May 1, 2009

A thin grave

I’ve heard it a million times…

“I was so sick all week…but (giggling), I lost ten pounds.”

“I’d rather die thin than live fat.”

It’s strange, frightening and altogether not too surprising that girls and women rejoice in weight loss that results from illness and disease.  Most girls and women understand the serious side effects of chronic yo-yo dieting, diet pills, colonics, laxatives, drug-use and over exercise as the torture devices du-jour to pursue insane degrees of thinness. But, the stakes are high and, as a result, too many take the deadly gamble.

Images of thinness have gotten more extreme and a female’s value is wrapped in a stick-thin frame no matter what else she does.  If you’re independent, successful, professional, intelligent and you’re not thin (and attractive, with thin being a means to being considered attractive in this culture), you’re not as valuable as you could be being all those things. And. Thin.

So, when the FDA announced yet another diet pill being pulled off the market, I’m wasn’t at all surprised and I don’t think anyone else is either.

Government health officials are announcing the recall of popular weight loss pill Hydroxycut, after reports of liver damage and other health problems.

Food and Drug Administration officials said Friday the manufacturer of Hydroxycut has launched a nationwide recall of the dietary supplement, used by people trying to shed pounds and by body builders to sharpen their muscles.

Hydroxycut is advertised as made from natural ingredients. It accounts for about 90 percent of the market for weight loss supplements, with sales of about 1 million bottles a year.

Dietary supplements are not as tightly regulated by the government as medications. Manufacturers don’t need FDA approval ahead of time before marketing their products.

I mean, who are we kidding?  It’s not like there isn’t a history of harmful side effects linked to the use of diet pills resulting in recalls.  Think Fen-Phen in 1997.

I don’t think the manufacturers are surprised.  I don’t think the FDA is surprised.  I don’t think the general public is surprised.  I certainly don’t think the users of Hydroxycut are surprised. I mean, really, anytime a pill claims to have the ability to help you lose weight with minimal lifestyle changes such as changing one’s diet significantly and exercising regularly and being able to help you lose wight and/or tone and sculpt your body, you have to take pause.  That’s just weird.  And wrong.

Haven’t we learned that there’s no magic pill or quick fix for anything?  Are we still that obsessed with immediate results and instant gratification that we have ignored the lessons of the past and what our common sense tells us?

Maybe.  But, when the stakes are high logic goes out the window.

Thinness and the pursuit of thinness, no matter how toxic, is glorified in our culture. In fact, the toxic pursuit of thinness and the vile and disturbing results create fascination and stokes the flames of infatuation.

Just this week in Us Magazine’s print version there is yet another article focusing on Lindsay Lohan’s skeletal figure and the claim that she proudly uses Adderall.  Us Magazine’s online version provides the reader with a slide show of Lohan’s “weights ups and downs.” Last week, Star Magazine ran a similar piece focusing on Lohan’s break-up and subsequent weight loss.

Lohan’s weight loss can’t be attributed entirely too her break-up when you consider the sea of images that glorify the cult of thinness and advertisers provide various instruments, pills and potions to make the mirage appear real.

Hydroxcut’s recall is predictable.  Lohan’s severly thin frame is predictable.  The media’s response is predictable.

And, I have no doubt, a new pill will replace Hydroxcut in the same way Fen-Phen was replaced and the cycle will continue until there is some honest dialogue.

Until then, girls and women will put their health on the line for an outrageous aesthetic that is pandered to the masses.


9 Comments »

  1. For the life of me I still cannot understand how these things make it on to the open market. It’s deplorable and these sorts of drugs kill people. Because they are directly related though to something that is considered acceptable and desirable (losing weight) diet drugs continue to exist.

    Great post.

    Comment by Julie — May 21, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  2. Really great post. One quibble though: to say that diet pills are the ‘easy fix’ is to imply there’s a fix, full-stop. And there simply isn’t. The research proves again and again that longterm weightloss by any means is only possible for around five percent of the population. So in other words, whilst exercising and eating nutritious foods will probably improve one’s health, it won’t turn a fat person into a thin person. And weight loss – even without drugs – has been shown to have negative health implications, especially yo-yo dieting. So you are totally right that the cult of thin is a real problem, and not only because it drives people to seek unhealthy ‘fixes’ but also because no real fix exists and that means permanent exclusion from fashion and ‘beauty’ for a huge number of women, unless the beauty ideal changes.

    Comment by Spilt Milk — May 21, 2010 @ 10:54 pm

  3. You are so right. Amen.

    Comment by Jessica — May 22, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

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  5. I agree with most of what you say. However, there ARE magic pills and fixes for certain things in life, not necessarily weight loss. I notice that whenever I read of some historical figure dying or suffering from a condition or disease that is easily treatable or curable today. It is not so unreasonable to think there might someday be an effective weight-loss treatment.
    However, I’m not waiting with bated breath for it. nd if someone is so rude as to tell me to my face that (essentially) they’d rather die than look like me, I will wish them the best of luck in achieving their goal.

    Comment by Mulberry — July 19, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

  6. [...] with little regard for the physical consequences. Orenstein’s past is characteristic of the dangerous lengths girls and women will go in order to achieve the ubiquitous and unrealistic beauty ideal. [...]

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  8. [...] beauty ideal. It also exposes the mental and emotional health risks, the incredible and painful risks women are willing to take in order to embody an ideal of perfection. Because in the end, as bell [...]

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