Paleo for Women
Evolutionary Health, Revolutionary WomanhoodNavigation
As of writing this post, there are exactly twenty days left until Sexy by Nature is released! I also got about $2000 worth of books shipped to my house last week – and then took them all back to the post office for delivery to media outlets and bloggers all over...Read More
The modern notion of womanhood, in which women eat little, exercise a lot, have eating disorders and body image issues, and are expected to look like rails, fails women time and time again. The solution to that failure–to all of the pain, to all of the confusion, and...Read More
Our genes are the blueprint with which we were born, generated by millions of years of evolution. In this way, genetics provides the spectrum of health in which we get to live out our lives. Genes provide the text of each of our own Choose Your Own Adventure stories; we, in...Read More
Much like the wider society in which we live, the health world is biased. In the past, this was an overt bias, but today, it’s much more insidious. It’s hidden, and it’s sneaky. But it’s there. Researchers are mostly men. Doctors are mostly...Read More
On the very last page of Sexy by Nature, I list resources for further reading. Only about 15 books make the list – ranging from topics such as acne to natural childbirth, and with many in between. One category I give special attention to is myth busting. And in that category? Just two books: Denise Minger’s stellar Death by Food Pyramid, and Liz Wolfe’s highly informative, storied, uproariously fun Eat the Yolks, which just so happens to come out today.
Myth busting books are crucial – perhaps the most crucial of all the one’s we’ve got out there.
What’s more – and this is a certain sell, I’m making a firm endorsement here – of all the people you might want to be in conversation with about what it means to be healthy, what’s going on in society today about what it means to be healthy, and how to be healthy, it is Liz Wolfe.
I have every so often in my short writing career come across facebook and blog posts that posits the question: “Who is your favorite paleo health guru?” My answer? Liz Wolfe. I also like Diane a lot. Chris Kresser. Chris Masterjohn. Stephan Guyenet. Paul Jaminet. Denise Minger. The list goes on. But Liz prioritizes holistic healing. She believes in a sound mind and a sound body.
And she’s brilliant.
In Eat the Yolks, it shows. If I could give you EtY in two sentences, it would be this:
EtY is a guide to understanding food, understanding what is healthy, and doing it all with a firm, learned, experienced, and loving leader. If any book is going to convince you that a paleo-type approach is the “right way” to eat, and why, it is this one.
(Talk about fodder for defending your diet, eh?)
In some more scattered details, here is how the book is laid out, and later on some snippets just to give you a taste of what you’ll be in for with EtY:
Eat the Yolks is in four simple sections: Fat, Protein, Carbohydrates, and Nutrients. In the first three, Liz decimates popular myths and tells you everything you need to know about what’s gone wrong in dietary advice (and what the proper alternative is). In the final one, she talks about how important nutrient density, and explicates all of the different nutrients you need as a part of a whole foods diet. Vitamins A, D, and K (1 and 2) are some of Liz’s favorites, and, holy hell, rightfully so. Magnesium, phosphorous, sulfur, selenium, iodine, zinc, and iron all also receive high praise and detailed attention.
What’s so right about the way Liz does health is that – A) it is not tyrannical, B) it emphasizes quality over quantity, and C) she cares just as much about what you include as what you exclude. Yes, get rid of your grains. Yes, throw out your vegetable oils. But make sure you get the full-fat, nutrient dense liver. Eat the greens. Drown yourself in bone broth. This is the stuff of which powerhouse bodies and real healing are made.
It is entirely possible to eat “paleo” by consuming lean beef and carrot sticks only. No way, says Liz. Nutrients are the most important factor of health, so go after them with gusto.
Also, Liz emphasizes fertility for women as one of the primary markers of health. If you’re of reproductive age and you’re not menstruating, this is a clear sign – a “red flag” – in her words, that something is clearly amiss in your physiology.
Well – I can’t say I disagree. In fact, it’s an enormous relief to see a popular health guru out there paying attention to female-specific physiology.
For a woman, the body only reproduces if it perceives adequate nutrient and energy stores, so if you’re not menstruating (as many raw foodists or vegans or yo-yo dieters or SAD eaters may find is the case), this should make you want to sit up and take stock. Now – personally – I also know that a lot of things can still be right if the reproductive system is wrong. You may undereat and therefore unde-rproduce hormones you need to ovulate, but I don’t think that’s necessarily cause to panic. It’s cause to think and to fix as best you can – but, ladies, know that your health is not in a basket on its way to hell if you are not menstruating.
