Tag Archives: good

Playing with Wordle 1

Made at wordle.net, the words are taken from a blog post of mine. I adjusted all the colors and fonts to get the feeling I wanted.

The funny things were that the biggest words were Oprah, bodies, life, and world. Interesting.

By clicking the image, you can get full size.




Waiting to be Filled

I started a book, but never finished it because I felt that it was too heavy. And it made me depressed for a while because it didn’t talk at length about the solution to the problem but rather focused on the problem itself. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it just didn’t suit me. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with an eating disorder. I really think it’s a good book. Just heavy and packed with information.

400000000000000052548_s4Also, I’m not feminist. That’s another thing.

Here’s what I wrote. This is just from reading the introduction.

The book is titled Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: the frightening new normalcy of hating your body by Courtney E. Martin. You can check out the writer’s website at www.courtneyemartin.com. This book was published fairly recently, in 2007.

Martin writes in the introduction that eating disorders affect more than 7 million American girls and women, 70 million people worldwide. Over half of the females between ages 18-25 surveyed would rather be mean or stupid. Anything but fat. A survey of parents found that 1/10th of them would abort their child if they found that he or she had the genetic tendency to be fat. (Thanks, Mom and Dad. They were your genes to start with.)

She states that we live in a time when getting an eating disorder, or at least being obsessed over weight, is thought of as a rite of passage. The writer talks about her many friends who bought into this kind of thinking. They sound like my friends. Many women use what they put into their bodies or/and the amount of exercising they do to define their worth.

It is not our kindness, or courage that we count at the end of the day, it is our calorie intake.

310967011_2dcab45a8bI, too, know people with really screwed up ideas about health and fitness. There are the girls who believe that any food is bad and that they have to exercise to get the Tic Tac or chip out of their system. There are my friends who daily post stats on how much they eat per day. Their limit is 210 calories. Not per snack. Not per meal. For the whole freaking day, they restrict themselves to 210 calories. What goes in those 210 calories? An apple.  A 60-calorie lollipop. That’s it. It’s not about eating healthy, it’s about eating less. Then there’s the miserable girl who eats food – lots – when she’s depressed, and then purges it later.

I know girls in my church who struggle with this as well. There’s one who exercises often. She’s 13, goes to the gym, and does weights. In front of people, she talks about how fat she is, and picks at her food when eating in front of others. She always worries that she is too fat, even though everyone else could tell her that she isn’t.

364637840_761d56792dIn fact, I recently talked to one who was stressed out about her homework. She’s 12. She said she was eating like a pig and was fat. I told her she wasn’t fat. “Ask your big sister,” I said.

She replied, “She says that I’m fat.”

I think this kind of thinking is so ingrained in our culture that we cease to notice it.

Martin puts it well when she writes that we’re not apathetic, we’re distracted. What about the starving children in Africa? I’m thinking about whether to have a granola or skip lunch altogether. She continues that we can’t see the the needs of others because we’re too busy looking at ourselves in the mirror. We don’t want to go to the beach because we don’t want others to see us in bathing suits. It’s all about us and how we feel.

What can we do about it?

This is a social problem as well as psychological. Some people believe that this is normal. I say that our culture must be pretty messed up, then. I knew a bulimic girl who wrote on her public food diary, “I don’t want to be normal. I don’t even know what normal is.” It seems that “normal” nowadays means women and girls stressed out about what goes into their mouths.


Something you should eat and not compare your body to

Martin says that womanhood “was about something solid and beautiful right in the core — a vulnerable yet unbreakable center of strength and openness.”

I can identify with that. That sounds like the definition of a woman from the Christian book Captivating. Except that God is our core.

Martin continues,

At the center of most of the young women I know today are black holes.

On the outside, we’re busy and active. On the inside, we’re crumbling. We have these holes that we try to fill with anything and everything. But they’re still there. We’re starving, because the distractions are never enough. We’re just not enough. Not good enough. We have no control.


