The Big Fat Truth

I’m a pretty woman.

My hair is thick, wavy, dark and glossy. My eyes are also dark and bright. I have a complexion that rarely needs make up, hands the art directors at a former job photographed for mock-ups and I inherited my grandmother’s incredible smile.

According to the CDC’s online BMI calculator, I am twice the woman I should be.

Be that as it may, my doctors are routinely baffled all my health indicators (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, etc.) say I’m in very good health. Polite society will say, “That’s great!” with the usual caveats of how my weight will eventually affect my health.

Impolite society, which makes up at least 98% of the total, assume I’m lazy and indulge in sweets and junk food.  These assumptions are incorrect, but I will not waste precious time explaining myself. I refuse to defend my past behavior and will only focus on what is ahead.

Aside from being pretty and incredibly overweight, I’m very intelligent. I’m aware my weight will affect my health.  I’ve decided to be more vigilant with what is on my plate, as well as how much of it is there.  My tendency is to over-think, over-analyze and over-do to the point of burnout. Many attempts at weight loss have been derailed by this. I’ve decided on joining Weight Watchers. The plan allows me to obsess in a good way– creative meals, encouragement from the message boards and challenges to increase my activity.

Yes, this is for my health… but I won’t lie.  Anyone on a weight loss journey will say “it’s for my health” and, yes, that is usually true.  But, we want to look good too.  Period. Can anyone really tell me it’s only “about health” when you put a size on you haven’t worn since your age was in the single digits? If you honestly can, I bow to you.  You’re a better person than me.

Enter now a guilty pleasure of mine: women’s magazines. I love them.  I have subscriptions to Redbook and Real Simple.  I routinely grab friends’ discarded copies of Women’s Day, Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens. (Albeit the latter should be called “Better Homes and Gardens Than You’ll Ever Have Regardless of How Many Articles You Read”.)  Every single one of these magazines has articles on healthy living– exercise, recipes, emotional issues, doctors’ Q&As.  They also discuss the importance of self-esteem and how to love yourself despite social pressures to look like a celebrity or forever young or any of the other bull shit out there leading to a discouraged sigh (at best) at your own reflection.

These magazines are also the masters of contradiction.

I was decluttering a corner last night and came across a pillaged copy of Woman’s Day: Feel Great Fast (Thank you, Dr. Oz), Same Job MORE MONEY (How to beg for a raise without seeming to beg), 10 Minute Tummy Tighteners (Yeah).   Of course, I decided this issue would be my evening read.

There was a fabulous article entitled Love Your Body (and your flaws too!).  (The print version is in the May 2012 issue.) According to LinkedIn, the author, Stacey Colino, has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Art History and a Master’s in Journalism.  The mini-bio at the end of the article says she’s an award-winning health and psychology writer– please note I’m not concerned with her credentials to write about health and psychology.  The article has some fantastic stuff.  Truly.  (Go read it!)  What lost me was turning the page and finding an incredibly preposterous ad for a diet pill.  Preposterous?  Yes.  I read through it twice to be sure it wasn’t a parody.  It all but said it was the most dangerous diet pill on the market– but you’ll get results!!

I understand the concept of marketing. I know why peanut butter is next to jelly in the grocery store. Infomercials are on in the middle of the night for impulsive buyers. (At 3am, yes, the Perfect Tortilla Pan looks like the answer to all of your culinary conundrums and doldrums.  No! Don’t buy it!) But don’t place an ad for a diet pill in the middle of an article that reads– right under the title— “So what if you’re not a size 4? There’s beauty in every inch of you. Make peace with your looks and embrace your shape.”  (Note: These lines do not appear on the online version.  I’m quoting directly from the physical publication.)

Some may find it funny; others will say it’s good marketing.  I find it counterproductive toward the message of the article.  Love yourself— but if you can’t, here’s a pill to help.

Generally, I don’t pay much attention to the ads in a magazine. I glance at them but go right on to the “good stuff”.  (Market research groups never call me.)  I decided to flip through and look for the weight loss miracle ads.  The total: four full page ads and one promotion.  Also found: five ads for anti-aging products and one promotion.  (And, truth be told, the ad for thick cut bacon just opposite the “Lighten Up Dinner”  feature made me laugh.)

I’m not slamming Woman’s Day. I’m simply tired of the mixed messages. Which is it?  Love yourself or get thin quick?  Embrace your body or fix it with all these products?  Maybe the message is “we’ll all love you more if you looked like you took care of yourself”.

I’m not saying anything new here. The war for a positive body image model has been going on for decades.  But listen to me for a just a moment…

I want to lose weight so I’ll be healthier.  I want to look prettier than I already am. This starts with having self-esteem. It’s not the end result.  Self-esteem doesn’t come in pill form.  It doesn’t come with a single digit dress size. It shouldn’t deteriorate from looking down and seeing your belly instead of your toes. Taking care of myself is acknowledging that I’m worth the effort of exercise, learning portion control and making healthier choices.

After working for a marketing company, I held a job at an employment agency owned by a man who had retired from advertising. He told me how L’Oréal’s slogan “Because I’m worth it” came to be.  It was the end result of a woman’s therapy session. I don’t remember all the details of the story, but this bit of trivia has stuck with me. Which is a better act to prove you’re worth losing weight: changing your lifestyle or taking a pill? The latter is far easier (if it works), but the former is saying you’re worthy of being healthy.

