.

So, the first point I’d like to make abundantly clear is that I cannot bring myself to blame Nikki Grahame for any of this. She has been incredibly brave in admitting she has anorexia (which many similarly slender celebrities will not, and simply put down to yoga and eating sushi or some such bollocks) and the proceeds from her book are going to B-eat, so she clearly has honourable intentions.

Having said that, I can understand totally why Ilona was angered by the episode. It’s a classic dilemma which I have encountered with the media on several occasions. Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to have been taken into the bosom of Cosmopolitan Magazine, the fantastically empathetic and responsible journalist Ken Goodwin at ITV West and the regional BBC radio stations, all of whom have heeded my insistence that, whilst I am prepared to speak candidly about my eating disorder, I will not divulge specifics concerning weight or tips on how to excel at bulimia. Ultimately, the message should be positive.

In fact, just last week I took my Body Confidence Campaign to a school in Hertfordshire and was asked my a student what ‘diet’ I had gone on in my teens to drop such a significant amount of weight that my terror at regaining led me to bulimia and I made a point of refusing to tell her, and to explain why I was refusing to tell her.

However, scandal sells, and people are interested in two things: celebrities and extremes. At this moment in time I am neither. I was extremely bulimic, not that you would have been able to tell unless you were specifically seeking out the swollen glands, red raw knuckles, constant flu-like symptoms or mood swings which characterize the disease. And therein lies my point. The idea that an encyclopedic list of all the methods one can employ to fool doctors into believing you are recovering is in any way “raising awareness” for non eating disorder sufferers is utterly specious. Secretive habits surrounding eating disorders are exactly that: Secret. If they can be concealed from a doctor, your average GMTV viewer won’t have much better luck detecting them.

Having now fully recovered and being a healthy weight, I would be extremely taken aback if GMTV invited me onto their sofa to discuss my experiences, or indeed my ongoing campaign to prevent young people from following the same path as me. I’m simply not shocking enough in my current happy, fleshy, bosomy, feisty form. We do not see enough genuinely recovered people in the public eye and the message we are sending to current sufferers as a result is “this will haunt you forever”. Which is almost as soul-destroying as the fundamental message “there’s no point in trying to get better”. That, however, is hardly Nikki Grahame’s fault. My hat goes off to our Nikki for making the best she can of the circumstances she find herself in.

Eating disorders are consuming the lives people in the UK at a terrifying rate. Like anything dangerous, there is a responsibility to report it responsibly. Whilst I applaud GMTV for giving the issue air time, I do agree with Ilona that the interview could have had a detrimental affect on current sufferers. Would a self-harmer have been asked to explain exactly the ways and means they inflicted pain on themselves and how they concealed their cuts and bruises?

I want to open this one up to the floor, because it’s a debate which interests me immeasurably. Are you Team Ilona or Team Schophey?

So there you have it! I do believe that might have been my least rant-fuelled blog of all time. Could it be that the passing of my 29th birthday last month marked my passage into well reasoned and mature adulthood? Probably not. I’m sure something will inspire me onto my soapbox in the forthcoming weeks so stayed tuned!

To read my recent report for Flavour Magazine on Body Image, Eating Disorders and the Media, click http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/54bf6b67#/54bf6b67/10

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

'Just Tax the Stupid People!'

So even in the midst of all this election madness, the brains responsible for implementing health policy have managed to make another spectacular gaff. It’s amazing they found the time, really – I’d be impressed if I wasn’t so full of abject despair.

The latest bright idea is to tax ‘bad’ foods, in the hope that the higher cost will see a decline in Britain’s much maligned obese population.

Upon closer inspection, the proposed foods for increased taxation include crème fresh, lurpak butter, full fat milk, strong cheddar and luxury biscuits. With the exception of the biscuits, all of these foods have significant nutritional value, providing essential protein and calcium – With full fat milk being just about the most nutritional thing you can consume (and, incidentally, a popular choice for a quick injection of (what’s the opposite of empty? Meaningful?) meaningful calories amongst recovering anorexics). Butter has long since been proven to be much better for you than margarine, which is chock-full of toxins and other nasties. And show me someone who consumes crème fresh on a daily basis and I’ll show you someone who can afford the added tax.

Of course, I’m not advocating a diet consisting solely of high-fat dairy produce, merely pointing out that these can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. As my friend Michelle, a registered nutritionist, points out “variety is the cornerstone of good nutrition”.

So it’s all the luxury biscuit’s fault! Of course! Why haven’t I noticed all the obese people frantically cramming in mouthfuls of luxury biscuits in the World? Bad, bad luxury biscuit!

In all seriousness, I don’t think we can justifiably place the blame for rising obesity levels on the luxury biscuit alone, so all we are left with are a lot of luxury biscuit consumers, ex-anorexics and people with any degree of common sense who are (understandably) more than a little hacked off.

