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.”
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.
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.
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.