Women and Men

December 28, 2008

This morning, I heckled my husband until he got on the scale. I also calculated both of our BMIs. Dan hates me writing about him, so I’m not going to spill the beans about what he weighs today, but I will say that he is usually with me when I’m on reviewing meals and that he loves dessert more than anyone I’ve ever known. In the end, he said he would also like to lose a few pounds. The whole reason I asked him to weigh in is that I’d like some support in my efforts. When you have a buddy–someone who’s along for the weight-loss ride–it can be a huge help.

I don’t know if the wake up call provided enough motivation though. Not enough, certainly, to make him join the gym. It isn’t that he’s less overweight than me (in fact, my weight and BMI have gone up less than his since we met), it’s that he notices nothing different about the way the world regards him. Being a few pounds overweight for a man is nothing.

Like all men, Dan’s BMI would have to shoot well into the obesity range for him to experience the discrimination that women begin facing at a BMI of 27, according to this New York Times piece from back in March. My BMI is 26.4 but just a few months ago it was 27.3. And though I don’t exactly feel discriminated against, it is undeniable that people treat me differently than they did a few years ago.

In 2003, my BMI was 21. Often, running around in my size 10 jeans, I feel utterly invisable to woman and men alike. Rarely does anyone tell me I look good, and if they do it’s because I’m wearing makeup or a dress. At 123 pounds, wearing tiny designer jeans that actually look like doll pants to me now, I had everyone’s attention–bar tenders, cashiers, coworkers, fellow gym goers, morning commuters–in I way I simply don’t anymore. I had this temporary magnetism that was all about the size of my body.

As someone who spent a few years very thin, I know that there is a lot of power in thinness. Thinness in women is revered and even a little extra weight affects the way a woman goes through the world. But in men? Men can feel free to ignore their weight, their BMI, their health, their level of fitness, because no one even notices they are fat until they are morbidly obsese.

When I lost the weight back then, I was in graduate school. A woman professor chastised me for it. “What you are doing is politically incorrect,” she said. I’ve thought about that so many times since then. It was politically incorrect. I was sumbitting to a mysoginistic set of demands placed on women that are not placed on men.

It was wrong, and bad for me, and frankly I wish I didn’t know how differently people treat woman who are thin. I am not trying to fast my way into my old jeans. I would, however, like to get back into my healthy weight range. And I hope my husband is coming with me.


Women Cooking on TV

December 23, 2008

I learned to cook watching food television, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Back then, there was more Sara Moulton, less Sandra Lee. And of all the women I loved watching put spoonula to a cake batter, no one has influenced and inspired me more than Nigella Lawson, whose book How to Eat is a cherished favorite (though not the most used) in my collection.

What I love most about Nigella is that she’s uncompromising. She’s all-out sexy, all-out greedy, round as a renaissance sculpture, and totally confident. It’s like no one ever told her she’s a little overweight. Earlier this year, when writers and bloggers were criticizing her for gaining a few pounds while testing recipes for a new book, she said that her husband likes her figure and who cares what anyone else thinks?

I also loved watching Stephanie Izard kick dude and skinny-girl tush on Top Chef last season. From the moment the show debuted, people starting telling me I resembled her. We do look something alike. But if she struggles with not being thin, it never showed. (Or so it appeared on the show; maybe she, too, weeps in department store dressing rooms.) If she ever lands her own TV show and loses 30 pounds, I will be very disappointed.

The new crop of ladycooks on Food Network (including Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burell, and Sunny Anderson) all outweigh the new faces of seasons past.  (And none of them fall into the Paula-Deenish fat clown role.) Sunny, in particular, looks curvy, fit and fashionable–not like someone who thinks she should drop a few pounds.  All seem comfortable with their bodies and ready for the spotlight.

Could this mean that women in the audience like watching normal size, beautiful woman teach them how to cook? My female food heroes actually look like they love to cook and eat. There’s a limit on how much a I can trust a food expert who looks like she hasn’t eaten since the 90s. Give me more Barefoot Contessa and less Robin Miller please!


December 18, 2008

I am so excited people seem to like and relate to the blog. I’ve gotten so many e-mails from the almost 300 of you who have logged on in the past two days. I really appreciate those who have left comments here; I believe comments are the heart and soul of any blog, so please, please, please tell me what you think in the comments.