As Michelle goes on to stress:

“It’s annoying how this is being framed as an ‘obesity’ issue. It’s actually a heart disease issue, which can be tied more directly to saturated fat consumption. And there’s no proof that a lower-fat diet will help people lose weight in the long-run, so the ‘obesity’ link is specious”.

What this essentially boils down to, once again, is the powers-that-be making a profit from our vices. Vices which we are positively encouraged to adopt by their self-righteous, condescending, whiney and generally irritating attitude in the first place.

Forbidden things are ‘cool’. Look at smoking. The incessant anti-smoking advertising, vile pictures on the packets depicting unsightly diseases and public place ban has done little to quell their consumption in anyone I know. In fact, it almost makes me want to take up smoking myself in an act of protest.

The attitude being generated is “tee hee, look at me, I’m exercising my freedom by jeopardizing my health. That’ll show those smothersome bore-bags in government”. It might be bonkers, but then emotions often are.

The general public are left in a situation where they are perpetually ricocheting between the binge-eating (which is now associated with pleasurable emotions of rebellion and ‘treating’ oneself) and the ‘starting their diets on Monday’ mentality (which of course the wealth of resources, DVDs, books and ‘diet’ foods will be more than happy to enable us to do). Low fat ‘diet’ foods, incidentally, are usually crammed to the rafters with sugar (and I don’t notice high-sugar foods being taxed, which is yet further evidence that the whole concept owes more to a concern for consumerism than for the health of the populous).

The answer is a combination of educating the public about the genuine nutritional value of foods (relatively easy) and increasing their self-esteem so that health becomes, crucially, more important than simply 'thinness' (mammoth task, which projects like Evolve, Body Gossip and the Winning Minds Body Confidence Programme are toiling constantly to bring to fruition). In the meantime, as my Mum would say, ‘use your noddle’.

On that note, I’d like to quote Absolutely Fabulous’ Edwina and propose a ‘Stupidity Tax’ - to be imposed upon all people who genuinely believe Kate Moss is healthier than Crystal Renn.

To hear more maniacal ranting from me on this thorny issue, tune into BBC Radio Essex tomorrow (Weds 12th May) at 11.30am, 95.3fm or click http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/essex/hi/.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Exciting Events in the Month of May!

1. Lushh Event - Thursday 6th May 2010 - Stoke-on-Trent

Red carpet event - An evening of self-celebration for confident women featuring fun, frolics and cupcakes! It's free to go and will feature exhibits and guest speeches, including one from me on behalf of Body Gossip. Go to http://www.lushevent.co.uk/ for full deets.

2. Body Confidence Workshop in Association with Evolve Media, Tres Health and Winning Minds - 22nd May 2010 - Chelsea Bridge

This marvellous event will teach attendees the key to self esteem and unlocking their real beauty. Led by Mark Newey (aka my boss) with an introduction from yours truly.

Best news is, Evolve community members get a breathtaking discount - £25 down from £75 for the first workshop (and then £50 thereafter). On 10th May, if you're a member of Evolve Magazine on Facebook (just type Evolve into the search box and use your noddle, as my Mum would say) you will receive an email with a secret password to enable you to claim your discount when you book. Tickets are on a first come, first served basis.

http://www.treschelsea.com/ - here is the link to learn more about the rather gorgeous venue.

3. May issue of Flavour Magazine

Flavour Magazine is a free London culture magazine 'for the young and ambitious' available in various places throughout the capital and also online: http://www.flavourmag.co.uk/. Look out for the May issue which will feature a Double Page Spread on Body Confidence, featuring opinions from Mark Newey, Ruth 'Wonder Woman' Rogers (founder of Body Gossip) and Sam Thomas - founder of Men Get Eating Disorders Too (www.mengetedstoo.co.uk)

4. Tamanda Walker

Tam Walker sings lovely melodious pop/soul tunes that make your ears go "aaaaaaah". She is also annoyingly beautiful. But very lovely, so we forgive her. She is an ambassador for Body Gossip so we want her to become very famous, please.

Tamanda is currently in the Cordless Show competition - sign in/register and then click on the "vote" button http://www.cordless-show.com/view_profile.asp?member=dGFtd2Fsa2VybXVzaWNAZ21haWwuY29t

and finally.........

5. Assortment Dedicate and Other Groovy Things on 'The Culture Club', Reach FM

My fellow journo Karla Williams' and I are introducing our show, The Culture Club, on Sunday 9th May on Reach FM. The show will air at 11am and is then repeated at 8pm. There are TWO CHANCES to listen to there is NO EXCUSE not to tune in (none whatsoever. Nope. Not even that). This week features Assortment Dedicate, of whom I am a massive fan and think everyone else should be too (www.myspace.com/assortmentdedicate) and a theatre director with AMAZING chin dimples. Also the usual theatre/music/DVD reviews and generally Karla and me larking about in an amusing fashion.

