Thin and salvation

By Michelle M. Lelwicaprofessor, Concordia College A few weeks ago, Ralph Lauren made the news with an altered ad that … Continued

By Michelle M. Lelwica
professor, Concordia College

A few weeks ago, Ralph Lauren made the news with an altered ad that featured a model with giraffe-like legs and hips so narrow that her head seemed oddly oversized. Though the image ran only in Japan, media critics in the west deplored it as yet another example of the extremes to which the fashion industry will go in digitally manipulating its spreads to capture the attention of prospective consumers.

Why should people of faith care about such images?

There wouldn’t be much to worry about if models stretched to such slender and surreal proportions were a rarity in our society today. But images like the one Ralph Lauren produced are part of a ubiquitous iconography that young women look to as they search for ways to define their worth and understand their purpose in the world. This iconography belongs to a broader network of beliefs, myths, rituals, and moral codes that encourage women to find “salvation” (i.e., happiness and fulfillment) through a thinner body. I call this “The Religion of Thinness,” for it has many of the features of traditional religion, even though it fails to deliver the salvation it promises and sadly shortchanges the spiritual needs to which it appeals.

Of course, most women don’t associate their desire to be slender with religion. But for many, the prospect of a “good” body comes to function as a kind of “ultimate purpose” that gives their lives personal meaning while connecting them to a much wider cultural devotion to thinness.

This devotion is implicitly supported by certain religious ideas and narratives. Consider, for example, the story of Eve. Remember what she does to unleash sin into the world? She eats. Throughout Christian history, this mythical incident fostered a view of female appetites as untrustworthy and women’s bodies as shameful. Again and again, church fathers returned to the story of Eve to find evidence that women are more carnal than men, and thus more prone to fall into temptation, and therefore in more need of regulation and salvation.

By the late Middle Ages, some Christian women in Europe had discovered a method for redeeming themselves by restricting their bodies. Saintly women starved themselves as a way of identifying with the suffering of Christ and doing penance for the sins of the world. Some, like Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), found it impossible to keep food down and reportedly induced vomiting with sticks and feathers. The notoriety Catherine gained by fasting enabled her to be a key player in the political and religious crises of her time–until she died of starvation at the age of 33.

To be sure, women like Catherine fasted and purged for reasons that differ dramatically from those of their present-day sisters. Medieval women wanted to please God, not to look good. And yet, both groups of women seek and find public approval through their bodies, and in both cases the pain of hunger is virtuous.

The belief that female bodies are shameful and in need of regulation/redemption continues to permeate our culture. Most women today don’t think of their dissatisfaction with their bodies as related to the legacy of Eve, but the wars they wage against their own flesh reflects our culture’s deep-seated association between women’s bodies, appetites, and sin.

Ultimately, what makes The Religion of Thinness so persuasive is that it is so pervasive. The very omnipresence of its unspoken creed–”I believe I will be happier when I’m thinner”–makes it extremely difficult to question.

But question we must. And people of faith can play a crucial role in challenging The Religion of Thinness by asking: Who benefits when images of women glamorize an emaciated bodily ideal? Why is there so little genuine diversity in our culture’s iconography of womanhood? Why must a woman be pencil thin to be recognized as “beautiful” and “sexy”?

Critiquing a cultural iconography that glorifies an unhealthy and unrealistic physical ideal can be a profoundly spiritual act. Moreover, just as certain aspects of traditional religions have tacitly supported our culture’s obsession with stick thin female bodies, so other aspects of these traditions can be harnessed as resources for resisting the all-consuming call to be thinner. Finally, though accepting and enjoying our bodies as they are–rather than perpetually trying to “fix” them–may sound heretical to our modern ears, it is a heresy worth fighting for.

To question our society’s definition of the “good” body is to follow the example of great spiritual leaders, for whom cultural criticism was a kind of spiritual practice. People like Jesus, the Buddha, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa (to name a few) challenged the false gods of their time, encouraging people to replace blind faith with compassionate critical thinking. Each in their own way pointed to a different kind of power–a power based not on controlling one’s body but on transforming oneself and one’s society to reflect the ideals of love, peace, and justice.

