Monday, May 14, 2012

the secret to weight loss

A recipe for weight loss…
Don’t sleep or eat
If you have trouble with that, do a hundred and twenty-five hours of volunteer service, and be a hopeless perfectionist in the honors program, during your first semester of college. Then you’ll be so stressed it’ll come easy, I promise.
I accidentally invented this weight loss recipe last fall, though the goal was just to survive. Accidentally reversing the normal “freshman fifteen” was just a surprising by-product. I was honestly just annoyed; none of my jeans fit me anymore. But whenever I came home for a visit, suddenly my weight was a big deal. I got a lot of welling meaning comments "Oh, how's college? You look so good, have you lost weight?" all the time.
They meant well, it was supposed to be a compliment, but it bothered me. It was just so hastily assumed that losing weight was a universally good thing. And it's not.  The societal assumption (propagated by the media) that losing weight it always a good thing, always to be desired, is giving rise to a lot of really bad things. The mortality rate for anorexia is twelve times higher than any other cause of death for girls age fifteen to twenty-four (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).Younger and younger girls are being affected as well. In an international survey forty-two percent of first- to third grade girls said that they want to be thinner, and eighty-one percent of ten year olds were afraid of getting fat (Martin, 2).
            Losing weight is not always a good thing, and we need to stop being so quick to hail it as one, to congratulate girls on losing weight when we don’t know if their weight loss is a symptom of a disease (that’s what eating disorders ARE, people). Obviously, if my weight loss had been really drastic and clearly unhealthy, the ladies who congratulated me on it would have been concerned instead, and I am sure would have at least checked with my parents to see if I was ok. But eating disorders are physical and mental illnesses, and by the time the physical symptoms are an obvious problem, the mental illness is already ingrained. The obsession with losing weight, the compulsions, all of the mental bondage of eating disorders are there long before the physical symptoms. And when the first (healthy seeming) start of weight loss is hailed as a wonderful event, it just re-enforces the idea that weight loss is good, no matter what unhealthy lengths it is taken to.
For the record, I don’t have an eating disorder, and I never have. But still, I would have appreciated it if people had asked, “Oh, have you been trying to lose weight? You look thinner.” That at least would be asking for a little bit of the story behind it, instead of hastily assuming the story was all peaches and cream, when it could very well be self-hate and fear. In my case, it was just a ton of stress resulting in a loss of appetite, but for people with eating disorders it’s much worse.
So this is all to say: Let’s be careful to respect the untold stories around us, and not be so hasty to jump in with congratulations before we’ve checked to make sure therapy isn’t a better reaction. Be someone who invites people to tell their stories, to ask for help if they need it.
P.S. Thanks for listening, and here’s my works cited. Sorry, habit…

Crow, S.J. et al. “Eating Disorders Statistics.” ANAD. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. n.d. Web. 12 April, 2012.
Martin, Jeanne B. “The Development of Ideal Body Image Perceptions in the United States.” Nutrition Today 45.3 (2010): 98-110. Lippincott’s Nursing Center. Web. 8 Mar. 2012 were afraid of getting fat (2). 

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