Sunday, May 31, 2009

Our Obsession With Weight

Every once in a while a client will ask me a very simple question for which I have no answer. How do I stop obsessing with food and my weight? Sometimes they say their obsession has shifted. Before, they were obsessed with feeling fat and now they're obsessed with feeling thin. But still the obsession is there. And it's not just with women. I had a long conversation with one of my male clients yesterday about the pressure he feels to look a certain way. In fact, my graduate school thesis was about the increasing prevalence of eating disorders in males.

Our society is consumed by a fascination with weight, and it's like a virus that's spreading. Do you remember reading about those studies that showed small towns where there was no television? As TV was introduced into the communities, so were eating disorders. We think of girls in adolescence and on into college as being those afflicted with the obsession with their weight, but it doesn't stop there. What about the women who are watching Desperate Housewives? What about the boys who are growing up watching TV and movies replete with men who have six-pack abs and zero body fat? A male coworker is constantly telling me about the drink supplements he takes to help him get bigger muscles. He never gets enough sleep, but he makes time to go to the gym for two hours every day! My clients come in all sizes, ages, races, genders, sexual preferences... It seems there's no escaping the weight fixation.

And it's an obsession that can make you feel bad about yourself, don't you think? How shallow must I be to worry so much about 5 lbs? Shouldn't I just care that I'm healthy and happy? Losing 5 lbs isn't going to make me a better person! I should be above that! I don't need to compare myself to Jessica Biel!

Sigh. So here I am. Sitting in my office facing another client who wants to know how to stop fixating on her (or his) weight. And I feel like a failure for not having the answer. I can tell her to turn off the TV, to put down the US Weekly, to stop reading the celebrity gossip online. And that will probably help. But is it enough? As a weight loss consultant, it's almost my job to be obsessed with weight. I don't know how to answer that question for my clients. So I'm asking you do we stop the obsession?

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