Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And when I feel 6-foot-10, I am 6-foot-10.

This morning I saw a new ad on my favorite network, which regulars by now know is Lifetime.* (It's been temporarily supplanted from its usual place of honor in my viewing hierarchy by NBC's coverage of the Olympics, but that coverage doesn't begin till 10 a.m. each day.) It was an ad for Bali bras, and the key sales line from the spokesmodel goes like so: "When I wear this bra, I feel beautiful. And when I feel beautiful, I am beautiful."

Uh, no, sweetheart. 'Fraid not. See, you don't get to decide if you're beautiful
, no matter what you feel. Other people decide that for you.

Yeah, yeah, I "know what she means," and it's a nitpicky point I'm making h
ere...and I fully expect to be taken to task by the same folks who chided me for my cynical stance on the Lynn Redgrave "I refuse to die" ad. But this a real sore point with me, because it goes to the very heart of why I wrote SHAM. This isn't just about semantics. The mentality behind the Bali ad is part of that whole Secret-esque metaphysic that argues, more or less, "Life is whatever you think it is, and you can change it just by changing how you think about it." It may be true in certain respects that changing your attitude can help put you on a path that may yield some eventual progress in a course of action you've decided to undertake. But the ultimate success of that undertaking is never guaranteedand it's seldom up to you, solely and personally, to render that judgment. Certainly it's not up to you in matters that reduce to broad-scale tastes and preferences. Like, f'rinstance, beauty. Though beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the individual doesn't get to make that call about herself.

This notion that all of life, even the part that encompasses relatively fixed physical attributes, is responsive to your thoughts in some Uri Geller-esque way
"I think the clouds are spun of gold, therefore the clouds in my sky are spun of gold".... Yanno, it wasn't so long ago that we used to put people on Thorazine, or strap them to tables and administer electrical voltage to the sides of their heads, for that kind of thinking. Now we make best-selling authors out of them and parrot their so-called belief systems in high-profile ad copy. (I'm also convinced that such magical thinking trivializes the entire process of achievement, making so many of the things we used to valuelike hard work and apprenticeship and paying your duesseem far less important than simply visualizing your way to success.) And then there's that whole subordinate theme here, emerged from the self-esteem movement, about how we're all beautiful, we're all special, we're all extraordinary, blah blah blah. I don't even have time to get into that today. If you're interested, take a look at Chapter 10 in my book, as well as the Conclusion. You'll see that this stuff isn't as harmless and uplifting as it sounds, on its face.

As for the Bali ad, I'd have no problem with it, really, if it ended with the line about her feeling beautiful. You're entitled to feel what you feel, I guess, misguided though you may be, as long as you don't mind other people laughing at you behind your back for feeling that way. Just don't mistake what you feel for universal truth. That's where the trouble comes in. I don't get to decide, presto, if I'm handsome, or tall, or rich, or smart, or a terrific cook or ballplayer. And she doesn't get to decide if she's beautiful.

Not by buying some dumb bra, anyway.


Speaking of breasts....

This morning while reading the paper I came across one of those items that causes you to stop and blink a few times and then go back and make sure you read what you read. Seems that officials at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey, where the football Jets and Giants play their home games, are implementing measures to cut back on tailgating in hopes of reducing the number of fans who say and do truly stupid things all game long, then bob and weave their way home later. In the middle of the item is this: "[The officials] also took steps to pr
event harassment of women. Last season, security at the Stadium's Gate D was increased at Jets games because hundreds of men would gather at halftime and demand that women expose their breasts...."

Demand? And there were hundreds of men doing this?

Notwithstanding what I just posted yesterday about the incorrigible oinkers that men are, I find this incomprehensible. Football tickets aren't cheap; in fact, this same article mentions in passing that most fans are season-ticket-holders. That's a hefty outlay, so one presumes that the Guys at Gate D weren't 19-year-old college sophomores with fake IDs. They were either fairly well-to-do metropolitan-area residents in their own right, or
if the seats they occupied were company boxesresponsible (OK, at least functioning) corporate citizens. And they're "demanding" that women expose their breasts? What were the other (alleged) men doing while this was going on?