It is time for a revolution in the way we think about female bodies, and spiritually-inclined people ought to lead the way.

Michelle M. Lelwica is associate professor of religion at Concordia College and author of “The Religion of Thinness: Satisfying the Spiritual Hungers behind Women’s Obsession with Food and Weight.”

  • tenshi1

    This is especially important as Congress is considering (as part of the so-called health care reform) an addition to the bill that will require people who are considered to be overweight to pay higher premiums for health care and some insurance companies are already doing exactly that.

  • forgetthis

    LOL! That picture is hilarious. There’s no way that can be real. And this article is even funnier. Fasting in the Bible almost always referred to men… Jesus, Moses, John the Baptist and his disciples, King David…ALL MEN!!! And don’t forget Gandhi, also a man. Maybe you didn’t see the movie. And you’re wrong about the doctrine of Jesus. He did teach about controlling the flesh. Remember this: the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak? What do you think fasting is all about? What do you think all of his teaching about temptation is about? Seriously! You have a degree in religion?

  • norriehoyt

    “People like Jesus, the Buddha, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa (to name a few) challenged the false gods of their time, encouraging people to replace blind faith with compassionate critical thinking.”The Buddha and Gandhi worked to replace blind faith with critical thinking, but Jesus and Mother Teresa? I don’t think so.

  • scott3

    “What does she do to unleash sin into the world? She eats.”When you have to blatantly change the context and intent of the Bible to fit your thesis, you know you’re not doing well.

  • pezdrake

    But we can still encourage big breasts right?

  • Common_Cents1

    This is a rather extreme and ridiculous defense by a bossy fatty.I have a single reply:B B Myup, we’re next.

  • moebius22

    It is time for a revolution in the way we think about female bodies, and spiritually-inclined people ought to lead the way.I always love how myopic and backward looking feminist are in their view of our rapidly changing world. Check out the male section of Ralph Lauren and you will see unrealistic images of male beauty. Steroid abuse is a major problem, as boys and adolescents try to achieve the impossibly, perfect, and chiseled physics of male models. Time to stop dwelling on the social politics of the past, and realize that today, poor body image is an equal opportunity epidemic.

  • maddymappo

    The ancient Egyptians ate a diet of potatos, onions and bread. They were a carb rich well fed plump people. Yet, did you ever see a fatty on painted on the walls of the pyramids? Thin has been in since the beginnings of mankind. It often means that the person’s hormones and metabolism are in sinc with whatever food supply is available. Therefore the babies will be healthy. That’s life. I have a weight problem and would like nothing better than to be the envy of other women, but in real life, the fact is, the thin have many advantage when it comes to the survival of the species.

  • dane1

    Thank goodness we have The Devout speaking out, as they traditionally have, against unhealthy images of and negative feelings toward the body.

  • pgr88

    There are hundreds of books on food desires and dieting, and we all believe that we can change our weight and appearance, and control our desires for food – for the purposes of health, morality or even fashion. Why does no one believe the same about sexual desire, particularly with regard to homosexuals?

  • liberalsareblind

    FORGETHTIS wrote: “LOL! That picture is hilarious. There’s no way that can be real.”Oh yes it could be real! As someone who has worked around teenagers with eating disorder, I’m telling you that someone can look just like that.

  • johng1

    she is skinny, but she has a manster face

  • hartman_john

    While there is merit to being concerned about a few anorexic models, it strikes me that the “modeling” being handed to young girls by the 62% of Americans who are either obese or seriously overweight is far more sinister.Growing ultra-thin takes a great deal of work. So much so that relatively few do so. However, given the generalized level of obesity seen on the street and in the home every day, it seems we could do with a bit more anorexia.Obesity = diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and early death. Certainly these problems reach further and deeper into American society than anorexia.

