January 10th, 2016

Today's Activities Include: Lots of Rain, No Horse, Ice Skating

It has been raining all day. I keep thinking how horrendous this would have been, if instead of rain, it had been snow, because there is a lot of it. As it is, the snow is disappearing pretty rapidly (it is high 40s today).

Because of the rain, horse lessons were canceled.

T. wanted to go ice skating today. A. declined; she is enjoying watching Curious George episodes. Also, I have been adding Alexa skills all day. Mostly, however, we are having fun getting Alexa to make fart sounds. Also, it may be the case that garageio will work with the garage door we did not put MyQ on, and thus we might be able to operate one of the two doors with the Echo. We shall see.

A few remarks about _Body of Truth_

I'm probably going to wind up recommending this book, however, it is really problematic. I'll give you the current example to illustrate what I mean.

"...if I asked you which of the two bodies below was the most attractive, we all know which one you'd choose. Which one most of us would choose.

"The image on the left, which you've probably seen before, is a four-inch-high statue known as the Venus of Willendorf, carved about twenty-seven thousand years ago. The image on the right shows American model Marisa Miller."

Two pictures follow. Feel free to find your own. Ms. Miller is wearing a bikini and high heels in the photo supplied.

"We'd choose Miller over the Venus for two reasons: because we're human and because we live in this time and place."

As long as the author was saying, "most of us". I had an out. But by this point in the exposition, that door has been slammed. To pick the Venus of Willendorf is to (since I can't evade living in this time and place) pick NOT being human.

Look, I get the author has a bunch of anxieties and hangups and is trying to connect with an audience that has absorbed a lot of self-loathing and fat-hating, and is trying to move FROM that position to a more accepting position. THAT IS THE POINT OF THE BOOK. But stuff like this shuts out -- very painfully -- any reader who comes from a point of view of body positivity.

Please let me stay human. Let me pick the Venus of Willendorf. My High Priestess self-describes as looking like the Venus of Willendorf as a way of making sure that someone she's interacting with online and contemplating meeting for coffee or tea or whatever isn't gonna show up and be all awful. I think my High Priestess is quite beautiful. I don't know Ms. Miller, but I cringe whenever I see someone that low body fat. This is an easy pick for me.

When an author tells me I have to pick Miller or NOT be a human, I question how much body positivity she is capable of conveying.

ETA: The next couple pages are about evolutionary psychological explanations for why we think certain people are more beautiful than other people. Which is AMAZING to me that anyone even TRIES to do this anymore, after more than a century of just being ludicrously racist and arguing evolution in favor of that and then having to go, gosh, let's pretend that didn't happen. After about the same of just being ludicrously sexist and arguing evolution in favor of that, and now having to go, um, we didn't mean it in precisely that way. You would think by this point, anyone with any sense would go, maybe I should not be making these Just So arguments.

But of course, if they had any sense, they wouldn't be making evolutionary psychologist arguments (or, really, most evolutionary blank arguments. Evolution is fine, but the cultural shit that evolutionists deploy it for make it look so much less reasonable that it actually is.).

There's a lot I could say about the section on doctors and bias, but I'll just keep it short here. If you're dealing with a doctor who hates/treats some patients worse because they are fat, you are probably dealing with a low competency doctor in general. That is, even their thin patients are getting screwed by seeing this person. And don't tell me, well, but it turns out that most doctors have a lot of fat bias. Because I know. And I think that says quite a lot, don't you? Doctors got better when they quit being hazed in the anatomy lab, but we clearly have a long ways to go in re-humanizing them. It is a deeply problematic profession.

ETA: "We are fundamentally visual creatures; there aren't enough words in the world to cancel out the effects of so many thousands of pictures."

