Rethinking Thin - a book discussion - Topic 2 - Body Weight Ideals




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Meg
06-19-2007, 04:24 PM
Our society is obsessed with weight. Just stand in the check out line at the grocery store and scan the magazine titles – who’s fat, who’s too thin, who had weight loss surgery, who’s lying about their weight. Walk into a bookstore and look at the titles. Turn on TV. Read a magazine. It’s all fat, fat, fat and diet, diet, diet. But paradoxically we – as a society – are now the heaviest we’ve ever been.

Chapter 3 of Rethinking Thin looks at historic body weight ideals and how they’ve evolved over the past century. At a time when the majority of us are overweight or obese, our national standard for beauty seems to be becoming thinner and thinner. What’s up with that? Why are we revering a body type or image that’s so different from most everyone’s reality?

What I’d like to talk about is the question raised in the book:

Are people struggling because the goals, the ideal body weights, have become unrealistic, or are they struggling because the perfect diet has not been discovered? (p 60)

In other words, are WE the problem because we’re fat and haven't figured out how to change or is it the standard we’re trying to hold ourselves to at fault?


shrinkingchica
06-19-2007, 05:08 PM
I think that the perfect body ideal in society (super skinny at the moment) is meant to be unattainable. That is what makes it "larger than life" (pardon the pun) and something that only people who are beyond us "ordinary" folk can achieve. It is almost something akin to us mere mortals trying to attain the physique of those hollywood "gods and godessess."

And that is what makes it so damn fascinating. It is something that most of us can never have (and most of hollywood doesn't either-- they are airbrushed icons) and so we hunger for it even more (again, pardon the pun).

We seek and seek this ideal that becomes ever increasingly difficult to obtain and so we are like greyhounds running after the mechanical rabbit--- all to no avail and until we wear ourselves out in the pursuit of something that we never really can have.

srmb60
06-19-2007, 05:24 PM
Call me a pessimist if you will but my first thought upon beginning to read Meg's post was ... the media wants us to believe that our society is obsessed with weight.

I'm encouraged by the number of times I hear stuff like "Well, if I had her money ... or his plastic surgeon ... or her personal trainer ... or her live-in cook ... " Out in the general public there are folks who realise that it is unattainable for most of us.

I'm having trouble with Meg's question. I may have to think on that.


ladyinweighting
06-19-2007, 06:18 PM
...are WE the problem because we’re fat and haven't figured out how to change or is it the standard we’re trying to hold ourselves to at fault?

First, I'd like to slightly re-word the question to "Is our problem that we have not yet found the way to lose weight and keep it off, or is our problem that we're trying to lose an unrealistic amount of weight?"

I think that the answer is "both." At least for those of us who are NOT on maintenance, we have obviously NOT found the way to lose weight and keep it off. I think that I have figured it out for me (I think it may be different for everyone). For me, it's eat VERY few carbs, eat a lot of veggies, cut out caffeine, cut down on fat, exercise often, listen to my relaxation CD often. When I eat out, eat chicken or fish + vegetables - no bread, no potatoes/rice/pasta, and no dessert.

Also, for many of us, our goal weight is unrealistic.

Over the years (I'm in my 60's and have been dieting since my 20's), I have adjusted my goal weight upwards. When I first began WW around 1969, my goal weight was 117 lbs. As you can see by my ticker, my current goal weight is 150 lbs. I haven't grown taller:)

I've given up on the idea of looking like anyone else (models or actresses or my sister) and have accepted the idea of being as healthy as I can.

It's possible that if I can stay at 150 for a year or more, I may decide to set a new lower weight gain - or maybe I won't. It's just REALLY important for me to get to 150 and NOT gain back the weight I will have lost.