As Liz would well agree. She would just tell you to think deeply about what you’ve got going on, and go eat a whole foods diet, and get some bloodwork done, too, if you’ve gotta.
As a mythbuster, Liz
-articulates a long defense of cooking
-destroys the “health benefits” and “evolutionary origins” of veganism
-tells us why everything we’ve ever been told about fiber, whole-grain, low-carb, and high-carb is wrong
-has an entire section titled “why cruelty free is a fantasy” in which she reminds us how many animals suffer in the production of plants – “just because we’re not chewing on it doesn’t mean it didn’t suffer on our behalf” – how many forests are decimated for cotton production – and how cruelty is a necessary part of the food web – of every human beings participation in the food web – even if the food we eat comes in a styrofoam package and its primary protein is seitan. Of course we have to be responsible omnivores – but Liz is firm on this point. Life requires responsibility and awareness, and isn’t it better to know where our food comes from and do our best to do so with love rather than be ignorant, hateful, and fearful?
-is real about our motivations for doing things – some of her quotes could easily have come out of or be added in to my own book: “admittedly, when I went low-carb, I cared about absolutely none of this. I just wanted to trade some perfectly healthy curves for hard angles.” This is a story many of us are well-familiar with – and we absolutely must deconstruct the myths and psychological wiring we’ve got floating around our heads compelling us to do these things in order to be able to eat the nourishing way we need to.
-cites Chris Masterjohn as an expert. Six hundred thumbs up.
-kicks margarine to the curb – and quotes Judith Shaw on her expose work regarding the history of trans fats: “USDA figures show that butter consumption in the United States had actually dropped to one-quarter of what it had been at the turn of the century while consumption of hydrogenated vegetable oil margarine had risen 200 percent.”
-decimates the “healthy cereal” myth in part by telling the Kellogg story — you know, about how the Kellogg company was begun was an extremely conservative, religious company bent on purifying the body with products like fiber. For pages. I even learned that Kellogg was involved the production and proliferation of some of the first soy-based food products.
-calls out the ‘French paradox”– saying that “the curious fact that the French eat plenty of saturated fat yet suffer low incidence of heart disease–is actually the “Eskimo-Chinese-Greek-Puerto Rican-Okinawan-and-beyond paradox.”
-decimates both the lipid hypothesis and the diet-heart hypothesis by explaining their origins(in a whole chapter):
Did you know, for example, that the first heart attack on record occurred in 1912? I didn’t until Liz told me. Sure – this fact is at least to some degree because diagnostics improved, but doctors and hospitals certainly existed before 1912 and if heart attacks were prevalent before this time then it would have fit a set of already well-known criteria. It did not. Heart attack began growing and multiplying… and only have been for the last 100 years.
By 1930 the number of reported heart-attack related deaths was 3000. By 1960, it was 500,000. The “lipid hypothesis” – that is, that cholesterol in the blood causes heart disease – and the “diet-heart hypothesis” which states that saturated fat in the diet causes blood cholesterol to rise – says Liz, arose as a response to panic over what might be causing people’s hearts to just stop working.
“Let’s start here: in 1954, a researcher fed some cholesterol to rabbits. The rabbits developed arterial damage. This researcher did not, however, prove that this is also what happens in humans. Because, like, it doesn’t. In fact, you might even say that rabbits and humans are entirely different animals. Rabbits–tiny herbivores not designed by nature to consume cholesterol-rich foods like meat, eggs, and butter–have completely different metabolic machinery than humans….”
The thing about Liz’s books is that reading them is as enjoyable as talking to her, if that’s even possible. I get off maybe five or six good one-liners in my book. Liz accomplishes them with ease, and with about five to a page. She is beyond funny (perhaps the only diet book to eloquently pull off a reference to denim tuxedos), and snappy, and witty, and real.
I also like how often she says damn.
Here are some smart and/or snappy soundbites:
“For the first time, I wasn’t content with simply following rules. I wanted to know why this was working and whether all the worries were justified. I wanted to know everything. With no dog in the fight, I set out to discover the truth about food, nutrition, and how I could best nourish my body. I wanted to know how we got here, why we believe what we believe, and what all of it meant to my health.”
“Let’s call them crop oils–partially because they’re derived from big-profit agricultural crops, and partially because the word crop looks a lot like the word crap, and I like that.”