This is so spectacularly weird. All you need is a slight frame shift, and she _understands_ how many people are frame shifted into thinking thin is positive. But it's actually equally easy to flip that frame to be repulsed by thin and find something else positive. There's a programming period, and there may need to be some maintenance if you inundate yourself with proana websites or fashion magazines or beauty pageants, but honestly, even those can be hate-consumed in a way that promotes a thin is ugly perspective. It's like she has no control over her own framing _at all_, to the point where she doesn't realize that anyone else does. Which is super weird.

ETAYA: It's especially weird because the book _starts_ with her therapist reframing her with a single sentence. THAT'S WHERE THIS BOOK STARTS. *sigh*

There is this beautiful paragraph:

"And research shows that the more we want to conform, the more likely we are to internalize cultural norms, to not just buy in to them but to defend them with the passion of the true believer. We've invested in them; we may have spent months or years of our lives trying to achieve those norms. They damn well have to be true."

It's a free-floating paragraph, largely unconnected from the rhetorical structure around it, which is probably just as well, because it the idea there was fully developed, it would have forced a rewrite of large chunks of the book. The preceding part of the argument is: we know who we are with reference to people around us (ha ha ha ha ha) and have a "fundamental" need to conform. Then the more we want that, the more evangelical and zealous we are. Then, we get those norms from images. And then we're off to photoshopping, and Israel passing a bill to require ads to label photoshopped thinner models.

So, the real problem IS NOT the images. The real problem is that people consume these images in each other's presence, and through grunts and ooohs and OMGs and so forth, communicate which ones are good and which ones are bad. All these consciousness raising exercises address conscious brain. What we really need is to surround people who need a reframe with a bunch of people just like them (same age, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, whatever) who make barfing sounds whenever an image of someone thinner than obese is shown, and make groaning orgasmic noises whenever someone well into obese is shown (<-- I exaggerate for effect.). I can pretty much guarantee that anyone exposed to that a few times a day for a week or so is going to experience a significant shift in how they perceive pictures of people.

In the meantime, you can conduct this experiment on yourself with a little thought. It is totally worth doing.

Easily the screwiest thing I've read in a long time

From _Body of Truth_. I'll point out the screwy part. It's toward the end. The author is describing a Swedish study done by Kristina Holmqvist and An Frisen about positive body image in teens.

"they reported hearing some negative comments about their bodies from friends and family members, they tended to brush off the comments rather than internalize them deeply ... [they] shared the ability to think critically, especially when it came to body ideals. The reason they didn't tend to internalize the comments from others is that they were more likely than usual to question and challenge those cultural beauty ideals. They didn't accept them as gospel; they were able to step back and consider them more objectively."

Lots of problems here already ("objectively"? What? There is no "objective" in any of this. _All_ of it is subjective.), but here's the punchline.

"That last quality may be the easiest to convey to kids and adolescents."

*head* *desk*

I _agree_ that the crucial skill in all of this is reframing. I'm _less_ certain that critical thinking is the optimal path to that goal. I'm _absolutely certain_ that teaching adolescents critical thinking as a means to accomplishing a goal can never, with accuracy, be described with a word like "easiest".

Teaching critical thinking is NOT easy. NOT NOT NOT.

In fact, I would argue that anyone who thinks that teaching critical thinking is easy is displaying their total lack of competence at critical thinking.

ETA: And you know how most parents and teachers would wind up implementing this program? "Oh, honey. You shouldn't take it so seriously when people call you fat and make oink oink noises." Yeah. That's gonna help a lot. <-- Yes I _know_ that isn't how you would properly implement this program. But that's what would wind up actually happening on the ground.

I'll tell you what will help. All this negativity about body image among children and teens is straight up bullying. It's just that the adults are all participating in it too. Train the adults to stop (and make it a job performance criteria) and then deploy anti-bullying programs against the kids doing it. It won't fix it, any more than stopping adults and then kids in school from using racial epithets ended racism. But it will move the ball towards the goal.

She follows this up with self-congratulations for teaching her class that "the ideal woman's body here in America would be seen as sickly-looking in the desert society of the Niger, where girls' bodies are praised for their lush, voluptuous rolls of fat." (So, so many problems here.) "And the most beautiful woman there would be considered unattractively obese by most Americans today."

