health

Weight Debate

form and measureEx-smokers are known to be especially intolerant of people who still smoke, and it would seem that someone who was once obese might develop a similar intolerance for those who are overweight. After all, if you can lose the weight, so can they.

As a formerly chunky person who lost 55 pounds more than 30 years ago, that intolerant someone might be me. But I am changing.

I like to think I understand things, but in actuality I spend much of my time driving around the planet punch-drunk and ignorant trying to figure out how I made it this far on a half-empty tank. If I didnít like being fat, and you didnít like being fat, it was an easy run for my money to assume nobody liked being fat. This is why Iím bad at math.

It has occurred to me that maybe itís not so much about liking or disliking our weight but loving who we are at any precise moment and realizing that we have beauty and worth, regardless of our size or shape. I mean, I knew that intellectually, but emotionally Iíve always thrown my lawn dart at thin. While being on the slender side was and still is my personal bullseye, it was also a standard I set for others. Like I get to be the judge. With a little willpower, this could be you.

As Iíve gotten older, Iíve become increasingly uncomfortable with judgment and profoundly annoyed with the beauty and fashion industry, which has pulled an Al Haig and declared itself in charge:

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  • Clothes That Make You Look Fat and Old
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Last week I saw a ďbeauty and agingĒ feature in an online magazine, and I struck out twice in Hair Mistakes for 100. My bangs are too short for my age, and I have long gray hair. Oops, I forgot to conform.

The pressure to look like everyone else is intense. And itís such a losing game, because just open your eyes! Considering that we are one species, variations of the human body are nothing less than astounding. Itís a circus out there. A crazy, wonderful circus.

One of the turning points for me was observing a woman at work who is so utterly petite, you canít imagine that she has normal-sized heart and lungs. I think, what she eats canít be all that different than what everybody else eats, but itís like weíre not even cast from the same mold. She was just born that way.

We donít typically afford the same courtesy to people we define as overweight. We assume something is wrong with them. Unhealthy. They must eat all the time. Enormous quantities. We donít assume they are born that way.

Iím a strong believer in free will, but it just has to be that some of this stuff is hard-wired. Maybe my unique biological structure made it possible for me to drop the pounds. It doesnít make me stronger or better. Itís just big stomachwho I am. And maybe someone elseís DNA keeps them at a different weight -- small, big or something in between. Or maybe somebody is larger and sure, they want to be smaller but not that bad. Or not right now. They have other things to worry about. They are searching for their own brand of beauty, and theyíre searching for self-acceptance -- not the perfect diet.

Plenty will argue that being overweight is unhealthy -- Iíve believed this myself. And Iíve used and defended the description, ďFat and unhealthy.Ē But I no longer believe the categories are that clean. There are unhealthy fat people, just as there are unhealthy thin people.

The way we look, whatever it is, whether we choose it or not -- it's simply who we are, and it ought to be just fine. I certainly don't want to wake up every day and think, "This isn't good enough." How exhausting. Better to work at tuning out the noise and judgment, assume we are smart, beautiful, healthy and cool and go from there.

 

Donna Pekar authors a blog called Rock the Silver, about aging with panache. It's about being fearlessly gray and relentlessly cool.

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