It’s day five of my diet. I’m mentally exhausted after a day of making healthy choices of things like turkey bacon and dressing-less lettuce, but feeling pretty good about the way I look. My love handles, although you can still get a handful, are shrinking. My arms are down to a four-second shake period when I reach for something. I plop down for a mindless TV session (since I’ve “earned it” from working so hard on cutting the carbs) and turn it on to discover yet another unavoidable diet commercial.
Without fail, they’re everywhere: television, magazines, billboards, even bookstores. I’m hypersensitive to them now that diet is on my brain, but deep down, I know there’s a huge problem with them. I don’t want to take a pill that makes me look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t believe that a nasty looking liquid can transform a woman who is over 300 pounds to a size four in only two weeks. I don’t even believe any of the “before and after” pictures are actually the same people. It’s a diet, not a miracle. And is it just me, or are some of the people in the commercials actually orange? Do they sleep in tanning beds?
These muscle-maniacs and supermodels have a lot of nerve, claiming they’re “real people.” This real person doesn’t want bulging muscles, and I gave up on being a supermodel a long time ago when I ran into a pole while waving at my seventh grade crush. There’s no room for softball-sized bruises on your face in the kingdom of supermodel perfection, and unless you have a face like Jennifer Lopez or a voice like Beyonce, the media doesn’t want to see anything “junky” or “thicky.” But, (speaking of butts) the media’s idea of the perfect body is not mine, and I’m guessing a lot of women feel the same way.
Who’s to say what your perfect body or perfect diet is? In reality, I would love to be able to cut carbs and sugar, but I’m an active girl who needs energy … and an oatmeal raisin cookie every now and again for sanity. And please don’t judge, but I’m not giving up a glass of wine at girls’ night or a beer at a sporting event. The hard part is having the ability to actually say no to Cheetos, and hotdogs, and french fries, and mint chocolate chip ice cream, and Chinese food and … you get the point.
So where do you look to find the perfect balance of being healthy yet also realistic? Believe it or not, not all media is out to destroy our self-perceptions like a fat kid would destroy cake. In fact, I think there are actually some good role models on television today. Take Ellen DeGeneres, for example. Her entire show is about loving life, having fun, and taking care of yourself—not to look perfect, but to feel great. Then, of course, there’s her take on exercise—who can watch the first five minutes of Ellen without standing up and shaking their groove thing? That’s the type of diet and exercise mentality I need.
There’s also the Dove Real Beauty campaign, featuring real women with real curves, being proud of what they look like. Now don’t get me wrong, they look fabulous. But they look normal. In other words, there are no muscles showing through their shiny purple spandex or midriff-revealing tops showing off their size zero waistline. This campaign promotes feeling comfortable in your skin. And I’ll admit it got to me. It made me feel like putting on that white bra and panties and flaunting my stuff. Don’t worry, I didn’t. (Or at least not in front of any people or mirrors!)
The idea here is understanding that my ideal shape and size can be—and probably will be—very different from yours. That said, I still can’t help but be drawn to new diet fads, work out regimens, and cheesy commercials that make me wonder if I can or will ever be that skinny. What is it about society that we can’t shake the desire to be prettier, look younger, and lose weight? I’ve been blaming it on the media but I think that’s debatable. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? (Is it sad if that sparked a fried chicken craving?) Did the media create our perfect-body obsession with their “TrimSpa Baby” and “Have you called Jenny yet?” campaigns? Or did we as a culture—with our neurotic obsession of looking like a Victoria’s Secret model—establish what the goal was and then the media reflected that? Are we driving the media or is the media driving us?
We’ll leave the heavy thinking to Dr. Phil and his cohorts. The bottom line is, I’m trying. A lot of women are. My goal isn’t to fit into a size zero, which let me tell you is not happening anytime soon (or since first grade for that matter). Nor is it to reach some manufactured number I found on a weight chart in a health magazine. My goal is to define and reach my own personal ideal that is balanced, healthy, and realistic. If I can succeed at that, then as far as I’m concerned, I’ve figured out the secret to my first successful diet.