Essay On Obsession Of Weight Loss

By Julia Smagacz (University of Akron ‘17)

“This Is How To Lose Weight and Keep It Off!”

“Lose Weight In Your Sleep - Seriously!”

“17 Days to Significant Weight Loss.”

“26 Tips to Help You Lose Weight and Feel Great.”

I browsed Shape.com for fitness and health articles, and these are the titles and headlines that I found. Noticing a trend? I do too, one that isn’t unique to this one fitness news outlet. Our society has become obsessed with the idea of losing weight.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Weight loss can be empowering, rewarding, and healthy, of course. Bodybuilding.com has an incredible section on their website dedicated to people transforming their bodies. Being a dedicated follower of the bodybuilding and fitness industry, I love reading this page. These stories, like this one I read recently, are motivational and uplifting.

The facts and sources don’t lie. The CDC notes the numerous health risks associated with being overweight or obese, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, and the CDC reports that 38 percent of adults and 17 percent of teenagers are obese.

Now why would I have a problem with our society’s weight loss craze after reading these scary numbers? It would certainly seem that America needs to lose weight. But my problem with the weight loss craze doesn’t have to do with physical health. I’m not discouraging people who have weight to lose from pursuing weight loss plans and diets in a safe way. My big issue with our society’s obsession deals with the effects of body weight struggles that are invisible but very real: the mental and emotional aspects.

We associate weight loss with success. Fitness. Happiness. Beauty. Power. Weight gain, on the other hand, is rarely ever something to be celebrated. It’s inherently a bad, negative, stigmatized concept (refer again to those scary statistics above). I’m horrified that things such as fat shaming and body shaming exist nowadays, and are accepted. Perfectly normal, beautiful women are labeled as “plus-size” and “unhealthy” simply because they don’t match society’s definition of fitness and typical body shape (slay, Ashley Graham, slayyyyyy).

I have witnessed firsthand the growing stigma surrounding weight gain, especially among young women. For a long time, I was blinded by the tempting headlines and weight loss articles. I drove myself mad stepping on the scale each morning until I became a slave to the practice. I worshipped my mirror. I ate less and less each day, striving to make that accursed little number shrink. My calorie intake was likely close to or even less than 1100 per day. I justified my obsession with becoming skinny and thin by promising myself I’d be a happier, more athletic, fit version of myself. This was going to make me amazing. Pretty. Strong. Confident. But I was I wrong.

I eventually met with a dietitian and was talked into sanity...a sanity that unfortunately did not last long. I traded starvation for the pursuit of a very strictly healthy diet, to the point where I completely swore off certain foods. No eggs. No red meat. Definitely no sugar. I couldn’t eat out at restaurants and would fall into panic mode if I couldn’t get out of the situation. I had to cook everything for myself, because there was no way I’dreally know what other people put into my food. I fell back into the pattern of weighing myself until the scale became my captor again.

These thought patterns crept into my exercise habits as well, until I hated myself on days I didn’t work out. I lost 11 pounds from freshman to sophomore year of college, and in the summer of 2014, I was diagnosed with orthorexia nervosa and OCD. Orthorexia is, quite simply, the unhealthy obsession with a “healthy” lifestyle and diet, to the point where everyday life is disrupted. I correlated my diet and weight to my emotional well-being; if I was skinny and eating a perfect diet, then I was happy.

I was involuntarily sidelined from playing college volleyball in the spring of 2015. The sports physicians discovered that I had a dangerous iron deficiency, one that would have required an emergency blood transfusion had my levels been any lower. I wasn’t allowed to practice. Lift. Run. For two and a half weeks. Even when I returned to practice, I wasn’t allowed to jump, power lift, or sprint. On top of that, I weighed 139 pounds, which, for a 6-foot Division I athlete, is severely underweight. I had a choice. I could sit the bench, or I could gain weight and play. For me, there wasn’t a choice. This was the sport and the team that I loved.

So, the campus dietitians put me on a 3,000 calorie-a-day diet, which horrified me at first. At our weekly team weigh-ins, I had to watch all my teammates smile proudly if their weights had dropped, or roll their eyes and mutter “damn!” if they’d gone up. I felt incredibly self-conscious and odd stepping on the scale, seeing a three-pound increase, and having to remind myself that this was good. This was making me strong. This was making me better.

In all, I gained 11 pounds, and I now sit comfortably at 150. I’ve finally learned to love myself and my body, and I could not be happier. I’ll say it again...I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been in my life, and this was only after I’d gained 11 pounds. I lift heavier and run faster than I ever thought I could. I found the stronger, happier, more confident, vibrant version of myself at 150 pounds, and looking back, I know now that the 139-pound girl was a skeleton, a ghost, unhappy and sick. I had to reverse my way of thinking and separate what society thought about weight gain from what was actually true for my health. And I am so glad that I did, for the mental and emotional reasons, as well as the physical.

