Smorgasbord: News Week in Review

This week's smorgasbord table is particularly full, so I'm going to split it into two different editions. The first one is about news stories, etc, that I've found this week. The second edition is going to feature research. But since I think of news more as hors d'ouerves, it's coming up first.

Miss England contestant is of 'normal' weight. Okay, so how darn sad is it that a Miss England (or Miss-Country-of-your-choice) who looks like the rest of us is a massive, international news story? If she had, say, really big feet, only her mother would care. A sixth toe might warrant a mention in her hometown newspaper. Instead, newspapers and magazines around the world are discussing the fact that a potential Miss England is a Size 16 UK (Size 12/14 US).

A British dietician, Monica Grenfell, has this to say about Chloe Marshall, the contestant:

Feted and fawned over for her courage in daring to break the mould, Chloe boasts she wants to be an "ambassador for curves".

Who on earth does she think she's kidding? What she's demonstrating isn't bravery but a shocking lack of self-control.

Instead of flaunting her figure, Chloe ought to own up to the truth. She is fat and she got that way by over-eating.

Pardon me, but how the hell do you know?

The title of Ms. Grenfell's editorial is "A role model for ordinary women? No, Miss England finalist is fat, lazy and a poster girl for ill health." Now, I'm going to assume that you spent large amounts of time with Chloe, Ms. Grenfell, since you can attest that she got fat by over eating, and that she is lazy. You are asserting these things as fact, so I hope you can back them up. Now, let's think for a minute. Chloe is fat, which means she spends all day on the couch eating bags of potato chips. As lazy as that is (and it IS lazy, since Chloe is fat, and fat people are lazy, which means this MUST be true), it does take some small amount of energy to move your hand from your mouth, to the bag of chips, back to your mouth, back to the chips, until the bag is gone and you get off your fat ass to go get another. Repeat until bedtime. Even with this itsy bitsy small amount of energy, it is still FAR LESS LAZY than failing to challenge a whit of your assumptions.

You say people 'should' have a BMI of 20. Six billion people in the world, and only one BMI? And if that's an imperative here (should is, by my book, an imperative), then all of the other contestants will need to gain weight. But I don't hear you complaining or worrying about them. Or citing the evidence that only a BMI of 20 is acceptable.

I know you will probably say that you are writing these editorials because you are concerned about the state of Britain's health, etc. Maybe you are- thankfully, I don't live inside your head, nor do I gratutiously assume things about other people. But what I'm guessing is at stake here is your feelings of superiority because you are thin. If people like Chloe are accepted for being 'fat' (even though she's only a tad into the overweight category- her BMI is actually 25.3, rather than 26), then you won't get to feel superior for being thin. People used the same arguments during the civil rights movement. We don't want to decrease segregation because the quality of education will go down. Crime will go up. The actual outcome is less important than the fact that one more feeling of false superiority is chipped away.

Don't worry- you still have meanness and pettiness that are superior to many.

And I know for a fact that Chloe has self control- heaps of it. Why? She hasn't sat on you yet.

Responsible talk on nutrition and eating disorders. Another story that really shouldn't be on my radar, but if I'm going to blog about the bad, I also need to blog about the good.

It's National Nutrition Month- which kind of strikes me like having a history month called National Dead White Guy History Month. Isn't that, like, every month? Do we really need to be more aware of it? Can we?

Well, the folks at Jacksonville State University discussed nutrition and the new food pyramid in what is quite possibly the most responsible, healthy way yet. The nutritionist mentioned the importance of physical activity in a healthy lifestyle (as opposed to the "thou must run to stay thin" mantra that is oft-repeated at seminars like this). Also the importance of fruits and vegetables. They are important, I won't deny that.

But the last half of the (short) article are just nicely put and don't need any help (or lack thereof) from me to make the point:

A major point Moore stressed to those present was that "being healthier does not necessarily mean being thinner."

She explained the negative effects of a society rich in cheap high calorie foods and at the same time obsessed with appearance can have on adults and adolescents. Moore reminded the group that children are more at risk than adults.

