One of my earliest televisual memories is of watching Lorraine Kelly speak to an American fitness guru. Whilst I can’t remember who the guru was, I remember his message clearly even now. He and Lorraine were talking about weight and I distinctly remember him rubbing a chocolate cake onto his thigh whilst saying “You might as well rub this in because, once you eat it, this is where it will end up – making smiles with your cellulite”. That image has literally ingrained itself into my psyche. Imagine what horrors today’s children are bearing witness to…
The other evening I found myself intrigued by Channel Four’s delectable programming treats; the first being ‘Super Size versus Super Skinny’ and the second ‘Too Fat Too Young’, starring our favourite stylish guy Gok Wan investigating the growing problem of childhood obesity. The moment I hear the heavy footsteps of a programming schedule like this I can’t help but feel that those responsible are adding more fuel to the fire of what is already a big epidemic in British culture.
Over the past few years there has been increased media concern over weight; how to put it on, how to get rid of it, how to keep it off and how to put it back on again! These new spate of programmes are like modern day freak shows; their shock-horror/perverse intrigue element makes them prime viewing. Like so many others, I do watch these programmes and, to their credit, they can be interesting. But I would say that nine times out of ten these programmes teach us nothing new. When it comes to healthy eating advice, they all seem to boil down to the same conclusion; eat less and do more. We are told to swap television for press ups and to eat less burgers and more salad. Chop and change, mix it up and ergo, in a couple of weeks time, you will be hiking yourself up the self esteem ladder a thousand miles away from that junk-food cocktail you call a diet.
Being big is not necessarily a bad thing, people come in all shapes and sizes and many are happy just the way they are. But, if you’re unhappy with your size, it can help to take a look at what you can change about your life. It is not just about eating healthily; it’s about helping to merge the mind and soul in order to get out of destructive eating patterns. It all sounds simple enough but the reality is that losing weight is about more than exchanging a chocolate bar for an apple. It’s also about facing the issues that got you to a size you feel uncomfortable at.
Personally I don’t think programmes like these help us to do that. Instead, they offer us a variation on escape that makes us feel better about ourselves as we tuck into our television dinners. We might watch the programme in question thinking ‘Well, at least I’m not as big as them!’ At best, the programme may diminish our urge to tuck into that chocolate cake (at least until the programme has finished) but then as soon as it’s over it’s forgotten about and old habits are re-engaged (that chocolate caking looking very tempting all of a sudden).
With so many programmes jumping on the ‘obesity epidemic’ bandwagon, it’s easy to become numb to any sort of message being broadcast. We watch these programmes almost blind sighted because they are so predictable that we know the beginning, middle and end. We also know that by watching them we won’t suddenly want to change our lifestyles. But then, considering the current economic climate why should we? I mean, life’s depressing enough as it is right now without swapping our favourite sweets for ‘natures candy’.
The reason we’re in this economic mess in the first place is greed. But this is not only greed with regards to money, but also greed relating to general over-consumption. Our appetite for life has reached excess in all areas; we’ve got to have that It Bag and, whilst we’re shopping, why not treat ourselves to a double frappuccino and a chocolate muffin too? So, if we are to spend less and get healthy we really need to take a look at what makes us happy as individuals. This means taking a really good look and conversing with the scariest of things; reality. Only then can you figure out what is really good for you.
True happiness doesn’t come from the short-term high that comes from spending money, and it certainly doesn’t come from the pages of glossy magazines! Newspapers I’ve picked up recently have included articles such as ‘The End of Thin’ and the usual story that goes along the lines of ‘stick insect star goes on binge (she drinks tea with milk and sugar- how dare she!)’ as well as the predictable fodder we’d be better off feeding to our worst enemies than actually reading.
Take the recent pictures of Jessica Simpson. Yes, she has put on a bit of weight, but in the grand scheme of things – who cares? When the pictures came out I discussed them with many friends and the conclusion was ‘Why vilify a curvy woman for being curvy?’ I honestly don’t think those pictures were those of a fat woman. It’s not a crime to put on weight and it’s certainly not fair to victimise people who do. When people are criticised so publicly within the media circus the hurtful comments don’t affect just one person, but the entire media consuming public. The current logic seems to be ‘Let’s not talk about the trouble in Gaza but let’s instead mock a woman who’s gone up a couple of sizes’.
What these articles seem to do is promote a vein of self hatred in women which will do little to help them lose weight, but instead will possibly drive them to eat more. We seem to be stuck in some never ending circle of self loathing that only gets worse the more we listen to other’s opinions and to our own bitter inside voices. This constant scrutiny does nothing to preserve our self-esteem but instead helps to promote our self-obsession; looking inwards instead of outwards.
In a recent Daily Express article entitled ‘Facebook Made Us Thin’ women spoke about how they had chosen to lose weight after seeing pictures of themselves on the site. I too tried a similar thing to lose weight whilst I was at uni by putting an incredibly unflattering photo of myself on my fridge. This idea should have worked as a way of keeping me away from the cider and running into the arms of the nearest salad but I’m pretty sure it had the opposite effect.
The truth is that, if you actually do want to lose weight, if you love yourself and respect your body the rest will follow. Of course it’s easy to say but it can be harder to put into practice. An easy way to start is to step away from the gossip magazine and have a nice bath instead. Relax your mind and re-engage with the music collection that’s been gathering dust over the last decade. Most of all, enjoy yourself! Women come in all shapes and sizes and loving yourself is about appreciating those little things that make us individuals and not just another member of the flock.By: Shaziya Niamh Uddin, 12.04.2009 | Comments (4)