Okay, I get it. Our country has a weight problem. So many overweight and obese people are weighing down our healthcare system and our airplanes, causing the population as a whole and individuals specifically to have to pay more. We don’t know how to eat and we’ve forgotten how to move. Weight loss is a national obsession. And with good reason. Recent studies show that while American obesity rates have leveled off, that doesn’t make being obese any less dangerous: Nationally, nearly 20% of deaths are connected with carrying too much weight.
Those are some pretty serious numbers. But, this is still generally speaking, of course. In general, we have a weight problem. But specifically, I don’t. And neither do most of my friends. A few of my family might. And yet, no matter who I am with or what the occasion, it’s always a part of the conversation: How do you stay thin? Or This is my new weight-loss plan. Or I’m cutting out sugar (or gluten, or dairy), just to see what happens.
It’s starting to drive me a little crazy. I mean, why are we even talking about this? Among my friends, nobody here has a weight problem and everybody knows how to eat. We’re all active, energetic people. And yet, here we are swapping diet tips like our lives depend on it. Why are we wasting our breath?
Is it simply because it’s expected? Because so many people do struggle with weight, that even those of us who don’t are feeling the burden? Because everyone knows someone who is trying to lose the baby weight, or who has committed to get healthier, or who has started training for something in an attempt to become lighter? I get it. It’s an easy conversation topic, like the weather, or how was your weekend, and it gives us some common ground to think that, “Hey, we’re all in this heavy life together.”
On one level, it’s great that it has become such an easy thing to talk about. People are understanding of how hard it can be to lose weight and keep it off. It is, perhaps, less isolating than it once was to be overweight, and it can be easier to find a supportive community to “get healthy” with. Plus it’s easy to find helpful information on what to eat and how to sneak in more exercise.
But on another level, the constant chatter about weight loss and dieting are feeding the paranoia in unhealthy ways. Those who are least likely to need to lose weight develop body image issues and eating disorders. Those who already lead active, healthy lifestyles are wondering if they’re doing enough, as if they could lose the weight for a couple of others if they just ate even better and exercised even more. It becomes muffled background noise to those who most need to hear it loudly and clearly. And the constant harping is likely not helping those who truly do suffer, both mentally and physically, from being overweight.
So maybe we could tone it down a notch? Give ourselves a break to regroup and come at it from a different angle? Or maybe just take a page out of Elvis’s songbook: A little less conversation, a little more action.
In my perfect world, talking about weight, body image, and diet habits would be the exception rather than the rule. But since that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, maybe I’ll take a new tack: The next time someone starts talking about their new weight loss plan, I’ll invite them to walk and talk about it right then. Or maybe I’ll start doing jumping jacks, just for fun. Or I’ll take them straight into the kitchen and show them how to make my favorite quick-and-healthy dish.
Maybe that will get some results.