Can you even imagine John Edwards or Bill Clinton standing there, beer in hand, screaming "Show us your tits!"?** Just so you know, that's the celebrated male cheer at the Indy 500 whenever a well-endowed young woman strolls by; as the event progresses and fans get drunker, the endowment criteria relax substantially. If you've been to the 500, which I have, you get the feeling Hoosiers kind of pride themselves on the rallying cry as a valued part of their heritage, much like the Speedway itself. (By the way: Lots of women comply. They dutifully lift their blouses and, well, you know.)

Anyway, when I read such items, I'm always reminded of something a former coworker, female, used to say: "You guys are damn lucky there isn't a third gender, otherwise we'd never waste so much as a minute on you...."

* To be perfectly accurate, most often it's Lifetime Movie Network.
** Well...maybe Clinton.


Debbie said...

Not to drag down whichever paper it is you're reading, but I think a lot of these types of quotes need to be taken with a grain of salt. Make that a salt lick.

I point you to often-seen entertainment 'news' headlines: "Suzy G is desperate to marry Roger H!!!" When you actually read the article, it's more like Suzy G says "ya, it might be kind of cool to meet Roger H one day. Whatever."

I'm exaggerating to make a point, but you get it.

As for the first part of your post: Right on! I don't think I can argue too much, since my viewpoint is pretty similar. Except, when you state that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder', that can include Lady Bra-Wearer catching a glance at herself in the mirror. If she truly feels beautiful, then would it follow that she will also visaully see herself as beautiful?

Mike Cane said...

>>>Yanno, it wasn't so long ago that we used to put people on Thorazine, or strap them to tables and administer electrical voltage to the sides of their heads, for that kind of thinking. Now we make best-selling authors out of them and parrot their so-called belief systems in high-profile ad copy.

That really made my LMAO. Because it's true!

>>>(I'm also convinced that such magical thinking trivializes the entire process of achievement, making so many of the things we used to value—like hard work and apprenticeship and paying your dues—seem far less important than simply visualizing your way to success.)

And that made me go, Damn! He's so right! (Of course the special peeve of writers is that crap, "Everybody has a book in them." Then have SURGERY, goddammit!)

Anonymous said...

Steve, not everything is life is meant to be taken literally. You as a writer should know that above all. Can't you ever just sit there and let this stuff wash over you and focus on the gist instead of picking apart every syllable?

Steve Salerno said...

Evidently not, Anon.

Heather and Mike said...

I think Steve is on to something (first post). Advertising and public relations utilize Nazi propaganda tactics to influence the masses into believing they need a certain product or service, says Captain Obvious. (Why do you think I just bought L'Oreal shampoo and conditioner?) The lengths at which companies will go into feeding the insatiable American appetite for more, more, more is never ending. Additionally, the historical progression of ad campaigns — from informative to manipulative — is telling. Now, they have to convince consumers they, too, can be beautiful? Is self-help taking over the world? Steve, you should be a millionaire by now!

By the way, I'm just curious. Since you're an avid fan of Lifetime (aka the battered women's channel), what do you think of "How To Look Good Naked"?

Elizabeth said...

"Everybody has a book in them." Then have SURGERY, goddammit!

And that made me LMAO.

RevRon's Rants said...

While I agree that the notion that one feels beautiful effectively makes them beautiful is patently absurd, I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that such self-stroking would best be abandoned altogether. Consider the woman (or man) who is, in fact, quite unattractive. Should they be denied the opportunity to perceive some aspect of their person as being attractive, even if others don't share that perception? Or should they assume a more objective assessment, and just acknowledge that they're uglier than a bucket of wet hair?

As a society, we've certainly gone overboard in our efforts to see ourselves as universally being objects of ultimate desire, and the media has done an effective job of pandering to that unrealistic obsession. It is, after all, their job. But I'd rather sit back and allow the ugly Bettys & Freds their illusion. Doesn't cost me anything, and it just might make them happier (or at least, less likely to suffer from depression). This perspective, BTW, is borne of personal experience, but I don't harbor the notion that a bra would've helped! :-)

In an ideal world, people would at some point come to understand how ludicrous are the self-images they manufacture, and move on to a more pragmatic approach to their self-image, armed with the ability to laugh at their own foibles, sans the underlying pain.

