The cultural focus on weight engulfs many people's conscious thoughts, the majority of whom do not have an eating disorder. For people whose bodies do not conform to the societal norm, and for many who cannot see their body realistically, there is a plethora of options to attempt to manipulate weight and body. The various industries, including food, diet, supplement and exercise, seek to capitalize on the intense personal need to control weight.
Not infrequently, patients contact me or see me largely to withstand the onslaught of messages and quick fixes for weight loss. The intense pressure to look a certain way and, just as importantly, to fix problems with one's body that our society insists must exist is relentless. Our minds are bombarded with this message. Personal value seems to hinge on the expectation that we are all seeking to perfect ourselves and our weight.
And so industries rise to offer solutions. The exercise industry continues to grow exponentially and provide a source of constant guilt and seemingly endless expenditure. The food industry pulls us between diet food and fast food like a ping pong ball. Supplements for weight loss abound. And medicine has gotten into the game from weight loss clinics to the endless stream of new obesity medications to the very lucrative Bariatric surgery centers.
It's extremely hard to find the voice of reason. No one is saying we are wasting our time focused on body and weight. The message to live a full and productive life is nowhere to be found.
The broader message I impart to patients who come with these worries is simple. The goal is to put the overall concern about weight into a larger context. Figuring out one's own personal needs and struggles remains paramount. Finding direction in one's life is the goal. If weight becomes the sole focus, life starts to feel like an endless rat race without a point or an end. Acceptance of one's body is difficult but a necessary goal to find out how one actually wants to live. Although this message applies to eating disorder recovery, it has true meaning for everyone in the world we inhabit.