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Archive for June, 2011

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by Dr. Deah on Jun.25, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

Sometimes I wish I was not so aware.  Some of my friends are getting a bit tired of my hyper awareness; because it makes them hyper aware; which sometimes can be a bit of a “buzz kill.”  But I yam who I yam

and until I find a mellower middle ground, I am doomed to notice things that may not be as big of a deal as I think they are.

Or are they?

Case in point:  I don’t go to the movies very often but my son is home from college for the summer and we went to see the movie, Super 8. In an otherwise adorable perfect summer film filled with fluffy fodder, this moment stuck out like a sore thumb.


In the film, there is a bit of a Junior High School crush triangle going on involving two boys enamored with the same girl.  The girl (Alice, played by Elle Fanning) is, not surprisingly, long legged, blonde, rail thin, and drop dead gorgeous.  She is also smart and a wonderful young actor!

One of the boys is fat (Charles, played by Riley Griffiths) and the other boy (Joe, played by Joel Courtney) is not.

Zoom in on the fat boy confessing to the thin boy that he has a huge crush on the girl and how jealous he is that the girl likes the thinner boy.  As Charles confides in Joe, he explains that the reason Alice must like Joe more is because Joe is not fat.   Along with the blame Charles assigns to his body is the indication that his fatness is temporary.  He says something like, “My doctor said I haven’t leaned out yet…but I will in a couple of years.”


The entire scene must have taken about two minutes max; yet lingered in my mind for the duration of the film, and obviously long after or I wouldn’t be writing about it.  I don’t want to belabor the point especially because most of the people reading this post already have some compassion about why this may have bothered me so much.

So I will be brief.

What irked me the most was the matter of fact way the assumption was presented.  The assumption being that Alice liked Joe more because Charles was fat. There was no chance that it may have been about Alice having a preference for one personality over another.

And the mention of the soon to come leaning out by the doctor added insult to injury by reinforcing that a fat phase is just some horrible rite of passage to get through before you could live the good life of the thin person and get the girl.

This movie was, in many ways, a delightful spoof of old movies; a combination of The Goonies, Stand by Me, Close Encounters, E.T. and Aliens.  And I know it was supposed to be taking place circa mid-1980.  Still, it had an opportunity NOT to reiterate the assumption that ONLY thin kids are crush worthy.

With all of the focus these days on obese babies, obese children, obese teens, and obese adults, this scene hit home rather hard. Fat is presented as something that must be overcome if true happiness is to be achieved.  Once again, stereotypes in contemporary movies are being reinforced instead of challenged and broken.  Damn my hyper-awareness, but I feel that film makers have the rare opportunity to model and perhaps redefine what people are attracted to in another person.  It is disappointing that they continue to make the same superficial predictable choices over and over again.  How about if we do another take?


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The Diet Industry is Claiming the Babies!

by Dr. Deah on Jun.24, 2011, under Events

What is next?  Invitro-Systems…Pre-packaged diet food meals for pregnant soon to be mothers??



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Nolose Gathering!

by Dr. Deah on Jun.24, 2011, under Events

The Nolose gathering is in Oakland July 8-10th.  To register and find out more about the event please visit:


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Too Fat to Play Dress-UP-The Witching Hour!

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

“Six Year Old Girl Worries She is Fat.”  As I read the article that described the unfortunate state of affairs that has six year olds already hating their bodies and feeling fat, I couldn’t help notice the irony.   The article which cautions against the toxicity of the media’s endless message that girls and women must be thin is flanked with pictures of half naked women pulling tape measures around their waists;  promoting the latest diet fad.

But this warning about younger fat phobic girls is nothing new to anyone who has been paying attention to eating disorders and body image trends among children over the past few decades.

In the late 1970′s I had a job at a preschool program in Marin, California.  It was my first time working with kids that young and I was excited to add that age group to my repertoire.  The kids were totally adorable and wide open to trying all of my theater, art, movement, and recreational activities. The lack of inhibition was so refreshing especially compared to the adolescent population I had spent the previous several years working with at my last job.