Black holes at the center of us

Our ultimate goal is “effortless perfection.” We’re to be everything we’re supposed to be, without showing any apparent effort. Of course, this is impossible. I know another girl who said, “I want to be able to fast for days at a time without struggling. I want to be able to have no desire for food. I want to be able to stay skinny without such hard work.” Effortless. Perfection.

The perfect part really does get us into trouble, either with an eating disorder or with an unhealthy obsession with food and exercise. It really turns out to be such hard work.

The truth is, we waste a lot of time on our bodies. How much time do we spend thinking about what to eat when we could be organizing a fund-raising event devoted to some cause?

Martin puts forth the mission of this book: a call to action. She wants this book to move us to admit that we are sick, but also tired of  being sick and ready to do something about it.


The price she paid was her dancing.

Note that this isn’t a purely American problem anymore. I remember the ballerina from Denmark. She had been struggling with anorexia for some time. The disorder came to a point where her bones were too weak for her to stand on her toes. I’m a ballerina too, and to stand on your toes, you need to have very strong bones. Because of the disorder, the calcium was steeped out of her bones, leading to brittleness. She loved dancing. Really loved dancing. But what could she do? This was the price she paid, and she felt that she couldn’t do anything about it.

There was the girl form Brazil and the girl from Taiwan. There was the girl in Spain and the girl from Wales who messaged me on facebook begging for help. There was also the girl from Qatar, a country so tiny that people don’t even know it exists.

The Independent, a London paper, reported that 1 million in Britain have eating disorders.

Martin closes the introduction by saying that she believes “in the possibility of a world where a girl doesn’t learn to count calories at the same age she learns algebra.”

That’s the world I’m fighting for, now.


Makeover Needed?

Part 2 of Chapter 11 of the book Looks


Elizabeth Arden

Nowadays, women leave the house with makeup in their purses. Long ago, only women with makeup were stage performers, or prostitutes. In the 1800s, makeup was frowned upon. The general consensus was that only loose women wore makeup.

It all began in the 1900s. Pharmacist Paul Beiersdort developed the first cream that chemically bound oil and water. His firm is presently known as Nivea. In the United States, cosmetics’ rise to prominence grew out of the rivalry of Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. Both believed that beauty was linked with health. As a result, they combined facials with diet and exercise classes. With Max Factor, they build the foundations of modern marketing. These two women used celebrity endorsements and magazine spreads to advertise their products. Not surprisingly, both brands still remain active.

img_mainI thought Max Factor was the name of a mascara.

The beauty industry consolidated. Unilever acquired product lines, like Dove. Estee Lauder got Stila, MAC, and Bobbi Brown.

L'OREAL BeyonceL’Oreal is now the world’s largest cosmetic merchant. They reported their annual sales in 2006 to be 15.8 billion.

This industry invests heavily in marketing. They’re not above a little nonsense. There may be scientific breakthroughs now and then, but their money really doesn’t go into research. L’Oreal always talks about product patents, and new ideas that new research has thought up, but it stands that their money doesn’t go into research for new products but rather marketing and advertising and hiring celebrities and models to showcase their products, like Beyonce on the right.

shiseidofirmingcreamOthers use pseudoscience. Shiseido had their Body Creator sin gel, which claimed that its ingredients could melt away over 2 inches of body fat in a month without the need of diet or exercise. Sounds familiar? It’s not that much different from Nivea’s My Silhouette cream that basically claims that their white tea melts fat cells until they don’t grow back. No need to exercise, either.

Pantene uses a Vitamin B ingredient. This certainly attracts the shoppers. However, vitamins cannot be absorbed through skin or hair.

However, Dr. Patzer says, we’re living in an age where dreams are put forth as reality. We don’t know what’s true and what’s not, and we don’t bother to do research, either. Google isn’t much help, because there’s as much wrong information floating around the web as there is right.

shiseido-the-makeup-silky-eye-shadow-quadDr. Patzer states,

To forget this is to forget that a movie or TV show is merely entertainment. And while one may sometimes learn valid life lessons from art, it is art, it is artifice, it is not reality–it is a construct from beginning to end.