  • onestring

    Ever notice that as Americans increasingly are MAJORITY OBESE the models get thinner and thinner?Madison Avenue claims it does nothing by accident, and everything by plan. But in reality, those in the advertising industry often are simply reacting to trends on the street.When American children are becoming diabetic II in primary school SOMETHING IS HORRIBLY WRONG WITH THE AMERICAN LIFESTYLE OF TV, VIDEO GAMES, AND THE MOST COMMON DIET OF SUGAR/FAT/STARCH… regardless of what church, or temple they go to, or how often.Really? A Jesus diet? Really?You can philosophize allllllllll day long. You can WANT it to be ok to be overweight. Wish and demand all you want…BEING OBESE KILLS EARLY. PERIOD.BEING OBESE AS A KID KILLS EARLIEST OF ALL.AMERICA SOON WILL BE A MAJORITY-OBESE SOCIETY.And along the way we taxpayers are going to subsidize your obese kid’s bad eating and exercize habits – those he learned as a member of your family – VIA MEDICARE AND MEDICAID EXPENSE INCREASES DUE TO THE CURRENT EPIDEMIC OF OBESITY RELATED DIABETES II, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, HEART DISEASE AND STROKE.Tell me about photoshop, and unfair characterizations of the female form in advertising from the pulpit, sure. BUT AFTER you’ve already spoken on gluttony, dishonesty with one’s self, feelings of emptyness being unfulfilled by food, eating in place of loving expression, self loathing, guilt, lack of grocery stores selling fresh foods in poor areas, the difficulties of good health in a disposable-goods, and bad TV/Video/burger/fries lifestyle of the middle class, etc., etc.There is a reason gluttony is a sin. It is unhealthy, debilitating, and wasteful.There is a reason humans are attracted to thin figures. They look, and are, healthier….And there is a reason this fact of life (that “healthy/attractive = thin and not overweight or obese” in the eyes of most people) is exploited by Madison avenue execs to the point of rediculousness.

  • ComfortablyDumb

    “Consider, for example, the story of Eve. Remember what she does to unleash sin into the world? She eats.”Hey, don’t blame your big butt on Eve. If people chowed down on apples instead of donuts, the world would be a much thinner place–no starvation necessary.

  • thetravelingmasseur

    she’s not slender, and she’s skinnier than skinny. To me, such skin and bones are ugly.Most of the women (and children and men) who look like that are suffering from advanced starvation. Google starving women + pictures and this model would fit right in.yucchh!

  • WmarkW

    Women THAT thin are only idealized on magazine covers (magazines with principally female circulation, BTW).Most men prefer their women to look a little beefier, as long as it’s not all in the wrong places.

  • presto668

    People, the picture is not real — it was all over the news a couple weeks ago. It’s been photoshopped. Read the first paragraph of the story again.

  • ginonicolini

    The girl in the picture look like a Pit bull by the big head in such a thin body, and she looks deformed. Women with thin and small heads look better in thin bodies and look more than acceptable in fat bodies, but round or fat face and big head women must not even try to have thin bodies, they won’t look good at all.On the other hand, fasting in the bible is related to praying and afflicting ourselves. Fasting was not a kind of diet but part of asking to God for forgiveness or asking something for someone else.We can read that an entire city fasted and prayed begging for mercy and not be destroyed by God, we can also read that Jesus performed a cure for a person while his disciples failed in the same intention and Jesus told them that such a praying requires fasting to be more effective. The solemn day of Yom Kippur also calls for fasting to afflict the body as a support to the affliction of the soul asking for forgiveness to God in that day.I don’t believe that the bible had any intention to include fasting as a method of diet so people will keep their bodies thin, but for sure the diet found in the bible avoiding pork, shrimp and other foods full of fat or cholesterol appear to be very healthy to me.

  • alance

    The only one who is both fat and jolly is St. Nick aka Santa Claus. All the others are self-loathing people with an eating disorder called obesity. This has nothing to do with gender or religion.Obesity is a self-inflicted disease caused by ignorance and lack of self-control – an addiction to too much food and soft drinks laced with high fructose corn syrup. Spiritual people should fight against a ‘religion of fatness, sloth and gluttony’.

