Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Deconstructing Self

If you haven't seen Sandy Szwarc's cogent analysis of the much-touted Self magazine eating disorders survey, get thyself over here right away and read it. Sandy's done a brilliant job at unpacking some of the most subtly disturbing elements of this "report" on women and disordered eating and on how it's been received. The cognitive disconnect she highlights refers not just to this particular study and the reactions to it but the disconnect we all experience of living in a society where food and eating and what we look like are bound up with so many judgments and with our most essential feelings about ourselves.

Food for thought indeed.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More scare tactics?

This story from the AP adds yet another entry to the annals of fat and thin. It covers new research that claims to show that fat-but-fit is a figment of the fatties' imagination.

The new study followed some 39,000 women with an average age of 54 over a period of 11 years, tracking their weight, levels of physical activity, and incidence of heart disease. Says the article:

Compared with normal-weight active women, the risk for developing heart disease was 54 percent higher in overweight active women and 87 percent higher in obese active women. By contrast, it was 88 percent higher in overweight inactive women; and 2½ times greater in obese inactive women.

Makes you want to start that diet now, right? But it's important to note that the women in the study were self-reporting their levels of physical activity, and self-reporters tend to overestimate when it comes to things like how much exercise they get. Steven Blair of the University of South Carolina points out that fat people who passed a treadmill fitness test did not face higher mortality from heart disease, a fact that seems to support the self-reporters' loophole.

Despite this study's sensationalized headlines, we still have no idea what is and isn't true when it comes to fatness, fitness, and mortality. But we do know that on the whole, diets don't work; that being physically active is better for your health than being sedentary; and that, as Ellyn Satter has shown time and time again, it's much better to be a competent and joyful eater than to be obsessed, anxious, and fearful around food.

So don't despair when you come across this study and the many news reports about it. Read it in context, understand what it does and doesn't say, and dance as much as you want.

Facebook me

I've finally been dragged into 2.0, not exactly kicking and screaming but certainly clueless. Which is another way to say I've got a Facebook page now and could use some Friends. So if you're out there, look me up, would ya? Maybe we can get a new group going.