BBW Magazine The Power of Plus Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:00:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 72207187 15 Steps Toward a Debt-Free Holiday Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:00:56 +0000 With the holidays just around the corner, many of us may be tempted to begin a month-long gift-buying binge. Here are 15 steps to avoid having to use next year’s tax refund to dig yourself out of holiday debt.

1. Find a plastic freezer bag. In fact, think thrifty – recycle a used freezer bag. Drop in all credit cards. Fill with water. Bury in the back of your freezer until after the holidays.

2. Call, write, email, or get together with each person on your gift list over the age of 21, and specifically to talk about gifts. Do they mostly agree with you that holiday presents are for kids? If so, would they like to join you in working toward a financially responsible, simpler lifestyle by forgoing an adult gift exchange?

3. If so, suggest that each of you set aside half the money you would normally have spent on each other to buy a gift for a needy child and/or make a donation to a charity you both like. It’s guaranteed to give you a good feeling, and you’ll avoid having to conjure up a false enthusiasm for the extraordinarily useless thing that person would have chosen for you.

4. Take a reality check. The family down the street can afford to go to Vail to ski over the holidays. You can’t. Have a family meeting or round robin email or letter. Ask each person what would be the ideal gift they would like to receive from you. The most frequent answers usually cost almost nothing – a new photo of you, some time together, a guaranteed phone call or letter every other week – and mean so much more to the recipient than the knick-knack you buy.

5. Take reality check #2. OK, the children thought a little differently. They want the most expensive gaming console or motorized scooter or this year’s fully outfitted Barbie. Show them the price of that gift, explain how much you could contribute to acquiring that and let them help think of solutions to collect the rest of the money. Maybe one less treat a week? One less fast food dinner a week? Of course, be sure to set aside one affordable gift for Santa to bring, but some of the greatest lifetime gifts you’ll be giving your children are 1) a sense of reality about money; 2) the understanding that their opinion counts; 3) the knowledge that they are part of a family team that needs to operate together for the good of all, not just the gratification of one; and 4) a strong grasp of the lesson that to choose wisely leads to control of their own life.

6. Create your own Holiday Club fund. Such accounts used to be a big deal years ago at most banks. Unfortunately the clubs paid little or no interest – they just acted as a nagging reminder to start putting away money all year toward holiday gift giving. You can do the same thing on your own, but shop around and find out how to get the best interest accruing while the fund grows. Rigorously contribute to the account with a set amount out of every paycheck.

7. Create a little extra cash over the year by regularly putting the price of one day’s lunch or one week’s lattes or one fewer pair of shoes into that holiday money fund you’re building. If giving a gift to someone is truly meaningful to you, the sense of not indulging yourself in order to give to him or her will become a heartwarming, fulfilling choice.

8. Design the budget of your dreams for holiday spending. Now cut that in half, at least. Does your next door neighbor really need one more knickknack for her already overcrowded home? Instead of a gift, maybe your co-worker would prefer that you cover her job or work overtime the next time she wants to leave early for her child’s school play.

9. Now, stick to your budget. Rigorously. Remember your credit cards are buried in layers of ice. If you can’t afford the gift you’re coveting with the cash in your wallet or checking account – without sacrificing normal daily needs – the gift gets to stay on the shelf for someone else to ponder. Remember that money does not equal love.

10. Have little ones around? Be the first on your block or in your school or church to organize a trade-a-toy event for adults only. A toddler will never know the shiny toy you cleaned and polished once belonged to the little boy down the street who’s tired of it. Ditto for those clothes quickly outgrown, or the computer game software not played in the last year.

11. Shop wisely to make sure the deal you’re getting is the very best available, whether online or in a retail outlet. Especially make use of online comparison pricing that will indicate the cost of a certain Barbie doll, for example, at a number of different sources. Always be on the lookout for bargains; in today’s economy, some really elegant clothes and toys are donated to thrift shops and can be had for a quarter or less of what they cost brand new.

12. Shop late. Until my son was in grade school, we simply celebrated Christmas gift giving time a few days after Christmas. I bought almost all his gifts at rock bottom post-holiday sales. Over the years he realized he got a lot more of what he wanted this way instead of celebrating the same day as his friends did – and we continue the tradition. Does your family absolutely require getting together on Christmas Day? You could save a bundle on gifts and airline tickets, for example, if you traveled and celebrated off-peak.

13. Does your glitzy holiday card really brighten up someone’s life? If you want to send something bright and cheery, cut the front off a card you received last year, and tuck it into an envelope with a note that lists ten things you like about that person. The enjoyment of a lovely but mass-manufactured card is limited. The heartglow from a list like this is boundless.