I’m worthy of being healthy.  I’m worthy of looking good. A pill won’t change my habits. (Nor will an ad lead to cancelling a subscription.)
I’m worth the effort.

Are you?

Political Versus Personal

I’m a walking contradiction; a hypocrite to my own values. My personal beliefs are incredibly conservative: abortion is wrong, immigrants who come here through unapproved channels should go back and follow the current rules and I think there are more than a few recipients of public aid who abuse the system.

All that being said, politically I support the candidate who is pro-choice, actively protects “illegal” immigrants and pledges to increase funding for social services.

Why?

That answer is simple for me.  My personal beliefs shouldn’t limit the rights of the person next to me. The word personal is defined by Dictionary.com as:

1. of, pertaining to, or coming as from a particular person; individual; private: a personal opinion.
2. relating to, directed to, or intended for a particular person: a personal favor; one’s personal life; a letter marked “Personal.”
3. intended for use by one person: a personal car.
 
My beliefs are mine.  They do not need to be yours. I don’t believe in abortion; I won’t have one. If you feel you need one, then you should be free to do so. (Disclaimer: I have not been in the situation where I have had to consider one, so I actually only think I know what I’d do.) I don’t understand why the pro-choice versus pro-life is a debate. It’s a personal choice. Our actions are our own, so why do others’ political and religious beliefs need to dictate them?
 

The immigrants I’ve met who came or stayed here using “unapproved” methods– sneaking in, staying after a visa expired– are not here to take advantage of our socials services programs or “take our jobs”.  They would rather live here with the fear of deportation and send whatever money they can back to the family left behind than be subjected to the abject poverty or under the corrupted government of their countries of origin. As a decent human being, I want these people to be safe and have an opportunity for a better life. I worked for an employment agency for over a decade. My geographical reach for employing people was approximately a 50-mile radius. This is what I’ve experienced: Immigrants aren’t “taking job from Americans”.  They are the majority of those applying for low level jobs. They accept them with sheer joy and (most of them) show up every single day. I’ve had a few non-immigrant applicants for these jobs.  Everyone single one of them demanded far above the posted salary without a shred of applicable experience and most would not accept the position with the pay range offered. Some would walk out. Some would begrudgingly accept the job, mutter a sarcastic thanks and then disappear several weeks later. (So raise the salary you say?  I would have loved to– the more money my placements made, the better for me and my employer. Agencies rarely get to dictate the pay. That is a problem that must be fixed within companies. That’s also a much larger discussion for another post.) Every so often I’d get an application from a laid off worker or someone who has experienced another life-changing event who needed something to get back on his or her feet. They would accept whatever I had to offer and commit to the length of the assignment. The long and short of it is, I didn’t see immigrants taking jobs from more qualified non-immigrant applicants.  I saw them take the ones no one else wanted.   Is there a problem in other geographical areas where immigrant workers get jobs because they would work for less money?  Most likely. I cannot speak from direct experience on this, so I will not. As I said, that’s a topic for another post– one that will mention the jobs being sent overseas. (Though, let me say I’d love to see harsher penalties for people who sell forged social security cards, employment authorization cards and permanent resident cards. Most of them are so obviously fake I’ve told the holder to return to the supplier and demand a refund.)

Social services were created because there are people in our society who need help and we’ve moved away from providing help to them on our own. Instead of cutting funding because of the percentage of recipients who abuse it, add to the funding for new case workers who can help properly allocate aid to those in need. We rally and make financial contributions of truly staggering amounts of money for political campaigns and natural disasters, but we can’t deal with losing the few dollars from our paychecks to provide our literal neighbors with heat, food and medical care? 
 
My problem: where is the line between keeping my personal beliefs truly for my own life and saying others should do the same? Is it by saying “this is my opinion” and not force others to believe the same?
 
Freedom of speech means we will not be prosecuted for stating our opinions.  But why force that opinion as law by which others should live? Am I forcing my opinion on anyone when I say “live your life as you see fit and I will live mine as I do”?   How we vote affect other people’s lives; how we feel should affect our own. I hear politicians screaming from the roof tops about morals and family values. Treating others with dignity and respect is moral. Providing us with information so we can make educated decisions for ourselves is moral. Forcing someone to live by another’s will is not moral.
 
So where is the resolution to this?  I know we need some laws that limit our freedoms– taxes being mandatory for running our municipal services, making companies accountable for unfair hiring practices (yes, a company is an entity, but it is run by people), disallowing yelling fire in a crowded theater….  Do we need a few more decades of evolution before we treat each other fairly enough that personal choice of anything isn’t controversial?
 

Before you comment, please, really think about what you are about to say. Your argument against anything in this post may very well prove my point. Giving me “official statistics” of issues I’ve mentioned will not help. Research both conservative and liberal organizations from where the number comes. They range drastically on the bias of what is trying to be proved.

I am struggling to keep religion and spirituality out of this and stick to the basic idea of just being respectful of others.  I know some of you will want to argue a religiously based counter-opinion.  My answer to that is the same: live your life by the laws of your religion and I’ll live by the laws of mine. Let me remind you of statements from four major religions:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”

“What is hateful to yourself do not do to your fellow-man.”

“Believers, guard your own souls. The person who has gone astray cannot hurt you if you are rightly guided.”

“An’ it harm none, Do what ye will.”

I started this post by saying I’m a hypocrite of my own values. Through writing and editing, I see I am true to my most important value: live and let live.

Blessed be.