“How’d you like to join our weight loss competition?” my chiropractor asked me, even though I was wearing one of my most slimming outfits. I politely declined—the last thing I need in addition to a spine that needs weekly ironing is to enter a weight loss competition with other patients.
Sure, I could lose a few kilos, and I plan to. Just like I plan to every year. However, as someone who has squandered a humiliating amount of my life’s energy worrying about my weight or experimenting with absurd diet lunacies, such as the egg and tomato diet, the all-the-carbs-you-can-eat-in-an-hour diet, and the morning papaya-wheatgrass smoothie diet, I no longer will be taunted into reckless behaviors such as group weight loss competitions as the new year dawns.
Besides, there is delightful good news for the huggably proportioned among us, including surveys showing that dieting is losing its cool. Only 20 percent of American adults reported dieting in 2012, down from a peak of 31 percent in 1991, and the pleasingly plump are finally getting a little respect. One survey revealed that only 23% percent of Americans agree that people who are not overweight look more attractive than those who are overweight. Back in 1985, 55% of Americans felt the same way. That’s a big fat change in how we perceive the plus-sized. Take that, Shape magazine!
Even the august Journal of the American Medical Association concluded in a study last year that the slightly plump among us – defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30, have a 6% lower risk of death than people whose BMI is in the normal range of 18.5 to 25. You know it must be reliable information, because the article includes the words “systemic” and “meta-analysis.”
I already knew this, which is why I never leave home without a little precautionary padding. How much post-graduate education does it take to figure out that in lean times, the ample-proportioned individual will outlast the size 0 who leaves you with splinters after she hugs you?
I’m not defending overeating. Obesity is unhealthy, so beware of that big bowl of Chunky Monkey ice cream and prodigious portions of pasta. But the focus on heroin-chic thinness is just as bad, and countries including Israel, Spain and Italy are using the force of law to keep fashion models’ weights above starvation levels. Even the French Parliament (yes, the French!) once tried to pass a vague bill that outlawed “publicly inciting extreme thinness.” That’s a law I could get excited about, and I’d be willing to march in the streets with posters. In 2011, the UK banned a web-based ad that used a model with “highly visible” ribs, calling it “socially irresponsible.” Gee, you think so?
I hope these new laws can work. If more models were forced to eat a half-pound burger each week on a bun, with a side order of fries, maybe they’d stop looking suicidally unhappy when they skulk down the Milan or Paris runways.
It has taken me years – okay, decades – to forgive myself for not having the “ideal” figure and knowing I lacked the discipline to ever have one. It helped to have had the catharsis of writing a humor book about my dieting and exercise escapades, but more significantly, my Jewish values helped me understand that God gave me my body as a gift – even though I might have some quibbles with the packaging – to use to fulfill my potential in this life. I need to take care of it, exercise, and not stuff myself with food. But I have also found that living a life of purpose, emphasizing acts of good deeds and trying to focus on things of transcendent meaning, creates the kind of inner beauty and confidence that shines through. Building a sense of beauty from the inside out also helps withstand the temptation to reach for another helping of potatoes, or that generous slice of cake at a party.
Despite that nice little sermon, many of you may still insist on measuring your protein on little scales. Before you begin, allow me to share some of my tips – based on decades of experience—to help you lose a few pounds, but not your sense of humor.
1. Being overweight may be a bad thing. Being over-weighed may be worse.
2. Avoid diet schemes requiring fiber-rich candy bars, compounds made from rare African mangoes that promise to burn 3,000 calories a week, and books called “Why Dairy Products Will Kill You.”
3. Resist the temptation to buy any scale that “speaks” your weight. If my scale announced my weight, I’d shoot it.
4. Joining the words “Lose Weight” and “Effortlessly!” in the same sentence may be a form of hate speech.
5. Eating a few thick slices of bread should not induce guilt in anyone—unless they have been dipped in melted Snickers bars and then deep-fried.
6. Ask restaurants why they charge more for an egg white omelet than for a regular omelet. After all, they get to keep half the egg.
7. Become a power napper. Refreshing naps improve your mood while lowering your blood pressure. Besides, you can’t snack when you nap—trust me, I’ve tried it.
8. There is no such thing as “spot reducing,” unless you have a really good dry cleaner.
9. Friends don’t tell friends that they have completely sworn off white sugar and flour and feel better than ever.
10. You can be strong and fit even when your weight exceeds government standards. After all, how often is the government right about anything?