Conflicting Messages

The battle of the Supers! The Clash of the Titans! I am Spartacus!

I am Spartacus! I am Spartacus! I am Spartacus!

Sorry. This post has nothing to do with Spartacus.

What it does have to do with is our strange, messed up society that has Mickey D's commercials immediately preceding those for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. We have Super-size and Supermodels. Super everything. Supersized fries are evil, supermodels are evil.

We are, it seems, a culture of extremes. The larger our portion sizes get, the smaller we're supposed to look. And, in a way that only Americans can, we're beginning to tackle the issue.

Health class. I remember my first health class. Fifth grade, the filmstrip "You're Becoming a Woman Now," where a pimply faced girl with one of those side ponytails (this was 1990, keep in mind) slides a Kotex into her backpack. End of story. Both the ponytail and the whole notion of a "filmstrip" date me horribly, but still.

Now we try to terrorize children into the dangers of the world around us. Yes, the world can be a dangerous place. You can get raped, mugged, kidnapped, beaten, the clap, AIDS, fat. The whole nine yards. So we show SuperSize Me and have 11-year-olds read "Fast Food Nation." I'm not saying go Biggie size your fries every single day. But if you have a hankering for fries, then go for it.

The supreme irony is that this lecture is, no doubt, followed by the one on eating disorders. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect the dots.

There is a book out called Fat is a Feminist Issue. Since I haven't read it, I won't comment upon it. What is interesting is how the whole notion of "Fat" as a social concept has changed. Fat is no longer (just) a feminist issue. Fat is a fear issue. One should be afraid of fat and obesity, of the millions of Americans just lumbering along down the street, arms swaying in the breeze, gleefully munching away on hot dogs. I remember watching ads for Sweatin' to the Oldies, and watching Richard Simmons cart the extremely obese out of their homes on a forklift. A couple of tapes and some spangly shorts later- fit and fabulous!!!

Again, I suppose this dates me horribly. But anyway.

People do not typically change their behavior because of a fear somewhere down the line. So we start telling kids "You're getting fat! Just look at that adipose multiply! You can see it before your very eyes! Don't touch that french fry!!!" So you take a kid prone to anxiety and make them fear fat. So they cut fat out of their diet. Except in a small percentage of the population, they keep going. And going and going and going, a veritable Energizer Bunny of dieting.

To be sure, health classes usually have a lecture on eating disorders, which tends to be quite "tippy" if you ask me. Thin is good, fat is bad, so anorexia must be, like, awesome. Sorry, but that's the message out there.

I'm not one of those people who idealizes the past and thinks that everything was better back then. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. But let me tell you this: if I want a Snickers bar, then I'm damn well going to have one.

That's so super.

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mary said...

You are quite right that the message is conflicting and one sided. They weren't into telling us we were fat when I was a kid but they did everything they could to promote sitting still, being quiet, and then only letting us move during recess and when we got home.I just saw on the news that they've got a whole new poster campaign to wage the war against obesity. Geesh, if they want to help kids why don't they JUST shut there mouths and let them out of their cages to run and play more often.[I still hate how we force children to sit way TOO much] Why not just provide a balance of healthy and perhaps not so healthy snacks to show moderation, to show how an apple or a cookie are both good! JUST shut up and do it instead of weighing, pointing, and humiliating us. Then why not teach compassion and tolerance for our different shapes and sizes and leave your friggin INSURANCE charts out of it. Do NOT get me started Carrie! If it was up to me I'd turn much our system inside out and tell them what I needed as a child but did not get. FREEDOM!
Yes, french fries for supper!

CARRIE said...


You're totally right. I think self-love and self-compassion (as well as compassion for others) could go a long way in fighting the "war on obesity." Sorry but my gym class was utter torture, and it sure didn't make me like getting up and moving around. Our school cafeteria food was downright disgusting, and the idea that people would eat their spoonful of lukewarm nasty peas was ludicrous. I doubt an adult could choke that down.

There's a healthy weight theory called "Eat your veggies and go out and play." That sounds pretty much on to me.

mary said...

Gym didn't bother me but it's still controlled, organized play. I knew people who left school rather than go through the torment of gym class. I'm saying let em out to walk or run or whatever floats their boat, not more controlled stand up or touch your toes.
We who paid attention know how kids got bullied.It was tolerated.It was ignored so kids could figure their own way to deal with bullies, about the dumbest thing they do. It hurts the victim and it hurts the bully.
How's life treating you today? Anymore world problems we can solve? LOL

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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