Friday, March 14, 2008

Oh for fuck's sake

I was already feeling testy when Kate Harding forwarded me a link to this abomination.

Titled "What Does the War Have to Do With Your Weight?," it's an absurd conflation of talk about terrorism and overeating. The worst part is that it's aimed at adolescent girls.

Here's a wee sample from the opening paragraph:

Are you one of the millions of teens who overeat when they are under stress? If you are, we've got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that rarely in history has there been a more turbulent time. Since 9/11, it seems as if the problems of the world are growing larger and scarier... and looming closer than ever before. The good news is that you are not alone. Fifteen percent of Americans confessed that after the towers fell, they turned to comfort foods while another 14% reported eating more sweets. Two months after the terrorist attacks, one in ten Americans had gained weight. Anyone versed in psychology is familiar with the relationship between mood and food.

If this was a writing assignment I'd give it a big red F for conflating disparate ideas that have nothing to do with each other (9/11, eating), for catastrophizing and distortion of facts (if 15% "turned to comfort foods," that means 85% didn't--a much more significant number), for piss-poor organization (the "good news, bad news" conceit is grossly inappropriate), and for failure to show cause and effect (even if 1 in 10 Americans gained weight after 9/11, it does not prove the central point here). We'll throw in a bonus point for that last line, which does a better job of rhyming than of proving any kind of point.

Of course, the next line is pretty over the top, too:

Whether it's the war with Iraq, hard decisions abut college, or troubles with friends, some of us use food to provide the good feelings we're missing.

I don't know about you, but I often reach for the Oreos when I think of the Iraq War. Doritos, on the other hand, are my comfort food of choice when I think of Vietnam. The Korean War takes me straight to the freezer for some Ben & Jerry's. World War II? Gotta be those Jello pudding cups!

It's more than just fodder for satire, though. The site goes on to suggest 9 ways for girls to improve their eating habits, including:

1. At the moment you grab for something to eat, tell yourself you can have it if you still want it but you have to wait 30 minutes. The craving may pass, you might get distracted, you might become wise enough in that half hour to find a more life affirming way of getting rid of that creepy stress.

2. Write down everything you eat. Icky, we know, but we also know there's no better substitute (except looking at yourself in the mirror naked), that's better than tracking what goes into your mouth to get you into the habit of thinking before you eat.

I remember strategies like these from Weight Watchers. And from my own daughter's spiral into anorexia.

One of the worst parts of the site (created by Proctor & Gamble) is an unmoderated discussion for girls. Some of the comments on the site made me want to weep.

To tell P&G what you think of its site, click here. (You have to give a birthday to send feedback; I always type in a fake birth date.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Off-topic but irresistible

It's good to know that leaving Wisconsin for New York will not reduce my opportunities for being cynical about our Fearless Leaders.

Everyone knows who's doing what here. But these darn midwesterners don't blab it to the New York Times. I guess.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Apologies to regular readers for not posting much the last week or two. I've been in negotiations for a new job, and I'm delighted to say that beginning this fall I will be an assistant professor in magazine journalism at the Newhouse School of Journalism at Syracuse University.

Big changes for me and the family, including a move back east from the wilds of Wisconsin.

My head should be back in the blogworld pretty soon. :-)