As You Like It: Size Fabulous

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On Monday mornings Kathleen leads a non-stop workout class. She crams more into an hour than anyone else I know. In other classes, if I see there are only five minutes left, I know the end is near. But Kathleen can fit in at least five more bone-crunching, muscle-rending, soul-scorching moves — all guaranteed to make a grown woman cry. Getting to the end of one of her classes is like reaching the peak of Kilimanjaro.

I’ve been doing her classes for over 20 years and hope to hang in there for a few more before I end up in an aquatics class for women of a certain age. So when she approached me during an excruciating triceps exercise, I was sure that my form was off and she was about to correct me. But surprisingly, the reason she came over was to tell me that she noticed that I had become slimmer in the past few months. “Really?!” I squeaked, because of course I was sure that I had been gaining at least 50 pounds each night as I slept.

That made my day. Sad really, that someone telling me that I had lost some weight was enough to put me on cloud nine — not the fact that I had found a cure for cancer. But then self image is a major player in our life game. If we don’t think we look good, then we don’t feel good, and we might as well crawl back into bed and pull the covers over our heads. And for women, most of it comes down to how much we weigh.

Rona Kobell wrote an interesting story for the Boston Globe last week, “How to Eat.” She had attended MIT’s annual Food Boot Camp to:

Learn about all aspects of food science, from our increasing resistance to antibiotics to why it’s so hard to remove dangerous bacteria from spinach … the regulatory holes in the food safety net, and the connections between climate change and crops …

“Mostly, though, I suspect we’re here to learn why people get fat,” she concluded.

Kobell met Gary Taubes, a physician who has written books on the science of diet and health. As the founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative, he told Kobell that he had come to his own conclusions as to why we gain weight:

Everything we thought we knew about nutrition is wrong, he said. We have no reason to restrict saturated fat; we should be cutting sugar instead. There is sugar in melon, and in all fruit … Taubes revealed that he had eaten eggs and bacon for his breakfast. He might drop dead of a heart attack someday, he said, but he will not get diabetes.

So according to Taubes, I should be cutting down on my beloved fruit. According to the conference findings, I should also be careful about eating spinach, a vegetable I am extremely fond of, and bean sprouts. Salt remains a culprit as does saturated fat and carbohydrates. I’m beginning to think that the only weight-safe thing for me to do is to suck on lemons, because what else is there left for me to eat?

But there is hope for we women who can’t rid ourselves of the notion that self-worth resides in our outsides. The makers of Dove soap tried an interesting experiment. According to a story posted on AOL, Dove and psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke asked ten women to wear a beauty patch for two weeks. The patch was supposed to enhance the way they perceived their own beauty.

The women were told to keep a video diary of how they felt day-to-day. When the two weeks were up they met with Kearney-Cooke again. When asked about their experiences wearing the beauty patch on their arms many said it was a “life-altering experience.”

The women were then asked if they wanted to know what was inside the patch. They were very surprised to learn that there was nothing in the beauty patch. They said it was “crazy” and “empowering.”

Who knew that placebos can affect self image? Perhaps we should all be issued these patches at puberty? I know that I would be first in line.

I’m trying my best to be upbeat and healthy and keep the weight down. But I confess that all it takes to push me into the grumpy zone is to go shopping, finally find a pair of stylish jeans in my size, then realize that they are tight and that I have to go out and search for a higher number. It’s really depressing to think that my idea of beauty is based on the number printed on the waistband of my jeans.

I would love to shop in the Special-K store. In their commercial, women were asked if they would like a pair of free jeans. The only caveat was that they would have to be measured on camera. The horrified reactions on the faces of those women were equal parts funny and sad.

But free jeans was a strong inducement. Anxiously eyeing the tape measure, they suddenly noticed that instead of numbers the tape had measurements like: beautiful, strong, amazing, or fabulous printed on it and the jeans were all sorted under those sizes. That small change from numbers to affirming words turned the fitting room into a celebration.

How strange we humans are. Will we ever learn that we are fabulous no matter what number we are?

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avatar Posted by on Oct 30 2014. Filed under As You Like It, Featured Content, Opinion.
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