The writer C.S. Lewis once aptly likened we humans to that individual who "after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left." It's a perfect description of our bipolar popular culture which is producing in increasing numbers, young women who are either battling eating disorders or packing on the pounds, neither of which is good for their long-term health.
Anybody who's been through a supermarket checkout line recently knows the travails of Jessica Simpson as she's gone from pinup idol to the Mom-Jeans industry's worst advertisement. As the father of daughters I spend a lot of time thinking about how to thread that needle -- how to help them grow up without an unhealthy obsession with being skinny on the one hand and on the other how to steer them off of a path that will put them on Oprah's couch.
While each of us is ultimately responsible for our own weight, there are plenty of culprits who benefit from encouraging young girls to permanently enter a world of constant binge-ing and purging for the same magazines that sell ads for unhealthy foods served in supersized packages, feature stories of overweight or starving actresses alongside diet tips for how to work off the pounds accumulated by the aforementioned foods. It's enough to make a young girl crazy and set her off on a path to either unhealthy exteme. But just because pop culture is selling doesn't mean we have to be buying and there are myriad ways to just say no and create a generation of counter-cultural young women who are healthy and fit but not obsessed with their weight.
The first and most important component is to turn off the messages that advertisers are sending young girls and Tivo is the perfect tool. We don't watch any food commercials at our house (sorry advertisers) because we want to choose the foods that we really want to eat, not the ones we're told by the industrial-food-complex that we're supposed to. We always speak positively about food, making sure that food is never seen as the enemy, but as something positive and good for us. We even talk positively about junk food, though we don't keep it in the house, as something that can be enjoyed occasionally, lest we create an unhealthy desire for it. Fruits and nuts are always available and whenever possible we try to cook with real food. Crazy, I know.
Ask me in about 20 years if the whole experiment worked or not, but we can't do much worse than we're doing now in a mixed up pop culture that obsesses over each pound and produces Karen Carpenters who starve themselves to death, Kirstie Alleys who eat themselves into second careers as circus side-shows, and others, like poor Jessica Simpson, who can't seem to find the proper balance.
Mark Joseph is a writer/producer and editor of Bullypulpit.com. He is a frequent contributor to the FoxForum.
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