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by Dr. Deah on Oct.06, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz


There are many terms for it; I choose to say that I am a reformed dieter. This means I no longer embark on diets or join programs designed for weight loss.  My reasons for this are many and my decision making process may be helpful to some; so from time to time I write about those aspects of my personal journey in my blog, Tasty Morsels.

But today I am writing about something else. 

As I review my futile quest to find the perfect weight loss technique, I see a road littered with detritus from countless attempts at a variety of programs.  Some more renown than others, I have left in my wake a trail of Jenny Craig bar graphs, Weight Watchers Lifetime key rings, and Atkin’s dip sticks; all tangible proof of my countless endeavors to lose weight in order to be happy.

There are many common themes embedded in each pit stop on my way to “diet cessation” but one of the most irritating is how I perceived my successes and failures.  Each time I lost weight, I sang the praises of the diet. “I love the South Beach; Grapefruits are the shot, me and Jenny forever!”  And each time I inevitably gained the weight back, I would wail the dirge of self-hate, “I am a failure.”

All of the credit went to someone else and all of the blame went to me.

It is a double standard I can no longer accept.

Writing about low self-esteem as a component of body dissatisfaction and serial dieting is nothing new. There are few, if any, Weary Weight Warriors who hate their body AND have a healthy self-esteem.  Body dissatisfaction is not created in a vacuum and is usually the result of someone being told that something is wrong with them.  If someone feels they need to lose weight in order to be loved by someone else, they are most likely going to feel unworthy in other arenas as well.

Because the motivation to lose weight is usually extrinsically foisted upon us and then externally reinforced by the diet industry selling the solution, we can understand the ease with which we give credit to the Stillmans and the Jennys. We feel flawed so how can it NOT be our fault if we can’t fix the problem by using these undisputed efficacious diets?  Placing the blame on ourselves instead of on the failure of the diet is part of the cycle of self hate that is inherent in using restrictive dieting as a solution to weight management, eating disorders and fighting the so-called war against obesity.  The proponents of diet programs are counting on the self-hate that they have helped to create, to fuel our appetites for trying the latest fad diet and Jennifer Hudson-esque intervention.

Breaking the self hate cycle is no easy task.  Ask any fellow salmon swimming upstream and the ones that make it will tell you it takes perseverance and motivation.  But the motivation MUST be intrinsic.  The choice to engage in a health based lifestyle instead of a weight based one must start from within and be fueled from within; not to please anyone else, not to live up to someone else’s expectation and NOT to be measured by any scale or tape measure.  And guess what? Because there is no double standard, the credit and kudos for maintaining these lifestyle changes may just be able to swim, with abandon, in a new direction…inward.

So lose the double standard and gain some self esteem.

You’ll love yourself for it!

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S(lap) H(b)ands

by Dr. Deah on Oct.02, 2011, under Events, Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

Those of you that read Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels know that I have an enormous amount of rage about the Lap Band(r).  My reasons are both personal and professional.  A close relative of mine had the lap band procedure and it was, by all statistical measurements, unsuccessful. The fall out from the procedure was toxic both physically and emotionally for her and those around her.  In my post, WWJD, I discuss the acne-like proliferation of the 1800GETTHIN billboards and how misleading they are.  The radio and billboard ads give the impression that a person can zip in and zip out of lap band surgery…(what’s next…drive thru lap bands?) and a person’s life with be miraculously transformed from fat, lonely, enslaved, and miserable to skinny, happy, and free.

If this pseudo approach to health and well being offends you at all, you may be interested in two opportunities to voice your dissent that were passed on to me by Marilyn Wann, author of FATSO?

The first is a petition created by Katie Koumatos California Gov. Jerry Brown has until Oct. 9 to sign legislation that includes stricter accreditation requirements for the sort of clinics that do lap band surgery.
While I am eager for total recall of these devices, until then, it seems useful and lifesaving to make it more difficult for clinics that fail one accrediting agency’s standards to skip to another rather than improve.

