Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Too Beautiful to Go on a Diet

Actually, make that

Another Throwback:
Here is an essay that I saved from
The Sunday Telegraph ~ May 17, 1992 ~ p III

"Too beautiful to go on a diet"
by Laurie Graham

As the mother of three teenage daughters, I'm concerned but not at all surprised to learn that cases of anorexia are becoming more common, and that they are appearing in younger and younger girls.

Nor am I surprised when I read the list of precipitating factors, because they've been recited many times before, and they do make sense -- refusing to eat is a very powerful weapon against over - controlling parents; wasting away to under six stone [84 pounds] and messing up your ovaries is a very effective way of evading womanhood; and relentless exposure to the emaciated norms of the fashion industry is a surefire route to a warped self - image. But something is missing from this list: Mother.

Among the dozens of teenagers who cross my doorstep, I know of only one terrifyingly full - blown case of anorexia. But I know plenty of border - liners, hovering around the limits of a healthy diet and not helped in the least by having mothers who count calories. I have just done a head count. Seventy per cent of the mothers of teenage daughters that I know are chronic dieters, lurching from one desperate regime to another, weighing themselves daily, and never, ever liking what the scales tell them.

I object to dieting mothers. First, as members of the human race in general, because their obsession is so tiresome and because, to me, there is something faintly indecent about well - fed people wishing loud and long that they could eat less. Second, as role models for tomorrow's women, who are bombarded with incitements to be slim and sexy, and need every bit of help they can get if they are ever to live in peace with the body they have been given.

Teenage girls are mainly fit, happy, busy people, and many of them carry the promise of future beauty. But most of them look in the mirror and see a hideous, pneumatically - inflated monstrosity with over - active sebaceous glands and completely the wrong kind of nose. In my day, that period of lumbering awkwardness was explained cheerfully . . . Girls today need more assurance than that. And most of them actually get less.

They live with mothers who know the calorific value of everything, and who sincerely believe that if they weighed 10 pounds less, their lives would be transformed. That is to say, they believe that if they were slimmer, they would become lithe objects of desire, and men would flock to their side.

I don't know what would happen after that, because most of them don't seem like the kind of women who could handle tangoing with a lusty stranger down the aisle of Safeway. But that doesn't matter because it isn't going to happen. And neither is the worst - case scenario, in which their husband abandons them because they failed to get down to a size 10. A husband may leave home for many daft reasons, but hardly ever because of the size of his wife's hips.

Teenage girls don't know this. In their minds, desirability is firmly linked to an image of slenderness, and slenderness is linked to Mum's [dieting]. It's a measure of how supine we've become that mothers would rather make rich men richer by buying meal substitutes than eat a normal balanced diet, and that they're happy to recruit their daughters, like lambs to the very same slaughter.

I propose to make this my campaign for 1992. I propose to out - bore the diet bores. From this moment I refuse to engage in any conversations about weights, measures, metabolic rates, cardboard biscuits, cottage cheese, or meals in a glass. Neither will I be drawn on cellulite, liposuction and flab - busters by mail order 9.99L.

My lifelong ban on bathroom scales will remain in force, and every time one of my daughters stops to admire an outfit in a shop window, I shall point out to her that on a normal female body it may look just as pretty as it does on a severely anorexic mannequin but it will certainly not look quite the same. [More thoughts on Body Image]

I shall continue, unapologetically, to serve bread and pasta and potatoes with melted butter, and porridge with maple syrup. And if any of my daughters, or any of their friends with dieting tendencies, announces that they're going to try the Grapefruit Juice and Chocolate Bar Miracle Ten Day Regime, I shall them, "Not in my house. You're too beautiful for that. And so is my cooking."

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