As I was relaxing with my morning paper today I came across this article on the second page of the Globe and Mail that I thought was intriguing, especially at this time of year (I have copied it below in its entirety for your convenience). As I read it, I thought about my brief time on this planet and how a person’s weight has always been a topic of discussion for as long as I can remember. Most recently and the focus of my attention has been how weight directly affects the quality of a person’s life, both physically and mentally. I dedicate many words in this blog to the physical implications of a healthy weight, but not so much to the mental stress overweight carries. No matter what Oprah says, and this is only my personal observation and opinion, people that are overweight or obese are generally not as happy with their life as people who are “healthy” thin (you can be un-healthy thin too).
I can remember as a kid, my mother asking if she looked good and she was never overweight a day in her life. Most of the women that are close enough in my life to even discuss the subject have at some time been focused on their weight, and given the crowd of guys I’ve hung out with over the years; (cyclists, triathletes, runners, etc), well they're also particularly interested in the topic. In fact, I joked that hard core cyclists are more concerned about their weight than international super models.
This is actually a complex topic. Just look at all the books, web sites, news articles, magazines, blogs, etc. that are dedicated entirely to the subject. With all the opinions floating around to explain the complexities of a person’s weight, it really just comes down to two issues, 1) health and how your weight affects it, and 2) vanity, how you and others perceive your size. The article below and I would have to say, most attention on the topic deals with the latter. And even many health advocates are simply hiding behind the "be healthy"trend and are really promoting vanity packaged up with the health wrapper.
Now is the time of year when every second commercial is from some diet company that feeds off the insecurities of an individual’s self image. Now that more than 65% of North Americans are either overweight or obese, the market share for these vampires has grown significantly (pardon the pun). The fact that there is so much attention in the media, internet, etc. focused on this one topic, even if you don’t have a weight issue, like my mother, you still think you do. Given the majority of people in North America DO have an unhealthy weight and have issues with their appearance; the industry of “Diet” is preparing to receive revenues of unprecedented proportions to “Fix the Problem”. To further fuel the fire, I even heard on talk radio the other day a scientist say that being overweight should be considered a “disease” and treated as such. This is as low as it can get, as this person is using science to justify their next financial grant to perform more “junk science” on a issue where the cause and effect are well know.
So the question I have, given the content of the article below, are the people that put out the best seller diet books and expensive diet programs simply setting themselves up for an attractive income statement, or do they really care about the health of the people that purchase their products and diet systems? My personal opinion is to follow the money and you’ll find your answer. The answer is simple and inexpensive, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly and your weight will take care of itself.
However, if you do engage in one of the many diet programs, pick one that has an end point of eating a well balanced food plan with lots of fresh organic fruits and vegetables, a healthy amount of high quality protein, healthy fats and limit the sugar and starchy carbohydrates. And do it with a bigger purpose than just fitting into a smaller size. Vanity will only get you so far. Don’t become another statistic of the majority of people that lose a load of weight, only to gain it all back again when they lose their short-term motivation. Do it because you want to increase the quality of your life 20 years from now.
Enjoy the Ride....Rob
It’s time to shed the tyranny of dieting – losing weight is a losing battle
Globe and Mail Update Jan. 07, 2012
One of the commercials in a new campaign to counter childhood obesity in Georgia shows a boy sitting on a folding chair, who says quietly, “Mom, why am I fat?” I was hoping his mom, sitting across from him, might say, “Well, son, let’s talk about how Congress thinks that the tomato sauce on pizza qualifies as a vegetable in school meals …” but she didn’t. She bowed her head in silent shame.
The contentious campaign, called Strong4Life, features a parade of sad-faced, overweight children wondering how they ended up this way. The ads are directed at the kids, and not at the advertisers who push ChoccyMallow Breakfast Surprise, or the restaurant chains that hand them a plate the size of an elephant’s foot and invite them to pile it high for less than the cost of a cauliflower.
My favourite ad – and I say “favourite” in the same way that I have a favourite Friday the 13th movie – is the one featuring a grim girl, her arms folded above the slogan: “It’s Hard to Be a Little Girl if You’re Not.” Why not go all the way, I thought, and borrow the slogan that the manufacturers of RyKrisp used to prey on women’s insecurities in the 1950s: “Nobody Loves a Fat Girl!”
The fat girl volcano is this way, ladies, if you’d like to follow me, and toss yourselves in. The line is long, and stretches through the centuries. I know this thanks to a new book, Louise Foxcroft’s Calories & Corsets: a History of Dieting over 2,000 Years, which reveals that our obsession with slimness, and our demonization of fat, has an impressive history. There is no better time to read it than in this month of wretched self-loathing.
As long as people have looked down at their muffin tops (or their suet crusts) and winced, slimming gurus have lined up to profit from the shame. The first diet bestseller was published in the 15th century, writes Ms. Foxcroft, a British historian of medicine. Three centuries later, the noted gourmet Brillat-Savarin was an early proponent of the low-carb diet, a bit like a Reign of Terror Dr. Atkins. Lose weight, he advised, or “become ugly, and thick, and asthmatic, and finally die in your own melted grease: I shall be there to watch it.” I doubt Weight Watchers will be adopting that slogan any time soon.
Dieting, over the years, has been sold as a moral imperative, a patriotic duty, a Christian obligation. In the mid-20th century you could turn to Pray Your Weight Away or Devotions for Dieters, which included this desperate plea to the Almighty to save a sinner from pie: “I promise not to sit and stuff/But stop when I have had enough. Amen.” It wasn’t just that you hated your chunky thighs; God was repulsed, too.
Ms. Foxcroft is very canny about the way health concerns are used to disguise what is essentially an aesthetic distaste for chubbiness. Fat has long been seen as a moral and intellectual failing: “The stupid, heavy, non-intellectual person, or the idiot, is generally fat and flabby,” wrote one 19th-century English doctor.
Not much has changed, even if we now put pillows around our language to guard against offence. “No one wants to be fat,” Tara Parker-Pope wrote recently in a fascinating and much-discussed article in The New York Times Magazine. “In most modern cultures, to be fat … is to be perceived as weak-willed and lazy.”
At the centre of her piece, The Fat Trap, is a paradox: Dieters, including Ms. Parker-Pope, actually work incredibly hard at losing weight. I doubt the physicists at CERN pay as much attention to numbers as the successful dieters she interviews, who weigh every gram of food that goes into their mouths and calculate every calorie burned on their bikes. But maintaining your new slim figure, as science shows, is very difficult and most people regain their spare tires, unless they’re willing to devote every waking moment to banishing thoughts of doughnuts. Losing weight, which is supposed to liberate, instead becomes a prison.
In America alone, the diet industry is worth $40-billion, slightly more than the GDP of Costa Rica. Every person who fails at a diet and embarks on another fattens the pocket of whoever is selling some chimerical notion of beauty. To what end, you have to wonder. For centuries, people in the West have been trying to lose weight – not for reasons of health, but for reasons of status – and it’s a losing battle. Maybe it’s time to refashion the RyKrisp slogan, and spell it out in chocolate chips: “Nobody loves a fat girl … except herself.”