Thursday, December 22, 2011

Skinny is not Healthy

The Globe and Mail Hot Button blog, a column designed merely to get attention by shocking and appalling audiences, making it the Fox News of the website, ran a headline yesterday stating that family members should let each other know that they're fat this holiday season. Yes, because in the midst of an awkward turkey, stuffing and potatoes dinner, everyone wants to be reminded that they can lose a few, particularly when they're with their family, which is not going to aggravate anyone at all.

The blog argues that a tough love approach is needed in order to combat obesity, which is an increasingly large, pardon the pun, problem around the world. But the very notion that a frank discussion of how fat a person has gotten is going to lead to productive results is flawed and ridiculous.

First of all, if a person in your family turns to you at the dinner table and tells you that you should lose a few pounds, your first inclination is probably to tell them to go to hell. This inclination is entirely correct and justified. You are well within your rights to react this way and end the discussion.

Second of all, if you really want a person to take an interest in their health, you should encourage them to be healthy. It's a general misconception out there that skinny equals healthy. There are many skinny people who eat badly or don't exercise, but the consequences don't hang off their belts. It's usually good genetics or bone structure, but as infuriating as it may be, it does not mean that they are de facto healthy. They can be just as prone to high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes or cancers if their lifestyle habits don't add up.

The same can be said for bigger people as well. Just because they tip the scale in the opposite direction, doesn't mean that they aren't healthy or active. Skinny also doesn't equate happy- an active lifestyle, balanced diet and a general feeling of satisfaction with ones life doesn't just come from being skinny.

And if you're seriously concerned about someone's health, try being healthy yourself. Be a good example. Be the conscientious host who offers veggie and fruit platters and sparkling water at events. Don't load up the table with fatty foods and then tell people that they can lose a few. It's a great way to anger family and alienate friends to tell them that they're fat.

One final point and this is indicative of a larger problem in today's world: you don't want to shame people into losing weight. When you tell someone that they're fat, guess what happens to their sense of self worth? This process of shaming people who are overweight leads to negative body imaging and it can affect every aspect of a person's life. It can lead to terrible eating disorders and a dysfunctional relationship with food and massive depression. If you're truly concerned for people and their health, emphasize that you want them to be healthy, not less fat.

This is a health issue, a public health issue, but guess what? So is depression and eating disorders. Don't create a new public health issue while trying to solve another. If you're going to tell anyone anything this holiday season for their own good, tell them to be healthy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Are We Too Cool for Santa?

A recent outburst by a Santa hater on Fox News has created a buzz and re-ignited the debate as to whether or not Santa exists. In a not so Miracle on 34th street style, news anchor Robin Robinson ranted to Chicago viewers that kids should be told as soon as they can talk that Santa doesn't exist and doesn't bring them presents or come down the chimney or eat cookies. She later apologized for possibly scarring Chicago children for life by stating that she hadn't intended to give her little outburst without a parental advisory warning.

Of course, the damage has likely already been done, both to the children and to her reputation as a reasonable, fair-minded news reporter- oh wait, she works for Fox. Never mind.

But it does bring to mind an interesting point. Should children be told as soon as they can talk that Santa doesn't exist? Assuming of course that the ability to talk makes them sophisticated, reasonable adults with common sense who will not be shattered by the end of a loveable myth held near and dear to their little hearts with images of peace, love and some guy with a beard raiding the fridge for a Coke.

Perhaps in the newly intellectual, high tech age where everyone is so self aware and well educated on just about every subject on the planet thanks to Wikipedia, perhaps humanity has evolved to the point where they don't need to be lied to with heart-warming artificial made up stories. Perhaps this cynical generation of people don't need naive beliefs and hopes.

Perhaps it's good enough that they have Harry Potter and Twilight to provide those things. Maybe Santa doesn't do it for people anymore. Maybe we've gotten too cool for Santa?

It's funny that a generation of people enthralled by boy wizards and vampire love triangles somehow thinks that a man in a sleigh who delivers presents is stretching it a bit.

