Current Trends

Whether it’s the backlash to a college student’s series of selfies, the hyper vigilance against obesity enforced by every study, every news headline to reach the public’s attention, to the enormous popularity of reality/game show television programs like The Biggest Looser; our nation’s waist size is forever on our minds, forever shoved to the forefront of our minds. Ensnaring prominent figures such as the first lady, in the news last week for her let’s move campaign to get kids to eat healthy and exercise. Media, if not researchers, wondering how much the initiative is responsible for the reported 43% percent decline in obesity among 2-5 year olds;    statistical information significant because of just released findings showing a new correlation between overweight/obese 5 year olds and marked increases in their chances of becoming obese adults. Still our biggest problem in America isn’t our “ever expanding” midsections no matter the age group, the potential to shorten the lifespan of our next generation with sedentary lifestyles and bad eating habits, healthcare costs of obesity, lifestyle related illnesses, lost productivity and a dwindled workforce due to our collective poor health related to too much weight, nor is it our nationwide ignorance regarding nutrition. Instead it is the poor relationship we have with ourselves, our bodies; we have no idea what a realistic, healthy body type is. Constantly comparing our physique to others, either just having had a baby or in our online weight loss/fitness support group, the employee gym, never mind images in magazines; where it used to be chastising so called fat people to get skinny under the “helpful” guise of getting healthy, now  anyone seems to be fair game. Too fat, too skinny, once again unless you fit some arbitrary ideal you’re subjected to continuous detrimental judgment.

     That was the case for the college student and her selfies which she classily turned into a powerful message about cyber bullying and healthy body image via an art class project that went viral inspiring people across the globe. Beyond why are you posting pictures of yourself seemingly randomly on the internet, beyond what compels people to say the most hurtful things while behind a computer screen, original comments on the pictures alone, sans the artistic flourish, sans the developed message, like “ewww eat something, seriously,” proves there is an ongoing war of mixed messages thrown at people daily; simultaneously going viral with nearly equal popularity you had a fat ballerina video promoting the message of self-acceptance juxtaposed against these pictures having to be transformed from for stark prejudice against skinny people to something positive.  Obviously being overweight carries its problems as does being underweight; moderate, medium, balance between two extremes is what you want. However it also showcases an utter public ignorance about rudimentary attributes of metabolism, how most people fitting the displayed body type can eat whatever they want and don’t gain weight, at least not for years, how metabolism slows and changes as you age and thus ultra-skinny adolescents, teens start to fill out more in their 20’s and 30’s; prime example, actress Even Rachel Wood. Looking at her performance in Thirteen then looking at her current work, not just her acting has progressed, her face gaining more mature features; her body has filled out giving her an increased healthful, better proportioned appearance. Going further, it’s bigger than the self-esteem, self-worth of someone that might be impacted by a negative reaction, reactions to a selfie, Facebook pictures only meant to be shared with close friends somehow getting out to every fitness expert wanna be in cyber space; it’s that anorexic is now not just an eating disorder diagnosis, a serious medical condition but a jibe at otherwise healthy skinny people for being skinny, for possessing a high metabolism. Fitness trainers have even been known to join in on the negativity, supposedly health directed name calling referring to them as tooth picks or noodles, because; though they are not fat, obese, they lack muscle tone, cardiovascular heath to be deemed in good physical shape. But at least those observations come from people trained in, about physical health, exercise, have their roots in describing an opposite extreme that is also not good for you, not in simply cursory glances and hate filled, probably jealous, comments. Statements made sans knowing if the person has recently recovered for an illness, is currently battling a chronic, life threatening disease, dealing with hormonal issues, a genetic disorder. Undisclosed is the original purpose of the pictures, if they were for fun, if they were for a specific person or just a photographic experiment, ascertaining the quality of their current camera, particularly the cellphone variety, it’s capability to capture human beings, human features vs. objects, concurrently needing practice loading pictures online, where using other people causes permission problems, not advertising the vanity of the present generation. Alongside the selfie controversy was a similar hot button incident lighting up comment blogs involving a fitness guru mom who braggingly posted her post baby photos talking extensively about how she got her jaw dropping body back, issuing an unspoken challenge to post pregnancy women almost asking why they don’t do the same, implying they are lazy, uncommitted if they don’t; which of course prompted vehement response including another mother, having recently given birth, who attempted to post pictures demonstrating typical post pregnancy body looks, changes, a less extreme picture of what women can and should expect after having a baby. No wonder people are so self-conscious, self-loathing, continuously stressed and concerned about their health when being skinny is deemed anorexia, too fat is a horror defying description and an average post pregnancy body is a situation you must work to change, as if caring for an infant is leisurely opposed to time consuming.      

