"Liora, do you have Barbies?"
"No, I"m not allowed Barbies."
"My mom says Barbies make girls feel bad about their bodies."
It was a glorious moment in my life as a mother. All I could think was, "wow, they really DO listen to what I say!"
Fast forward, a week ago I heard my next daughter, now 15, say to a friend, "there's nothing wrong with being fat!"
I nearly fell off my chair. Not because I haven't said that a million times, but I know the enemy I am fighting has unlimited power and a reach that extends deeply into the hearts of teenage girls. I know this enemy, I spent many years in battle against its ugly, insidious army.
This, readers, will not be the end of this topic, but merely the beginning. I have more to say about size-ism, body image and eating disorders than possibly any other topic I write about. So, hang in there.
Now, before my mom gets her knickers in a twist, I am not advocating an unhealthy lifestyle. Everyone should eat a healthy, balanced, whole food diet and exercise regularly. That goes for everyone, no exceptions. That said, let's get back to business. And that business is FAT!
Statistics show that 95% of all diets fail, meaning that nearly all dieters regain any weight loss over an average of one to five years. In most cases, as both fat and muscle are lost through dieting, only fat is regained, leaving the dieter essentially, well, fatter. And yet, the diet industry is huge. Bigger than huge. Obese, grotesque in its multi-billion dollar profits. I am not embarrassed to say I have done my share of spending on worthless products, starvation diets and my old friend, Weight Watchers. Now, I'm not saying none of these things work. Diets do work. And work, and work and work. Weight Watchers thrives on recidivism. Maybe it would work better if it were free. Nah, never mind. Here is the real truth: there is no scientifically proven method of permanently changing one body type into another. You just have to work with what you have.
I have been deeply affected over the years by a few lone voices of reason in this fight. My favorite so far is a book called, "Fat!So?" by Marilyn Wann. I loved the title. The book challenges many myths about fat and health as laid out in undigestible form by medicine-in-bed-with-pharmaceuticals Inc. A few years ago there was a great article in Scientific American which challenged the knee-jerk link between obesity and heart disease. In fact there are cultures with more obesity and less heart disease than America, and I see that this article is conspicuously absent from the magazine's online archives. Hunh.
So what can we do about all of this? I, for one, say we stop accepting the lies, half-truths and destructive thinking which cause so many of us to dislike what we see in the mirror. Throw out your bathroom scale, it's just a barrier to self-acceptance. Give away the clothes you wore before you had kids, Kate Moss needs them. Embrace and love the body you have. Take care of it, fuel it, tone it, keep it strong and active. Now I invite you to join the army of "why on earth do you think I want to be something I'm not?"
Once we empower ourselves to reject Barbie as our cultural icon we can start teaching our daughters to love themselves and our sons to love real women, not dolls.
(Next time: my cousin Amy who cut off Barbie's hair and glued it to various body parts...)