The growth of the beauty industry is fueled by the power of the media, along with the physical appeal phenomenon we’ve talked about in earlier posts. Advertising depicts the beautiful with the glamours lifestyles in efforts to sell their goods and services of every sort, not just cosmetics. This all contributes to the power and persuasiveness of physical appeal.

Sarah Jessica Parker: face of Garnier's ads

Sarah Jessica Parker: face of Garnier's ads

In our celebrity worshipping culture, the youthful appearance is held up as an ideal. We’re told that science and technology will allow to remain young, beautiful, and vital. However, this helps feed our fears of growing old.

This isn’t for our benefit but for the benefit of the industry itself, continues the author. The seek to control how we view and measure ourselves, and what we choose as important to us. Not to mention that the industry dictates what we must do to be the perfect person.

Yes, we do want to  look more beautiful. We want to be around more beautiful beautiful, and read about beautiful people. However, no matter how much products we buy that vows to make us look sexier, no matter what procedures we get to make ourselves more desirable, it seems that few of us really feel better about our own physical attractiveness.

Yet we live in a time where in wealthier communities, parents give breast implants to their daughters as high school graduation presents. 88 year olds choose breast reduction. Instead of tea parties, women have Botox parties.

03859380614We may say that this is just the way it is. But anthropologists studied a tribe in Africa. They wanted to see whether the physical appeal stereotypes of that tribe had been influenced by the media. They found that, opposite of our like of hunky men, girls liked slender men. Another researcher showed Men’s Health to the tribe members, with some spreads of male body builders. One old guy looked at the bulging pectorals of a male body builder. “Was it a man, or a very, very strong woman?”

Do we really need a makeover?

Or is it our culture that needs the makeover?

Heavy Makeup

Part 3 of Chapter 10 of the book Looks

106376261_ukhTN-S-3Consider those addicted to plastic surgery. These are the people who risk their lives and spend millions to chase after what Dr. Patzer calls artificial perfection. They are the people who appear “abnormal” but look forward to their next procedures.

There’s the case of the 34 year old porn actress “Jen X.” She had Botox multiple times, a chin implant, and breast augmentation. She reported to Hustler magazine that she was afraid that she was getting addicted to plastic surgery. She still pays monthly for silicone injections to her lips, a highly illegal procedure which is fraught with danger. She knows, but is driven by the need to compete. Jen X said, “The more surgery everyone else gets, the more I have to get to keep up.”

Only in your mind, sadly.

There’s also Rhiannon, a woman in quest for bigger boobs. Her breasts now weigh 10 pounds each. That’s 20 pounds total! Talk about back pain. Their size is 48MMM. This began in 1991. She has had 30 surgeries on her right breast alone. 

There’s something about my personality that big is never big enough. If I’m going to do it, I’m going all the way.

She added that she wants still-larger implants.

Another good example is the Beverly Hills realtor Elaine Young. In 1979, she saw a silicone injection in the face of a friend and wanted it. She went to her friend’s doctor, who told her that he’d make her beautiful. That was all she had to hear.

At first, Young was pleased with the results. However, the silicone migrated and interfered with her facial nerves. When the doctor tried to remove the silicone, the surgery left the left side of her face paralyzed for two years. Young blames her silicone injection for the downfall of three of her six marriages. The doctor who injected her committed suicide.

brokenwindowYoung said,

It’s typical insecurity that leads women to [cosmetic surgery]. I don’t care what they say; most of the women who do it are either aging, and they want to look younger, or they’re very insecure.

Read the entire, original Hustler article here.

Many people addicted to plastic surgery suffer from BDD (as written in an earlier post). They often look for ways to deal with an imaginary or trivial defect in their appearance. They can spend lots of time and energy picking at their skin or looking into a mirror. Or wearing a hat or heavy makeup. An article in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology reports that as many as 3 million Americans may have this disorder. Among them are those with the money and resources to pay for countless surgeries.

A spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons said that there are some well-balanced people who have many surgeries. But at the same time, another group is not happy with whatever you do.