Steve Salerno said...

Rev: First of all, depends on whose wet hair it is. ;)

Look, I think you (and most of the folks who read this blog) "get" that I am not as curmudgeonly in real life as I am, theoretically, in my relentless effort to puncture cultural mythology on SHAMblog. I would agree with you about looks, and the sometimes-importance of being able to self-deceive (who wants to look in the mirror and see UGLY every day?), if that's where it ended. But given the ambient climate that already exists in society (a la The Secret, etc.), I think we've reached the point where we need to be ever-conscious of that slippery slope--or at least point out to people when they're at serious risk of losing touch with the known truths of the real world. We've got enough people running around in a chronic state of reality-detachment as it is!

It seems to come back to your word "balance." Though I often take a hard line on logical consistency, I do realize that life is lived by humans, and there are going to be things we do in the course of living our lives that don't quite meet the standards of logic and total honesty we might expect in other areas. But again--who gets to draw those lines? Even my wife, for example, who is as staunch a believer in "honesty" as you'll ever find, tells me that when her mother (who lives with us now) returns from the beauty parlor, I'm supposed to tell her that her hair looks nice, regardless of what I actually think. My wife regards that as a classic "white lie," and therefore totally benign. But if a lie is being told in order to "be kind" and "protect someone's feelings"...well, I can think of an awful lot of other lies that would fall under that same justification--and that strike me as far less benign. So, to bring things back to the current discussion, once we decide that it's OK to allow people to blur reality...where do we stop? A nondescript woman puts on a bra, looks into the mirror and suddenly sees beauty. Joe Vitale tells us that we can look out into our driveways and, if we just believe enough, conjure a Pay-nose. Are they really so different?

I think your implied final point is probably the most operative one: that we worry far too much about the image we project into the world to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the beauty thing. It is subjective, but that leads me to something else that is scaring me about men in the U.S. They are beginning to think the Playboy Playmate is the normal woman of beauty and objectiving women has become easier to do. This ties in A LOT with your posts about breast enlargements and crappy blond hair. Now the arguement will be not ALL men think that way, but I am shocked at how many do. As far as demanding women show their breasts, what about the whole NYC subway problem? NYC is going to put ads to tell male subway goers NOT to fondle women on crowded trains. Why does this need to be done at all? Seems men no longer have a problem groping women on the subway. Sure every once in a while you got a guy trying to cop a feel, but now a lot men feel it is fine to touch someone else's body parts. There is something going on here.

Steve Salerno said...

Seriously? Ads that tell men, "Please don't fondle or otherwise sexually assault your fellow subway rider"? That would be funny if it weren't so absurd.

Anon, I assume you're female, and I hope I'm not offering false reassurance here, but I don't think things are quite as bad as you say. For starters, I think it's safe to say that Playboy* originally followed the curve, rather than leading it: What I mean by that is, Hefner looked around and saw the women men lusted after at the time (Monroe, Mansfield, Jane Russell, etc.) and simply showcased that in his new magazine. In recent years, however, the women in Playboy (and in visual media as a whole, of course) have gotten somewhat smaller, in breast size and overall. In fact, whereas breast implants were once almost necessary if you were going to model for Playboy, nowadays you see increasing numbers of women with natural (and even smallish) breasts. This is particularly true as Playboy includes more "everyday women" among its pictorials: athletes, policewomen and firewomen, etc. They're far less likely to have been surgically enhanced than girls who started out with the ambition of becoming models.

The one requirement that definitely remains, however, is that of the extreme hour-glass shape. Though the media, including Playboy and its competitors in "male entertainment," may accept a pretty woman with smallish natural breasts, there really is no place in American media for a woman without a pronounced waist/hips curve--and a tightly defined one, at that. Tummies, too, must generally be ultra-flat. And despite what I say here about how a mediocre-looking woman shouldn't delude herself about her beauty, I also think it's a shame that our culture is so unforgiving when it comes to a few ounces of padding here and there. Beautiful women come in all different shapes and sizes. But I still stand by the point of this post: THEY don't get to decide if they're beautiful.

* Disclaimer: I write for Playboy, so feel free to factor that into your assessment of my answer.

