“Eat our processed food and lose weight!” “Join this gym and lose weight!” “Take this pill, shake, herb, tea, suppository, and lose weight!”
And they’re off! New Year’s is the weight loss industry’s black Friday. Many millions are reaped throughout the year, but it is January that does wonders for the industry’s bottom line. As our nation has grown in size so has an industry filled with an abundance of promises and zero standards. How has this happened?
Whether one considers excessive weight to be a health, behavior or public issue is somewhat secondary to the point that the market feels free to exploit the situation.
If you feel that being overweight is a health issue, what do you make of reality television shows featuring obese contestants being humiliated as a means to bolstering their health? Do we watch smokers and drinkers being humiliated on reality shows? Do we honestly think that this programming is not solely about the viewer’s entertainment? How did other people’s heartbreaking struggle with a health issue become fodder for our entertainment?
If you feel that being overweight is the result of an utter lack of self-control, what do you make of products that reinforce that disconnect between outcome and behavior? The “behavior” camp asserts that maintaining a healthy weight is the result of not consuming more than one is using. A sensible diet and a moderate amount of exercise is the permanent method with which to control weight. If the federal government believes this (and they seem to) why then are companies allowed to sell snake oil? Why doesn’t every advertisement for Nutri-Jenny-Fast have a big black box across it stating “Eating our fake food is not sustainable & your behavior will not be changed by our program. You may in fact lose weight while you are our customer, but most people gain it back immediately after leaving our program.” Too big brother? Remember, we now have warnings on aerosol bottles to dissuade people from huffing.
If you feel that the public health of our nation is at risk, then we really have to talk. Whether we should start with the corn subsidies or food labeling, or school lunches makes for good dinner party conversation. But so do dinner parties for that matter. All of our habits, from the decline of dinner tables to carbo-loaded toddlers while they burn zero calories riding in a stroller, to wheels on sneakers (children don’t even walk anymore, they roll,) it’s all up for scrutiny. What about processed foods designed specifically for children? The baby food industry started the trend with “toddler” jarred foods. Apparently toddlers find real yogurt and bananas to be daunting. As they get older, the food industry has graciously provided, fake cheese, yogurt with candy, processed breaded chicken nuggets, lunchables and colored flavored drinks. For those in the public health camp; why is this even tolerated? We regulate pill bottle caps, cribs, car seats, window blind cords, but not the food sold for our children? We are cultivating a lifelong appetite for fake food.
It is a terrible burden to feel as if your size is standing in your way. Feeling as if your own body is the enemy is an exhausting way to go through life. For anyone pulling on their new sneakers and heading out into the unknown this January, I say Brava! It is physics; the first steps are the hardest. Keep at it, and in about six weeks it will be the new normal. Eat real food, celebrate meals, enjoy life and save your money. There are no shortcuts and the only magic is discovering your own strength.