Katharine Hepburn went to see him after her bout with skin cancer

Dr. Z. Paul Lorenc sees these addicts frequently. His practice has attracted notables like CEOs and even Katharine Hepburn. Most of his patients are the ultrarich who live in opulent homes near his offices. His book describes the reality of dealing with a society that more and more wants to be perfect in appearance. Some patients lie about their medical histories. Some lie about the  medicines they’re taking.

One male patient was taking steroids but wouldn’t tell me. He wanted a facelift and nothing would stop him. I’ve never seen a patient’s face bleed so much in my life.

Scalpel_smallIn cases like this, says Lorenc, the plastic surgeon is to refuse to do surgery. He gives another example, this time of a guy who thought he had an awful acne scar. Dr. Lorenc saw nothing. The worst thing he could have done would have been to operate, because then the poor guy would have had a real scar.

Maybe we are growing into a culture that is endlessly fixated on appearance. Seeing media images refuels and reinforces the notion that physical attractiveness must be had at all costs.

A Beautiful Disaster

Chapter 9 of the book Looks

File0444Have you ever seen the billboards by the side of the road glorifying a sculpted male body? Or the covers of Men’s Health magazine… or the washboard abs perfume by Abercrombie and Fitch… or the steroid pumping body builders…

Men have their own set of problems. These are termed the Adonis Complex. Due to the slew of idealized male physiques everywhere they look, many men are insecure about their appearance.

Harrison J. Pople, Jr. and Roberto Olivardia of Harvard Medical and Katherine A. Phillips of Brown studied anything from action figure toys to Playgirl spreads to body builders and concluded that the U.S. media presentation of the male ideal is a very very muscular body.

Our very own GI Joe

Our very own GI Joe

It started with our familiar G. I. Joe. These researchers noted that the action figure in 1964 was unremarkable. Sure, he was trim and athletic, but rather ordinary in that respect. By 1991, he became pumped up like a body builder. Sadly, this also happened with the Star Wars action figures of Han and Luke. In 1978, they appeared unexceptional but trim. In 1995, they appeared to have been drinking a morning cup of steroids with their breakfast cereal. As a Star Wars fan, I was horrified to hear about this development. What’s next, bulked up Wicket?

15-20 years back, if you wanted a current issue of a fitness or body building magazine, you would have to live in the big city. Even so, you were limited to two or three publications. Now, just run down to the nearest convenience store and you’re bound to find at least five. As any freelance writer for magazines will tell you, fitness and health are big topics nowadays. People want to read about how to get healthy, but they also want to read about how to gain muscle. As a result, this is the holy grail of freelance writers. 

abercrombie-billboardWhat about the billboards? This Abercrombie and Fitch billboard is an excellent example of what you might find.

Dr Patzer says,

Buy a copy of almost any general-interest magazine and you are treated to bare male chests, rippling muscles, and tanned, chiseled, hairless forms.

Don’t forget the romance novel covers! Some time ago I published something mocking this trend. You may find it here. You’ll see that shaved pits really are the way to go.




Rich Herrerra, a male model for Cosmo

Rich Herrera, a male model for Cosmo



Cosmopolitan magazine is one of those magazines that seem to be mainly about sex from their front covers. They offer tips on how to do it right, how to get good results, and how to get a good man. They also illustrate their articles with pictures. All the male models are happy,  hairless, and naked.

They are also buff. Pope and his colleagues found that the number of naked males in Glamour and Cosmo had tripled from less than 10% in the 60s.

dumbbellsAlong with these findings, Pope and his researchers interviewed men suffering from what they call “muscle dysmorphia,” which is sort of like “reverse anorexia.” While an anorexic girl looks at herself in the mirror and sees fat even though she is shrinking, a male with this disorder looks at himself  and says, “Not buff enough,” even though he may have muscles where no man should have muscles. A fellow whom they called “Kevin” believed his own arms were sticks even though his body bulged with muscles in strange places. He became a near recluse because of this disorder.