Unless Santa is really a boy wizard with elf ears from Middle Earth who competes for the love of a fair damsel by delivering presents around the world, a feat that could never be accomplished by the vampire love interest of the same said damsel? Now there's something that we could probably sell. Of course, it would have to be a book first, then a badly cast movie and finally, it would have to have a prequel.

I call movie rights.

Donor Beware

We all want to help make a difference in the world and help out. That's why charitable giving is one of those things that we all try to do if we can, even in tough economic times. But the world of charitable giving is fraught with problems and people are becoming more and more wary.

It was revealed today that Japan is using part of its funds from the tsunami relief fund to subsidize their annual whale hunt. While they argue that the whale hunt is for research purposes, the hunt ultimately ends with the death of animals and the sale of their meat. This has caused conservationists to get up in arms, but the fact that this practice, which clearly has a commercial value to it, is being subsidized by aid money, is frustrating.

So little of the aid money that we give in times of crisis seems to go to helping actual people. The subsidy will likely indirectly benefit victims of the tsunami by pumping some revenue to stricken areas, and it probably accounts for very little of the total aid received, but it points to a much larger problem with aid. Donors don't know where it goes, who makes the decisions how it's spent and who actually benefits.

And yet, the need to help others is strong, particularly when a natural disaster occurs causing unnecessary suffering. Do organizations take unfair advantage of these very human feelings to advance other causes? It's a true cause for concern for everyone, and it's not just limited to natural disasters. Initiatives for poverty alleviation and medical research within our own communities are also suspect. Some of the largest charitable organizations are now run as businesses with CEOs who make salaries comparable to bankers. How does that seem justified?

This is not to say that we should stop giving to charitable causes. But we might all want to be more aware of what's going on within the organizations that are soliciting us for donations. Like corporations, charities should be held accountable for the way that money is spent and their CEOs should be encouraged to literally spread the wealth by not accepting such large paycheques. We should all be choosing organizations that are making better use of our dollars.

Being Real Sucks

I give up.

That's it. I simply give up.

It all started with an innocent flipping through a silly gossip magazine and coming across pictures and a scanty article on the Victoria Secret models diet secrets, which includes juice fasts, eating for blood type and eliminating all intake of liquids and solids for 8 hours straight. I suspected as a reasonable person that this was dangerous, so I casually consulted a health care professional, she being my best friend who had come over for dinner one night, on the health implications of no solids or liquids in the amount of time that is equivalent to a North American working day. She confirmed that the effects of dehydration of this type includes all the usual consequences, such as light-headedness, weakness and death.

Fair enough. We're not all going to be lingerie models, we shouldn't all be lingerie models, and a lot of us wouldn't accept millions of dollars in exchange for that kind of punishment.

Then I came across an online article which states that H & M is computer generating their perfect models. We've all heard about air-brushing and trimming curves in pictures to 'enhance' models, but H & M is taking it one step farther by actually designing these perfect 10s and then pasting clothes on them. It's like a sick virtual online dress up party.

At this point, I'm about ready to put my head in the oven with a platter of Christmas cookies.

So it's not news to me that the fashion industry is all about making me feel bad about my body in an effort to increase my appetite for expensive clothes to compensate for my lack of physical perfection. What's really killing me is the idea that competition to be the body beautiful is so fierce that even real people can't meet the standards anymore.

H & M is insisting that they don't want to push perfect body image-they simply want to show off the clothes. If that was the case, the clothes should really speak for themselves, and possibly should be hung on hangers, unless those hangers need to be further digitally enhanced for not being thin enough.

The virtual world has already dashed the hopes of lots of real women. The constant competition with virtual girlfriends in countries like Japan, the constant competition with online games for attention from real boyfriends when we're lucky enough to have them, the constant threat of Facebook seekers looking to re-connect with exes and now computer generated goddesses. It's no wonder that I want to give up.

People will say that a real person can't be replaced- but we're being replaced all of the time. If it's not for a virtual person connecting online, it's for a computer generated image which has no place in reality. Being real sucks.

I'm going now to pick up a book. Made with paper.