by WILLIAM J. FABREY
From Radiance Spring 1999
any organizations, both local and national, are
working for the size-acceptance, or nondieting, movement. No one organization can do it
Right now I'd like to focus on one remarkable individual
and one well-established group concerned with eating disorders.
Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive
eating) are said to be an epidemic, especially among young women, and they are occurring
in younger and younger people. Those working to treat these women include some of the
staunchest allies of size acceptance. One pioneer, Susan C. Wooley, Ph.D., who is on the
Medical Advisory Board of NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) told me
twenty years ago that "we who treat eating disorders know that if there were no size
discrimination, these ailments would not exist." In the 1980s, some doctors
considered Wooley to be a radical for her belief that weight-loss diets are
counterproductive. Hers was one of the earliest voices in her profession to valiantly
oppose dieting, which she did through her many journal articles and conference
presentations. Today, her perspective is more in the mainstream. Now, as an emeritus
professor of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Dr. Wooley can take pride
in the fact that her work has influenced a whole new generation of healthy-weight
The group I'd like you to know about is the Eating
Disorder Education Organization (EDEO) of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It was founded eight
years ago by its medical director, Carol Kostynuk, M.D. Dr. Kostynuk specializes in eating
disorders and obesity, with an emphasis on nondieting therapy and improvement of overall
physical and emotional health. A large woman herself, she knows only toowell the folly
(for most people) of trying to coerce Mother Nature into permanently changing your body
size. The EDEO advisory board's long list of professionals includes Moe Lerner, M.D. (who
writes a health column for Dimensions magazine), Paul Ernsberger, Ph.D. (a
well-known researcher who also serves as chair of NAAFA's medical advisory board), and
even myself (to advise on organizational problems and solutions).
The organization enjoys considerable support from health
professionals in Edmonton. It shares information on eating disorders and body acceptance;
facilitates support groups for families and friends of those with eating disorders;
sponsors projects such as outreach to the schools; puts on an annual conference; and
publishes a newsletter, Behind the Mask. Most of its mission statement could have
been written by any forward-thinking size-acceptance group. One brief excerpt:
"Weight is not a measure of personal worth."
My congratulations go to its officers and other
volunteers. The world is a better place because of this organization. It can be reached at
EDEO, R Wing, Edmonton General Hospital, 11111 Jasper Ave., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5K
0L4. Telephone number: 780-944-2864.
Weight-loss scam artists are as busy as ever. A friend
of mine became spooked recently when she received a solicitation, disguised as a newspaper
clipping sent by a friend, from Berry Trim Plus. A handwritten note accompanying the
clipping read, "Patricia: Try it, it works!-J." She wondered which of her
acquaintances with the initial J had maliciously sent it, and was only somewhat comforted
when I told her of Berry Trim's mailings to millions of people since 1990. Berry Trim has
a staff of part-time workers who pen more than two hundred thousand notes a week, always
signing the initial J. I've written about Berry Trim and Berry Trim Plus in past columns
(Summer 1990, and Spring 1998). Next time, I suppose I will be warning you about
"Berry Trim Max."
ood coverage of weight-loss scams, as well as other important
news, can be found in Healthy Weight Journal (Decker Periodicals: 800-568-7281 or
905-522-7017). Their July/August 1998 issue reported that "Slim America" netted
about $9.5 million before it was closed down by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You
may have seen Slim's ads in print a n d o n T V, showing the usual phony before-and-after
photos. You can also find news about weight-loss con artists on the web site www.
quackwatch.com/ 01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Phony Ads/slim/98.html, believe it or not!
Because the public is more skeptical than it used to be,
crooks are beginning to target young people, whose scam detectors are not fully developed
and who are often more desperate to lose weight than the rest of the population. The
student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin has exposed weight-loss scams being
promoted at the university:Herbalife ("Weight Loss Magic") and Calorad
("Lose Weight While You Sleep") are two of them. The slogan of still another
promises, "We Will Pay You to Lose Weight." Such promotions wouldn't exist if
they had no customers!
