Wednesday, April 4, 2012

You're Beautiful: Carrot Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

It's nice to know that despite some of the frightening legislation being passed out there affecting women, there was one bright spot last month: the Israeli law banning underweight models in ads.  We're not talking about women who are just skinny, but who would be considered malnourished by World Health Organization standards.   The other interesting piece of the law requires that advertisements disclose when they use altered digital images, Photoshopping women into something they're not.

Then again, this is another attempt to legislate women's bodies, positive though it might be.  Should I be more concerned than I am about a slippery slope?

I've struggled with weight and body image for my entire life.  While I'm not "fat" by most standards, I also don't fit into Ann Taylor skirts.  I have curves.  I grew out of my "chubby" phase later than most other girls did, but I was a dancer: muscular on the bottom, small on top.  In graduate school in LA, I starved myself--for a variety of reasons, I guess, some of which had to do with how much money I had to spend on frivolous things like food, some of which had to do with feeling a lack of control about everything else in my life, some of which had to do with the skinny, beautiful people who seemed to be everywhere around me, swilling their lattes without a care in the world.  I came back to the East Coast weighing in at about 20 pounds less than I had in high school, and gained it back (and then some) once I settled into a job and a place of my own.  Since then I've become more fit: I used to kickbox, I run (my paltry little 5 miles on a really good day), I do yoga, I work out regularly when I can.  Still, I've gained and lost and gained weight again with my pregnancies, and grown, intelligent, self-confident woman that I am, I still poke and prod at myself, frown disapprovingly in the mirror.  I wonder, would a law about the images of women that get portrayed in the media do anything to change that?

Should women be able to choose how to treat their bodies?  (Please note: I am not suggesting that anorexia is healthy; this is a much larger question, I think)  A few days ago Pinterest also banned pro-anorexia images: it now expressly forbids content that “creates a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement or physical or mental illness to yourself, to any other person, or to any animal.”  How does one measure this kind of risk, especially risk to others?  Who should decide?  While I don't want my daughter to grow up looking at images that make her doubt her body (heaven knows there are already too many internal, invisible reasons for women to doubt their bodies: see Kir's great post yesterday about accepting our bodies despite infertility), should people have the right to look at these images and share them if they want to?  How do images of anorexic women compare to, say, pornography? 

I'm teaching a class at my church for the young people who will be celebrating a coming of age ceremony, and as part of the journey, they all undertake a small social action project.  One of the young women wanted to do a day of post-it blitzing around her school with positive self-image messages for other young women.  We all thought it was a good idea, but worried about the follow-up.  What effect would a single day of anonymous messages have in the long run?

I've been baking a little bit less lately in an effort to eat better.  After my daughter was born, I gave myself permission to eat pretty much anything, and (in case you couldn't tell) I have a weakness for sweets.  And breastfeeding only balances out so much cheesecake and chocolate.  The problem with baking, of course, is that unless you're baking for others, you wind up eating what you make ... and when there are a lot of homemade baked goods in the house, my willpower goes out the window.  My son has noticed the dearth of cake and cookies, though, and plaintively asked the other day when I might be making more.  I decided that if I made something half-healthy, maybe I wouldn't feel so guilty about eating it.  Kir, these are for you.  And for everyone.  In case no one has told you today: you're beautiful.

And, for the record, I will be pinning chocolate chip cookies on my Pinterest site, not anorexic women.  Because I have a thing for beautiful, and not always entirely good-for-you, food.

Carrot-Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
adapted from Cooking Light, August 2003

1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 c. sugar
6 T. vegetable oil
1/3 c. low-fat buttermilk
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (you could also use about 1/4 c. raisins)

Preheat oven to 350.

Process carrots in a food processor until finely minced.

Combine carrots, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and eggs in a large bowl. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine flour, soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to carrot mixture, stir until smooth. Stir in chocolate.

Spoon batter into 22 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake for 22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack, and remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Frost with cream cheese frosting or dust with powdered sugar.
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  1. What an interesting question -- should women be able to decide how to treat their bodies? I hold freedom as one of the highest political values, but that also means that people would need to be free to make bad decisions.