Lose weight if you need to, or most importantly, if you want to. Gain weight if you want to. Do it because you want to, not because you feel forced to by others or by an ideal image of fitness or beauty. You and only you get to decide what makes you happy. Take it from someone who had to make the journey and break away from a misconstrued view of fitness. Loving yourself and being healthy - truly healthy - is more important than any health craze.

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Media and celebrities place extreme amount of pressure on women to maintain a slender figure. Through childhood to adulthood, we are bombarded with images of stick skinny woman and this is the way almost everyone wants to look. Although there are other factors the media is the primary source of obsession with being thin. Why has this become such a popular trend? Is this what society says is acceptable? Prove has shown that ladies exposed to pictures of thin models experience more depression,stress,guilt,shame,insecurity and body dissatisfaction than those exposed to photo of average sized woman.

In a world where images seem to be everything, it’s hard not to pay attention to the way you look. Everyone wants to be that Victoria secrete model, the problem is that many go wrong way about obtaining that image and even go the extra of hurting themselves to reach that ideal look. How far would you go to lose a few pounds and improve your energy, flexibility, sex life? More importantly, how far would you go to make people admire your muscular 6-pack abs, massive muscles, or shapely bottom and toned tummy?

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Today, people aren’t just improving their general health with 24-hour gym memberships and careful dieting, no, instead they are obsessed with transforming their looks, physiques and personal identities. Our favorite Hollywood stars are going through extreme health or hazardous behaviors while steadily shrinking pant sizes, profoundly influence our cultural values, beliefs, behaviors and self-awareness and this is damaging our well-being. Every media influence is shoving in all American girls, women and sometimes men faces that thin is in and fat is out.

The burden of attempting to have the flawless build has been climbing to unrealistic heights in the past years. in the forty’s the sexy look for women was to be curvaceous and have some meat in her bones, however from the late eighties more emphasis was placed on having no figure at all. The best body for woman today is slender body, if you have big curves you are considered overweight. This damages the self-concept or less than perfect lady. The increasing pressure to be thin and the unrealistic images portrayed in the mass media may have devastating effect on woman self-perception, self-esteem and identity development.

The western culture is obsessed with fat and many Americans are so worried of fat that two out of 10 believe that all fat should be eliminated from diet enterly. The popularity of this anti fat diets movement become increasingly evident in types of products which has a no fat ,low fat, or reduced fat. Many female role models, past to present, has had to struggle with media pressure to be thin. Many are trying to keep figure that is acceptable to the public no matter what the consequences . A role model who had such issues is Oprah winfrey, she had lost and gained weight and every time someone has something mean to say about her.

The pressure to stay thin and trim in Hollywood is relentless, leading many stars to diet, drugs and daily dates with their personal trainers. But sometimes stars fall off the boat and pack on the pounds. Always in the public eye and under scrutiny extreme celebrity weight shift may be due to stress, a movie role or unhealthy lifestyle. The obssesion of weight loss and thinness emerges as a dominnt cultural ideal,equally as important new broadcast innovation made it easier to advertise and promote the new bodily ideal,the hollywood cinema helped to create new stardards of appearance and bodily presentation bringing home to a mass audience .

The importance of looking good, since then within consumer culture slimness has become associated to beauty. It’s no secret that Oprah Winfrey has struggled with weight loss for decades. Over the years, she’s spoken candidly about bouncing from one diet to the next, emotional eating and her drug of choice-potato chips. In 1988, the Oprah show received its highest rating of all time when she celebrated a 67-pound weight loss by wheeling a wagon full of fat onto the stage, soon after, her size 10 jeans didn’t zip and pounds began to add up again.

In 1992 Oprah met a personal trainer, at the time she weighed 237 pounds, the heaviest she says she have ever been. She made a commitment to her health, began to lose weight and even ran a marathon…but the weight roller coaster continued. When Oprah turned 50 in 2004, she seemed to have her health and weight under control. For years, she maintained her figure with diet and exercise. She says she thought she had it all figured out but in 2007,as she dealt with emotional and medical issues, the number on the scale began to creep closer o 200 What is it about celebrities that make them so irresistible? Do they live different lives? Or maybe they have the ability to buy what they wanted and they have such glamorous life. The truth is that we are obsessed we like to fantasize that our lives could become like theirs-we too could be beautiful, desirable, talented and rich. We are getting brain washed leading us to do crazy stuff so as to keep in shape. Person body image can also vary depending on the person race, culture or historical believes.

Although everybody is going slim, I always receive a call from my mom in the morning asking how many pounds I have gained so far, she will complain and insist that I need to gain a lot and that would leave me wondering is gaining weight a curse or blessing, the African context, if you drop down those pounds in the public eyes you will look poor,depressed,sickly or even may be starving. Strength,power and riches will be associated with those who got that look of more and more pounds so when the western are doing everything to lose it somebody somewhere is asking how can I gain those pounds.

Work cited
NHLBI (2013)why is health weight important.
http://www.ehow.com/how_2124013_lose-weight-like-oprah-winfrey.html

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