  • secretscribe

    I think if we started commenting more about men, how they look, in their clothes, what they are wearing, whether they’ve gained a few, lost a few, had work done, we might gain a more balanced perspective on this topic. The hyper-scrutiny of anything leads to a perverse perception. Let’s talk about men.

  • allthedudeeverwantedwashisrugback

    Fit and athletic need to be the new thin. As a red-blooded American male I can honestly say there is nothing sexy with the photo above. Anorexia saps your energy and desire to be active. Same holds true for people who are moderately to severely overweight.It’s all about being healthy, happy, and self-confident. A woman who can hold her own playing two hours of intense basketball or tennis… now that’s sexy.Anorexia also causes a number of mental imbalances, including depression, mood swings, and low self-esteem – all of which are huge turnoffs for every guy I know. Being significantly overweight likewise has negative effects on physical and mental health.We need to change the dynamic of the debate. It’s not thin vs thick, it’s health and active vs not.

  • chatard

    Regular readers of “ON Faith” will recognize that once again Quinn and Meacham have found an anti-Christian message and messenger. This woman is sick. This ‘Eve and eating” thing, and feminism and characterizing Christianity as hating women is disgusting, and a lie. is off the wall, and the paranoid/schizophrenic Lelwica had something happen in her childhood, and bumped into some left-wing professor in her youth who filled her mind with garbage.

  • misss1215

    Another outrage over anorexia and the female body image.What about the media and the male body image?Turn on any TV and watch it for a few rounds of commercials. Pay special attention to ads for ‘healthy’ products and ads for ‘fast food’. You will notice that almost all the fast food ads are directed towards men and all the health appeals towards women.I think it is terrible that some women are made to feel so bad by the fashion industry that they starve themselves. But as a matter of the media encouraging bad behavior, this problem pales in comparison to the issue of boys being conditioned to eat crap! Men in this country live an average of seven years less then women and while I’m sure that is at least partly biological, study after study shows that men are more likely to eat junk food and less likely to take care of themselves than women and surely this has at least as much to do with the way men are taught to behave by the media as anorexia does with the way women are taught to behave!As a mother of two sons, I wish that we would pay a tenth of the attention to this problem with media influence, which affects nearly half the population, as we do to anorexia and bulemia which are comparatively rare!

  • andrew23boyle

    Why do people keep blaming men for this?Who buys these magazines? Who buys these clothes and follows these fads? Who keeps the fashion industry in business?I could go out tomorrow wearing a suit that was made in 1880, and I’d only look a little out of place. Can you imagine a woman wearing a style from that era? Can you imagine a woman wearing a style from 1980?How many husbands and boyfriends do you think ever tell their wives and girlfriends something to the effect of “Oh, no! The fall season’s about to start and you have nowhere near enough fashionable shoes, dresses and bags! You’d better go empty our bank account so you can keep up with haute cuture! And lose some weight so you look like the animated skeletons in your magazines”?Do you think that’s EVER happened?Most guys don’t even like sickly, stick-thin women and it’s not even a ‘taste’ thing; it’s biological.So, ladies, if you want this stop, quit buying into this shallow fashion-industry nonsense, quit watching their TV shows, quit buying their clothes, their magazines, their perfumes and cosmetics and all that other useless crap they’re always trying to sell you!And please quit blaming men. We’d help you out if we could, but we don’t buy too many Cosmos and Vogues as it is and very few of us watch Allie McBeal or Sex in the City or any of the other programs that encourage the ‘twiggy’ look.

  • deadrunnerclub

    The Religion of Thinness is not implicitly supported by a coherent base of evidence; show me the data. Just because a professor can put disconnected stories into the form of false assumptions means nothing except a weak foundation for an assertion such as hers. She speaks in absolutes in a population of women with vast differences in culture, education, wealth, and whatever other variables that influence concepts of self and others. If her evidence led to correct conclusions, then there would be far more “excessively” thin females. Real numbers, and our own eyes, tell a far different outcome. Sometimes the answers are easy and we don’t have to overthink to build a case to get a conclusion we so hope to get. I have a question for the professor, why did you want the sociology/psychology/biology of weight, self perception, and social ideals to be about religion? What are us agnostics to do?