The second is to send a letter to the billboard company that carries the ad.  Here is the letter that Marilyn sent to:  [email protected]

Hello, Ms. McGuire:
I am writing to ask that you reconsider the advisability of offering advertising space to 1-800-GET-THIN(TM).
The Los Angeles Times reports deaths and serious complications that people have suffered after these surgeries.
Several lawsuits are now in process, alleging false advertising claims.
For example:
- http://www.1800getthinclassaction.com/lawsuit-update
- http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-get-thin-lawsuit-20110907,0,4090876.story
On Dec. 7, 2024, Los Angeles Public Health Department Director Jonathon Fielding, MD, asked the FDA to investigate the 1-800-GET-THIN(TM) advertising…
“The LAP-BAND(R) weight loss procedure is marketed directly to consumers in Los Angeles County through billboards, bus placards, and direct mail with slogans such as ‘Diets fail! The LAP-BAND(R) works!’ These ads fail to provide the relevant warnings, precautions, side effects, and contraindications related to the procedure…Given the harms of medical complications and unrealistic expectations resulting from the misleading promotion of this product, I strongly recommend that FDA to take the necessary steps to ensure that 1-800-GET-THIN(TM)
Weight Loss Centers’ LAP-BAND(R) promotion does not constitute misbranding of a restricted device.”
- http://zev.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/lapband-letter.pdf

The same concerns would apply to this advertising campaign in San Francisco County and in the Bay Area.
This month, BNET contributor and former Adweek managing editor Jim Edwards posted an opinion piece called, “Lap-Band Deaths Pile Up As Sales Decline,” in which he called Allergan’s lap band device “a product discontinuation waiting to happen.”
- http://www.bnet.com/blog/drug-business/lap-band-deaths-pile-up-as-sales-decline/9600?tag=fd-river14#ixzz1XR44dAWU
Medical research questions the safety and efficacy of lap band surgery.
A European study published in July, 2011, found that 50% of people who get lap band must later have it removed.
- http://archsurg.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/extract/146/7/807
One of the few longterm follow-up studies on lap band outcomes, published in 2006, found that 33% of people had serious complications and 22% had problems requiring further surgery. Researchers wrote that lap band “should no longer be considered as the procedure of choice for obesity.”
- http://www.springerlink.com/content/w563743386t13181/
I understand that MTA advertising policy requires no advertisement be “false, misleading or deceptive.”
I hope you will reconsider whether 1-800-GET-THIN(TM) advertising meets your requirements.
Since 2000, San Francisco has included height and weight in the list of characteristics protected from discrimination here. It would be tragic if people in San Francisco were swayed by false, misleading, or deceptive advertising to undertake medical treatments that risk serious complications and even death, in the hope of escaping weight discrimination.
Thank you,
Marilyn Wann

No matter what you may think about the detrimental health effects of the widely publicized “obesity crisis” I hope we can find some common ground and agree that the quick dubious fix of the Lap Band is not the way to address eating disorders or what may be viewed as an unhealthy weight.

Take some time and Slap the Hand of the people promoting the Lap Band. 

Thank you for considering my request!

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by Dr. Deah on Sep.29, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

I have to write about food.  This week is the Jewish New Year, I’m from New “Yawk,” therefore, I have to “tawk” about food. 

I’m not going to write about the countless ways food and fat are related or the countless ways they are not.

I am not going to write about the gross misconception that ALL fat people have an eating disorder.

I am DEFINITELY not going to write about diets, calorie counting or Kirstie Alley’s latest weight loss miracle.

I just want to talk about the food I ate while I was growing up, in all of its glory and schmaltz.

I was a red diaper baby.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with that term, a red diaper baby is a child brought up by parents who sympathized with the United States Communist Party.  In my part of the world, Queens, a borough of New York City, red diaper babies were frequently the children of atheist Jews involved in politics with a communist or socialist bent.  As a child, this meant attending Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson concerts, learning pro-union songs and attending family summer camps in upstate New York or the Berkshires with names like Camp Kinderland and Midvale.  Because they emphasized the importance of social justice and peace, these camps were considered subversive organizations in the late 1940’s and I attended both of them as a child. I have fond memories of music, marshmallows, swimming and being far far away from the blistering heat of Far Rockaway, my hometown.

Being a red diaper baby also meant that I had minimal involvement with religious Jewish rituals. I learned early on that there were Cultural Jews and Religious Jews. We were the former and hence my sisters and I did not miss the multitude of school days that the Religious Jewish children did, (BOO), nor did we have to attend religious school on the weekends, (YAY)!  But thrice a year we passed over the line and joined the Religious Jews for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and one night of Passover.

