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Archive for April, 2011

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Please Hold! Cross Post from Fierce Freethinking Fatties

by Dr. Deah on Apr.30, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

So, I am  now writing blog posts for several sites. Some are syndicated and some are written specifically for another website. I wrote this blog post for Fierce Freethinking Fatties as one of my “audition” blogs a while ago. I am so excited to now be included as one of their regular blog contributors, and urge our readers to check out their website!  In case people visiting Leftovers To Go, have not  yet wandered on to the FFF site, here is a cross post of my piece for them.  I am hoping that by writing for more than one website, more people will have access to the message of size acceptance and the important work that Leftovers To Go and so many other clinicians, authors, nutritionists, and creative arts therapists are doing to combat and treat eating disorders and body dissatisfaction.


I hate being put “on hold.”  In the old days, of rotary phones, if there was more than one number for the phone, there would be several plastic square buttons lined up underneath the dial.  One of those buttons was red, which was the Hold Button.

As a red-haired impatient kid, when I was on a mission of whatever I perceived was of GRAND importance…which was pretty much EVERYTHING…being told to, “Please hold,” was tantamount to my world screeching to a halt.

As I got older, my patience improved in many aspects of my life, but disliking being put on hold was something I never outgrew. If someone did not have the time to deal with me, in that moment, then why didn’t they just NOT ANSWER THE PHONE??!! 

Time passed and with it the Hold Button morphed into the Call Waiting Click; new label…same result.  I didn’t morph along with it. I was stuck in a time warp still the impatient kid wanting to get something.

For someone who has always hated being on hold, it is ironic how much of my life I spent putting MYSELF on hold.  It was subtle at first.  The weather would start getting warmer and kids would start going to the community pool or the beach (I grew up in New York, not far from the Atlantic Ocean).  I would watch enviously as they rode off on bikes loaded with towels headed for a day of splashing and swimming.  I made up excuses.  “When it gets warmer I’ll go.” When it got warmer I resorted to, “I have a cold, or I get ear aches from swimming.”

Of course the real reason was how much I dreaded having to wear a bathing suit in public. When I was unable to push the Hold Button on going, I yanked out the big gun, “I’m a redhead and I’ll just get sun burned,” excuse.  I wore a giant t-shirt over my hideous, black, one piece bathing suit, explaining, when asked, “It is to protect me or I’ll look like a lobster!”

I tried with all of my might to stay out of sight.  I put endless opportunities of having summer fun on hold because of my body-hate.

I was nine, I was ten, and on into my teens.  I almost didn’t graduate high school because of the swimming requirement in Phys. Ed.

Putting my life on hold became part of how I operated in the world.  “When I lose weight then I will go to that party.  When I lose weight, then I will take that class.  When I lose weight then Davey Bernstein will like me.  When I lose weight, then I will really live the life I want to live.”

How many kids are putting their lives on hold because they are being consumed by such shame and self-hate they don’t give themselves the opportunities to try things; to let go and dive in?

I think the first time I ever felt completely comfortable wearing a bathing suit was when I was pregnant and I had permission to be a fat woman in a bathing suit.  The freedom I experienced was an indescribable joy. I remember at eight months pregnant I could feel my son swimming around inside of me as I was buoyantly bobbing around in the pool, completely un-self-conscious,  no big t shirt, just sun screen and a big grin on my face.

Mommy Hood

I vowed in that moment, to do three things.  The first was that whatever traces of negative feelings I still had about my body; I would NOT push my Hold Button. I would allow my kid to experience the joys of being a kid, even if it meant my wearing a bathing suit in public.

Secondly, that whatever body shape, size or type my child would develop, I would love him unconditionally and do what I could to help him foster love and acceptance for his body. The third and perhaps most challenging commitment, to take an active role in educating others about the damage that size discrimination inflicts on others.  Sometimes, ironically enough, this means asking people to HOLD their tongues and open their minds.  My son is 19 years old now and I am thrilled to say, that he has never put his life on hold, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I did either.

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Go To Hell..th!

