I am feeling a bit miffed as I write this blog. I consider myself to be a member of a growing group of healthcare providers who are becoming more sensitive to the complexities of obesity and the potential of sustained healthy lifestyles. [Note, by the way, that I did not mention weight loss in the previous sentence.] What miffs me is, in reality, less irritation than worry. I am worried that, even though the group of understanding healthcare providers who are willing to support people making difficult changes over time is expanding, we might represent a very minor force for change. Compared to our group, the impact of the media on expectations, goals and evaluations regarding weight, shape and beauty is overwhelming and staggering. We are a mere candle in a windstorm!
Imagine the following scenarios: two messages.
Message one: you are sitting with a healthcare provider who reflects back to you “of course it is hard to change, especially since you are an emotional eater. What if we spent some time trying to build alternative stress management strategies so you could become better able to reduce emotional eating”? Anyone fall asleep yet?
Message two: You are sitting at home, relaxing in front of the television, and you witness a commercial produced with similar skill (and expense) as a James Cameron film, complete with beautiful faces and bodies, rapidly changing images, promising you that you can sculpt the body you want (a butt to die for to boot!); and all with little effort and almost instantaneously (of course, as soon as your credit card number is processed – funny about that, eh?).
Where is a responsible media? No wonder most people think that losing weight is simple; eat less, move more. And no wonder people think that if you don’t achieve these goals it’s your fault.
What if the media approach to weight loss, weight, shape and beauty was used to sell products? Imagine a car ad promising to deliver the lap of luxury, speed and economy for pennies. As soon as it was discovered that the promises were blatantly false I suspect that something would happen. Why isn't that the case with weight and health in the media? It’s a real irony that those suffering most are least likely to complain; often because they feel so bad that they blame themselves.
As we move forward and healthcare providers become better able to help those living with obesity I think we need to find ways of promoting responsible media. I know there are some initiatives out there. Let’s promote those that we know. If you are aware of healthy media initiatives, respond and I’ll keep a list.