Healthy Models: Why Normal Shouldn’t Be The Goal

Recently American Eagle’s aerie brand (a lingerie and loungewear line) launched a campaign called #aerieReal in which their models are depicted without retouching leaving “imperfections” on display.  (Read More about it HERE)

Great idea right?

Well almost as soon as the applause started, so did the backlash.  Throughout social media, well-meaning individuals argued that while the models remained untouched they weren’t representative of normal women.

aerie 1This made me think and I came to a conclusion that some people may find offensive:

We shouldn’t want our fashion and beauty ads to depict normal women.  Because, normal does not equal healthy.

We are all aware of media’s emphasis on the thin body and what has been deemed fat shaming.  I don’t debate these issues for a second.  But what worries me is the reactionary pendulum swing that I have been observing over the past few years.

There has been a public outcry to embrace and promote the “normal” body, especially in fashion and beauty ads.  And by “normal” I mean the average-sized body.  Unfortunately that is not necessarily a good thing.  According to 2009/2010 number released by the CDC, 69.2% of US adults 20 or older are overweight (including obesity).

Consequently, the idea of replacing anorexic images in the media with the average aka “normal” person is frightening.  Aren’t we then simply running the risk of creating a culture of unhealthiness at the other extreme?

aerie 2Both sides come with a slew of potential health problems.  So why are we insisting we promote either side in order to make people feel comfortable?

I know we all look different.  I understand that we come in different sizes and that we face different challenges –especially surrounding our weight (be it eating disorders, thyroid issues, PCOS, or a slew of other legitimate medical complications).  But that doesn’t mean we should give up on the aspirational; that we should simply embrace the status quo.

aerie 3

Wouldn’t the logical step be to promote healthy models and in turn healthy bodies?  As in, the body with a healthy percentage of fat (not BMI, as it can be misleading)?  Advertisements are aspirational at their core, promoting products that will in some way make our lives better.  I believe the people in these ads should represent that same goal.  Especially when the product being promoted is intrinsically tied to our bodies.

Being healthy doesn’t automatically mean being a size 0-2, but it doesn’t mean the average clothing size, 14-16 (in the US) is healthy either.  Depending on several factors (height, muscluator, etc), anywhere within that range (and perhaps even outside it!) can be deemed healthy for a particular individual.  Additional factors should also be considered, for instance even if your numbers all fall in the healthy range, but you carry your weight at your waistline the CDC tells us that you are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

I want to be clear:  in no way am I suggesting that people who fall in the unhealthy categories (on either side of the pendulum) should be shamed, or that companies shouldn’t create products for people in all categories.  Also, this post is not about the #aerieREAL campaign (that was just the inspiration).  What I am saying is, individuals that we see in ads should fall in the healthy aspirational category.  Not simply the “normal” or “real” categories that I keep hearing public outcry for.

What do you want to see when looking at models in campaigns?  Are you for or against retouching?  And in the case of aerie, do you feel like they’ve gone far enough?  Do you agree that normal does not equal healthy?

30 Lessons for 30: Health Lessons

4 days into my 30 Lessons for 30 series! And while I’ve already covered a wide variety of topics, there is still a lot I want to say.  After some serious consideration I wanted to talk Health Lessons today.

Now this may seem like a broad subject- and it is.  As a result my Health Lessons vary in topic but all share one commonality: being the healthiest version of one’s self.  Some of these lessons I knew theoretically and didn’t really learn until I had to apply them to my own life.  In other cases I watched people I know follow (and not follow) these tips and it had a profound impact on the outcome of their situation.

Hopefully these reminders will be good for you too- after all, how can we be the best versions of ourselves if we don’t do our best to care for ourselves?

Health LessonsHealth Lessons:

1)  Food can be your greatest friend or your greatest enemy.  Just like the old adage says, you are what you eat.  So eat whole, eat local and eat organic as much as possible.

2)  Drink lots and lots of water.  I know.  You’ve heard it a million times.  But remember drinking water not only hydrates you it also helps with physical functions.  Moreover, drinking water ensures that you aren’t drinking sugar and calorie filled beverages.

3)  Stay active.  Hate the gym?  Fine.  But that isn’t an excuse to sit around all day.  Find an activity and do it.  Your body needs activity to work at its optimum level.

4)  Sleep.  Oh gosh- someone needs to tell me to take my own advice on this one.  But seriously, your body needs sleep in order to recover from all the stressors it is put through.

5)  Be your own medical advocate!  Don’t trust others to make all the decisions, be informed and partake in the conversation.

6)  Don’t forget your mind.  It should be just as much a priority as physical health.  Take care of your mind and don’t take on more than you can handle.  Just like your body needs time to recharge, so does your mind.  So find something you do just for you.


Those are my Health Lessons!  Again, I’d love to know: what would you add to this list?


Other 30 Lessons for 30 topics include: Relationship Lessons, Fashion and Beauty Lessons and Career Lessons.  Make sure to check them out!

Super Seaweed

(I’ve got another guest post for you!  But this time instead of having one author you get two!!!  I know, I spoil you lovely NoH readers, but I can’t help myself, you are just too cute.  In all seriousness, this post is from Margaret Floyd, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and James Barry a Celebrity Private Chef.  You can read more complete bios at the end of this post.  But in the meantime be very impressed at the quality of guest posters here— like I said, nothing but the best for NoH readers!)