14. Subscribe to any one of many excellent couponing newsletters and websites and put a portion of your additional savings over the next year into your holiday club account.

15. Keep your credit cards in the freezer until the next genuine emergency. Playing financial catch up is always expensive. Credit card companies have craftily designed their fees, extra charges, and interest rates to keep you in financial bondage forever. Break free. Be conscious. Be conscientious. Always save ahead instead of paying behind.

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Move Over, Pumpkin Pie! Indulge in the Revelry of Chocolate this Holiday Season Sun, 15 Nov 2015 20:17:11 +0000 I know people who do handsprings at this time of year, anticipating with delight the traditional holiday dessert fare of pumpkin and mincemeat pies; tittering over cute little sugar cookies in the shapes of holly wreaths and snowmen; and even ogling Aunt Marian’s fruitcake. But I’m not one of those people. My motto is, “If it’s not chocolate, it’s not worth it.”

Perhaps it’s genetic. While my sister, Sue, does include pumpkin pie in the family holiday dinner menu, one of the things I adore about her is that she also concocts a to-die-for chocolate dessert. Recently, Sue and I reminisced about our mother, who once spent two days trying to create chocolate ravioli for her gourmet club’s Italian-themed dinner. The concept was sound: the “pasta” was white chocolate, softened and placed in a ravioli mold; the filling was chocolate mousse; and the sauce was dark chocolate. But the execution of this concept was another matter. While Mom eventually got enough “keepers” for the dinner, it took several pounds of white chocolate and repeated outbursts of “Jesus, Joseph and Mary” (our mother’s strongest epithet).

If you share my family’s passion for the fruit of the cacao tree, the holiday season presents abundant opportunities to indulge in a revelry of chocolate. Instead of having an eggnog-and-hors d’oeuvres party this year, tempt the palates of your friends with a chocolate tasting party. In her book, The New Taste of Chocolate, Maricel Presilla suggests that, when doing a taste test, you should select chocolates with similar cacao counts – in other words, don’t present both milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Buy chocolate from a variety of manufacturers, break each chunk into small pieces and use a eye-catching display to arrange each brand on its own plate. Provide each of your guests with a scorecard, so they can rate the color, aroma, taste and texture of the chocolate. Then compare notes and reveal the true identity of each chocolate. For added pizzazz in a group of true chocolate lovers, develop a chocolate trivia quiz, and give out prizes for the top scorers. (Q: Who was the first European to come in contact with cacao? A: Christopher Columbus.)

Another option for the holidays or any other time of year is a chocolate dessert party. Each guest brings a chocolate dessert, which is then divided up among the other guests, who then take home a veritable smorgasbord of chocolate. For true chocolate lovers, this is a very egalitarian party – there’s no need for everyone to spend hours in the kitchen trying to make the perfect chocolate soufflé. That’s because, in our eyes, a rich chewy brownie is just as delectable as the most delicate Sachertorte.

If you want to go one step further – or to non-chocoholics, one step overboard – you can create a whole dinner out of chocolate. With a pasta machine, chocolate noodles are a snap; create a light, fruity sauce and your guess will swoon. Use a hint of chocolate in sauces for beef, or go south of the border and whip up a mole sauce of chiles and chocolate for a Mexican feast. If eggnog is a must for your holiday gathering, melt semisweet chocolate into the milk before combining with the other ingredients. One piece of advice: pass on trying to make the chocolate ravioli!

Even if you won’t be hosting a holiday party this season, chances are you’ll be a guest at one. Chocolate can make for intriguing variations on the typical hostess gifts. Instead of sending flowers the day after the party, why not send a dozen strawberry roses from Shari’s Berries ( Gourmet chocolate-dipped strawberries are their specialty, but they also offer other delightful hostess gifts.

Likewise, Pinterest offers a variety of gorgeous and intriguing “flower” arrangement ideas, including some made from Hershey’s Kisses and Ghirardelli chocolate bars.

Or instead of arriving with a bottle of wine in hand, why not bring a bottle of Godiva Liqueur ( Over ice or over ice cream, the dark original liqueur or the white chocolate version will leave them screaming for more.

This holiday season, let’s put pumpkin pie in perspective, pass on the sugar cookies and dump the fruitcake. Instead, let’s deck the halls with bouquets of chocolate.