My father was very clear about the reasons for these “visits.”  They had less to do with god and religion and more to do with discrimination and oppression.  In regards to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest of holy days, he’d explain,

“If we were living in Nazi Germany they wouldn’t give a flying f*#k if we went to temple or not, we’d be killed just because we were born Jewish. Today you stay home from school to let everyone know that you are a Jew.”

It was an early life lesson about the irrationality of prejudice and an opportunity to watch weekday cartoons.  Needless to say, we still weren’t fully in the camp of the “temple attending” Jews.

As far as Passover was concerned, that was all about pleasing my grandmother who had both feet firmly planted in the Religious Jew category and both hands firmly creating the most amazing potato latkes I have ever tasted to this day.

I want to talk about the food; the food that accompanies Jewish holidays.  The food I grew up with that offered comfort, closeness, community and cohesiveness.

I don’t want to talk about the calories or the confusion that grew as I grew older resulting from being told to eat and then criticized for being fat. (I did write a blog about that last year and here’s the link if you are interested.)

Mostly, I just want to reminisce with some of you and introduce others to a world of flavors and textures that filled my senses.  I didn’t know it then, but eating my grandma’s cooking was an exercise in mindful eating because in the world of mindful eating it is important to really appreciate food, to relish it, to conquer ones’ fear of it and to recognize satiety.

But satiety was not just about my stomach being full when it came to my grandma’s cooking.  It was about my heart being full of her happiness that we were all together and my arms being full of loved ones and my small hands full of dough as I helped Grandma shape the knishes.  Spoons and ladles overflowed as we fed each other tastes of the proverbial Jewish Grandmother chicken soup that, to borrow a metaphor from Ruth Reichl, was heaven “distilled in a spoon.”

kAnd her kugel, mouthwatering slippery egg noodles, buttery goodness, snuggling in between pillows of sweet pot cheese and a blanket of raisins. The top of the kugel was a comforter of crispy brown noodles.  How did she get the top so crispy and keep the inside so soft, smooth, and velvety?? Miraculously there were leftovers and the next day we would eat it cold. To my delight, it was just as yummy but with a whole different array of textures on the tongue.

And as we would wait for the oven to do its job, she would cut a Macintosh apple in half, scrape out one side with a teaspoon and feed me instant apple sauce…and if her apple tunnel connected to the other side of the fruit without breaking the dividing core with the seeds, I would squeal with pleasure. Then her face, usually furrowed with worries that I didn’t understand, smoothed out, and was replaced with a look of satisfaction with her accomplishment.

Her knishes were flawless; the flaky pastry that my cousin Susan and I would help her prepare were filled…no stuffed, with spicy peppery potatoes and the crispy top was so alluring that I would burn the top of my mouth every year because I just couldn’t wait to taste one.

And then there was the tsimmis, the only dish that could transform a prune into a good time for anyone under the age of 20 and the brisket that evaporated on my tongue, if it got there, it was so tender it would often slip through the tines of the fork.

Grandma’s matzoh balls would go down like a cloud but live in your stomach long enough to warrant jokes about issuing the knadlach a tenant’s lease, charging it rent and giving it a name! 

My grandmother had very old china and each dish was dedicated to a specific portion of the meal.  A covered bowl was the vessel for the kasha varnishkes, health food before health food was health food…who knew kasha would later be a staple during my hippie days? Years later I would be living in a tipi in New Hampshire, where I was one of the only Jewish people around, cultural or religious, and shopping at the co-op one day, I found kasha living off the radar, safely hiding underground under the alias of groats!

So here it is, the week of the Jewish High Holy Days.  And as I think about the food that accompanied my childhood years of celebrations, I find comfort in knowing that there are ways to connect with my family and other Jewish people that transcend our personal beliefs about god, or our worries about calories. Instead we sit down to a family style banquet that has to do with nurturing, and embracing our culture. I am satiated as I take in the smells, tastes, textures, memories and company, all ingredients of the holiday food that surrounds me.

Is there any wonder that it is called comfort food?


