500 Calories + Pregnancy Hormones = Perfect Body

Pregnancy hormones plus 500 calories a day equals the newest diet fad. Theoretically, the hormone injections allow the dieter to starve without hunger pangs.

Susan Yager, on faculty at New York University’s Department of Nutrition, called it “one of the loopiest and most dangerous ideas ever.” Even if it does work, it’s not sustainable, she says. Once people get off the injections, most will return to their usual weight.

This is the latest in a long line of nutty fads. We’ve got the grapefruit diet, liquid diet, cabbage soup diet, lemonade diet, acai berry diet, and even a tapeworm diet, to name a few.

Some who follow these regimes, are obese. Others aren’t, but are desperate to get skinny, skinny.

What else can you do but go on crazy diets if you want to resemble today’s insanely slim supermodels? They go on crazy diets, too.

Victoria’s Secret Angels are considered the ideal, but how do they create their angelic bodies? One jumped rope and ate nothing but spinach, chard and kale to lose 20 pounds, post-pregnancy. Another described the routine as “killing ourselves” in unending runs, lunges and squats. One supermodel’s big cheat was eating “a whole head of lettuce.” Many use drugs to deal with the stress of starving. These women have unusual genes in the first place, but still go diet-mad.

Naomi Wolf says the expectation that women’s bodies must be gaunt yet full breasted, though rarely found in nature, was once assumed to be the eternal and transcendent ideal. It seemed important beyond question to somehow live up to that standard.

Wolf wrote The Beauty Myth twenty years ago. Today things have changed and stayed the same. A lot of women and men now get it – that the ideal is a myth and not descended from heaven. But others don’t.

Some women still diet to extreme and feel compelled to go under the knife to correct their natural but, in their minds, “deformed” breasts.

One might hope the insanity of the means would clue us in to the insanity of the end. But too often it doesn’t.

Georgia Platts

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on March 18, 2011, in body image, feminism, gender, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. i never get this whole skinny worship, not that I’m saying it’s good to be morbidly obese, what should really matter is being healthy, right?! why can’t we have done with the miracle diet scams, and the idealized images! does it matter any more about being healthy? i also find irksome that there are some people who reckon it’s good to be fat, i have nothing against it, but why those two extremes? what about being healthy?

  2. It is interesting today to see what counts as a diet compared to an eating disorder. Almost all the “fad” diets would fall under some kind of eating disorder, yet people brush it off because of all of the hype it gets from the media. I think many people think that if it is blasted in the media, then it must work and it must be safe. Furthermore, there is a double standard for girls who are skinnier and trying to loose weight and trying these diets versus girls who are fatter and trying these diets. In the end, the best thing for people to do is “calories in verses calories out” and if it is a negative number then you will loose weight, but people, especially in American want a quick fix and that is why this “fad” diets sell.

  3. I totally understand the desire for fad/miracle diets because people are impatient and don’t want to spend at least 30 minutes to an hour a day at the gym/exercising and would rather see results right away. Especially because their “body idols” a.k.a celebrities endorse these diets! Beyonce was on the lemonade diet to drop 20 lbs for her movie Dream Girls. On tv, a lot of times you see the pretty character eating half a grapefruit for breakfast instead of cereal, eggs and toast. I understand the “killing ourselves” thing because even though other people may perceive the Victoria’s Secret Angels as gorgeous and skinny already, it’s the fact that they have to keep up these diets regardless of how skinny they already are to maintain their perfect body. I forgot what show it was (Tyra show?) where they had a segment on diabetic girls who stopped taking their medications because they found out that without it they would lose weight. These girls are risking their health and lives just to be skinny. I think people who want to lose weight want to see the effects of short term weight loss because it makes them happier to see pounds coming off easily and quickly but they forget later one these quick diets will make them regain all their weight and more, which is probably why most people who go on fad diets are obese. Society should get rid of the word diet and try to call it a “healthy lifestyle” instead. Learn how to incorporate moderation, not starvation, and exercise, not quick fixes like drinking only water all day, to lose or maintain a healthy weight.

