Is It possible to be plump & happy?

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We are living in a world that is size-phobic. In a world where size zero is emulated, skinny jeans are the fashion must-have and low fat, low carb and Atkins diet are household buzzwords. So where does a fat person fit in amidst all of the skinny mania?

Is there anyone who is not on a diet these days? In fact, diets and related weight loss solutions are a huge industry. According to Lovely Ranganath, Dubai based nutritionist and dietician, collectively a large percentage of people are trying to lose weight at any given time, spending up to $30 to $40 billion each year to do so. “Many of these people do not even need to lose weight while some others need to lose weight, but are not successful,” she says.  People have attached so many dreams of happiness to weight loss that they are willing to risk huge sums of money for the slightest chance of success.

Preconceived Notions

“Why don’t they just try and lose that weight?” is something a lot of us secretly think when we see an obese person but Lovely explains that we need to consider that most overweight people cannot, for whatever reason, become slender. “Only five percent of all people who try to lose weight are able to maintain their losses,” she says, “Then consider the prejudice involved in that assumption.” People come with varying weight tendencies just as they come with varying potentials for height and degrees of intelligence, yet we do not expect tall people to shrink or smart people to stop thinking in an effort to become “normal”.

Thin people can also wreak havoc for overweight individuals by creating tension and blaming. Katie from Dubai who is a proud size zero says she worked very hard to remain slender even after having had three children. She is bothered by obese people and says it is partly their own fault that society has issues with them. “It is not easy for any of us to lose weight or maintain a slender frame. But when I see these oversized women moaning and groaning about their weight while eating oversized meals of junk food, it makes me seethe inside. Don’t they want to be slender and happy? I just can’t believe they are fine with being fat—nothing fits them and worst of all, they look sloppy and lazy…”

The Health Aspect

The question of whether a person should lose weight depends on many factors: the extent of being overweight, age, health, and genetic makeup among them. Not all types of obesity, says Lovely, will cause disease or shorten life expectancy, and just as there are normal-weight people who are unhealthy, there are obese people who are relatively healthy. “The concept of “healthy obese” people is relatively new, yet it has become generally accepted; the debate focuses on how to characterize this group’s health status and risks,” she says.

Ideal Body Type

So many of us have been brain washed into thinking that size zero is ideal irrespective of whether or not the person is healthy, has an eating disorder and so on. “A food-centered society that favors thinness puts people in a bind,” says Lovely. There is no doubt that our society sets unrealistic ideals for body weight, especially in women, and Lovely says that this devalues those who do not conform to them. “Even medical professionals are prone to praise people for losing weight and suggest weight loss to people who do not need it for their health,” she says, “As a result, even beautiful; normal-weight preteen girls are already worried that they are too fat. Two-thirds of adolescent girls and one-third of adolescent boys are dissatisfied with their body weight and shape.” A person’s best defense against eating disorders, points out Lovely, is to learn to appreciate his or her own uniqueness. One individual who is happy and comfortable in her own skin is Julia Mason, a schoolteacher in Sharjah who says she has no desire to lose the excess weight she is carrying. “I am a size 22 and I know I am overweight. I have always been fat; first I was a chubby baby, then a fat child and then a fatter teenager. I just was blessed to be born in a family that valued my qualities and achievements as opposed to my size. Of course college was another story and I found that even adults can be extremely cruel—I hear comments all the time like does she really need to eat any more cake, can’t she see how fat she is and so on. But I am active, eat healthy foods and am happy with who I am. I personally feel that it is the skinny people who have issues with themselves and just take their anger out on me because they can’t accept themselves for who they are while I can…”

The Goal

According to Lovely, the goal is not weight loss but health gains. “Parameters such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol, or even self-esteem are more useful than body weight in marking success,” she says, adding, “Of course; the same eating and exercise habits that improve health often lead to an appropriate body weight and composition as well.” Whether the goal is health or weight loss, expectations need to be reasonable. Unreachable targets ensure failure. It is better to aim for realistic and achievable goals. Then, Lovely notes that if success is greater than expected, there will be rewards instead of disappointments.

Positive self body image development

Why do some overweight individuals feel upset, sad and embarrassed to be overweight while others wear their weight proudly and are accepting of themselves? Mrs Alla Tchemodanova Davies CM.NLP C.NLH CHt, Member of the National Guild of Hypnotists, USA says you need to look at what self esteem really is… “It is acceptance of who you are, acceptance of your past and the present, and you accept yourself in own unconscious mind; because it is this that makes you who you are, giving you your self body image and self esteem,” she says.

Again we must ask ourselves what does  a positive body image mean. “For each individual it is different, longer legs, or a sharper nose for example. We are all carrying our own mind map of how we want to look, and that mind map was laid out by our parents and our living environment,” says Alla, adding, “So in this context, people do play a role in our image if we choose unconsciously to let it happen.” It is all about acceptance, and whether we are accepted or not. If a child feels accepted, he or she will feel comfortable in their own skin,” she says.

Case Study:

WORRIED ABOUT HER FRIEND

Anita Rihal says her best friend is obese but sees no issue with it. “I have known Marli for years and she has mushroomed into a massive size 18. The doctors have warned her that she may be on the verge of developing diabetes but she just says she is fine with being big. She even makes jokes and laughs about her weight out loud. In fact some might even call her a positive role model because she is so happy in her own skin. Still I worry about her not because she looks big but because of the health implications. In fact her mom came recently for a visit and pulled me to the side to ask me if I could speak to her daughter about embarking on some kind of a healthy eating program. When I broached the subject she laughed it off. What can I do really?”

Famous Celebrities who are not size 0:

These celebrities are more known for their talent and achievements rather than their size:

Oprah Winfrey
Marie Osmand
John Travolta
Queen Latifah
Rosie O’Donnell
Janet Jackson
Whoopi Goldberg

Case Study:

MY COLLEAGUES HATE ME BECAUSE I AM FAT!

Monica Rhodes is a size 16 but says her job in public relations makes her stand out like a sore thumb. “I am very positive and optimistic irrespective of my weight. I recently joined this new company and every single one of my colleagues is pencil thin. From the day I joined, hardly anyone speaks to me! I don’t understand—is obesity a virus that you get when someone fat sits next to you? I have even brought homemade sandwiches and cookies and invited everyone to join in but strangely not one person came. That same day later on I overheard my colleague making rude comments that I needed to worry less about food and more about work and losing weight. I was really hurt—what does my weight have to do with my job performance? If I am fine and happy why do others have such issues with my weight? I don’t know what people object to most — the fact that people can be fat and successful, or that they exist at all.”

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