A few weeks ago my therapist let me borrow her book, Body of Truth, How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight–and What We Can Do about It by Harriet Brown. She recommended it to me because she specializes in Body Dysmorphia and I have shown symptoms of this disorder over the years. The Body Dysmorphia Disorder, or BDD, is defined as “A mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance” by Google.To put it simply, the book centers on how messages from the media as well as the health care “industry” (because it is one) are abusive to our culture. Yes, we are a country of obesity and heart disease, but perhaps these issues don’t have as much to do with self-control (with food) as we are meant to believe.
A few studies in the book surprised me, such as the theory that Type 2 Diabetes may not be caused by being overweight, but might actually be triggered by dieting itself. A generation ago, there was no such thing as “pre-diabetes” or “pre-hypertension”. It is possible that these diagnoses are an invention of the health care industry to make people further obsess over their weight. Can you see how an obsession with weight loss could be good for the economy?
I know from experience that weight is not the planet around which all heart diseases orbit. When I was 24 I was diagnosed with hypertension and I weighed about 150 lbs. No one ever told me I needed to lose weight to get my HBP down. However, now that I have been diagnosed as obese, my doctors often tell me that once I lose weight my blood pressure will go down. When I have told them in the past that I had blood pressure issues even when I was a “normal” weight, they have alluded to my being lazy and not trying hard enough.
The book also addresses the struggle we face as Americans to be taken seriously if we are overweight. Something many people struggle with (especially women) is the thought that we are never fully successful if we are overweight. Look at how we treat celebrities, whether they are fat or thin. We are objectified by our bodies before anyone listens to a word that comes out of our mouths. Whether a doctor, lawyer, professor, or politician, as a woman our weight is our Achilles heel for self-acceptance.
I thought this book would make me feel better, but it actually makes me angry and sad because the truth hurts. I put a lot of effort into eating well and practicing mindfulness, but because of some much more powerful hurdles like genetics, stress, medication side effects, and an extremely busy schedule, I am having a very hard time losing weight. I am highly educated, have a career that I am proud of, two gorgeous, healthy, and intelligent sons, an amazing partner in my life. I have so much wealth, but every day it is a struggle for me to look at my reflection in the mirror.
Hopefully in the not too distant future there will be an obesity revolution. The health care industry will be exposed for its racket: convincing patients to part with billions of dollars on weight loss tactics that are extremely difficult to succeed with. The result? We feel guilty and hopeless and binge or at least give up on weight loss. The next day, burdened with guilt, we spend money on a new weight loss plan. It’s a repetitive cycle that rarely has positive long lasting effects. In fact, many studies have shown that it is yo-yo dieting that causes heart problems even more than just staying overweight.
So where does that leave us? Do we give up on weight loss? I can’t help but feel obligated to continue my quest for a smaller body. My weight has steadily increased since my college days, and every attempt I’ve made at weight loss has eventually backfired.
I have decided to try a new approach by analyzing how my body responds to different foods. Maybe there is a hidden allergy or trigger in there. I know what foods are bad for high blood pressure, but there may be some other ingredients (such as dairy and meat) that could be making my body do rebellious things.
Body of Truth has caused me to think of my body issues as the real culprit, not so much the obesity. My perspective needs to change, and it won’t be solved by extreme dieting. I invite and encourage everyone to share thoughts and experiences with HBP and weight loss below.