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by Dr. Deah on Sep.15, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

For women of a certain age, the slogan, “You’ve come a long way baby,” will light up memories of a certain ad for a certain cigarette.  In 1968, capitalizing on the feminist movement, a brand of smokes was introduced with an ad campaign intentionally targeted towards women.  Never mind that the slogan used a demeaning term for women or that using the product was suspected to shorten the very lives being recognized for having come such a long way; the ad was specifically designed to recruit new women smokers or seduce women smokers to wrap their lips around Virginia Slims.

Yes, the cigarette was actually called Virginia Slims and it was a very slim and slender cigarette; dainty and frilly and oh so feminist.  Take a deep breath now and inhale the irony that the Women’s Tennis Association Tour was sponsored by Virginia Slims back in the day. Ahh those were the days…days of feminist fire breathing tennis players.  But lest you think this is a tale of a time long ago, in 1990 Virginia Slims introduced their Virginia Slims Super Slim 100’s! Because we all know you can’t get slim enough!  Four years later, we were asked to suck on their Virginia Slims Kings…ironic really.  I would think that a cigarette with such strong feminist roots would call their product Virginia Slims Queens.  But perhaps that is more telling than it seems.

As I write this piece, it is fall, and no longer the 1990’s.   For most of the country, this means leaves changing colors, people turning back the clocks, and fashion articles about runway shows with special magazine inserts devoted to style style style.  And like the swallows to Capistrano, we are “visited” by the token plus size “fashionista” article, the outrage of underage underweight girly model stories, and pieces by writers like me opining away about the cancerous proliferation of eating disorders.

But this year, as I thumbed through the Style Magazine of the N. Y. Times, I noticed a drastic difference in the models; The MALE models.  Without exception, each was exceedingly thin, dressed in clothing that hung on them like shrouds…shapeless and limp.  Toothpicks of men standing next to toothpicks of women.  In the wake of hurricane Irene, I couldn’t help but flash on images of trees snapped in half by the wind as I looked at these bodies barely able to stand; looking equally frail and vulnerable.

Body dissatisfaction and eating disorders, once completely associated with girls and women, are now increasing among boys and men. Because I work in the field of ED (Eating Disorders, NOT Erectile Dysfunction a totally different male affliction) I have been aware of this trend for a while via journal articles and conference sessions.  What has been missing for me, however, was seeing evidence of this in my day to day life. Unfortunately, the prevalence of ED and Body Image issues among girls and women cannot be ignored. Every day is a new day filled with reminders of that cultural trend, but I hadn’t been bombarded with the male side of it until now.

A few days later, I read the article, “For Once the Guys Go First,” in which Eric Wilson writes about the male fashions during fashion week.  He is excited that the men are finally getting top billing in this predominantly female-centric arena, one of the few I might add, and the article did a spectacular job of keeping up with the “Janeses” by including the mandatory accompanying photos of models looking blankly into the camera.  One photo stood out; a rail thin soldier boy startling in his apathetic and anemic pose and pout.  If these are the boys being shipped overseas to fight in wars of “men” I’m afraid for their lives. Honestly, I think I could take them down in hand to hand combat.  Kidding aside, my heart ached for them and I wondered why are men volunteering for a war that doesn’t need to be waged?  In the past, male eating disorders were frequently triggered by photos of buff muscular men with biceps like big cigars and abs like…well…six packs.  Male body image dissatisfaction was centered around not being manly enough, and not wanting to look like the 98 pound weakling on the beach. Some folks will say this is progress! Skinny men are considered beautiful now.  Woo hoo!  And I’m not saying that skinny men aren’t attractive but at the risk of being a Dr. Deah Downer, this is a different brand of potential body hate that will ignite a different set of disordered eating behaviors tragic and as potentially deadly as tar and nicotine.

One of the true signs that a legitimate problem exists is if there is an association devoted to the problem.  I visited the National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (N.A.M.E.D.) website and had an email exchange with its director Christopher Clark.  Mr. Clark was very helpful and the newly updated website is filled with informative articles, resources, and statistics for anyone seeking more information or guidance.  It also provided ample proof that eating disorders is no longer just a female problem and that men have succeeded in breaking through the not so enviable glass ceiling of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction.  Females may still be leading the pack, but the males, unfortunately, are gaining ground.  This is not what the Equal Rights Movement had in mind, is it?