  4. Tricia Sanders

    At my gym, by a treadmill there is a poster that says, “It would take a miracle, for a miracle diet to actually work,” which I firmly believe. If a woman or man wants the dream body, he or she is going to have to work for. There is nothing bad about working out, doing weights, and eating right. Working out is not going to help someone gain the body in which they want without eating and eating properly for that matter. Most of weight loss and toning muscles comes from what someone eats, then its working out.

    The perception that women all need to look like supermodels is crazy. Just be healthy, do what you love and surround yourself with supportive friends and family.

  5. Every day I feel like I have a fight with myself, I have body image issues and cant stop obsessing over how im not that victorias secret model. I have done those fad diets, I have done those crazy work outs where you basically cant move. All in all they dont work, i know in order to keep results you have to do things the right way. I even know some friends that have gotten their clinically diagnosed obese cousins to get prescription drugs to give them their drugs. The extent that some women go to to fit that “ideal” image seems absurd to some, but when its been engraved into you since you were younger, its easy to see why some would result to extreme measures to even come close to those ideals. to them its like achieving ultimate satisfaction, comparable to a race car driver wining a race.

    I think the real issue lies in the way media perpetuates the stereotypes and ideals that the general public is subject too every day.
    How can we get the media to stop idealizing one bodyimage?

  6. That article opened up my eyes to more of the dangerous diet and weight loss fads that women subject themselves to everyday. I work next door to a doctor’s office that specializes in weight loss and found out that a majority of the loss was caused by water weight loss, yet these people still paid for the services. I myself have struggled with the thought of “losing weight to look better” but realized that as long as I feel good, I am healthy, and can do any activities I want, I do not have a problem. I think it is sad that women are so caught up on looking “perfect” that they are losing their sense of self in the process. Very interesting article!
    ~Rebecca B

  7. In today’s society many women are constantly bombarded with stereotypes of body images and what a “perfect” body types should look like. It’s everywhere and especially advertised in the media. Each year thousands of women of all ages use diet and exercise to conform to an image that has been created by the society and media. For many girls/women,becoming a model or looking like a model is the ultimate goal.And being worshipped for beauty is more important than scholarship or being true to oneself.

    Today, the magazines that line the shelves of our book and retail stores speak to our infatuation of looking like Hollywood actors and actresses. Maxim, Interview, Elle and Cosmopolitan all feature young and beautiful people from the big screen. It is no wonder girls/women who consume these magazines try to strive for this type of fleeting beauty. They believe that the key to success is looking beautiful on the outside.

    The models used for advertisements and on television usually have ultra thin bodies. The photographs that are airbrushed for perfection leave the viewers thinking that the model on the picture is flawless looking. Being healthy and feeling good about you is great. But if you are not being true to yourself, no matter how thin you are, you will never be happy with yourself.

  8. I feed sad about the trend of being “skinny”. As a female myself, I feel pressurized to at least fit in the society by trying to weigh less than normal. Peer pressure is strong that I felt like I have to do to the same, or else I would not be accepted by the group, or would be looked down upon. People gossip about those who don’t fit in the “slim” group, they receive widespread criticism and are stigmatized. Think about the magazine cover page, they showed photos of celebrities who aren’t able to keep themselves “skinny”. These photos often come with titles and descriptions that are so sarcastic and attacking. Stigmatization of those who don’t follow the “rules” is very common, it may even be happening between 13-years-old teens.
    “Beauty equals being skinny” has long been the standard. It has been reinforced by mass media, advertisements and TV shows. I would say the mass media is the culprit for bringing up the trend. The body figure that most women are not going after for are unrealistic. It is extremely difficult to have big breasts when one is skinny like bones. Many of the Victoria’s Secret models must have undergone plastic surgery to get what they have now. Why would we go after something unrealistic, something that is nearly impossible to attain. What for? The models with the “perfect” body figure have greatly influenced our self-esteem. Think about those who are chubby, they are being stigmatized, how can they not lose their confident, and think that there is something wrong with them? Also, due to the prevalence of such models in society, men would think these models have the standard figure. They want women to measure up with such standards. There are definitely harmful effects when a man is comparing you with a Victoria’s Secret model, basing on body figures. Why is appearance so emphasized in the mass media? Why can’t women be compared by intellectual strength or by one’s achievement? Why it has to be what you look like or how big your breasts are? The “standard” of beauty will surely continue to impact our culture and people’s growth, and its effect will only grow bigger and stronger and negatively influence the next generation if we don’t do something about it and correct our beliefs now.

