What Would Happen if Fat People Stopped Hating Themselves?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Daniel Oines https://www.flickr.com/photos/dno1967b/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Daniel Oines https://www.flickr.com/photos/dno1967b/

There’s no end to the weight-loss, get-in-shape advice/programs/support groups rolling around the internet.

Most of them are useless, but harmless. A few of them are useless and harmful. Some of them cost $$. Others are free.

All of them work short term.

None of them work long term.

The most extreme and destructive of these is weight loss surgery. As usual for “reality” tv, (which I’m pretty sure ain’t all that “real”) there are cable tv shows dedicated to putting people who suffer from extreme weight problems on the air and letting us watch them go through extreme “solutions.”

These “solutions” range from shows that put fat people through punishing exercise routines that would, if most of us fatties tried them cold turkey, put us in the hospital. These exercise routines are punishing to the point of being downright dangerous.

The exercise punishment is coupled with extreme food makeovers that are just as harsh and punishing as the workout routines. Basically, the person is supposed to stop eating everything they like and begin eating everything they hate, and they aren’t supposed to eat much of that.

Then, we meet the sadistic “trainer” who yells at, belittles, demands and bullies the overweight person every step of the way. The cherry on top is the televised weigh-in, complete with the fear of public humiliation. I don’t know how much these cable networks pay their victims who participate in these shows, but whatever it is, it’s not enough.

Does anyone think that this is a sustainable lifestyle for a real person? Would anyone want to live their life like this? Living like this would be like living in an eternal Navy Seals training camp. Nobody is going to do that, including Navy Seals.

Another popular form of weight loss reality show is the televised miseries of people who undergo weight loss surgery. I am assuming that these people at least get their surgery/counseling/medical care paid for. If they don’t, they need to get a lawyer. These shows are exercises in public humiliation. The poor “star” of the show has to reveal their deepest emotional scars, including things such as sexual abuse, to the whole wide uncaring world.

They are forced to exhibit their folds of fat, and then, after the weight loss, their folds of hanging skin, all for our edutainment. We get to see their family fights, their messy houses and their break-downs of despair. It’s soooo much fun.

Does anybody realize how sick this stuff is? The underlying message in all these shows is that overweight people are freaks who deserve to be punished.

That underlying message is out there everywhere you go in our world. There are only three groups of people you can really pile on to today: Child molesters (If they are Catholic priests. If they are powerful movie directors, not so much.) any outspoken, traditional Christian, and fat people.

Why do we pick on fat people? What’s wrong with being Rubenesque?

I have a theory, which is backed up by nothing but my own thinking and a bit of historical fact. Here it is.

Historical fact: Not so long ago, it was skinny people who got the social boos. My own grandmother, who was born in 1886, suffered from being labeled “unatractively thin,” while her more rotund sister was “pleasingly plump.”

Somewhere early in the 20th Century this began to flip. Before too many decades, we had the Duchess of Windsor, aka, Wallace Simpson, aka the seductress who led a king to abdicate his throne, telling the world that “you can never be too rich or too thin.”

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by The Coincidental Dandy https://www.flickr.com/photos/69017136@N04/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by The Coincidental Dandy https://www.flickr.com/photos/69017136@N04/

In the years since Wallace Simpson was all the news, things have gotten much worse. Marilyn Monroe, the sex kitten of the 50s, would be considered fat by today’s standards. Twiggy, the model who became famous for being uber skinny would look like just another twig beside today’s celebrities.

Twiggy. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by RV1864 https://www.flickr.com/photos/summer1978/

Twiggy. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by RV1864 https://www.flickr.com/photos/summer1978/

Fashion models have literally starved themselves to death, trying to flatten the womanly curves off their bodies.

It’s a standard thing in some circles for women to starve themselves so completely that they begin to resemble boys instead of women. Then, they go to a surgeon and have fake breasts implanted under the skin of their chests to recreate the illusion of part of what they have starved away.

This is sick stuff folks. Really sick stuff.

How on earth did we get here?

My theory is based on the historical fact that this change in attitude about food occurred at the same time that our attitudes about sex began to change. There was a time not so long ago when our attitudes about sex were as punishing — especially for women — as our attitudes about food are now.

