I was really puzzled by something I saw on the local news yesterday, where the segment was about a young guy who’d lost an incredible amount of weight. No bad thing, good for him. He did it the sane way, ie. healthy, calorie controlled diets combined with regular excercise. Fair play. He had quite an athletic body and looked healthy, lean and attractive. Again, no bad thing at all.
Until he talked about his diet.
Apparently, cutting out food groups and weighing every ingredient, plus working out for hours every day was his recipe for success, and was hailed as something exemplary to be emulated. Sure, it gets the results of the magazine cover-worthy body. Sure, it’s a demonstration of the kind of self-discipline that the Tories are obsessed with, the perfect formula for personality driven omnipotence – the discipline of the soldier, no less. But there was a time when obsessing over every calorie and nutrient, dedicating time to quantify the effects of the food one ingested and then spending hours burning it back off was considered, well… unhealthy.
As somebody who has battled body image issues since childhood, including years where I only ate salad bags (as my one meal a day, and not necessarily even every day); plus many, many periods where I would ‘fast’, kidding myself that it was a several day long spiritual excercise in deprivation, and as someone who found out the calorific content of absolutely anything put in front of me before I ate it – I smell a rat…
Obsessing about our food and our bodies seems to be de rigueur these days, to the point where it’s now being encouraged. I can tell you, the fat-free, toned body feels amazing to live in. You have the admiration of all you come in contact with, you can wear anything you want, have sex with (nearly) anyone you want – it’s a dream.
But it’s a mask.
Making the conscious effort to change your body hinges on dissatisfaction, on a deree of self-loathing. It’s one thing to do a bit of yoga to keep the joints supple, to do some aerobics if you were a smoker for decades, but when we our bodies take centre stage in our lives, we’ve hit a problem.
And now it seems that said problem is what we should be striving for in order to ‘improve’ ourselves. It used to be seen as an eating disorder. But now, if it leads to a sexy body then it doesn’t seem to be of concern.