Because a horrible, horrible argument about sizism needs to have colonizing racism imported into it. Definitely. <-- Sarcasm.

I'm thinking I'm not going to be recommending this book after all. If you're looking for a book about how ridiculous all the weight/diet advice out there is, read Campos' book. I'll let you know if I find anything better, but I've decided that this is not.

ETA endless more:

"UCLA sociologist Abigail Saguy coined the term "moral panic" to describe the blame, fear, and disgust we're now conditioned to associate with overweight and obesity."

USED, sure. COINED, no. Moral panic, as a term, meaning fear felt by a large group of people about some thing identified as evil, has been around for quite a lot longer than Saguy has been alive.


I sort of wish that at some point in this book, I could be sure the author would unpack the self-denial/self-abnegation the is hyper-involved with being thin for a lot of people who conform to that ideal. Self-denial and enough control to deny one the most basic of one's needs are inextricable from the rhetoric in favor of thin. If the author did that, she'd quit buying into the duality as offered (good/bad, virtue/sin, success/failure, beauty/ugly, health/sickness) and replace it with something more useful (brave/self-effacing, demanding/yielding, active/passive, lively/lethargic, powerful/weak). Thin is identified with self-effacing, yielding, passivity, lethargy and weakness. That frame is _ripe_ for supplanting the one the author has been in thrall to.


"A 2011 study by Rebecca Puhl found, surprisingly, that plenty of teenagers with average and just-above-average BMIs reported being teased and humiliated about their weight."

Ok. So, let's start with, "surprisingly"? In my experience, "fat" is a word that gets thrown around largely independent of whether the target is fat. It is assumed that anyone who gets that word aimed at them will experience some pain, so, point and shoot. Is the author unaware of this? Is Puhl unaware of this? Otherwise, how do you explain all the "you're fat" type insults online, when the person who is being insulted is NOT AT ALL VISIBLE to the insulter?

"Puhl can think of two explanations: maybe current beauty ideals are so narrow, so restrictive, that even the tiniest deviation can trigger shaming."

Nope. When Victoria's Secret angels are discussed online and criticized for being too fat, there is NO ONE who is not going to be targeted because they meet the ideal. No One. "Or maybe teens will tease one another about weight because they know it will hurt; they know it's a vulnerable spot, even if their victims aren't overweight."

Oh, look. Sanity in the analysis. Yay. "Because the anxiety about getting or being considered fat has become so pervasive, even naturally thin children internalize it." *head* *desk*

The author clearly needs to better understand that NONE OF THIS IS OBJECTIVE. NONE. (Honestly, I'm trying to wrap my brain around the idea of "naturally thin children". Because how would you know, when looking at an arbitrarily chosen, low BMI child, whether they were "naturally" that way or whether something "unnatural" had caused that. And what precisely does "natural" or "unnatural" mean in this context -- and how is whatever that might mean in any way not judgmental? I ask this as a person who, while a child, was, with the exception of about a year before my last growth spurt, thin. After the growth spurt -- 13 inches in 11 months -- I was _really_ thin for quite a while. I never dieted until later. Was I "naturally" thin? Was I thin because I was an incredibly, legendarily picky eater? Was I thin because I was allergic to milk products but encouraged -- that's an understatement -- to consume them anyway in hopes that would help me "grow out of it"? Did the milk product thing have anything to do with the picky eater thing or were they independent? Which parts of this are "natural" and which parts are "unnatural"? Who gets to decide? Let's play a little game. What if my parents had successfully gotten my weight back down to thin during that year prior to the growth spurt. Would I be shorter now as a result? What if the milk allergy had been handled with avoidance, so I never had all that diarrhea and vomiting and chronic respiratory crap going on. Would I be even taller?)

ETA I know no one is even reading this any more and I am okay with that.