With the nuclear fallout from the tsunami in Japan blowing our way, it’s more important than ever to be increasing our intake of iodine.  Iodine helps protect the thyroid gland from radioactive damage. Iodine can be found in small amounts in many of the foods we eat, but one of the best sources of iodine comes from sea vegetables.

Sea vegetables – yes, we’re talking about seaweed – are particularly high in vitamins, minerals (in particular iodine and calcium), fiber, and potent anti-oxidants. They make food taste good (add them to soups, stews, salads, even a pot of rice as its cooking instead of salt to add a natural salty flavor), they help make beans more digestible (add a stick of kombu to the pot when you’re cooking dried beans like garbanzos, pinto, black, etc), and their impressive nutritional profile will increase the nutritional density of any meal.

But most of us have no idea what to do with sea vegetables. It’s easy for us to say “add them to soup, stews, salads…” etc but what does that really mean?

Well, here’s a really simple and tasty salad that will give you a nice gentle introduction to using one of our favorites, arame. You’ll find arame in your local Asian market, or in the asian or macrobiotics section of your Whole Foods, health food store, or co-op.

Kale Arame Salad


  • 1 big bunch kale, washed, stemmed, and chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried arame, soaked in a bowl of cold water for about 15 minutes, and drained
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons tamari wheat free soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons sesame seeds


  1. Put the arame in a big bowl of water and set aside to soak as you prepare the rest of the salad.
  2. In a large pot, heat a small amount of water (about 1/4 cup) on the bottom over medium heat, and add the chopped kale. Cover, and let steam for 2-3 minutes, until bright green. Use tongs to turn the kale as it heats so all the kale is evenly steamed. Drain in a colander and set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl combine sesame oil, tamari, and lemon juice. Add the steamed kale and toss. Drain the arame, and add to the salad, mixing well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
  4. You can eat this salad while it’s still warm, or chill it in the refrigerator and eat cold.


Margaret Floyd is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who helps clients all over North America and Europe improve their health through eating clean, whole food. She is the author of Eat Naked: Unprocessed, Unpolluted, and Undressed Eating for a Healthier, Sexier You and blogs at Eat Naked Now.

Chef James Barry is a celebrity private chef and the founder of Wholesome 2 Go, providing healthy and delicious meals throughout the Los Angeles area. Margaret and Chef James are currently co-authoring the cookbook Cook Naked, to be released in early 2012.


A Shapely Holiday Season

Confession: I ate too much.  WAY too much.  I think I may have rivaled not only Lukus, but his brother (who before yesterday outweighed me by 100 lbs) as well.  I feel ashamed.  So much so that I am getting my rear to the gym asap.  And because I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only epicurean (I am so diplomatic!), I am using this opportunity to share some advice to get you through the holiday season with your waistline intact.

    Hand holding water bottle

  1. Start With A Plan:  If you don’t have a fixed schedule for working out during this crazy time, the gym will end up falling to the bottom of the list.  However if you go ahead and create a schedule for yourself the working out will become a greater priority.
  2. Be Realistic:  Frankly, this time of year is crazy and expecting to work out for an hour fives days a week is probably not going to happen.  Cut yourself down to what you can do.  If that is three days a week for 20 minutes- great!  Something is better than nothing.
  3. Wear Something Sexy:  That’s right, pick at least one hot number a week to wear.  Okay, it doesn’t have to be sexy, but it should be fitted.  This will encourage you to keep working.  Not only will you want to be able to fit in the planned outfit, but you will also feel great about yourself when you do.
  4. Drink Water:  During the holidays we all tend to drink more alcohol.  Unfortunately this is the epitome of empty calories.  While I know cutting out alcohol may not be completely realistic (although I do recommend it!), try alternating adult beverages with glasses of water.  This way you will fill up faster, avoid dehydration and/or avoid the holiday bloat by flushing those high sodium meals.
  5. Create Active Traditions:  Instead of following a large meal with a seat on the couch in front of the television, plan a family hike or football game.  Or just take a walk around the neighborhood.  The more sedentary you are the harder it is to get motivated, so don’t let the lethargy take hold of yourself and loved ones!

Good For The Cold

It’s the time of year where everyone around me seems to be getting sick.  And it seems no matter how hard I try eventually the cold gets me too!  I tend to go with the all-natural remedies over medications.  So the moment I sniffle its vitamin C, Echinacea and a “Wellness Shot” (I know it has ginger and cayenne in it—can’t remember the rest of the ingredients!) from my local health food store.  Of course there is the classic cure as well: Chicken Noodle Soup.

No, it’s not just an old wives tale!  Chicken noodle soup does have immune boosting properties.  In fact, when tested in a lab, the soup is found to be an anti-inflammatory that slows the spread of mucus.  I guess this is one of those cases where mothers actually know best!

Of course these days my mother lives on the opposite side of the country from me, so if I want soup its on me.  Needless to say, making a pot of soup from scratch is a tremendous chore- especially when I am already feeling under the weather.  So instead I use a short cut recipe that is just as good as the real thing!
Chicken noodle soup
Easy Chicken Noodle Soup: (serves 8)

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ a onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 64 oz. of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb. cooked chicken breast, chopped
  • 2 cups noodles (I prefer egg noodles)
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¾ tsp. dried basil
  • ¾ tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion, celery and carrots and continue cooking until onions are translucent.  Add broth.  Stir in chicken, noodles, parsley, basil, oregano and bay leaf.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring soup to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat allowing soup to simmer for 20 minutes before serving.