Do Friends Make You Fat?

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The Thin Ideal

Clearly, being slim is wrapped up with status. "We have a belief system that says thinness means we're virtuous, smart or successful -- any number of 'good' things," says Rosenblum.

"People equate being thin with being in control of everything in your life," says Paula Sussman, 44, a social worker in Old Bethpage, New York, who's 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 103 pounds. Sussman is a single mother of two children and recalls times when she's been in dire need of assistance, or at least empathy, from friends but received little. "They've actually said to me, 'You look like you're so together' even as I'm telling them I'm having a hard time."

At 5 feet 4 inches tall and 103 pounds, Natalie Driver, 29, feels her slimness is the first thing people notice about her. "I've been the same weight since high school, even though I haven't been inside a gym in years," says the human-resources executive from New York City. "When I was a kid, I was called names like Toothpick, so when friends say, 'You're so skinny,' it makes me feel unattractive. No one ever says, 'You've got a really cool job' or even 'You've got pretty eyes' when they first meet me. It's always about weight." As Rosenblum notes, "We've put weight, shape and appearance on such a pedestal that we devalue the other successes women can have."

Interestingly, "studies show women have a thinner ideal for themselves and one another than men have for us," says Kathryn Zerbe. Indeed, Amy Keroack, 28, a former pastry chef in Redmond, Washington, says that while her husband always makes her feel beautiful, she avoids being seen by friends in a bathing suit. She's 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds. "I don't want them to say, 'Oh, I didn't know she had that much cellulite.' I think it would change their idea of me. I'm afraid they'd pity me."

Continued on page 3:  The Almighty Pound


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