Saturday, 8 March 2008

Muffin Top

Selena posted recently about the horrendous attitude of the media with regard to the perfect size and shape.

Her post made me reflect for most of the day on the final paragraph which showed a picture of some more generously proportioned women as photographed by Leonard Nimoy and pondered whether this was an image that should be preferred.

As an anorexic, I view fat with horror. And I mean any excess fat. To the extent that, after all my efforts to bring up my teen with a positive body image, I recently found myself commenting that her super-skinny jeans were giving her a muffin top. I tried not to say it in a derogatory way but I did want to draw attention to the fact that she has been putting on weight recently.

Whether this is to do with her starting to take the Pill, coinciding with her refusal to eat proper meals with the family and existing on a diet of fizzy drinks, Red Bull, alcohol, crisps, chocolate, popcorn and sandwiches purchased from the local mini-market, I am not totally sure. But her previously spare frame is starting to fill out quite markedly.

I want her to feel confident in her body. But, on the other hand, I don't want to say nothing as it expands... until it has got to the point where it is going to be difficult to deal with.

After making the remark, I felt terrible! Eventually, I went back and had a chat with her about it and explained that I didn't think she was getting fat, just that the type of clothes she was choosing and the low-slung way she was wearing them accentuated some additional flesh she had acquired on her hips and midriff which could be due to taking the Pill or her poor diet.

A few days later, she started talking about getting a gym in the garage and doing some exercise, as well as addressing her diet. She is now eating soup at home rather than going to buy the other rubbish from the mini-market.

I can only hope that I have managed to address the problem without making her feel bad about her body image but it was such a hard subject to tackle, particularly in the light of my own history as I am not sure that I have the correct mindset to differentiate properly between well-covered and fat. All her relatives on her paternal side are overweight, bordering on obese with BMIs well into the 30s and blood pressure and heart problems as a result. I fear that her genes may well lead her down that road rather than the slender frames of my forebears.

If we look back to the past when Rubenesque figures were the fashion, we have to ask ourselves what percentage of the female population actually possessed such a physique. Was it purely those who had the money to be able to eat regularly? And what was it that they were eating to acquire such curves.

In today's society, we should be promoting healthy eating and a proportionate figure, taking into account that some people really do have bigger frames than others - not showing the polar extremes of skeletal models and obese blobs.

Portion sizes need to be addressed as well. Why do we need Super Size Meals? After watching a programme recently called 'Half Ton Mum', a friend commented that 'if these people are confined to bed because they are too fat to get up, who is feeding them so much that they maintain their weight and, worse, put on more?' Surely anyone can see that they have a major problem if the Fire Department have to be called in to turn them over in bed...? And, again, if someone takes up two seats on a bus or a plane...

I know there are lots of curvy bloggers who are totally comfortable with their bodies and whose lovers adore their buxom shapes but this post isn't about people who are happy with their figures. They will not be affected by whatever examples of perfection the media choose to designate our ultimate physical goal.

But, you see, I also have several friends who almost tearfully bemoan the fact that they are overweight and then proceed to confess that they can eat a whole packet of biscuits in one sitting. They say they want to lose weight but they're not actually prepared to eat less or exercise more to achieve this. Yes, some of it can definitely be blamed on hormones but I fear that this is also a modern disorder.

In my childhood, people couldn't afford to eat that quantity of a luxury foodstuff in one sitting. As a kid, we might have had a bag of crisps maybe once a week and the same with chocolate bars. I don't recall many fat kids at my school, whereas at my children's, there are one or two in every class. Kids today can get through two or three packets of crisps and chocolate bars per day in addition to regular meals without getting the opportunity to run it off. And this is not a class issue, it is prevalent in all walks of life.

When I was a kid, there were some bigger ladies but their sudden weight increase all too often coincided with a problematic menopause and seems more linked with the advent of the compulsory hysterectomy at a time when hormones were even less well understood than they are today. It was a case of, if it's a problem, whip the uterus out, without any thought for the resultant hormonal imbalance that was created, particularly in relation to thyroid.

So if we decided to promote the rounder figure as being the norm, what would happen? Would there be fewer cases of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia as a result of the absence of size 0 models and actresses on the catwalks and in the newspapers? Would we be happier about ourselves and our appearance if it were easier to emulate what was perceived to be the norm?

