When Thin Is Too Thin. Part 1

We live in a world obsessed with weight and food, in a time period when curvy Kate Winslet and Marilyn Monroe are considered fat, and the “stick figure” of the moment is touted in movies magazines and movies. No wonder women have a problem shopping for size 12 when we want to be slipping into size 2, or even 0!

The huge and profitable weight loss industry tells us we must reduce to be happy, our doctor tells us to lose to be healthy, and the government holds the body mass index, or BMI, over our heads.

Remember that oft-quoted sentiment from the Duchess of Windsor — you can’t be too rich or too thin? Now, Fergie, the Duchess of York, hawks Weight Watchers products, and mothers all over the country unwittingly teach their daughters to loathe their bodies and accept dieting as a way of life. Karen Laramie, a clinical nutritionist who has had a practice in the chic and affluent town of Westport, Conn., the last six years, sees her share of women who hate their bodies. “When Mom looks in a mirror and grumbles about what she sees, her daughter takes this all in. When someone says you look good, you need to say thank you and keep those too-fat thoughts to yourself,” she says.

While Laramie customizes weight control programs for women from age 20 to 60, there are some clients she just cannot help. “Some women are not overweight, and I tell them, we need to look at whether you are just trying to reach a certain number, a certain size, whether you are focused on a numerical weight you were 10 years ago.” Most women want to be from size 2 to size 7, she says, and most are size 10 to 16. She points out that age, perimenopause, thyroid irregularities, menopause, illness, surgeries and stress can sabotage our efforts to either drop pounds or stay the same. And really, who can say they look the same at 50 as they did at 20? The answer is obvious to most of us, but there are those women who come to Laramie with what she considers unrealistic goals.

She points out that progesterone levels drop in the body before estrogen does and progesterone controls carbohydrate metabolism and water weight retention, serving as a mild diuretic. When it slows, we retain more water and tend to feel puffy. “You may not be able to eat a lot of carbohydrates anymore, or it could be that you are working out too hard, elevating cortisol levels, a stress hormone that makes it difficult to lose weight.” One of her clients told her, “I know people think I’m crazy, I can’t tell anyone I’m here, but I am willing to do anything to lose weight. I’ve done everything, and it’s not working,” Laramie relates.

Another client brought in 200 pictures of herself so Laramie could see the progressive weight gain. “I could not tell the difference between last year and five years ago. I told her, ‘you are too thin now’ and sent her to a psychiatrist. When I sense an eating disorder, then we have that conversation that this image of yourself you are trying to maintain is unrealistic, now that you are 20 years older and the mother of five. I tell them they may have to accept a weight gain.”

She added that really thin women have a poor self-image about their bodies, and what is fat, what is appealing and what is not. “Little girl babies don’t say their hips are too big, they get that message over a lifetime. Men contribute, but we can’t blame it on them. Models are thinner these days. The movie stars of years ago didn’t really have a lot of muscle tone. Somehow, pencil thin is in. If that’s your goal in life, that is unhealthy.”

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