RevRon's Rants said...

Just think, Steve... If *everyone* admired the emperor's new clothes, we'd have all kinds of nekkid people to look at - a significant percentage of which, I fear, would not represent a visual treat!). Then, the "show me your hooters" crowd would be forced to come up with more creative forms of self-entertainment. Social evolution at its finest! :-)

In all honesty, are you gonna claim that you "tut-tut" at the flashers? If so, you're probably right when you explain why you don't get invited to many parties! But then again, I am prone to offering enthusiastic encouragement to the "entertainers," and I don't get invited to too many parties, either. Go figure! :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Heather, I actually like HTLGN. And I like the dude who's in charge, though sometimes he begins to grate.

Believe me, I'm not a fan of making people feel awful about themselves in the name of Truth. I just don't know why we have to lie to everyone, either! We're not all "beautiful." And by definition, we can't all be "special." If that were the case, such terms would lose all of their meaning.

RevRon's Rants said...

"And by definition, we can't all be "special."

Perhaps if we were to eliminate "special's" implied connotation of superiority and replace it with the inference of uniqueness, the individual and collective self-image would be more objective (and more to the liking of truth fanatics). In that context, we *are* all special... just not *more special* than everybody else.

Debbie said...

Steve said: 'We're not all "beautiful." And by definition, we can't all be "special." If that were the case, such terms would lose all of their meaning.'

Bravo, and thank you. I worry about my nieces whose mother pounds them daily with 'you are special, you are beautiful, you are smart' at the ages of 5 & 8. What happens to their overinflated senses of self-worth when they don't get the scholarship, guy, job, etc?

People should feel good about themselves, for the things that they truly have strengths in. But what good comes from telling me I am all that and a bag of chips in the brains department, when I've never proven it?

Steve Salerno said...

My sentiments exactly, Debbie (obviously, since I devoted substantial portions of my book, and much of what I've written since, to combating that mentality).

Your nieces are being raised amid the "attitude precedes aptitude" school of thought: the notion that if you tell people they're wonderful, they'll become wonderful in order to live up to the sentiment. This was, of course, the founding premise for the self-esteem movement in schools. And it has failed so spectacularly that it's recently been repudiated by even some of its loudest founding voices.

In practice, all such tactics do is (a) make people comfortable with mediocrity (b/c if you're already "special," then why stretch?), and (b) make people feel entitled to lush praise for every single thing they do thereafter. Indeed, some psychologists link self-esteem-based education to the burnout and even the explosive violence found in some of today's young adults, on the theory that once they have to deal with Real Life--where the rewards aren't as frequent or as lavish--they just can't cope.

Heather and Mike said...

So ... How do you bring up children (especially girls) to have a normal self-esteem? I don't see anything wrong with telling children that they're special. I agree that reinforcements can be over-played, but I think it's necessary — vital even — to encourage children to like themselves. So, if that means telling them, "You're beautiful. You're smart," then, by God, that needs to be done. Maybe people need to believe the lie, that we're all beautiful, in order to survive this over-hyped obsession with beauty?? I'm not saying we should have unrealistic views about ourselves, but perhaps having that inner knowledge/understanding that everyone is beautiful in their own way gets us through life(?).

Steve Salerno said...

Heather, no one in his (or her) right mind would disagree with your motivation here. I believe that you are well-intentioned, just as I believe that many (though not all) of the founders of the self-esteem movement were well-intentioned. But the empirical evidence in grades, as well as other objective measurements of performance--and even well-being--do not bear out those early theories and expectations.

This is not an exact science and I am not a psychologist, so I can't speak as authoritatively to the topic as some might like. But I did write a book on the subject-- :) --and the book makes a solid case for why self-esteem-based education (or child-rearing, for that matter) is misguided.

To throw in one element that I haven't mentioned yet, even in all the time I've been doing the blog: Kids aren't stupid. When they're very, very young, perhaps, they can be deluded about being "special" and "wonderful." But after a while--much sooner than you'd think--they realize when they're being conned. They know that they're not as "cute" as that child star on TV or as good a baseball player as that other kid on the team or as smart at math as the kids in the class who get straight As. They know you're patronizing them. (They may not know what the word means, but they understand its implications.) And they don't like it one bit.