Listen by tuning into 87.7fm or clicking http://www.ape-media.com/reachfm/

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

At Last Some Common Sense (Courtesy of CNN)

Regular readers of my blog will have noted frequently my frustration and despair and the utterly ridiculous, BMI-based diagnosis criteria for eating disorders in this country. Anorexics who have lost half their body weight in less than six months have been casually dismissed, whilst bulimics who are a ‘normal’ weight (whatever this might turn out to actually mean) are frequently told that they do not ‘qualify’ as having an eating disorder (as if it’s some sort of severity competition. “Congratulations! You’re nearly dead!”).

We’ve created a situation where only those prepared to defy everything their warped mental state is compelling them to do and give a candid account of their most secret behaviour, or, of course, those who reach the ‘magic’ weight of 5 stone are being treated.

At an Amazonian 5 ft 11, my lowest ever weight as an anorexic during my teens was just under 8 stone (that was around the point when my lips and finger tips were constantly white/blue even indoors and my eyes were closing of their own accord) and as a bulimic it was 10 stone (around the point that my uni friends started taking me to one side and asking me if I had a life threatening illness). At neither of these points was I deemed to have an unhealthy BMI. The most perfunctory visual assessment would have concluded without doubt that there was something very wrong and yet my eating disorder continued to ravage my body unchecked, until several years later, when I finally began to get proactive about helping myself.

Official statistics show that around 30% of people will make a full recovery from an ED. The figure could and should be a great deal higher and it’s merely a question of catching them earlier, before the sufferer is so utterly embroiled in their issue they have literally lost the will to be live. What defines an eating disorder is mindset and behaviour and the apparent symptoms on the physical body are almost incidental. We know, for example, that one does not have to physically faint in the street from exhaustion, rupture one’s esophagus or cease menstruating in order to do considerable damage to one’s long term health and put oneself under significant psychological strain.

People with EDs tend to have fleeting pockets of time during their illness when they decide they want help. It doesn’t take much for this brief flash of inspiration to be altogether eclipsed by the omnipresent voice of their condition, which tells them their friends, their family, their doctors don’t understand and are just jealous anyway, at which point they’ll shrink back into their self-carved prison, in preparation for yet more weeks, months and years of torture. If we can grab people when they make their first foray into recovery and find a way to assess their condition with a little bit of common sense, we can save a lot of heartache, both for the sufferer and for their families.

I therefore breathed an audible sigh of relief when I read a paper published yesterday by CNN entitled “Anorexia and Bulimia definitions hinder treatment”. At last some common sense is being applied. Below are the edited highlights:


"Some insurance companies will only cover treatment for eating disorders if the patient meets all of the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a guidebook for diagnosing mental illnesses, doctors say. Patients who don't match all the symptoms, which include severe weight loss, are labeled "eating disorder not otherwise specified" (EDNOS) and sometimes don't qualify for the level of care they need……..

A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found more than 60 percent of patients with EDNOS met medical criteria for hospitalization and were, on average, sicker than patients diagnosed with full-blown bulimia.
EDNOS originally came about as a way of classifying people with dangerous eating behaviors and thoughts who didn't fully meet criteria for anorexia or bulimia, said Peebles.

But that means this single category can apply to an obese person who binges but doesn't purge, a severely underweight person who almost meets anorexia criteria but continues to menstruate, and a normal-weight individual who purges but doesn't binge, Keel said. For example, a person who regularly vomits after eating small amounts of food would fall under EDNOS, not bulimia.

"Some patients who are normal weight or even overweight are still very medically scary," Peebles said. "They are probably, I would expect, the highest risk to get missed in the community by either their physicians or their parents."
"We're seeing patients younger and younger, patients as young as 5," Peebles said. "Certainly 7 to 12 years of age, that's not uncommon to see anymore."


What kind of society believes it is in any way acceptable for EDs to be prevalent amongst 7 to 12 year olds? For the past twenty years, we have buried our heads in the sand, blaming the individual’s circumstances for what was deemed to be their private mental condition. Meanwhile as many as 1.2 million people in the UK continue to suffer (and that is, of course, 1.2 million diagnosed under the current, woefully inadequate diagnostic criteria, the actual figure is likely to be as high as twice that many) whilst we comfort ourselves with the notion that they must all have suffered significant trauma at the hands of someone who wasn’t us.

