Welcome

Welcome to the Weight Debate.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?What does the mirror tell you?

Over the years I’ve watched with growing dismay as the pressure for an ideal body size has become one of the biggest issues of our time.

I’ve observed how men, too, are increasingly pressurised by these same ideals. I’ve seen a surge in eating disorders encompassing all age groups, especially older women. All alongside an explosion of social media – multiplying the pressures hundredfold.

What can we do? And what is really going on here?

I don’t have all the answers.

But I know that we can inspire change in the way we think and feel about our (and others) bodies.

I believe knowledge is power. Therefore we must educate, interact and encourage each other.

So this page is dedicated to offering the widest range of views on the weight debate.

It’s a page seeking to highlight writers – each bringing their own unique insight and experience of the ‘weight debate’. Writers with passionate opinions and specialist knowledge of our culture of ‘thin’.

Including me.

Jeryl

P.S. Do you have a previous article or blog post which deserves another ‘outing’? Would you like to contribute a guest post? I’d love to hear from you – please get in touch!

5* Leading Authorities Talk Obesity and Solutions

The 5x15 speakers.

Taking questions from the audience

5*: Professor Phillip James, George Monbiot, Dr. Michael Mosley, A.A. Gill and Jamie Oliver.

The London-based seminar series 5 x 15 (five speakers speaking for 15 minutes) recently hosted The 5×15 Food Fight and I was lucky enough to get a ticket to this sold-out event at the Royal Geographical Society.

Just as the country is waiting to read the overdue UK Government Paper on tackling obesity, so we waited to hear these five ‘stars’ impart their views on everything to do with obesity,Type II diabetes, food production, sugar and the importance, nay, the necessity of having a TABLE to eat on. According to A.A. Gill, this is crucial to – if not world peace – than world svelteness.

I diligently scribbled away on my notepad on behalf of the many who were unable to get a ticket, or who live on another continent. Hopefully you will find my notes of interest!

(The bold print are statements I found quite striking – feel free to disagree.)

The 5×15 Food Fight was chaired by Rosie Boycott, feminist, foodie, ex-editor, Food Adviser to the Mayor of London and a co-founder of the 5 x 15 series.**

In her introduction Boycott queried and criticized the continuing delay of the Government Paper, which will outline its strategy to tackle obesity. Where, she asked, was the sense of urgency as children are ‘being subjected to a lifetime of ill-health’?

First up to tell us about the ‘size of the problem’ was Professor Phillip James, currently President of the International Association for the Study …continue reading 5* Leading Authorities Talk Obesity & Solutions.

“Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body” by Lesley Kinzel

I have come a bit late to Kinzel’s excellent book/memoir/manifesto. Perhaps because I was a little put off by the title, which frankly makes me cringe. Perhaps because I have read so many books urging me to ‘love my body, get off the dieting roller coaster, transform my life’.

However – ignore the misleading title.

Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Love Your Body

Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body

Kinzel writes astutely and movingly and soon you are caught up in her thoughts and musings on fat acceptance, body politics, a lifetime ‘wasted’ dieting as well as the importance of fashionable clothes. Unlike some others, I didn’t feel it was intrinsically a feminist perspective – more a human call to action that we should accept all bodies.

Currently Deputy Editor of online women’s magazine xoJane, Kinzel founded ‘Fatshionista’ and then went on to post her ‘sociological and political views’ of fat via her blog, Two Whole Cakes.

Published by The Feminist Press in 2012, her book largely draws on these posts. There are no chapters (for those who like that sort of thing) and it is relatively short. But don’t let that deceive you – it packs a powerful punch.

Of course, you don’t need to have what Kinzel calls ‘death fat’ to be affected by a culture which demonises and stigmatises those whose body size is outside a cultural norm. Anyone who has suffered from poor body confidence – whatever their size – will find solace in this book. She declares:

‘Your body is not a …continue reading “Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body” by Lesley Kinzel

'Fattitude' - Because Every BODY Deserves Respect.

Stop Press: Fattitude, the feature-length documentary highlighting fat prejudice – and what we can do about it – is in post-production.

Lindsey (L) and Veri (R)

Lindsey (L) and Veri (R)

And – fundraising.

