Tuesday, January 23, 2007

So Over It

I’m putting the phrase “Are you on something?” on my list of utterances that should never, ever be spoken in my presence by another adult member of the human race for at least the rest of my life, if not longer. It joins “Where are you at?”, the egregious overuse of the word “actually” by college students who reek of patchouli and self-importance, and “amazing” as used by celebrities who describe their close friend the Dali Lama as an “amazing person” in the same breath as they recount their “amazing pedicure” at Sephora last Wednesday.

I was in the teacher’s lounge yesterday, heating up a Boca Burger and 2% cheese single in the microwave when a colleague walked up next to me to nuke her own Healthy Lean Choice somethingorother. I pulled out my juicy little soypuck and prepared to retreat to the solitude of my office when she asked me, “Are you on something?” At this point I had already foraged for utensils, a napkin, a paper plate and a reasonably frigid Diet Coke so I awkwardly pressed my lunch tools against my boobs to keep from dropping them as I turned to clarify her sentence.

“It’s just that I don’t see very many people eating those veggie patty things.”

I explained that I wasn’t a big fan of red meat, and these were very easy to prepare and healthy so they were good all around.

“Oh,” she responded, “I just know that I had a friend who lost 25 pounds by only eating veggie burgers for three months so I wondered if you were on some sort of soyburger diet. That’s what I meant.”

As I walked down the hall back to my room my inner monologue grew increasingly heated, and I ended up muttering to myself like the crazy cat lady I’m destined to one day become. I was just so dismayed, struck with the realization that for pretty much anyone who has ever struggled with body-image, eating healthfully isn’t so much a matter of personal choice or habit, but a byproduct of being “on something", and if you're not on something then your other alternative is to eat shit and act sheepish about it. That's all there is in Diet Land.

Soyburgers EVERY DAY? I cannot even imagine. They’re fine for me once or twice a week during lunch, because I only get about twenty minutes and I don’t really pay attention to the taste of the food as I’m simultaneously eating, emailing, and picking kindergarten paste off the crotch of my dress pants (that sounded less prurient in my head), but to actively sit down to two meals of soy protein every day for three months…dude, that’s just masochistic.

But then I realized I’ve been guilty of the very same thing several times in my life. 6” subs twice a day, cabbage soup, lemonade spiked with cayenne pepper and maple syrup. Ridiculous foods I subjected myself to for nearly every meal for weeks and weeks, or months even until I couldn’t stand it anymore. And then of course as soon as the food asceticism stopped, the ass fat just packed right back on, because I had absolutely no clue how to control my eating outside the parameters of the latest fad diet book Barnes and Noble had propped up on the impulse buy kiosk.

The whole idea is really starting to infuriate me the more I think about this, and I have to wonder…have adults become so helpless that we are unable to trust ourselves to make responsible choices about our bodies? The weight loss industry is making billions of dollars every year because they tell us that in order to lose weight, the absolute only method is to follow their plan. Don’t eat carbs. Eat more carbs. Eat like the Greeks. No, no...eat like the French. Have two shakes and a sensible dinner. Eat six times a day. Don’t eat at all unless it involves our Fedexed foods in a box. Take this pill with dinner and this pill at night. Eat at least one of these seven mystic foods a day and watch the weight melt off. Don’t eat leftovers. Respect your food’s chi. Never drink lukewarm water. Sacrifice a virgin goat on the 23rd of October and sprinkle all your food with flakes of its dried blood.

The reason why there are sixteen million diet books and diet gurus and diet cookbooks on the market is because there is simply NO divinely anointed weight loss solution. I find it completely absurd that adults who have no qualms about spending hours online researching cars and mortgages and ideal cleaning solutions for their Corinthian leather couches would ever consider blindly trusting someone else with their bodies, and usually with no more premeditation than a cursory glance at a dusk jacket requires. I suppose the result of this is that many of us bounce from diet to diet to diet without ever really being invested in what we’re eating and ultimately feel like failures for not sticking with it each time. I know I certainly did, and when I reached rock bottom during Christmas and found myself eating my already substantial body weight in cheddar popcorn and nachos and those delightful cylinders of smoked sausage nearly every night of Advent, I did so with the knowledge that I had absolutely no idea how to eat any other way.

I used to buy those fitness magazines with glowing, sinewy D-list celebrities doing yoga on the covers and I would retreat to my bedroom with them, mindlessly chewing some sort of chocolate product and poring through the articles for the ones that featured the women who had lost half their body weight, or who went from “flab to fab” in just a few months. I thought those were the ones who had somehow found the Holy Grail of dieting…the perfect plan or pill or shake that helped them slim down and become demi-goddesses in their new, cellulite-free world. I was always immensely disappointed when they said they ate sensibly, moved around a little more, learned to enjoy food again. I thought that was a horrible copout, because being miserable and following some sort of strict regimen HAD to be part of dieting. It would never work otherwise.

