Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weighty issues

I'd like to touch on a subject I avoided up until now, mostly cause I think it is given way too much importance in our culture.
The issue of weight.
Anyone who knows me knows I had my fair amount of dieting and obsessing about food. I won't bore you with my realizations but I would like to comment on a few things.
There is such an imbalance of attitudes toward female weight in the media that it makes it real hard to be and stay normal on this subject on a personal level. What I found infuriating is that whichever way you go you are somehow wrong. If you' re slim you are automatically called a stick thin anorexic, if you are big you are a fat lazy cow, and if you are in the middle you are not good enough because you are obviously not trying enough to be better (read thinner).
Now I do think that due to the cultural changes in eating, some people are overweight beyond the question if it is pretty or not. They are in the land of will they'll get diabetes or not. So for instance even though I think it is cool how Beth Ditto dresses and rocks, I think she should definitely lose some weight and give her heart and her knees a fighting chance.
But there is another fucked up issue in all of this: even though I am a firm believer in individual responsibility (not only in this, but in all wakes of life), the society is now set up so, that it becomes a real fight to eat normal (or even know what's normal). This is especially the case in the UK. There, first of all, food is everywhere: you can't have a cup of coffee in the park without being offered a giant ass muffin. Now, it's not a problem to say no: the problem is that after a while you start to put this in the same group in your head, and all of a sudden buying coffee equals food as well. This is just one example of how consumer society "enables" over-eating and then at the same time scolds you for eating too much and not being slender. 
I am guessing US is even worse with their tendency to super size every-friggin-thing.
On the other hand, standards of what is slim have changed and are very unrealistic: it's not enough to only be of YOUR ideal weight, you are supposed to strive for a certain number. Not only to look better, but to be a "better" person: more successful, more attractive and hell, just to be able to wear the clothes you like (don't even get me started on this).
This all is a labyrinth of society facts that can make even the healthiest of people confused with should's and should not's. I don't have an answer or even a conclusion on this subject, but I do think we live in an unhealthy culture which, btw, we ourselves perpetuate and allow to manipulate us.


  1. Yes! You are saying politely what I have been saying for years in a very blunt way. Ha! Society is so twisted: bad if you eat, bad if you don't because we don't know what normal is as you said. We are so used to over eating that eating "normal" seems like we are not eating at all and especially in the US. Having grown up in Mexico, when I came to the US I literally went on wtf mode when I saw how people eat here and after going to Europe that wtf shock got even worse! Of course, all this because of the expectations of what a beautiful body is though admittedly the pressure is more on women than men.

  2. You know, we do all of this to ourselves, we read about what's considered the right size, we look at the photoshoped images of models and even though we know they're altered we forget that and take them as real, we think and worry more about what we look on the outside then what we look like on the inside, and then we get down about not being 'perfect'. I definitely agree with you that there is a healthy balance that can be crossed when weight issue is not about the looks but about health and when we reach that point we should do whatever we can to get down to a healthy size. As for everything else, I've stopped buying into this ideal a long time ago because I have other and better things to do with my time :)

  3. Wonderful post, Maya! All in all, I think willpower and self-control play a huge part. Do I need a muffin with my coffee? Yes, if you're hungry, no if you're not. Do I WANT a muffin with my coffee? Yes, if you're hungry, no if you're not.

    Also, with everyone being in a rush everytime, people tend to snack often. I've always believed that you need to sit down and enjoy a proper meal, and somehow you won't overeat as compared to pigging out on coffee and muffins.

    Sure, I love junk food, but I'll have to make sure that I eat everything in moderation. Living in a food paradise in Malaysia, it's impossible restrict ourselves with diets.

  4. I agree. that's a tough subject. as to individual responsibility though, I don't know what to think about that anymore. sure, if people want to eat (or starve) themselves to death, let them do it. even though eating yourself to death seems more accepted than the other way round. no one likes to be told what to do/eat, and any public campaign to fight obesity is often criticized by the people it is supposed to help, as in 'let me live my life' or 'size 0 is unhealthy, too'. but once the health problems start these people all expect medical help that, at least in Europe, is provided by the state. they don't want to pay more for an airline ticket - that would be discrimmination, etc.

    I know I probably sound horribly conservative, but this is really starting to piss me off. to me that's part of personal responsibility, if you want to be part of society, you have to put a little effort in (and I'm not saying we should all look the same, I'm talking about the extreme cases that here in the UK seem to become more and more common). but all people want these days is to take what they think they deserve without giving anything back or making any concessions.

    oh,oh, I better stop... not a good subject for me ;)

  5. First of all, thank you for the beautiful words you left me at my blog x

    Secondly, all I want to say is that I agree with everything you've brought up in this post.