"A child affected by an eating disorder can potentially do more damage to their body than an adult because they have not yet fully developed," Moore said. She said in addition to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, a new health risk associated with compulsive exercising called anorexia athletica is also an issue.

See you bright and early tomorrow morning for the research course of your weekly smorgasbord.

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mary said...

It sounds to me that it's Ms. Monica Grenfell who lacks self control.
I mean, what business is it of hers that someone is comfortable in their body? Really. And that they've declared themselves the ambassador of curves? It's fun and so much better than the stuffy pageants which look for Barbie dolls.(though I still hate these contests) Oh yea, that would be good for marketing her crash diet books to offer her insulting opinion. (again...NO CONTROL)
Maybe she was *hungry* when she made those comments.

*Must be hungry* became our key phrase recently when we were busy working and started getting cranky.

Anonymous said...


I am Monica Grenfell, the nutritionist and journalist who wrote that article. You are welcome to write to me personally.

My real concern is not for Chloe marshall, who has nothing to fear now that she has photo shoots and magazine/newspaper spreads most celebs would pay thousdands inb publicity fees for, but the poor other contestants who have worked tirelessly to represent their counties for the past year and longer. they have no publicity whatever.

if size really doesn't matter, why has Miss Surrey made such a deal of it? why not just enter as she is?

She will probably win the contest now, simply because she has put herself on the front of every magazine, and for one reason only. In every other respect she is no more worthy than any of the other poor girls. Shame on her for using her body to get ahead and for name-calling the other girls 'skinny minnies'. She is no better than me.

Oh and she is a glutton; she should go to some of the third-world countries I have visited, where they know the meaning of starvation. To say she refuses to starve is an outrage.

Monica Grenfell

Harriet said...

Dear Monica,

I suppose you would know all about being a publicity hound, wouldn't you? Isn't that exactly what you're doing by criticizing Chloe Marshall in the first place?

You are certainly entitled to your opinions about fat. What you are not entitled to is to mandate other people's opinions.

You know, I find it very satisfying to know that there are people in the world--including myself--who feel comfortable in their bodies despite the denigrating efforts of people like you.

What are you so afraid of, Monica? That perhaps you've based your career on a stance that's irrelevant? That maybe choices you've made will turn out to be not so important?

What do you make of Katherine Flegal's study showing that the *lowest* mortality rates are among those in the "overweight to mildly obese" categories? Of the studies that show that fat may actually have a protective value in terms of people's survival, especially as we get older?

Are you afraid to look at data that contradicts your own opinions? That would be human. But it also makes you no expert.

You are entitled to think what you like. You are not entitled to bludgeon others with those opinions.

Have a cupcake.

carrie said...


Actually, if you want to see starvation and deprevation, you should head to an eating disorders unit. Plenty of first world people starving.

My problem with your comments is not that you think she's a publicity hog or that she's a bad role model. I might disagree with you, but it wouldn't really attract my ire.

My issue is your assumptions you make about who Chloe is and why she's not bone thin. You say she's a glutton- other than her weight, how do you know that? Not that my knowledge of religion is more than microscopic, I didn't know that the definition of gluttony had anything to do with body weight. Maybe the hard work she did to get where she is had to do with accepting her body. That *is* hard work. I'm doing it.

My brother (before he discovered beer) was a stick. Never exercised, and went a whole month without a piece of fruit or veg in his apartment. Unless you count the corn on the outside of his frozen corn dog. While we were growing up, I was probably a little larger-framed than him. But I rode my bike, and I loved (still do) fruit.

Don't make assumptions. You make an ASS out of U and ME.

fillyjonk said...

if size really doesn't matter, why has Miss Surrey made such a deal of it? why not just enter as she is?

Because of people like you.

Size does matter, because people like you are ignorant. Size matters because people like you make assumptions about women based on their thighs. Size matters because people like you want to use body shame to control others. Size matters because people like you are personally offended that someone who's bigger than you might think she's "better than you" -- in other words, might think she's just as good without having to go through the disastrously unhealthy punishment you see as the penalty for being female.

And size matters because people like you allow themselves to be represented as "dieticians" while recommending starvation diets. Size matters because some of the people presenting themselves as experts -- people like you -- are coming from a deeply disordered place of self-loathing and misogyny.

