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June 04, 2005

Mirror, Mirror

MirrorMirror, mirror on the wall, who's the thinnest, most surgically enhanced and spray-on tannest of them all?

I think I'm feeling a little self-conscious these days, and I know why.  It started with my wanting to get a new author photo, a real professional photograph, not a shot taken by a friend or a friend of a friend because I'm too cheap to pay for a studio shot with actual makeup and lighting.  I decided to aim for the top and had a consultation with the best photographer in St. Louis, which is when I learned my chest was too bony and I needed to bulk up my torso in the weeks before the actual shoot. 

Too bony?  I've never been called "bony" in my life, so part of me felt thrilled by the mere idea my clavicle and rib cage were even visible through my skin.  I'd been on a vegetarian kick for a few months prior, purely for health reasons.  My total cholesterol was through the roof and my LDL, the bad cholesterol, was nearing the "Danger, danger, Will Robinson!" level where going on medication was a possibility.  A Vegan friend had suggested I try going vegetarian for a while (though I still ate grilled chicken and fish occasionally...but, hush, don't tell her), so I tossed my PopTarts--into the trash--got rid of all cookies, candy bars, bad-for-me cereal, and chips, and I stocked my kitchen with veggies, fruit, whole grain bagels and tortillas, almonds, and anything that said "low in transfat" on the label.  I stuck to it, kept working out, and my body actually transformed into something truly lean and mean.  Didn't lose much weight, but I lost the fat...and my cholesterol went down to fabulous levels within a mere eight weeks (187 total and LDL of 114). 

I'm very happy with myself and I love my new healthier lifestyle, though I realize how easy it might have been to take things a step further.  Decide I wanted to be thinner.  I didn't go there and I won't, but it's a little scary to think that there are people who do take weight issues to the extreme.  How we look seems to be such a huge part of who we are. 

Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea if the only kind of mirrors we were allowed to keep in our houses were like those in the fun house at amusement parks.  You know, the kind that distort everything so we don't look anything like ourselves.  Or the selves we think we see.  Then we might not be so preoccupied with our appearance.  Because I don't know a woman who isn't, or who doesn't at least think about how she looks, particularly when the focus always seems to be on body image.

Honestly, would Pam Anderson have a career if not for her, um, physical attributes?  And I saw Monster-in-Law, so I know for damn sure that J-Lo doesn't win roles because she can act.  Unfortunately, that Hollywood ideal of women isn't contained to LaLa Land.  It permeates all our lives, wherever there are TVs, movie screens and magazines.

It'd be lovely if the only things we worried about were being clean and neat, having our hair brushed and our breath smelling minty fresh.  It's another to be so concerned that we don't live up to societal expectations that we actually abuse our bodies by not eating, throwing up what we eat, or overeat...and pass these behaviors down to our kids. 

I turned on the TV last night and saw a preview for a show on A&E called Intervention, which will focus on people at crisis points in their lives who friends and family feel need, well, an intervention.  The premiere episode deals with a woman with anorexia named Kelly who weighs something like 93 pounds.  She said she stands in her kitchen, looking at the food in the fridge and in her cabinets and feels like someone who has the flu.  Nothing looks good.  She's a smoker, too, so the nicotine is a great appetite suppressant.  Her boyfriend is concerned she's going to end up dead, and, as if that's not enough, she has a six year old daughter who's starting to mimic some of her habits.  They're afraid the child is on the way to developing anorexia.

A six year old with anorexia?  Unbelievable, right?  So I looked up some articles on the subject this morning, and one of the studies indicates that, while eating disorders didn't use to be present in kids much under 12 to 14, now doctors have lowered the starting point to around age 8.  Though a report I read cited a child as young as four being treated.

Four?  Oh, boy.  That's just crazy. 

I realize there are more factors that go into the development of an eating disorder than cultural pressure or following a parental example, but I have to believe that what's on TV, in the papers and in magazines has an enormous impact on our kids and on us and how we see ourselves. 

Teen idol Lindsay Lohan looks like a stick figure these days, and the Olsen twins appear brittle enough to break.  Kelly Ripa even got on the scale during a taping of Live With Regis and Kelly to prove to critics that she weighed over 100 pounds. Oprah has shrunk (albeit by healthy means) to a new, sleek self and even Fat Actress Kirstie Alley has lost 30 pounds on Jenny Craig.  Gastric bypass is as hot as rhinoplasty and every freaking diet book that comes down the pike hits the bestseller list.

There are even web sites that list celebrities who've "come out" on how food controlled their lives:  http://www.caringonline.com/eatdis/people.htm

On the other side of the coin, something around two-thirds of the U.S. population is now deemed "overweight," with more kids growing up heavy than in years before. 

Nancy Martin mentioned that one of the nastiest reviews of her Blackbird Sisters Mysteries didn't dwell on her writing or the plot, but on how thin and beautiful all her characters appeared to be.  Hmmm, even if that were true, isn't Nancy writing fiction?  And juicy, fun escapist fiction at that?