These 3-5 year old children, in retrospect, reminded me of that greeting card that was so popular a few years ago. It was something like, “Dance as if no one is looking, sing as if no one is listening…etc.”  They were fearless, spontaneous and trusting.  With one exception.

During the course of the “school-day” there was a free-play time.  Stations were set up around the class room and the kids could choose an activity at any of the stations.  Free-play was justified by the staff as age appropriate, designed to foster decision making skills, improve social interaction and leisure awareness.  And it was supposed to be fun!  One of the stations was a dress up corner over flowing with an extensive array of costumes, props and a few mirrors for admiring outfits.

My personal memories of dressing up as a little kid were wonderful especially in juxtaposition to my later years of torment in real life dressing rooms; those furtive embarrassing visits to Lane Bryant in order to find something that would fit.  As a three-five year old, I savored the opportunities at my preschool to transform into a pirate, cowgirl, and of course the ultimate dress-up op…a princess.  It WAS fun!

The first time I heard Jenny (not her real name) say, “No” to an invitation to play dress-up I didn’t pay much attention. She had been completely absorbed, in that tongue-out-of-the-mouth completely focused way that preschoolers have, with a Play-Doh(tm) machine.  Squishing the red dough out in spaghetti strands, the blue dough out in long fat cylinders and squealing with delight as the green dough emerged in heart shaped noodles.  She probably would have said, “No!” to pony rides in that moment, so I thought.

As the weeks passed, however, I noticed that the only station she NEVER visited was the dress-up corner even though from time to time I would see her sneaking glimpses of the other kids as they danced around with an abandon that would have put Salome to shame. After a while the other kids stopped asking her to join them in rifling through the trunks and racks of clothing, it was understood that Jenny just did not “Do Dress Up.”

If Jenny had been a noticeably “overweight” kid, I may have had some clue as to the reason behind her reluctance.  But Jenny was a solid, athletic, and active child; so if it hadn’t been for our end of the year production for the parents, I never would have known the “WHY?”

We were getting ready for our extravaganza and all of the kids were putting on their hats, funny noses, boas, feathers and costumes.  Jenny was standing off to the side, fussing with a witch’s dress…tugging…pulling…frowning…forehead knitted…I came up next to her with a hat for her outfit.  She looked at me as she took the hat and said, “Am I fat in this dress?”

My heart sank.  This had been the reason all of these months to avoid the Dress-Up corner and now it was wheedling in on her ability to enjoy the end of the year showcase!  There was so much I wanted to say, starting with, “Even if the dress did make you look fat, why is that bad?”  Or, “Is this what you see your mom do when she is getting dressed in front of the mirror?” Or, “Yes, you look like a big fat fabulous witch, woo hoo!”   But I just looked into her five year old eyes, knowing that this was one of those teachable moments and not knowing what to say.

I turned her away from the mirror, zipped up the dress, put the hat on her head and as I began painting her face green I said, “That dress makes you look like a scary witch, it’s perfect!”

She visibly relaxed and so did I.

We walked towards the others holding hands, “Now let’s hear your cackle!” 

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Happy Father’s Day

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

It’s Father’s Day and for many daughters, their first mirrors reflecting their appearance are their fathers. On this day of tipping our hats and hearts to our dads, I also ask dads to remember that their daughter’s beauty and worth are not measured in dress sizes and pounds on the scale.

Dr. Kenneth Weiner writes about the prevalence of eating disorders among adolescent girls and offers the following two pieces of advice to fathers and mothers:

  • Focus on who your child is, not what they are. Many children and adolescents struggling with eating disorders don’t feel very good about themselves, despite how perfectionist or accomplished they may be. Focusing on a child’s self-esteem and sense of self, and not their accomplishments or how they look, can help lay a critical foundation for avoiding child eating disorders and setting the stage for positive teen body image.
  • Never put your child on a diet. Simply put, diets don’t work. The surge in popularity of dieting is largely a byproduct of the obese society we live in, and while we need a “war on obesity” in this country, children and teens predisposed to or struggling with eating disorders are often the collateral damage of obesity prevention efforts. When these kids go on a diet, it’ll almost always activate the latent genetic predisposition that sets them up to have an eating disorder.