You’ve come a long way baby.


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by Dr. Deah on Sep.10, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

The expression no strings attached has its origin in the fabric industry.  If a piece of cloth was imperfect, a string would be placed there to let people know that there was a flaw.  A perfect piece of material, therefore, had no strings attached.

The expression no strings attached is also associated with traps and deception.  Elmer Fudd would place a big juicy carrot under a box with a string, Bugs would grab the carrot, a string would be pulled, the carrot would disappear and the box would twap the wabbit. A truly free gift of a carrot, therefore, has no strings attached.

People struggling with eating disorders and body dissatisfaction frequently find themselves tangled up in the strings of their loved ones’, families’, and friends’ support.   It’s a delicate subject to address because:

  • Their intentions come from a place of love.
  • Their concern is authentic.
  • The source of their actions is from the heart.

But a bribe is not support.

When someone says, “When you reach your goal weight I will buy you a new wardrobe,” that’s a bribe.

Or, “When you reach your goal weight I’ll give you five dollars for every pound you lost (or gained), that’s a bribe.

Conversely, if someone were to say, “I know you are strapped for money and if you need help buying clothes, please let me know,” that’s support.

Or, “I know money is tight right now and you want to join a gym, so if you need help paying for that just let me know,” that’s support.

There is a huge difference between the two.  One is truly caring and supportive with no strings attached. The other is a bribe, completely based on the premise, “If you do this for me, then I’ll do this for you.”

Now I know, people will insist they are not saying that you need to change your weight or your eating habits for them.  More likely they insist, “I am only thinking of you and want to help and support you.”

And in my opinion, most people REALLY believe this is true down to their core.  In most cases, our families and friends ARE concerned about our health and happiness.  Unfortunately they are also convinced that optimal health and happiness are attached to a certain number on the scale. But what happens if I accept the support aka bribe?  Does that mean that if I reach my goal weight, you buy me new clothes and I gain the weight back again, that I am unworthy of the support you offered in the first place?  Have I used up all of my “help cards?”

So what if we remove the words, “When you reach your goal weight,” and replace them with, “How can I support you in your decision to adopt healthier and happier lifestyle habits?”  Ahhh, big difference!  Then you are entering into a supportive relationship with your loved one that is NOT outcome based, but process based, on-going, infinite. And isn’t that what loved ones, family, and friends are really there for?

I am not saying this is easy.  This fine line between support and bribery, as I mentioned before, is a delicate subject.  Extrinsic positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator.  And most of us are used to different kinds of reward systems for attaining goals.  But when the goal is an ongoing lifestyle change that is not attached to a specific weight or waist size, I’d like to suggest that any support offered or taken have…

NO STRINGS ATTACHED; like a perfect piece of fabric.



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by Dr. Deah on Aug.27, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

My niece is getting married.  She is the bride.  Her dress is important. Mine?  Not so much.  And yet I find myself in my own personal episode of, “What Not to Wear!”  There is an aura of importance surrounding my attire for this wedding.  After all, I am the one in the family that is strident about self-acceptance.  I am the one that writes a blog about redefining beauty and challenging societal standards of perfection.  I am the member of the family who is the co-author of a book about size acceptance and women calling a truce in their battles against their bodies.

My niece is getting married. She is the bride.  I will be scrutinized. This is not narcissistic, grandiose, or ego maniacal. This is fact.

The last time I had to dress up for an important family event was six years ago for my son’s bar mitzvah.  (My blog post, The Other Woman, discusses that in all of my “Jewish Mother’s Glory.”

When I was shopping for that dress, I was a “nouveau riche” size 4.  I had never been that thin…and of course I was “just visiting.”  I was so inexperienced in shopping as a thin person, that I accepted Sax Fifth Avenue’s offer of assistance from a Personal Shopper.

“I’m sorry I’m such a challenge.  It’s my butt and these thighs; they must make your job so much more difficult.” 

Did I mention I was a size 4?  And there I was apologizing to my personal shopper for not being a size 2.

Today, six years later, the “mother of the bar mitzvah boy suit” that I purchased won’t get past my shoulders.  And I no longer have a personal shopper.  Flying solo, I dared to go where all too many women before me have dared to go…into the belly of the beast…charge card in hand.

