Published February 10, 2011

Re-Evaluating Weight Loss

by Helen M. Ryan

Talking in the car today on our morning ride to school, the kids and I discuss middle school drama. We talk about material things, cliques and "mean girls." Then I bring up life's real woes, like the people in Haiti who still live in tents after the earthquake a year ago, with little fresh water available. Or the Haitian children playing shoeless in the streets with random objects for toys. And how kids in Africa are still starving while watching their parents die of AIDS. We talk...and we think about life.

It's a sad world out there. And yet…in many industrialized nations we are still struggling with one huge issue: obesity. In the grand scheme of things, obesity doesn't seem like it should be a huge (pun intended) problem. But it is. It is, indeed.

I started thinking about how this all happened. How did we become so obsessed with weight and weight loss? Why, with all the tools and medical advice available to us, do we as a nation still get fatter and fatter while in other parts of the world people starve to death?

I think, possibly, that we may be starving inside. We drive nice cars, live in big houses, work all day, watch TV all night, and yet we are unhappy and starving mentally - hence why we overeat. Maybe we are so disconnected from the rest of the world that our own problems feel insurmountable. Maybe we have built prisons for ourselves by stuffing our feelings and pretending all is well in our worlds. I know I did.

In places where people have lost everything and still go on with their lives (think of what happened on our own shores, for example, in New Orleans), the difference might be a sense of connection to people and community. When people don't have a lot of options in their lives, they stay connected with each other, help each other, lean on each other and share. In our normal, everyday lives we are so disconnected from that feeling of community that maybe our only option to feel something is to indulge in the momentary pleasure food brings us. Maybe we are feeding our souls with the wrong things. Maybe we are cramming our bodies with food when what our minds and hearts really want a community and a sense of belonging.

Maybe we should slow down and spend some time with friends. Help a brother out. Volunteer. Give back. Re-connect. Reach out for help instead of going it alone. Feed our hearts with love and friendships, instead of our mouths with unimportant stuff.

Maybe then we will finally stop looking for happiness in a bag of Hershey Kisses.

Maybe. Just maybe.

Onward and forward.


*Help is On the Way was written by punk rockers Rise Against about the disasters that have affected the New Orleans area. They knit their thoughts about Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill into this song from their new album "Endgame." The socially forward group has seen amazing commercial success while staying true to their core beliefs: making others aware of society's issues and problems..and trying to effect change. Rock on. (Read my Rise Against review.)