Monday, February 20, 2012

The Skinny on Skinny

This piece was published on KevinMD this past month.  

If you Google “skinny definition” what will pop up is the following:

Adjective: (of a person or part of their body) Unattractively thin. 

The word skinny according to Webster’s is defined as the following:
1. resembling skin: membranous
2a. lacking sufficient flesh: very thin: emaciated
2b. lacking usual or desirable bulk, quantity, qualities or significance.

So how did our culture take this word and use it to represent a goal, or rather set "skinny" as a bar to be attained?  Or more simply stated, why do millions of women and men want to be associated with the word “skinny”?    

I would mention some of the specific commercial marketing efforts here but I don’t want to call anyone out.  Do you blame me?  Adding the word “skinny” to any product in our society be it jeans, a recipe title, a coffee beverage at your local you know where, makes it infinitesimally more appealing leading to not only more sales and revenue but a blissful customer who is satisfied that they are making the “healthy” decision by choosing “skinny”.  But are they?  Or are they doing just the opposite? 
Many “skinny” options are packed with artificial sweeteners, fat substitutes with side effects and heavily processed ingredients.  From the research I have done, “skinny” rarely if ever ties into organic, sustainable agriculture or non-processed, all-natural, heart-healthy products.  And these are the exact items we should be striving to incorporate into our daily dietary regimens.  This obsession with “skinny” products only serves to promote our society’s obsession with crash and fad diets and as a result unhealthy and often times dangerous outcomes.  Not to mention, “skinny” adds fuel to the fire of a distorted image of health and beauty that many women and men in our society are battling.  In our nation, “skinny” equates to that which is good and positive.  English is the only language I speak in which this is the case.  In Turkish or Farsi, if you refer to a female as skinny, it means, get her a kabob STAT (i.e. feed her immediately-she doesn’t look well….in fact she looks the opposite- weak and sickly).  
We need to shift our cultural obsession away from “skinny” and instead towards “healthy”, “strong” and “fit”; away from crash diets and cleanses and instead focus on foods that offer high nutritious and health-promoting value as well as realistic exercise regimens.  It is about maintaining a healthy weight with balanced, nutritious dietary choices and exercise in order to feel better and stay well.  We are not going to achieve healthy lifestyle, fighting off preventable diseases, by focusing on “skinny.” As we know, depriving our bodies of essential nutrients and vitamins will do just the opposite.  I am sure you know plenty of skinny people who are not healthy. 
And "skinny" does not equate to beauty although society wants us to think that it does.  “Skinny” is glorified in the media- everywhere from television to magazines to the web we are inundated with images of emaciated and anorexic models and celebrities.  Let’s recognize this media standard for what it is- an arbitrary prescription for what looks good.  Why not follow this one instead:  take charge of your health- your mind and body’s wellness.  By making conscious decisions to positively affect your wellbeing you are on the path to looking and feeling beautiful-it’s amazing how vibrantly this shines through when you do so.  And it’s amazing how it doesn’t when you do the opposite.  The effects of good health come through in many ways: healthy hair, nails, skin and of course emotional disposition.  I always say wonder why so many people on diets are angry- they are hungry that’s why!  I kid a bit of course, but in all seriousness depriving oneself of essential sustenance is depriving oneself of self-love and as an extension beauty. 
I propose an end to the “skinny” obsession and a shift towards “healthy” and “fit”.  Stop the quest for skinny jeans while sipping on your skinny latte and instead invest in a pair of “Provocateurs” or “Flynts” and grab a fresh fruit smoothie with an energy boost instead! 
What are your thoughts?  I would love to hear them.

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Sally Feltner, PhD, RD said...

A great idea!!! I often refer to the French way of eating reflected by their "Dietary Guidlines": Have regular meals; Eat a variety of foods; Fruits and vegetables should be a priority in the diet; Do not abuse fats; If you drink alcohol, drink with moderation; Be active; Weight yourself every month. (European Food Information Council)

Solmaz Amirnazmi said...

Glad you think so, thank you! I completely agree- a variety of nutritious foods and moderation along with exercise and a healthy state of mind are the key!

Josh Rogowsky said...

Great Article! I couldn't agree more. Over the last year I have attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and have learn so much about living a healthy lifestyle. I've always loved to cook but now I just cook a lot healthier. It really does make a difference in the way you feel. People just think eating healthy means eating bad tasting food. That's what people like you and I are out there trying to change. I love your blog. I hope you don't mind I'm going to share this article on my own.

Solmaz Amirnazmi said...

Thanks so much for your kind comment. So glad you share my passion and that you are are enjoying the healthy living pieces and recipes. Please share my article and blog with anyone you feel would be interested in my recipes for wellness.