  9. I once had a friend that would eat less than 250 calories a day and use stratera (sp?) to keep herself from being hungry. The results: she was skinny but not anything crazy, however she would constantly nauseous and dizzy, even becoming depressed as a side effect from the drug. She refused to get off the pills because it was the only thing keeping her skinny. I tried to get her to go to the gym instead of starving herself but she didnt want to put in the work.
    I believe people will do crazy things to become the shape they see as perfect and I believe it is fine to strive for a great body but you have to do so the right way. Going to the gym and eating right are the only things that can work and keep a person healthy. All different body types should be celebrated and its a shame this superficial/impossible body is designated the best.
    As long as a woman is healthy they are perfect.

  10. I think the hunger supressing pills themselves are not the issue here. In order for our body to burn fat there has to be some type of caloric deficit, and when a caloric deficit occurs our body automatically releases hunger stimulating hormones. I think the problem is that people think they can eat little and be malnourished and still look great. I think that it’s very important to focus on the right kinds of food on a diet more than anything, because hormones play a huge role when it comes to the last 10-20 pounds that make women’s and men’s physique what they are. I could elaborate on that, but I might as well publish a book, because it’s pretty long. I would really look into a program from someone credible, instead of guessing how much and what I should be eatting.

  11. I was referred to this blog by my EWRT 1B professor and was really excited to read this entry, particularly the insights you’ve provided us on how even models are not immune from body insecurities and diet insanity. Something that stood out to me was that while many men and women now understand that the ideal is a myth, there are still some who don’t. I actually would like to add a third category. There are still others (myself included) who know cerebrally that the ideal body is a myth but cannot fully stop our destructive behavior.

    I have studied enough to know that the “perfect” body is both biologically impossible and a cruel social standard. However, even with these studies and even as a pre-nursing student, I was bulimic for years. I know that fad diets are crazy, but this knowledge hasn’t stopped me from purchasing Hoodia, Acai “energy weight loss” mixes, and wasting hundreds of dollars on Alli when I am not technically overweight. I think it’s particularly difficult because while our brains know that we’re being unreasonable, we’re still bombarded with images of this perfect body type. Part of what fuels my insanity over this is that I see people (albeit, very rarely) who come close to this ideal. When I see these people, I interpret it to mean that it the perfect body must not really be impossible, merely improbable and achievable through extreme means. I find myself reading about impractical diets, outwardly deriding the idea, and then secretly using my background in human physiology to evaluate whether it has any chance of working. This idea of the perfect female body is so engrained that I have trouble thinking my way out of it.

    • I can completely identify with you, on everything you have mentioned. If you have found a way to come to terms with it, please let me know.

  12. I absolutely hate all these new diet trends around the world, especially in America. I feel like every year, the thrive to be thinner is larger and the models get thinner and thinner. Growing up, I never had a weight problem. I was always considered average. A lot of my friends are beautiful young girls but they see themselves as “fat, ugly and obese” when they all weigh no more than 130 lbs. It is horrible seeing what society has done to my friends and women all over the world. Some of my friends go on juice diets and work out every single day for hours at a time and are still not satisfied. I have talked to them numerous of times but there is no changing their mind. “Killing Us Softly” openned my eyes to a lot of female controversies that deal with beauty. I wish my friends and other women would open their eyes and realize that they are beautiful. No one is perfect, the models aren’t even that perfect.