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

Re the article on Kelly Osbourne’s yo yo-ing weight in Salon.com I responded:

There is nothing more egregious than a society that promotes eating disorders by selling body dissatisfaction to every single girl and woman in this country every day. When will the media stop obsessing on our bodies and our weights and start focusing on WHAT we are doing? People can be physically healthy at a variety of sizes. If we promoted Health at Every Size (sm) instead of selling a narrow definition of beauty, we would not only be a healthier country physically but our girls’ mental health would improve as well.

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by Dr. Deah on Apr.29, 2011, under Events

David Sirota recently wrote this article in Salon.com about, among other things, how the inclusion of fat men in ad campaigns for weight watchers is a welcome change in the sexist demand that women must be thin but men can be fat.

The response I posted to Mr. Sirota :

I agree with Sirota’s condemnation on the double standard re: men can be fat and women can’t. But, despite Mr. Sirota’s good intentions at leveling the playing field, he is still playing into the hands of the mainstream media that perpetuates a culture that creates and sustains eating disorders. When the camera lens shifts from how fat or thin we are, to whom we are and how healthy we are, only then will this issue be resolved. For anyone that doubts that fat people can be healthy and thin people can be unhealthy, please read Dr. Linda Bacon’s book, Health at Every Size. Yes I know her last name is ironic considering the topic! :D Also check out the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH). The focus needs to be shifted to size/self acceptance and not ridicule, shame, and who is privileged and who isn’t.

Warmly, Dr. Deah Schwartz

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Fierce Freethinking Fatties

by Dr. Deah on Apr.28, 2011, under Events, Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

I am excited to announce that twice a month there will be a special blog post of Tasty Morsels on the F.A. website, Fierce Freethinking Fatties.

Check out today’s post, Global Warfare.

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Recovery for Anorexia is Elusive

by Dr. Deah on Apr.26, 2011, under Events

Abby Ellin’s article on the elusive nature of recovering from anorexia is accurate but one of the true culprits is also elusive; the power of the external influences that fan the flames of the anorexic’s behavior. Once a certain amount of recovery has been attained, maintaining the recovery in the face of the constant pressure to be thin, is a certain recipe for relapse and a key ingredient in recidivism.


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Vanity Sizing…C’mon…REALLY?

by Dr. Deah on Apr.26, 2011, under Events

The fact that they call the inconsistent sizing system VANITY sizing is further proof of our thin obsessed culture. Just being able to SAY you are a smaller size is an ego boost for women…c’mon, REALLY????


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Undercover Agent

by Dr. Deah on Apr.24, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

One of these days the world will be so different that when I wake up in the morning I will be able to go the entire day without finding material for Tasty Morsels, Leftovers To Go’s blog about body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, size discrimination, and fat acceptance.  For a while, as I wean from my “ha-blog-tual” routine, I see myself gleefully writing about these concerns in the past tense. I will have some nostalgic posts on how the paradigm shift finally happened, and the occasional recognition of some of the amazing people that worked diligently to effect the cultural change from oppressive societal governing of our bodies to a world of tolerance and individual choice.

But alas, that day is not here yet and every day blog material collects on my psyche like lint in a lint trap. Case in point:

Recently, I was on an airplane, winging my way to present with the Fat Studies Cohort at the Joint Conference of Popular and American Culture Associations.  I would be one of a scintillating and diverse group of fat activist researchers, professors, artists, and students presenting on the topics of fat/size discrimination and how fat people are perceived, represented and treated vis a vis the global popular culture media. I was nervous, excited, and filled with anticipation of what I would see, experience, learn, and how my presentation would be received by those who attended.  But before that happened, this happened:

I rarely talk about myself in terms of my weight or size because I fiercely believe we are not just numbers on a scale or a BMI measurement. I have been so many weights throughout my life and hence learned who I am on the inside stayed constant despite my weight.  How I was treated by others… THAT was the changing variable.  It is important that I mention for the purpose of this post that currently I am too fat to be labeled thin in this society and too thin to be labeled fat by some in the fat movement.  Add to this the fact that no matter what I weigh some genetic fluke results in my having a pointy face, I can, when sitting down, “pass” as a thinner person.

I can function as a double agent, a secret spy, an undercover operative.

