America Needs An Attitude Adjustment
To say that most Americans are
concerned about their weight is an understatement. Obsessed is more like it, and
we spend more than $50 billion per year feeding that obsession.
And for what? To achieve an impossible
ideal of thinness and beauty that is virtually unattainable to the vast majority
Instead of being thinner, we're no
better off than we were 10, even 20, years ago. In fact, the situation is worse:
One out of every three American adults is now considered overweight. Not
surprisingly, this corresponds roughly to the number of Americans (65 million)
who are dieting at any one time.
It seems that all those devices and
diets, potions and powders, supplements and artificial sweeteners have done
little to nourish what's really important - one's self-esteem.
This factor has been largely ignored by
traditional approaches to weight loss. Fortunately, a new generation of
researchers, physicians and health-promotion specialists are diligently working
to change this by promoting what they call the new weight paradigm.
Be careful what you assume
At the foundation of this new approach
to weight loss is a change in assumptions. For most of the twentieth century,
people have simply assumed that thinness is essential for both good health and
happiness. And those who are not thin, it also is assumed, must lack willpower
and either eat too much or not exercise enough.
The solution to being overweight, then,
is to simply eat less and exercise more.
Clearly, as statistics bear out, it's
not that simple. Diets rarely work. Those who have tried them - and failed -
know this, and now physicians and weight researchers are acknowledging it as
Factors such as genetics and
physiological mechanisms are finally receiving due credit for their roles in
determining body shape and size.
It's all about lifestyle
The new weight paradigm focuses on
things other than weight loss: healthy eating, regular exercise, positive
self-esteem and, perhaps most importantly, self-acceptance.
Being healthy has less to do with a
number on a scale than the ability to balance and nurture all aspects of one's
life: the emotional, mental and spiritual, as well as the physical. Here's a
breakdown of the old assumptions and alternative solutions according to the new
Old: Restricting calories is the
best way to lose weight.
New: Healthy, relaxed eating in
response to hunger and satiety cues is the key to developing a comfortable
relationship with food and avoiding eating disorders.
Old: Exercise is necessary to
lose and keep weight off.
New: Exercise is an excellent
way to improve one's health and enhance quality of life.
Old: People need to be thin in
order to be healthy and happy.
New: People naturally have
different body shapes and sizes, and need to accept themselves for what they
The key to making positive changes -
which may or may not include weight loss - is to consider all the different
facets of one's life. Dropping a dress or pants size will mean little if
constant fatigue from restricting calories leaves you unable to play with your
Disordered eating patterns caused by
pressures to be thin can result in zero self-esteem. And constantly rating
yourself against some ''ideal'' standard offers little more than a lifetime of
dissatisfaction and frustration.
This new weight paradigm is not likely
to gain speedy acceptance in a culture that values thinness and willpower so
highly. However, the choice to be healthy and happy by selecting self-acceptance
rather than an enforced ideal is yours and yours alone.