Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Women and Obesity and a New Year

My dear friend Colin posted a photo on facebook this morning that he considered disturbing in its implications and got my mind going...

When I was growing up it was unusual for someone to be as overweight as me. I was an anomaly. As American society moved towards the obesity epidemic we had to go through the late sixties and early seventies, where thinness became the societal norm for beauty. Caucasian thinness, stick thin anorexic models such as Twiggy came to represent the ideal for beauty in our culture. We moved away from normal women, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Mamie Van Doren, women with curves, and in doing so we spawned eating disorders in our young women. In the middle part of the century only women of wealth could achieve the desired beauty, and they did so at the expense of their health. Anorexia became a disease for the masses instead of just for the F.Scott Fitzgerald neighborhood. As we moved through the late part of the century we were becoming obese because of changes in the agrarian nature of our society, HFCS and unhealthy convenience foods became more prevalent. Every one started eating like poor people, who had often been overweight because fresh fruit and vegetables were unavailable to urban poor. Cheap carbohydrates, hormone laced meat products, these became more widely available.  The culture started getting fat. A whole generation of women became what I had been all my life, obese. But they became obese in a culture that adored thinness, they hate themselves. So now we add self esteem issues to the obvious health issues of heart disease, diabetes, etc. We have a generation that is getting fatter while hating themselves for it.Such a difficult road to travel, our bodies resist starvation. But, hating our bodies while not able to attain the so called beauty standard brought a generation of women for whom Prozac and Zoloft became the norm, widely available to the masses, where before we had upper and upper middle class women abusing valium. Self esteem issues that helped turn normal women into morbidly obese women while they used the most widely available mood altering drug-food- to try to feel better about themselves. Vicious circle created.

So, now we have a diet industry, and a generation of women who hate themselves so much that they can not grasp the theory that they need to take care of themselves, physically, emotionally, spiritually, before they can take care of others. Generations of women grasping at every fad diet that comes by, when the truth is it is never about 'dieting', it is about learning to eat well, giving food its proper place in our lives.  Food became lover, friend, mother, father, giving us pleasure that should have been derived elsewhere. We learned to hate ourselves. Learned to not value our contributions because we looked different than the standards of beauty. White, upper middle class standards applied to the rest of us. Standards that we never should have aspired to reach. As the words of the song from the musical Oklahoma, 'round and pink and pretty', should have been what we strived for. Women are meant to be full bodied, for work, and childbirth, for the survival of the species. The estrogen that makes us feminine is created and stored in our fat cells. The cultural norm of thinness makes us less feminine, and as we strive for liberation as feminists we enslave our bodies in reaching for a mythical standard of beauty.So how do we stop the vicious circle? How do we keep from enslaving the next generation in the endless cycle of hating our bodies? I think we start by learning to love our selves right here, right now, and what better time than the beginning of a New Year!

Let this New Year be the beginning of a new life in each of us wherein"old things are passed away." Let all blessed old things stay, but let the clutter of our heads and hearts be removed, that new inspirations and new affections may come in to gladden our lives.~~Chester Burg Emerson~~

It's the New Year.Here we are. The entire culture is health obsessed for the next few weeks. All of the grocery store have 'healthy' foods on sale, the TV is plastered with ads for this and that crazy weight loss product. Everyone is motivated. As the weeks go by, and the quick fixes are just too hard to keep up, or the same old issues keep rearing their ugly heads, that motivation will slip away, and it will be back to business as usual. Except for those of us fortunate enough to have figured out that it is not about a quick fix, or the newest fad diet. It is never about not eating. It is about making the best choices we can make at any given moment, learning to find the old issues and deal with them, so that we can kick them to the curb and get on with the business of learning that we are indeed beautiful, wonderful, intelligent, articulate, deserving, worthy individuals.

We are deserving of the best that life has to offer. So in order to achieve that we will let those old negative thoughts and untruths hat clutter up our minds be the "old things that are passed away." They aren't worth keeping around, they are ugly non productive lies that were told to us by others our ourselves so often that we began to believe them and live them. Just as a child will live up to expectations or down to expectations, so will we. So we must get rid of that junk cluttering up our minds, and replace the old things with blessed new things. The TRUTH of who we are and what we can accomplish when we realize that it is our choice to accomplish it. New inspirations, new affections, affection for ourselves. Loving ourselves enough to know that when we take care of ourselves we take care of the others in our lives better. Loving ourselves enough to only let true things hang out in our memory, and to make the best choices we can in any circumstance. To know that the choice we make may not always be the best, and to forgive ourselves for those times and to make the best choice in the very next moment. So bring on the New Year, we are ready to meet it, ready to do the work we have to do to make it the best year ever. Choosing to let our choices be the things that gladden our hearts.

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