    It feels like our society isn't capable of making a statement without being the extreme- even in the case of weight.

    When they're trying to promote "healthy" eating, they put skinny underweight girls on the cover. When they're trying to say that not being skinny's ok, they make an overweight (read: unhealthy) girl a model.

    I'm rambling but I'm sure you know what I mean~

  6. I have never ever had a muffin with my coffee till when I went to US... there, after a few of days, it became so normal that it was really strange not getting one... (but obviously a fat reduced muffin! :)
    Anyway, I've noticed that portions there are really really big, esecially on the west coast, and when I was living in LA I used to eat much more than my average (but at least I had time to go for long runs, that's probably why I didn't gain much wait!). But here in Milan it is the opposite: being it a fashion city everybody is constantly concerned about weight, and I'm talking about both male and females, and portions most of the time are really tiny, especially for lunch breaks. My husband is from Serbia (a country were ppl eat quite a lot!) and it took him years to get used to the "salad for luch and that's it" habit. :)
    Anyway, my main concern is to eat healthy food and if I eat too much, like I did in my latest trip to Amsterdam cause food was sooo amazing, I try to exercise more...I love that feeling when I'm in a good shape :)

  7. Oh lordy, you know we are over the top everything here in the supersized USA. I fall prey to over eating and over thinking what the idea number should be. My happiness often feels tied to how close or far I am from that number when the truth is, I have been at the number and not been any happier for it. The older I get the more I realize I just need to be comfortable. With my clothes, how they fit, how fit I am, it's just a matter of feeling good in my skin at the end of the day. Now if I could just take this advise;)

  8. This is a very interesting post. I try not to get into discussions about weight because I can be a little too blunt...

    On one hand I sort of agree: society is messed up! We're shown unrealistic, photoshopped images of super skinny women and we therefore, subconsciously I believe, think that we need to look similarly. I used to be super skinny and now I'm not having gained 5kgs. In my head I know that I'm not obese or overweight, I'm a sensible, rational person and pretty normal in all aspects of my life, but I can feel every extra kilo Maya and to be honest, I am exercising those kgs away. My issue isn't junk food. I have a healthy, balanced diet and do not eat junk food because I'm scared of chemicals. My issue is that I have been lazy. I used to work out 4-6 times a week and until recently (just renewed my gym membership), I was lucky if I went once. I know my weight gain is to do with laziness, which is probably why I have no mercy for the obese. I have to tell you, the skinny culture has me under its spell. I wish could be as strong as you all.

    In the UK, in the last 10 years, the average size has gone from a 10 to a 16 (US size 6 to a 12). That is insane! Because it is average, doesn't mean that it is nice/right. Obesity is ever-increasing and I am so beeping angry about this. We have a health system that provides "free" medical care to everybody regardless of nationality, visas, age etc. And by "free" I mean the tax payer pays. Unlike many countries, you never physically give the doctor a penny. What frustrates me is that people say it's fine to be larger but honey, it is not. Aesthetics aside, obesity has severe effects on your heart, blood pressure, lungs, diabetes and of course, your joints. Someone has to pay for those trips to the doctor. Someone has to pay for that medication. I think people who let themselves go need to get a grip, do some exercise and stop being so damn selfish. Our government has no money for the elderly, cancer/HIV/heart disease etc research or education (also "free" to all). If I have to choose between which group of people to help, I've already chosen.

  9. Thanks for bringing up this subject Maya!
    Our generation was raised on TV, internet, video games, sugary sodas, and greasy fast food. Not saying anything against our parents/legal guardians... but a lot of this generation's lifestyles are rooted in the fact that we were raised on poor diets and not enough physical activity. Some people blame their metabolism, etc, but let's face it: People just don't wake up one day and become overweight.

  10. I think it's just so hard to get any nutritional value out of what we are being offered to eat. The grocery stores are stock full of sugary processed foods, sugar is everywhere, even in our breads, and fast food is pretty much a staple, well for me at least. In this day and age people rely on the grocery store, but the groceries being offered are pretty much junk. They said a tomato isn't even a tomato any more what with genetic modifications and hormone pumping and whatnot.

  11. Hey Maya! Interesting topic, I think the real issue is self-control and discipline. We should be able to enjoy food but not let our eating habits get out of hand.

    Beautiful illustration and thanks so much for the lovely comments you left on my blog (late I know!) xx


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