What if you don’t “fit in”?
Even though I’ve been busy writing my next book – on living mindfully – allowing time for exercise remains a priority on my to-do list. I like to take a 40-minute break in the mornings and get on my treadmill for a workout. I typically tune in to the TODAY show and I simply must comment on a recent Kathie Lee & Hoda segment where Joy Bauer was introducing her newest “Joy Fit Club” member, Becky, who had lost 179 pounds. Becky went from 357 pounds down to a “gorgeous” 178 pounds. She appeared to have a warm personality, a sense of humor and a down to earth honesty about her. She seemed very happy with her weight loss AND with having run a half-marathon, crossing the finish line as a “whole new woman” – loved from the inside out.
So what’s wrong in this picture? Surely I, being a disordered eating specialist, would applaud a woman losing weight, feeling renewed and becoming healthier…right? The problem I have with this sort of story is that it implies that she was not whole, “gorgeous” or good enough as she was before losing her excess weight and transforming into what we, in America, term as “appealing”… or “hot” (a term used on the show). Becky stated that she had dates at her highest weight but no boyfriends – and had interviews but no job offers. I have to wonder: did no one see the potential of improved health in this charming woman? Did she have to look a certain way to be loved or hired? It seems so and that saddens me.
The training and dedication that goes into running a half-marathon is something I am very familiar with and I honor Becky for her commitment, courage and determination – and for her achievement. Yet she stated that she crossed the finish line and went immediately into an ambulance and “almost died”. Folks, this is not good. We are saying: “compete and run even if it almost kills you”. We are saying: “lose close to 200 pounds and you will, finally, be chosen – for a girlfriend or a job”. We are also using words such as “gorgeous”, “hot” and “stunning” to describe OUTSIDE appearances and not speaking to the inner person (who has always been beautiful, whole and unbroken). This concerns me deeply.
When asked what was the pivotal point – the “aha” moment – when she knew it was time to make a change, Becky said something that was, to me, refreshing. She said it was simply an “inner moment” that she was unable to describe. An inner moment. To have such an experience, she would have had to be aware and mindful…paying attention to what she was hearing on the INSIDE. This is the only way change can happen: by listening to our inner voice and then, in honor of what we hear, taking appropriate and wise action. Becky joined the YMCA and began exercising…even dancing…and joined Weight Watchers. Her motto was: “one day, one step, one pound”. She made wise, healthful lifestyle changes based on awareness. I am encouraged by this.
I found it very helpful when Joy showed a typical meal for Becky and how to cut the calories from a heavy, 1,400 meal down to a delicious-looking 400 calories. This appeared very doable and realistic to me. Also, I appreciated the emphasis on activity that was fun and healthful and, though I am not an advocate for Weight Watchers (or any “diet program”), I respect the choice to take responsibility for what is consumed calorie-wise and the willingness to learn to enjoy simple, nourishing foods in appropriate portions. Changing habits, changing outcomes – yes, I vote for that.
My concern, in addition to how we view overweight individuals in our society and what we call “hot” and “gorgeous” is this: what about the folks who are not in the Joy Fit Club? What about people who think they have to make a huge, TV-worthy change to be acceptable and then feel discouraged from the outset? There must be thousands…and my heart feels for them. I would like to see a show that features people who need and welcome inspiration…people who don’t have a motto (yet) but are sincere about wanting to be healthy. I would like to see acceptance first and some tips on how to be accepting of “now” and what it takes to make that first step. I would like to see people at any weight honored for their personalities, sense of humor, compassion, tenderness, courage…for ‘who’ they are rather than always what they have achieved (that makes it to a television show). I envision every person embracing all that they are and from this place of acceptance, honor and compassion, making nourishing and wise lifestyle choices. How might we contribute?
While I honor those who have made big changes, I am concerned for those who haven’t. What can we do to encourage folks to take that first step? To begin with acceptance of everyone, just as they are. “Now” is the only moment we have. How can we both encourage our culture and country to become healthier and at the same time, be accepting of and honoring of folks wherever they are in this very moment? I don’t have the answer. But I have a hunch. Mindfulness…sometimes called “heartfulness”…is bringing the fullness of our attention to the present moment, non-judgmentally. Could this ancient practice be the solution…or at least the starting point? Could living and thus eating mindfully be the way through the journey of becoming healthy and active…of accepting oneself from the inside out? I welcome and invite your insights and suggestions, so please feel free to contribute to the conversation in the comments. Let’s see what we can create!