“The hodgepodge of jackassery and lies that stitch together health fears, nutrition dogma, and profitable products disguised as health foods is damn difficult to tease apart. But if we don’t try, well, who’s the real jackass?”
“Let’s usher in a new era. Let’s move on. But first, let’s dunk decades of conventional wisdom and heart disease hood-winkery in a great big vat of pork fat.”
“Truth is, I don’t care how much you eat. I care about quality and nutrient density. The rest, I believe, generally works itself out.”
“Paleo is not a diet. It’s not a fad. It’s not a rigid set of rules to follow. It’s not a sound bite. It’s an exploration of history, nutrition, the human diet, and, most important, our health.”
“So what to do? In a nutshell: Go full-on food badass. Eat what your ancestors ate.”
“The Paleo community…is doing something unprecedented. We are crushing nutritional dogma. We are fighting the lies we’ve ben fed for years, and or health is better for it. We are bringing the way we eat back into harmony with how our bodies work. What we’re doing goes deeper than dieting. We are reclaiming our health. (Fist Pump.)”
“Someone once told me that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly at first. So go out there and royally suck at finding, growing, or cooking healthy food. I’ll be right there with you, every step of the way. You are worthy of the truth, and you’re worthy of good nutrition.”
Which I think explains what Liz did with this magnificent work pretty damn well.
And is Liz not one of the best representations of an unapologetic, natural, loving, embodied, powerful, and radiant women we can look up to?
(And is she aware that her shirt matches the chicken?! Unbelievable.)
Ladies what’s up what’s up!
First – there’s a Nom Nom Paleo giveaway happening from now through Wednesday at midnight!
There were two giveaways in the last week that need winners!
First up: The Primal Organics Skincare $100 giftcard giveaway. The winner of that prize is…
I don’t know Alba’s last name, but she should have just gotten an email from me and the kickass Primal Life Organics team.
Second up: The 21 Day Sugar Detox Book and Cookbook giveaway. The winner of that prize is…
Okay, this is totally bizarre. 2000 + entries, and the winner is my mother.
She already has a copy. And this feels like the nepotic house of representatives of the ancient Romans and Nero is my emperor.
So I am going to draw again.
The second winner is…
Audra Lewis Dentinger!
Congratulations Audra — you should have received an email from me already.
Finally - ladies. There are two big giveaways happening this March. First, I am going to give away signed copies of the book, probably starting early next week (if you’ve already pre-ordered one and win we will cancel the pre-order), and second there will be one big deal wow this is actually costing Stefani money it’s so cool and I didn’t know Stefani knew anything about technology and perhaps it starts with an “i” and ends in “this is an elite yet arguably superfluous device” or with a “k” and ends in “fire” gift leading up right to the actual release on March 18.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise – but it’s a damn good one.
Once every few months, I make a vow that I am going to start cooking more. Sure – I mean, I do all the time. But the way I do it is highly streamlined and efficient. I microwave vegetables. I stir-fry ground beef. And really… not much else. This is the fastest way for me to cook and to get the calories I need.
I do enjoy my heals. But this time I have an added impetus to spend more time preparing food:
There is a man in whose bed I wake up from time to time.
And he likes food.
And he likes breakfast.
And wants to know what my “specialty” is.
Um – steamed zucchini and onions?
And wants to know what this whole “paleo” thing is all abount.
Um – steamed zucchini and onions?
So it is to my favorite cookbook authors that I turn. Michelle Tam, of Nom Nom Paleo blog fame, is one of them. (See the book on Amazon @ here.) I am also digging into Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain, which I’ll show you a bit more of next week.
Nom nom has been a successful blog (and intense labor of intense love) for a very long time. Michelle is well-established as one of the foremost foodies of the paleo world, having taken food blogging and photography up as a ….
third full time job?
Next to working a night shift and being a loving mother to her two children and wife to her husband Henry?
(Image credit: nom nom herself.)
And here is the story of Michelle’s day to day life, in cartoon form in the book Nom nom Paleo: Food for Humans. Please forgive the poor quality of the photo – it’s very late at night and very dim in this home.
Which is beyond inspiring.
By the way – this book has only been on shelves for weeks, and already it is a best-seller.
And which I am giving away of in celebration of my food liberation journey at the end of this blog post.
So what am I turning to Michelle to do for me?
