Saturday, March 3, 2007

on being fat...

I’m not one to make a big deal about my over-weighted-ness. Actually, most of you will know that I feel quite comfortable with my rotunded-ness. It may come as a surprise to some of you that I would want to comment about this topic then…
Recently, I have noticed an extraordinary amount of attention being paid to obesity. The news media all seem to keep the topic in ‘the starting line up’ of their national news casts In much the same way that anti-smoking ‘stories’ dominated the news in the late 90’s (smoking still gets some airplay). It’s not just the frequency of the topic that is similar to the anti-smoking phenomenon: the style and content of the stories are very similar.
If you pay attention to these stories they typically show blubbery bodies waddling down some downtown scene-scape while scrolling statistics about the increase in obesity, fast food consumption and related health concerns due to obesity. The message of these stories is quite clear. Take the story of the 200+ lb 8 year old in England. (What reporter would get away with writing a piece like this about hiv/aids?) Here’s a case where the media has latched onto an extreme case of obesity for its inherent shock value and then use it to reinforce the message of the piece which typically includes a thinly veiled chastisement of poor eating habits or sedentary lifestyle. Basically in one fell swoop the message is that these lazy #$%^#$% should get off their couches and out from behind their computer screens and do something.
I think it is admirable that public opinion is seemingly concerned about the well-being of overweight people. I mean wouldn’t it be great if we could all stop being fat just like all have stopped smoking?
The problem is that obesity is a categorically different problem than smoking is.
My ideal body weight is somewhere around 175 lbs. I am well over that. There was a time in my adult life when I was close to that weight. I maintained a weight of about 185lbs for three years by following this formula: Strenuous physical work (concrete) 12 hours daily + only one meal a day. You think I’m joking but it’s true. When I look around at my friends, and I compare what and how much food I eat I quickly come to a few conclusions. I typically eat a lot less (quantity) than my thinner friends. I eat relatively the same or better quality of food – mostly thanks to my wife – than my thinner friends.
I have dealt with personal guilt because I thought that perhaps my weight problem was directly a result of my lack of self control. Now I am not going to claim that I am a very self controlled person when it comes to food but it is clear that I am no less controlled than some of my thinner friends - no names.
I have seen how powerful the weight issues have been for some people – affecting so many part of their identity.
I know people have many varied reasons for losing weight. Conforming to some socially acceptable body shape is in may mind one of the worst reasons. Giving your body a better physical condition is in my mind really about the only one that holds legitimacy.
I think that if health would be the real public ‘concern’ we would be talking about this topic in other ways than the ones that are prominent now. Instead of inducing guilt for inactivity and herding people off to the price gouging fitness boutiques why not talk about reducing the sedentary nature of our very culture. And why don’t we have investigative reporting on how my buddy down the street can live on nothing but junk food and still come out with a better cholesterol level than I do?
It’s stupid to call it a conspiracy but… follow the money. $35 billion + in the USA alone tells me that there might be a significant economic impact if we all were suddenly to be content with our shape and fitness level.
As of day I am 5lbs lighter than last week at this time. I hope it stays off…


Israelson's said...

Wow! Really, thanx for that post Dale! I hadn't given consideration to the majority of the content in your post. It's so refreshing to hear of your personal experience instead of having to constantly listen to those of the media - which is rediculously controlled and often inaccurate(!)
And truly, congrats to you in your confidence and efforts on being "self-controlled". I am trying to make more effort myself, and dang is it difficult.

jc said...

I am not sure if you are interested but I listened to a very informative podcast the other day entitled "The Obesity Myth." It was an interview on 'Truth Driven Thinking' with Paul Campos who has a book by the same name. If you go to itunes you can download this for free in their podcast section.

Incoming... said...

thanks for the tip jc