But I was not shopping completely alone.

I entered the store with the belief that I deserved to find a dress that made me feel good.  I shopped with a self-confidence that hugged my shoulders with an attitude of, “I can look just fine…beautiful even…at this size.”  Most importantly, I was accompanied by my newest companion, ME.

I was NOT shopping with the eyes and opinions of my family or the media.  I was clad in the bullet proof vest of MY eyes and MY opinion.   I was draped in a comforting serape of conviction that how I looked and what I chose to wear was the only opinion that held any weight!!

I began looking around the store.  I focused on fabrics and colors that I found pleasing. Then I included the elements of comfort and a dash of pizzazz.  I was almost enjoying myself!  I wasn’t obsessing over what size I was or whether my arms, thighs or butt would be offensive to someone.  In a way, that opened up a wider range of possibilities.

A sales woman approached and I waited for my usual wave of apologetic embarrassment to wash over me.  It didn’t!

“That’s a gorgeous dress,” I said pointing towards the rack of Elie Tahari designs.  “Expensive but beautiful!”

“This dress is a classic. You’ll be able to wear it forever!”

I smiled when I thought of the size 4 bar mitzvah suit gathering dust in my closet. The personal shopper had told me the same thing and I hadn’t been convinced.  After all, a part of me knew I was “just visiting” the land of size 4.

But this time I had a feeling she was absolutely correct!  After years of working personally and professionally on size acceptance, my years of yoyo dieting and shape shifting had finally come to an end!

“What size are you,” she asked flipping through the hangers?

I smiled, and said, “I’m a perfect size ME!” 


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Cruel Days Cruel Days

by Dr. Deah on Aug.21, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

You know it when you see it.  It’s subtle but intense.  It is that look of terror in the eyes of girls all over the country right about now.  Not all girls; mostly middle to upper middle class girls.  And not girls who go to schools with required uniforms.

Heck, maybe this just affects all of the middle to upper middle class girls in the New York Metropolitan area who live in homes that still get The N. Y. Times delivered who don’t go to schools that require uniforms.

In fact, I may only be talking about one girl but it’s my blog so I’m going to write about her anyway.

For as long as I can remember, each year, on a Sunday, in the late summer, like swallows to Capistrano,  The N.Y. Times arrived on my doorstep with the special Style insert peeking out from in between the other sections.   This special magazine contained the mandate…our marching orders if you will, for our back to school clothing. Tweeds, knits, woolens all beckoning with that come hither promise of a new year filled with possibilities of popularity and happiness…guaranteed for anyone who showed up on the first day looking like one of the girls in the photos.  Which was only possible if you were a size 8 or under. 

Each year the ritual of thumbing through the magazine began, and with each flip of a page, self-hatred and despair billowed inside me.  I knew that it would be only a matter of days before I would be shopping for my new set of school clothes.  And because there were no contradictory messages available to soothe my plummeting self-esteem, I marched with my mom to the tune of my own internal dirge to the department stores.  We were on a quest to find something, anything that would fit and bear some semblance to whatever the girls were wearing in The Times Back to School Issue.  There were never any girls in that magazine that looked like me. Yet, I and girls like me, believed that buying owning and wearing those clothes would catapult us into a year filled with happiness and fitting in.  But here, alas, was the problem.

Fitting in.  As I tried on outfit after outfit; my hope dwindled with each battle lost against a non-compliant zipper.  It was devastating to be a size 12-14 in a size 8 world.  Occasionally I would find an outfit I thought looked good on me AND was in style. I brought it home, ceremoniously hung it in my closet, and awaited the First Day of School.

Finally the day arrived. I woke up hours before I needed to, and adorned myself in my Fall Plumage; bursting inside with the anticipation of fitting in on the First Day of School.  Unfortunately, it was inevitable in “New Yawk” that the  temperature would still be in the 90’s. By the time I finished walking to school, clad in my woolen array of Autumnal Splendor, I was already wilted and droopy.  I lamented the unfortunate transformation…I was now a far cry from the crisp, perky girl trotting off to school an hour earlier, and so with a little less bounce in my step,  I entered the building.

