Getting a Better Body

[Note for discussion of diet and weight loss.]

It’s that time of year again, when the New Year’s resolution weight loss ads outnumber even the regularly scheduled weight loss ads. I don’t watch standard TV, so I’m safe there. But I do listen to the radio, and they’re there. I change the station; they follow. I glance at the magazines in the grocery store check out. Suddenly I find myself staring at the tabloid headline “Elvis Sighted in Overturned Port-a-Potty” because that seems like the safest news ever.

And the Internet? On the Internet, they are everywhere.

The ones I’ve seen this year mostly follow themes of “getting a better body” and “creating a new you,” and I find myself thinking, None of that is true.

I mean, I could make a lot of dietary and exercise choices that would impact my body. I could, if I wanted, alter my diet (at least in the shorter term) for outcomes such as weight loss, increased physical endurance, better blood chemistry, more thorough pain management, or steadier emotional health. Each would have some kind of effect.

But they wouldn’t create a “new” me. Nor would they get me a “better body.” However I try to influence it, for better or for worse, this body is the only one I’m going to get.

So much of the rhetoric I see surrounding diet, weight loss, and some mainstream fitness plans (which often sell the promise of weight and/or visible fat loss as a perk) seem predicated on the idea that we can somehow “trade in” our bodies. Like if we log enough miles run or crunches crunched — or enough low carb meals or few enough calories or whatever — we’ll somehow qualify for a corporeal upgrade.

Only, that’s not the way it works. I could follow all the trick diets and all the trendy exercise routines, and I will still have this body. I could overload on simple sugars and deny myself exercise — both of which are pretty well guaranteed to make me feel like shit warmed over — and it would still happen within this body. I could eat and exercise in the ways that best balance all my health needs — and the end result would still by my body. I probably would not look or feel precisely the same with each choice, but some parameters would simply not be altered — or alterable.

Not that I think people can’t make dietary or exercise changes for good, solid, realistic reasons. But I think the reasons people are trying to sell me right now are none of those. They assume that if I do all the “right” things — in other words, pay them enough money — I can somehow behave as if a new body is coming, as if this one doesn’t matter.

When in fact, this body is the only one I’m going to get. I can love it or not, accept it or not, treat it well or not — but there is no exchange policy.

[Notes: The video I’d like to end with includes discussions of sex, the word “fuck,” and discussions of disordered eating.]

[Margaret Cho from Notorious C.H.O.]


I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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Posted in ahimsa, non-asana
One comment on “Getting a Better Body
  1. Caitlin says:

    I loathe the rhetoric of the “better body” that is so often attached to weight loss advertising, as if the bodies we have now suck and will continue to suck until we shave our body-fat percentages down to the teens. And of course, it reduces a person’s worth as a human being to their weight, which is always bullshit.

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