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.

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.