Monthly Archives: August 2011

[Never Say Diet] Why I’m Still Really Proud About Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Jennifer Hudson

Too bad she doesn’t seem to feel the same way.

Unrelated: Lovelies, per my plan to take it easy this summer (which sort of worked out! Until it got totally consumed by work… whoops) I’m taking a little hiatus so I can go drag the most out of the end of my favorite season.

So you’ll have a substitute in the Never Say Diet driver’s seat and a wee bit o’ radio silence here in Beauty Schooled land for the next two weeks. If you miss me I suggest you watch this excellent Clueless wardrobe montage. Not because I look anything like Alicia Silverstone. But we do have nearly the same amount of shoes.

I’ll see you back here September 12! xo

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[Never Say Diet] On Yoga and Women

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith YogawomanAnother day, another post about how much I love yoga. I realize this is becoming a bit of a theme. But seriously, yoga is the best. Except when it makes you crazy because of all that Lululemon yoga body bullsh*t. Or even worse, the new yoga body backlash, as spread by Gwyneth Paltrow who claims yoga made her “almost boxy.” Really, Goop? Do we think that is helpful?

Anyway, yoga is mostly very rad. As evidenced by this new documentary, Yogawoman, which I am talking more about over here.


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[Never Say Diet] A Weekend Without Mirrors

IVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Weekend Without Mirrors

As y’all know, I don’t have the greatest track record for sticking with those ubiquitous 30-day blog challenges — I tend to get distracted and fall off the wagon or just start making up my own rules. This might be connected to why I am such a believer in the whole Never Say Diet ethos. Basically, any time you deny me anything, I get cranky and want it more, more, more because you are not the boss of me! Even when “you” is really “me,” because I’m the one who decided to follow some abstract set of rules in the first place.

Which is why I have been so full of admiration for Autumn and Kjerstin, embarking on their no-mirror experiments and sticking them out like champs. But when my iVillage editor asked if I wanted to try it for say, a week, I broke into a cold sweat. We compromised on a weekend. And I’ve got to say, 72 hours was just enough time for me.

Check out how it all went down over here, though really, I encourage you to explore the archives of The Beheld and Mirror Mirror OFF The Wall, because those ladies have devoted thousands of words to analyzing our relationship with mirrors from every (no matter how unflattering!) angle, whereas I’m giving you a pithy 500-is-the-max-word-count.

Still, for what it’s worth: I learned that giving up mirrors can be rather awesome and freeing, so long as you can still safely navigate traffic. And yet getting mirrors back can make you like your body even more. Go figure.


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[Never Say Diet] Tanning is Another Health/Beauty Conundrum

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Tanning

Or so I realized when I went to write today’s Never Say Diet post about new research on tanning addiction and instead started having the same conversation I’ve been having all week about beauty standards that get conflated with “health,” except that they’re actually not always that healthy for us.

In other words, see also thin is not a synonym for healthy and me asking y’all how you define health (there are some really interesting responses btw — keep ’em coming!). It’s making me realize that maybe what I should be asking is: How do you define beauty?

Except that feels like a way harder question, because it’s so hard to know how much of it is culturally determined vs. your own individual preferences. And because even when we push back against cultural beauty standards, we often do so by making the argument that beauty = health. As in, don’t diet excessively/have plastic surgery/get crazy tan lines like the woman in that photo up there because it’s so bad for your health.

Which makes sense. Probably almost everyone would agree that being healthy is more valuable in the long run than being pretty. Except I’ve noticed that those who reject that plastic beauty ideal in favor of “natural beauty” are often nevertheless still saying that health and beauty are one and the same. They just get their “healthy glow” from vegetables and yoga instead of tanning booths.

Of course I see why that’s better — but I’m still worried about making health and beauty synonymous. It’s all good when it’s getting you to eat more vegetables, but it can so easily lead to doing beauty work (dieting, tanning, chemical peels) in the name of “health.” And that’s how we end up with people who think base tans really are preventing skin cancer or the current cultural vogue to disguise size bias, in all its ugly manifestations, as a pious concern for obese people’s health.

Is this just because striving for health alone is so boring that we need the pretty stuff for more instant gratification? Perhaps beauty really is, in some ways, as fundamental to our well-being as physical health? Or we’ve just managed to layer both health and beauty with so much morality (you’re disciplined/responsible/good if you achieve them, lazy/irresponsible/bad if you don’t) that they really are inextricable at this point?

Yup. I’m genuinely puzzled by this one. If you’ve got some insight, please do share!

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[Never Say Diet] Stop Trying to Make Cleavage Wrinkles a Thing

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Cleavage Wrinkles

Well, maybe not you personally. But definitely the New York Times and the makers of all these wacky boob pillow products that I can’t even wrap my mind around, let alone my cleavage.

I am beginning to think somebody needs to be in charge of an Official List of Fake Body Parts Created To Make You Crazy. Someone official. And archival. Like the Library of Congress. Or Tim Gunn. (He’s still a professor, right?) Because this sh*t needs to be cataloged for the ages, so seven generations from now, they can look back and say, “Oh that’s when our ancestors forged the first boob pillow. Can you believe they used to be made out of polyester?”

