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  • Sarah Dionne, MSW, LICSW

Are You Happy... and Fat? Part II

Updated: Nov 16, 2018



For many years I have been fascinated with body image and underlying causes of soaring rates of obesity in the US. As a woman in recovery from anorexia/bulimia and binge eating I find myself sensitive to such topics along with an intense desire to help those suffering. Obesity and body shame are issues I’m confronted with daily in my practice, which spurs me to learn more, to seek a deeper understanding. Depending on what you read, watch or who you talk to, there will be many fingers pointed in many different directions.


One of those fingers is pointed at the food industry such as McDonald’s and Burger King. Shouldn’t they be to blame since they sell low cost high fat food? The FDA now requires calorie content to be made available to hungry customers. Yet, regardless of displaying calories or offering “healthy options”, obesity still soars.


There’s also a finger pointed at sugar. It’s as addictive as cocaine! (which isn’t known to be physically addictive, you can’t even get into a substance abuse detox center for cocaine). I am also a substance abuse counselor and i can tell you, regardless of what the substance is (alcohol, heroin, fentanyl, whatever) the drug itself is not the problem. It’s the symptom. Yes, it has to be under control before addressing the deeper causes for addiction, but without addressing whatever that is he or she will not stay sober.


Sugar is the same. Addictive or not, it’s not the problem.


Another finger is pointed squarely at the obese individual. I have heard so much about education to help those struggling better understand what and what not to feed their bodies... as if people don’t know an apple is healthier than fries. This premise is based on the idea that people who are obese are generally ignorant. Sorry, fat people are not stupid.


It’s easy to blame the pandemic of obesity on the food industry, lack of education, laziness, stubbornness, addiction… I could go on. While in no way do I disagree with offering nutritional information, healthier options, or loads of education... are they addressing the true problem? No. They are band-aids for symptoms. It’s always easier to focus on the surface; it’s much harder to take a deeper look and address the actual ailment.


Discontentment. Hopelessness. Unhappiness. Therein lies the problem.


It’s pretty difficult to motivate a person to take the challenging journey to lose a hundred and fifty pounds while shoving pictures of waify airbrushed models or perfectly chiseled men in her or his face. It’s totally unattainable, they can’t have that. Ever. And we try to tell her, embrace your beauty, love yourself! Or tell him, focus on your strength, make your own body powerful! Those words are empty in the face of society’s impossible beauty standards. And while someone can tout, that’s shallow, it’s an excuse, just don’t pay attention to that, focus on health… blah blah blah.


It’s very difficult to not desire the social ideal. After all, we are constantly being told through all forms of media that we should reach for perfection. Being brainwashed to desire something that is out of our reach lies within the roots of discontentment. The recipe for unhappiness is simple.


Wanting.


In my last several posts I have written about Body Love and the roots of unhappiness. We are a surface society. As long as we look good we must be good. In Are You Happy Part I, we explored cultural roles in the unhappiness of the masses through the grotesque collaboration between news media and marketing. In summary:


Unhappy with the normalcy of life? Scared of being shot or blown up? Hate your body? Buy this amazing product, it’s life changing! You’ll be happy again and feel totally safe and wonderful!


Reading that you might think it silly; of course that’s a lie! Yet, using the right words at just the right time… it works.


Seeking to improve health through appropriate weight loss and exercise is a realistic endeavor and does not lie in the realm of want. However desiring the unattainable perfect body does.


And what happens if you get there, wherever there is? The same thing that happens when you buy that new car or get the biggest house on the block. Nothing. You’re simply there in front of the merrier with a fit body… but that won’t last. It can’t. And it also may take a lot of effort and stress to keep it, especially if you are someone who’s body yearns for a higher weight, like it or not. In that case, you are working against the body’s natural composition. This is an arduous task and one that is harmful physically, mentally and spiritually.


Eventually this battle with the body can lead to giving up, letting go of all hope, turning to food to unconsciously abuse the body out of shame and resentment. He or she failed at what society demands.


How does all of this relate to a pandemic of obesity? I believe obesity is hopelessness. It is an unconscious physical manifestation of I want that but I can’t have it… so why bother. It is wanting something that is impossible, which creates resentment toward the self, resentment leads to depression, hopelessness and suffocating unhappiness. It is not laziness or stupidity. If you shove something I want but can’t have in my face enough, eventually... I’ll give up.


I once thought, But if i don’t want I’ll never achieve any of my goals! Let me clarify; want and motivation are not one in the same. In brief, wanting overshadows what we already have. Wanting says you’re not enough and THEY have more. I WANT what they have. Motivation does not ignore our past achievements or current state. Motivation says I am enough, i have enough now, and I can continue to grow. Motivation embodies gratitude. Want does not.


What is the antidote for the toxic wanting? Acceptance… which is far easier said than done, and a profoundly deeper process than one may think. My next post will go further into healing unhappiness, which can only lead to healing the body.



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