Lynn

WaterRat
06-19-2007, 06:46 PM
I agree with Lynn. The older I get (now 62.5), the less I even want to be skinny. And as for sizes, huh. When I finished college I weighed about 125 (I'm 5'4") and I wore a size - wait for it - 10! In today's sizes, probably a 4 or 6. My current goal is to be back to a size 12 (today's sizes :) ) in which size I own a lot of clothing. But more importantly, I want to be healthy and strong as I get older (and older, and older :lol: )

imsexydamnit
06-19-2007, 07:11 PM
I'm going to assume that when you say ideal body weight, you mean based on that chart that decides how much you should based on you height and age. In a way I do believe that that chart is unrealistic. Based on what that chart says, I'm overweight. I'm 5'8, 170lb, jog 5miles 3x a week, and am currently wearing a size 8 pant, but I'm overweight. I think it's a little ridiculous that I shouldn't weight anything more than 158lbs at the max, maybe the numbers are too low. I also think that we as a society have an unhealthy obsession with bones, hip bones, collar bone, and ribs. Last I heard these parts of our bodies belong on our insides and aren't intended to be seen by the world at large, but we seem to believe the more prominent these bones are, the more attractive the person. Finally, I don't believe our "weight problem" is completely attributable to some undiscovered "perfect diet" I think it's more likely that science hasn't figured out that there is more to weight/diet than calories in versus calories out. Until we can quantify, understand, account for all of the factors involved in what motivates a person to eat/not eat, whether they be physical or emotional I don't think we'll ever solve our "weight problem."

Sweater Girl
06-19-2007, 08:11 PM
I'm going to assume that when you say ideal body weight, you mean based on that chart that decides how much you should based on you height and age. In a way I do believe that that chart is unrealistic. Based on what that chart says, I'm overweight. I'm 5'8, 170lb, jog 5miles 3x a week, and am currently wearing a size 8 pant, but I'm overweight. I think it's a little ridiculous that I shouldn't weight anything more than 158lbs at the max, maybe the numbers are too low. I also think that we as a society have an unhealthy obsession with bones, hip bones, collar bone, and ribs. Last I heard these parts of our bodies belong on our insides and aren't intended to be seen by the world at large, but we seem to believe the more prominent these bones are, the more attractive the person. Finally, I don't believe our "weight problem" is completely attributable to some undiscovered "perfect diet" I think it's more likely that science hasn't figured out that there is more to weight/diet than calories in versus calories out. Until we can quantify, understand, account for all of the factors involved in what motivates a person to eat/not eat, whether they be physical or emotional I don't think we'll ever solve our "weight problem."

I agree with you! I also think that the whole BMI thing needs to be looked at. Yes, 2/3rd of North Americans are overweight, but you know, with a BMI of 25-26 I look pretty good and am really healthy, my goal is to have a BMI of about 24 and anything under that I am too skinny quite frankly. So if I keep my weight at 155-160 I am "overweight" even though in reality I don't really think so.

The attached pic is when my BMI was just over 26.

Cheers!

Ali

rockinrobin
06-19-2007, 08:14 PM
For myself personally - my goals have absolutely NOTHING to do with society. I am a fomerly morbidly obese person. Believe me, my expectations aren't so high ;). But of course, it's all perspective.

As far as discovering the perfect diet - there is no such thing and there never, EVER will be. Losing weight and then maintaining it comes from the head. It's not about the food. It's the decision that no matter what, you won't overeat and you will exercise. You will resist temptation. There is no way to "discover" how to get people to do that. It must come from within. IMO of course. :)

Meg
06-19-2007, 08:53 PM
Ali, you look absolutely perfect in that photo! :hug:

srmb60
06-19-2007, 10:13 PM
It's hard to post about this book after reading that I might be perpetuating a prejudice by thinking that overweight is cause by over-eating and under-exercising:?: But it was for me ... so that's all I know for sure. Sorry.

I absolutely agree that how any one person becomes obese is as complex as the cosmos! Humans are incredibly complicated creatures. If you believe, as I do, that we are made up of every minute thing we experience, see, hear, feel etc ... with genetics, environment and culture thrown into the mix ... how can there possibly be a 'perfect weight loss method'???

On beauty ... 'idols' have always been exotic, different. We wore pants like Garbo. That was an easy switch.
We could dye our hair like Harlo or Mansfield.
We could apply make-up to make a mole like Marilyn's.
We learned to pluck our eyebrows like Brooke Shields.
We could curl our hair like Donna Summer or straighten it like Beyonce.
We even learned to make boobs like the bigguns', rounder buttocks, fuller lips ...
It got harder, more expensive ... Now there's weight ... Will there soon be charlatans who promise they can make us grow taller?