These three researchers concluded that American men are being manipulated. They are exposed to more supermuscular images, all in service to diet aids, fitness programs, hair-growth remedies, and anything in between. These industries prey on men’s insecurities, and can be compared to how women are being preyed upon by the media.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an intense preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance. It seems to arrive during adolescence or young adulthood. It may also coexist with other conditions, like social anxiety or OCD. The only effective course is psychiatric or psychological counseling, along with anxiety medications.

Those with this disorder are only a small fraction of the population, but millions more devote an inordinate slice of their time to worrying about appearance, notes Dr. Patzer.

LS015824Barbara L. Frederickson of the University of Michigan did two experiments to document the psychological costs of raising girls in a culture lik eours.

One study revealed that what a woman wears can heighten her preoccupation with how her body looks. This is at the expense of her mental performance skills. It’s not just low-cut dresses or bikinis that may cause this preoccupation. Any clothes or circumstances that make her feel self-conscious have this power. It reduces the mental energy that she could use to solve calculus.

evening-20dressAccording to this researcher and social psychologist Tomi-Ann Roberts, the tendency to value physical appeal and sex appeal as body identity rather than their health, strength, energy, etc leads to more than an eating disorder or diminished mental performance. It could be linked to high prevalence of depression and sexual dysfunction among American women.

As we have seen, the mass media has had a huge effect on fostering attitudes about physical appeal. They’re enormously influential in governing what we say and feel about ourselves and our appearance.

From Kurt and Gladys Lang’s essay “The Mass Media and Voting”:

The mass media forces attention to certain issues. They build up public images of political figures. They are constantly presenting objects suggesting what individuals in the masses should think about, know about, have feelings about.

So my theory that we also listen to what the media tells us to do wasn’t so far off after all.

Dr. Patzer concludes that ill health offsets beauty benefits. However, people would be willing to sacrifice their health or money to improve their physical appearance.

As an anorexic acquaintance wrote on her blog, “I don’t care if this kills me. At least I’ll be beautiful.”

The Dove Campaign

Part 3 of Chapter 8 of the book Looks

Gisele Bundchen, a popular model of today

Gisele Bundchen, a popular model of today

I’m sure that a lot of you are familiar with Dove’s ad campaigns. Their ads speak of broadening the definition of beauty. Their ads have caused quite a sensation because of this. The pretty, underwear clad women have appeared on billboards across the county– and they’re much heavier than Gisele Bundchen. Their naked older ladies have appeared in magazines. How did this come about?

Dove wanted to explore empirically what beauty means to women to today, and why. They also wanted to look at the more authentic, satisfying, and empowering ways to think and talk about feminine beauty. 

Dove’s study, “The Real Truth about Beauty: A Global Report,” was published in September 2004. 3200 women, ages 18-64, from 10 countries, were interviewed. The study, which you can read by clicking the link, concluded that while most women are not lost in despair and self-hatred because of their looks, few women feel the “power and  pride of beauty.” Only 2% claimed to be beautiful. That’s only 64 out of 3200 women.

A popular ad for Dove

A popular ad for Dove

This study showed that women are less satisfied with their beauty than with almost every other dimension of life (social skills, honesty, kindness). The study calls the women of today to reject the images of manufactured femininity as too narrow, inauthentic, and not enough. Manufactured femininity being the ideal: tall, thin, with blonde haire, fair skin, and blue eyes. (Sort of like Gisele Bundchen?) Three-fourths of those surveyed revealed that they wanted to see women with different shapes, sizes, and a varying range of ages. More variety, in short.

Dr. Susie Orbach stated that while these women believed that physical appeal was important (or even crucial), conforming to the media’s definition of real beauty should make them resort to extremities like cosmetic surgery. 

Dr. Patzer agrees that the media could broaden their definition of beauty. However, he reminds us that beauty’s less visual qualities are rather difficult to portray on a magazine spread, or a TV ad.

While these models are not ideal, they still have beautiful hair, features, and clear skin. That old lady up there has clearer skin than my grandmother. And nicer hair, too.

Jacob Have I Loved

Looks: Chapter 3

My grandmother had two sons. The first one was my dad.

