Have you heard the reports lately about how, in spite of all the information that’s been given to Americans about how to stay fit, we’ve been getting bigger? Are you surprised?
As a fellow American woman (I’ll speak hear for women, but I’m sure many men feel the same way), who does not have a weight problem to speak of, all the rhetoric about losing weight and “being fit” that we are bombarded with over the radio or on television is offensive and, well, irritating. Whether you have an issue with your weight or not, you probably feel like you do, or that you should after hearing all these messages. I think even thin women feel like they should lose a few pounds simply because our culture seems to insist upon it. I do not know a single woman (and I’ll admit nearly all my friends are thin/fit women) who is satisfied with her body or weight. Nearly all of them would be happy to lose a few (or more) pounds.
I’ve begun to think we believe we have to lose weight in the same way we need to eat, sleep, breathe and so on. It’s nuts. And I am as much a “victim” in all this as anyone else. At 5′ 9″ tall I’ve always been thin with a long torso and thin waist. But I’ve never been satisfied, deciding my thighs must then be the problem. On a scale, I was always a good, if not low, weight, but it didn’t matter. In the back of my mind, there was always room for improvement. Not until now, as a 40 something woman approaching menopause, have I become aware of how ridiculous our country has become about weight and body shape.
Every time I think I’m fine, I’m healthy, I exercise regularly, I’m a good weight/shape for my age (It’s not good to be too thin as we age for health reasons, not to mention a little weight helps hide wrinkles-lol), I hear or see a commercial or program about the best way to lose weight. Lose weight, lose weight, lose weight is a message we hear every day, several times a day. Most of the time we don’t realize it any more, but if you pay close attention you’ll likely be mortified at how often that message is put out there. Our culture has become a bully, threatening our self esteem and acceptance if we don’t comply.
Remember the old wisdom, don’t hound someone about their weight or they’ll likely gain more? Or something along those lines. Well, I think that’s exactly what is happening in American. We may not have as much of a problem with people being overweight as we do with people hounding people about it. I am not an advocate for being overweight in the least; in fact I’m a huge proponent of health and fitness. I feel, however, our focus has gotten out of hand, thus changing the message to a negative one.
The message started out innocent enough, the emphasis on getting (and staying) healthy with information centered on what kinds of foods to feed our bodies for optimum health as well as exercises to benefit not only body, but mind and spirit, too. But that original message seems to have, like so many things in life, spiraled into something negative. Now the message behind the message is clearly LOSE WEIGHT you slug. Well, maybe not exactly that message, but you get it.
Even when I didn’t need to lose weight, I’d hear this message and think I was wrong, that maybe I DO need to lose weight. It’s horrible, and I’m not at all surprised that Americans are reported as getting bigger, not smaller. I fall into the category of middle-aged women who feel they need to lose a good 10-15 pounds. Maybe it’s true I need to drop a few, maybe not, but I do know that the more pressure there is on us, both men and women, the least likely we are to healthily and safely reach and maintain our goal.
My advice? Healthy foods should be less expensive than junk food (imagine that concept!!), but that’s another discussion. Teach us all how to eat healthy and what to eat to obtain that goal as well as how to exercise (and there are sooo many ways to get exercise), and weight loss will follow.
At this point, I believe we DO know how and what to do and eat to be healthy, for the most part; we just need to take the focus off of it and let it happen. Would you agree? Shouldn’t the dominant message on the airwaves be focused on living a life filled with good friends, joy, family, following our passions, being kind to others and so on? Wouldn’t that do more to help us each reach individual goals of being fit and healthy in body AND mind, not to mention the all important spirit? Health will follow. Weight loss (where needed) will follow. Let’s all try to get off the weight shaming treadmill (see what I did there? lol).
Our body will tell us when/if we need to lose weight. We just need to listen to it. If we have any weight-related issues such as bad knees, bad back, diabetes, inability to walk far and so much more, then yes, we need to take off some weight until those things clear up. But if we are in good health, we need to remember that there are all different shapes and sizes, not one ideal to attain.
Whatever our body type is, it needs to be allowed to find its healthy, not be turned into a clone of someone else’s image. With all the hype on weight loss and being skinny, we’ve lost sight of what healthy really is.
I realize everything I’ve said here has exceptions, but I believe this generalization fits a lot of people and I hope does some good. And for those of you who are the exceptions, keep up the excellent work and spread your positive body image message. 😉