The hypocritical, cruel and destructive double standard reigned supreme. Women paid the whole price for human sexuality.

We could enjoy food back in those days, but not sex.

Now, we’ve gotten to the point that sex has become a kind of tyrannical monster that is forced on people. Force-feeding sex on a culture is not all that much better than punishing them for being sexual people in the first place. In fact, it’s beginning to look like it’s even more destructive.

At the same time that we’ve gone pagan about sex, we’ve turned hyper Victorian about food.

It’s as if we must be at war with our bodies on some level and we must make this war a form of societal condemnation and punishment for those hapless few who can’t fight the war and win. We need somebody to hate, because if we didn’t have somebody to hate, we’d have to look in the mirror, and face ourselves.

I think that this food sickness we’ve got going in our society is a symptom of widespread and endemic self hatred.

The first step out of cultural weight sickness is to stop pretending that it’s about a lack of self-discipline, addiction, laziness or any other defect.

Food, like sex, is good. Both of them are a gift from God. Both food and sex give great personal pleasure. They have the power to bring people together and create connections between them.

Sex, no matter what the sickos in our world tell you, makes a difference. Having sex with someone is, unless you are both really messed up people, a deeply bonding experience. It is the drive that brings men and women together to create family and civilization.

When it is abused, by turning it into a weapon, or degrading it into an animalistic function, it becomes harmful to the point of personal destruction. The antidote to this is the simple Christian teaching that sex is self-giving between two people. Viewed and lived through that prism, it’s a straight path to the joyous and fulfilling goodness of human sexuality.

It is the same with food. Sharing meals creates community, binds people together, makes it easier for them to talk and relate. There is a reason why meetings between heads of state always culminate in a banquet. That reason is part of who and what we are as social people. This drive for food is bound up in our relationships with others and with ourselves.

But when we turn food into a solitary and shameful act, a drive through the drive through, then gobble it down without being fully aware of what we are doing, we stuff down food’s immense power for good along with the hamburger and fries. The compelling impulse for food becomes a desolate act of self destruction that we repeat over and over again.

Photo  Source: Flickr Creative Commons by tracy ducasse https://www.flickr.com/photos/teagrrl/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by tracy ducasse https://www.flickr.com/photos/teagrrl/

We live such overworked, fractured lives that the simple pleasures of conversation, family meals with long, lingering discussions, laughter and just being together are lost to us. At the same time, we are burdened to the breaking point with the cultural guilt about and obsession with food.

The truth is that the celebrities we see with their emaciated bodies are only attractive when they are properly lit, expensively clothed, groomed, and Photoshopped. When you meet them in person, they look like walking x-rays. Many of them end up taking drugs to assuage the constant hunger they endure.

The first step out of our culture of weight sickness is to realize that it is a sickness. There is nothing normal about thinking about food all the time. It doesn’t matter if you are a binge eater stuffing down every candy bar in sight, or you are one of those walking x-rays taking drugs so the hunger pangs don’t overpower you; you are in the grip of a culturally induced obsession.

I think the first thing the fatties of the world, including me, need to do is stop hating ourselves for being fat. We need to stop punishing ourselves with food and over food. That’s a tough boogie I’m talking about. It means going in the face of a tsunami of cultural messages. It means taking the self-hate we’ve been taught and drop kicking it off the front porches of our emotional lives.

It takes real guts to go against the world around you. But Christians should be well-equipped for the task since we face the choice of the world or Jesus just about every single day of our lives.

I think I’m going to go to the grocery store and buy the makings of a really good meal. I’m going to buy my favorites. Then, I’m going to cook it and invite a few folks over for supper. I intend to enjoy the food and enjoy my guests.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped all this craziness and just started using food in the way God intended it to be used. What if we enjoyed it without guilt, shared it with pleasure, savored it, licked every last morsel off the spoon and then leaned back in our chairs and grinned?

One thing I’m pretty sure of is that I wouldn’t be any fatter. And I certainly would be a lot happier.

I think I’m going to try this. Enjoying food and not feeling guilty about it is my new diet. I wonder what will happen.

Now, let’s talk.

