All broken up

Along with the eating disorders newsfeeds I subscribe to comes a lot of information about diet and weight loss. Most of it doesn't really register on my radar (I have far more important things to think about, such as my lingering, god-awful nasty cough and how to keep from drowning in my own snot), and I doubt I would have blogged on this subject had I need seen a tabloid headline in the supermarket check-out line today.

Kirstie Alley and Jenny Craig have called it quits. I know. Terribly tragic. The gist of it is that Alley wants to start her own weight-loss company, fueled no doubt by the immense following she has gotten as a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig. Her most spectacular comment on the subject was this:

“I want to create something new that will help millions of people end the
seemingly never ending fatty-roller coaster ride.”

How noble. Except that the only way to get off the dieting roller coaster is to -- holy crap, folks! Hold on tight! -- stop dieting and practice intuitive eating.* Only this solution really isn't that profitable for corporate America or Kirstie Alley.

The comments from the article I linked to above (from the San Diego Union-Tribune) are just bigoted and downright disturbing. One says "Once a fatty, always a fatty." His stunningly brilliant "weight lose [sic] plan" tells said fatties "1) put down the fork and spoon, 2) walk around the block five times, 3) repeat daily. " Merciful God in heaven- I never would have thought of that! You're brilliant! No wonder we're not all skinny- we actually have nutritional and metabolic needs!

First of all, skinny people eat, too. Second of all, if it were that simple, there wouldn't be weight loss programs.

There are also rumors that Alley was let go by Jenny Craig because she had started to gain back some of the weight she had lost. Personally, I think she would be a far better role model by just accepting her body as it is today. However, given that former body acceptance guru Queen Latifah is now a Jenny Craig spokeswoman, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Which brings me to the part about the supermarket tabloids. One of them had a picture of Alley on the front with headlines blaring about how she had "porked up" and gained all her weight back and how dare she! as a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig. What kind of example was she setting?

A realistic one, if you ask me.

There are plenty of tabloid headlines with prominent pictures of too-skinny celebrities, wondering if so and so has an eating disorder. "Friends and family are worried about her health," say the captions.

How different from the depictions of Alley. Although there is certainly plenty of blamemongering amongst people suffering from eating disorders (as in, "Why don't they just eat???"), it's not quite of the same mentality as it is for people who are fat. Fat people "let themselves go," they gave into temptation, got weak and gluttonous. This could happen to us if we're not careful, we are told. So we nod our heads in agreement and fear, and then go and join Jenny Craig.

People suspected of having an eating disorder are seen more as hapless victims of an appearance-crazy Hollywood. "The poor dears," people say. "No wonder they're anorexic- how could they not be." Which has an element of truth to it. Most eating disorders start with a nutritional imbalance that cause genetically susceptible people to keep going and going and going. So in an industry that basically forces women and men to starve themselves in order to be successful, there are bound to be plenty of eating disorders.

But they're not just victims of Hollywood. They're victims of a neuro-bio-psychological disease that few people really understand.

Yet when you compare the response given to fat people- the scathing condemnation- it's no wonder Kirstie Alley joined Jenny Craig. I don't know that I would have the fortitude to withstand that kind of criticism and scrutiny. It's your fault if you're fat; its everyone else's fault if you're too thin.

Maybe it's no one's "fault" either way. Maybe fat is just an adjective. Maybe the intricacies of weight are not very well understood. Maybe eating disorders aren't, either. Maybe people come in all shapes and sizes.

Kirstie could do a lot of good by helping people truly get off the "fatty roller coaster" by just being herself, at the weight her DNA intended her to be at.

*The book in the link ("Intuitive Eating") is absolutely wonderful. Some of it I didn't find personally applicable, as I didn't have a history of dieting- I just slammed right into a full blown eating disorder. Yet there are also plenty of parallels to the restrictive eating that accompanies many eating disorders.**

**Even binge eating. How many of us have restricted after a binge? Vowed to be good, to "make up for it," right the wrongs, do penance for our sins. Only a little while later, wham. Another bad one. Or we don't eat certain foods because we're scared we'll binge on them. I still get nervous when I have a carton of ice cream nearby.

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Harriet said...

"It's your fault if you're fat; its everyone else's fault if you're too thin."


CG said...

hello dear! Just popping in to say I sympathize with your workload and the guilt at not being 100% focused 100% of the time, and am sending lots of virtual public health enlightenment your way. Do you have tons of epidemiology and statistics to master on top of the writing component of your course? I get so sick of epi and stats, sometimes I just want to cry in my textbooks.

sending strength... xoxoxo

Carrie Arnold said...


Glad you agree.


No, I'm done with my epi degree. I'm just focusing on the writing. Understanding stats is a major help, though- as much as I hate to admit it! :)

And if you get really sick of epi and stats, I recommend flames, not tears. Hee hee.

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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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