Personally, I suspect we would just get even more obese people. We have lost the ability to choose wisely and our sweet tooth has been amplified by the addictive nature of the chemicals that are put into our food to sweeten them so we want more of the same all the time... and these days most people have the funds to feed the habit.

If you tell humans, it's ok to be fat, then some will just think they've been given carte blanche to get even fatter.


Gorilla Bananas said...

Having a full figure doesn't mean you have to pile on extra layers of fat by over-eating. That will simply lead to a shorter and less healthy life. I think you should tell your daughter that she'll need a lot of self-discipline to avoid going the way of her relatives.

Fat Controller said...

I can so relate to this with your daughter. We have always been painfully aware with ours, now 16, of what we say with regard to her weight. The spectre of anorexia is always in the back of your mind. She was certainly a little chubby a couple of years back but thankfully with a little professional advice she has worked out for herself what is sensible healthy eating.

Enigma said...

Hello.*aplauding post* for telling it like it is. I used to be anorexic, at my lightest i weighed 38 kilos..not a good look. I now weigh 48 and am happy with the way I look. My girlfriends get the shits when we go out as they are always complaining about the weight they have, but none of them exersise, and I am amazed at the huge amount they eat.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Brilliantly said! I've written about half a dozen replies to this, but really it all boils down to this. People eat too much, don't exercise enough and blame it on anyone and anything but themselves. Being fat is a problem. Being underweight is a problem.

Specific to your daughter, as you are naturally very petite, and she's a teen, could it be that she is at the stage where she's filling out and getting more of her 'woman's' shape that she perhaps gets from her father's side of the family? My body shape changed dramatically, I was going to say up until I was about 25, but actually it hasn't stopped. I think carrying on developing and changing shape until your early 20's is quite normal though.

BG x

George said...

You think you have a lot of overweight problems in the UK? Come visit the US and to a lesser extent Canada. In most "family" type restaurants in the US you receive enough food on a plate to comfortable feed 2 people. There are a couple of fast food places on every street corner it seems. The US has the second highest rate of obesity in the world with 30.6% of the population classified as obese. Second is Mexico with 24.2% and third is the UK at 23%.

You can see tonnes of information on the following page ...

Anonymous said...

Pleas please please don't create a bad body image for your girl. I am still dealing with my mother's influence. It's not fun.

Anonymous Boxer said...

I can not stand when people say "Large and in Charge" or "Fat is beautiful" - coming from a family where heart disease is rampant I work my heart AND my waist to make I'm living next year.... I've had women say tell me I'm "thin enough" and they have NO idea that FAT KILLS. It's that simple. Now, finding that beautiful and delicate balance.... well that's hard.

and it's made even harder by super sized portions and cheap crappy food.

Nice post.

having my cake said...

GB - I am trying to educate my kids towards healthier eating habits but it is so hard to counteract the advertising industry as well as the unhealthy examples that are all around them.

FC - I hope this is a blip and my teen will work it out just as your has.

Enigma - Hello and thanks. I think we've obviously been through a similar process.

BG - The weight seemed to be going specifically around her tum and hips. Im wondering if the number of empty lager bottles in her room might also be having an impact.

George - Thanks for the link. Where the US leads, the UK will surely follow...

Brainiac Chick - I know, I know. This is what makes it so hard. Im so afraid of repeating the process. Kids today have access to food and alcohol in a way that we didnt as children but they also have no restraints built into their brains because they lead such an indulged lifestyle. They think if they want it, they should have it and have it NOW - in all areas of life. I am so afraid of pushing her feet towards the path I went down and yet I have to balance that against a different but equally ugly path with regard to health.

AB - I have been trying to encourage her to come to a class with me so she can learn to hit a bag properly. At least then she can get rid of some of that teenage angst/rage as well as toning up.

Isabella Snow said...

I don't know that it's not ok to be fat, but it's surely not healthy. By the same token, size 0,2,and 4 are absolutely revolting to look at, and no more healthy than a size 20.

As for the muffin top thing, I agree with the media, it's ridiculous. IMO its not about women putting on weight, its about them trying to squeeze a size 10 waist into a size 6. Wear your own size, or lose the weight required to wear the ones you want to get into!

Allie said...