It was a Project Runway episode long before any reality shows existed.   Brand names and labels paraded down the halls in shoes not yet scuffed. You could smell the intoxicating aroma of new leather pocketbooks and matching belts.  The outfit that I had once felt so proud of was now a laughable shroud.  By second period I was sweating to death, fighting desperately to maintain my poise.  I know I wasn’t the only one that felt victimized by the tenet that our appearance categorized us as chic, hip, beautiful, cool…and the grand prize…envied.  But no one said anything.  It was the accepted, unquestioned and unchallenged paradigm of the K-12 world. I hated it AND bought into it with every “wrong” curve of my body.

It was only the first day of the new school year and already I was getting failing marks. No extra credit assignment would ever earn me a passing grade.  I already had an F on my report card. I was Fat. 

I am not a proponent of the, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” theory of life.  Nor am I one to look back on my life with regrets or wallow in the “should haves.” I do acknowledge, however, that those years shaped my personality in many ways, one of the most obvious being my eventual career as a therapist working in the fields of body image and eating disorders.  But as I sit here in Oakland, California thumbing through this year’s Back To School Style Section of The New York Times, I  am contemplating what I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now.

  • I would have led a “rebellion” against the unquestioned one size fits all mandate.
  • I would have gone to a P.T.A. meeting and showed them other ways to acknowledge their children/students using measures of health and success emphasizing initiative, accomplishments, and individual talents and strengths.
  • I would have organized a letter writing campaign to The New York Times Style Magazine asking them to portray size diversity in their models.
  • I would have launched an anti-bullying campaign at the school and fought against the humiliating weigh-ins if front of the entire student body.
  • I would have written a book about ways to improve body image and self-acceptance.  Oh wait, I did do that! :-)

That’s just a start.  There are many organizations that are taking on these issues today.  I urge you to get involved with one or more of them  About Face, ASDAH, Normal In the Schools, Body Positive, and The Body Positive.  Links and information about these and other organizations can be found on our website at Leftoverstogo.com

It’s a new school year and you can get straight A’s for being:

An Activist Accepting, And Adoring All Anatomical Appearances!


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Diet Book for Six Year Olds?

by Dr. Deah on Aug.19, 2011, under Events

Recently I wrote about Ed Koch’s book that leaves the bullies unpunished and focuses on the fat kid having to change in order to avoid the bullying.  Now there is a book coming out in October that is a diet book for six year olds. I was about to write my blog on this, when I received the link to Ragen Chastain’s blog about the same book!  So, less stress on my carpal tunnel and a chance to share Ragen’s website with some folks who may not have been over there!


I also want to share Sandy Andreson’s shout out to NAAFA’s website where they have incredible resources for kids by Joanne Ikeda, Karin Jasper, and Frances Berg.

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What Would Janice Do?

by Dr. Deah on Aug.17, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

I know I know, Janice Joplin didn’t write Bobbie McGee, but she immortalized it to the point that it was practically an anthem when I was in High School. It was such an integral part of the fabric of our culture that my high school Social Studies teacher, Mr. Tannenbaum, wrote the words, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” on the blackboard one day and we spent the entire class debating its meaning.  We pondered over the possible interpretations and debated the practical and theoretical applications for this phrase.  The conversation was so juicy that for one brief moment in Hewlett High School History the Geeks, the Freaks, the Jocks and the Greasers were all participating and I remember it 40 years later.

But the one translation we did NOT come up with was that the infamous lyric had anything to do with being thin.


These billboards are everywhere now.  And despite some public outcry, seem to be here to stay.  In February, 2024, Michael Hiltzik wrote an article in the L.A. Times reproaching the ad campaign that was spreading like acne in So. Cal.  I remember reading the article because a close relative of mine had lap band surgery and I was reading everything I could on the subject.  Hiltzik was outraged, as am I, that the billboards give the impression that you can drive through on your lunch hour get a lap band and go off into happy thin land…free…free…free at last!

But of course this isn’t true. The procedure takes time, anesthesia, and a recovery period that may last weeks.  And that’s not including the people who got the lap band and did NOT find freedom or thinness at the end of the tunnel!