Her book (which is co-authored by her brilliant husband Henry Fong) does so many things it’s hard to nail it down precisely why it’s so perfect for my endeavor. The book’s got recipes for every meal, every kind of protein, every kind of vegetable… It’s paleo and it nails easy and delicious all at the same time. The food porn, as is so often the case with my brilliant photography and cooking friends, is out of this world.
But perhaps most important of all – Nom Nom is the most instructional cookbook I have ever come across.
Michelle walks me through everything.
Ever wonder what all the gadgets in a kitchen are for?
Done. Explained. In photo and text form.
(One of several pages of explanations of different tools.)
Because it is not that I am inept in the kitchen… not by a long shot. But there is a lot out there for me to learn about if I so choose.
Ever wonder how to make even the most basic things that everyone sort of presumes you know how to do? Or perhaps not how to make them from the get-go, but rather how to perfect them? I’ve been making carmelized onions for decades. But what’s the best way to make this staple?
Personally, my favorite part of this book is how it so perfectly walks you through both the simple basics and the complex delights. There are, as we just saw, many different recipes for “basic” staples such as carmelized onions, slow roasted tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, and the like.
And there are many different recipes for spices and for rubs and for sauces such as paleo mayonnaise, dukkah, or “magical mushroom powder” — things that I can add to a simple steamed zucchini and onions in seconds.
And Michelle hits every paleo must-have with ease and fun. Ghee, for example. Bone broth. Mashed cauliflower “rice.” (I’ve been reading about that one in the paleosphere for ages.) A “proper French omelet.” Mouth-watering steaks.
She calls both the paleo must-haves and the spices “building blocks.” With these blocks, you can make anything delicious and in a hurry.
Which is my kind of cooking.
So I have now, from Michelle, tried-and-true ways to make the basics.
I have ways to use and spice up those basics with other “building blocks” like the mushroom power.
I have a super simple way to make “macademia nut ricotta” which my mouth is watering thinking about.
And then Michelle also has all the glorious complex dishes, and broken down step-by-step, photo by photo.
This means I can make paleo siracha (!),
(again, forgive my poor lighting and focus… smart phones do not apparently have the night vision of a cat)
and I can make prosciutto-wrapped frittata muffins (breakfast in bed!!)
and I can make Chinese egg foo young
and I can make Peruvian roast chicken with aji verde chili sauce
and polpette di vitello (veal meatballs) for my Italian host mother
and grilled lamb chops and mint chimichurri
and kabalagala (plantain fritters! which I might make just so I can brag about making “kabalagala” and say it 100 times fast.)
And just about any other paleo meal I could possibly dream of.
So take that inertia.
And take that zucchini and onions.
This is a kick ass cookbook, and I really could not recommend it more highly. And I am so excited to have such a fun, informational book with me to set me up with the basics and rocking with the highly complex flavors in no time. My new “special friend” will (at very least) be a fiend for my paleo food in no time.
In honor of this book, Michelle and Henry’s incredible success in recent weeks of which I am nothing but enormously proud, and of my own desire to make food a fun, relaxing part of my life, I bought an extra copy of nom nom and am giving it away!
The giveaway will be open from now Until Friday 2/28 at midnight.
Enter by points system. Should be easy peasy, just one click here or there.
Good luck and enjoy, my lovely friends!Read More
Last week I published a post in which I went into some detail on my current struggle with my health. I was shocked (though in retrospect I am certain I should not have been) to learn how many women empathize.
Today I want to go into a little bit more detail about what (by my best guess) is wrong with me and why. Hopefully this’ll help us start a conversation about recovering from stress, as well as raise some awareness about how prevalent stress-related health complications are.
The match at the bottom of the haystack: January 2011
To be clear: my “haystack” is very dry. Very, very dry. It has been for as long as I can remember. I have always been anxious. I have always been a poor sleeper – there is not one time in my life I can look back on and say ‘ah, yes, those were the glory days.’ I have always been a basketcase — if a tightly controlled and happy one — that’s just the fabric out of which me and my life are made. My haystack has always been dry and full of friction, ready to ignite.
January of 2011 was when the match was struck and everything “Stefani’s Health” sprinted to hell in a hurry.
Why? What happened? For one, I began taking T3 for my hypothyroidism, which upregulated my metabolism and therefore my heart rate. Worse, however, I began taking spironolactone, a usually fairly harmless drug (save for the rare occasion in which it can make you drop dead of hyperkalemia) often proscribed to women with hormonal acne.
I was so desperate to overcome my acne that I took drugs.
