04/12/2012 05:51 pm ET Updated Jun 12, 2012

"Barebody and Beautiful" Day

The Renfrew Center Foundation outside of Philadelphia had a special "Barefaced and Beautiful" day on Monday, February 27th, to highlight eating disorders. The idea was to go without makeup for a day in order to start a dialogue about healthy body image and inner beauty. The Renfrew Center specializes in the treatment of anorexia and eating disorders. According to Adrienne Ressler, National Training Director for the Renfrew Center Foundation, "There is concern when makeup no longer becomes a tool for enhancement but, rather, a security blanket that conceals negative feelings about one's self-image and self-esteem."

As eating disorders are a problem for many young women in particular, I think that the "Barefaced and Beautiful" day was a terrific idea to highlight these problems. However, I would like to take the idea in a slightly different direction. I would like to institute a "Barebody and Beautiful" day to raise awareness about obesity. So many of my patients come to the office with flawlessly made-up faces (with perfectly applied concealer, foundation, blush, powder, eye shadow, mascara, eyeliner, lip liner, lipstick and lip gloss), long fluttering eyelash extension, perfectly arched eyebrows, beautifully manicured enhanced nails, and expertly coiffed hair with or without extensions. They have also come adorned with the latest fashions, wearing exquisite jewelry, and carrying equally expensive purses.

For one day each year, I want these particular women to remove the façade that they have created. I want them to take it all off, to get naked! I want them to become "Barebody and Beautiful." I would like for them to strip away their adornments, and stand in front of the mirror so that they can see what they like and what they do not like about their bodies. Are they seeing unhealthy, overweight and in many cases, obese bodies beneath?

Rolls of fat, double chins, abdomens hanging down like aprons, thighs that rub together with each step, necks with dark velvety patches of acanthosis nigricans, that signals obesity and often diabetes. It's not a pretty site without the latest fashions or jewels camouflaging these realities. Many women are unable to bend down to touch their toes, to see their feet when they look down, tie their shoe laces or wash properly without lifting fat to wipe underneath. Many get short of breath walking one block, carrying a bag of groceries or climbing a few steps. Clearly, all of their adornments serve as a security blanket to hide their real problem, overeating, addiction to food and obesity. Diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and partially blocked arteries are likely lurking within.

Often I hear women complain that they cannot exercise because sweating will ruin their hair. Would you rather have beautiful hair in your coffin or be alive with your head wet with sweat during a work out and frizzy after a work out? According to the CDC, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese and about 17 percent of children and adolescents. The CDC definition of "overweight" and "obese" are as follows: an adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight and an adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. The easiest way to calculate your BMI is to visit the CDC site and plug in your height and weight into the Adult BMI Calculator.

Not sure if you are overweight or obese? To give you a quick indication, according to the CDC, if you are 5'9" and weigh between 169 to 202 pounds (BMI 25-29.9) you are considered overweight. If your height is between 5'0'' and 5'8'' tall and your weight over 169 pounds, then we can extrapolate that you are either overweight or obese. Think about it.

When I was in the gym last Sunday, I saw women of all shapes and sizes on the treadmill and elliptical machines with their hair tied up in scarves (presumably wrapped underneath), or wearing baseball caps, ponytails, or pin curls. Each was trying her best to improve her health. I even saw a man on the treadmill who had walked into the gym with a cane, having previously suffered a stroke. He was my inspiration that day.

I hope that I have started the dialogue.

Susan C. Taylor, MD