I came across a link to this article on Tumblr, and I’d say it’s spot-on. So much advertising for food these days is of the “you don’t have to feel guilty when you eat this” variety, which of course implies you SHOULD feel guilty when you eat other foods. Now, I can certainly understand food guilt to a certain extent, because I eat a lot of things I probably shouldn’t. But why is this idea so prevalent in our culture, to the point where “guilt-free” is a main selling point?
It’s part of the general obsession with dieting and losing weight that I come across all the time, especially among women. How often do I hear people mention their target weight, as if the main factor in health is the number you see when you step on the scale? There’s also a lot of talk about BMI, which was made up by a statistician rather than a medical doctor, so why is it so prominent in the medical profession today?
I take issue with the attempt to reduce complicated issues to numbers in general, IQ and credit score also being among them, but maybe that’s a topic for another day. I don’t think people who talk about losing weight mean to shame people who weigh more than they do, but I’m sure it happens anyway. Besides, it’s a really boring topic, so why bring it up so often? Don’t you have more interesting things going on in your life than losing weight? Getting back to the advertising, I have to suspect that a lot of products advertised as healthy, because that’s now more important than whether it’s any good, aren’t even all that good for you. Jared from Subway mostly lost a bunch of weight because he was walking all the time, not so much because he ate subs. Besides, the subs he did eat were of the all-vegetable sort that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot beanpole. A three-meat sub probably isn’t particularly low in calories, especially if you get it with potato chips and/or cookies. Another product that’s gotten this treatment is yogurt, something I’ve liked since childhood, but now it’s apparently only for women on diets. I don’t even particularly like the term “diet soda,” although I guess it sells well.
There are reasons someone would want a soda without sugar even if they aren’t on a diet, which is why the joke about ordering a super-sized meal with a diet soda isn’t doesn’t work. Look, we all know there’s a link between diet and health, but why not let people and their doctors worry about that, rather than having the media bombard us with food-related guilt? Then they have stories about how disturbingly prevalent eating disorders are. Gee, you don’t think the constant insistence on food guilt and fatness being such a huge problem might have something to do with that, do you? Our culture is so weight-obsessed that there was talk of Chris Christie being too fat to hold public office, or something along those lines. Strange, I don’t recall that rule being in the Constitution. I wonder if it was an issue for Taft. There are plenty of valid reasons to dislike Christie without bringing his weight into it.
One thing that particularly drives this obsession home is the success of The Biggest Loser. Now, most of what’s on television is crap, but it isn’t actually harmful. This show, on the other hand, not only promotes fat hatred and the importance of what it says on the scale over overall health factors, but it encourages people to lose weight really quickly. In fact, that’s the whole point. Yeah, there are doctors on the staff, but somehow that still doesn’t fill me with a whole lot of confidence.
Pictured: The head of “The Biggest Loser”‘s medical staff
What’s kind of interesting is that I had meant to talk about this anyway, then the other day there was something on one of those celebrity gossip shows about Jillian Michaels cheating by giving caffeine pills to her team without the consent of a doctor, which spawned some angry e-mails about how this was setting a bad example and she should be fired. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.