"I want someone who takes care of themselves." OK, that seems reasonable when you're looking for someone to marry. If they don't take care of themselves, they may not take care of you or the kids, right? Yet, something in me smells a heaping pile of bullshit and I think I know why.
Ever notice people are usually referencing someone's weight when
they say this?
Weight is one of those things that has become extremely dicey in our culture. On one hand, we make it very clear that we do not like the idea of fat. People will refer to a plump person as "disgusting" and chastise them for "unhealthy habits" while our magazines feature skinny women (who are either starving or snorting coke) who somehow have huge boobs (yay, silicone?) while the men are built like a Greek goddess' wet dream. Our grocery stores are filled with "low-fat" and "fat-free" everything and diet pills and fads come and go. There is extreme pressure on postpartum mothers to drop the weight as quickly as possible, even if they are breastfeeding (another loaded issue in our puritanical yet hyper-sexualized culture). Doctors diagnose eating disorders in younger and younger girls (and boys too), simply because they are absorbing the messages they see on TV and in the movies and simply want to be pretty, even at the risk of sudden heart failure. It isn't even about being healthy, fit or taking care of yourself. It's about fitting into a certain image, determined by people eager to make a few bucks.
On the other hand, our culture (as well as our corporations and politicians, through subsidies and cheap products) makes it easier for us to be overweight. Especially in impoverished neighborhoods with little access to grocery stores (and more access to overpriced convenience stores), soda is cheaper than milk and it's often cheaper to buy boxed foods than to constantly have to buy vegetables (which have a low shelf life). Our chaotic work schedules make cooking (a healthier choice) seem like a luxury and a long commute cuts into work out time. Due to standardized testing, young children spend more time than ever sitting down in school and find their gym and recess times cut short (and we wonder why they act up in class?). Further our culture of instant gratification makes healthier choices such as cooking (rather than microwaving) and losing weight over a longer period of time when it is an issue very unappealing. Thanks to TV's, the Internet, and other fun distractions, who needs to play outside?
I mean, seriously. How many skinny people do you know who are out of shape? Who drink soda like it's water? Who may have high blood cholesterol? Who want to pass out after walking up one short flight of stairs? Yet, how many people tell them, "Oh honey, you can eat as much as you want! How lucky?" Or encourage them to eat like crap, because at least they still conform to our beauty standards? How many people have told me I don't "need" to work out because I'm slim, not knowing that, yes, osteoporosis, runs in my family, so I better hit the gym? The whole, "taking care of yourself" is utter bullshit. If we really did believe in that, we'd make it so our culture wasn't so sedentary. We'd hold corporations accountable for pushing crap foods on us and make it so politicians didn't subsidize unhealthy products. We'd acknowledge that lack of access to healthy food is a sign of a hunger crisis, even if our hungry people may not look like a "starving kid in Ethiopia" (feed the hungry, damn it!). We'd stop cutting recess and gym time for our kids and encourage interactive learning that involved them moving around. We'd make time to work out, regardless of age, and make it part of our social, family and love lives. We'd offer healthy, yet delicious, snacks as a sign of hospitality.
Yes, we all need to take care of our bodies. Taking care of our bodies means ACCEPTING them. It DOES NOT mean forcing them to conform to an idealized image. It means learning how we best can preserve our health and lives and acting on it. It also means fighting so that others may not only be educated but that they may also have access to healthy food. It means we give other people dignity and treat them with respect, rather than make degrading comments about them because of struggles they may have. It means we'd affirm people's looks when they look healthy, not when they look skinny (I can't tell you how much it hurt when people told me how good I looked by "losing weight" when I was actually stressed out, tired, working too hard, and barely eating). It means we stop nit-picking celebs for their looks (especially when we have daughters of our own. Yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. Beck) and critique them on, well, their purpose as actors, musicians, public speakers, and what have you.
So, kids, take care of yourselves (for real), love each other, see your physician annually and don't do drugs. Actually, some recreational drugs are acceptable (moderate amounts of caffeine and alcohol). Just don't do the stupid ones. Yes, I'm including diet pills in this one.