Dentists and other health care professionals are being
pulled into schemes to sell the "Trim Max Herbal Energy and Weight Loss
Program," offered by a company known as Oxyfresh Worldwide (which also peddles
programs for smoking cessation, hygiene, and bad breath). They promise dentists that the
Trim Max product can "add $25,000 to your dental practice's bottom line." Now I
ask you: Would you accept your dentist's recommendation for a weight-loss product?
We know that most people cannot lose a significant
amount of weight and keep it off for more than three years. One who couldn't was Dwayne
Richardson. Mr. Richardson applied for a job as a New York City subway motorman and was
turned down by the Transit Authority because of his weight. The New York Daily News
front-page head-line of August 31, 1998, read: "Weigh to Go! 450-pound guy is a
subway motorman after a six-year battle with TA."
It seems that Mr. Richardson did not pass a stress test,
one that other applicants were not required to take. He passed all the other tests,
including sitting in the motorman's chair. Finally, after a long court battle, a second
appeal went in his favor. Said Richardson, "Let bygones be bygones . . . I get to
operate a train, the TA gets a dedicated worker, and the riding public has a competent
motorman." But one can't help wondering why it is necessary for one man to go to
court three times to bring about this desirable state of affairs. One thing is sure: we
need more big people like Richardson.
When people vigorously fight for their rights, they
raise the consciousness of millions of people. (I was thrilled to learn recently that Mr.
Richardson credits his victory, in part, to information provided to him by the Council on
Size & Weight Discrimination [CSWD] relating to job discrimination and previous court
cases. As he sees it, the mere fact that he was so prepared was a convincing argument to
award him his new job.)
You never know when your size-positive attitude might be
helping others. Take the case of Cynthia Kowa Basler, a high school guidance counselor in
Dixon, Illinois. Ms. Basler became part of a front-page story in the New York Times on
October 14, 1998. The story was about children from poor families who attend the same
schools as those who are better off financially. Titled "When Money Is Everything,
Except Hers," it discussed the life experiences of a thirteen-year-old girl who lived
in a trailer park near a rich neighborhood in Dixon.
he story had nothing to do with fat, but it discussed how the
guidance counselor was inspiring to the teen and to many others with self-esteem issues.
Ms. Basler was described as a "dynamic woman who keeps close tabs on the children,
especially girls who fret about their weight and suddenly stop eating lunch. 'I am large,'
this school counselor tells the girls, 'and I have self-esteem.'" She holds sessions
with groups of students to help increase their self- confidence. She offers the words of
Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent," and
she helps the children understand what these words mean. I don't know about you, but my
high school desperately needed someone with the spirit and spunk of Cynthia Kowa Basler.
There has been an enormous surge of interest in the
subject of fat children. Having long advocated outreach to children on the subject of body
size and self-esteem, the CSWD was joined by the Radiance Kids Project of this magazine
(have you read some of its great articles about kids of all ages both in the magazine and
at the web site?) and, more recently,by NAAFA's Kids Project. This long overdue focus on
kids by the size- acceptance community took so long to incubate, I suspect, because we
were so busy with the problems of adults. A significant number of adults are never going
to improve their attitude about their own size, no matter what, due to the brainwashing
they have received since childhood. If we want to help the next generation, we need to
A special on "fat kids" on TV's CNN on
September 14, 1998, did nothing much but sound the alarm that the percentage of overweight
children in this country has increased from 6 percent to 11 percent in only ten years.
Maybe someone changed the definition of overweight, to create this perception of a crisis.
Maybe kids are fatter (and shaming them won't make them thinner). Frankly, I am more
worried about children all over the world who don't get enough to eat-and some of them
live in the United States!