    Still, I think I would fall on the side of "yes." And also, Pinterest and other sites would have the freedom to say what is and what isn't OK on its site. And people have the freedom to patronize it or not.

    And really? "my paltry little 5 miles or so? That puts me officially in awe of you. As if the cupcakes hadn't done that already :-)

    1. :) When you have a husband who runs, and all of your friends seem to have taken the C25K challenge and turned it in to the C2HalfMarathon, it's hard not to develop an inferiority complex.

      I think I come down on the side of freedom, too, but allowing people to be anorexic is akin to standing there watching someone commit suicide. Which is really a tough one ... because while I believe people should have control over their lives, I also feel like it's inhuman do *not* save someone if we have the power to do so. It's a good thing I'm not a doctor.

  2. It's a tough one. So many slopes are slippery when dealing with body image and, especially, a woman's individual freedom in this sphere. I do think, though, that the fashion industry is right to regulate things (I think they should actually ban underage models...never going to happen). They should do it a lot more than they do.

    I also gave myself permission to eat whatever, and have also lately been cutting back. It's hard to develop an ice cream and baked goods tooth and then try to nip it in the bud. Sigh, must be done.

    (I agree with Lavender Luz...5 miles is in no way paltry:)

    1. I'd love to see banning underage models. It's funny ... I'm not sure where I got my standards of beauty from, because I wasn't the sort of teenager who read Glamour or Vogue. Is advertising just that pervasive? Or is it that I hate the way clothes don't seem to be made for my body?

      Oh, ice cream. How could I have forgotten? There's none in the freezer right now, because I can eat an entire pint in one sitting. *sigh* ...

  3. Mmmmmm those cupcakes look yummy. :) It is a slippery slope. But I think it is better to see real women's bodies.

  4. As a runner, there are times when I covet the self-control required to be skinny elite runner...but, in the end, (as I crumple the wrappers for the chocolate covered eggs I just ate), I like food and I'd rather have a little junk in my trunk than be super skinny. I think the most important thing that we can teach our daughters in to embrace the shape we are and find clothes that flatter. I watch a lot of "What Not to Wear" while nursing...I love the premise that any woman can be beautiful regardless of her body is all about finding clothes that fit and complement your body. With fashion, anyone can be just have to know how to dress. This being said, there's nothing more hideous to me than skinny jeans. WHY are they popular??? I can't find any that fit my relatively slim waist and athletic thighs.

  5. This is all so complicated, especially my own relationship with my body and how it looks. Right now I have the healthiest relationship with my body that I've probably ever had, at least since I went through puberty. At the same time, it's an artificially good relationship. I'll be writing about it more on my blog... I keep meaning to and then I put it off, and put it off and put it off. It's just hard to put out there.

    As far as whether women should be able to have control over their own bodies, even to the point of hurting themselves... that is a hard one. I guess I have to say yes but I would also say that I hope women (and especially girls) start being exposed to a more honest ideal and that open discussions about body image are more common.

    At the same time I absolutely love the idea that advertisements have to say that they doctored a photo. That is really important because women (and girls) see these ads and think people actually look that way, and they don't! Not even when they get to dedicate their lives to looking good, when they have professional make up artists and a team of stylists, they STILL can't look as good as they do in advertisements. And we need to be reminded of that always.

  6. I THINK that I agree with the new legislation in Israel. I'm not sure, though. I still feel vaguely uncomfortable about the idea that someone is deciding whether or not a woman's body is "ok". I honestly think that the issues go so far beyond magazine images. The ideal female body has always been almost unattainable, and it seems that it changes based on what's happening in order to STAY unattainable. There's a famine? Chubby is in! We have everything we need? Let's go for the starved look! I'm not sure what that says about the world.

  7. love this post.
    I did the same thing when my daughter was born in the fall, allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted. I love baking and sweets are my downfall, and I have zero will power when they are in the house. just made some carrot bread the other day, but I'm a sucker for chocolate. so I'll have to try this recipe.


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