On weight loss ... I could tear my hair out over folks focussing so intently on the scale! Someone should write a book called "You Don't Really Want to Lose Weight ... You Just Want To Be Smaller". Ask anyone who has lost more than about 25 lbs. ... I'll betcha they had no idea they would look like they do? Ask three different friends to go people watching with you (seperately). Sit somewhere and have them pick out whoever they think weighs less than 140 lbs. It'll be interesting!

On the media ... How does that magazine know how much a celebrity weighs? Did they sneak up behind him/her in the bathroom this morning?

sportmom
06-19-2007, 11:54 PM
Totally agree on the model and celeb weights, Susan! It's not like a wrestling match where the models must weigh in publicly before the runway show. I think the only people who know what Jennifer A weighs is JA only. Don't you think submitting a lower number on your bio makes you more desirable, since that's what's in? Maybe it's real weight minus 10 or something - everybody does it. Why would they be any different than the rest of the world at the DMV?

Back to the question at hand. The book gives us the answer. Back when manual labor and farming was the majority and only a few could get enough or excess amounts to eat, then those people were envied, the rich who could afford abundant food. Back in the 1800s, the pudgy were the ideal. Then in the 1900s, other looks became vogue - because of crazy acting flappers and an artist's rendition of a gibson girl (not even a living person!!) So then, since more people could get food and get heavy, the thin icon now became the harder thing to be. It's not different from being the top athlete in high school or the snooty sorority in college - what's desirable is what's hardest to attain, and that changes over time.

I'm very interested in reading right now about social class and how poor women, 1 in 3 is obese. Rich women it's more like 1 in 25. But I'm getting ahead of our discussion. At least I was relieved to hear we do not all qualify as having some type of mental illness :Wink:

Kery
06-20-2007, 01:32 AM
Frankly, for me, there is no 'perfect diet' to ever be found, because we are not supposed to diet. I've tried to put it all back into perspective while reading that book, and really, WE overweight and obese people, we who have a tendency to easily put on weight, are actually the survivors of the human species, the ones who are supposed to to survive to the long periods of starvation, and to perpetuate the human race. It's as simple as that. 500 years ago, we would have been the ones to go through a whole winter of famine, and the 'real skinnies' would have died. Seriously, boys and gals, we rock. :D

The current problem IMHO is that society and means of living have evolved past a point where 'too much' has become the norm, and our bodies just haven't caught up to all the easily-available sugar and junk food (okay, I know many of us also have problems with emotional eating and the likes, but we wouldn't have been able to give in to that at the time anyway--can't binge on cupcakes in front of the TV out of boredom when you have to plow your field all day long and know all there is to eat tonight is a few roots ;)). We can't erase 3 million years of evolution in two centuries, of course. So, every kind of ideal weight/ideal body we want to attain is just a mere illusion. BMI charts are just numbers. There is a solid difference between morbidly obese (being really too heavy for your body to go on carrying the weight without problems) and 'just a little plump', but this difference seems to have blurred with time. Now all that appears to be left is that either you're fat or you're perfect, and perfection isn't and has never been attainable, no matter how much Botox we try to put in it.

So, yes, to me, people in general tend to struggle because expectations have become unrealistic. (Again, difference between health being at risk and vanity pouds.) We're surrounded by those, everywhere, all the time... it's kind of hard to not let it influence us, for the better or the worse. I quite agree that in a way, the part played by society does play an important part in all of that; peer pressure has always been a drag. Tabloids scream murder because "so and so is OH MY GOD 110 lbs she's FAT!": of course we're going to believe it, after a while of hearing that stuff... (Especially those of us who've been overweight since childhood and don't even have any idea of what weight to aim for, i'd say.)

seranab
06-20-2007, 09:25 AM
One thing that really struck me about the above posts is how much the media plays on our lives. You see in the middle east (and i'm not talking 1800's here) plump women were sought after and then with the introduction of 'western media' and then creating their own media in the last 50/60 years or so the ideal woman has shrunk! It hasn't got to the point of size zero's but a nice size 10/12 is what they're looking for. The bellydancers were never skinny twigs... they were big and lumpy in all the right places - they would eat extra for that look. Plumpness had connotations with fertility and its funny because psychological studies have shown that men (going back to the survival of the fittest syndrome) are attracted to women who are pear shaped/hour glass shaped (fat on their hips basically) because they are believed to be the most fertile and able to produce loads of children. Apparently men now a days (well I think this was done about 20 years ago) when looking for a life partner usually go for those ideals. Extremely interesting in my opinion.
Lol I've drifted from the subject - I think the expectations paced on us, and the pressures we put on ourselves are doing nothing but poisoning us and clouding our ability to put things into perspective. I really agree with something somebody said above that we ARE the survivors when it comes to survival of the fittest... woohoo!