Nonetheless, on October 27, 1998, the U.S.Department of
Agriculture (USDA) held a day-long event called Symposium on Childhood Obesity: Causes and
Prevention. Other federal agencies, especially the National Institutes of Health (NIH),
are also trying to figure out how to keep fat kids from getting fatter, short of yanking
them out of their school playgrounds using Marine helicopters and forcing them to change
their diets and exercise habits.
Let's talk about show business. One of TV's best moments
this past September was when Camryn Manheim won an Emmy award for her outstanding work as
a tough attorney on The Practice. She had already been getting raves from critics, but her
trophy for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series was even nicer recognition. Ms.
Manheim accepted the award by raising it above her head and announcing, "This is for
all the fat girls!" The Associated Press quoted her on September 14, 1998, and People
magazine quoted her on September 28, 1998. Yeah, Camryn!
Camryn's winning the Emmy may have played a part in her
being hired in another supporting role: On December 3, the well-known fashion designer
Tamotsu announced that Ms. Manheim will be the celebrity model representing his plus-size
line of clothes. The designer stated that "through her role . . . on The Practice,
her commitment to charity work, and her dedication to talking about being large in a
'thin' society, she has become a role model for all women, not just those who wear large
sizes. . . . It was a natural to ask her to represent our line. Especially since she wears
Tamotsu on television, and in real life. We are thrilled to be working with her."
The October 1998 issue of InStyle magazine
featured Kathy Kinney of The Drew Carey Show. InStyle's front cover
carried the headline, "Body Proud: Why Size Shouldn't Matter." Kinney herself
wrote the article, titled, "The Beauty of Living Large." She revealed that she
became aware of her larger size at the age of four. She went through all the crash and
yo-yo dieting, but stopped when she got to Hollywood, after she began a career as a
stand-up comic. She was tired of "feeling like a failure" on all the diets.
Kinney says that she now likes who she is, though she admits that if she had a choice,
she'd be thin, because "life is easier when you are thin." Women come up to her
and thank her for showing the world that women come in all shapes and sizes, and she
thinks that's great. "But I don't look at myself as the poster child for large-size
actors. I'm a woman who is deeply happy because I've found what I love to do in
In the world of the visual arts, you probably have seen
the work of Fernando Botero, which is almost universally of fat men, women, children, and
even animals. But did you know that his work is among the most frequently copied in the
huge international forgeries market? In 1993, Christie's, the auction house, was forced to
withdraw from sale a forged copy of Botero's painting The Dancers-probably the most
internationally famous painting of a fat couple. The case was brought up again in the Wall
Street Journal on July 10, 1998, and in the New York Times on October 6, 1998. The Wall
Street Journal also pointed out that a color copy of the original-approved by Mr.
Botero-was used in the Warner Brothers film The Perfect Murder to decorate the apartment
of a Wall Street tycoon played by Michael Douglas. The production designer said that the
painting caught his eye, because of the strong red of the dress worn by the woman, who is
seen dancing with her back to the viewer, her long hair swaying sinuously behind her.
Well! A supersize woman is seen as a sex symbol in Hollywood!
n the bizarro world of marketing and advertising, the good news is that Lane
Bryant (referred to as LB in my household), which had long claimed that large models turn
off the customer, is finally experimenting with plus-size models in their TV advertising.
According to the Washington Post (July 20, 1998), the push by Lane Bryant (the
stores, not the catalog, which is now a different company) to offer more fashionable
styles for the plus-size market is coming from top management. Jill Dean, president of the
eight hundred-store chain, was quoted as saying, "We really took a hard look at
ourselves about three years ago. We were not growing." They began listening to
customers, who perceived the company as believing that large women cannot really be
attractive. As other companies pursued the plus-size market more aggressively, Lane Bryant
decided to glamorize its image, with Chris Hanson, their vice president of marketing, in
charge. According to Hanson, changing Lane Bryant "was like turning around the Queen
Mary." The store's ultimate mission was cited as convincing the world that
"big is beautiful." The first salvo in this battle was their introduction of
Venezia jeans, using unmistakably sexy models and photography. In September, videos of
plus-size women doing all kinds of things began to be shown in the stores. Some were said
to be in the size 20 to 22 range. Progress!