This isn’t the only time in my life that I have functioned in this capacity. When I was a student at the University of New Hampshire, I was one of perhaps ten Jewish students on the campus. Because of my red hair, green eyes, and occasional pint of Guinness Stout in my hand (drinking age back then was 18 so we college girls could drink legally) everyone understandably assumed I was an Irish gal.  Because of this for the first time in my 18 years I heard first hand snide Anti-Semitic comments.  A nudge nudge wink wink in my direction coupled with a comment like, “You know how those Jews are,” or, “All Jews look the same.”  I was stunned and speechless at first.  (Me speechless???  That is rare.)  After a while I was able to shock people by playing along just enough before unveiling the fact that I was Jewish;  thus pointing out how narrow minded and misinformed they were. Still, it was painful to realize that my parent’s stories of Anti-Semites were not just the scars from a bygone era or generation of Holocaust survivors. There were kids my age spewing the same crap on a college campus. I became an activist and an educator.

So there I was on the airplane. Snuggled under the no longer complimentary blanket that I bought last year and bring with me on every flight. Walking down the aisle was a woman with luscious dark curly hair, a bright red t-shirt that happily boasted of a white water rafting achievement, and a standard size roller bag to put in the overhead compartment.

She stopped at the row in front of mine and began struggling to put her bag in the bin.  She was about five feet tall and was having difficulty managing the task. No one offered to help her. I could not help her because I was in the window seat boxed in by two other passengers. The person next to me rolled his eyes and commented to me, “It figures she’d have such a large bag, her clothes must be gigantic!”

I began to respond just as she finally managed to get her suitcase situated, take her seat, when another woman came down the aisle. She had luscious dark curly hair, sported a blue t-shirt from Michigan and had a standard size roller bag. She was about five feet tall and as she struggled with her bag three people jumped up to help her.

By the time the “tumult” subsided the person sitting next to me was plugged into his ear buds and the moment to reveal my secret identity and challenge his prejudice had passed. Needless to say I was left with an all too familiar feeling of anger, sadness, fatigue, and resolve to keep trying to make changes to these attitudes and assumptions. I mean honestly, the ONLY visible difference between the two women struggling with their bags was their weight and the fatter woman received negative comments and no help while the thinner woman was pampered and catered to because somehow she was more deserving of the help.

When we were deplaning, the man sitting next to me took his standard size roller bag out of the overhead bin. I raised my eyebrows and started to say, “Looks like you have the same size bag that she has, what is your excuse for its size?” But he quickly traipsed down the aisle leaving me wanting to scream, “Figures you’d have such a large bag your egotistical, judgmental attitude must take up a lot of space!”

But this one got away leaving me fortunately and unfortunately with material for yet another blog.

And I headed out to San Antonio hungrily anticipating being with and learning from like-minded people who would help anyone struggling with a suitcase no matter how much they weighed.

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Why Is Tonight Different From All Other Nights?

by Dr. Deah on Apr.18, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

Passover is one of the many Jewish Holidays that is celebrated with a ritual feast. A feast filled with symbolic foods and a prescribed schedule for when to eat which foods.  Depending upon how observant the participants are, there is a wide range of recipes for the ritual readings at a Passover Seder. Some read from ancient texts, others from more progressive versions. Some are tailored for passionate political discussion, others for children with short attention spans.  Despite the diversity of the Seder itself, there are at least three specific commonalities adhered to by the most liberal and orthodox Jewish celebrants.

There is no leavening used in any of the meals, there are at least four cups of wine, and when it is time to eat, there are no restrictions on how much you can eat.

As a kid growing up, dieting and caloric restrictions were an everyday part of my life. I was surrounded by dieters. The youngest of three girls, my two older sisters always dieted and both of my parents did as well.  The diets never really seemed to work, none of us were thin.  My mother often chortled, “Imagine how fat we would all be if we didn’t diet?”  And of course I believed her and followed suit.

Many young girls that diet wind up becoming sneak eaters and I was no different. Because we are forced to satisfy our hunger and cravings privately, we develop the notion that we are beasts with insatiable appetites.  Our appetite for food is freakish and our need to satiate this hunger is so strong we must adopt furtive methods of feeding that monster.  It is a double bind.  We feel weak in our inability to resist the urges to eat the “bad” food and yet the part of us that is demanding the food is a formidable foe of great strength and power.  We are split and fractured around food.

