Monthly Archives: June 2011

[Never Say Diet] When Your Doctor Calls You Fat

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Size Discrimination at the Doctor's Office

Today’s Never Say Diet is about the size discrimination issue that probably makes me the most mad: When doctors compromise the care of their overweight or obese patients because they just can’t see past the fat. Since I’ve started writing Beauty Schooled and Never Say Diet, I’ve learned a lot about the Health at Every Size model and it just makes so much more sense. Not to mention that it’s gross and disrespectful to make assumptions about a person’s health just by looking at them. Even if you have an MD.

So go check that out. And I’ll see you back here July 12 — I wasn’t kidding about taking it easy this summer! — I’m taking two weeks off because I’ve got not one, but two weddings to attend for two (well, really four!) of my very favorite people. I’ve written before about how the wedding industry takes our normal everyday standards of beauty and hypes them up to dizzying heights. So it has been downright awesome to watch these friends roll with that pressure, deciding what matters to them (like gorgeous, not-entirely-traditional dresses imbued with meaning and utterly fabulous shoes) and rejecting the rest.

More thoughts on all of that (ooh and maybe pretty pictures!) when I get back. Right now, I just can’t wait to celebrate them.

See you in two weeks!


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[Never Say Diet] Why Telling Everyone Your Weight Might Rock


iVillage Never Say Diet body image Virginia Sole-Smith weight secrecyEven though, I know, you just got all horrified and squirmy when you read that subject line. Don’t get me wrong, I still worry that bathroom scales are mostly used for evil. But how is it any better when women keep that information a deep dark secret — even from themselves? Either way, you’re letting that scale define your business instead of saying “yup, that’s what I weigh, and that’s just one of approximately two million interesting things about me.”

So for the record: I weigh 157-ish pounds. And I’m 5’5″ tall. Right now. (I mean, I could always grow.)

But the more interesting things: I am learning to ride a bike (yes, at the age of 30). I’m at war with the groundhog who keeps eating my vegetable garden. My husband and I just got an inflatable kayak that we paddle around in the creek by our house while all the fancier kayakers in real kayaks zoom by us and probably giggle. We have named it “The Yacht.”

Your turn: Anyone brave enough to post their weight and some other fun facts about them to help prove this point? Do it anonymously if you need to ease into the idea. I’m not trying to out anyone. Just curious to see what happens when we take the powerful oh my God, nobody can know this about me! stigma away from that number.

I feel a little nervous. But also more free! Yay.

Oh and for more on all of this, be sure to check out today’s Never Say Diet post, which was inspired by this awesome XOJane post and the equally awesome My Body Gallery Project.


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[Never Say Diet] Enough With the Weight-Paycheck Thing

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith weight-paycheck

Another day, another study tying what you weigh to how much you’ll get paid. Here’s why I’m over this trend.

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Pretty Price Check (06.17.11)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of how much we paid for beauty this week.

Quickie announcement: Summer just about officially here, folks. And last summer, I didn’t really have a summer, because I spent 16 hours a week at beauty school, while still working 40-50 hours the rest of the time. Which was awesome, because I loved beauty school, but not awesome because I really, really love summer. So this year, I’m taking myself a good ole’ summer. Which might translate into some spottier blogging. (But how could you be spottier? You ask. And I say, hush!)

You know the three Never Say Diet posts aren’t going anywhere, but your Monday/Friday Beauty Schooled content might be (a little bit more) unreliable while I make plenty of time for reading trashy novels on the sun loungers in the backyard and eating Popsicles and such. 

I’m also going to be doing a lot of mulling from that lounge chair, about my beloved blog and new adventures we might go on. I’m not sure what they’ll look like yet (hence the easing up of the schedule to encourage my brain to do more than just tackle every day’s overflowing to do list!). But I welcome your suggestions and promise to keep you posted.

So with that in mind, let’s do a quick Pretty Price Check and then all blow off work early and go for a swim or something, yes? Yes!