Do you know there are studies (I'll try to look them up) that show that in "urban cultures" (which is often used as a euphemism for "black neighborhoods"), if a teacher keeps heaping unwarranted praise on underperforming kids, they are many times more likely to become actually violent as a result? On top of everything else they've been through, and all the other crap they face in daily life, the last thing they want is a snow job from some (probably white) teacher, no matter how well-meaning she is.

Can you see how it might be that way? How do you feel when people insult your intelligence?

We're not all equally good at all things. As Ron suggests (though he might not say this in his own words), maybe the best favor we can do for people is give them an early sense of their limitations, so that they can direct their energies to where they're likely to do the most good.

Cosmic Connie said...

Steve says:

"Heather, I actually like HTLGN [How To Look Good Naked]."

But this just raises the question: Do most of the women featured on this show REALLY look good naked? And who gets to decide?

If HTLGN really does help them with profound self-loathing and body-image issues, then maybe it is doing some good, at least on an individual basis. And since most of these ladies presumably don't make a habit of parading around naked in public, how they look undressed remains more or less a private issue.

But I wonder if this show is doing much good in the larger culture, which still isn't very accepting of "imperfections," particularly in women.

I do agree with your larger point about magical thinking. In fact, that type of magical thinking is what fuels entire beauty biz, even as it keeps the New-Wage/selfish-help industry aloft.

Heather and Mike said...

Steve, I sort of agree with you. But I feel like you're reaching to the extreme — which is exactly what the self-help movement is doing. In everything in life, there needs to be a balance. Again, I ask - Where is the balance in helping children like themselves AND to see the world around them in a realistic way? I think this is imperative.

Some psychologists believe (at least the one on Law and Order SVU-I'm kidding) that a poor self-esteem can lead to mental illness. I think there's something to this. If you think about it, self-esteem drives us in all that we do — how we interact with people, how we maintain close relationships, how we make decisions, etc. Would you have written a book or launched a blog if you didn't have some level of confidence in your writing??

I'm not saying I'm going to raise my kid (if I have any) to have an inflated ego, but I'll make sure they know they are a "person of worth," to steal Greg Boyd's* words.

* I'm not a Boyd follower, but his book "Repenting of Religion" was interesting. I gleaned from it some philosophical standing to apply to my own life, but I do not agree with everything he wrote.

RevRon's Rants said...

"maybe the best favor we can do for people is give them an early sense of their limitations, so that they can direct their energies to where they're likely to do the most good."

Only if we balance our reflections by offering them a sense of their strengths, as well. Tell a young girl that she's drop-dead gorgeous when she knows she isn't will earn her disdain. But tell her that you think she has beautiful eyes - assuming you do find them beautiful - and she'll find something of beauty in herself to which she can cling when confronted with her less than gorgeous attributes. By being supportive without being false, your opinions will have a degree of credibility, and the object of your praise will become aware of his or her better attributes, and will likely strive to enhance and build upon them. To that extent, we as parents are charged with helping our children build their self-confidence, without guiding them to the fairy tale land of unrealistic expectations.

And though a curmudgeon you might claim to be, Steve, I'd be willing to bet that in raising your own children, you probably erred on the side of praise more often than on the side of absolute accuracy in your criticism. :-)

Anonymous said...

"Seriously? Ads that tell men, 'Please don't fondle or otherwise sexually assault your fellow subway rider'? That would be funny if it weren't so absurd."

Absurd, but true. I guess you have not been in a NYC subway in a while. The ads have not gone up yet, but will be soon.

I think you missed my point a bit. Women have been objectified for years and that is nothing new, but most men had some concept that this would not work in their everyday life if they wanted to mate and reproduce. The Internet, porn, and media have given men a pretty warped idea of beauty. Women have started to buy into this too to some degree. I work for a few men's magazines and I cannot believe some of the things I hear. These comments are not from horny 16 year old boys, but men who have been out in the world. So I am not surprised about flashing breasts and what is happening on the NYC subway.

Mike Cane said...

Roissy is relevant: Ugly Is Not The New Beautiful

(I'd also like Steve to look at: Universal Truths Day)

Anonymous said...

