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Beauty is not about how skinny you are.

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Stylist to the stars Patricia Field (she of Sex in the City fame) has an oh so cool web site promoting must have items for budding fashionistas. One item, the Trash and Luxury Celebrity Diet shirt is described as: 

Another amazing celeb inspired tee. The celebrity diet, and our diet. Complete with a balanced cigarette, and some pills… any pills.”

Meanwhile the gossip mag’s tell us Hollywood’s latest must-do diet is the baby food diet. Stars reportedly swap real meals for baby food as it is lower in kilojoules, high in protein, and comes in small servings. Is the price for fortune and fame now Farax?

It is just not Hollywood stars, who bank on their looks quite literally, who are obsessed with the elusive body beautiful. Many of us have dieting down to an art form too; substituting real food for cigarettes, pills, and faddish concoctions. Purging through vomiting, laxatives, surgery.

Health experts warn we are simultaneously in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Our relationship with food, which surely should be so simple, seems to have become incredibly complex. Up to 39% of the population may be overweight, but eating disorders are widespread too and although they affect people of all ages and both sexes, they are more common in adolescent girls and young women. It is estimated that between 2-5% of all teenage girls fit the diagnostic criteria for anorexia and bulimia. However, the true estimate is probably much higher – many cases of bulimia in particular go undetected and some recent studies have shown the true estimate may be as high as one in five amongst the student population.

Tragically, all this dieting and suffering does not even work. Ninety five percent of people who go on weight loss diets (including commercial diets) regain all the weight they have lost plus more within two years. No wonder the weight loss industry is worth billions of dollars each year: once its slave, we are forever in its service.

In her book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters American author Courtney Martin believes women now see our bodies as the enemy. She laments that fact that hating one’s body has become a rite of passage: “We can be well educated, creative, capable, experienced, and still not have the capacity to figure out how to free ourselves from guilt over every little thing we out in our mouths.”

How did this happen? Is this ok with everyone?

Back at home displaying the new normality of hating one’s body is ok as long as it rates. The Australian version of the ultimate diet show, The Biggest Loser, is cranking up for its 2008 launch with promo ads that show sad, lonely looking people – depicted in shades of grey – wanting what seems to me to be far more than just a healthy body. The ad that really struck me featured contestant Nicola; “I just want to be like every other girl.”

I have no doubt that Nicola will loose weight – dramatically. Yes, after much blood, sweat tears and a good dose of public humiliation she will get her reveal. But will she get the acceptance and love she so obviously craves? The irony is that Nicola is already like every other girl – she sees her body as the enemy.

The Biggest Loser’s theme song this year is Beck’s “Everyone’s Gotta Learn Sometimes.” The verse includes the lyrics “I need your lovin’ like the sunshine.” Isn’t that what we all really crave – love?

Some of us just get lost and think we may find love in food and then get even more bewildered when we listen to society tell us we will find it only through our hunger. The link between our emotions and our diet is nothing new yet it seems to be largely ignored by all the hype that surrounds each seductive promise of a new life through a new body.

Skinny is fine, but it doesn’t guarantee you happiness or love.

Four Year old Sophia believes that skinny won’t even guarantee you beauty:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/fULtU2NfPQA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Forget carb counting and body fat index ratios. Maybe there are more important lessons we need to learn about ourselves first before we can ever be truly beautiful.

This blog post is based on a piece I wrote that was featured in the Opinion section of the Sydney Morning Herald today (29/1/08): The burden of treating girl's bodies as the enemy.  

Published inBeauty IndustryBody ImageEating DisordersFashion Industry

3 Comments

  1. Sonia Lyne

    Wonderful … wonderful … wonderful. Danni a brilliant article and the youtube clip is just icing on the cake. After reading your article/post I was overwhelmed with a big YES … love and acceptance of oneself is what is needed first and foremost. As the gorgoeus little girl says … “There will never be another you!”

  2. Jane Higgins

    When I look at my friends I NEVER see their body or their face. I see their soul – their heart – their spirit of friendship. Beauty is not about Kgs, cms, or size, its about who you are, what you offer the world and how you carry your self.

    As Dannielle points out that …. “Some of us just get lost and think we may find love in food and then get even more bewildered when we listen to society tell us we will find it only through our hunger.” I for one, don’t want to find love in my food or in the lack of it. I want to reach inside of me to find my beauty. I wish this for you too.

  3. Storm Greenhill-Brown

    What a beautiful response Jane! Dannielle’s article is so timely after having read a piece in the weekend edition of “The Courier Mail” about the “ugly game of cyber scorn” that is conducted in a blog entitled “Gossip Girl”. “Gossip Girl” spreads nasty rumours and activates smear campaigns about other teenage girls- who’s having sex, taking drugs and so on. The focus on friendship, respect and inner beauty is thwarted as girls compete with each other to do or dob in the game of destructive behaviours. Why do these girls participate in such fierce warfare to destroy each other’s self-worth and identity? Why don’t they see that they could be so much stronger as collaborators? When girls (and women) stuggle with these complex issues food is often the fuel that fills the void when our self-love is eroded. As women we need to unpack this before our daughters,students and nieces can.

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