  • Mnnngj

    Why is the digital woman in the picture attractive to anyone, male or female? She must be attractive to women if the ad companies are pasting her on the wall. If women saw that and did not “buy” it or the clothing, the companies would change the ad’s.As for religious fasting that is a practice in most faiths. Fasting is healthful if done with intelligence. A fast for a day, a few days, or even a week or two, rejuvenates the body. Toxins are released and the organs and intestines are given a break. Its healthful and will increase energy and longevity. Apart from fasting the raw diet is the best or something close to raw. You will stay thinner and won’t have to look like a waif.

  • hd1225

    I won’t say much about the attractiveness of thinness because I am distracted by other issues within the essay. To some extent, I must agree with the comments of Chatard. The essay contains a twisted characterization of the story and significance of Eve. It is tragic that the title and responsibility of professor is given these days to some who are very sloppy in their own studies. I’ll consider it sloppiness that led Lelwica to the conclusion that the narrative of Eve supports a devotion to thinness. Reading the essay, one would think that Eve’s problems were fundamentally with food, but a plain reading of the garden account would show that it was not God’s chief purpose to get Eve to watch her diet. The narrative says Adam and Eve were free to eat from any other kind of tree (and there must have been a great variety), Eve knew that (Genesis 2:15-17, 3:2-3), and as far as we know they had no issues with the appearance of their bodies. The trouble stemmed from disobedience and the desire for the power of God, not mere want for physical food. It was first Lucifer’s desire to ascend into heaven and rule, to be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:12-14); following after Lucifer seems to be the real error. Furthermore, if some people through the ages interpreted humanity’s ouster from Eden as a particularly female problem, the Bible does not. Not to say that Eve was not personally accountable for her actions, the episode is also understood as a failure of Adam in the Bible (from the Old Testament, Job 31:33 and the New Testament, Romans 5:12-15). The point is, Lelwica picked the wrong narrative to make her point.The essay smacks of arrogance and takes a definite turn toward the schizophrenic, too. Not only can people of faith speak to the cultural obsession with looks, they have been (including with respect to their own members). Where has Lelwica been? Busy building a case against religion perhaps, judging by the paragraphs preceding the call to action. I won’t speak for other faith traditions as others can do so much better, but in the Christian Bible, the priority God places on the inward versus the outward is made clear (1 Samuel 16:7), and our priorities should be in alignment with His.I encourage any who don’t know the Bible to just read it. You are free to believe or not to believe, but it is important to know if someone is feeding you misinformation about its content whether it would be one of these essayists, or me, or a preacher or anyone else.

  • ccnl1

    Self-imposed anorexia is another condition that should not be covered under universal health care. And in what version of the universal health care bill are obesity regulations proposed??Some examples of obesity weights vs. heightAnd why any health insurance should require obesity to be regulated!!!!”Health Risks of ObesityOnce you suffer from obesity you run an increased risk of developing a number of conditions. Here are some examples: High blood pressure and stoke are twice as common in obese people. Evidence is strong that obesity increases the risk of breast cancer (after menopause), womb cancer and kidney cancer.Gall bladder disease is three times as likely to occur in middle-aged obese women. Diabetes is four times more common in middle-aged obese people than in middle-aged people of normal weight. Coronary heart disease is twice as common in obese men under 45. “

  • khote14

    I remember the feminist complaints against Barbie (you know, the doll?) for similar reasons.I’m still waiting for the balding, pot-bellied GI Joe to come out, with erectile dysfunction grips.If you’re dumb enough to base your body image on magazine covers, maybe the gene pool doesn’t need you.

