Is Lady Gaga’s sexy curve a fake?
Lady Gaga’s too-thin waist on her Glamour magazine cover is highly disturbing. It sends a dangerous wrong (and unhealthy) message to readers–especially young girls, who are at risk for developing eating disorders.
It’s that time of year when we celebrate abundance, joining at the table with family and friends to break bread together and celebrate the autumn season’s plentiful harvest, sharing blessings large and small. And as you were plunking down all the chunky stuffing and creamy-pumpkin-pie ingredients on the conveyer belt, you probably looked up to see, front and center, a Glamour magazine cover featuring a subhuman, sickly thin cinched waist, squeezed between two tiny hands. That’d be the way-too-tiny-to-be-humanly-possible waist of cover girl Lady Gaga. Suddenly all the festive holiday recipes and indulgent ingredients and meal plans seem guilty. And that’s just plain disgraceful.
Media images of women with disturbingly waif-thin waists are nothing new, sadly. We have come to expect this from fashion magazines. But Glamour, and its audience, had been decidedly different. In a more embracing girlfriend-y tone, it covered heady topics with reporting and research by and for smart women alongside lighter topics. Each month it also featured extensive confidence-boosting and totem-rising advice for careeristas. And, yet. The typical response to these larger-than-life, too-thin cover images of drastically unrealistic and impossible proportions is horrible, yes, but we all know these images are Photoshopped and manipulated to look that way.
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Not so fast with the dismissal. While that may be true for those of us who have matured (read: aged) into adults, the disheartening, overlooked fact is that the target demographic for these magazines is often younger. Way younger. In fact, they speak to young women who are likely at the pinnacle of a common adolescent struggle with body image, many who may be on the brink of tipping into the eating disorder category. For these impressionable girls, a national magazine’s cover not only signals approval of, but aspiration to, being rail thin. Thus, using such snapshots as a cover photo is an especially damaging decision. Shame on those whose desks this passed.
In the U.S., 20 million women and 10 million men battle a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. What’s more, a surprising for-all-the-wrong-reasons 2012 study in the Journal of Eating Disorders found that an increasing number of older women are battling food issues, and some 13 percent of women ages 50-plus display symptoms of eating disorders (to put that in perspective, breast cancer affects about 12 percent of this group).
How Did This Cover Photo Come to Be?
We would hope in 2013, when a record-breaking four in 10 households with kids under 18 have a woman as the confident, successful sole or primary breadwinner, we would not have to remind media decision makers of the power of their selections — and the responsibility that goes along with that position. Even high-profile women, such as Ariana Huffington, coming out to the public about their own daughters’ struggles with eating disorders in order to make us all more aware, have obviously not heightened the media’s sensibilities. Color us shocked, but somehow, a whole editorial team of people looked at this photo circulating around the office and signed off their approval.
It is important to point out how it typically woks at magazines: cover photos are stapled to large galley folders and circulated to an entire list of media professionals on staff, from editor-in-chief to executive and deputy editors, to art directors and photo editors, to copy editors and fact-checkers for their initials and signatures, and iterations of the tremendously important cover image circulate at least two, if not three, times. And this Lady Gaga photo was signed off, and “approved,” for November, aka the Thanksgiving feast month.
Is This Waist Humanly Possible?
So, could this waist possibly be for reals? “Absolutely not,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, MS, RD, CDN, who is a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “The image appears to be significantly Photoshopped. There is another photo of Lady Gaga at the Glamour cover event, and her thumbs don’t nearly wrap around her waist the way they did on the cover.”
So What Is a Healthy Weight?
With so many false images of what a woman’s waist is supposed to ideally look like, how is a young woman (or man) supposed to know what her healthy weight range is? Good question. In clinical settings, a person’s healthy weight range is determined by using body mass index (BMI) along with weight history, diet history, a physical assessment and laboratory values, explains Gina Neill, MS, RD/LDN, dietician and founder of Glow Nutrition.
BMI, which gauges healthy weight range based on height, is calculated this way: square your height in inches, divide your weight in pounds by your height squared, and multiply that number by 703. (Make sure to measure your “current” height, because over the years our height can change and be less than we remember, or even what’s listed on our driver’s license). Less than 18.5 is considered underweight; healthy weight is considered between 18.5 and 24.9; overweight is considered 25 to 29.9; and obese is considered 30 or more, explains Lisa Young, PhD, RD, CDN, who is an adjunct nutrition professor at NYU in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health.
Is This Damaging to the Public?
Abso-frickin-lutely. Or, as Jennifer Lombardi, executive director of the Eating Recovery Center of California says, yes. She should know. Lombardi’s five-year struggle with anorexia began at age 17, though she admits to first beginning to wrestle with disordered eating and exercise abuse around age 11. “Like so many young adolescent girls going through puberty, I was uncomfortable in my ever-changing body and dabbled in diet pill use, bouts of extreme exercise and numerous fad diets,” she says.
During her eating disorder, Lombardi admits she would have idolized how Lady Gaga looks on Glamour’s cover and how any celebrity or model looked on the cover of a magazine. “I knew that most likely the image had been airbrushed, but I didn’t care. I was so driven to look and be a certain way that I would have done anything to ‘achieve the unachievable.’ Common sense and logic took a backseat to perfectionism and the painful drive to achieve it.”
Looking at images like this now, says Lombardi, makes her sad. “Despite all that we know about how these images negatively impact self-esteem and put forth unrealistic body expectations (both stated and implied), they continue to occur. My worry is how this not only impacts individuals who are at risk for developing eating disorders, but for countless others who struggle with subclinical disordered eating and go to extremes in the pursuit of an unrealistic, thin ideal.”
What Is Being Underweight?
“Body mass index, BMI, is commonly used to determine if one is underweight,” says Dr. Young. “If a person has too little body fat, or if a woman does not get her period, these could be signs of being underweight.” Potential warning signs of an eating disorder include a preoccupation with food, irritability and excessive exercise, Dr. Young adds. “These are signs of a potential eating disorder. An evaluation with a health professional is warranted.”
If you are concerned that a loved one may be battling a food issue, Lombardi suggests these action steps:
1) Write down all the things that you notice and are concerned with (for example, make a list of behaviors you’ve witnessed and/or changes in a person’s mood).
2) Learn more about eating disorders (check out the National Eating Disorders Association and Eating Recovery Center’s online resources) and treatment options in your area (a valuable resource for treatment referrals is EdReferral.com).
3) Finally, set aside time to speak directly to your loved one. Eliminate all distractions (cell phones, TV, etc.) and be clear. “You might start off by telling the person how much you care about them, and then clearly state the reasons why you are concerned. Encourage him/her to, at the very least, seek out an assessment from a professional who specializes in eating disorder treatment,” says Lombardi. Offering to go with a loved one to the appointment can sometimes help, she adds.
I hope you all savored each and every bite of your delicious turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, without one dollop of doubt or guilt. I’ll tell you why. An interesting finding in the journal Perception concluded that men find female bodies more attractive in winter months (yes, referring to our voluptuous curves). Researchers believe that a contrast effect may be the cause, according to Oprah.com, and that in winter, the attractiveness criteria changes as men are exposed to more heavily clothed women. So gobble up, my dears, and enjoy. Survey says, you look ravishing!