When they were born, she was horrified that they looked so ugly. After all, she was a beautiful woman, and my grandfather was handsome.

It’s no surprise to me, reading that some mothers are more affectionate towards their more attractive offspring. Even the appearance of babies influenced maternal behavior. 

I know a woman in my church who has two daughters. From the moment her second was born, she (the baby) got all the attention. People thought that she was cuter, prettier, more charming than her older sister.It came to the point where these two young girls had to be told things like, “You’re prettier than your sister.” One was five, the other was two.

9780690040784-lSocial scientists have also found that parents devote more energy and resources to the more attractive sibling. It’s interesting. I’ve read books like Jacob Have I Loved by katherine Paterson which followed this theme. In this particular story, there were twin girls. One was prettier, more talented, and could sing like a bird. She was loved by everyone in the small seaside town they lived in. and people said that she was the promising one. The second – the older twin – was plain, less talented, rough, and jealous of her beautiful sister. The story is told from the point of view of the older, plainer sister, and it’s quite painful to read at times. The grandmother would purposely hurt the older sister by talking about the Biblical story of Esau and Jacob.

Even later on in life, the best friend of the older sister passed her up for her more beautiful twin.

Even babies know what’s “attractive.” Studies show that they prefer to look longer at faces rated as attractive by adults than at “unattractive” faces.

hoggatt6Children also tend to choose friends based on physical appeal as well, because in their heads attractiveness goes with smartness, friendliness, and so on. A study by social scientist Karen K. Dion showed that when children misbehave and must be punished, being more attractive means escaping harsher punishment. There are lower expectations for that child. Going back to my friend with two daughters, I could see this trend play out. Because her daughters were cuter than a lot of their peers, they escaped a lot of punishment. I once saw her two year old climbing on a table. Her mother said nothing to her, except to maybe smile. But when the autistic kid climbed on the table, my friend (and others) reprimanded him harshly. 

Simply because she was the most beautiful child (as well as charming) her behavior was excused.

Is it fair? No.

disney-walt-cinderella-1192713Children learn about physical appearance stereotypes in many ways, including the behavior mentioned above. However, there’s also fairy tales.

Cinderella (on the right) is good, and she is beautiful. In contrast, her wicked stepsisters (on the left) are bad and ugly. They pick on poor Cinderella all the time. No wonder they don’t get the prince! 

cinderella08But sadly, in the process, children associate ugly with bad and beautiful with good.

I remember a retelling of the Cinderella story. I loved this retelling. It was about a Cinderella who was thin and emaciated from hard work and starvation. She decided that her way to get out of this mess was to go to the ball, meet the prince, and live happily ever after. That’s what happened. The prince fell in love with her lovely, starved appearance, and she moved into the palace to prepare for the wedding. She gained weight. Well, she didn’t become fat or anything. But she just wasn’t starved anymore. To make matters worse, she found that the handsome prince was dumb, shallow, and didn’t have a brain. And then she falls in love with someone less attractive and leaves the palace.

justellaLoved that story. I recommend it to anyone with younger children, because it’s appropriate for pre-teens. 

Dr. Patzer says that the media isn’t that different from the fairy tale ideals. Adolescents and adults often attempt to mold their bodies and those of their children to the ideal. It’s disturbing that those teenagers are being pressured – not just from magazines and TV – but from their family and friends! Such attempts to diet can lead to serious eating disorders. The teenager could die. Teenage girls need proper nutrition to develop the way they should develop. They shouldn’t be starving. 

Let’s go back to my friend. She was considering putting her newborn daughter on a diet because her newborn’s thighs were “too fat.” The other members of my church were begging her NOT to. 

This woman is REAL. Sadly, she is an example of a woman who has been influenced by the media to the point that she will push that ideal on her daughter.


I want to brain that woman sometimes.

apples-pictureWhen it comes to children, parents and peers should not pressure their children to look like Paris Hilton or (God forbid!) Nicole Richie. A thin body isn’t always a sign of good health, but of unwise nutrition.