  • AuntMuriel

    I would like to recommend this post

  • andrew23boyle

    I liked your posts Misss1215 and KHOTE14 and I think you lay bare the rank hypocrisy in this issue, but it’s a lost cause.Men will never organize the politically the same way women have because men are taught be society not to, well, ‘b!tch’ and to just suck it up and take it. Not all men, of course, actually do that, but enough do to ensure that the ‘men’s movement’ is never going to develop into the powerhouse that the ‘women’s movement’ has.I would not, therefore, expect much change in the future. The press and society will continue to focus almost exclusively on the media’s influence on female health, even relatively tiny problems like anorexia, while, as you point out, it will more or less ignore the media’s constant flurry of ads encouraging boys and men to engage in dangerous behavior, to eat harmful junk and to ignore medical warning signs in favor of ‘toughing’ it out.But who cares about us? There’s some rich girls who don’t want to eat!

  • ebleas

    As many have pointed out, the problems of obesity in our society drastically outweigh the problems of ‘thinness’. The problem exists in both sexes, all ages and all income brackets. The problem puts a severe burden on our medical and health care system. While anorexia is also a serious problem, there are actually advantages to staying ‘a little on the thin side’. I personally notice my vitals (blood pressure, heart rate, etc.) change for the worse when I gain as little as 10 or 15 pounds. I have found staying (what most would consider) slim beneficial for my health. This need to stay slim seems to increase as I age. I thus have personally found the so called “salvation” talked about in the article through a slimmer body. Your mileage may of course vary.But I always raise an eyebrow and sigh an ‘oh-no-not-again’ when one starts talking about how the fashion industry (or any industry) is contributing to the woes of our society through “false imagery” and advertising. While such imagery does indeed have an impact on the population at large, we all were given a brain and (hopefully) some common sense to realize that such imagery is false, misleading or unhealthy. The way to change such behavior is through market force. That is, as a consumer, don’t buy the magazines that display such imagery and make it apparent to the publishers what you want instead.Problems with anorexia or ultra ‘thinness’ are probably more psychological based than they are representative of a massive societal imagery problem. There are always people who will do things to an extreme, including under-eating or staving themselves. It’s a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). There’s nothing wrong with being a little body-conscious and caring about how you look to both yourself and others. Just don’t take it to an extreme and you’ll be OK.

  • MHawke

    Parents need to be more responsible about conveying messages about body image. In many cases, it is parents who pressure kids to be perfect and they become obsessive about things like their weight.

  • ebleas

    “…the media’s constant flurry of ads encouraging boys and men to engage in dangerous behavior, to eat harmful junk and to ignore medical warning signs in favor of ‘toughing’ it out.”Here’s a simple test you can all do at home to prove this. The next time you are watching TV, take note of all the commercials for any food product. Note the ones for “healthy eating” will usually feature females, and the ones involving “fast food” will usually feature men.

  • ebleas

    “It is time for a revolution in the way we think about female bodies …”It depends on who you mean by “we”. I think that most men have not changed the way they think about female bodies to any significant degree over the years. Studies have shown that a certain ratio of bust to waist to hips is the most sought after criteria for most men. And this ideal ratio was well within what most would consider a “healthy” weight. I would be willing to bet that the results of such studies taken today would be similar to results gathered at previous times in our modern history.So I think by “we” you really mean “we women”? And that’s fine. If it is indeed the case that women try to achieve an unrealistic body type to match some unrealistic magazine image, then that’s a place to start. But let’s be clear about where the image problem lies.

  • EdgewoodVA

    While I agree that these ridiculous images are damaging to our nation’s girls and women (and men too–some of them buy into the idea that it’s cool to have the skinniest girl in town on their speed-dial), I really don’t think we can pin it on religion. Instead of blaming these problems on a “religion” that doesn’t exist, some folks might use a genuine spiritual base to guard themselves against our culture’s emphasis on superficial, material things. Those who over-eat to deal with stress and low self-esteem might find better ways to cope in the first place. As for those who devote themselves to such unhealthy ideals–whether they’re a healthy weight or not–they might be more likely to remember that their true worth is not really measured by their appearance.Believe me, I’m NOT evangelizing here, but I am vouching for the power of a stronger spiritual self as a way to balance your priorities and stay in touch with the real world.

  • andrew23boyle

    I’m an atheist but I agree with you that it is pretty ridiculous to blame religion for this.This problem is fairly obviously the product of a few sick minds driven so insane by the need to think up of ever more ridiculous clothing that they finally snapped and started designing ridiculous human beings instead.