Via e-mail, I keep hearing the following sentiment from people, and I just want to clear something up:

Whatever, Joy, I still think you are so lucky to have the best job ever!

I know it! If keeping my job meant gaining another 50 pounds, I wouldn’t even have to think about it. Being skinny is nowhere near as good as having a job you love. And when I go out to eat for work, I do not sit there fretting about the calories or–God forbid–make decisions about what to order based on what seems less fattening.When I’m evaluating a restaurant, I am absorbed in the experience. I want to taste as much variety as I can.

Food writing is absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me. I always knew I wanted to write. I went to graduate school for fiction writing. But it wasn’t until I started writing about food in 2004 that I knew what kind of work I should be doing. It was like finally finding the right key for a lock. A door that seemed hopelessly shut just swung open and I stepped inside my future.

I know so many talented people who are still rifling through all the keys in the universe, trying to unlook their door. I am regularly awestruck by my good luck. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, not even perpetual thinness.

Skinny Friends

December 17, 2008

I have a lot of them. My incredible co-author, for example, resembles a J Crew model. But, hey, she’s also approximately seven feet tall and she runs marathons. I understand that.

Let’s flashback to my 2005 wedding, where many of my “normal” friends saw many of my “magazine” (read: skinny. I think I’m the chubbiest girl alumn of Philadelphia Style magazine) friends for the first time. I invited my closest coworkers–the three of them weighed a combined total of oh, I don’t know, 153.5 pounds. That may be an exaggeration, but none of them cleared 105.

So, here I am on my wedding day, flanked by women so tiny their dresses were really more like stylish hankies, my own mother slack-jawed in awe at their diminutive gorgeousness.  (Have I not posted yet about my mother and thinness? TK)

My normal friends said, “How do you manage to go in and face them every day? Are they anorexic?” To which I had to explain, repeatedly, no. They are just naturally skinny.

Another food writing friend of mine is a yoga enthusiast. I said to her, “I love yoga, but if I’m at the gym, I need to maximize my time burning calories. Do you need to watch what you eat or go for long runs in the morning? How do you maintain your weight?”

She says to me, “I don’t like to exercise. I guess I’m very lucky.”

And today, over lunch with one of my favorite 90-pounders in the world, I try to explain this blog. “75 percent of the garments that I own don’t fit me,” I say, visualizing how pathetic and empty my closet would look if only items that fit me hung there.

She was at a loss. This woman could drape herself in toilet paper and look like a million bucks. She said: “Well, just because your jeans fit, doesn’t mean you feel good about yourself.”

Of course not.

But my skinny friends have no idea what it’s like to walk into South Moon Under and not be able to find a single pair of pants you can put on or to spend hours searching for a special-occasion dress that doesn’t make you look like the frumpy fat girl.

This blog isn’t for them. Thankfully, when I got home from lunch, I had this e-mail from one of the most gorgeous nonskinny minnies I know:

hey! So I’m loving “What I Weigh Today” and let me just say, I am in the same boat with you. When Dec. began, I vowed to get to the gym everyday and eat and cook healthier… and I’m dealing with the same setbacks as you are- we are living parallel “weight war” lives.

I don’t think it’s just us in the same boat. I hope that maybe other woman with lots of skinny friends and little support will come here and talk to me about walking that line between wanting to be fit and healthy while enjoying food and accepting themselves as they are. Because while I would like to lose five or ten pounds, my days of trying to keep pace with the naturally thin are over.

Too Fat for TV. Really?

December 10, 2008

Tina Fey kind of inspired me to start this blog. OK, well, the Vanity Fair article about her did. What really killed me about this piece was the relentless focus on her pre-TV weight loss. Apparently, she was unacceptably fat for television. When I look at the old “fat” photos of Tina, I feel extremely frustrated because what I see is a normal sized woman who is neither skinny or fat. That’s what I see when I look at myself, too. I had an especially strong reaction to the story because I while I now resemble the old Tina, there was a time when my body was more like the skinny Tina. I remember being a size 4, which for me meant skipping dinner a few nights a week, turning down invitations to pretty much all social events, and avoiding alcohol at all costs. I wonder what Tina Fey has to give up to be thin enough for TV. I wonder if she ever considered what a positive affective it might have had on all women, but especially young women, to have a beautiful, normal-sized woman on TV. Thinking about the fact that she had to be thin to be successful really made me depressed as I wondered what opportunities I might never have because of my wieght.