imsexydamnit
06-20-2007, 01:33 PM
Plumpness had connotations with fertility and its funny because psychological studies have shown that men (going back to the survival of the fittest syndrome) are attracted to women who are pear shaped/hour glass shaped (fat on their hips basically) because they are believed to be the most fertile and able to produce loads of children. Apparently men now a days (well I think this was done about 20 years ago) when looking for a life partner usually go for those ideals. Extremely interesting in my opinion.

I remember learning about this same type of study when I was in undergrad, and I find it interesting that in this type of study women tend to choose a slimmer build (for a woman) as ideal than men do. We've been so influenced by the images we see everyday that many of us focus all of our energy trying to fit into this ideal so that others will find us attractive, when the ideal may not be ideal at all. I think we should all try to be at a weight that is healthy for us, not trying to fit into some arbitrary set of rules or trying to look like the Calista Flockharts (much as I love her on Brothers and Sisters) of the world, if that's just not the way God made us

paperclippy
06-20-2007, 01:59 PM
The history of the ideal woman is pretty interesting. I watched "Some Like it Hot" (Marilyn Monroe movie) with my fiance a while back and was struck by how much heavier she was than contemporary celebrities. A woman her size would never be cast as a romantic lead nowadays -- and I'm not saying I think she was fat, just that she was much larger than the super-skinny actresses we see now. I am reminded of this also when I go to art museums and see renaissance-era paintings of nude women (usually Venus or the like). They are much plumper than modern standards of beauty.

I feel like today younger girls' self-esteem is at an all-time low. Of course teenagers always struggle with self esteem issues, but it is much easier to feel good about yourself comparing your weight to Marilyn Monroe's than to Paris Hilton's. What is extra disturbing is when celebrities, who are already thin, are told to lose weight. Look at Nicole Kidman -- I always thought she looked amazing, and then when she became the spokesperson for Chanel they made her lose a good amount of weight to do the print ads, since models have historically been much thinner than actresses. Every recent picture of her I have seen she just looks too thin. Gwen Stefani is another story -- in the old days when No Doubt was new, she looked really athletic and healthy and sporty. Now that she has gotten into fashion and modeling she is much skinnier. Even American Idol winners have had to lose weight after winning due to the pressure of the industry, which is dumb because America voted for them when they weighed more so obviously they would still listen to their music either way.

Try to think of beauty icons who are the size of Marilyn Monroe or bigger. The only person I can come up with is Queen Latifah.

I believe you need to have a certain amount of self esteem and love for your body in order to be able to lose weight successfully. Modern beauty standards are just crushing self esteem left and right. And if you are an emotional eater like me, when you don't feel good about yourself you eat. Then you gain weight and have even less self-esteem, so you eat some more. Etc etc etc.

paperclippy
06-20-2007, 02:03 PM
Oh, one more story to relate about this. I was in high school when Titanic came out. I have a vivid memory of sitting with friends looking at a picture of Kate Winslet in a magazine and them all saying "OMG, she is SO FAT." I remember saying to them something like "Wow, if she's fat I must be REALLY fat. I must weigh at least 40 lbs more than her." Then their response was "Oh, but YOU'RE not fat." or "You don't LOOK like you weight that much." ??? Of course conversations like that degenerate into "I'm so fat," "oh no, I'm so much fatter than you," etc. I have a very good childhood friend who recently said she was upset since she had gained 5lbs since starting med school. A month or so later she and her roommate were doing a rotation in psychiatry and working at an eating disorder clinic, and it turned out my friend's BMI was LOWER than the hospitalized anorexic patient they were treating who was in serious health danger. I guess my point is that women of any weight nowadays feel like they're "fat," not just the ones who are actually overweight.

gailr42
06-20-2007, 06:28 PM
I believe that we struggle because "ideal body weights have become unrealistic".

