Thursday, May 10, 2012

Weight-loss Celebrities in an Addictive Society

It's a weird culture. Self-indulgence is so common that anyone who can break the habit becomes a minor celebrity. Weight-loss is a huge (no pun intended) phenomenon. Someone spends years deeply immersed in a cycle of food addiction. Remarks about "fat people" are taken as personal insults and anyone who makes them is lacking compassion. Never mind that the subject of this comment may have an issue with regards to self-respect. The fault now lies with the commenter for being insensitive. Internal problems are externalized. Obese people are the victims of a readily available supply of fattening foods. The purveyors of these foods are responsible not the consumers. If they make their children fat by feeding them these foods, again, the purveyors are responsible.
And so if someone escapes this cycle of disavowal and victimization the path to celebrity-hood is opened wide. That may be because for every story of an obese person losing 200 pounds,  a million stories of heart disease and diabetes are reported as statistics. And while I applaud anyone who wakes up to the responsibility of taking care of his/her body my concern here is the million. For if we make one in a million a celebrity for doing what the entire million should be doing anyway haven't we really made the exception that proves the rule. The celebrity's story is dramatic. It's "inspirational". It speaks to everyone telling us that we can all do it. And it's utterly false.
For the million struggling with weight issues there's another million who are not. None of them will ever become celebrities for recovering from obesity because none of them are obese. They won't get any recognition for doing what it is incumbent on every human being to do, i.e. take care of the gift we've been given. Only if that gift has been despoiled and brought to the brink of ruination does the story become noteworthy. And it goes without saying that only a very few of those stories can ever occur or how else will our celebrities remain special. They must be kept in that special class of people who have "turned their lives around" by exchanging one set of compulsive-obsessive behaviors for another. And on a subliminal level everyone, the obese and the thin, knows the truth. The causes of our obsessions and addictions can never be addressed by changing the window dressing. The tail doesn't wag the dog.
Frankly, I'm unimpressed with these tales of miraculous turnarounds. All I see is people cashing in on doing what they should have been doing all along anyway. Something, incidentally, that a lot of us have done every day for most of our lives. Am I to be accused of being insensitive for not hanging on every word of someone's weight-loss tale because I know of so many other much more compelling stories of loss and grief, and triumph and joy? Stories that don't start out with massive amounts of self-indulgence. I believe it may be better to establish a culture in which the crucial question is asked; Why does self-indulgence get the better of so many people? Why is addiction such a prevalent phenomenon in our society?
I see addiction as the illusion of separation. Whether it manifests as obesity or heroin use (or greed for money) is of no consequence. Except to note here that were half our population addicted to heroin, drug addicts might be getting more compassion than they currently do. Once we've convinced ourselves that we are separate our choices become our own and we can proceed to make them under the guise of victims. And as victims we need not worry about accountability. We are exonerated from addressing how our choices feed into the greater connections of our lives. We "manage" quite well in some cases, but in the end the devil will get his due. The real heart of the matter is to know the true self. And while there are huge numbers of life coaches out there who say they will help us do that the real work can only be done by us. Our spiritual connections to each other, indeed to everything, can't be understood and grasped by focusing on our how our bodies look to ourselves and others. Our cult of "attractiveness" isn't going to help us solve the enormous problems humanity faces. The luxury of not doing the real work that life on this planet requires is no longer affordable.

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