 

The Junk Food Fix is More Than One Person’s Bad Choice. It’s an American Problem.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maurice Svay https://www.flickr.com/photos/mauriz/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maurice Svay https://www.flickr.com/photos/mauriz/

My brave, witty and beautiful colleague, Katrina Fernandez, writes with the uninhibited gusto of a natural born wordsmith.

She has her finger on the pulse of the American condition. Her struggles with making ends meet as a single Mom in our current “jobless recovery” echo those of a lot of people I know, including my own family members. Her passion for Christ and His Church, her love of art and her fearless honesty make her one of the best reads on the internet.

Katrina has lately taken on the bugaboo of a whole raft of us working class Americans:  the demoralizing and doomed-to-defeat battle against overweight. Every word she writes, I can affirm from my own overweight life. Every defeat she encounters, every frustration and every small victory are experiences that millions of us have shared.

This topic of discussion fascinates a lot of us for the simple reason that Katrina is not alone in her predicament. Most of us live our lives in what Thoreau once described as “quiet desperation.” The difference is, in today’s world there is nothing quiet about our desperation.

We shout our frustrations for all the world to hear, but, despite our shouting, we do not comprehend them. How much of our food obsession and chronic widespread obesity is a reaction to the larger desperation of people who are pushed as far as they can be every single day of their lives?

All you have to do is leave this country and spend a few days in a place like Spain to come back and see and feel for yourself the driven, nerved-up atmosphere of our America. We are living through an implosion of our national wealth which is being siphoned off from the many and redeposited in the bank accounts of the very, very few.

We are, in fact and in truth, being systematically stolen blind by our government, which is the operative force in this theft.

What I’m saying is that we are getting poorer every single day. It is becoming harder and harder for ordinary Americans to make enough money to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and a running car in the garage.

We have splintered our families to the point that vast numbers of Americans are trying to row their boat with one hand. Single parents try to be two people. But they can’t. Not really.

We work long hours for low pay and fewer benefits every year. We send our children to substandard schools that throw them into contact with drugs, gangs and that teach them moral nihilism. Our tax dollars are used to manipulate our children into a valueless worldview that is anathema to us and to their futures.

We are forced to leave our children alone in our homes for many hours a week while we try to make a living. We face a future in which any chance of getting off the treadmill to retire is being challenged by politicians who work for corporatists who want this last big pool of money, which is the retirement savings of generations, for their own use.

We are tired to the point of exhaustion almost every day of our lives. We do not have the energy and leisure for reflection and thought. At the same time, the media bombards us constantly with one pounding crisis after another. We are propagandized, lied to and manipulated in a deliberate fashion on a constant basis by this same media.

At the end of our long day, we do not feel like cooking a meal. We are too tired to wheel a shopping cart through a grocery store. It is simpler and in fact less expensive to go through the drive-through at the local fast food joint and pick up a sack of something. We can be sure that this something will be heavily seasoned with fat, sugar and salt. We can be equally sure that it will not contain anything resembling a balance of food types and nutrients.

But we have learned to find satisfaction in the sledge-hammer hit of fats, sugar and salt. The carbs and fats hit our systems like a drug fix. They energize us for the moment and the powerful tastes assuage our longing for pleasure. Eating this stuff passes for a momentary time-out. It feels like comfort.

Food, used like this, is not about nourishment. It is not the pleasurable and relaxing experience of partaking of a well-balanced, home-cooked meal with family and friends. There is no lingering over the last morsel and laughing about the day’s problems.

This kind of eating is a buy-it-quick, stuff-it-down fix. We need the outlandish calorie counts supplied by all that fat and sugar to satisfy our hunger because the food itself is so low in so many essential nutrients. The sugar-fat-salt fix soothes our taste buds and raises our blood sugar so that we feel a short-lived high.

Of course, this doesn’t last. Unlike a real meal composed of good food, the high from this something we’ve bought at the drive through goes away in a relatively short time. Unlike a meal at the kitchen table with friends and family, it does nothing to relieve the day’s pressures and assuage the anxieties that keep us up at night, even when we ache from tiredness.

Before we have begun to burn the high number of calories we’ve consumed, the gnawing hungers, both physical and emotional, are back. Our bodies push us to eat again because they haven’t been properly nourished. Our minds beg us to binge because we need surcease from being, as Alcoholics Anonymous says, too hungry, angry, lonely and tired.