Mostly because I readRethinking Thin, I have come to conclusions similar to those of Ladyinweighting. Her story is similar to mine, and I think I may need to revise my goals. Healthy is more important than skinny.

Heather
06-20-2007, 06:49 PM
When I started my weight loss journey I really had no sense of what would be an attainable weight for me. I kind of hoped I could get to 220 -- a weight I'd been at for a number of years. I got there relatively easily (to the extent that this is easy!), and kept going, not really knowing what to expect.

I've been in the 170's since last November I think. I've gained back a few pounds to get to the upper reaches of that range and would like to get back down, but overall, my weight goal is much higher than that of many other people. While I'm enjoying buying "misses" clothes, my biggest motivations are my health and ability to DO things I couldn't do before. Things like going through turnstiles and fitting in booths and airplanes, are becoming normal. And my abilities allow me to take long bike rides and easily carry 20 pounds of birdseed. These are my goals, and while I DO care about the scale, I am trying to take the focus off of the scale and figure out my fitness goals.

But it's funny. Right now my "after" weight is higher than many people's "before" weight. I can see that I have a lot of fat left, and yet, I also see how I've changed. Sometimes I'm so proud of myself, and other times I see so much room for improvement.

In the end, the scale doesn't matter. How I feel and what I can do matters. If my goals lead to greater losses, great. If I stay here, I think I'm okay with that -- most of the time. I don't want society to dictate my weight. I want to have some control over it. For so long I didn't, so this is a real victory.

ValerieL
06-21-2007, 12:42 PM
Wyllenn, I'm pretty much in the same position as you right now. I'm maintaining at a weight that causes many people *arrive* at weight loss forums crying how fat & ugly and disgusting they are. So much of it is perspective.

After weighing 340lbs, 170 is a gift. I don't have memories of being thin and attractive to men to mourn the loss of. I don't have memories of athletic prowess or cute butts to be sad I no longer have.

I pass for normal these days. I don't worry about teenage boys snickering at me. I don't worry about airplane seats and restaurant booths. I can run and buy something that fits in any store. I'm healthy.

Anything I lose from here is pretty much vanity. Not that vanity is bad, but confusing vanity with self-worth is, and that's what the crazy, too-low body ideals of our current society does.

WaterRat
06-21-2007, 02:14 PM
Heather, here's me at my lowest: in the mid-160's - down from 240 - and wearing a size 10-12. I am 5'4" and frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to be much thinner (though in some parts of my body I would :lol: ), but I lose so much in my face I start looking my age (62)!

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h59/pkilmain/th_patdress.jpg (http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h59/pkilmain/patdress.jpg)

ellabella
06-21-2007, 03:34 PM
I've spent a good deal of my life unhappy with my weight and body image. Survived some eating disorders, too. After I had my second child (she's now 35) I went on a real "starvation diet" - ate one meal a day, usually a small steak and a salad with no dressing, and exercised like a madwoman. I actually got TOO thin; my mother ultimately came to my house and forced some homemade soup on me, and I started eating a little more normally, although I stayed thin (but never FELT thin). I know this from pictures taken back then. After my last child (now 26) I went on the Atkins plan (I had gained sixty pounds with my pregnancy and lost only about ten when my son was born), got down to 130 and stayed there for seven or so years until I got tired of eating the same things all the time (a LOT of meat, a few vegetables, and never much else) and binged my way up to @ 165 or so. I've been losing and gaining the same 15 pounds, it seems, ever since. Until a year or so ago, when I balooned up to 194. I NOW know that I actually look (and feel) my very best at @ 150, so that's my goal. THIS time, though, I have learned to eat healthy foods in the right quantities (not restricting anything, really...just being careful about what I eat and keeping track of it) and EXERCISING. Yep. I started bike riding after having not been on one in over 20 years (was initially scared to death that I'd fall off and cripple myself) and am up to a 45-minute a day bike ride after work on weekdays, and hour-long rides mornings and afternoons on most weekend days. And a few other bending and stretching exercises at home. I'm sure that genetics does play a role in which of us stay thin and others gain weight much more easily, but I think that a conclusion that some people CANNOT maintain weight loss even when they are actively engaged in an ongoing exercise program and an ongoing commitment to healthy eating is a case of starting with a hypothesis and then picking and choosing the results, or elements that support that hypothesis. It's just as easy to prove the opposite hypothesis by picking and choosing the "facts" that you want to include. And YES, our weight ideals, as a society, are WAY out of whack for sure! Emaciation, which may look okay on camera looks pretty awful away from the lens, and I DO think that EACH of us has a particular weight at which we look our best...and that that's the weight that's right for US, not anybody else. Sometimes it just takes a while to figure out, eh?

