Apparently obesity levels are getting out of control because people don’t take personal responsibility. So there it is. Cut down on your pork life, mate, get some exercise. Then the obesity crisis, as the media so loves to call it, will reverse itself and everyone will be happier.
Let me have a bit of a look at this Personal Responsibility claim, from a personal experience perspective.
I grew up in a house with a little yellow book. A tiny little book, but one with power. For it told you the calories of so, so many foods. My mum referred to it regularly, and when I could read I too would read it. Then came that beautiful Jane Fonda with the biggest workout book a child could dream of. A woman, donning leg warmers, and looking very strong and beautiful. Oh, and tapes, there were lots of tapes to go with the book.
Through the 80s my mum constantly watched what she ate, with the guide of books, telling her what she shouldn’t eat, what she she eat more of, how much of all those things she should be eating.
Come the 90s I remember Rosemary Conley, The Metabolism Booster Diet, and a VHS. This is where I really started to join in voluntarily. Being a larger girl than most others my age this was my first serious self motivated venture into weight loss. Garlic mushrooms the diet way, wow, you never forget that.
As a young child you receive the messages from those around you. “Clean your plate, there are children starving in Ethiopia”, “You can’t eat those sweets, they’ll make you fat/fatter”. As a child you rely on external cues an awful lot, and you learn what is wrong and right from what is said to you, not always from how you feel. So the child who feels full after a few small mouthfuls, but is then told they have to keep eating, learns that they can’t trust their body. Adults must surely know better.
This isn’t a post about blame, but I know, as an adult who has grown up having heard the words “Clean your plate, there are children starving in Ethiopia” I am surrounded by many others with very, very similar experiences. Adults who grew up in homes with mothers very conscious of calories, of worrying about every morsel that went into their mouths. And it has an effect. For me, I started to firmly believe I could not trust myself. That I did not know what my body needed. That I needed some diet and fitness expert to tell me how much was enough.
To finally hear the revelation, at the age of 28, that actually, my body can look after itself if i start to listen, was a freeing, amazing thing. But at the age of 27 it’s a hard message to process, and takes a long journey in finally believing it. 7 years down the line I feel it is more of a cha cha than a straight forward walk. And in moments of doubt I start to hear those negative messages again, telling me I can’t be trusted.
Especially messages such as the big lie that I’m “Making Excuses and Taking No Personal Responsibility”
Because actually, I am taking MORE responsibility than ever before! I’m owning my body. I’m owning what I put into my mouth. I’m owning the good choices and bad choices. I’m owning the amount exercise I do or don’t take part in. I’m not listening to the critics who tell me I can’t be trusted, so that they can sell me their message. I’m listening to my body, my hunger, my emotions.
And that might just scare the experts. Because what if we all suddenly realised this innate ability? What if every fat person started to believe that tuning in and listening to their bodies would actually help them lose weight? What if every emotional eater allowed themselves to sit with their emotions without reaching for food? What if every big woman finally decided she wasn’t going to wait until she’d lost a few pounds before getting into the pool and moving that beautiful, powerful body?
So you there, the weight loss expert, we know your tricks. With your disempowering words. Your polls. Your blame game.
And I, for one, know you’re wrong.