Women can be mean. Mean to friends, mean at school – but I have always felt we save the meanest of thoughts to direct on ourselves.
Body loathing is a particularly nasty type of ‘mean’, and the whole range of guilt, disgust and shame that comes with it.
And its something many women live with for their entire lives.
In an ongoing quest for understanding the role of logic and science in the sometimes illogical Beauty Industry, I recently read Survival of The Prettiest: The Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff.
There are some brilliantly logical explanations based on genetics, evolution and natural selection on many topics, like: why we prefer facial symmetry, why people in colder climates may have longer noses, and why we can sometimes be sexually attracted to people we hate. And among all of this fascinating stuff came this particular thought-changing paragraph regarding human weight:
We are adapted to a world of periodic famines caused by droughts, floods, earthquakes, and the scarcity of plants and game. That the body has a propensity to store fat, and to respond to food shortages by resetting the metabolism and using food more efficiently, is the bane of dieters but highly adaptive. Or at least it was adaptive before we raised grain-fed animals that yield prime sirloins with 30 percent fat, or refined sugar to create éclairs and donuts
We are not lazy or hypocritical, gluttonous or evil, we are human. And we are up against millions of years of evolution that have selected us for our ability to eat heartily, store fat, and take in as much fat, salt and sugar as we can.
To re-cap, the human body has been designed over millions of years to:
Take in as much fat as possible
Keep and store this fat on the body as long as possible
And function whilst burning off as little fat as possible
We are designed to live off a very small available amount of low nutrient and low fat food (plants, herbs and some lean meat).
And this scarce food? We had to physically hunt, gather and / or grow it.
In Developed Nations over the last thousand years, and even more in the last hundred, we have nurtured a lifestyle where our food (which is plentiful) is packed with an abundance of almost toxic levels of fats and sugar.
And the cheaper (and more available) the food, the more packed it is with fats and sugars.
We do little or no physical activity to find our food – in fact most of us are forced to do little or no physical activity at all. Since we developed automobiles and even more recently, the computer, we can go an entire day with almost zero physical movement.
So whilst making leaps and bounds in technological and mechanical advancements, we have constructed a gilded cage, which grants us ways to get our lovely fatty food delivered with the click of a mouse or press of a button, and prohibits any physical movement to burn off the ensuing calories we consume. Great!
Or in the words of the Nancy Etcoff:
Until this Century our output matched our input. We had to be active because there were no cars to transport us, supermarkets to provide us with packaged goods, gadgets to do our household chores, and stores of every variety to provide our every need. In the world of which we evolved it made sense to hoard rest time. Why we became obese is not mysterious; we have plentiful food, bodies not equipped with sufficient brakes for fats and sweets, and we have arranged the world so we need less and less physical exertion to survive. We are forced to do the unnatural: refuse food and engage in purposeless activity for the sake of burning it off…
I admit I have never fought a major weight battle (thanks only to my genes). And the times when I have tried to lose weight have left me in utter awe at anyone who has been able to lose significant amounts of weight. Seriously, could it be any harder??
So when you feel the urge for the donut over the carrot, or the couch over the run, remember that these feelings are as natural as the urge for sex, or the urge to smile. You are not lazy, disgusting or pathetic (as the negative talk inside your head can sometimes tell you), you are normal.
So be kind to yourself, living a healthy lifestyle was not necessarily MEANT to be easy. The knowledge of this doesn’t make trying to do it any easier, but surely it makes ourselves feel a bit better.
Note: The irony and distaste of discussing weight loss while there are hundreds of thousands of men, women and children suffering famine does not escape me. If you can afford to donate money to help, please do. I did.
After 15 years in Beauty Marketing, Kirsten launched Lanolips in 2009 – a no-nonsense range of lanolin based lip and skin preparations. Kirsten grew up as the self-described ‘dumb one’ in an immediate family of scientists and Doctors, including a Professor of Genetics Father.