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Weight Matters

It would be really nice if someone could break down the American fixation or preoccupation on weight. I am currently in Los Angeles on vacation and just finished lunch today with one of my favorite people in the world, a previous "love of my life's" mother who I try to spend some time with every summer I return to L.A. I know, we stereotypically aren't supposed to love our mother in laws, and definitely aren't responsible to maintain a relationship with the mothers of lovers from our past, but you would have to meet this woman to fully understand how loving her is an undeniable occurance. Anyway, consider that backdrop for my larger point (no pun intended). When I meet my psuedo mother she greets me with a warm loving hug, and then says "You've gained some weight? It looks good on you." I didn't even hear the second statement complimenting me on how good I look, because this woman that I adore commented on my weight.

Now some of you may be surprised to hear me going on and on about my weight because traditionally or stereotypically men don't often discuss their weight, more so, not publically. Well, this man does, with the obvious question possibly being, why was I rattled by her acknowlegement of my weight gain (a mere 12 lbs over the weight she last saw me at... so don't crowd me too much about not being on top of my game). Another might be why was it immediately a negative, instead of a positive? Another could be, was she trying to be the focus of a blog (okay, so maybe that question wouldn't be so obvious to you)?

Any way, to be honest about it I must ask myself why my weight is so tied to my self esteem? Granted, when I buy clothes and start to be uncomfortable in them because they no longer fit, it makes sense that I might become somewhat preoccupied. After all, it means that I may need to purchase larger clothing, and soon, or I won't be comfortable physically, and will probably be uncomfortable spiritually and psychologically because of the way I imagine others witnessing my discomfort. Where does anxiety/paranoia orinate? In some societies it is a completely different dynamic, and girth has worth. This all brings me back to my sagging esteem, which transcends fitness and other's perception of that fitness. My diminishing esteem also makes me consider whether or not my weight gain is a factor of my inactivity, overwork which has me lazy after a long day, poor diet, social stresses, drop in self esteem due to others extraneous factors, seasonal realities (try living in the North Country and not be into winter sports). The bottom line is this, even after psuedo mom specifally reminded me of her having previously said, on numerous occassions, that I was too small and needed to gain weight, when I knew I had accomplished her ideal, it was still somewhat inconsequential in comparison to my ideal, that I don't want anyone noticing any weight gain, but any comment about a weight loss, is somehow received as cool. Weight matters are issues hard to resolve. Weight matters because so many of us have bought into some type of notion, albeit reinforced everywhere you look, that our weight makes a statement about us (albeit nobody can truly definitively articulate what that statement is). Weight matters because we convince ourself it does, and then reinforce that fact with judgments, while we fire up a cigarette, order a second drink, then a third, excessivly speed in our car as if the experts who set the speed limit were inept in not recognizing your skill, put on extra salt everytime we eat food -- without even tasting it, put on extra sugar in the same fashion, etc. etc. Somebody please tell me, considering all of this, why does weight matter, or why at times does it matter more than other weighty concerns?

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J. W. You hit a really sore note with me in this blog. WEIGHT! Now there's a six letter word that should be banned. I do know what you mean .... As a younger person, until I hit that magic middle age, I ranged between 100 and 119. Comments I'd hear ... "Lynda, you're SO small ... so skinny ... anorexic ... get some meat on your bones. My grandmother was always trying to "fatten me up".
I'm up to 11 gallons of blood donations, but many years I didn't meet the weight requirement. Alas.
Then, the weight crept on and by that time I became a glutton and devoured goodies at every casino's buffet here in Reno. I packed on 30 pounds worth. A Plattsburgh friend stopped by last summer and the first thing he said was. "Wow, Lynda. You're really gained a lot of weight." Talk about popping a pin in my "balloon" of happiness at seeing him.
I've been on a portion size diet for a year now and have lost 34 pounds and back to my "old" skinny self.
Yes, I agree ... why should weight matter and WHY is it the first point of conversation with many people. The last thing in the world I would do is ever mention how anyone looks unless I had something nice to say. Why does it matter?
There is a sickness out there. A sickness of perception that women have to be a size 0, size 2 is acceptable ... I'm a size 6 which places me close to the plus size category.
I'm so happy to vent, J. W. You ask "Where does anxiety/paranoia orinate"? I think you said it right; it matters because we've been told it does.
Hey, I'll make you an offer ... if you ever come to Reno, my husband and I will treat you to a feast at the Atlantis seafood buffet: all you can eat and a dessert bar to die for. AND, I promise not to tell!
I think you're perfect (an old lady can get away with telling a younger man he's "hot") .... I have the tendency to judge people from the neck up. When engaged in a "weighty" conversation, nothing is as important to me as this.
What you have to say is important - whatever the topic. Be prepared if you ever meet me ... I am very conservative ... nothing a hot fudge sundae couldn't cure!

