Whats Up With That? - Katy Byrne


Consumed by a weight-loss culture

What’s eating me? I’m so tired of the pressure to lose weight! I don’t think anyone in California ever feels thin enough. What’s up with that? Is it all about looking good on the beach?

While the rest of the world is starving to death, we’re starving ourselves to be thin. Why run on a treadmill for 40 minutes when we could be helping the world? Oh, sure, we want to be healthy. But, no butts about it, this obsession to be skinny is ridiculous. Think of all that energy being used instead to march for peace or volunteering or planting cabbages.

I’d like to see a more humane weighing of the scales. Sometimes I wonder if there is a giant plot to keep us all weak-kneed. Anorexia has such a high mortality rate.

In “The Invisible Woman, Confronting Weight Prejudice in America,” Charisse Goodman writes: “if the lives of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, or Princess Diana teach the rest of us anything, it is that being a sex goddess or a world renowned regal beauty is no guarantee of emotional security.” Meanwhile, Hollywood and the mass media continue to feed people this fantasy as fast as they can swallow it. And new products and schemes pop up every day.

As long as I cut calories I’m less energized. I see the health advantages, but really, is this the latest media craze? Does our society keep finding ways to separate us with judgments about each other?

I remember when I couldn’t stop eating. People who have never eaten compulsively really can’t understand what it’s like to think about food all day, not to be able to stop, to get up at 3 a.m. and run to the grocery store for more ice cream, candy bars, sandwiches and such.

When I finally passed through that horror show, after five years of intensive work on myself, I felt like I’d had an exorcism. And that’s when I started writing emotional hairballs!

I learned to identify my needs instead of stuffing them. I still numb feelings with food, but not the old way. I don’t eat boxes of cookies at a sitting. Sure, I eat popcorn at midnight or devour fries at Murphy’s Pub, but I eat to enjoy or for health (and try not to eat screaming animals, or donuts).

Anyway, years later, after therapy, diets, and exercise, I had a way of checking in with myself and my inner voices knowing a bit better what might fulfill me. When will we really start nurturing ourselves and our planet? Shame or criticism isn’t the way.

Hey, there is hope though; the new Barbie Doll has a real behind – one that’s up with the times. Yahoo!

 

Goodman also says: “those women who are not desperately striving for the nearest thing to literal invisibility have been turned into social, sexual, and political zeros by a culture that dictates exorbitant penalties for the failure or refusal to conform. Want to be seen as beautiful? Get thin and stay thin. Want your civil rights? Get thin and stay thin. Want a decent standard of medical care without lecture or ridicule? Want the benefit of the doubt? Want equal opportunity? I ask, is this freedom?”

Hey, be thin if you want, because it’s fun or because you like how you look. But, aside from health, is it really that important? Couldn’t we change the world with our emotional hairballs instead of sitting on them? Good, respectful communication, understanding and hearing each other’s needs goes a long way toward lightening our load.

For me and for my own recovery, the big, huge question is not how to lose weight like Oprah and gain it back again, but how to use our energies differently.

This spring, work out by saving some stray cats, recycling, planting vegetables or having a difficult conversation, sweating your way to finding resolution — now that’s burning energy for the world.

Let’s love our bodies no matter what.

 

Katy Byrne, MFT, is a psychotherapist in Sonoma, Ca. specializing in eating disorders, couples counseling, transitions and the kitchen sink.

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