  • ans15

    How about a little perspective here?

  • ans15

    AND…Michelle M. Lelwica has the audacity, while trying to hawk her book, to do these insanely weak contortions to try and connect the dots to spirituality.

  • bran-solo

    Whatever Ms. Lelwica’s credentials in the study of religion, it seems obvious that she slept through Popular Culture 101. Is she completely unaware of the Marilyn Monroe era or any of the other periods in American culture when thicker full female body types were the object of obsession? Or of the fact that they still are among many segments of the culture? The “ideal” male body type is nearly if not equally as variable. Just look up some clips or trailers of Tarzan movies from the ‘50s and ‘60s and compare them to the action heroes of today. Not a six pack to be found back in those days.This is just human nature, we compete with each other and want what the other guy/girl has. I agree that there can be a very spiritual dimension and a role for spiritual leaders to play in trying to restrain that instinct whether it be focused on obsessively comparing cars, houses, or bodies since it can be profoundly unhealthy. Where she lost me though was in trying to somehow link what seems to be a profoundly human instinct to organized religion.

  • jjjunob

    “No one knows who will decide who is overweight, but it is a sure thing that those overly thin models( who may not be very healthy as a result) will not be the ones paying the higher [health insurance] premiums.”You got that right. Unfortunately people continue to deny the fact that you cannot judge a person’s health by her/his size. The truth is you can find both healthy and unhealthy people among those of all shapes and sizes. And many of the people others ignorantly assume to be “healthy” just because they’re thin actually have to do very UNhealthy things (i.e., smoking, taking drugs, having surgery, starving themselves, purging, over excercising) to be the size they are.

  • jjjunob

    “Thin has been in since the beginnings of mankind”Not true. There are many cultures, past and present, where larger bodies have been considered the ideal.

  • jjjunob

    ” . . . we all believe that we can change our weight and appearance, and control our desires for food – for the purposes of health, morality or even fashion. Because they are two completely different things.

  • flonzy3

    edbyronadams wrote: The only proven method to increase longevity in laboratory experiments is to systematically underfeed the subjects.And yet the CDC said that people that are over weight but not obese are the longest living people in America; they are more likely to live through things like cancers as they have a stash of fat to live on as they can’t keep food down fighting the problem.

  • qualifiedplans

    I judge the health of my finances by the size of my net monthly

  • NYC123

    Why are there so many angry, defensive men responding to this article (and, coincidentally, completely misreading the content)? Why does every article that focus on women draw these nutters out of their basements?

  • WmarkW

    “Why are there so many angry, defensive men responding to this article (and, coincidentally, completely misreading the content)?”I’m so used to reading “doesn’t our male-dominated culture exploit women” articles, I automatically assume any such thing is at least partly a criticism of men.

  • kjohnson3

    What’s so interesting about this obsession with obesity — i.e., arguing that ill health all boils down to excess poundage — is that recent scientific research has focused on the role of animal protein in the development of several cancers — including breast and ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men — as well as heart disease and stroke.We’re finding out that regular consumption of animal protein (meat, dairy, eggs) is positively correlated with cancers of the reproductive organs in both men and women and that risks to the cardiovascular system from animal proteins far outweigh those posed by obesity.In short, it’s turning out that the red-meat eaters among us are creating a much larger drain on the health insurance pool than are the “fatties,” as many of you blithely call them.Insurance premiums for animal protein consumers — as for smokers and drinkers — should be proportionally higher due to the extreme unhealthfulness of their lifestyles.

  • ccnl1

    “We’re finding out that regular consumption of animal protein (meat, dairy, eggs) is positively correlated with cancers of the reproductive organs in both men and women and that risks to the cardiovascular system from animal proteins far outweigh those posed by obesity.”Supporting references please????In general, do not obese citizens become obese by eating too much of everything to include meat, dairy and eggs???

