(I orginally posted Bene's photo (which I found on Facebook) at the beginning of this post, but have removed it since I don't have her specific consent to do so. I do think she's a lovely--not to mention extremely intelligent--young woman.)
Something's been bugging me. Something's been bugging me big time. It's the message that we are fat because we:
-eat junk food
-eat huge amounts of food, most of which is junky
-are lazy bums who can't do anything but sit in front of the TV, eating huge amounts of mostly junky food.
...and that if we finally stop eating huge amounts of junky, sugary, fat-laden food and exercise religiously, we will turn into healthy, beautiful, sylph-like creatures and that all will be well with the world...
...and that this goal--being healthy, beautiful, sylph-like, loved, admired, etc., etc.--is all within our reach. It is ALL up to us and that if we do not succeed it is only because we haven't been "good" enough in following the rules. The rules will set us free.
Sorry, it just isn't that simple.
Don't get me wrong. I have genuine respect for the many hard-working weight loss bloggers out there. However, I don't think very many will reach their goal and even fewer will maintain that goal. OK, I can give you examples of people who HAVE succeeded. You know them, some of you ARE them. I'm not saying weight loss is no more feasible than developing naturally blue skin. I just think that weight loss as a main goal is neither feasible nor actually laudable for most people, most of the time.
Why am I suddenly so hot and bothered about this? Here's the reason. You have to watch this video at We Are the Real Deal. Bene is the face of overweight that we don't want to admit exists. She is the face of a perfectly healthy young woman, who eats reasonable amounts of healthy food (certainly better than some of her skinny friends) and is still overweight.
Bene is the face of many people and I consider myself to be one of them. How many overweight people out there are NOT binge eaters, did NOT eat themselves into a several hundred pound hole of fat, enjoy moderate daily exercise, eat healthy foods and are STILL overweight?
If we accept the existence of Bene, of me and of others, then we have to accept that there are many types and sizes of healthy people and that our weights do not always depend on our attitude. Perhaps it's the nature of weight loss blogging. People who don't have a binge eating problem or aren't addicted to McDonald's or Burger King or Dairy Queen aren't sexy and aren't compelling bloggers. It's harder to point a finger at them and say "it's your own darn fault". Because it isn't.
Genetics aren't sexy. You can't beat your genes. You might have a paunch even when you lose all the weight you want--especially if you've had children and especially if you've had children in your late thirties instead of starting at 21. I watched a fascinating show on twins recently on TLC where they talk about how genetics trumps environment so often. Twins separated at birth often end up weighing within about 10 pounds of each other, for instance. We are dealt a hand at birth and that's the hand we have to play with and respect throughout our lives.
Am I telling you all to give up? No. What I'm saying is that I've come to the conclusion that we have to stress "health at any size". And if this means that you end up losing weight because you've stopped gorging yourself on junk food and started going to the gym, good for you. But it might just mean that you continue to be a person with a slightly "elevated" BMI who is perfectly healthy.
Personally, I'm not going to forget Bene and how society is turning her into a freak because even if she doesn't drink Coke and eat cake for lunch and does eat salad 'til the cows come home, she's not going to be slim. And there are lots of her out there.