Conforming to type

If media stereotypes are to be believed then I am not a typical woman. I do not enjoy shopping, own very few pairs of shoes, rarely wear any make up and seek the attention of a hairdresser about once a year for a simple trim. I am aware that my choices mean that I do not look as good as I could. When I see how well groomed my friends are I do wonder if I should make more of an effort. Perhaps I am just too lazy; I guess the way I look to others is just not important enough to me. In one area though I am all too predictable. I am constantly trying to be just a bit thinner. Those media images of what is supposed to look good have obviously had an impact.

Yesterday a new month started and I had a 9am appointment with my Personal Trainer. I wished to set up a new program with a new target – to lose fourteen pounds in six weeks. This is pure vanity. I have a couple of events coming up in mid March and want to look better than I currently do in my party dresses. Nobody is saying that I don’t look good already but I don’t feel good. This is all about me. My Personal Trainer explained about how the body metabolises food, how it reacts to exercise and how it copes with sudden change. If I am to lose that amount of weight in that short a time then I need to be radical. He set up a challenging exercise program and explained what I needed to do with my diet. Now it is up to me.

I like to consider myself a fairly optimistic sort of person. When I disappoint myself I believe that I will do better next time. I try to take my life one day at a time. When I let myself down I think, ‘I will do better tomorrow’. I like new beginnings. New Year is, of course, the big one. Whilst I don’t make specific resolutions, I do start each new year with high hopes of achieving personal goals. New months are also times when I look forward to what lies ahead and think about how much better I will make myself be; putting a whole month behind me and reinvigorating my plans and goals.

The gym that I belong to is always busy first thing on a Monday morning. Like me, there are so many people determined to start their week well. Whatever they did in the previous week or month or even just over the weekend, they are going to make this week better. They are going to work out on at least three days this week and every week from now on. They are going to shift that weight, improve their fitness, feel better about themselves. Of course I know that this whole obsession with weight loss is a bit sad. We have been conditioned to aim for trim, slim bodies yet so much of the fun stuff that we do involves food. We celebrate by eating out in a restaurant; we meet up with friends for drinks and a bite to eat; we welcome guests to our home with a carefully prepared meal. As parents we are told that happy families eat together. Good times equate to consumption; good looks to denial.

When I managed to achieve significant weight loss last year I was amazed at how much healthier I felt. Losing the weight was as much about looking after my body (we only get one) as about improving the way I looked. My current desire to lose weight is, however, pure vanity. It is not necessary. I am torn between wanting to do it because I know it will make me feel better about myself and not wanting to conform to a media induced stereotype of how I am supposed to be. I blame the media for a great deal of social engineering and misinformation but on this issue I am aware of the facts and am still choosing to conform.

Trying to lose weight just to look better is such a frivolous issue – a first world problem that will not make me a better person. What I am hoping to achieve, though, is to feel better about myself. If I can be comfortable in my own skin, if I am happier with any part of myself, then that is worth striving for. Self improvement comes from within.

English: Back cover of Barbie booklet about ho...

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