An Ageist New York Times Pro-Obesity Editorial

The beautiful-at-any-size movement has consistently, from what I've seen, been rife with not so thinly veiled ageism. Other than a token scantily clad middle-aged woman in Dove ads, the plus-sized models all seem to be under the age of thirty. Also, women's motives for losing weight are further reduced to those of mere vanity. It disturbs and perplexes me that anything purporting to be "pro women" could render a woman's struggle to lose unhealthy fat into another exercise in shaming her.

In a recent editorial in the New York Times, When Can Women Stop Trying to Look Perfect, the title alone makes multiple faulty assumptions which seem to be:

1) Women's weight loss is about perfection only
2) The definition of perfection primarily embodies appearance
3) All women agree on that definition 
4) Weight loss is a manifestation of chasing an impossible ideal since perfection doesn't exist
5) Women need outside permission to stop chasing impossible ideals

What amazes me is that anyone can consider themselves an advocate of women's rights and well-being while making a statement as ageist as this:

And when you’re 61, are you really, still, expected to be fretting over whether you’ve got your “best body”? Can’t you just page through your high school yearbook, eat the way your cardiologist says you should, and call it a day?

I'm closing in on fifty, not sixty, but I need to speak on behalf of myself and my 99 year old Nana, whom, when I asked her to share her beauty secrets with me, replied: "Secrets?? What secrets?? I was born this way!" Her sass is natural but she also takes good care of herself.

Not only do many women like me enjoy the pursuit of looking and feeling good about ourselves at any age; many of us do so because it's intrinsically rewarding. Not every gesture taken to maintain a healthy body is because of a feeble, self-hating nod (or bow) to a misogynistic media and culture.

Hopefully, if you're eating and living healthily with genetic conditions aside, you won't need a cardiologist at sixty years old! But that's not what's happening. Nearly 40% of middle-aged adults were obese in 2011-2012, the highest percentage of any age group. Even more alarming is that the obesity rate for women aged 60 years and older has increased almost 21% from 2003-2004.  72% of older men and 67% of older women are now overweight or obese.

Besides the usual damaging health effects from being overweight, obese people between the ages of 39 and 63 face a higher risk of a more rapid decline in mental functions. Obesity is also a risk factor for developing dementia. Also, estrogen is linked to hormonally-sensitive cancers in women, and obesity after menopause is a cancer risk because estrogen is formed in fat tissue.

So yes, at age 48 and beyond I will continue my pursuit (which the author likes to think of a "fretting") of my best-for-me body. I won't just "page through" my high school yearbook and call it a day. Life-saving measures are a beautiful thing!


  1. Of course I agree with your opinions on this, and think they can apply to men as well as woman. As for the article in the Times, it seems like a biased op-ed piece by an obese, and possibly morbidly obese, 45 year old woman. She has an agenda, and it's a lot easier to write an article about how it's fine to be obese than to do anything about a problem that will negatively affect your health for the rest of your life. I would much rather see her write about how society makes it very hard to be healthy and how she wishes the government and food industry would help us to be healthier.

    1. I don't understand why the NYT would give her a platform for this kind of "content." Sad.

  2. Yeah, they have rejected ever letter to the editor that I have sent them :-)

    1. Maybe you can publish them on Calorie Lab!

  3. This is so sad... why not try everyday to be your best self? Not in an effort to shame our bodies into perceived perfection, but to treasure the bodies! I don't want permission to give up or give in, I want inspiration to keep improving for as long as I'm here!

    1. Inspiration not permission wanted! Love it!


Post a Comment

Comments are now closed on Outdated By Design which was retired in April of 2017. I am leaving my blog archives online. If you need to reach me please use the handy contact form. Thanks!