  13. Women are often held to an impossible standard. The media portrays model body types as what girls should aspire to. This can be quite detrimental to one’s self esteem as most people seem to be born with a body type that is hard to change. Because of this impossible standard we are constantly trying to find new quick and easy solutions to loose weight. In reality, loosing weight is not easy and it takes a lifestyle change to really get healthy. There is also a large difference between being healthy and being thin. Personally, I am not skinny, but do consider myself to be healthy. I go to the gym regularly, and have a fairly balanced diet, it is simply not in my genes to be thin. It is more important to be healthy and feel good about yourself than it is to reach an impossible goal.
    On a TV show I was recently watching, women were shown a line of other women placed in order from smallest hips to largest hips. Consistently, when the women were asked to go and stand in the line where they think they belong (so the woman to their right was smaller and the woman to their left was larger) they saw themselves as much larger than they actually were. This demonstrates how societies extreme pressure on women often prompts us to unfairly judge ourselves.

  14. I definitely applaud you for posting this on your blog. I think this ideal body image, for women, is a huge issues in our society today. Girls are targeted at such a young age to buy into the package of an ‘ideal’ woman. One that is skinny, but has large breasts, thin-legged, but with a larger behind. Like you said this image is rarely found in nature, and people are going to extremes to obtain this unnatural figure. Not only does it take up quite a bit of a woman’s energy, but it is also extremely un-healthy. I felt the pressure to be skinnier when I was just seven or eight years old. I had issues with food at ten. And I developed an eating disorder when I was twelve. I managed to get my disorder under control in the beginning of my high school years (around the age of fifteen) but I still had major issues with food, eating less than 700 calories a day. I was physically sick all the time, my immune system weakened from the lack of nutrients, I couldn’t sleep, or slept for hours and wake up exhausted, and I couldn’t focus in school; the list went on. It wasn’t until my boyfriend finally forced me to recgonize I still had issues with food, namely the fact that I obsessively counted calories and never consumed enough, that I began to truly heal. Now that I have began to eat the proper amount needed for day-to-day functionings I can see vast improvements in both my physical and mental health. Women need to ask themselves, is it more important for me to be thin, or to be healthy?

    *Note-I also wanted to add that my comment really only adressed women and their body issues. I’m not trying to leave men out, or make issues concerning male body images out to be less important. I recognize that their is a whole other set of standards for them and many of them also experience enormous amounts of physical and mental pain. I just focused on women since I am one, and that’s what this post was about.

  15. Emma Betancourt

    America is body-obsessed in every single way possible. Not one inch of a person is safe, it just isn’t! I have heard and tried so many diets its ridiculous! I know of some people who tried a diet which consisted of taking these pills everyday and a shot of B12 every week. They lost about 40lbs in 6weeks but they were having problems using the restroom and even some hair loss. I have lost 20lbs, eating right and portioned and with walking/jogging methods. It’s a slow process, but a healthy one. All I want is health not skinny and America seems to be forgetting that!

  16. I believe that America’s obsession with fads, diets, and plastic surgery are becoming worse. There is a new level of cult-like behavior that have women following new trends and diets without even knowing if they are scientifically correct, or even proven to be successful. People latch onto these new trends and ideas because they believe what the program tells them, what their peers tell them, and what celebrities tell them. Without bothering to ask questions, they stubbornly believe that the new acai diet will help them lose weight, and that pomegranates are the holy fruit. The motivation behind such lunacy is that all the programs, magazines, peers, and celebrities in your life constantly batter you with images, statistics, and speeches that explain how you aren’t good enough. You are not skinny enough, tone enough, confident enough, and good-looking enough. This is obviously a result of the rise of capitalism and advertising. Products, surgeons, and magazines need you to keep giving them money, therefore they have to convince you that they know the answers to solve the problem. In short, don’t believe everything you hear, and don’t ever sacrifice your well-being, dignity, and humanity because someone tells you your not good enough.

  17. I would have to agree with the argument that in media today, women are often portrayed with unrealistic body types and therefore most women are told to follow a certain type of female body model. I agree with Alana in the fact that the way things are said affects how people perceive themselves. There is no reason to pressure others to follow an unreasonable standard. I do have to admit that coming from a male perspective and having male friends, a lot of males do follow under the stereotype of looking at big breasts and butts on a thin frame. It is unreasonable to match a photoshopped picture with live model. Taking pregnancy hormones to feel like you are not hungry is clearly wrong because when the body is hungry, it is basically telling the individual that it needs nutrients. Depriving your body of nutrients ultimately leads to unhealthy effects on the body. Diet and exercise is necessary but only through healthy means.