I completely agree. If the norm was an "average size" person people will most definitely just keep getting fatter. It's sad, but true. I'm working on eating healthier myself and trying to figure out a good exercise routine. I unfortunately haven't found one I like yet, but I'm happy with the fact that I'm thinking about it. I want to live as long and healthy as I can.

Helga Hansen said...

Cake - while some of my weight issues relate to portion size and lack of exercise (and no, I am not making excuses!!), I also suffer from an under-active thyroid, which affects my metabolism, which in turn affects my weight. I was diagnosed just over 10 years ago, but my GP told me that it was possible I had been suffering for many years before that, as my weight gain had started in my early 20s, despite exercise and better eating habits!!

I do understand and agree with how you have dealt with the issue with your own daughter. I have two young nieces, and I remember the older of the two becoming a bit of a picky eater as she approached her teens. I remember her mother being horrified at the prospect of an anorexic on her hands, but what she kept forgetting was that she, herself, was constantly "on a diet", and what sort of a message was that sending to her daughter?!? Thankfully, she is a little more discreet in her dieting, and her daughter appears to have adopted a sensible approach to eating.

Ro said...

I can't pretend I've ever had serious weight issues myself (for which I am profoundly grateful).

My son, though ... he's been somewhat overweight for a long time now due, principally, to comfort eating and lack of exercise.

Dealing with it has been a major cause of friction between his Mum and me: she has nagged continually, locked food away, put him on near-starvation diets, been (frankly) very insulting about and to him. From my perspective I can see that all that has done is encourage him to comfort eat more.

As he gets older and taller and starts to get more confident and to develop a social life of his own, it's noticeable that he's eating less on the whole. While he's still overweight, it seems to be becoming less of a problem.

I wonder how close we came to a serious eating disorder ...

having my cake said...

Isa, Im a UK6 which is about a US2 and Id like to think I dont look that bad lmao. But, again, Im tiny all over so it's all about proportion. And I absolutely agree with you about the cause of the muffin top in most people :)

Allie - If you want a good exercise class, get yourself to a thai boxing club or karate class. Great fitness with a fabulous atmosphere and a useful skill. Far better than using machines at a boring old gym.

Helga - Im sorry, I think I did mention thyroid in relation to the larger ladies in my youth and I forgot to address it nowadays.

It is a huge problem. They test your levels but the range seems to be set for all women without taking into account the fact that one woman's body mass might be 3 or 4 times another woman's. It is one of the most unreliable tests I know unless your reading is so massively out of whack that it has to be noticed. And I have friends who I believe do have an undiagnosed thyroid problem causing their weight to balloon.

As you say, there is a definite onus on mothers not to keep on about being on a diet as this is a very bad example to their daughters. Fortunately, there is none of that going on in my house.

having my cake said...

Ro, Ive not had to deal with this in relation to a boy as yet but I believe it is becoming more of a problem these days. I honestly think that one of the best ways is to get them out to a martial arts-type class which will promote fitness and self defence as well as taking them away from an environment which encourages them to eat because they are bored.

Ro said...

Son was once enrolled in a karate class at his own request. After a couple of weeks he left: by that stage his confidence was so low that he didn't want to do anything in front of other people. Sad but true.

To some extent his salvation was rugby. He really enjoyed playing that and, of course, there is room for - shall we say? - stockier people in that game.

Anonymous Boxer said...

At this point, she's nearly an adult so I agree that if you can help her unleash some of her power/angry through kicking/punching/whatever, it will help her, help herself.

You're a good Mom for thinking it through so carefully,.

Anonymous said...

This scared me. My son was l2 years old, his parents just
separated, when my ex poked my
son in the stomach and 'playfully'
said he was getting a little chubby. (he wasn't) My son was
tall at the time, and within weeks,
he was in my arms in an emergency room with anorexia diagnosed, and
us living in a city where there was no help for boys at the time.
Thankfully, the Emergency Dr. was
Head of Pediatrics and he helped
my son get back on track.
He is now 2l, and to this day,
and a gorgeous young man,(all his
friends are stylish as is he)
yet I still cringe at the thought
that someone could say something
so innocently.. and set him right back there. I am positive you
had good intentions, as a self-admitted anorexic, I also know
that you don't want your daughter
to go through what you have.
I say all this with the best of
intentions too.


having my cake said...

Kate, Thanks for sharing.