Passover and other food centric holidays present a double bind for people already struggling with feelings about how and what they eat, how and what they don’t eat and how and what they would like to eat if they were allowed to eat how and what they wanted to eat.


The Double Bind of Feasts as Rituals

The week before The Seder, we obsessed over what to wear. An unsanctioned but equally predictable ritual of Passover was: 

The Body Scan; everyone checking you out to see how you “measured up” to the last time you were all together.  In my family, despite the fact that very few of us were thin, there was still a hierarchy within the ranks that clearly labeled the “Always Thin” relatives as the better ones. The praise and attention was lavished on them. The jealousy dripped like honey.

Then there were the “Always Fats.”  They were already “fats de complis.” They would always be fat and that was that, those poor people.

Newly Thins” were the ones I envied the most.  The attention they received, the fawning, the exclamations of, “How did you do it? You look amazing!” They were the stars of the night. Somehow they had conquered the beast, they had become successful.

Conversely, the lowest caste of the crew was reserved for the “YO YO’s,” those who had lost but gained their weight back plus more. The tsks tsks and cluck clucks of the tongues, the subtle shakes of the heads, the implied message of, “If I had lost that weight I would have kept it off,”… or more blatantly, “I knew she or he couldn’t do it.” They were the ones my heart ached for and the club I dreaded ever joining. (Of course I was in and out of that club numerous times until I realized that it was the dieting that was creating the largest part of my problem).

So I would go to Seders ready for my “close ups Mr. De Mille,” and often encased in tight body control top pantyhose literally binding my belly. But the second bind of the double bind was not far away.  After the reading of the ritual story of Passover, the feast would commence. Places everyone!  But wait!  It was as if they had replaced the cast with all new people and all new scripts.

All of a sudden size or weight was inconsequential.  There was a resounding chorus of, “Eat eat!” And, “Have more, what you don’t like my matzo balls?  This is no time to diet, this is Passover, forget about it for just one night, you look fine!”  And for the next couple of hours I felt normal. I felt happy. I felt I could eat with abandon and enjoyment. I could savor the pleasure of food, slowly, languidly and not worry whether I was leaving crumbs behind like a guilty Gretel who subconsciously wanted to get caught eating Ring Dings in her bedroom.

I didn’t feel insatiable, or monstrous.

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Because on this night I’m allowed to eat my fill in public, without guilt, with enjoyment and with self-acceptance.

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Seven year old & plastic surgery? A Missed Teachable Moment

by Dr. Deah on Apr.16, 2011, under Events

Plastic surgery for a seven year old?? My response to the article in the Huffington Post:

Perhaps if the mom started giving presentations to PTA’s everywhere explaining the lengths she felt forced to go to in order to protect her child from being bullied then perhaps something positive could come out of this horrific coping mechanism chosen as a proactive interventi­on for her daughter being bullied. Otherwise, it is a teachable moment missed and no lessons taught to or learned by anyone at the expense of a seven year old’s physical discomfort. Once again the bullies receive the reinforcem­ent that their perception is correct and once again the bullies win. Warmly, Dr. Deah Schwartz, Leftovers To Go.com.

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May 6th: International No Diet Day

by Dr. Deah on Apr.16, 2011, under Events

Started in 1992 by Mary Evans Young of Britain, The International No Diet Day (INDD) is an annual celebration of body acceptance and body shape diversity. This day is also dedicated to promoting a healthy life style and raise awareness of the dangers and futility of dieting. International No Diet Day is observed on May 6, and its symbol is a blue ribbon.  There are several goals to the INDD:

  • Doubt the idea of one “right” body shape.
  • Raise awareness to weight discrimination, size bias and fatphobia.
  • Declare a free day from diets and obsessions to body weight.
  • Present the facts about the diet industry, emphasizing the inefficacy of commercial diets.
  • Show how diets perpetuate violence against women.
  • Honor the victims of eating disorders
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