Delve Deeper
Chocolate Bits

  • The cacao tree, from which chocolate is derived, grows near the equator
  • White chocolate really isn’t, since it is made from cocoa butter, rather than cacao beans
  • The difference between bittersweet, semisweet and milk chocolates is the ratio of cocoa solids, sugar and total fat content. Bittersweet has the highest proportion of cocoa solids (60% or more) while milk chocolate has about 36%
  • Eating chocolate may make you feel good because it contains the neurotransmitter anandamide, which has a similar effect on the brain as the active ingredient in marijuana
  • The scientific name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food-of-the-gods cacao”

Sources:; The Chocolate Bible, by Christian Teubner; The New Taste of Chocolate, by Maricel Presilla

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Plus-Size Designer Ashley Nell Tipton on Project Runway Fri, 10 Jul 2015 04:13:49 +0000 Ashley Nell Tipton is plus sized and designs for plus-size women. And she’s slated to be a cast member in Project Runway’s Season 14. According to the biography on her website and on the Project Runway website, Tipton is 24 and hails from San Diego, Calif. She says that she “would like to give curvy girls a chance to show their style with chic edginess.”

Tipton designs for the 20- or 30-something woman who is a “chic rocker.” Her styles feature bold colors and patterns. The size chart on her website indicates that her line runs from size 10-12 to size 30-32 (6X).

Tipton designed her first plus-size collection in college, and says she wants to be “America’s best plus-sized designer.”

Project Runway premieres August 6, 2015 on Lifetime. Here’s a Project Runway tour of Tipton’s home studio.

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Research Subjects Needed Fri, 10 Jul 2015 03:47:31 +0000 Angela Meadows is a Ph.D. student at the University of Birmingham. She is looking to recruit people who consider themselves to be “overweight,” “obese,” or “fat” to take part in an online study about the life experiences of “overweight” people.

The survey takes about 10 minutes and there is a chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher (or equivalent in U.S. dollars). To find out more, please visit:

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Fat-Talk Nation: A Generation of Shame Tue, 26 May 2015 02:06:09 +0000 In a story on Susan Greenhalgh’s new book, “Fat-Talk Nation: The Human Costs of America’s War on Fat,” NPR highlights Greenhalgh’s central thesis: that, apart from size discrimination and weight stigma, this country’s “war on obesity” has damaged a generation of young people.

Greenhalgh, who is a professor of anthropology at Harvard, presents a collection of 45 narratives gathered from college students about their concepts of weight, fat, and body image. She finds that decades of “fat talk” has damaged and shamed young people in a variety of ways.

Greenhalgh notes that it’s been 15 years since the public health campaign has been launched, but in reality it’s been 21 years since Hillary Clinton and former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop launched “Shape Up America” in the White House Rose Garden. I remember that day well, since Lynn McAfee (one of the foremothers of the fat acceptance movement) and I protested the announcement on the sidewalk in front of the White House.

The other bookend to weight shaming is First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, launched in February 2010 to specifically target fat children. In an email exchange between Greenhalgh and NPR contributor Barbara King, Greenhalgh wrote, “All of us are making war on fat through constant fat-talk. Yet because very few people can lose weight and keep it off, the pervasive fat-talk does not have its intended effect; instead, it is causing terrible, yet often, invisible harm.”

She continues, “The harm to individuals includes emotional distress and, often, physical injury from trying too hard to lose weight. The war on fat is also damaging critical social relationships, especially the crucial bond between mother and daughter. The stigma and discrimination against fat people are now well known; what isn’t known is that the human costs of the war on fat itself are harmful to people of all sizes and to us as a nation.”

Fat children don’t have a safe haven. Schoolmates bully fat kids, but parents often don’t rally to their children’s defense. In fact, many parents are embarrassed by their fat kids and view bullying as further evidence that their child should redouble his or her efforts to lose weight. The education system reinforces fat shaming. When my son was in elementary school, the school had an annual assembly featuring “Mr. Slimbody Goodbody” – at least until I managed to stop it by pointing out that fat kids were getting the message that fat bodies were bad bodies.

In ninth grade, California high school students are required to pass five of six physical fitness tests. If they don’t, they must continue to take P.E. and be retested each year until they take it. Here’s the catch. One of the six “fitness tests” is “body composition,” using skinfold measurements, body mass index (BMI), or a bioelectric impedance analyzer. In other words, if a child fat, s/he already has one strike; s/he must pass each of the five other tests: one mile run, curl-ups, push-ups, trunk lift, and shoulder stretch. Then, of course, there’s the humiliation of being weighed or having your fat pinched at school.

Nowhere is there a recognition that fit bodies come in all sizes; on the contrary, high schools are reinforcing the idea that the only good bodies are slim bodies.


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