And when someone dares call for realistic body representations for our young people to try and break the cycle of body hate, obsession with meeting the crazy ideals we see repeatedly, demand reasonable princess representations for young girls from cartoon makers like Disney, dares challenge them to put forth a body type other than Barbie, they are shouted down by what have been dubbed obesity epidemic fear mongers. Apparently aptly named; proclaiming if you want an obese princess, their term for a different sized princess, then you had better be prepared for cancer princess, diabetic princess, fertility problems princess. Yet the teen who petitioned for a plus sized princess was not asking for aportrayal of obese characters in cartoons, nor their negative counterpart anorexic, there’s that word again, figures; regardless of you could argue we’re already there, toothpick disproportioned characters supposed to be human beings are industry standard.  What she was actually asking for is realistic visual depictions of people, a normal body type presented to our youngest individuals. Because, as much as opponents may have a point about children shouldn’t be seeking validation, trying to identify with a cartoon character, they will; especially in the latter context when they see a character triumph in achieving a goal, learning the importance of family, teamwork, friendship. All things cartoons are designed to do in a fun way; thus encouraging little viewers to go out in the world attempting to emulate those characteristics, character traits.  Neither, contrary to the anti-obesity advocate above, is plus sized obese, particularly in the entertainment world. Average plus sized models, modeling clothing, accessories are clothing size 6-12; whereas the average size of the American consumer, ordinary person buying clothes off the rack at a clothing boutique or lines available in Wal-Mart, Target, is 14. A size median brought on less from covering our muffin top, accommodating our back fat, thunder thighs or large behind and more a result of solid nutrition and health, having access to food, a variety of said food, eating healthier producing persons who are taller, have bigger bone structure, are broader, thicker in areas like the chest, have bulkier arms, thighs and hips independent of the weight classification obese. One feminine product maker, within the last decade, capitalized on this to sell their brand introducing a new, improved version to fit today’s, accurate standard sizes of people buying them. An additional irony is fertility problems among American women have less to do with weight, though being underweight too can mean an inability to get pregnant, and are far more attributed to medical science making women forget they truly do have a biological clock, there truly is a limit on when you can safely, healthily have children. The fact that women aren’t necessarily supposed to, aren’t naturally designed to be child bearing into their 50’s 60’s, or that for the best chance to conceive unaided by medical breakthroughs, it is best to seriously consider pregnancy between 32-35. To say nothing of presenting a closer to life-like, normal body type in cartoons for children mirrors pushes for multicultural dolls verses the longstanding just Caucasian toys, mirrors cartoon offerings like Mulan, Pocahontas, Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explore and Go, Diego, Go; not to be forgotten, the potential cumulative effect stick-thin cartoons combined atop images young persons are destined to glean from teen and tween magazines, later adult offerings People, Us, can have. A magazine industry whose foundations for creating the perfect pictures, photo shoots and visual spreads nowadays mean huge amounts of air brushing not only customizing the photos to their ideal by taking a little off the thighs here, slimming down the neck there, but removing blemishes, uneven skin tones more effectively than makeup will. Is it any surprise Americans, young and old, are confused about weight, health? 


Leading to another weight, body image red flag thrust into the national spotlight when the latest winner of The Biggest Loser competition showed off her new body at the season finale big reveal shocking even the most controversial trainer Julian Michaels side by side other biggest loser famous trainer Bob Harper. Initially they declined to comment specifically regarding the individual because they were not her trainers; she was not on their team. Eventually though they were compelled to break their silence when public comment swelled amid speculation the contestant had traded one food obsession for another, could now be underweight, potentially malnourished, some astute commenters pointing out her BMI (body mass index) is slightly below healthy based on height and build; inevitably confirming what most already knew, the young woman had lost too much weight to be deemed healthy. Michaels taking it one step further questioning out loud how the usual checks and balances failed to catch what was happening; since, trainers are allowed, encouraged to keep in touch with team members. Profound statements when put up beside other professionals doing medical, psychological work in part on television; Dr. Phil does extensive backgrounds on guests and works tirelessly to arrange aftercare in their home areas. Dr. Drew, given name David Drew Pinsky, despite his work in Hollywood dealing with addicted famous, once famous persons, his former radio show, consulting on a number of current trends, headlines involving human, American behavior for TV news, talk and celebrity info broadcasting, does have a medical background, an emphasis in addiction and had been seen on camera transferring patients from one facility to another in an attempt to get them more, better, intensive help. Next logical question being what is The Biggest Loser doing; where is the psychological help portion so direly needed in this case? Experts’ too commenting, healthy weight loss is roughly 1-2 pounds a week; this person’s 155 pound reduction shocker in 5 months is simply too fast.  Unfortunately this Biggest Loser participant’s all too clear underlying mental health, psychological, emotional problem both underscores and lends credence to popular so called medical, scientific, psychological information causing a majority to believe everyone battling their weight is either an “emotional eater,” using food to suppress, control, avoid feelings, a “compulsive/obsessive eater” engaging a type of mindless eating where the person seems completely unaware concerning how many calories, how much food they ingest, related to a downright “food addict” who eats and eats and eats, not being able to stop, independent of health problems, diet and exercise plans, intervention not supplied under addiction treatment programs. Whereas other, arguably more reputable evidence, leans toward things like significant changes in gut hormone levels hours after gastric bypass surgery, deep brain stimulations ability to virtually eliminate cravings revealing an underlying physical, biological, physiological explanation for obesity.