  • Brazil is considering a quota that would require 20 percent of its Fashion Week models to be black, says The Cut.
  • Formaldehyde has just been added to the US Department of Health & Human Services list of carcinogens — at last!  — so No More Dirty Looks has this handy list of 7 ways to avoid formaldehyde in your beauty products. Must read.
  • This self-described “Human Barbie” mom gave her 7-year-old a $9,850 voucher for boob implants as a birthday present. Cue shock, horror, hand-wringing. Then please see my take on the Botox Mom and why we need to stop blaming the beauty standard victims already.
  • People are now paying $300 for hair feathers because there is a terrible feather shortage, reports Fashionista. I do like feathers but I do not understand this.
  • 16 percent of kids aged 10 to 12 are vomiting to make themselves lose weight, says this new study of 16,000 school children. And boys are doing it more than girls. Head. Spinning.
  • If you’re dying to know how the Big Six supermodels from the 1990s have aged, BellaSugar has you covered.

See you Tuesday!


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[Never Say Diet] In Defense of Dressing Rooms

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Dressing Rooms

Lately, women have been talking about dressing rooms like they are the secret killing room in my basement. (Kidding. I don’t have a secret killing room in my basement. Or do I?)

Anyway, I think dressing rooms can be quite lovely and restful. And offer the same kind of awesome girl-bonding opportunities that you find in beauty work. (Remember this post about why I sort of heart waxing?)

For more on dressing rooms, head over to Never Say Diet.


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[Never Say Diet] That’s So Pageant!

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Miss USA Pageant

Breaking news: That’s so pageant! Is the new phrase I’m trying to make happen, ever since I listened in on the Miss USA press call on Tuesday and Bravo’s Andy Cohen (who apparently, everyone loves? All the entertainment journalists on the call were like, “OMG Andy, my mom says hi!” before they asked their questions?) said it.

Specifically, he said it to one of the Real Housewives, in reference to her hair, which he felt was so pageant. 

And you have to agree, that is hilarious. So now you’ll be saying it too and I’ll be a catchphrase genius, except really, it was all Andy Cohen, the darling of everyone’s mother. (And co-host of this year’s Miss USA.)

Anyway, today’s Never Say Diet post has nothing to do with my new catchphrase (not that I didn’t try to work it in there six times, surely to my editor’s great joy). And everything to do with how beauty pageants  — especially the scandal-riddled Miss USA — perpetuate the whole “do hate me because I’m beautiful” thing.

And that ain’t pretty. But it is so pageant. And, sigh.

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[Never Say Diet] Reclaiming Fat

IVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith "Reclaiming Fat"

I use the F word a lot when I’m writing about body image, and every so often, my iVillage editor gently takes it out of my copy and replaces it with something softer, like “overweight” or “portly”* because she doesn’t want to offend anyone. (She’s nice like that.)

So we were discussing the “is fat offensive?” question and realized that maybe it would help if I just straight-up explained why I use fat — because I actually have a whole secret mission behind it. Which is now no longer a secret. You can read the whole thing here.

*Sidebar: Really, if you’re offended by “fat,” is “portly” any better? Forget size bias, I just think it is one of the most unattractive words in the English language. Also for some reason, I picture anyone described that way dressed as an old time-y ship captain. So there’s that.


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Pretty Price Check: Special Edition (06.10.11)

Parents Magazine Virginia Sole-Smith The Hungry House July 2011Parents Magazine Virginia Sole-Smith The Hungry House July 2011 (2)

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Pretty Talk programming today because I need to tell you about another labor of love project hitting newsstands now. It’s one of those stories I haven’t been able to get out of my head and I hope you won’t either. Because right here in the United States:

  • 1 in 4 children lives in a household that has trouble getting enough to eat.
  • 50 million Americans are considered “food insecure.”
  • Those numbers have climbed 40 percent since 2007.
  • Once a child becomes malnourished, she needs 50 percent more quality nutrition than a typical child does to regain her health.

