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Accepting Different Body Types, But Not Embracing Obesity

I just learned (yes, I’m a little late to the party) about the Body Shop anti-barbie controversy from a post on Facebook. The ad to the left has been banned from most countries, because it was believed to be in bad taste. For me, it raises some very interesting questions.

First of all, it’s been my experience that the media has been relentless in its portrayal of feminine beauty as being a dress size zero. This is an unattainable goal for most of us, and a very narrow view of what is truly attractive and physically healthy. I can’t imagine how many young girls feel deeply flawed when they compare themselves to Barbie et al. If unchecked, that self-doubt and insecurity can become a lifelong self-esteem issue or worse. Eating disorders are becoming more and more common, and carry with them the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

That being said, I’ve often had mixed feelings about the few “love your body as it is” campaigns* that have tried to push back against the rail-thin ideal. While we all have different body types, it’s still not healthy to be obese. Just as our favorite pets are born with different natural shapes (Chihuahuas, Whippets, Golden Retrievers, and Great Danes), we humans are different sizes too. But that doesn’t mean it’s “ok” to be excessively fat. I’m sure we can all think of examples of dogs that are over-fed and under-exercised. They frequently have (or are developing) health problems because of it.

So, I think that it’s good to have this conversation – beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. But I don’t want us to go too far and become complacent about health and fitness. Being the “right size” for our build is an important part of preventing certain weight-related illnesses like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and heart disease. There is no room for “discrimination” against those who are working towards a healthier body, be they obese or otherwise. But, let’s not go too far in accepting an unhealthy lifestyle. Barbie is not the ideal, but I don’t think Ruby (above) is either.

How do you feel about this campaign?

*I think the Dove campaign is a notable exception. All the women in the ad below are different shapes/sizes without being obese.

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4 Responses to “Accepting Different Body Types, But Not Embracing Obesity”

  1. Allie says:

    The ads by Dove and The Body Shop are about beauty coming in ever shape, size and color. The campaigns are to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that you don’t have to conform to an unattainable ideal set by society. They are not promoting obesity or even focusing on health or fitness, nor are they aiming to make people accept an unhealthy lifestyle….they are aiming to give women, and especially young girls, the opportunity to see beauty in themselves, however they may look, and present real women as alternative role models to supermodels.

  2. Dial Doctors says:

    I agree with you that embracing obesity is not a service for society. You use a great example where the Dove campaign is able to show women of different sizes and shapes without being unhealthy.

    Obesity isn’t an aesthetic problem; it’s a health problem. That ad shows a doll which could easily be 200 lbs. if it was a real woman therefore unhealthy.

    Men aren’t without their own troubles. Ads portray men with bulging muscles and six packs. Just like some women who will never have a 24 inch waist, some men will never have a six pack. You can see men working out for hours at a time to get the desired reversed triangle shape. Women purge or restrict food while men use steroids and use unhealthy supplements to handle the pressure.

  3. I agree, Dial Doctors. Men are held to a difficult standard too… and being 200 lbs is not healthy for most women… ;-)

  4. Carolyn Thomas says:

    Hello Dr. Val,
    Dove strategically targeted a demographic of women who are tired of stick-thin supermodels who just make us feel frumpy and dumpy by comparison. And this innovative marketing strategy worked. Within six months of Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign launch, European sales of Dove’s skin firming products increased by 700%. SEVEN HUNDRED PER CENT! The campaign’s sales topped $1 billion in its first year.

    Is it just me, or does anybody else wonder why Dove and its ad agency pals tell us first that our natural imperfect beauty should be celebrated – but then that natural aging is wrong and must be stopped by purchasing Dove products? That we should stop feeling intimidated by unrealistic media images of beauty, but then open our wallets to buy Dove’s cellulite-fighting cream? And why did women line up like sheep to buy this stuff?

    More at “If We’re Beautiful Just The Way We Are, Why Do Those Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Ads Tell Us We Need To Buy Their Skin-Firming Creams?” at

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Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

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Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.


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