Lynda

Ya know, I thought you'd put on a few pounds, but I wasn't going to say anything. And from what I understand, your hardcourt game has suffered. Don't bulk up too much while you're in the City of Angels ...

What can matter, thats where I disagree. I agree it is wrong & unfortunate, but thats just the way it is. Personally, I constantly try to stay slim & fit because I believe benefits me professionally & will only help translate into more responsibilities and earning potential. This is unfortunate, but I consciously make the decision to play the game. after all this is a capitalist society, and I like to make money.

I would like to take it one step further, and this is where I draw the line; plastic surgery. If someone is so insecure with their body that they artificially "construct" their themselves to meet societies expectations, well that is sickening to me. There's no other way to say it. In a way I believe all of this can be traced back to our imperialistic way of life. Born in the USA.

The obvious is that we are bombarded by images of "perfect" people in the media. This is ingrained in our psyche as an ideal we should strive for. Detrimental to those who allow it to serve as a standard to which they measure their self-worth, often causing ill health, even death. I think of this often as I have a 13 year old daughter.

However, I think it's beneficial to have a healthy consciousness about your weight. It helps us to stay on track and be as fit and healthy as we can be. Sometimes it becomes a challenge to maintain our ideal weight and we put on 10 pounds or so. This isn't so bad, as long as 10 doesn't become 20. Stress, time restraints , and most of all, increased age and slowing metabolism are obstacles to my weight loss. I am definitely 10 pounds over (maybe a couple more) my comfort zone. It has been a summer filled with stresses from our business and ballgames and practices getting over at 8:00 PM. This lifestyle makes it difficult to provide well balanced meals. These are merely excuses and I know that if it becomes important enough to us, we will find a way to prioritize our health and well-being.

I feel pretty lucky that I don't have a major weight problem or disorder. I am saddened for those that do.

That being said, I think we need to accept that we are not going to have the bodies of our younger years, let go of our preconceived expectations and just do the best we can.

*** EDR, I agree with most of what you say here, though I struggle with the statement about our "ideal weight." That is the very thing in question. Where does this ideal come from that has me seeing myself as overweight in a world that mostly sees me as adequate or underweight? Oh, and why does this change when I am in the North Country of NY, versus with my crew in L.A.? *** -- J.W.

Lynda, I can sympathize. One of the consistent statements I've always heard is "You're so skinny, I hate you." This always seemed so unfair to me, and I tried to hide the fact that it hurt my feelings, to avoid the glares that usually come with that caustic remark. Somehow the statement of "I eat when I'm hungry" is never enough to salve the pride of the accuser.

One of my loved ones, however, has always been on the other side - lifelong caustic insults for no other reason than the weight issue. This person is a beautiful, loving person and has never deserved the abuse, but now deflects the comments in some self deprecatory way.

In my opinion, it has to do more with the accuser's self image and need to judge others by their standards, not to mention a lack of manners. Of course weight matters, but it is a personal issue. If the person who has a few extra pounds asks for help, then by all means, speak up. When others offer unsolicited opinions on such a sensitive subject, it often leads to a low self image, and then some truly self destructive behaviors can start.

*** CF, I wouldn't argue that accuser's self image is a motivating factor in their judgment of others. However, that self image may be linked to how they would look if they lost some of their privileges. In other words, their protection of undeserved or born on third base type of privileges may be more than enough reason for them to be on the attack. I know, because I have been them in various moments of manipulating my privileges, until I became enlightened about my oppressive ways. Now I either don't recognize that I am doing it, or rationalize those actions to justify them. This is what we do! *** -- J.W.