Almost immediately, I began having panic attacks.
Almost immediately, my previous insomnia problem which had always meant trouble falling asleep at night became an insomnia nightmare in which I was up until 4, 5, 6, sometimes 7am (and having to wake at 8 for class) anxious, sobbing, terrified, and with my heart racing.
I knew that spironolactone was supposed to reduce my testosterone levels, and I also knew it was a potassium-sparing diurectic. Neither of those things are known to cause anxiety in any statistically rigorous way. But hormones are hormones, and balance is important. More importantly, being a potassium-sparing diuretic means that other electrolytes – sodium, calcium, and magnesium - the electrolyte you need in order to feel calm – are flushed out of your system.
I quit the thyroid hormone, and that helped. It took me another month or two to work past my terror of going off the acne med (which, by the way, actually made my acne worse and my skin improved when I got off it… so… suck on that, Pfizer). When I did, it got better. I was no longer extremely clammy. Panicked. Palpitating. Wired. Incapable of falling asleep.
Not as extremely, anyway.
It never went away. In fact, in fairly short order, it got a lot worse.
Having been on this drug, I think I lost a significant portion of my already weak magnesium stores, which hurled me into the most painful and terrifying season of my life. I never slept. I didn’t know why. My heart always raced. My brain was out of control. Anxiety flooded every moment of my life, such that even tiny decisions like what color shirt to wear made my palms sweat and my heart race. I sought therapists. I sought psychiatric help in the form of the brilliant Dr Emily Deans (I never took anxiety meds, however, since I had anxiety about what they would do to me. Alas, the brilliant irony of mental health prescriptions.) I sought anything that might help – even acupuncture (which did). I contemplated giving up on living for the first time.
At the end of August it dawned on me that electrolytes might be an issue. You can actually die from an extreme electrolyte imbalance, so I checked myself into the ER. They ushered me in because my heartbeat was so fast. But they found nothing wrong with me.
And so – since then. It has been a full 24 months since I began taking spironolactone, and 18 months since I stopped. 15 months since I realized electrolytes were a part of my issue. 9 months since I realized that I needed to supplement with magnesium on a daily basis. 9 months still in which I struggled to sleep, struggled to be calm, and struggled to have the sense of self I had before January 2011. 2 months since the most stressful period of my life.
Of course magnesium is not the only issue.
Adrenal fatigue: Do I believe in it?
No, and yes.
No, I do not believe in adrenal fatigue in the sense that your body gets too tired of making cortisol to keep doing so. That’s a bit far-fetched to me — cortisol is the hormone responsible for wakefulness, so of course it is a natural compound present throughout every moment of our lives.
What I do believe happens is that our bodies can become cortisol resistant, just as they can be insulin and leptin resistant.
Do I have it?
You bet your bottom dollar that I do. In the wake of those drugs, on top of an already stressful life, plus the stress of poor sleep and anxiety for two years plus the extraordinary culmination of four hours of sleep for two straight months -
Yes. My heart races at the drop of a hat, let alone at any kind of moderate stressor. Fights with my partners, important interviews, hell, even the idea of waking up early in the morning, all prevent me from being able to sleep throughout the entire night and give me anxiety. I used to be able to still fall asleep at some point during the night. Now, if there’s an issue, my body won’t calm down at all, and I might squeeze in 90 minutes somewhere between 8 and 10am.
Even if there’s not an issue, my eyes snap open with my heart thumping loudly in my chest exactly four hours after falling asleep nearly every night.
We’ll see how fun March is for me – a national book release. Hooray.
So what am I doing about it?
The absolute best thing I possibly can.
The reason I wanted to write this post was to share with you, again, the depths of my struggle with my physiological response to certain stressors.
I also wanted to emphasize how important it is to do everything you can for yourself.
Coming out of my period of stress, I knew that I needed a radical change. That lifestyle could not continue. I did not want it to. It was killing me, and I wasn’t having too much fun.
So I saved as much money as I could and I moved into a safe, quiet space away from my normal, hustle-and-bustle life. I do not make appointments before 2pm unless its Abel James Bascom and he’s dragging me out of bed for a crack-of-dawn podcast (more on which in a week or so). I go to sleep whenever my body allows it. I eat when I am hungry and I stop when I am full. I do not exercise unless I really feel like it (and it took me six weeks of serious rest before I felt like doing sprint workouts again.) I am “sugar detoxing” - by which I mean simply that I am attempting to reduce my addiction to and craving for sweet foods. I dance as often as I want to because that makes me happier than anything in the world.
