a teenage girl you know. Almost any girl will do. Ask her to describe
are she’ll begin by telling you what’s wrong with it. Maybe her
waist is too thick, maybe her eyes are too far apart, or perhaps she
feels her belly isn’t flat enough. Maybe she thinks her calves
aren’t shapely or her behind is too big.
are good that she will not volunteer what she likes about her
her good health, a feature she may overlook or take for granted. The
responses will likely be negative because—sorry
culture values thinness over health. If you doubt me, look at the
advertisements targeted at teens and young women in fashion magazines
and other media.
the recitation of her body’s perceived shortcomings isn’t a
teenage girl’s isolated response to your question. Indeed, she
hears a voice expressing this critical view every time she looks in
the mirror, undresses in physical education class or sees an
ultra-thin model in a magazine or on television. Constantly comparing
herself to the manufactured ideal, she is bound to fall short.
multiply this emotional reality by thousands of teenage girls and
young women. Recognizing the reality—that
this debilitating self-talk is going on all around us—makes
the presence of adolescent eating disorders and obesity far more
Stice created the Body Positive program, based on 16 years of
research of over a thousand adolescent girls. The results were
reported in Endocrine
The eating disorder program—Body
four one-hour sessions per week in which participants learned to
challenge pressures to be thin to reduce body dissatisfaction and
eating disorder symptoms.
Young girls assigned to the Body
Project program demonstrated significantly greater decreases in
thin-ideal internalization, body dissatisfaction and psychosocial
impairments compared with assessment-only controls and expressive
writing controls. These girls also showed a 60 percent reduction in
risk for eating pathology onset.
contacted Dr. Stice and shared the details of our local project—the
Nevada County Meltdown—during
which over a thousand people lost nearly four tons in eight weeks.
He responded with further explanation of his intervention models:
think there are some similarities in what you did and what we do in
our intervention, but some differences too. It sounds like both
interventions involved taking a public stance on making healthy
changes, which makes it much more likely that we will follow through
on our behavioral change intentions (e.g., to exercise more).
is where doing something at a community level may be much more
effective than doing it at an individual level. However, each of
our two interventions involved other elements. (We compared two
interventions to two control conditions in our trial.)
the Healthy Weight program, adolescent girls and young women also
committed to healthy improvements to their diets (e.g., eating less
high-fat, high-sugar foods and more fruits and vegetables).
other intervention, which is the one you were asking about, gave
these young women a chance to think about the costs of pursuing the
thin ideal espoused by our mass media. This is where the body
activism element comes in, wherein youth do something to challenge
the pressures for thinness that are directed at young women in our
both programs, the girls were taught to appreciate their bodies,
whatever the size or shape.
Stice’s interventions resonate with me for many reasons, but
primarily because in the second model, participants are encouraged to
become active interventionists in the lives of others. After
the girls have undergone counseling on their self-image to understand
how they acquired it and how the media affects their
are expected to help others avoid the same trap.
the second model, as Dr. Stice explains, the girls were encouraged to
engage in body
such as slipping notes
in diet books in bookstores or leaving notes on bathroom mirrors
encouraging other girls to appreciate their bodies. By engaging in
counterculture acts of nonviolent activism, the girls challenge the
notion that thinness is the greatest value and simultaneously
reinforce their personal commitment to a healthy and fit body.
these girls take this additional step, they risk slipping back into
the "thin is beautiful" view and once again becoming
critical of their bodies.
the conclusion I came to regarding my own fitness efforts. To simply
work on my own personal fitness is not enough. I must go beyond my
own needs and help others achieve their fitness goals, which is why I
include “recruit or regress” in the seven steps I outline for
personal transformation and community programs in From
Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction.Actively
promoting fitness is a wonderful contribution to make to others and
wonderful gift to give ourselves.
my memory is playing tricks, choosing what to eat is more complicated
than ever. Only yesterday, it seems, arguments focused on which diet
was preeminent, and most of the heated discussion involved how best
to trigger weight loss.
it Dr. Dean Ornish’s low-fat diet or the Atkins
limited-sugar-and-carbohydrate diet? Was it the Weight Watchers
program or the Zone, a diet that relies on a strict formula balancing
fat, carbohydrates and proteins? How effective was the Perricone
Prescription diet that focuses on eating foods containing
antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, olive oil and
salmon, while avoiding foods high on the glycemic index? Various
versions of vegetarianism were also debated, along with lesser-known
diets, such as the macrobiotic diet and the raw-food diet.
retrospect, the heated debates among the proponents of the various
diets seem almost irrelevant, as if they belong in a history book
where stories of past events are dustily stored. I say that because
today’s issues regarding food choices seem far more serious in
choices also raise ethical
example, should we buy coffee that is not fairly traded? Should we
buy produce that is brought to market by underpaid field hands
working in unsafe and unsanitary conditions? These and other ethical
issues are discussed in a position paper originating with the Food
and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
as medicine also represents a profound change in how we view eating.
For example, we’re encouraged to consume sufficient phytonutrients
to maintain our health. What are phytonutrients?