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A Matter of Choice?

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

I was waiting in line at the grocery store behind a woman who was thumbing through a magazine and talking on her cell phone.  I was relatively engrossed in a crossword puzzle until I heard her say,

“I am too thin, or I would go in a minute.”

It is rare that I hear someone bemoan their thinness, let alone hearing thinness used in a sentence where it seems to be a deterrent from doing something!  I began shamelessly eavesdropping. 

“I mean it just isn’t fair, if only I was fatter.” Pause….

“Well I suppose I could just gain 30-50 pounds and then try!”

It was almost her turn to check out and she began placing her groceries on the conveyer belt.  Most of her items were recognizable diet foods.  Cottage cheese, celery, reduced-fat popcorn…clearly she wasn’t going to gain 30 pounds with this shopping list.

“I mean it just isn’t right. I’ve been dieting forever and just can’t get thin.  Barb is huge and can just go in there and get it done and now she will be thinner than me.”

She placed a package of Weight Watcher’s blueberry muffins on the counter with just a tad too much emphasis.  The cardboard box crumpled a bit and the belt moved forward.  I felt like a character from CSI or some other detective show as I stealthily began edging closer to her, now unloading my cart, and trying to piece together the clues from just one side of a conversation.

I looked at her face to see if there were signs of sarcasm or mockery. But all I saw was the face of a woman that appeared truly disheartened.

“I know I know, maybe they’ll lower the weight requirement at some point like they did the age.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?”

My stomach sank. Clearly this woman was discussing some kind of Bariatric surgery, and most likely lap band surgery. It was so sad to hear her envy and anger that she was too thin to be a candidate for the surgery when clearly she felt too fat to be happy.

I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder and tell her she was fine just the way she was and that Lap Band Surgery wouldn’t magically transform her into someone that would love her body, even if she attained the magical number on the scale that she was chasing after.

“Do you think insurance pays for it?”  Pause Pause

“Ooops, my turn to pay, see-ya later.”

She hung up the phone and was paying her bill.

Of course I didn’t say anything; I just wasn’t feeling that bold, or intrusive. But obviously the makers of the Lap Band aren’t having a problem with their blatant intrusiveness.  Ads on the radio and giant billboards are proliferating like mushrooms all preaching the virtues of the Lap Band as a way to happiness and self-love.  Their jingle, like chalk on a blackboard, is being played on so many of my favorite radio stations I have called in my complaints and started revisiting my old CD collection.

Then I came across this “political campaign” to end obesity.  Deceptively labeled the CHOICE campaign, it didn’t seem to be offering any choice at all except to fit into one acceptable size category.  I read the call to action more thoroughly, and was outraged to find it was actually an advertisement for Lap Band Surgery cleverly camouflaged and embedded into what appeared to be a political petition writing campaign meant to benefit the public.

Saying this tactic is insidious is an understatement, saying we need to increase our vigilance and awareness is obvious. Getting active is imperative. We really have NO CHOICE. 



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Research study on weight bias seeking participants

by Dr. Deah on Jun.14, 2011, under Events

Hi. I am a student researcher at Bastyr University and would like to learn more about the effects of weight bias on the health and well-being of people of size. I am seeking participants to complete a series of online questionnaires about their experiences of weight bias. Research is always voluntary!

This study might be a good fit for you if:
You are an adult age 18-75
You consider yourself a person of size
You are considered overweight (BMI ¡Ý 25kg/m2) or obese (BMI ¡Ý 30kg/m2)
You have been considered in the overweight or obese BMI category for more than 1 year.

If you decide to take part in the search study, you would be asked to fill out a brief demographic questionnaire and 5 research questionnaires. It will take about 30 minutes to complete.

