Almost everybody I know wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds. I know I could stand to lose more than a few. I’m not really so much concerned about the aesthetic aspect of things — genetics and pregnancy have eliminated the notion that I’ll ever have a model’s figure, and I’m very much okay with that. I would much rather be a collection of curves than a collection of angles, and my husband heartily agrees with that. But science consistently bears out that being significantly overweight is dangerous to one’s health. We all know this.
But we are living in a world where physical appearance is desperately important. So much so, in fact, that it can actually effect whether or not you’re hired for a job. I wish I were making that up. But seriously, being slim has become a status symbol. And, you know, that makes sense. Let’s break this down for a moment. Being fit requires money and time, two things that not everybody has an overabundance of.
Money: Eating isn’t free, you know. Food costs money. High quality food costs more money than low quality food. You want wholesome, healthy, filling foods, it’ll cost you. And if the choice is between high quality food or being able to afford diapers, ramen is going to win that fight very time. Eating less is a luxury. You have to know where your next meal is coming from before you can skip the one in front of you. And when you don’t know, five dollars worth of double cheeseburgers is a safer caloric investment that five dollars worth of celery sticks and apple slices. Also, once you get your fresh, healthy, minimally processed foods, you have to cook it properly. Or pay someone else to cook it properly. Again, that costs money. Most people want to eat better, but not everyone can afford it.
Time: The other part of this equation is exercise, and exercise takes time and, to a lesser extent, more money. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. That doesn’t sound so bad, and it’s not… if you have the free time to spare. This is where I remind you about opportunity costs which you may or may not remember from your high school economics class. But to put it in terms a little easier to understand, I started writing this post at about 11 a.m. My computer tells me that it’s currently 12:43 p.m. Why has it taken me almost two hours to write something I could have hammered out in about 20 minutes? Because I’m incredibly busy. I have two 8-month-olds, a husband, and a house to take care of. I almost never get to give anything the benefit of my full attention anymore. Hell, half of this post has been written one-handed as the other hand is occupied with holding a baby. And even then, I should probably be doing something more productive, like laundry or dishes or vacuuming or any number of other things. I always have something else that needs my attention. And that’s why exercise falls by the wayside for a lot of people. I want to go for a walk, I’ve got to time it juuuuuust right so that both boys are awake and fed, but not too sleepy, and the Tylenol I took to ease the pain in my arthritic knees so I can take the walk has had time to kick in. Then I can pack up the boys in the stroller and go for the walk that’s not too long or the boys will get tired, cranky, and too hot or too cold (depending on the season). And all the while I’m doing that, chores are not getting done and meals are not getting prepared. I suppose I could get a sitter to keep the kids while I exercise, but that’s money. Or I could join a gym that offers childcare, but that’s more money and more time because I have to go there and come back.
It’s easy to assume that people are overweight because they’re lazy and gluttonous. And sometimes that’s true. But sometimes it’s because they don’t have the time and/or money to be as fit and slim as they should. Sometimes it’s illness, injury, or medication that causes weight gain. And sometimes food allergies and intolerances make it harder to shed the excess weight. More fiber in my diet? Crispy steamed veggies? I’d love to, but my guts just won’t let me. You really don’t want to hear the story of what happened the last time I tried to eat sweet potatoes, much less bell peppers.
Do I want to get rid of the weight I gained from steroids and firm up my twin-skin? Of course I do. But not at the expense of my family’s happiness or my sanity. Nor am I willing to put us in debt to do it, either. As my kids get older, I think (I hope) that keeping active will get easier. I guess we’ll just have to see on that one.
But the point is, I guess, that there’s no easy answer to weight loss, nor is there one reason for weight gain. So, you know, ease up, people. Because if I see one more “get a flat belly using this one weird tip” ad on a website, I’ll probably use a swear.