Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Thorny Topic

I suppose our grandparents, if they saw our lives today as things were in the 1940s, would have had a good laugh: specifically, in regard to the struggle to maintain a healthy weight.  

My long-time readers would be familiar with my "Battle of the Bulge" series, in which I detailed my own experiences losing weight as well as articles discussing the science of weight loss. 

But I'll be frank. There are times when I wish this wasn't a constant monkey on my back. That I didn't have to analyze and catalogue and monitor. So I would have a day or two of "hedonism" (by my usual standards), when I stubbornly insist I don't care, I've had enough, to heck with it. Then I loathe myself for my lack of control, that it wasn't worth it, and I'm back on the straight and narrow. 

Until I'm invited out for Shabbos, and my hosts coax me to please try this and that, and I want to be a good guest. Then I taste something really yummy and chances are it's really yummy for no good reason, but I still have multiple helpings (I'm a social eater. Haven't hammered that out of me yet. Anyone got any tips?). 


We've all seen the thin women casually licking an ice cream and wondering, "How does she do it?" But we don't know the rest of her life. Maybe she throws it out when it begins to melt. Maybe she's one of those people who only feel a need to nibble "when hungry" (what's that like?)
Weight is a very thorny topic. While it's not acceptable anymore to mock different races or cultures, sitcoms still feel free to laugh at fatness. Obesity carries with it a host of risk factors, but goal weights tend to have to do less with health than with aesthetics (I am guilty of this too). 

Taffy Brodesser-Akner's article on "Losing It" describes the contradictory messages with despair. Since she was a teenager, she has tried every diet known, faddy and dangerous and otherwise. The culture has changed now, where it is no longer p.c. to tout diets for weight loss, rather lifestyle changes for health and wellness. 

But who are we kidding: It's still about weight, just jazzed up in a new outfit. 

Kathy DeVos approaches "The Problem with Body Positivity" as an overweight woman. She was a member of the body positivity movement until she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She realized that while "fatphobia" is unfair, there are still health ramifications to weight. Her daughter, without her knowledge, chose to go on an unhealthy "diet" as she thought that was her only option. 

DeVos knows the topic is more nuanced than she originally thought. Fat shaming is cruel, as racism and sexism is cruel, but the flip side of the latter two are that there is no negativism associated with others. But there are negatives to obesity. 
The problem with today’s version of body positivity is that it refuses to acknowledge that no one approach is right for every person. One teenager might grow up to be healthy at any weight, and another might end up in the hospital. It left my own daughter afraid to approach me about a topic on which I have both personal experience and expertise. It left me feeling that I couldn’t voice the rational concerns I have about diabetes.
I was the “wrong” kind of body positive because I’d been forced to admit that there could be serious health consequences to fatness.
I was the wrong kind of mother because I felt I should support my daughter’s weight-loss goals instead of talking her out of them. . . 
I’m still trying to get it right. But I’ve come to feel that loving yourself and desiring to change yourself are two sentiments that should be able to peacefully coexist.
That sentiment is not unique to weight loss. That belief is what every Jew carries around every day: "For me the world was created" along with "I am but dust and ashes." 

We know how to carry seemingly contradictory messages together. "On the other hand" is a game every Jew plays.

I personally like it when I'm the weight I would prefer. But I've had a gain that refused to go away (like it usually does), much to my alarm. I was beating myself up about it, but then remembered the article by Sridhar Pappu regarding "Dad Bod." 

We do all come in different sizes and shapes. And those sizes can be affected by age. This is not a matter of unhealthy weight gain; it's five pounds. Five dinky pounds that refuse to leave. We can't claim it's a matter of health when it's really about aesthetics. In that case, obsessing over it can prevent one from focusing on other areas that requires improvement, like watching what comes out of my mouth. 

This is a thorny topic indeed.   

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