An internet 'Dear Diary' of anorexia

Posts tagged ‘olympic atheletes’

Vogue – The New Body (Part 2)

Sync or Swim was an article about a journalist (Fiona Golfar) who had a fantasy about being a synchronized swimmer due to it being her mother’s life long dream and pretending to be Esther Williams “”Probably my most enduring memory is of Joan [Golfar’s mother] pretending to be Esther Williams in the pool. For this, she tied her hair up with a purple scrunchie, but unfortunately, having gone under the surface, as she rose the purple dye ran down all over her face and hair. We just died laughing.”” When Golfar was given the offer to train with the Olympic squad she says;

…already seeing myself in full Ethser tribute look, with my mum gazing down from the big pool in the sky, mouthing “Smile!” as I elegantly pirouette in the water.

It soon transpires that the Olympic sport couldn’t be further from the Hollywood nymphets wearing sequined caps sliding down waterfalls and emerging from the water in full make-up. No, these 13 girls trains seven hours a day…Many have been preparing for this moment since they were seven years old. Their bodies are lithe and honed, their diets strictly regulated, their world dominated by perfecting their technical merit.

Esther Williams

I decided to focus on this article because although it does sound glamorous, it shows the commitment of the swimmers as well, celebrating how far they are able to push their bodies as Golfar is a competent swimmer, but even she struggles to learn  the basic maneuvers of synchronized swimming.

When she first goes to see the squad in training at an army base she says;

No water ballet here. no siree, this is Olga Korbut (the legendary Soviet Olympic gymnast) on acid. I have never seen anything move so fast in so many different directions at once and on top of water. The girls lift, twist, glide, flip and split their arms and legs and that’s just when they are upside-down. Afterwards, the rest of the squad join them for their technical group performance. They move across the water like a shoal of glistening mackerel dynamically mixing aerobics, gymnastics and dance. I am torn between amazement and nausea. I have to return to London and start training.

Golfar begins training the next day with Laila Vakil a former Olympic synchronized swimmer who has trained some of the girls on the current squad. She teaches Golfar sculling which is the most basic move and keeps the swimmer gliding on the surface with all other movements revolving and varying around the scull.

Ten minutes later, I am exhausted. The key to synchronized swimming is core strength and although mine is not bad, compared to an Olympic squad, let’s just say I am some what lacking.

As well as the moves and the energy required, Golfar also gave us an insight into how the swimmers lives shut down in the lead up to the Olympics and their life becomes a routine of eating, swimming and sleeping to ensure they are in top shape for their performance;

Although it’s easy to see the comic side of my learning to swim with these talented women, I am acutely aware that the Olympics is only weeks away. The squad have moved to Aldershot and train 42 hours a week, alongside an army of coaches, nutritionists, physiotherapists and sports psychologists, perfecting their intense choreographed routines with endless technical drills.

On the surface, 42 hours boils down to approximately 6 hours a day which, considering the average 9 to 5 working day is 9 hours…it doesn’t sound too bad. But pushing your body to the edge, exercising relentlessly until you have perfection for 6 hours regardless of what else is going on in your life is insane. Think of the hardest most grueling workout you’ve ever done, and imagine doing that for 6 hours. Now imagine it for 6 hours everyday. Now 6 hours everyday and nothing else in your life but the exercise and pursuit of perfection. Now your getting there…

During the next session Golfar is taught the egg-beater which keeps the swimmers on top of the water by going into a crunch position and rotating your legs from the knee down in opposite directions;

Back in the water, I try to put the egg-beater into practice but my hips go on strike. The fact that the girls are in the water seven hours a day and never allowed to touch the bottom of the pool beggars belief.

On the day of the photo shoot with the swimmers Golfar talks to Adele (who I assume is the current squad trainer) about the progression of the sport;

Adele tries hard not to laugh. “Obviously there’s a place for the Fifties glamour side as entertainment,” she says kindly,” but the sport has evolved since. It’s very physical and athletic. It’s completely different to the Esther Williams days.” Sorry, Mum.