Although, at the same time, I’m not quite sure what we should expect from The Biggest Loser team member, medical consultants too were quick to highlight she achieved the show’s goal, she lost the most weight; them instead asserting that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. By that same token nor can you blame the public seeing identical results suddenly with the advent, extensive usage of gastric bypass and similar weightless surgery, workout programs like P90X, 10 Minute Trainer, T25 naming only a few late night weight loss commercial products promising mind boggling results. It has become normalized to see supposed real people go from a size 22 to a size 2, go from looking your age, having the proportions and body fat, body fat placement in certain areas according to gender, typical in a 40 year old, representing the fact you’ve had at least one child, upwards of 3, to looking like a supermodel, from no muscle tone and a big belly, perhaps a little pudginess, to a completely flat stomach, washboard abs. Then and now photos notorious for fraud photographing pregnant women during pregnancy and months after; before photos usually taken shirtless for men, in sports bra and  workout shorts for women, after photos nearly always fully clothed, especially with women hiding unvarnished, true results, only displaying the most drastic, the most positive outcomes. Contrasting someone like say Subway’s famous Jared who did what he did of his own volition, when he decided to institute a change in his life, devised his own plan, that just happened to work, then received an endorsement deal upon Subway discovering his achievement. Monumental, farfetched goals nevertheless remain reinforced by celebrities; Rickie Lake having gone from 22 to 2 at minimum once, Marie Osman, over the years, speaking about being skinny and miserable, she would rather be industry’s definition of fat, and happy. Now sellingNutrisystem, relaying what’s advertised as “her own” weight wakeup call side by side the program’s ease of use, to predictably, sell more product units. Conveniently overlooked, their ability to afford live in chefs, trainers, dole out thousands on beauty supplies making them look years younger on top of pounds slimmer. Except it’s not normal, not ideal, in many cases not sustainable; continuingly, it’s perfectly normal, perfectly acceptable, perfectly expected to look your age. Incidentally adjacent environmental/behavior things like smoking, sun exposure, pollution, illicit/prescription drug use, over use and stress impacting youthful quality in appearance.  If only we could get citizens, some doctors, to understand that rather than desperately filling out applications for shows like The Biggest Loser and sending people into a panic respectively.

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Also up for scrutiny more than the first lady’s hand in the national reduction of obesity in America’s toddlers, more than the health sponsored revamp of school lunches eliminating mystery meat, foods that you can’t even identify as food, indicative of a long overdue overhaul, is the whole measuring system by which we determine obesity and health; how arbitrary the applications of statistics really is regarding this issue. In a counter piece to many celebratory articles expressing positivity based on the latest numbers, one author brought up how small fluctuations in a child’s, a person’s weight can easily shift them from one category to the other, obese to not or vice versa; better explaining the drastic drop than governmental initiatives, criticized school lunch programs formulated from age bracket calorie counts leaving students hungry. Large amounts of fruits and vegetables thrown away in trashcans, because, absent being served raw with dipping sauces like low fat ranch dressing or natural peanut butter, cooked with seasonings or low fat cheese melted over them, they are completely unpalatable to kids. Elaborating, they put forth, obesity investigators are using BMI indexes from the 1960’s 1970’s despite noted changes in height, broader proportions, bone structure independent of how “fat” they proclaim America is becoming. Concluding not only was the purported obesity epidemic made up to begin with, actually not based on any epidemiological study, data, findings (“Public health authorities needed a definition for their crusade against a newly invented menace…so they made one up.”), but aneny, meeny, miny, moe type scale creating random cut off points literally plucked out of the minds of persons declaring themselves experts, differentiating between utterly meaningless categorizations exposing the author says, political motivations. People having seen Richard Simmons might say passionate obsession, not to look at “fat” people, ever be fat again, others might say boredom, an experiment to see how many people they can get to follow their stupidity, they no doubt believed to be humorous. Still, accounting for all those inconvenient facts, all the things that don’t make sense, obesity rates have been on the decline during the past 10-15 years; globally, not exclusively America, Canada, Europe, rather all the above. Illuminating lastly, we never knew what started it in the first place, nor could we determine causality for increases and decreases over other increments across the previous decade, decade and a half, proving, random fluctuations the only true constant. Bringing full circle the idea Barbie really isn’t a body type, Barbie isn’t/wasn’t ever what humanity was supposed to look like; photos you see in magazines aren’t real, are the products of digital manipulation dubbed enhancement, before and after photos are fake or falsely fabricated too in order to sell a product, make you believe the impossible is suddenly possible.