Chloe didn't compete and win because size doesn't matter. She competed and won because size doesn't make her any worse, any more "gluttonous," any less healthy, or any less beautiful than people like you.

Kate Harding said...

My real concern is not for Chloe marshall, who has nothing to fear now that she has photo shoots and magazine/newspaper spreads most celebs would pay thousdands inb publicity fees for, but the poor other contestants who have worked tirelessly to represent their counties for the past year and longer. they have no publicity whatever.

And yet you used your own platform as a journalist to shame Chloe Marshall instead of promoting any of the other girls. That's... curious.

Rachel said...

Shame on her for using her body to get ahead and for name-calling the other girls 'skinny minnies'. She is no better than me.

Nor are you any better than her or anyone else for that matter, just because your BMI happens to fall within a range you have arbitrarily dictated to be culturally and aesthetically acceptable.

To say she refuses to starve is an outrage.

No, once again you are so very very wrong. To say Chloe refuses to starve is a political and cultural triumph in an era where people like you would rather she do so.

Do go back to the sad, lonely and singular place you inhabit Ms. Grenfell, and leave the self-esteem of girls like Chloe alone.

carrie said...

Harriet, FJ, Rachel, Kate, et al: My writing skills bow at the altar of your awesomeness. Anyone want to take a stab at my thesis? :)

mary said...


Yes, people are hungry. Still, it doesn't mean they are that way because someone else ate or because some people are bigger than others. We must continue to make sure people have enough food no matter where they live.
Why would an educated nutritionist use this type of logic? People here can't afford heating fuel but it wouldn't be right to shout at you to surrender your book as a means of firewood for warmth. No, I'd never say anything that mean. Not me.

Why would she care about the "poor contestants" who worked to become the next Miss England? And how can we know they "worked" as hard as Chloe? She sure seems motivated to me.
Stop painting pictures of lovely human beings as gluttons because they don't wear your "genes"!

Are you sure you aren't hungry Monica? Are you sure you are a professional nutritionist? Are you even Monica Grenfell?
"Skinny minnies" is hardly an insult. It's wicked hard to even be allowed in some types of contests, a trend which needs to change. You are right about ONE thing. It shouldn't have been about her weight. Knowing the tabloids/papers though, it's likely that they are the ones who stressed her weight.

carrie said...

Oh, Mary: that last line of yours is my NEW MOTTO!

I'm pretty sure you won't mind if I adopt it- thump me with your wand if you do...

Sarah said...

From Bread for the World:

In the United States, 11.7 million children live in households where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet. That means one in ten households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger.

This is a nation with an "obesity crisis." This is a nation where food is affordable and plenty.

I'd also suggest you actually read about what gluttony actually IS before labeling somebody like Chloe Marshall with the term. Thomas Aquinas also considered "eating too daintily" a form of gluttony. Ring a bell? Gluttony in the Bible meant indulging in "physical" pursuits - such as eating - while forgetting spiritual and religious ones. Since you have no idea what Chloe's religion is or how she practices it, you have no authority to call her a glutton. I quote Matthew 7:1-5...

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment that you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

Or, you can have this quote from Ecclesiastes 8:15...
A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry.

marcella said...

"Shame on her for using her body to get ahead" - what else is she supposed to use? This is the "Miss England" contest she has entered, not "Brain of Britain" or even "Pop Idol". It's a contest which is ALL about women's bodies and how they look. I happen to think that this young woman whose body is just slightly above the medically determined "ideal" range of 20-25 (and therefore in the exact range which much research finds to be the healthiest) looks absolutely beautiful but I shan't be watching the show because I'd rather go to a real cattle market with my farmer friends than watch a group of young women, whatever their BMIs paraded round like animals.

Rachel said...

Hear, hear Sarah. Childhood obesity isn't the number one health risk to American children; poverty is.

carrie said...

Thanks again for all of your support here.

Sarah- brilliant. Just brilliant.

Marcella- I really don't think I could top that one. I really really don't.

Rachel- said ultra succinctly.

Thanks again.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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