Image by size8jeans via Flickr
I was having lunch with some of the girls when the conversation turned to weight and diets. I don’t like talking about weight. I think in America we are far too obsessed with it. It has become an unattainable and damaging standard of beauty in this country. Whenever I find myself thinking too much about my weight, I consider that a red flag that I am subscribing to culture-induced norms rather than my own.
I know from personal experience that weight is not simply a function of how much you eat and how little you exercise. We tend to judge people rather harshly because we see the overweight as people who have no discipline. But weight can be affected by so many things, including medical problems. I have a thyroid condition that causes me to lose weight when it flares up. Nothing irks me more than knowing I am unhealthy yet still receiving compliments on how great I look, due to the fact that I have become unusually skinny.
The conversation turned from weight to diets. This is another preoccupation unique to America, that if we only eat exactly the right things, we can have perfect health as well as perfect weight. We just have to find that correct formula, and man, do we keep trying. The bookstores are crowded with books telling you just what to eat for your blood type, your body type and so on, most of it based on dubious science and weird conclusions.
Right now, I most enjoy cooking and eating from the Italian, rustic or bistro French and Mediterranean cuisines. As far as I can tell, they enjoy a very different relationship with food than we Americans. Food is not medicine to them, nor is it evil. Food is something to be relished and enjoyed at mealtime, and not obsessed over otherwise.
I know I need food to be healthy, and I know that food greatly adds to my enjoyment of life. I know I feel best when I don’t overindulge, but it’s okay to have a french fry or a piece of cake or a dish of ice cream or a really nice cheese from time to time. I know I get the greatest satisfaction when I cook a wonderful meal of fresh, seasonal ingredients.
I have made a conscious choice not to obsess over my weight and not to treat food as medicine or as the enemy. And it makes me a little sad to sit down with a group of intelligent women who obviously view weight as an arbiter of success. Life is too short, I say.
And no, I don’t think eating just the right diet will make it longer.