Friday, March 2, 2007

Weight Loss Culture?

I am starting to get the feeling, and I hope it's true, that we're turning things around in this country. I'm not the only person in my spin class who has lost 80 pounds and is working on more. As I think to myself, "I don't know where to look for clothes anymore. I don't know how to dress this new body," an episode of What Not To Wear comes on and the perky hosts help someone in a similar situation but is far worse off. People become overweight and obese for a wide range of reasons. Maybe we ate too much fast food and pasta out of a box or maybe we were filling up the empty feelings we had inside by just eating whatever was in sight. Maybe you never were shown a form of exercise that you actually found enjoyable or maybe your mother thought it was more important for you to be happy than to make you worry about your outward appearance. As people educate themselves more on issues such as nutrition and heart health, and start leaving the overweight lifestyle behind them, I wonder if we'll ever really get over where we've been. Are we the new ex-smokers? I know most of us didn't get fat trying to be cool, and marketing often made people into smoking while a lot of marketing these days is making some people anorexic. I just know so many people who have been overweight and have found a way to get more healthy. We all have our battle scars and war stories. We start judging people for the same bad habits we used to have. We hate to see our own bad behavior on display in front of us.

It's easy to lose perspective. I am currently beating myself up because I had told myself I'd like to get back down under 200 pounds by my next birthday. Time is ticking away, and while you might be horrified at the idea of weighing that much, just know that I spent my entire 20's with a 2 on the front of my weigh-in's. I don't know yet if I can make it to this goal and I started feeling sorry for myself. Today I heard about a new client my trainer has, she weighs over 300 pounds and her goal right now is to be able to shop at Lane Bryant. I think about the years I spent just trying to get out of that store (on the other side of the scale, of course), and how happy I feel now when I go to buy something to wear for an upcoming event and have 10 dresses that fit just fine to pick from. It's then that my heart just aches for this other woman. She has a long way to go, and I hope she has people her life who appreciate her situation and help her through the times when she has to deal with the people who are less than kind. People can be so cruel.

There are so, so many sides to this issue. I am only just now approaching the weight I was once told I needed to be to get health insurance, not that anyone ever reached out to show me the way. Fat jokes litter the media, people aren't quite sure if they're allowed to laugh or not. The plus-size section in department stores continues to be hidden away on a floor separate from the "regular" sizes, usually in some dark corner somewhere. Like someone might get secondhand-fat if they get too close.

When I look at how many people still smoke and think about long smoking has been around, and then think about how young the obesity epidemic is, I get a little scared. Like I said, it's easy to lose perspective. And it's hard to know just how far it is you've come and how much further there is to go. But I think about that woman who had the guts to walk into the gym and say to a personal trainer that she wants to focus on getting into Lane Bryant just as I'm anxiously running out the door. I realize that I need to appreciate the health I have now. I wish I could grab hold of that woman's hand and pull her along behind me. I'll pave the way. It's hard not to look back.

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