A friend at work and I were talking about our endless quest to lose weight. Her husband is a pretty ordinary-looking, paunchy middle-aged guy, but told her she would be "a knockout" if she lost 50 pounds and grew her hair longer. I said that in my experience, "even fat guys feel totally justified in commenting on women's bodies." Another, younger woman, heard our conversation and said that we weren't hanging out with the right kind of "respectful" men, and recommended that we listen to a Christian rock song about how every woman is beautiful.
She has a good point, I suppose.
On NPR I heard a story about how some women in Jamaica are taking "chicken pills" to give themselves bigger thighs and butts, which is what a lot of the men there like. The tone of the story was pretty incredulous that women would poison themselves to be big. There is starting to be a shift to a more Eurocentric, "anorexic" ideal there, but there wasn't much discussion about the lengths women were going to in order to achieve the new look, though there was some talk of the dangers of bleaching creams the women (and some men) were using to lighten their skin. My guess is that if women were willing to take arsenic-laced poultry supplements to please men, they will probably do something equally destructive to try to achieve a slimmer ideal.
I really liked an interview I heard on "The Biggest Loser Fan Podcast" with a former doctor who had worked in anesthesiology and chronic pain management. He found that lifestyle issues were causing a lot of the pain and chronic disease he was seeing in his patients, which inspired him to start a (now-defunct) podcast to help translate medical journal articles on lifestyle for ordinary people. He found that all the articles pointed to a "Magic Formula" of four factors: Not smoking, consuming a plant-based diet, getting at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. He said, though, that his advice to people would be to focus on the other three factors, and trust that the weight thing would be a consequence of building a healthier lifestyle. "Even after the first 10 minutes of exercise, your body is already responding better to insulin," he said, "before you've even lost a pound." He said that people motivated by the scale would ultimately get frustrated and give up. It's a good podcast, and worth a listen. He also talked about the negative affects of constant worrying and stress.
Like worrying about not having the "right" kind of body?
It seems that everything is pointing me back to the same place. It's about living a lifestyle I can be proud of, and hoping the rest of the things I want will follow. I understand this, but I'm still working on "knowing" it.