We've noted the improved advertising for Kellogg's
Special K, which used to be fatphobic, but now makes fun of our society's preoccupation
with weight. The advertising column in the New York Times (September 25, 1998) discussed
the Kellogg's "Reshape Your Attitude" campaign's award from Advertising Women of
New York. The company had been criticized as recently as two years ago for their Special K
campaign, which centered on a woman, perhaps a size 2, admiring herself in a mirror as she
modeled a black dress. Toni Lee, a judge on the organization's awards committee, said that
Kellogg's "complete advertising about-face is ample evidence that this leading
advertiser not only 'gets it,' but also gets the fact that they didn't get it
before." Karen Kafer, a Kellogg's spokesperson, said, "We have changed our
advertising approach based on feedback from women." Is this good to hear, or what?
n cosmetics advertising, the good news is that Revlon has signed up the plus-size
model Emme. Highlighted in the New York Times on October 8, 1998, she said,
"This gig is a big deal. For so many years . . . women put themselves through hell
thinking if they don't look like a sixteen-year-old, they're not beautiful. ...We're all
included in beauty!"
Other good advertising news includes the "fun"
Walmart commercials that in-variably show fat people and the K-Mart ads featuring Rosie
O'Donnell. However, various degrees of fat bashing occur or have occurred in ads for
Nintendo (chubby boy made to look like pig), Subway fast food (fat man waterskiing, too
heavy for boat to pull), Winston cigarettes (large woman on Internet pretending to be of
average size), Fallon HMO (implies that because of its free diet program, it has the most
attractive members), and Shout laundry product (large woman portrayed as stupid and
sloppy). These ads come and go quickly, but we must continue to voice our complaints.
Now to the strangest weight-related ad I've ever seen on
television: the new ad for the diet drug Meridia, from Knoll Pharmaceutical Company,
should get an award for mixed messages. On screen we see any number of fat people
appearing attractive, happy, and contented, and living full lives. The announcer,
meanwhile, tells us the benefits of Meridia-and the risks. (This is doubtless to avoid
suffering the same fate as American Home Products, which is having to answer in court for
their permissive, look-the-other-way attitude when their drug Redux was being heavily
promoted without a sufficient emphasis on the possible risks.) Then, after the announcer
has completed a list of risk factors that make it sound as if nobody should take their
drug, a fat, attractive black woman comes on screen and says, "I'm ready!" Is
this ad responsible, deceptive, or both? Legally, it is responsible. Morally, I'm not so
sure. You know that desperate fat people will often choose to overlook the risks and try a
I'd like to finish this column with a size-positive
affirmation. I know that many women accept their size only with reluctance, if at all. I
also believe that taste is taste and cannot be explained. From an aesthetic point of view,
I have always been an admirer of the large figure, and a colleague of mine named Ginger
re-cently ex-pressed the same sentiment in an in-teresting way.
An admirer of large people herself, she was commenting
on an awe-inspiring photo that in-cluded snow-capped mountains, huge ex-panses of rivers
and valleys, and a big sky. She said, "The images in that picture are all wonderful
and spectacular because they are big, and wouldn't be as wonderful, special, unique, or
awe inspiring if they weren't. So, fat people are beautiful and wonderful because of their
size, not in spite of it." (Bravo! I would only add that beauty comes in all sizes.)
Thanks for news tips for this issue go to readers
Kristine Danowski, Harry Gossett, and many others, including unnamed Internet sources
(when they can be independently confirmed).
WILLIAM J. FABREY helps run
Amplestuff, a mail-order company. He founded NAAFA in 1969, and has been a director of the
Council on Size & Weight Discrimination since 1990. He can be contacted at P.O. Box
116, Bearsville, NY 12409, or at WJFabrey@aol.com.
Remember, this is
only a taste of what's inside the printed version of the magazine!