It’s a few months now since I posted “Fattitude Has the Right Attitude!“,my in-depth interview with Fattitude’s filmmakers Lindsey Averill and Veri Lieberman. The team have been busy working on the film, developing their new fundraising campaign and re-launching their website, www.fattitudethemovie.com.

Why donate? Because…

…the film examines how popular media perpetuates the fat hatred and fat-shaming that results in a very real cultural bias and a civil rights issue for people who are living in fat bodies…offering an alternative way of thinking. – Lindsey Averill

We desperately need to educate against this very real discrimination. A society with only one acceptable body type creates a toxic environment where eating disorders, poor self-esteem and negative body image will flourish. Not acceptable.

Wanting to see how the team were getting on, I recently I caught up with Lindsey via Skype (she in Florida, me in London). As a body image activist, academic, feminist and documentary film-maker, Lindsey is as determined as ever to get Fattitude into the public domain.

What did I learn?

  • They are seeking additional funds of $100K.
  • Post-production costs for a feature length documentary film are very high.
  • The trolls and stalkers are still lurking. The line between free speech and hate speech is a fine line.

The plan, Lindsey told me, is to bring the finished documentary in 2016 to festivals, and then on to a larger audience …continue reading ‘Fattitude’ – Because Every BODY Deserves Respect.

Eating Disorders in the Jewish Community

Eating Disorders in the Jewish Community

Eating Disorders Seminar

Recently I was lucky enough to join a seminar in south Florida for educators and clinicians, “Feasting, Fasting & Eating Disorders in the Jewish Community”.

The organizer, well-known eating disorder specialists The Renfrew Center, told us the seminar was in direct response to the ‘noticeable spike throughout the country (USA) in Jewish patients’. Whilst the rates of Jewish patients with disordered eating are similar to the general community, the reasons behind them differ.

For treatment of Jewish patients to have any chance of success their therapists first must appreciate the strong traditions, religious rituals and level of religious observance in their patients.

Living in a multi-cultural society (especially in London) I could see how relevant this is to other religions and cultures. Both women and food play central roles in most strong ethnic communities.

Professor Marjorie Feinson, PhD

Eating disorder and body image specialist, Professor Marjorie Feinson, PhD.

Professor and researcher Dr. Marjorie Feinson, PhD, began the seminar with an overview of eating problems in the Jewish community, with the emphasis on binge eating among adult Jewish women. Of the adult Jewish respondents in Dr. Feinson’s study over 50% had problems with binge eating behaviours, although only one third of the women were obese.

Unsurprisingly, the binge eating was linked to high levels of self-criticism and serious body image concerns.There isn’t much research specifically about Jewish …continue reading Eating Disorders in the Jewish Community

“What’s Wrong with Fat?” by Abigail C. Saguy

Those of you following me on Twitter (@weightdebate) may remember that I tweeted some quotes & thoughts on Professor Saguy’s book a few months ago. At the recent 2014 International Weight Stigma Conference I noted copies of “What’s Wrong with Fat?” on sale – good.

For those of us wanting a better understanding of the implications of the term ‘Fat’ this book deserves a warm welcome.

…continue reading “What’s Wrong with Fat?” by Abigail C. Saguy

“Fat is a Feminist Issue” by Susie Orbach

Why review this book? Because of its fabulous title? Or because, unlike so many other books, it:Fat is a Feminist Issue

  1. Has (largely) stood the test of time.
  2. Has an author who is still out there, committed, passionate and practising what she preached to us in 1978.

Many editions (and years) later, much of the message of ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ still resonates.

…continue reading “Fat is a Feminist Issue” by Susie Orbach

Body Image Issues? 4 Books that Help.

Do you find teaching and promoting positive body image a challenge? Luckily, there are now so many more resources available for educators, students, clinicians – all of us. Certainly more then when I started!

I’m often asked for recommendations, so in the first of a continuing series I’ve briefly highlighted four books you may find helpful. All offer practical advice and accessible insight into the fight back against our culture of ‘thin’.