Author Denise Swanson, who has a curvy character as the protagonist of her series, was initially told by NY publishers that no one would want to read about an amateur sleuth who was overweight.

Geez, you can't win for trying these days.  Maybe you can't be too rich, but you can definitely be too thin...or too thick.  I'm thinking there must be a happy medium in there somewhere.  Or is the trick in figuring out how to love yourself, no matter what size you are, so long as you're healthy?  And how about we start idolizing people with great brains, not sculpted abs or asses?  Like Einstein.  Now there's a real man!

Okay, I'm off to Lowe's to get some spackle to fill in my bony chest before the photo shoot.  If they have any fun house mirrors on sale, I'll pick up one of those babies, too.

Cheers, Susan


They make skin colored spackle? LOL. You are right, we should not depend on the media or Hollywood to define our looks. Personally, I rely on denial. That woman in the mirror? Never met her. Now if I squint I see myself in my 20's when I look in the mirror, the small mirror. In my mind, I feel 28. So why even look in the mirror, maybe looking in my heart is enough....

Janice, how beautifully put. Wish everyone could feel exactly that way. Can you teach a class? Better yet, you should get your own TV show. As for the skin-colored spackle, you're right. Lowe's was out of everything but white. I guess I'll have to inhale deeply before every shot or wear an inflatable tank top.

Another thing to get is a scale that reads either higher or lower than true, depending on whether you want to be heavier (generally, unlikely), or lighter (more likely). Or a scale that tells you what you would weigh in different places, like, say, the top of Mt. Everest, at the Equator, or on the Moon. That way, us Delawareans, at 12 feet above sea level on Earth, could lose weight standing still ("Sure I weigh 142, Hon, but I weigh less than 54 lbs. on Mars." "Yeah, but since you are from Venus, you actually weigh 129." Smack!!)

Seriously, how many people get on the scale every day, as if you might have lost those 15 extra pounds yesterday? Counter-productive, I think.

Since most of us work at various jobs and then get home and have to cook, do wash etc. I wish eveyone would remember that the movie and tv stars have a job also.
Their job is going to the gym and fine tuning their bodies because their jobs depend on their bodies. Their bodies are like their insturment.
For my work my instruments are a computer and a telephone and neither of those have a weight problem.If all I had to do to keep my job was go to the gym and be on a diet, I'd look like Pam Anderson also.


Have you thought about a 'wonder' bra from Victoria's secret? I've heard they work. I have a rather large rack so I get my bras from the hardware dept at Sears. Need steel to keep my puppies up. LOL. Teach a class, my own tv show? Hehehehe. I've been a SAHM for almost 17 years. My teens barely even listen to me as it is. All I do is eat bon bons and plan 8th grade celebrations, plan baseball awards desserts, take my 16yo for x-rays to find after many years of trying he has actually broken a bone, take my 16yo to get a bright green cast on, watch my 14yo's last baseball game in middle school, nag at both boys to do their homework, read great books-both fiction and non-fiction as I'm a history geek, go grocery shopping, take naps as needed, play online, enjoy my last 2.5 weeks of freedom and misc. other tasks. Being on tv? Nah, I have the best job around.

Janice, the bony part isn't anything a Wonderbra can fix. It's my clavicle and my upper ribcage that are the offenders. I don't think even a Wonderbra could push anything high enough to cover that territory (I'd look mighty odd besides if I had boobs right under my neck). Thanks for the recommendation, though, and, BTW, VS is my favorite place to shop for lingerie, so I'm well stocked in that department! Okay, no TV show for you. And I'd already put in a call to Oprah to warn her of the competition. I'll just have to send her a voice mail retraction. No biggie.

Susan, I am sure Oprah was just shaking in her shoes at the thought of some competition! I am amazed when I find people do not like her. I think she has single-handedly done more for women than anyone else in this gneeration. She has shown us fifty can look good and you can be content yourself at any age. She teaches us that leanring is a continuous process and should be a life long goal. One of the biggest things I have taken away from Oprah is the sanctity and the strength of relationships between women. How we need to support one another as opposed to tearing one another down and/or competing with each other. She sanctifies the learning that may occur between women of the same and different generations. Not to mention, she's a lot of fun. I'll let her keep her day job. :)

Right now I'm working on my little corner of the world to make things better and more meaningful each and every day. When I'm ready to go national I'll call ya.

I know I'm overweight and would love to loose around 15 pounds. Not as much as I love ice cream, so it doesn't seem to be happening.

Mark, I feel your pain, being a former addict of Haagen Daz Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, which I ate by the pintful. I still have a container that's been in my freezer for months, since I started my mostly vegetarian routine...and it takes superhuman willpower everyday not to eat it. Though it seems I crave it less and less all the time. Now I have to make due with sorbet, nonfat frozen yogurt or low fat frozen yogurt, which, honestly, is pretty good.

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