"Terri ... remembers the feeling of losing eighty-six pounds on Weight Watchers about fourteen years ago. . ."I felt really vulnerable... I didn't like the way people treated me. My identity is I'm smart and capable, and I suddenly felt like people treated me like I was weak and helpless and stupid."

I have a friend who does the kind of work Terri did. And let me tell you, if you are in banking regulation, you do NOT want people thinking you are weak, helpless and stupid.

I would like to point out that this supports perfectly my alternative frame (brave/demanding/active/lively/powerful). Unclear whether the author grasps this, because the next story, about Patrick discovering his friends treated him differently after he lost the weight made him see the world very differently. He "fixed" his problem by moving to somewhere where no one knew he used to be fat. Hmmm.

A few words of advice

In _Body of Truth_:

"it's damn near impossible to know how to handle (or not) the issue of weight with your children, especially daughters. It's impossible to say the right thing or do the right thing when you're struggling with all the same issues as your child."

Deep breath now.

I'll tell ya how to do it.

(1) Encourage physical activity that your child enjoys. Don't make them engage in physical activity that they loathe. So part (a) implies, expose them to stuff like swimming lessons, hiking in the woods, etc. Part (b) implies, if they get tired of gymnastics or horse lessons, let them stop. TREAT YOURSELF THE SAME WAY.

(2) Encourage eating more fruits and vegetables. Don't make them eat stuff they hate. So part (a) implies buying fruits and vegetables for them to try to see if they like them, and buying more of the ones they like. Part (b) implies, if they really loathe broccoli, don't make them eat it. Not even two bites. TREAT YOURSELF THE SAME WAY.

(3) Make sure they get enough to eat. Don't make them eat when they don't want to. So part (a) implies that you don't make them wait hours and hours while hungry. Part (b) implies that you don't make them finish eating something they are done with, in order to get a reward/avoid a punishment. TREAT YOURSELF THE SAME WAY.

That's it. And quit worrying so much about it. Worrying WILL make it worse (cortisol). Nothing _else_ you do is likely to work any better than this plan. Most _other_ things people propose will make things worse AND are cruel. Cruelness is not a positive trait in parenting, and people who argue that cruelness in parenting is necessary are people who you may find great joy in never seeing again.

If your child's health care provider -- or your own -- thinks that the above advice is bad advice, get a new one.

There. I said it. Have fun and stay safe!

ETA: The author _does_ get here!

"We'd do better for ourselves and our children if ... we looked at real-world strategies for eating more fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, dancing and playing sports, and other joyful physical activities. And especially if we supported those things for everyone". Yay! Double yay! Happy extra joyful dancing! She remembered sleep, too, which I left out. Go her!

Same chapter unfortunately condemns FLOTUS' program because it promises to end childhood obesity, then offers up "competent eating" while saying it helps lower BMI. What _precisely_ is so much better about the latter promising lower BMI vs FLOTUS working to end childhood obesity? The way FLOTUS' program is implemented, it emphasizes a lot of really good stuff and has nothing obviously awful in it.

Same chapter _also_ has this great quote from someone who quit dieting, learned to pay attention to her body and trust it ("competent eating"). "The last time my mother commented on my weight was about seven years ago. She said, "You know, honey, it wouldn't hurt to lose a few pounds." And I ripped her a new one. I was like, "I couldn't ever do that again, and I wouldn't even know how to do that again.""

I feel like it would help many, many people if there was a lot more of that ripping of new ones back at the assholes saying, you should lose a few pounds. So having that model is nice, altho the quote continued in a less great way, emphasizing, "Trying to fit in to this culture on that level is really very painful". To me, acknowledging that ripping your mum a new one might make you feel a little oogie for a bit, but that it's empowering to talk back to such a foolish frame. Instead, it acknowledges the power of the frame and more or less ignores, hey, your mum was dogging you about this forever and you finally got her to knock it off. Why ignore that? That sounds pretty awesomely powerful and effective. Celebrate!