Maybe that’s why the paper of record is reporting on this issue? Can we call cleavage wrinkles an “issue?” That’s not an overstatement? Anyway, archiving for the ages or not, the Times piece sure comes across as a ringing endorsement of some pretty unrealistic beauty standards.

So go get my take on that in today’s Never Say Diet post.


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[Never Say Diet] Yes, You Can Be Fat and Healthy

Today’s Never Say Diet post is about a really exciting new study which finds that about 20 percent of obese people are perfectly healthy — as in, no clogged arteries, no OMIGODDeathFat (as Ragen likes to call it). Which is a big enough percentage in my book to end the debate and officially say no, you cannot diagnose someone’s health based on their size, Body Mass Index, or number on a scale.

Well you can. But you have a 1 in 5 chance of being wrong.

Which means we need to continue the discussion that we have on here all the time about how we can separate weight from our understanding of health so that when we talk about wanting to be healthy, we mean sustaining healthy lifestyle habits (eating well, exercising more, getting enough sleep, managing stress). And when we talk about wanting to lose weight, we’re talking about aesthetics and changing our bodies to meet a beauty standard.

And yes, there is overlap — a healthy lifestyle might result in weight loss or weight stabilization, and if you go about losing weight in a way that doesn’t wreak havoc on your health (and I hope you would — because harming your health to meet a beauty standard is a dicey business!), you’ll probably adopt some healthier lifestyle habits at the same time.

Another similarity between pursuing health and pursuing weight loss is that they can both be wicked hard to sustain day to day if you only have vague future goals (like “I don’t want to get cancer” or “I must be thin for my vacation six months from now”) as motivation. Neither addresses your need for a cookie in the here and now, which means we end up feeling like failures when we eat the cookie instead of sticking to whichever vague, not entirely realistic or helpful goal we’ve decided to pin all of our self-worth on achieving.

But really, health and size aesthetics are two different, complex, multifaceted issues with a few points of intersection.

Not synonymous.

Not simplistic.

For more on the science behind this, check out Never Say Diet. (Oh but first! Apologies in advance — I did not choose the photo and I think y’all will understand why I didn’t repost it here the way I usually do.)

And I also want to hear what you think: How do you define health for yourself? Is weight (or size or appearance) a part of that definition or are you working on separating that out into its own little box? Which, even having read the research, is easier said than done, I know… those darn cultural messages go deep.


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[Never Say Diet] How Diets Eat Your Brain Cells

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith diets eat brain cells

Another day, another Getty Stock Image of Hungry Girl Stares Down Food. It’s as stirring as their “Woman Laughing Alone With Salad” series, but with just a touch more ennui.

Regardless, today’s Never Say Diet post is about how your brain cells start “self-cannibalizing” to send you hunger signals when you diet a lot and don’t eat enough. But where I see a good reason not to diet, the War On Obese People sees…a new AK-47.

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[Never Say Diet] Why Loving Your Body Won’t Kill You

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Loving Your Body Won't Kill You

No matter what Glamour magazine tells you.

And full disclosure: I heart Glamour (and ladymags in general) and I write for them, so this isn’t an “ohh those damn women’s magazines…” kind of rant.

But I think Jess Weiner took a swing and a miss in “Loving My Body Almost Killed Me,” which everyone is talking about, including the Today Show. Check it out, then read my take over on Never Say Diet, and let’s chat about it. Because it kind of brings us back to that question Lauren asked a few weeks ago:

Can you really love your body if you also want to change it?

And it also kind of brings on a whole new set of questions…like, what if you have to change your body for your health? And then what if you’re pretty healthy, but you think you could be even healthier if you just change it a little more? Where do we draw that line between health and all the other reasons we want to lose weight?

So we’ll make that whole thing this week’s Check Your Pretty Price question.  Read more over here.

UPDATE: I’m even more squeamish about Jess Weiner’s “losing weight because I love myself” theory now that I’ve read Ragen’s new post over on Dances With Fat and know that she’s also trying to peddle a weight loss program. Oy.


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[Never Say Diet] When Losing Weight is Your Job

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Celebrity Weight Loss Spokespeople

I’m feeling sorry for celebrity weight loss spokespeople today over on Never Say Diet. And marveling at the ability of commercial diet plans to take full credit when their dieters succeed… and yet cede full responsibility when they fail. Those are some nimble dance steps.

Read more here.

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The Wedding Report

Kate & Jason Falchook Photobooth

As I mentioned back here, I was MIA for two weeks because I had two uber-important weddings to attend for some of my closest friends. And let’s just say it: Nothing messes with your body issues like getting married. Y’all have read how I dealt with that pressure (banning bathroom scales, freaking out about my teeth, going rogue on bridal makeup) but one thing we haven’t talked about a whole bunch on here is the very specific and extra weird pressure that comes from choosing your wedding dress. I mean, it can be epic.

So here is my friend Kate, to tell you about how she faced down this pressure and dealt with it in a pretty unique way.

Oh, and just for clarification, when it’s italics, it’s VA talking and when it’s not italics, it’s Kate talking. Got that? Here we go.

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