Is it a coincidence that the steep incline in EDs has mirrored the meteorological rise in celebrity worship culture, in the increasing availability of plastic surgery, the constant nagging temptation towards X factor style overnight fame and fortune which means that every young man or woman is now judged almost solely on aesthetics? We all condemn ourselves and others to suffer and we all have the responsibility for change. Take the first step today and go to www.bodygossip.org.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Spring is Here (and We've Got it Twisted)

Ah, sunshine. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have it’s soul-lightening warmth beating down on my (immensely grateful and vampirically pale) skin. I’m also, as I type, being terrorized by my first irritating wasp of the season. Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. The Easter break, during which it is decreed by God Himself that we should spend, as a nation, a minimum of 48 hours sitting on our collective arses eating snacks shaped like baby wildlife (I can’t find the bit in the Bible where it actually says this but I’m sure it must be in there somewhere) is officially over and it’s time to repent our sugary sins.

The multi-billion pound “health” (please note inverted commas have been used for a reason) and fitness industry has two times of year when it uses all its marketing resources to shock and shame us into investing in their products and services. The first is post-Christmas. Every TV screen, billboard and magazine ad has been screaming at us to consume vast quantities of luxury food for months (the build-up now starts in August) and then, suddenly we are expected to snap into a disciplined and unsustainable routine of detox and cardio the moment the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. By January 5th, naturally, that’s all completely forgotten and we’re gorging on cut-price mince pies to compensate for the trauma of returning to our work routines after 2 weeks of lay-ins and watching re-runs of Only Fools and Horses all day.

Then, of course, come March (usually, although this year is not providing much empirical evidence for my musings) the sun makes it’s appearance and the marketing powers that be leap on the opportunity to exacerbate our natural “impending summer/flesh on show” fears. “Get Your Perfect Bikini Body in Six Weeks!” is actually code for “You Only Have Six Weeks until You’ll be Virtually Naked and Judged by Strangers!”

As I remarked to a Christian friend of mine the other day, I’m not sure that this perpetual and ever-momentum-gaining cycle of bingeing and deprivation in recognition of his birth/death is exactly what Jesus had in mind for the entire Western World. She told me to shut my heathen cake-hole, so probably the less said about that the better.

What is, however, abundantly clear (and considerably less controversial) is that we have our priorities twisted. Mark Newey (you’ll know him as Body Gossip's resident expert, I know his as ‘BossMan’) has helped hundreds of clients shed unwanted pounds over the years, by enabling them to stop focusing on what they eat. It might sound insane to say to someone with an overdeveloped fondness for food “now go away and eat whatever you want” but it works.

Diets are doomed to failure – Our minds naturally draw us towards whatever we think about most and we’re rebellious creatures, who tend to think most about the things we’re not allowed. Don’t think of a pink elephant. Don’t eat cheese. It’s all the same principle. Every time you fail to lose weight, or lose it and then become so crazed with starvation you cave in and gorge on cream cakes, having done irreversible damage to your metabolism, and pile it all back on again, this damages your self esteem. Dieting ultimately makes us feel rubbish about ourselves. And when you don’t value yourself, you could look like Angelina Jolie and still be dissatisfied with what you see in the mirror.

The key to long-term health and real beauty (I’m talking head-turning, birds fly into lampposts as persons of the opposite (or same, depending on preference) sex swoon in your path and make declarations of undying devotion beauty) is High Self Esteem. I know I harp on about it, but self-esteem can never be over valued. When we respect every aspect of ourselves, including our bodies, we naturally want to take care of ourselves.

The prevailing attitudes in our culture have created the illusion of an “all our nothing at all” mentality. We’re either glutinous sloths who eat nothing but KFC and drive ten meters to the corner shop or we’re maniacal health nuts who subside only on items purchased from Holland and Barratt and visit the gym on a daily basis. Of course, this doesn’t reflect reality. Contrary to what we might have been led to believe, (Daily Mail readers of a sensitive disposition might want to look away now) it is possible to be fat and healthy, just as it is possible to be fat and beautiful.

If you chose to lose weight, for acceptable reasons (not so that bloke down the Dog and Duck will fancy you, or because you want to emulate some plastic princess from the pages of Heat Magazine), then the simplest, fastest way to do it, is to love yourself just the way you are. Self esteem comes first and then weight loss, if viable and necessary, will naturally follow. Most of us have it entirely the wrong way round. Women everywhere are procrastinating, refraining from partaking in activities they enjoy, going for that promotion or on that date, for the sake of some (usually imagined) physical imperfection. “When I’m skinny/toned/whatever” they think “then I’ll get on with my life”. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

That’s why I’m so proud to be an in-house journalist for Evolve Magazine, aimed at women size 14 and over. Evolve are hosting a Full Figured Funk workshop on 22nd May in Central London (because “you’re never too chunky to get funky”), self esteem workshops in association with Winning Minds this summer and are currently recruiting a bevy of plus-size beauties for their modeling agency. Email me at Natasha@evolve-magazine.com if you want further info about any of the above and in the meantime remember the Evolve motto: Be proud, be you!