Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sun, Sun Go Away, Eavesdropping at the Local Pool, And the Real Reason Americans are Fat

Sun, Sun Go Away!

Is anyone else in Seattle over all of this sun? Personally, I think it’s crap. I want the rain and cool weather and overcast skies back. I want a proper Fall, crisp and chilly and free of that obnoxious glaring ball in the sky. I want to wear sweaters and scarves and boots again. I can’t think straight with all of this light. Yeah, sure, it’s all well and good to have a bit of sun here and there, but come on! Now it’s just a rude guest overstaying its welcome.

Before moving to the Great Northwest, I’ve always lived in places that had four distinct seasons, and I miss that. I never fully adjusted to this weird slurring of summer into a sort of gray, flat, not-really-winter, then that into a watery, pale, not-really-spring until late July, at which time we finally get “summer”, which then just fades again into wishy-washy grayness and the occasional massively disruptive snowstorm.

Worse yet, I suspect the lack of distinct seasons here is why everyone in Seattle is so vague and non-committal and passive-aggressive. Mind you, it’s just a theory—I haven’t fully worked out the science of it yet—but I’m pretty convinced the weather patterns are somehow a direct cause of the famous Seattle Malaise/Freeze/”Being Seattle”/Whatever-You-Call-It. See? It’s happening to me! I'm so weatherized by this place I can’t even commit to defining exactly what’s wrong with Seattleites!  

Things I’ve Overheard at the Local Pool:

“My friend’s cousin worked for Warren Buffet. He’s a good person and all, but you know, it’s just money, money, money all the time with him."

“My boyfriend is told me he’s worried about my debt. That means he’s thinking my debt is going to be his debt someday, which means he's thinking about marriage. I’m so happy!”

“They took cartilage out of my one knee and then grafted it onto my other knee, and then they put pins in my bones and now I have to lose weight because one pound lost is like three pounds to your knee. So I switched to a high-fruit diet, because I really love sugar and that kind is healthy.”

“Listen, the only way to solve this is to just to be totally honest with your roommate about how much she annoys you.”

(From a 12-year-old in the changing room) “NO, Miley Cyrus’s hair is not cool. It’s like, totally hideous. Final word. Now please fix my straps?”

“She was a surrogate for them and they all lived together as one big family so everyone could watch the baby grow, and they were all in the delivery room for the birth and now they go on family vacations together. I think it’s just marvelous.”

The Real Reason Americans are Fat

You want to know why? Because maintaining a “normal” weight, especially as a female past the age of 40 (with a family history of obesity) is a full time job and a literal pain in the ass, and the only reason I’ve been able to lose what I have over the last three months is through unhealthily obsessive behavior, 24/7 hunger, irritability, and total laser focus on working out and “watching” what I eat to the detriment of everything else in my life. And, even with all of that, I’m still seven pounds from my goal weight and cannot, as teh internet so helpfully suggests, simply “redouble workout efforts and cut back further to get off that stubborn last ten pounds!!!!”--since I truly can’t eat less without passing out, or fit one more stupid workout into my day without quitting my job. Yes, folks, that is what it took to get to a so-called “normal” BMI. And I don’t have kids, I don’t care for aging parents, and unlike many people in this country, I only work one job. I’ve had the privilege of being able to prioritize working out. I could access a pool less than a mile from my apartment for exercise when my knee injury prevented me from working out at the gym. I can spend our grocery money on designer lettuce rather than being so broke (as I have been in the past) that I have to rely on cheap, calorie-dense carbs for my main source of nutrition. (Ah, Top Ramen. Remember me? Those were good time, baby.)

If it’s this hard for me, coming from a place of relative privilege and years of eating-disorder practice in my 20’s, I can’t imagine how hard it would for be anyone else. American are not fat because they are undisciplined, lazy slobs who stuff their faces with fried chicken. (Oh, God, fried chicken sounds so good right now. Fried chicken with a bowl of Top Ramen.) Americans are fat because being thin is too damn hard and unsustainable. Everything in our environment, our culture and our genes is working against us. Americans are fat because we’re stressed to the max, overworked, sleep deprived, stuck in our cars for hours a day, absorbed with caring for our families, and either can’t afford or don’t have easy access to gyms or reasonably safe outdoor walking spaces. 

Americans are fat because fast food is cheap and there's no time and no money and we're too worn down and overworked to prioritize our health, and those who have give up after a while because we may have other things to think about, like, oh, I don't know, paying the mortgage or figuring out how to juggle a full-time job, kids, and caring for aging parents all in one day, and a burger from Dick's is faster, cheaper and easier than a home-cooked meal made with home-grown organic greens and free-range chicken. 

Did I manage to lose some weight? Yes. So what? That doesn't make me morally superior, that just makes me a psychological mess who only managed it by fighting my biology constantly and focusing on little else for three solid months. I'd like to get back to the fun things in life, like writing, paying attention when Mr. (I-Don't-Why-It's-so-Hard-for-You-I-lost-15-Pounds-In-One-Week-Just-Eating-One-Less-Oreo-A-Night) Typist talks, and having enough energy to stay awake past 9:00 p.m.

Of course, there's also the radical idea that maybe some people are just naturally heavy and perfectly healthy and fit that way. Or maybe some people just like to eat, but exercise—not so much. (Points to self.) Or maybe some people have injuries that make it very hard to exercise, or take medications that cause weight gain, or have hormonal problems or thyroid issues or other things going on that make weight loss nearly impossible. Who cares? It’s no one else’s damn business. This weight loss shit is hard, especially for women of a certain age. And at least for me, there’s very little reward at the end of it, other than an unexamined,  thin-privilege-hogging, pathologically fear-driven relief that I am a “safe distance” from the specter of obesity. But I can’t keep this up as a lifestyle; very soon now I am going to have to settle for a happy medium and start eating a regular amount of calories again, which means that my weight is simply going to settle where it wants to settle, and that might be (gasp) above a BMI of the magically “acceptable” 24. Since I have no plans to switch careers and become an underwear model any time soon, I'm fine with that. And please, media? Just tone down the hysteria over obesity and “personal responsibility.” We’re all doing our best just trying to make it through the day, okay?  Peace, out!

--Kristen McHenry


risaden said...

Thank you Kristen. Well said. I think I'll post it on my fridge.

Steven Cain said...

You obviously have not visited the Southeast. I think this neck of the woods is what the media is refering to when they mention our Nation's obesity epidemic.