The term covers a host of classes of plants, from carotenoids to
flavonoids, saponins and terpenes. (Clears that up, right?) To
understand these complex issues, you almost need to be a chemist or
registered dietitian to be certain you are consuming sufficient
speaking of adequacy of food, heated discussions on the nutritional
value of organic versus nonorganic food
are underway, along with the issue of natural versus bioengineered
meat and produce. Yet a more far-reaching issue is just now
introduction of nanotechnology
into food processing and packaging. Nestle, Altria, H. J. Heinz and
Unilever, along with lesser-known companies, are investing millions
of dollars to create foods with enhanced flavor and nutrition that
carry medicines and vitamin supplements. These companies anticipate
that foods incorporating nanotechnology will be more easily produced
and less costly.
the middle of this tidal wave of issues, we are confronted with an
even more compelling issue: the impact of food choices on the
environment, based on the connection between food production and
of us are consciously working to lighten our fitness footprint. We
don’t need to become obsessive orthorexics
fixated on righteous eating, but we can take steps to lighten our
carbon foodprint while getting FIT:
the seasons when choosing foods.Find
local growers and purchase regional and seasonal foods for your
eating before you are full—eat
meatless and dairy-free recipes featuring grains and vegetables into
your diet. Invent
creative ways to use leftovers so food is not wasted. Investigate
composting and consider raising your own vegetables and fruit.
T:Tabulatethe impact ofyour
the challenge of making changes to reduce your foodprint.
Teach yourself and
others about the importance of making informed food choicesand their impact on
bite we eat—or don’t eat—affects not only the bathroom scale
but also the environment. We can lighten both by making
environment-friendly food choices part of our daily routine. Adopting
this approach will lighten our carbon foodprint and help Mother Earth
Why not take the same passion you
have for your favorite hobby, whether it’s making that gorgeous
angora sweater or putting your precious memories into a travel
scrapbook, and turn it into losing pounds and staying fit?
Actually, it makes lots of sense.
That’s because the aspects of crafting that make a project
rewarding can also serve you well in slimming down and getting FIT:
F: Fun. The creative process is intrinsically
satisfying. Creating recipes that are enjoyable to eat but don’t
pack on pounds is similar to the process used for quilting or
scrapbooking. Experimenting with different kinds of exercises, the
same way you may experiment with different colors, fabrics and
designs, brings the same satisfaction.
I: Individualized.Just as each project
is unique, each person is unique. You select just the right fabric or
materials, decide when and where to begin and then have patience as
you complete the project. You can use a similar approach for your
fitness efforts: choose the activities that you want to incorporate
into your healthier lifestyle, decide what to do first and then
patiently enjoy the process as well as the results.
T: Together.Crafters don’t make projects
solely for their own enjoyment. They may create quilts as heirlooms
for family members or make doll beds, scarves or bathrobes to give to
friends. They are creating a legacy to leave behind. When you take
steps to get fit, you become an example of healthy living to those
around you, silently promoting fitness wherever you go.
So even when
you’re not holding a hot glue gun, you can be creative. Your next
project? Crafting a healthy body.
the future, our wealth may depend upon our health. That’s because
one of the unfortunate by-products of being overweight and out of
shape is the risk of increased medical expenses.
According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common medical problems
disease, diabetes, stroke and some forms of cancer)
are linked with excess weight and lack of fitness.
to census data through 2006, nearly
people aged 19 to 29 had no health insurance. This number represents
an increase of 400,000 in one year (from 2005 to 2006). By
extrapolating the trend through 2009, we can assume that the number
of uninsured is approaching or has exceeded 15 million.
I lost weight and renovated my lifestyle, I’ve voluntarily
undertaken the task of encouraging everyone—independent
adopt healthy habits. Sometimes I appeal to people’s vanity—Iencourage individuals
to think how much better they will feel and look if they lose weight
and exercise regularly.
though, the economics of healthcare makes the most compelling
argument: we can’t afford the option of not being fit. The medical
costs associated with disease and illness are simply beyond the reach
of millions of us. In the face of that difficult reality, to enhance
our wealth, we must preserve our health.
our age, the answer is a resounding yes. I worry about developing
dementia or Alzheimer’s disease every time I lose my car keys and
spend an hour retracing my steps. I haven’t found my keys in the
freezer yet, but I have found them in the trunk of the car, where I
must have laid them while unloading groceries.
take my memory for granted until it breaks down, as it does when I
lose my keys or, more poignantly, when I spend time with my daughter,
me explain. Several years ago, as Jamie was checking out of a motel
during a business trip, she suffered cardiac arrest. Until rescue
workers could restart her heart, her body was without oxygen. During
the critical moments when Jamie hovered between life and death, the
section of her brain that stores memories was damaged.
condition makes me acutely aware of how much I rely on memory to
accomplish the simplest of tasks. To cook, I have to remember what I
am making, what the ingredients are, whether I’ve added them, how
long the food has been cooking and what time it will be done. When I
shower, I have to remember that I’ve just washed my hair so I won’t
wash it again.
rehabilitation, Jamie has developed various systems to help her cope
with her inability to recall information. Even so, the lack of memory
is a serious handicap. Seeing the obstacles she faces as she moves
through her daily routine reinforces my commitment to maintain my
I can take steps to remain alert. Drs.
Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden
report the results of three critical studies that link surplus
weight, high cholesterol and lack of exercise with an increased risk
of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
study of 9,000 people in northern California found that high
cholesterol is linked with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A
second study of over 800 patients by Do You Want Excellent Memory, Mental Clarity and Brain Power?Mayo Clinic researchers found
that even moderate physical exercise reduces the risk of cognitive
decline. And a third study of over 6,000 people by Kaiser Permanente
found that the more belly fat people have, the more likely they are
to suffer dementia.
on this research, here are three preventative measures I can take to
preserve my memory today for the tomorrows to come:
a healthy cholesterol level.
regularly and stay fit.
my weight in the normal range.
fact that we are never too young or too old to reap the mental
benefits of a healthy lifestyle is wonderful news for all of us.