We have nobody to talk to. We have no other outlets in our time-starved lives where we can vent. We are pushed around, abandoned, scared and alone with our miseries. We really are too hungry, angry, lonely and tired to fend off that call for a junk food fix.

Our national problem with obesity is not so much a problem with food as it is that we don’t have healthy options for dealing with the many desperations of our existence. We live in a nation that has been at war for almost 15 years. Our country has been economically at war since around 1939.

Our government has been hijacked by corporatists who are draining the national purse as well as our private purses and taking the money for themselves. The government tells us that inflation is flat, yet every time we go to the grocery store or fill a prescription or guy a gallon of gas, we know that this is not true. Inflation is, in fact, running pretty high. The government has just cooked the books so it does not have to admit it.

The stock market has been going up and up, yet the people of this country can’t find jobs and when they do find jobs, they can’t live on what they are paid. They do not have retirements, the roads and bridges aren’t being repaired, tuition keeps going up and scads of people can not afford the health insurance being offered by the Affordable Health Care Act.

There isn’t time in most people’s lives to drop in at a gym and work out every day. Besides, people who never get enough sleep at night don’t feel like working out. The only pleasure a lot of people in this country get on a reliable basis is stuffing down that junk food they got from the drive through.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we will not solve the problem of widespread obesity in this country until and unless we solve the problems of lost community, no free time and fear of the future that haunts the American people. I’ve also come to the conclusion that it’s up to us to do this for ourselves.

Widespread obesity is a symptom of many huge problems facing the American people. If you find your community on the internet, instead of the flesh and blood people around you, if you are chronically exhausted from lack of sleep, if you ache all over from lack of exercise, if you can’t find a job or if you have a job, it doesn’t pay your bills, if you have no idea whatsoever where you would go or who would take care of you if you got cancer or when you grow old, then you are not living the American dream. You are living the American nightmare.

Is it any wonder that you find it so hard to give up the one pleasure you have? When a Big Mac becomes the best thing in your life, you won’t be able to stay away from it, no matter how hard you try.

We the People tamed this continent. We built railroads across the wilderness, created an industrial empire like nothing the world had ever seen. We won world wars and put men on the moon. We created a standard of living, not just for the few, but for a whole nation of Americans, that, again, the world had never seen before.

Now it is being taken from us. The only thing our government seems capable of doing is waging constant war. It will not spend our money on us. It does not build roads, does not provide decent education. It goes in your face against our values and needs.

The government has steadily siphoned off the wealth of this great nation for decades now. It has transferred monies that once enriched all the citizens of this nation into the hands of a few. It has exported our industrial base and the jobs that go with it. It has ignored the people on a consistent, bi-partisan basis.

Meanwhile, We the People tear our lives apart with senseless divorces, too much debt, increasingly splintered communities, zoning out in front of the computer or the television, and of course, those trips through the junk food drive throughs.

We are sitting by while we are being stolen blind by our own government, while our young people turn feral from no family life, bad schools and sicko social values and while we commit slow suicide from overeating, under exercising and constant sleep deprivation.

I am not speaking of these thing from the outside. I am one with most of these problems. I eat out too much, don’t exercise enough and so seldom get enough sleep that when I do I am astonished by how good I feel. Over-eating, under-exercising exhaustion is my normal.

I’ve decided I’m going to join brave Katrina Fernandez and blog about my own battle of the bulge. I’ve done this before when I published a series of posts under the title, Less of Me. I’m going to resurrect that title and post under it again.

I see overweight/under-exercise/lack of sleep as a widespread societal problem and a deeply humiliating and utterly defeating personal problem.

If there is a way out of this cycle, I have never found it.

If you want to read something like Ten Quick Fixes for Weight Loss, you need to skip my discussion and go somewhere else. However, I can guarantee you before you go there that it will not help you one bit to read those ten quick fixes. Because there aren’t any quick fixes. Because the problem itself is bigger than the individual. Because when an entire nation of people experience such a devastating malady as this, there is much more afoot than simple lack of will power and bad personal decisions.

The junk food fix and everything that goes with it is a societal problem. It is a maladjustment and a source of illness for tens of millions of Americans.

I am one of those Americans.

Let’s talk.

 

 

 

 


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