  18. While I may not have a lot of experience with dieting itself, I can very much relate to the pressure involved with it. Ironically enough, most of the stress about weight comes from my own home. My mother is 4’11” and both of my parents believe her to be too chubby when she hits 100 pounds. All in all, she’s a very slight person who doesn’t look anorexic, yet… The problem is that I’m 5’2” and more heavily built in terms of bone structure. Every day I’m told that I should lose weight to become more healthy – Slim down, trim up, eat less; Too fat, too ugly, grotesque, no one would ever find me attractive. I’ve had multiple diets suggested to me and a few times during my early college years I was told that I should just stop eating for three months to start the process of losing weight. Of course after those three months, I was then supposed to eat no more than what could fit in the palm of my hand per meal. I’d feel so much better and be healthy, aye?

    Yes, I have depression. It’s hard to not when you’re told constantly that you’re far from good enough. I hate to say it, but all that stress only causes the body to slow down. Half of why diets don’t work, be they good ones or stupid ones, is because the person is so stressed out by the need to lose something that their body isn’t working at optimal speed. Stress very negatively affects the digestive system. No matter how little food you eat, if you can’t process it, all you’ll get is fat in return.

    To bridge a bit off of what Solomon and Josselin said… I personally think that a lot of the problem is based in men’s words. I’ve never found models to be ideal, but I’ve had the notion forcibly beaten into my head by those that do. It’s not so much the fact that we see this pretty girl on a magazine cover and want to be just like her, it’s the fact that EVERY magazine has pictures of these pretty girls and nothing else. It’s also very much the fact that when we see boys looking at those girls, they talk. “Man, she’s hot!” “Dude, she’s got the best boobs ever.” “What I wouldn’t give to be between those thighs!” I’m sure you would love to be between those thighs, but I hope you’re wearing armour because those hip bones will stab clean through you.

    I have nothing against boys or men wanting sex, nor do I complain over who they find attractive. What I do have a problem with is the callus way everything is said. When a young girl only hears about how sexy this model or that is, she starts to feel a bit insecure about herself. She doesn’t even have to SEE the model to feel like she’s less than perfect because all her peers are looking at someone else. What happens next? She gets compared. “Why couldn’t you look like her?” Now imagine if she has a crush on someone at the time. Does he also stare at some half naked model? If she were to look like the model… Would he stare at her too? Would he like her if she had those thighs or bust line?

  19. I agree- many women are blind to the fact that much of their insecurities are socially based. I’ve talked to some girls who say that if plastic surgery, dieting, and etc. makes you feel good about yourself, then do it. And if it’s for that reason, then it is okay… but it isn’t okay if it’s done just so that they can fall into the “ideal”. I can’t understand the difference. I feel like either way, for whatever reason it’s done, it all just roots back to the idea of internalization. The girls will only “feel good” about themselves because they know that society is putting them on a pedestal if they fall within the requirements e.g. tall, skinny, big boobs.

    Solomon-you seem to be a guy who is not shallow and looks beyond looks. But unfortunately not all guys are like that. Most girls feel so pressured to look good just for a guy. Some guys want someone who is all pure beauty so that they can feel accomplished showing off who they’re with.

    I once dated a guy who was all about working out and staying fit, but was a little too obsessive about it. I’m considered pretty petite in height and shape. But I never held myself back from eating, especially not in front of him. Well that relationship ended when he told me I had some “extra chub” that I should work off. It irked me, it bugged me, it angered me. It was a total turn off too. I never felt that way about myself. I’ve always been satisfied with my appearance and to have someone tell you that… it is kinda hurtful. I didn’t let it get to me because I knew he was just obsessive about it and was trying to make himself feel better about his own appearance. I have to say though that some girls would have felt pressured and probably felt inferior, resorting to these extreme measures.

