Thursday, April 20, 2006
While this is a topic not many people want to talk about, there are a few out there that truly can not understand how difficult weight issues are. Mr. Twisted, while I adore him, is one of them. He and I have had a conversation about this very subject. My first point being, that if you have never walked in a fat person’s shoes, you will never understand. This commentary will most likely include a number of TMI topics, so be warned! I have several sisters who are very heavy. My parents are overweight. My twin sister was the only one that escaped the wide-ass curse. But… she worked out an insane amount, rarely remembered to eat and was constantly moving. When she ate, she could really EAT! And it didn’t bother her, a la Mr. Twisted. I think she would have been actually happy if she had been able to hold on to some weight. Me? I have had five children in the last 16 years. Each pregnancy left me heavier than the last. Two years ago, after the final one, I was tired of it. I have lost 53 pounds since then. I am still not happy with the way I look, but that is my issue to deal with. But with this family history and a personal journey, I feel like I can put in a few thoughts on whose fault this is…. It is mine. It is yours. It is theirs.
It is not the fault of Big Food America. While they have helped us along, they didn’t threaten to pull the trigger. They HAVE made “Flavorists” a 1.4 billion dollar industry. 10,000 new processed foods are released every year. But diet food is artificial and not nutritional. It is empty food. Non fat food has as many calories as most regular fat foods. Low Fat and Non Fat labels does not mean healthy. But there is a freedom to being a consumer. I don’t have to buy them. I can read the labels and find this out myself. I can shop the ring of the store and avoid the crap… (Fresh produce, dairy, and leans meats are stocked around the outside of every store. The center is the danger zone!) It isn't just a fast food nation that is to blame. 85% of the food we consume is purchased at a store.
People who blame the media? Yes, they portray unrealistic expectations of what beautiful is. But I have to decide if that is beautiful, now don’t I? I can disagree... I can say that I don’t find slim and nearly emaciated women beautiful. Interesting tidbit… The island of Fiji idolized women who were round, soft and curvy as being beautiful. Western television was introduced and within 2 1/2 years they were dealing with eating disorders. Unheard of prior to TV exposure. An average model is 5’11 and weighs 117 pounds. An average woman in the US is 5’4 and weighs 140 pounds. (Woo Hoo I am tall!) By 4th grade, 80% of girls have tried a diet. But it is still a personal choice and a parent’s responsibility.
There is a reason that the Diet Industry is worth billions. Americans spend as much on diet products as the Federal Government spends on education, every year. And that does not include athletic items, gym memberships, or fitness products. The industry preys on the vulnerability of people who don’t feel that they are good enough. Weight is an issue not just with food or lack of exercise. It has a lot to do with self esteem, feelings, depression, and is completely emotional. Not unlike drinking and drug use. It is estimated that 5-10 million women and over a million men have some sort of eating disorder. Food is a form of self torture for these people. Yet Americans are getting fatter by the day. They are sedentary and in 2005 spent 4 billion dollars on french fries and another 3 billion on potato chips. So where does that leave us?
Weight is a personal problem, not a national one. Yes, there are dealers out there (Lay’s, Ben and Jerry’s, Coca Cola, Hostess) with products that are hazardous to your health. But just like you can walk around the crack house, you can walk away from the crap. I had to be fat AND miserable enough to fix the problem. My problem. I realized that I was chaining myself to the house each time I had a child in order to breast feed them for months and months because I had read that they would be 22% less likely to have weight problems if I did. That was the revelation. I was willing to be chained to the house for them, but not to help myself. So I changed the way I eat. (Which is still not healthy enough, but I am working on it.)
Then there is exercise. Yes, it is very hard to make time. Not many people have the inclination or time to do what they “should.” But…. I have five children, eight if you add in the three adults who can’t seem to care for themselves. I take care of them all 100%- cooking, cleaning, laundry, helping with homework, etc. I am working on my Bachelor’s Degree taking one accelerated class every 5 weeks. I work 25-35 hours a week at my job. I volunteer about 10-12 hours a week between the three schools. I drive carpool and take everyone to their music practices and athletic practices and the resulting games and recitals. Plus, I am the scorekeeper for two teams and yet I find a way to do something at least every other day on average. So to those that have the ability just not the inclination yet…. Get off your ass
By Kell (aka "the one who keeps me sane").
Jonathan Scott commented:
It is so easy to blame your problems on an external condition (physical or environmental).
I think with the question of weight, it can go from a reasonably small problem to a very complex one for each different person, so the minute we paint everyone with the same brush, we lose most of our ability to understand the cases where it is complex.
For people with deep psychological problems that are related to under or over-eating, unless they get serious help with the psycho-emotional stuff, the advice on nutrition and dieting can be quite useless, and can actually be harmful, if it robs people of the capacity to address the real root of the problem or get help.
For people with lifestyle difficulties (sedentary, preference for junk food, etc), but not profound emotional problems, it's much more possible to change habits. But it doesn't mean it's easy. At. All.
I recently met a guy (probably around his mid-50s) who lost around 50 lbs as well JUST by changing what he eats. I think that gets more results for men, because they can eat more calories per day.
You know something that has helped me? I began to be very curious about the phenomenon of craving for a particular food. Why do we crave for one specific food at a particular moment? It's a really interesting question. I don't mean being hungry for a particular type of food, I mean that craving, dreaming, yearning, gnawing feeling. And if you are on a diet, usually the craving is more intense. Why?
So I started to ask myself, if I listed all the foods I ate on a certain day, which were the most gratifying? And often I would find that I enjoyed mostly the taste of some very healthy, lightweight stuff, along with the experience of eating it, lots of things you usually don't crave for because they are never "prohibited." That was interesting, because gratification also has to do with what you think will gratify you. And this sometimes is nothing but an illusion or cultural conditioning.
Weight is a personal problem, not a national one.
I think it's both, because problems with weight are so tied to cultural dynamics, and these dynamics seem to be getting more neurotic and destructive with each passing day. There's the couch potato aspect, there's the junk/fast food dynamics, the fashion and media industry, the dehumanized artificial beauty/sexy standards, etc. Not to mention the huge growth of the cosmetic surgery industry, which is also related to all of this.
I was thinking the other day that all of this stifling and binding cultural problems can be just as intense (for women) as the custom of foot binding in China. We've changed the binding, but the intensity with which we are stunted by a lot of nonsense remains the same.
Veering off into a related but different subject, not too long ago I read an article about ten year old girls hating their bodies. Ten year olds, for Christ's sake. Not that it makes it any less harmful or sad for a teenager or adult woman to hate their body. And I also think of how much time women spend fretting over all of this, and this is really mental time robbed from you and much more important thoughts. Life is, after all, very short, and should be experienced as more than a waste of years of neurotic obsession about oppressive beauty/appearance standards and lifestyles/comsumption patterns.