These numbers are shocking and unacceptable — especially because the solutions are within our reach. I explore the story behind these statistics, and meet families struggling to get dinner on the table, in “The Hungry House,” out now in the July 2011 issue of Parents Magazine, and online at One mom, Tangela Fedrick, also shared her story in a moving video, which I hope you’ll watch and share.

And here’s the good news: There’s a lot you can do to help — and now’s the time to do it. Everyone thinks about helping the needy around Thanksgiving, but summer is actually the hardest time to be a food insecure family, because kids don’t have access to school lunches and breakfasts. Plus, President Obama has pledged to end childhood hunger by 2015. “If all the mothers in this country rose up and said we want all of our children to have healthy diets, this problem would be fixed in a few years,” Deborah Frank, MD, founder of Children’s HealthWatch told me when I interviewed her for this story.

What you can do:

  • Donate — but only what you’d want to feed your own kids. Food banks are frequently overwhelmed with supplies they can’t use. Ask what’s needed — canned produce, infant foods, diapers and supermarket gift cards often top the list.
  • Every time you donate a canned good, write a letter to go with it, telling your senators and representatives that you want to see an end to childhood hunger. Push your Congresspeople to support an expansion of food stamp benefits in the Farm Bill, which will be rewritten in 2012.


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Bring On the Beauty Start-Ups?

Beauty Salon For Rent Main Street USA Virginia Sole-Smith

A few weeks ago, listed beauty salons as one of the best start-up businesses for 2011.

According to, the cosmetology and barber schools (that educate salon-entrepreneur-hopefuls) grew at 29 percent last year, and nail salons grew at 9 percent.’s reporting shows an industry with a low barrier to entry for salons and barber shops. Pair that with a recent resurgence in barbershop nostalgia—and with a return to beauty-service spending by consumers—and it’s a perfect storm for rapid growth in the salon and beauty industry. Bring on the beauty start-ups.

Well. Let’s take a look at that, shall we?

I suppose, by some measures, the $10,000 and 4 to 12 months it costs to get through beauty school add up to a “low barrier to entry.” For sure, it’s not medical school. But neither is the average post-graduation income ($9 to $15 per hour) anywhere close to what doctors make.

The statistics that forgot to factor in to their analysis are ones that I learned my second month in at Beauty U from Simon Scott: Beauty salons have the second highest failure rate of any business. And 80 percent of students who graduate beauty school leave the industry after five years.

So let’s look again at the numbers that have in a lather about beauty start-up potential. Beauty schools grew at a rate of almost 30 percent last year. Nail salons — as in, the places of business where beauty school graduates can actually earn a living — grew at less than 10 percent.

Trade schools always thrive during a recession (or a post-recession, if that’s what we’re in now) because if you’re out of a job, quickly retraining to qualify to do something else makes some kind of sense. Unless that “something else” is a job paying not much better than minimum wage for a business that’s likely to fail.

On my post-Beauty U road trip last summer, I saw beauty salons and barber shops on practically every corner of the Midwest. I did not see a lot of customers in them. I did see a lot of “For Rent” and “For Sale” signs.

Meanwhile, my Beauty U friends are having varying degrees of success in the business. A few of my classmates have landed part-time spa jobs. Most are still working the non-beauty-industry jobs they had when they arrived at Beauty U. One of my former teachers is now working at Sephora, while another is doing office temp work. That’s not exactly the rocket ship success that beauty school admission officers like to promise, or the “recession-proof career” that the beauty industry trade groups brag about.

It might not cost much to start up a beauty business. But to keep it going? That’s another question entirely.


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[Never Say Diet] Why “Keep it Off Forever” is an Unhelpful Diet Promise

iVillage Never Say Diet yo-yo dieting Virginia Sole-Smith

Oh sigh. How often have you sat, head in hands, waiting for Apple and Chocolate Cake to fight each other…to the death?

In other news, today’s Never Say Diet post is about why I hate the term “yo-yo diet” and its pretty awesome. So you can go read it now.

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