In America, body image is everything.We hear continually about the obesity crisis, how to lose weight, the next big diet or pill.
Hasn’t anyone heard of moderation?
It is certainly not healthy to weigh 400 pounds, but it’s not healthy to weigh 100 pounds either, unless you are very short.
Last week, I tuned in to “The Real World” and there was a 95-pound girl talking about how ugly she feels – of course she’s ugly; she’s skin and bones. But just 15 pounds would turn her into a very attractive woman, though still skinny.
Many trim women with slightly healthier body weights feel just the same as this girl, though they have no reason for concern.
When did body image become part of every woman’s identity?
Eat right and exercise, certainly. Cardiovascular disease is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. You don’t want to let your body go to fat. Eating McDonald’s every day is not a healthy choice.
But abstaining altogether and switching to pricey brand-name diet foods is not the way to go either. If you really want to become healthier, start eating more fruits and vegetables. And not just any fruits and vegetables (though it’s a start) – green, leafy ones.
And work out. But don’t stick strictly to cardiovascular exercise.
At our age, my personal fitness teacher told us, people – women included – should be building muscle. They should be doing this by lifting a few reps at high weight. (If you can do more than 12 reps easily you need to increase your weight. Less than 5 and you’re lifting too much weight.)
Cardio alone can actually cause muscle loss.
But I digress. Counting calories, beyond a casual measure, only encourages you to think of your body as something that needs to be fixed. Your body is meant to be maintained, not punished. Food is meant to be enjoyed – moderately.
Calorie-counting has its place, but a calorie-counting obsession is also a type of eating disorder.
If you want to be healthy, eat a variety of foods, stop when you aren’t hungry anymore, lay off junk foods (including anything you can find in a vending machine) and drink alcohol in moderation. Avoid frozen foods and try your hand at cooking. If you want to step it up a notch, use organic ingredients and don’t buy anything made from concentrate. Drink mainly water and avoid caffeinated beverages.
Eating healthily is a much better fix than going on a diet or picking up brand name “health food.” Expensive diet foods are merely expensive. They are frequently frozen, which means you are missing important nutritional elements, ingesting too many preservatives, and probably getting too much sodium.
I am a 21-year-old who is 5’6″ and 150 pounds. For the most part I eat healthily. I do not get nearly enough exercise and I drink too much caffeine, but any extra pounds I have are not due to my diet and should not be cured that way. If I wanted to lose weight, I would need to exercise more. Eating less or “better” (with the exception of my pop addiction) would simply not be a healthy choice.
I don’t want to lose weight. I don’t need to lose weight. If I exercised more, I would hope to gain at least part of my weight back in muscle.
Hearing very thin women talk about their calorie-counting is frustrating. I am not fat, but I don’t look like them. I want to shake these women and tell them to grow up.
Ladies, if you are 5’5″ and weigh 120 pounds or less (or are equivalently small), I don’t want to hear about your diet, unless you’ve just lost a considerable amount of weight and are now in the maintenance phase.
If you are any thinner than that, you make your body a target for disease. Fat allows you to lose weight when you are sick without becoming dangerously thin. If you are already dangerously thin and you get sick, what are you going to do?
For most women, gaining curves is a natural part of growing up and becoming fertile. Teenagers – including females – are frequently distinguishable by their lanky bodies; gaining the “freshman fifteen” isn’t always a bad thing.
Instead of spending your time on the treadmill, planning out how to lower the calories in today’s dinner, use those reasoning skills you pay so much for and put it all into perspective. Avoiding obesity doesn’t entail waiflike thinness. Be healthy: Avoid both categories with equal attentiveness.
Opinion editor Stephanie Weaver is a senior English, philosophy and French major from Westwood, Kan.