When Hiltzik wrote the column last year, I had not yet seen the billboards in the Bay Area.  I assumed it was a Hollywood thing that wouldn’t be tolerated here…in Janice’s backyard!  But I was wrong and now they are everywhere.  And the fact that these new billboards are equating freedom with lap band thinness is so offensive to me I don’t even know where to start.  If freedom’s just another word for having to measure food in teaspoons in order not to regurgitate…well…that feels rather restrictive to me.  To assume that everyone who is fat is living a life trapped by their fatness is outrageous, but even if it were true…I’d propose that the bars of imprisonment may be an Allergen product as well!  Although in defense of Allergen, maker of the lap band, they too have decried the bill board ad campaign. Stuart Pfeifer’s L.A. Times article last February explains that the billboards lead to a referral source of lap band providers and is not an ad for Allergen.  Still, with the weight and age requirements for lap bands getting less stringent I would imagine the demand for them is growing as rapidly as these billboards are popping up and that’s good for “Al’s” business.

In Dr. Deah’s Hollywood, the billboards are deceptive and offensive. They prey on the longing of many fat people to be FREE from the culturally imposed prison sentence where the only “crime” is living in bodies that are targets of discrimination and exclusion. If I were “Queen” I’d banish them from the Queendom! But alas, I am left dreaming and humming, “Freedom’s just another word for no more billboards on the road.”


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by Dr. Deah on Aug.10, 2011, under Events

Former Mayor Ed Koch and his sister Pat have just had a children’s book published. And I almost want to buy it and read it.  Almost but not quite.  The book, Eddie Shapes Up, was discussed in the New York Times by Sam Roberts, who describes the book as, “a more or less autobiographical account of a youngster who faces down dietary demons and body-image problems to emerge healthy and self-accepting.”

So far so good!

Then as I read further Koch is quoted,

“I wanted to write this book with my sister — also a chubby child — to help children understand the importance of a healthy diet and exercise throughout their lives”

Okay, can’t argue with that!

And even this excerpt gave me cause to celebrate!
“ But a friend advises Eddie: “Everybody has a different kind of body. What’s important is being healthy and in good shape.”

But sadly, as Mayor Koch discusses the book he becomes one more example of someone identifying with the aggressor and can not resist making the fat the enemy.

“What I hope they walk away with is that it’s possible to avoid being the subject of derision or being an outcast simply by leading a healthy life with a healthy diet.  It will cause you enormous pain if you let yourself get obese,” added Mr. Koch, whose childhood photos show him as a bit stocky, if not flat-out fat by today’s standards. “You’re not going to worry about it when you’re young, but if it continues, it can shorten your life. You want to have a family, you don’t want to leave them prematurely, and while it’s very unfair, many people in deciding who they’re going to hire will make a decision which includes weight.”


Okay, I admit, I’ve never been elected Mayor.  (Not even in virtual mayor games).  And I’ve never had a children’s book published. So who am I to find fault in his endeavors and points of view?  But it just didn’t sit right with me that he is saying that the way to discourage bullies is to lose the weight. And then when he talks about how the bullying may have shaped his persona…

“When I look back, it’s no joke,” Mr. Koch recalled the other day. “I think, ‘How did I get through that?’ It was tougher than settling a contract with the unions. And who knows what effect it has on your persona? It made me want to strive to be better than the other kids were. The other part of it was the tears. It makes your life miserable.”

Well if I was a bully and read this, I would think, “See, it did you good to be bullied! You became the frikkin’ Mayor of New York City for Goodness Sakes!  You should thank me for that!  The tears? Well man up Mayor!  Maybe I should get a percentage of the royalties from your book as well!  After all, I inspired you!  You’d be NOTHING without me you fat slob!

So I wrote a letter in response to the article and you can too if you’d like. Here’s mine:

I applaud Mayor Koch and his sister Pat for underscoring the importance of Health and Self Acceptance in this book. However, I am disappointed that Mayor Koch didn’t use his political sway to address the issue of why bullying fat kids is allowed?  It seems to me that an underlying message in this book is bullying fat kids can be awesome, look, I became mayor and I even transformed my traumatic youth into becoming a published author!

Let’s take the fat stigmatization away and just talk about being healthy.  And let’s write books and pass legislature that send a clear message that bullying and discriminating against our fat citizens is just WRONG.   http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/SafeS

Warmly, Dr. Deah Schwartz, leftoverstogo.com

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