Just Between Us
A Weighty Matter
The Struggle for a Healthy Body and Mind
by Gina Jaber
As the winter months approach, let’s face it, so do the calories. For most of us, the holiday season is to weight gain what peanut butter is to jelly: a best friend. And like best friends, the two are inseparable, and it takes work to keep the relationship healthy. Yet, something as primal and natural as enjoying food is loaded with trade-offs, often guilt and sometimes risk. Our very existence depends upon an activity that brings us great pleasure, satisfaction and angst—all at the same time. For sure, this seems unfair.
We’ve all read and heard endless discussions on the subject of weight and its effect on our health, our looks, our self-esteem and the image we project. It is a worn-out subject that will probably never die. We are obsessed with the topic, suckers for every new piece of contradictory health and diet information, endlessly measuring ourselves against ridiculous ideals. (Side note: Models and movie stars don’t reflect the real world.)
My biggest beef with this weighty matter is that the emphasis on being thin has not only caused many to expend immeasurable brain cells on the subject, but that it has also deterred us from being kinder to ourselves. The value put on the importance of trying to be physically perfect has gone beyond reason.
What’s interesting and ironic about our fascination with weight and well-being is that, in our country, not only is obesity at a record high (30 percent of adults in the United States are obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics), but eating disorders are also a problem. Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders Inc. reports that 1 percent of female adolescents have anorexia and that 4 percent of college-age women suffer from bulimia. Though these extreme cases don’t reflect the majority of the population, what they do show is the confusion, frustration and unhappiness surrounding the subject. Conventional wisdom—or lack thereof—regarding the relationship between weight and health has left us confused. Diet fads have us eating in circles: high protein, low fat, low carb, good fat vs. bad fat, calorie counting, grapefruit, cabbage, pills, points … even surgery. It’s enough to leave one’s head spinning.
Other than the usual prescription of a sensible diet and regular exercise, there are simply no absolute answers for how to conquer this long-standing dilemma, this continued preoccupation with weight, body image and happiness. Our standards have become so high that no matter how hard we try, it feels as though we are doomed to fall short. Genes, aging metabolisms, injuries and a few splurges here and there conspire against our sincerest intentions and efforts to be healthy and trim. Nor does it help that there will always be those trimmer, fitter or more “ideal” to make us feel inadequate.
A few years ago I wrote a column about envying the clutter in other people’s homes. Well, not really their clutter, but their ability to live life to the fullest and not be weighed down by tidiness. For me, that same principle applies to those who, regardless of their weight, are truly comfortable with themselves. People who carry a peace about them, whose grace, sense of self and confidence are not dictated by scales.
While I, of course, don’t envy unhealthy people, I am most impressed with healthy mindsets. Pounds will come and go, and self-discipline is cyclical (for me, anyway), but a strong sense of self? That’s the ultimate goal, the best friend to have.
Email Gina Jaber at firstname.lastname@example.org.