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Thomas Cash WorkbookThomas F Cash, PhD, is the author of ” The Body Image Workbook: An Eight Step Program for Learning to Like your Looks” as well as co-editor with Linda Smolak, PhD of the 2012 edition of Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice and Preventation. Cash is founder and editor-in-chief of Body Image: An International Journal of Research.

The Body Image Workbook uses a cognitive-behavioral approach which has proven success for those working on negative body issues, whilst The Body Image Handbook focuses on the background to, research into and various clinical practices to avoid poor body image and eating disorders.

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2 Linda SmolakLinda Smolak is co-editor of Body Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in Youth: Assessment, Prevention and Treatment. What I found especially useful was the analysis of the cultural, social and familial factors leading to poor body image and eating problems. Both Professor Smolak and Professor Kevin Thompson, PhD, author and co-editor, have authored numerous articles and books on body image …continue reading Body Image Issues? 4 Books that Help.

“Big Brother” by Lionel Shriver

The author of “We need to talk about Kevin“, whose own brother died from obesity-related causes,tells here the fictional story of just what happens when Pandora’s big brother, Edison,visits after a few years absence – with a weight gain of 200lbs+.

Big Brother creates discomfort as it challenges assumptions on how you might deal with a suddenly very,very Big brother.

…continue reading “Big Brother” by Lionel Shriver

Part II - The Alliance of Eating Disorder Awareness: Recovery

I’ve found Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015 to be inspirational and thought provoking. There are so many organisations working out there and many individuals like myself, who try to do their bit.

Meeting two such individuals, Johanna Kandel and Sharon Glynn from the Alliance of Eating Disorder Awareness recently helped ME. I often feel like I’m shouting in the wind, that my lone efforts are, well, not as effective as larger groups. But Sharon and Johanna made me realise once more the importance of all of our efforts.

I always say it’s a team effort. And I guess I’m part of that team.

An essential part of the Alliance’s team is Sharon, their Director of Programming. Creating and presenting information to schools as well as healthcare professional and treatment facilities, working on the Alliance’s Treatment Referral Guides (great sources), fundraising and co-ordinating takes not just energy – but dedication and passion.

For example, Sharon explained that young men and women need presentations which are sensitive to potential ‘triggering’. As I well know – it’s a minefield. You need a fine balance between educating and making matters worse.

This balance influences their Support Groups, both in-house and in the community. Johanna told me how careful they are to differentiate between support, which they offer, and therapy – which they do not. Co-ed and ‘men only’ groups have begun, as more men seek help.(She has had some interesting reactions when speaking to fraternity groups about their body image issues…)

As we know eating disorders do not discriminate. Older women make up the fastest growing eating disorders group; the Alliance has women aged 65+ who frequent their support …continue reading Part II – The Alliance of Eating Disorder Awareness: Recovery

Part I - The Alliance of Eating Disorder Awareness: Yes, You Can Recover

Recently, taking advantage of being in south Florida to visit my father (I live in London), I contacted the Alliance of Eating Disorder Awareness and was delighted to meet Johanna Kandel, CEO and Founder, and Sharon Glynn, Director of Programming.

“You can recover, and we will do all we can to help you” is their powerful message.

I asked Johanna what led to her founding the Alliance in 2000 (on a shoe string budget). She told me she was eager to do something “hands on – not just learn about it”. And so, in her early twenties, she set out on a mission to aid her own recovery and educate others.

The Alliance has an impressive track record. They state on their website that they are:

… dedicated to providing programs and activities aimed at outreach and education related to health promotion, including all eating disorders, positive body image, and self-esteem….(it) offers educational presentations, support groups for those struggling and for their family and friends, advocacy for mental health legislation, toll-free national phone help line, as well as referrals, training, support and mentoring services all free of charge. Since its inception, The Alliance has offered presentations…to more than 200,000 individuals throughout the United States, including in-office learning forums for all health care professionals.

alliance for eating disorders - walk

Everyone who works with these issues knows how essential awareness is, and on February 28th the Alliance successfully held it’s 4th Annual “celebrating everyBODY: A walk for eating disorder awareness”. Eating disorder ‘champion’ Congressman Ted Deutch supported and over 800 walkers participated.

Of …continue reading Part I – The Alliance of Eating Disorder Awareness: You Can Recover