It's that time of year again, when everyone's looking at what they think is the decrepitude of their bodies and making all kinds of resolutions to lose weight.
Weight hysteria is everywhere. Oprah Winfrey, in true confessional mode, bemoans her latest weight gain in her magazine O and on her TV show.
The Biggest Loser, that mammoth weight loss competition with a Survivor twist, is a ratings hit, so much so that Larry King welcomed onto his program previous winners, their trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper and Eric Chopin, who gained almost all of his near 100 pounds right back - doubtless the Biggest Loser loser of of all time
On the red carpet at the Golden Globe awards show last Sunday, Transformers star Megan Fox who, if she turned sideways and stuck her tongue out would look like a zipper, blabbed about her low self-esteem, how she was so insecure she felt like vomiting and that, yes, to prepare for the big show she stopped eating for a month. Saying as much, she offered the perfect prelude to the awards program itself, which was rife with ads for weight loss systems.
Hope there weren't too many teen-aged girls watching. I mean, aren't we in the middle of a major epidemic of eating disorders? The I Blame Myself syndrome not only fuels those disorders big-time, it also takes the emphasis off strategies that would have a real impact on the way we eat. Stop blaming yourselves - blame dumb eateries, corporations that profit from junk food and ridiculous definitions of what's beautiful.
Here are some tidbits of advice to live by:
Portion control. Have you eaten in an American restaurant lately? You could feed three people on the amount of food on the plate of a typical family restaurant special. Somehow, America's lost track of what a typical portion should be. Don't let restos be your guide. Whatever they're giving you, eat half and take the rest home.
Crappy food makes you fat, which makes you prone to illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure and others, which in turn puts added pressure on our (beautifully socialized - we Canadians weep for you, America) health care system. That's why food writers like NOW's Wayne Roberts have been advocating a tax on junk food and even promoting the idea that the taxes garnered get pumped back into our health care system. It didn't take long for people to charge Roberts with elitism - lower class people, after all, are the ones that eat junk food the most. But the truth is that junk food is not as low-priced as people think it is. I can feed three people on $10 worth of ingredients, including drinks. No way two can eat for less than $10 at McDonalds. Check the website. Oh, don't bother - they don't list menu prices.
Most important, love your body. Medical experts will tell you that everyone's born with a particular body type and size and that the vast majority of us have bodies that do not conform to conventional ideas of beauty. Those ideas are pounded into our consciousnesses in mass media images and by film stars like Megan Fox. Educational strategies like Media Literacy aim to decode pop culture images so young people can understand the intense and unreasonable pressure on both men and women to be unreasonably thin. Bring those strategies on so that kids can talk about the pressure openly and honestly in the classroom.
Truth is, Oprah, that taut, tight body you got for yourself after losing 50 pounds is really not your body at all. It's the one you think you want. You will only be able to maintain it by training hours every day - which by the way not everyone can do, except Madonna, who works out something like three hours daily. Then again, the bloated over-200 pound body isn't your body either. You, like millions of people do, including Biggest Loser weight-gainer Eric Chopin, yo-yo dieted your way there.
The real Oprah is somewhere in between - fit, healthy, able to accept her round, but not at all fat, self. Accept that and you'll be the awesome role model you've proved yourself to be in so many other areas of life.