A Holiday Story On Eating, Losing, Loving And Forgetting
With Christmas looming, Thanksgiving might be a distant memory. Think back: turkey, corn, candied yams, pumpkin pie, and the figure-busting leftovers that sustained you in the aftermath. In a blink, there will be more turkey, potatoes and gravy, washed down this time with eggnog and more grog.
Then it will be time to loosen the belt and wait for New Year’s Eve. For millions of Americans, welcoming 2012 means gorging on party food, guzzling champagne and making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Welcome to a story about food. It’s a good story about eating, losing, loving and forgetting.
Meet Jess*. Jess has been a hard-core dieter since she was fourteen trying everything from home delivered meals to health retreats and psychotherapy. She has also tried every diet fad known to humanity. There were periods of madness when for two days she ate nothing but apples, or cheese, or chicken or salad. There was the liquid diet, when she lived on blended muck with raw eggs thrown in. There was also the green diet and the tahini (not to be confused with Tahiti) diet. And let’s not forget her mother’s favourite: the grapefruit diet.
Since diets were not enough, Jess drank lemon juice in warm water before breakfast for ten years, until her dentist broke the bad news that her tooth enamel had all but gone. She has spent a fortune on messy creams to melt cellulite and painful machines to pummel her womanly hips. I met her last September in an early morning exercise class. As we briskly walked on a path to a healthier us, Jess mentioned she wanted to lose 40 pounds. The difference between Jess and the rest of the country is that as the year comes to a close and the national butt size swells, Jess has begun to gently shrink. According to her, all she needs to melt the pounds is an iPhone, a Facebook account and oodles of kindness.
You see, Jess has joined an online weight loss group. She spends a few seconds every day photographing the meal she intends to consume. Then she uploads the image. Sometimes she shares a recipe or wails about the pizza that she ate at 2 a.m., after a hideously long day at work. Mostly, though, it is a simple transfer of information. Welcome to weight-loss in the online era. In a thoroughly modern marriage between food monitoring and group therapy, Jess uses a phone to replace journal entries and an online social network to replace chilly evenings in drafty church halls.
Until recently, the online world had no fan in Jess. She spurned Facebook, believing it to be a vehicle for the maintenance of superficiality and the wanton destruction of the meaningful; a pretender masquerading as a friend factory for the lonely or needy. Unsurprisingly, Jess does not fit the Facebook demographic. She isn’t an adolescent, a gen-Y social media junkie, or an ageing boomer trying to reclaim her youth by reconnecting with her past. Jess is uninterested in online dating. She simply wants to lose weight, and she craves accountability without the public shaming that often accompanies it.
This is where love comes in. After she posts, an online nutritionist comments, advises, warns, counsels, supports and praises. For Jess, who was raised Catholic, her uploaded images are like a confessional box. The positive feedback that she receives, with unconditional support, are like a loving priest’s three Hail Marys assignment to a repentant sinner. The encouraging and authentic messages she gets from the members in her online weight loss group give Jess the strength to keep
fighting losing. She has realized that if others can be kind to her, then she can be kind to herself. She has become her own best friend once she realized that liking herself feels better than a lifetime of self-loathing.
If research is accurate, by February, most of us will have abandoned our resolutions, especially those dealing with losing weight. All our good intentions will be replaced by huge disappointment and guilt with our lack of commitment. Should we just forget about them? Or should we do like Jess, and find a way to help ourselves in a more loving and constructive manner? In the meantime, we could start by making a Do Not Forget list to:
1. Ask Santa for an iPhone
2. Embrace Facebook
3. Eat smaller portions (and thus to treat all super-sized food as if it were arsenic)
4. Never forget that diets are like New Year’s resolutions: useless gimmicks, best abandoned.
So, in this holiday season, forget all resolutions except maybe to love yourself, as you love others, and to have a wonderful time.
*Name has been changed