Thursday, January 19, 2012
That our culture promotes the problem and blames the individual
It's a new year and like every other January, we're bombarded by people on TV trying to sell us diet plans and gym equipment or convince us to consider becoming personal trainers. We hear and see a lot about the obesity/overweight epidemic in western cultures. There are always shame-filled current affair stories which zoom in on the chubby bellies of poor folk who are trying to do a bit of shopping. Even though you can't see their faces, I'm sure those who know them would be quick to shout, "That's Uncle George! I recognise his T-shirt." But have you noticed that we're urged to make sure we're trim, taut and terrific by the same society which is careful to keep chocolates, cakes, biscuits and other tasty delicacies right in front of our faces at supermarkets?
Just to get into Coles or Woolworths, we have to pass beautifully aesthetic looking mountains of Tim Tams or blocks of Cadbury chocolate. Pretty looking sweets or baked goods are always kept at eye level, whether we're looking for them or not. Fast food outlets are always dropping loyalty vouchers into our letter boxes, so we don't even need to leave home to be targeted. Honestly, I'd think that if our society was really serious about people being slender and healthy, they wouldn't make it so easy to indulge. Just recently, I found out that the Japanese government is actually taking action with compulsory check-ins and tape-measures for all their citizens. Even though it's debatable whether that's a wise action, at least they're doing something.
Some people might go so far as to say that our Australian society (along with American and lots of European) secretly likes to keep things as they are because a chubby culture is good for economic turnover. We wouldn't have 24-hour gyms and Jenny Craig outlets and Lite n' Easy cuisine without customers who are prepared to pay big money for them. Nobody would bother to watch programs such as "The Biggest Loser" and "Excess Baggage." If there's any truth at all in this, it's even more disappointing that individuals are shamed and made to feel like shapeless, slimy slugs just for carrying a few extra kilos.
I feel strongly about this because I've been one of the many victims of this situation over the years, being found all over the weight spectrum. During my late teens and into my twenties, I was anorexic. In 1987, when I did Year 12, I shivered with cold all the time, stopped menstruating and my hair started falling out, yet I was still too scared of being called fat to ease off on my rigid diet and risk not being chronically hungry.
In more recent years, I've been found a few kilos on the heavy side. Last year my Wii Fit was telling me I was on the very upper limit of normal weight, but now I'm a little heavier. The little lady who represents me shakes her head and slumps her shoulders with a sad expression to the sound of a rueful little tune. I'm not taking it too seriously because I'm not one of those who were designed to have a slender, delicate build anyway. We have to accept our genetics and anatomy.
How should we treat the subject? I definitely think we shouldn't even bother worrying about how many pounds or kilos we weigh. We can treat ourselves well by indulging our hearty appetites for the food nature provided and making sure we move our bodies the way nature intended. A good rule to observe may be the 'plant' rule. "If it comes from a plant, indulge in it. If it's made in a plant, go easy on it" without getting too extreme. I've heard a lot recently about the typical western diet not being ideal for the human body. I do believe that, but it can be the subject for another post.
I really love seeing the sturdy, happy, glowing sort of people who prove that larger folk can be the happiest and healthiest of all. If we're happy and sensible, I believe we can trust our bodies to set their own ideal weights, whether or not the match what we're told they're 'supposed' to be.
I think this quote from Stuart Wilde, who calls himself an 'urban mystic' is great.
"If you constantly deny yourself the lush and sensual things of life, eventually your spirit gets too thin. It's better that you're a little overweight and your heart is full and rich with life's experiences than winding up with a thin body and an anorexic spirit."
My spirit cries a big, resounding "YES" to that.