I will also add, America is getting larger. The women in the media are getting smaller. The gap between reality versus fantasy is getting wider.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon--well, I know I'm not going to make any new friends with this comment...but...should American women be getting larger? Yes, the gap is widening, but I think--in all fairness?--we have to lay some of the blame for that (if any blame is due) on people who simply stop caring (entirely) about how they look. One could say the same thing about guys in my baseball league who are half my age and already have pot bellies. Should we simply excuse that? Just say, "Hey, they're fat and happy, who cares?" I'm honestly asking.

Heather--Let me give you a concrete example (and God, I hate to veer off into this territory because it begins to sound like I'm setting myself up as a poor-man's guru, which I'm not. But...) My daughter-in-law in upstate New York reads all the books and journals on parenting. Yes, including those on self-esteem building. (Incidentally, they have three girls, ages 2 through 9.) And the "newer" view of self-esteem does, indeed, take a balanced approach to teaching pride and achievement. So, for example, if Nina (the middle child) comes out and does some little dance they were taught in school, my daughter-in-law, Vasso (she's Greek), might say, "Nina, you must have worked very hard on that, because you did a nice job." Notice what Vasso does not say: "Oh, my God, what an incredible dancer you are, nobody in the world is more talented than you, you should be the winner of Dancing with the Stars right now!" She praises the specific event without broadening the context and lapsing into hyperbole. And she's careful to link it to the effort that must have gone into it.

So yes, Heather/Mike, I agree with you that kids do need support and reinforcement. Of course they do! I just have an extremely jaundiced view of the phony, outer-limits kind of self-esteem building that's held the educational system in its grip for the past quarter-century. By every verifiable measure, it has done more harm than good.

Steve Salerno said...

P.S. In other words--because I might not have been clear about the methodology in play here--the newer theory is that you're supposed to say, "This is a very nice painting," not "You're a wonderful painter." Specific and pointed comments that praise the creation, not the creator.

Heather and Mike said...

Rev. Rants and Steve- I like your points. Thank you!

Heather and Mike said...

By the way, I spit my gum out laughing about the first part of your last comment, Steve. I agree with you. Women shouldn't be getting larger. When I see ads for Lifetime's "How to Look Good Naked," for instance, and Carson's subject happens to be a larger woman, I have to admit, I feel little sympathy for her (and I ain't thin). American women need to learn better lifestyle habits with a fast food-free diet and more exercise. It's weird when shows like this seem to reinforce bad habits — "Well, there's no use in trying. So, you might as well embrace the fat."

roger o'keefe said...

Steve, I'm not going to win any friends here either, but I just have to say I am so glad you made that politically incorrect comment about women and size. And I'm gratified that at least one woman, Heather, agrees with you and takes it in a lighthearted vein, even though by her own admission she's no lightweight. All you hear these days is women complaining about the gap between the size of women on TV and the size of women down at the malls, and nobody's allowed to say that it could be because the women down at the malls JUST KEEP GETTING FATTER!!

Thanks again for your willingness to call a spade and spade and poke holes in the second-rate thinking that passes for conventional wisdom.

Anonymous said...

No one male or female should be getting larger, but the diet industry has a lot to do with that too. OK say you are a healthy woman who is 5'6 and weigh 136 pounds do you think you will show up on television? Only if you are on the Food Network! Wretched Ray is the only one who can get away with that or the Big O. I don't think either of them are fending off Playboy offers.

The "How to Look Good Naked" show is hosted by a gay man! I could care less if a gay man cares about how I look naked. You know a straight guy would say "lose the saddlebags."

That show reminds me of my favorite hairdresser who was straight. Ladies, get a straight hairdresser. When bobs were the rage, I wanted one. He looked me right in the eye and said, "with your shape you will look like a potato. Keep the length." Stubborn me wanted a bob and found a pleasant gay man who said, "honey, a bob would do you wonders." It did not. I looked like a potato. If you are trying to attract the opposite sex, ask them what they like.

Anonymous said...

Do you want proof of the dangers of a culture where individuals are taught to focus on themselves?

In Houston this week we've had two children die in separate incidents after being left in the hot car all day. In both cases this week, the caretaker forgot to drop the child off at daycare.