Fiona Golfar with the synchronized swimming squad

Vogue – The New Body (Part 1)

Vogue magazine is one of the biggest fashion magazines worldwide, and June’s issue was really good so I thought I’d write about it. It focuses on the Olympics and the Jubilee, but the reason it was so good was because it was a body special that celebrated “sport, style and shape”.

Firstly, Alexander Shulman (The editor) outlined the new Vogue initiative:

As one of the fashion industry’s mot powerful voices, Vogue has a unique opportunity to engage with relevant issues where we feel we can make a difference. This month we announce the Health Initiative, a pact between the international editors of Vogue, now published in 19 countries, to build on the successful work that the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative in the US and the British Fashion Council in the UK have already started, to encourage a healthier approach to body image within the industry.

Fashion is an inspiring and creative force, and fashion models are also role models for many women. because of this, it is important that we do all we can to ensure that they are well cared for and educated in ways that will encourage and help them to take care of themselves. We also recognize that there are many different types of body which are healthy – thinness itself is not an indication of ill-health, and obesity is also  pressing issue. This programme aims to address as many of the issues as we realistically can.

  1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help promote a healthy body image.
  2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check ID’s when casting  shoots, shows and campaigns.
  3. We will help structure mentoring programmes where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the CFDA Health Initiative.
  4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food option s and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.
  5. We consider designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.
  6. We will be vocal ambassadors for the message of healthy body image, both within the magazine and outside

The Editors of Vogue

Signed by the editors from US, UK, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Brazil, China, Greece India, Japan, Korea Mexico, The Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Taiwan and Turkey.

So this means there is now a powerful voice who is well renowned within the fashion industry (Vogue is the biggest, most highly regarded fashion magazine) fighting against size 0, eating disorders and underage models, meaning things should start to change as smaller magazines will look up to Vogue and follow suit. And because all  the Vogue editors have signed it, this will hopefully be a worldwide shift.

On page 138 where the photo spreads are they’re was a 20 page spread titled London Pride which showed the styles of different celebrities, but rather than being just models there were sports stars, actors and people of all different ages which was nice to see as people tend to forget with the focus always being on youth and looking younger how nice and refreshing wrinkles and crows feet are.

This was followed by a 16 page spread of photos of Olympic athletes (and two pages of signed pictures of all of them) called Sporting Gods that aimed to “pay tribute to the versatility, beauty and brilliance of the human body”.  The pictures were pretty impressive as they focused more on the muscle and power of the body than what they were wearing, showing off the tough legs of sprinter Jodie Williams, rather than trying to make them look long and spindly, the impressive sporting stature of Euan Burton rather than trying to create a pin-up sex icon of them. Looking at their bodies you could see the hours of training, pain, dedication and hard work that had gone into it. Yes, they weren’t your typical beautiful bodies, but they were beautiful because of the love, dedication and pure drive they emulated, as well as being mighty impressive.

Heptathlete: Louise Hazel

Luke Campbell

Then came National Treasures, an 8 page spread of England’s “great Britons” featuring Helena Bonham Carter (Actress 45 years old), David Attenborough (Broadcaster and Naturalist 86 years old), Damon Albarn (Musician (Blur) 44 years old), Kate Moss (Model 38 years old), Penelope Tree (Model and Campaigner 62 years old) and Patrick Moore (Broadcaster and Astronomer 89 years old) and a 4 page spread about Queen Elizabeth II. Seeing different people celebrated was a lovely sight, Helena Bonham Carter is known for not following fashion, and still featured, Patrick Moore’s suit didn’t fit him and he was nothing like the normal men in Vogue, but it was nice to see the industry reaching out and accepting everyone, every shape, every style, every personality (Penelope Tree had a coat hanger on her head).

Penelope Tree


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