Yup, weight matters, whether we like it or not. Is that okay, HELL NO ..... but does it matter, to most people, who by nature make a lot of judgements about a person based on their weight .... YES, it does. And unfortunately ... our society has been cultured to believe that THIN is "where its at" .... to the point of obsession and poor health, for many who fall victim to this way of thinking..... and intentionally TRY to be tiny. And even for those of you who in your entries above have mentioned that "too thin"
comments occur and cause pain, society STILL accepts you a heck of a lot more quickly and with less "negative reaction" than it does the heavy person.
All a person can really do is decide if they feel healthy ... and if so, accept that they simply have a metabolism that keeps them rail thin. If however, a person feels that they are too thin, then see a professional nutritionist. These people can provide you with HEALTHY ways to both gain and lose weight. See a PROFESSIONAL .... but do NOT listen to people who tell you to load up on carbs and sugars to gain the weight or to cut out a whole food group (fats) to lose it. Going in that route (i.e., milkshakes, pasta, rice) can have some other very serious health ramifications, if not eaten in the right amounts or with the right combinations of other food groups.

I suffer the social consequences of judgement from the "overweight" side of this issue. I've struggled all my life with weight .... too MUCH of it. Unfortunately, its not all about eating or not eating, exercising or not exercising, or self esteeem or the lack thereof. Some has to do with genetics, chemical make-up, age ..... and a variety of other factors. Recent research is showing that someone can care a great deal, do all the "right" things to try to shed the "excess", and still be completely unsuccessful.
So seek out the help of a professional regardless of which side of the social stigma you are on. If money is a huge issue, use the internet, or find a public health facilty that will work with you.
As I've stated above, being too thin is much better accepted than being too heavy ... although in reality ... research has also shown that many who battle with how to LOSE weight are healthier than those that battle with how to GAIN weight.
Perhaps it is because I have always carried the stigma, but I tend to try to determine a person's "worth" on the sum of their whole.... not the size of their pants. And as Lynda above stated, from the neck up tends to be the real 'final factor' for me, as well.
I think if we, as a society, could care more about the words and ideas going in and out of a person's mouth, rather than how much food is exchanged there... society would take a great big leap for the better. JMO.... Thanks for this one, JW .... see you in a few days!

*** CC, You are most welcome! As well, thank you! Far too often people think they have a read on what someone's reality is that exist outside of their own. What I love about this blog and being a college professor is the fact that I have a chance to set the table for conversations and then subsequently reap tremendous benefits from the dialogue. You should be a teacher-professor, you're quite articulate (wink-wink)! Yes, see you at the ranch! *** --J.W.

Simple answer: Vanity

Slightly more complex answer: Sexuality.

There is something, I would imagine subconsciously, that tells us who we want to mate with and who we don't want to. Very large people often have health problems, and that is not good for the reproduction of the species. When people look for a partner to repopulate the earth with, we look for people with good genes. We have become obsessed with "thin" because of the media, but also on some level, because of the physical dangers of being too large.

J.W.-

My task at hand on this beautiful Friday night in NYC is to 'catch up' on reading your blogs. Very refreshing (as usual). This blog trapped my attention though, simply because I am a true victim of "weight matters"...you mentioned that any comment received about weight loss would have been received as 'cool'...we're rocking in separate boats on this one. I'm 100% sure that this is a cultural view, but any time someone comments on my weight loss, or how slim I am (even when they may be impressed with it/jealous of it) I become irritated...For many reasons, I absolutely dislike (hate is a lil too strong) my weight because being petite (in D/ca at least) is perceived as being miserable, unhappy and the like...so for me, the more someone comments on weight gain, the more I feed into it, 'cus then being 'thick' reflects a fulfilling lifstyle...Different cultures, different expectations, different reactions...asi es la vida (such is life).

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I wish I had maintained my weight, but now I have to get off my oversized butt and do something about it.

When it comes to men's health, one of the topics I am passionate about is gynecomastia, and alot of that is due to the fact that I went through it, and all of the emotional affects which it can have on a person. So although these wild names for it like man boobs and moobs have cropped up, I am grateful that there are still publishers who let in some real, helpful information about it and not just jokes. Jokes are ok, as long as they don't overshadow the fact that this is a problem which many men and boys endure, and that whether they let us know it or not, that it affects their lives in unthinkable ways. It is not as easy as doing some bench presses and bringing down your fat consumption, not to mention the emotional coping. Thanks for anything that you can do to boost this message. Lets all do our part in the crusade to combat chest fat. Join us at http://www.lose-chest-fat.net

I really enjoyed this article and have book marked it. Nice Site! I also do blogging and post videos online about my weight loss journey, feel free to visit me (I put the link above, in the website field). Thanks so much for your post. Will be back to read more soon! Carissa.

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