I don’t intend to preach at all, because if I actually had everything about being healthy figured out by now, I wouldn’t be skulking around shopping malls with my Lane Bryant purchases hidden inside a Target sack (as if the world couldn’t tell on sight that my thighs are bigger than some of our nationally preserved Sequoias). I’m just approaching this with a measure of indignation because I realize I’ve been snowed for many, many years into believing I’m not equipped to make good choices for my own body, and that I abdicated responsibility for my own health in favor of a complete stranger’s control and influence.

Maybe what I’m really irritated about is the idea that since the foods I eat don’t come from a weight loss corporation or aren’t strictly defined by a book or a magazine, that somehow my efforts to be healthy aren’t worth consideration by other people. That my entitlement to eat food can only come if I am “on something.”

And I think the next time I’m preparing lunch and a co-worker asks me that question, I’m going to tell them I’m “on” several varieties of high-grade cocaine and if they’d like to join me after school I have extra razor blades and rolled up dollar bills inside my piano bench. Bring your own 8-ball, of course.


Galen said...

Oh Erin, this has got to be one of your best posts yet! Two things just had me in near tears after reading: "Sacrifice a virgin goat on the 23rd of October and sprinkle all your food with flakes of its dried blood. ", and your last few lines about bringing your own 8-ball.

My birthday is Oct. 23. That's what made it even more funny.

But on a more serious note, you are right in that the weight loss industry would have us dumb and blind as to the correct way to lose weight, just to keep their pockets lined with our money. Most people want to lose weight the easy way, with no sweat, no effort, but isn't that the way of America today anyway?

Do you think that perhaps the American way of life (comfort and convenience and take the easy way)has contributed to this as well, and not to mention Hollywood's visual image of thin, thin, thin. Those are my thoughts on this subject anyway.

There have been times when I was embarrased to shop for Big and Tall clothing, so I understand hiding the clothing purchases in another shopping bag...we've all been there.

Btw, I've seen the photos you've put up and you don't look like you have trees for thighs at all. Rather nice looking actually.

Have a great night and day tomorrow!

Lori said...

Can I come along after school too? I'll bring the 8-ball....This sounds more fun that exercising for sure!

I think so many people think that there's one thing missing and if they could JUST find that one true thing, they would be thin and eat whatever they want and Life Would Be Good.

Corporations, magazines, pyramid schemes, etc. all exist to prey on this fantasy.

Add that there are tons of studies, data research, focus groups and it's to determine how to get us to eat more and eat crap.

(Here I lapse into old geezerdom...) When I was a child, we didn't have 10,000 fast food restaurants, nosiree. If you wanted something to eat on your way to grandma's, you either packed a cooler or stopped at a lil ole store and got some bologna and cheese and crackers and snacked in the car...We used to drive an hour away to another town when we had the jones for Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Sadly all of this is true.)

Think about how easy it is to get food and so it's understandable to want one true way or just eat one thing every day to deal with temptations. (Although that poor soul who ate a soypuck for 3 months deserves either a mental exam or a place in heaven.)

As usual, you have made me laugh and you are so fun to read.

lisa jane said...

You know how I feel about this stuff.

What is really pissing me of though lately is not the diet industry (that always makes me furious), but the women who stand back and say "yeah I hate diets, but I would just balloon if I gave them up".

How fucking ridiculous.

We were each born with all the internal cues we need to make appropriate food choices,(hunger/satiety cues, tastebuds etc), not born with a fucking weight watchers guide in one hand and the atkins diet in the other.

It's a bloody wonder our ancestors didn't eat themselves to death without regular weigh ins an carb counters.Gee I wonder how they managed to survive???

What a joke.

It's sad when I hear otherwise strong,intelligent women give up their power in this way.I think diets ar an insult to our intelligence.

Love you though,and your posts :)

dg said...

genius post, erin! i loved every wise and witty word :)

Rochefort said...

America is simply going to fall in love with you E. Even though you may not think so, I believe this is what you are meant to do. So many people can benefit from your story. Please write, and give us inspiration! B

I'm Fat said...

Yes, great post. I love how you can bring light humor to the picture.

BigAssBelle said...

oh honey, that's how i used to spend my after school hours and it's not all it's cracked up to be ;-)

this is marvelous. erin, you have such a gift. you really should be (i hope are considering) publishing this in the real world.