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?


One thought on “The Big Fat Truth

  1. You ARE one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met…inside and out!
    I agree with everything you said. I, too, have made the same
    observation(s) while looking through women’s magazines, back when I still looked at them.
    We’re constantly being bombarded with mixed messages. I didn’t get it
    figured out until I was well into my 40s that no one else’s opinion about me matters more than my own. The people who love us, love us for who we are and how we are, not for what we look like.
    I’m so proud of you and the choices you’re making, The idea that you’re working on being a healthier you makes me truly happy because I it means I’ll have you in my life for as long as humanly possible. Purely selfish on my part, I admit, but I don’t apologize for it.

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