Sorry about the long-windedness...

Ella

Heather
06-21-2007, 04:33 PM
Amen to perspective! :)

srmb60
06-21-2007, 05:21 PM
What about the notion that the author is comparing apples to oranges when it comes to her surveys?

Of the 40 some percent who are overweight, how many think that Kate Moss is ideal? Of the folks who buy and drool over Glamour magazine, how many are morbidly obese? Of the 60 y o's who are overweight, how many want to look like Nicole Kidman?

clvquilts
06-22-2007, 02:27 PM
Since most runway and magazine models are up to a full foot taller than I am, I haven't given them much thought as to what my body should look like compared to them.

For the most part, I think they look too boney. Plus they're all teenagers. Really women don't look like that.

ennay
06-26-2007, 07:26 PM
I think that for a lot of people A leads to B. They cant get to or maintain the ideal and so give up entirely. "If I cant be thin I might as well enjoy my food".

Mudpie
07-24-2008, 08:02 AM
I was about 16 when I discovered fashion magazines. I wanted to look just like the models but, despite dieting to a weight of 106, just couldn't manage it.

Then I saw the height and weight of a Cosmo cover girl posted inside the magazine. She was 5'11" and 120 lbs.
That was my first "aha" moment. I was at my adult height of 5'4" so I would never look like them, no matter how little I weighed.

I started looking elsewhere for the ideal to follow. The women in sports looked a lot healthier than those in fashion/acting/etc. They were muscular and fit, rather than wan and bony.

I think that, until we each have our own moment of illumination, we can't really begin to be comfortable with a reasonable goal for ourselves.

Someone else already pointed out that the ideals given us as examples are so unattainable that most of us set our goal weights way too low. Then our bodies rebel and we fail.

The diet "industry" wants us to fail. If we suceed we no longer need their products and they don't make any more money from us.

Celebrities/models don't get work unless they are skeletal. They are rewarded for being thin and pressed on us as ideals so that we will continue to spend money to look like them.

How to break this cycle? I don't know.

Dagmar

150reasons
08-17-2008, 03:58 AM
I am of German and Russian heritage, I am tall, I wear a size 11 shoe. I am a big girl. I'm not trying to cop out of being fat by saying, "Oh, I have big bones." I am painfully aware of how fat I am. But, nonetheless, naturally, I am a big girl. My parents divorced when I was pretty young. My mother, who is also a big girl, has been on EVERY diet known to man. One of my earliest memories of her is of being on the banana and skim milk diet. I think my dad decided not to marry another woman with such severe body issues as my mom. My dad married my stepmother when I was eight years old. She was 5'7" wore a size six shoe and weighed 105 lbs. By the time I was nine, I could wear her clothing and shoes. By ten, her clothing and shoes were too small for me. After a lifetime of watching my mother hate her body (we are built just alike), I moved in with my stepmother and dad. I was 12. I was 5'4" and 125 lbs. My stepmother continually told me how fat I was and sent me to aerobics almost daily. (To this day, I won't do an aerobics class.) She must have been right, obviously my mother was fat otherwise she wouldn't be dieting all the time, and I was way heavier than SM and she was taller! I mean, SM had the body you saw in the magazines. I hated myself. I hated my body. I thought I should have weighed under 100 lbs. and tortured myself because I didn't. I carried my distorted body image until I was in my early twenties. I was 5'9" and weighed about 155. I finally realized that to weigh 105 lbs, I would have to cut a leg off. At 155, there was no more weight that could come off. So, after a long and boring and completely unrelated story, I say body image and trying to attain the unattainable is the problem. :D But thanks for listening, it was really quite cathartic for me.