Thursday, February 02, 2006

No Wonder We're Messed Up!

The cover of this month's Family Circle magazine perfectly captures why women verge on insanity when it comes to food and body issues.

The largest headline says WALK IT OFF: NEW WAYS TO LOSE WEIGHT FAST perched just above an unbelievably delicious-looking chocolate cake that fills most of the cover. The icing is in such clear focus, you can almost dip a finger in for a lick. YUM! A smaller headline says something like THE MOST DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE CAKE YOU'VE EVER TASTED.

WHAT THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THAT?

Here's what goes through a woman's mind when she sees a cover like that. No doubt staring at it while waiting in the grocery line, she becomes mezmerized by the chocolate cake, but also predictably sucked in by the promise of fast weight loss. She is convinced that any other woman who looks at that cover has more control over her desires and feels nothing while looking at the cake. No...those other women don't care a whit about desserts. They are checking out the weight loss/walking article instead. They have discipline. They have no trouble being thin. They are better than her. She feels weak, ashamed, and hungrier than ever. That cake...she can hear Homer Simpson moaning in her head: AUGHHHHAUGGGGHAUGGGGGHHHHHHHH!

That's a complex mini-drama playing itself out in just a few minutes in the grocery line. And it is CRAZY MAKING!

In a PBS Frontline entitled "Diet Wars," one doctor declared amazement that anyone in this country (where eating is ALWAYS socially acceptable and life gets more and more sedentary) can EVER maintain a healthy weight. And this was a show without the plethora of food commercials that inhabit the average television show. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? About 6 years ago, I videotaped a bunch of children's commercials on Saturday morning to examine gender roles portrayed in kids' advertising. Lots of great comparisons between Hot Wheels and Barbie, toy dogs and light-up weapons. Just one year later however, the same effort was almost impossible. There WERE no toy ads. Commercials had become a repetetive blur of sugary juices, candy, and fast food. Eventually, I figured, our kids wouldn't have any gender traits at all. They'd all just turn into big puffed-up blobs that look alike, sitting and eating, sitting and eating.

So, if I were a subscriber to Family Circle, here's what I would do. I would sink my teeth into some of that cake. And then I'd probably go out for a walk. God knows I'd need the air to clear my head.

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