See the video link on the right "Video: Toddler Dies After Left In Pickup Truck:".

Boy 3 Dies in Hot car, managed to get out of car seat and find spare key, but not able free self. Mother, an emergency room technition, leaves work at the hospital to horror that she forgot to drop her child off at daycare.

The second incident this week.
Child dies after being left in car 10 hours

It is often 100 degrees during the day in Houston. Inside the car it reaches 150.

This, along with multiple pool deaths each year proves that carelessness, bad luck, and too much focus on the self can lead to harm to those we love most. A culture that teaches too much focus on the self is dangerous to those closest to us and to society at large.

Steve Salerno said...

These last two Anons provide quite a jarring juxtaposition. The first is one of the funnier things I've read in a long time. The second is one of the saddest (and a very good example of the dangers of self-absorption).

Incidentally, I think it bears pointing out that not a few men consider Rachael Ray sexy, and there are many photos of her online that showcase a rather gigantic--yet quite appealing--derriere. If I may be permitted to say so.

Debbie said...

Heather said: "Well, there's no use in trying. So, you might as well embrace the fat."

This goes right back to the self-help, embrace all that you are, you are perfect mentality.

I, too, agree that just because North Americans are getting larger, doesn't make it right. Canadians are following this trend as well, and there are now some studies showing it may be starting to happen across the pond as well.

The problem is, everyone wants a quick fix. No one wants to work hard for good health, nutrition and a decent BMI. They're being told that 'before you can lose the fat, you have to embrace the fat'. Then they are never taught the proper tools for dealing with the extra weight and associated illnesses.

It perpetuates through the generations, and then a fast-food joint gets sued.

Steve Salerno said...

Hey, I like that zinger ending, Deb. Nicely done.

Mike Cane said...

How to take a bullet and still look beautiful

Although Roissy gave it a more apt title.

Anonymous said...

I discovered I was overweight. I exercised like a maniac, but without realizing it, I was still consuming more carbs than I could burn off.

I discovered I was overweight, not merely muscular when

1) I looked at myself sideways in the gym mirror. I was doing some reps before going upstairs for a powerbike class. I was in bike clothes and to my consternation, saw that I was growing a pot belly--which I knew was dangerous as diabetes runs in my family.

2) I did a body compostion test using a hand held device and my fat percentage was way too high, despite my being highly athletic.

So, I cannot say that I 'embraced my fat'. What I did was I faced my fat.

My next reaction was a kind of health anger, not at myself, not at my body, but more like, 'I am working hard and should be getting better results than this.'

I didnt feel I'd failed, I felt I was investing a lot of effort and was getting the wrong outcome.

3) I used my anger energy to go into problem solving mode. I was already active--plus using a heart rate monitor. So, no need to increase activity. So, I looked hard at my diet, read about nutrition, did some math and figured out how much protein I needed and how much carbs I actually needed and discovered I was eating too many carbs.

4) I did a version of the Zone diet, but allowed some extra carb but only on days when I was highly active.

Results--I lost 23 pounds and kept it off for the next 7 years.

So I didnt embrace my fat--I faced my fat and then went into problem solving mode.

Note: I am female and must confess I had the advantage of being single and having total control over my cooking. Implementing a program like this is way harder if someone doesnt have time to get to the gym or outdoors on a bicycle and has to deal with the kinds of tempting foods that go with care of small kids.

My my case, having a family history of diabetes was a big incentive. Its like living 24-7 with the greatest coach in the world.

If you think diabetic complications (early onset heart disease, impotence, kidney failure, gangrene) are nasty, so is the cost of preventing the complications. One package of Accuchek glucometer tape (2 rolls) cost $45 at Costco pharmacy 2 years ago--about 85 cents a strip.

If you are prediabetic or diabetic and doing a good job monitoring yourself, you must test your blood sugar when you wake up and then 2 hours after breakfast, lunch and dinner--4 times a day.

And if you're ill you may need to test oftener than that.

So I had and continue to have incentive not to love my fat...but to watch that part of myself. There are some things I refuse to embrace and part of that refusal is eating wisely and well and exercising wisely and well.

Its not all misery and good intentsions either. My energy levels soared and I sleep much better at night when active.