  • erikajune

    kjohnson3… It is not red meat itself. It is what has been passed off as food for the last 30 years coming home to roost.Add to this eating grains which have been pulverized, bleached and stripped of every last nutrient. Then “10 essential vitamins and minerals” are added back in along with a little brown color to make you think that it might be healthy. Of course these grains were all genetically modified as seeds and are routinely sprayed with chemicals as they grow in soil that is so full of chemicals that a worm can’t live in it. What do we drink with this tasty little meal? Pop, of course! Well, it IS diet. Pop, the fabulous drink made with not a single natural ingredient. But, it has no calories! Or fat! Or carbs!Don’t buy into the lies.

  • kjohnson3

    ErikaJane,Actually, it is the red meat, itself. Not to mention the “other white meat” and the poultry.You’re right about the hormones, and that is in part what accounts for some of the increase in reproductive system cancers (prostate, breast, ovarian) in both sexes. But the hormones are only part of the story. The rates of cardiovascular disease and stroke among meat-eaters are astronomical. And these illnesses are not caused by hormones; they’re caused by the consumption of animal-derived cholesterol.So why is this coming to light now? Because until recently, most research on heart disease and arterial blockages wasn’t isolating and focusing on the moderate consumer of animal products; studies were conducted primarily with subjects whose diets had been high in animal protein for many years. Now, however, we know that consumers of moderate and even low quantities of animal protein have significantly increased risks for developing heart disease and atherosclerosis, which can of course lead to stroke.Those who insist that “man has always eaten meat” are mistaken. There’s a reason why our teeth aren’t curved and sharp: we didn’t evolve to eat flesh. Our teeth are broad and flat, much like those of cows and horses, designed for chewing vegetation.Furthermore, our digestive systems also didn’t evolve to process animal protein, which is why so many humans have milk allergies and develop chronic gastrointestinal problems from consuming animal fats.I’ve no argument with you, ErikaJune, that the American diet is lousy. But soda pop and refined starches are not the major culprits when it comes to life-threatening illness.

  • ccnl1

    And Kjohnson3, you have an advanced degree in medicine? Or references to support your statements?? You sound like a veggie-only person who makes a large contribution to PETA every year?? Hmmm then again might you work for the PR department of narcotic, caffeine-laden Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew, Fixx Extreme, or Starbucks?? Or maybe those “high blood pressuring salty” snacks made by Frito-Lay???

  • erikajune

    I cannot really speak to you statements regarding eating meat. However I was a strict vegetarian for 10 years – never “cheating” once. My health deteriorated drastically. I was anemic and quite sickly. Once I began eating meat again, I must say that I have never felt better.If humans weren’t meant to eat meat as you suggest, why did my body so desperately need it? I choose to eat hormone free, grass fed red meats and free range, hormone free poultry, and very little pork at all.Also, there are different teeth shapes that can be traced to where your ancestors originated from. Some humans have teeth shapes that are much more suited to eating meat. This information comes from Dr. Peter D’Adamo.Finally, aside from any correlation between eating animal cholesterol and heart disease/cancers, the rest of the American diet is still far more harmful. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, and the list goes on. We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. When this generation of children grow-up, we will truly see the results of our dietary choices in this country.

  • kjohnson3

    “I cannot really speak to you statements regarding eating meat. However I was a strict vegetarian for 10 years – never “cheating” once. My health deteriorated drastically. I was anemic and quite sickly. Once I began eating meat again, I must say that I have never felt better.”ErikaJune,Thank you for your comments.The decline in health that you experienced as a strict vegetarian is not uncommon because often people don’t learn enough about nutrition to live healthfully as a vegetarian. It is quite likely that making other variations in your diet could have produced the same “feeling better” result as adding meat back into it.No one will feel truly well without balanced nutrition, and vegetarians — especially “strict” or vegan ones — need to be careful to include all necessary nutrients in their diet.

  • erikajune

    “The decline in health that you experienced as a strict vegetarian is not uncommon because often people don’t learn enough about nutrition to live healthfully as a vegetarian. It is quite likely that making other variations in your diet could have produced the same “feeling better” result as adding meat back into it.”That is quite an assumption on your part.I appreciate your point of view, but politely disagree.

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