  20. This really is incredible that these models have to go through so much in such an unhealthy way, in order to retain their image they are known for. These “fad” diets really shouldn’t be promoted. The people who take them the most seriously, I would personally think, would be the young teenage girls who look up to these supermodels. By promoting these beyond extreme diets to these young girls really is not giving off that great of an image. One really starts to learn the truths behind the lives of the famous as they grow older and are not as oblivious to things as compared to when they were a child. When you are a child, you look up to all of these people, and want to be exactly like them. You don’t realize that the effects are most likely not going to be long term unless you stay dieting.

  21. Can this so called ideal look women strive for be cause by their own insecurity? If so then it is a personal problem that needs to be dealt with personally. I believe society plays a part in causing this issue but the main cause is how the individual perceives life and society. Our interpretation of success and beauty and the list goes on plays a huge role in shaping us emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Max Lucado said that 80% of our problems in this life come from how we perceive life, and only 20% of our problems are real problems. What are the roots and rewards of archiving the ideal beauty? Is it to be on magazine covers or to be a Victoria Secret Model? If so that is a very shallow goal or standard to strive for. We all know beauty does not hold a relationship since Hollywood stars and star athletes cheat on their “top of the line” beautiful partners more times than a five year old can count.

    • And what do you think causes their insecurity?

      As I’ve noted before, people are largely blind to the extent to which they have internalized the notions of their society. Internalization means that the way things are in society seem normal, eternal, and they remain unquestioned. The only way people can overcome their blindness is to see the social underpinnings of their thoughts. This is what can free them.

  22. We’ve discussed this topic in both my social psychology class and my human development class. I think dieting is a serious issue, and is never the answer to unwanted weight. I’ve worked at an organic farmshop for about a year, watched movies and learned a great deal about the importance of eating healthy. The vast majority of people do not get the nutrients they need, and are constantly depleting their body of the necessary vitamins and minerals. Processed foods, and white sugar are difficult for the body to digest, and thus stay in the body, leaving someone with excess and unwanted weight. If people started to eat healthier, natural, organic, unprocessed foods, and work on getting important foods for their body, rather than seeing excess weight and going to extremes to loose it, the world would be a much healthier place. Healthy food leaves you feeling energized, healthy and happy while most processed foods are high in sugar and give you a quick high, they don’t feed your body the food it needs and just feed fat into your system. I think a lot of this issue is routed in the fast-pace lives that most people lead. We need to slow down our lives, relax and focus on what our bodies are telling us. We need to exercise more, spend time for ourselves and take the time to get our bodies the food it truly needs.

  23. I can really relate to this post, and I’m sure there are many other women who can too. When I was just a young teen, I was chubby, so before I hit high school, I tried so many things to try and lose weight. My mother was also overweight and was always on a new diet, so it was even easier for me to get into dieting myself. My mother didn’t mind me dieting because she felt bad for me, so she encouraged me to diet with her most of the time. Together we have tried 4 out of the five diets posted above plus more, and just as the new “Pregnancy hormone diet” is predicting that people will “return to their usual weight” once they stop taking the injection, me and my mother always gained weight back after it seemed like the diet worked. Luckily for us, my mother had began to take natural foods and herbs for full body cleansing and overall health. The products didn’t require her to stop eating, and they didn’t promise any weight loss, but they did suggest proper foods to eat. She began to feel healthier as she changed her eating habits and she even loss some weight. It was also perfect timing because not to long later my father got seriously sick (I’m not sure what he had) and was bleeding from his colon. The doctors said he could get colon cancer, so my mother got him eating food and taking all the products she was. What ever my father had, it went away and healthy eating with the right types of all natural herbs did the job. The whole experience my family went through when my father was sick had taught me something about dieting… it didn’t work. Eating the right stuff for our internal health was what matters, so we can live longer and stronger. Not harming our bodies with these fad diets so we can “look good” for a few days.

  24. wow! is incredible how some women are willing to starve themselves just to be in the cover of a megazine or the model of the month etc. I think there are ways to have this girls on a diet and at the same time feed them with real and nutritional food. I wonder why is people so obsess with super skinny. When I see models on T.V. modeling clothes I honestly dont like how they look at all. Most of them look tired, and super skinny they look nice because of all the make up that they wear, but behind all that i’m sure theres pain. Hopefully one day this stops.

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