I doubt anyone hasn’t come across this article yet, but just in case, PLEASE read Debra Sapp-Yarwood’s opinion piece (via Shapely Prose and fat fu) in the Kansas City Star. Many of the points she made were ones I was struggling to convey last week, but I failed to get my point across anywhere near as concisely as Ms. Sapp-Yarwood. Nor could I approach the subject from the unique standpoint of a successful (substantial amount of weight, kept off for 5+ years) weight-loss dieter. I swear I have never seen such a realistic, fair attitude out of a dieter (OK, so the bar is pretty low since most who bother to bestow their wisdom on the FA community are trolls anyway, so the norm is more like “I LOST 20 LB AND FEEL GREAT I ONLY NEED TO LOOSE 30 MORE. I WILL NEVER BE FAT AGAIN! OBEESE PEOPLE QUIT WINING AND GET OFF YOUR BUTTS!!1!” or “This is the problem with America. All of you fat ladies would rather eat fast food and make excuses, but the fact is losing weight takes hard work and determination. Anyone can do it if they really try. I’ve never been fat and it’s because I EAT RIGHT and EXERCISE. It’s a basic fact that if you eat less than you burn off, you’ll lose weight. And fat girls are just not attractive so don’t expect any sane guy to want to date you.” [*BINGO!*]), and I hope this is a harbinger of things to come.
Meowser (among others, but she is the one who sticks out in my mind as working tirelessly to get this point across) often reminds us that your privilege (in terms of accessing healthy food, leisure time for exercise, etc.) has everything to do with whether you can realistically maintain what we think of as a “healthy lifestyle,” and I am so glad to see Sapp-Yarwood emphasizing this point as well (never mind that as she also points out, not everyone who manages to maintain a “healthy lifestyle” ends up thin or even not-fat anyway). This seems to be one of those facts of life that nobody wants to acknowledge, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Take me; when I was working, I put in often long but not super-long hours. My commute in my last job was an hour and a half round trip. These facts already put me in a far more comfortable position than many people. Then add on the fact that we have no children and few evening commitments, and still more often than not I had to rush to cram in my after-work run before dark, then drive my exhausted, sweaty self 45 minutes home, where I would feel guilty because my husband (who had gotten home from the gym only a little earlier owing to his shorter commute) would have had to start cooking dinner without me. After all, you have to have a healthy home-cooked meal–restaurant meals are evil and cause THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC, right? We’d scarf dinner down in front of the TV and either go to bed right away, leaving stacks of dirty dishes on the counter and feeling like we hadn’t had any time to unwind, or stay up too late, which of course isn’t good for you either.
My point is, my husband and I have everything going for us–we both have cars, we are within a few minutes’ drive of (and can afford to shop at) grocery stores stocking pretty much any healthy food we could possibly wish for, and although dangerous traffic on our street means we can’t just step out the door and take a walk, we can easily hop in the car and drive a few minutes into a pleasant, pretty small town with sidewalks where you could probably run in the dead of night with no fear for your safety. (Failing that, and this is starting to sound kind of ludicrously fortunate, we belong to a “family-friendly” gym that is for some reason situated in the middle of nowhere, only about a mile away from our house.) And we answer only to our own schedules so we can and do take advantage of these privileges at our convenience. Take away only one of them–let’s say, god forbid, something happened to my husband, or I had to get a second job, or I had a baby, or we had to move to (or even work in, since I always found it easiest to run right after work on weekdays) a less-safe area, or I started traveling frequently for business–and honestly, I can see the whole setup falling down like a house of cards.
When you look at it this way it seems almost, or not even just almost, offensive to hear stern guilt-inducing “personal responsibility” lectures about fruits and vegetables, healthy home cooking, and an hour or more of exercise a day directed at people who are poor, single parents, have depression, chronic pain, or mobility-limiting injuries, lack convenient transportation, have special-needs children, work multiple jobs, or face other even mildly complicating factors in their lives.
And then there is the fact that some people might simply–what a concept–feel that there is more to a life well lived (such as time spent with family or friends, activism, creation of art or handiwork, volunteer activities, home improvement, or just sitting on your ass enjoying a beer and American Idol–well, that’s my version, anyway :) –after a long workday) than the endless pursuit of a “healthy lifestyle.” And you know, I think they just might be right.