The first 200 participants who complete the surveys will receive a $5 online gift card for amazon.com to thank them for their time.

Your participation will contribute to increasing awareness about the effects of weight bias on the health and well being of people of size.

To take part in this research study follow this link https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/survey_weight_bias

Or for more information, please contact Bonnie at [email protected]

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So You Say You Can WHAT??

by Dr. Deah on Jun.14, 2011, under Events

So the title on this link provided by Comcast was: “Plus Sized Dancer Wows the Crowd.” Why can’t it just say Dancer?? Why the shock and disbelief??? 

The woman is a phenomenal dancer period!  She is NOT phenomenal because she is NOT a size 4.



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Bariatric Surgery and Doctor Discrimination

by Dr. Deah on Jun.13, 2011, under Events

Here are two articles that I found informative.  One is about how Bariatric Surgery may cause an intensification of disordered eating by treating the “fat” and NOT the attachment to food.   This article points out how the emotional side of eating does not get cured simply by having W.L.S. and how undergoing the surgery without looking at the triggers/etiology of binge eating and other disordered eating patterns may exacerbate the disordered eating into full blown eating disorders.

The second article is sadly about how doctors frequently discriminate against fat female patients.


Doctor Discrimination:  http://www.prevention.com/health/health/healthy-living/weight-and-obesity-discrimination-from-doctors/article/30a54c9d7bd10310VgnVCM10000030281eac____

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by Dr. Deah on Jun.09, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz


What if I told you an obscene amount of girls between the ages of three and sixteen are being abused against their will and that:

  • The victims are unwilling and passive?
  • The targets of the abuse are the bodies of the victims?

What if I told you the collateral damage of the abuse includes:

  • Increased feelings of self-hatred and damaged self esteem?
  • Development of guilt feelings and self-blame?
  • Development of maladaptive behaviors in order to cope with the abuse (e.g., restrictive or binge eating)?
  • Disassociation from the body?

What if I told you that frequently, adults stand by and do not intervene?

Most of you would be fairly certain that I was talking about sexual abuse.  And you wouldn’t be completely incorrect. When a girl is sexually abused, she is an unwilling victim who paradoxically feels guilty and blames herself.

Because the abuse is focused on her body, she develops ways to disassociate from her body and distance others from her body. And, unfortunately, all too often the abuse is not noticed and/or perpetuated by adults around her.

But there is another form of abuse directed towards girls and their bodies.

Size-u-al Abuse.

From the time girls are old enough to watch television, they are told via cartoons, TV shows, movies, and commercials that they need to look a certain way in order to be pretty, popular and loved.

They have no choice but to absorb these messages. They are too young to choose the media messages they want to be exposed to and once they are old enough to know what is going on, there are few opposing views available. By the time a girl is in her teens, her belief system has been powerfully molded by the verbal and visually powerful message: that in order to fit in she needs to conform to a very narrow definition of what makes a female beautiful.

Let’s forget for a moment the disproportionate emphasis on the importance of appearance as a measure of success in the world. (That alone is inexcusable… it’s 2011 for cryin’ out loud!)

But given the sad reality that physical looks are the primary asset of a girl’s success… to then establish unattainable criteria for beauty is doubly reprehensible. The end result is a multitude of girls and women suffering from body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, and low self-esteem.

Even girls and women that are able to fight back and resist the size-u-al discrimination and abuse, often have to spend enormous amounts of energy to convince others that she is not just over-compensating for how she REALLY feels about her herself. Holding the course of self-acceptance when you are not “perfect” requires constant vigilance, strength and determination. 

The bottom line is that size-u-al abuse, while not officially named in our culture, is prevalent and frequently unchallenged. The outcome is not pretty. The loss to our society is downright ugly. And for a society that is so obsessed with appearance, you would think that the unattractiveness of the situation would motivate cultural changes that are not merely superficial.

The beauty of the situation? It is NOT too late to get to work on changing the cultural norms and assumptions that discriminate against anyone that doesn’t fit into the popular cultural parameters of beauty and health.


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