Friday, March 25, 2011

TV and the Internet vs. the Real World

After frequenting the weight blogosphere for over two years now, I have finally identified the overwhelming characteristics of those who inhabit this world. Virtually all the serious weight loss bloggers that I have encountered are or were extremely overweight. They have lost or seek to lose 50% or more of their starting body weight. That's a lot. They see morbid obesity and serious health problems around every corner. They live in a world mainly populated by potential "Biggest Loser" contestants or the stars of "Heavy". They live in a catastrophized world where everyone risks dropping dead of a heart attack or going blind through uncontrollable, weight-induced diabetes within the next day or so.

And it just gets worse.

From what I've read, virtually all those who have revealed themselves and their lives on-line are survivors of trauma. If I only read blogs from the weight loss universe, I would believe that all the overweight among us have been abused at some point in their lives, be it physically or emotionally or both. They attribute their extreme weight problems to psychological issues and therefore see their weight as purely a personal question that can be resolved through "taking themselves in hand" and cracking the weight loss whip.

I am not making light of such trauma. Rather, I am troubled by what I see.

Strangely enough, when I look at my own life and the lives of those around me, I see none of this horror. Am I the one living in a protected bubble or does the Internet have a particular attraction for people who need to express the horror of their lives? I feel for everyone of these people. I'm just not convinced they represent the majority of fat people out there.

I'm also deeply offended when the only message that the Internet and TV give me is that there's a landslide of fat around me and that the danger of dying prematurely is stalking us all. Perhaps it's because catastrophes sell advertising spots.

I guess we've had our fill of rapists and the people who lurk outside our bedroom windows waiting to kidnap our children. We've even stopped constantly thinking about terrorism...Now we've got the great obesity crisis of the 2000s to help feed our need for fear and fill the coffers of the TV networks and the advertisers.

As usual, I feel the need to make a plea for rationality. Diets don't work (OK, they don't work only 95% of the time). If you want to make changes to your life (and only if you want to), there are so many small things you can do: walk a bit more, ask yourself "why" before you devour whatever it is you devour. If the answer is simply "because I like it", that's fine. If the answer is "I feel stifled by my partner or my life is in disarray or I can't get over the death of my father or my boss is a tyrant", then work on that, not on starving yourself. And in so doing, you may perhaps get healthier, even if your weight doesn't go down. Because, and I just have to say it again, we've got to decouple the number on the scale from the state of our health.

Now, off for a walk along the beach and then a light lunch. I feel drawn to both, rather than being terrified into doing either one.


  1. Your second to last paragraph "As usual"etc...clarifies it all...simplifies the's something that I might just print out and frame. The whole weight/eating issue has become so bogged down with other "issues" that it's hard to keep focus on the real problem which is....achieving good health and making the appropriate changes to maintain it. Do I have the gist of it????

  2. Yes, Coramie!! You've got it. And I'd be honoured to have you print it out.

  3. I have a great smile. I love me. :D

    Oh and I've been on a diet since? Since before I was born. I eat, so therefore I am on a diet. I hate the way the word diet is thrown around.

    Where I live I might be the only sane one on the block. Hee! Hee!

  4. btw... thank you - I like this post! ;-)

  5. I think some of us who have been through trauma express it because they are sick of letting it eat them alive. Like a cancer. Our society loves a winner. People who have been damaged? Not so much. And people with more than 50 percent of their body weight to lose know it's one hell of a struggle, so maybe that is why you see them on the internet reaching out for support. I know that's why I did it. For people like me. People who had trauma, people who abused food. It's something that has to be faced. It's not making it a catastrophe. It's acknowledging our reality and setting about to fix it. Not living in perpetual denial about what our food addiction was doing to us. I understand what you are trying to say. But believe me when I say that it's hard enough to put ourselves out there without people saying we are blowing it out of proportion. my fat would have killed me. I couldn't breath half the time. I had heart palpitations. lesions on my feet. sometimes it really is life or death. In the time that I have been blogging...four bloggers have died from obesity related disease. And those are just the small group of people I am acqainted with.

  6. Provocative post! I can't imagine what it would have been like to grow up without chronic trauma. I've never had a close girl friend who wasn't raped/molested (or who, in one case, barely escaped with her life.) I don't think much about it nowadays though. I know that my disordered eating was related to severe childhood trauma, but becoming fatter and fatter was more about not understanding my body's need to EAT much, much more fat (and eat fewer carbohydrates), because I had metabolic syndrome and nobody ever explained it all to me.

    But the past traumas are just a fact of life to me, couldn't be avoided. I'm actually INCREDIBLY fortunate, and I feel lucky everyday that I was born...even if it was to a couple of very troubled people in a cult-like religious environment. Shrug. Humans are so delicate and so strong and so complex...

    On the other hand, I chose to work really hard in psychoanalysis and group therapy for a few years. :) Otherwise, I'd probably be depressed. It was an excellent investment in myself.

    Now, I just feel normal and extremely happy, for the most part, in a crazy world. (Well, I also feel waaaaaaaay too educated for my own good, but that's a different story.) I don't watch T.V. at all, and I mean NEVER (because to me it's annoyingly stupid and mind numbing), and I'm pretty selective about the internet...But I tend to learn a lot from other people's thoughts and struggles.

    People are fascinating and beautiful creatures who mostly try to do the best they can with the resources they have.

    But. Yeah. Seriously. It does seem that your life has been sort of sheltered in comparison to most people I know in real life. That's good, right? :)


  7. The actuary tables would have me believe I need to lose nearly 50% of my body weight - but I know I don't. Any trauma is my life? What is trauma? An alcoholic ex-husband? Cancer? Life is never easy - but in the end I am responsible for the food I put in my mouth. I may have to do some soul searching to work out WHY I eat - but that self knowledge is not an excuse for an unhealthy lifestyle.

    Your blog is always provocative and enjoyable. I do hope I do not fit the profile of the people you describe.