Wednesday, June 08, 2005

the real slim shady?
Where to start this - what I fear will be - rather mixed-up post? It's about dieting and body image (which is something I try to avoid discussing with anyone but TA, for fear of sounding neurotic/obsessive) so feel free to skip this post if the topic doesn't float your boat.
Yesterday I was chatting to an older, male, co-worker in the kitchen. I was making myself a cup of green jasmine tea while he was staring longingly at the 'free vending machine'. 'I'm trying to find a non-chocolate-covered biscuit,' he said. I suggested that he try a Special K bar, but he replied that these are foul. 'I would have one of those sultana Elevensies bars,' he said, 'but they are 300-odd calories each - you'd have to do about an hour on the treadmill to get rid of that!' I nodded knowledgeably. He settled for an Alpen bar and I asked him if he was watching his figure. 'Yes, I've been watching it expand ever since I started here!' Sighing, I said, 'This place has that effect on everybody!' To which he replied something to the effect that I didn't need to worry about that, which was very sweet of him but rather missed the point. I know the calorie content of every bar of chocolate and snack in that damned machine. I was in the kitchen making green tea, green tea without milk. I walk at least five miles a day, quickly. Finally, after having a very tearful, drunken conversation with TA about the extra weight I've been carrying for the last 18 months, my inneffectual efforts to lose it and how my size and shape are having a negative impact on how he thinks I look (he essentially said that I'm not making enough of an effort with my appearance, which is true...because many of my nice clothes don't fit me anymore and I refuse to buy bigger ones), at the moment I'm strictly following a GI-inspired diet. As a result, I am hungry before meals. I often go to sleep hungry. Which is pretty much how it was in the run up to our wedding too, I was hungry almost all the time for a few weeks, before my stomach got used to smaller meals.
This conversation got me thinking yet again about the paradox: the women we [I] most frequently look at thinking "if only I could look like that, naturally skinny" are the ones who are the most likely to be walking around feeling hungry.
And here's another odd thing, I'm not sure that walking around a little bit hungry is such a bad thing. When I'm feeling good about myself and aren't trying to bury feelings under a mouthful of something sweet and comforting, I think that it's no bad thing to REALLY want your next meal (and believe me, if I don't snack and if I eat small healthy meals, I ALWAYS look forward to my next meal). I'm not convinced that those BMI index figures aren't a little too high. I know that I have some degree of body dysmorphia and let's face it a deeply problematic attitude to food, but I am currently at the low end of ideal in terms of BMI and yet - TA and I agree - I'm still carrying around a fair amount of lard, too much lard.
Where am I going with this? I'm really not sure, I told you it would be a mixed-up post. But I wonder what the human body looked like back in those long-distant, hunter-gatherer days. We were lean, right? And there's research to back up this idea that a little bit of hunger is good for us - those that eat a calorie-restricted diet tend to live longer - right? So, in this media age, when we are bombarded with pictures of malnourished people - both as models and victims - and yet live in a society that doesn't really know hunger and where food is constantly available, is it any wonder that our instincts get mixed up?
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts - on hunger, body image, the media or even the twisted concept of supplying a free vending machine in the office stocked full of chocs and crisps and a drinks machine that spews out terrible pre-sweetened hot chocolate and other vile hot beverages, but very little fresh fruit and often no water.

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