I say no to obligations that might impede my healing.
As hard as it is, I know that what I need more than anything is to be slow. To stop trying. To not be perfect. To be calm. To weigh 130 pounds. To only spend time with people who energize and love me and make me feel safe.
This isn’t to say that I am incapable of life.
To the contrary. I am eminently capable. I have a lot of willpower. But willpower is what usually gets us into these messes in the first place. We push and push and push and push until there’s no muscle left to do the pushing anymore.
So we back up, and we repair, and we begin inching forward again.
This is the story of my tipped over physiology. Today I am healing. This morning I woke after seven hours of sleep with my heart beating peacefully, like it did so many years ago I can barely remember, and I looked at the sun streaming through my window with a smile. This morning I felt like I had enough energy to get up and work right away, and to exercise, and to forego naps. This morning I did not have insatiable sugar cravings. I am certain it is a long and winding road ahead. Today is one of the better days. But at least I am walking it, and gently.
Last week I had the enormous pleasure of chatting with Caitlin and Mary of the Health Nuts podcast. The topic? Libido. The question? How to enhance it. The answers? Many:
Balance your hormones (often, though not always, easier said than done.) De-stress. Quite chronic exercise. Lift weights. Lose weight if you need to. Gain weight if you need to.
Think about your body better.
Think about sex better.
Love your skin.
Love your vulva.
Demand that your partners love your skin and your vulva, too.
And you can ditch the upside down wheelbarrow, but never let a good old fashion cowgirl or reverse missionary.
(Warning: to be clear, I say the words clitoris and vagina several times and do in fact talk sexual positions, so this podcast is not for the sexually prim or skittish. But we don’t get explicit in that way until the final 20 minutes or so, so you can listen about hormone balance for the first 45 minutes of the podcast if you like.)
Mannequins do not menstruate, and this is not just because they are made out of plastic.
Here are some images of mannequins in clothes and fully nude. I think this difference is important to pay attention to because seeing mannequins in clothes the majority of the time impairs our ability to process just how specifically manufactured they are to drape clothing just so and to go beyond all reasonable body size aspirations. We don’t regularly see what’s underneath. But what’s underneath is nothing but angles and Barbies.
Note, for example, how hip bones often jut out, which is a way to cause skirts and pants to taper and hang low and stereotypically sexy. Note also how waists are tiny. Note also how legs are longer than the list of activity on my credit card accounts. Which is to say - Long. Disproportionately so.
To which I can only say, holy crap thigh gap.
Mannequins are problematic for a lot of reasons. One of the worst is that this is a subconscious problem. We are well aware of the damage magazines and celebrities and runways and the like do to our self-love, but how often do we consciously acknowledge the power mannequins have over us?
Not very often.
Which is unfortunate – because it has been at least somewhat scientifically proven that mannequins do not have a high enough body fat percentage in order to menstruate.
Two Finnish researchers, Minna Rintala and Pertti Mustajoki, tested standard accepted body fat percentages for women against measurements they made on mannequins (of arm, thigh, waist, and hip circumference are all standard means by which to measure body fat percentage) they found in Finnish museums that were from the 20s, 30s, 50s, 60s, and 90s.
Women need, on average, at least 17% body fat to begin menstruating. The researchers also use the data point of 22 % body fat for regular cycles – though I would argue that this is a statistic biased from the sample being drawn from the super industrialized nations of Western Europe and the United States. For the purposes of our investigation, however, their standards hold since we are largely of industrialized nations such as the US. Our mannequins, we should also note, are typically about 5’10 — the same size as the “fit” models on runways.
In this study, the pre-WWII mannequins had levels of body fat that were consistent with those seen in a healthy, young female of reproductive age population: up to 23 percent, at least. All the way up to 23 percent! That feels incredible – though it makes me sad to write that sentence. Women are known to be quite healthy up to and around 30 percent.
Starting in the 1950s, the estimated body fat on the mannequins decreased significantly. By the 1990s, a significant number of mannequins would not have sufficient body fat to menstruate if they were, you know, actual people. Check out the graph below. The bars detail body fat percentages for hypothetical women of “healthy” body mass indexes of 20-25. In the early decades the mannequin measurements come close, but in later decades fall far below a healthy BMI (note also that the WHO standard for “healthy” BMI goes down to 18.6..though this is contested, as in all things).