Last night my friend, Lauren, posted this article from MomLogic on my Facebook page. I am writing this post as a response for her, for myself, and for all Americans, though I am not in any way suggesting that I speak for all of us with this response. Reading this article, as well as several other responding articles, has confirmed for me that we in America are currently suffering from a cultural epidemic of utter disconnection. Our disconnection is widespread, and because it is rooted so deeply in our culture, it’s hard to see where we lost our way. However, it’s relatively easy to see the symptoms of this disconnection.
#1 Symptom of Disconnect: Common courtesy within dialogue has disappeared.
Throughout her article, MILF Mommy personally attacks and devalues people who are, apparently unlike her, size 12 and up. I think it is beneficial at this point to refer MILF Mommy (and everyone else on the Internet) to the Wikipedia page on Rhetoric for both definition and illustration of effective and courteous discourse. As long as we see ourselves as one (right, justified, whatever) and others, well as “other,” (wrong, stupid, whatever), we fundamentally have a conversation rooted in disconnection. I certainly take issue with MILF Mommy’s expression of her opinion and her actual opinion, but for me to debase and devalue her as a person makes me no better than she is. In the all the responses to MILF Mommy, I cringed at how embarrassing Internet Trolls are to the human race; and let’s face it: we’ve ALL been an Internet Troll at some point or another. We’ve all found ourselves caught up in some such debate, whether on the Internet or not. But there is a difference between arguing, debating, or attacking a “point,” and attacking a person.
My Courteous Response to MILF Mommy
When trying to communicate with people, it’s not ideal to begin with attacking the physical aesthetic of your audience as MILF Mommy did with her first point. Firstly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What MILF Mommy specifically says about women size 12 and up being unattractive is simply untrue. In some cultures, having a more rotund physique is a sign of wealth, and therefore desirable.
MILF Mommy’s second point about people lying to themselves may not necessarily be untrue, but the way she expresses it certainly doesn’t do her argument any favors. I agree that we as Americans are not actually “in touch” with how we really feel. If we were, then all those times we became winded walking from our car to the mall would actually motivate us to not have the meal or sweet treat offered in the food court. That MILF Mommy focuses on the size of the clothing as an indicator of health is where I think she went wrong in her second point. Just because a woman may be a size 12 (or higher), doesn’t mean she doesn’t have “toned arms,” or that she does have a “muffin top belly and huge thighs.” Depending on a woman’s height, a size 12 may, in fact, be the perfect size for her. Consider the women on this page. They are all so tall they put Amazon women to shame, but none of them have a “muffin top belly and huge thighs,” and I can guarantee you all of them wear greater than a size 12. Essentially, healthy size proportion is a crucial point that MILF Mommy missed when she based her entire argument on something as arbitrary as a clothing size. I wonder if it would freak her out to know that a size 12 in America is something completely different to clothing designers who typically use European sizing guidelines?
MILF Mommy’s last three points are all different iterations of the same argument; so I will address them together. There is no such thing as “one diet to rule them all.” Every person is different and has different dietary needs and restrictions. So, the simple caloric intake/burn method of dieting and exercising isn’t always accurate. It even changes depending on exactly what type of exercising you’re doing. I am a perfect example of this. When my physical activity was fairly limited to yoga only, I noticed that I ate things that were lighter and fresher, more organic and less likely to be cooked. As I have added running to my active life, I’ve noticed I need more dense foods, but less fibrous than with yoga-only activity. I need more cooked, full meals instead of frequent small ones. My daily caloric intake has definitely increased just so it can fuel my running activities. And the scale hasn’t changed one iota, but my size has gone down. I am living proof that MILF Mommy’s sweeping generalizations about diet and exercise are wrong.
Because every person’s needs are different, it’s false that skinny people “work harder” than larger people, or that they are healthier somehow, and a lot of it is directly connected with genetic makeup, contrary to MILF Mommy’s personal, unsubstantiated opinion. While Type II Diabetes is linked to lifestyle and obesity, conditions like Heart Disease and problems with cholesterol are deceptively stealthy killers because people generally think like MILF Mommy in that if they “look good” they’re healthy. Even if you’re under a size 12, you need to get your blood work checked to make sure you’re healthy. And anyone who’s suffered with juvenile/Type I Diabetes knows it has nothing to do with your size and everything to do with how your body produces insulin.
#2 Symptom of Disconnect: We use comparison to define our self-worth.
Probably the most destructive thing we can do to ourselves is create our self-image and find our self-worth by comparing ourselves to others. Here in America, we see life in linear and ladder form. We are born; we live; and we die; and that’s linear. We spend our whole lives working to get the best grade, graduate from the best college or university, get the best job, and make the most money so we can have the best house and car and clothes and so we can send our kids to the best schools to continue this cycle; and that’s the ladder.
The only thing that perspective has done for our society is establish a class of generational wealthy elite who are so far removed from the average person that it seems impossible to find a sense of connection because there seems to be so many ladder rungs between “us” and “them.” When we’re always comparing ourselves to the people higher up on the ladder, we’re constantly devaluing ourselves in the process. Conversely, when we’re always comparing ourselves to the people below us on the ladder, we’re constantly devaluing others.
We would benefit from a more circular perspective on life. We all live TOGETHER. We have success only because someone else made it possible, and therefore we rejoice in our success TOGETHER. When we fail, we fall back on all the others around us, and we mourn and recoup TOGETHER. The saying, “it takes a village to raise a child,” really should extend throughout all of life, and we’d all be better off for it.
#3 Symptom of Disconnect: We have allowed our consumerism to turn us into zombies.
Because we are a culture of consumers, we have bought, eaten, and satisfied ourselves into a zombified stupor to such an extent that we don’t even realize how broken and disconnected we are as an entire culture. We are a society of generally overweight, unhealthy, unhappy people weighed down by our “pursuit of happiness” in which we willingly accept the debt, weight, disease, and mental illness that comes with the American, capitalist, consumerist culture. Because we think we can buy and/or own the means to our happiness, we think this is the only way to live. But, young padawans, there is another way to live happily, and it doesn’t involve the pursuit of anything at all.
A Cure for All that Ails Us
I know I’ve referred to mindfulness as the approach to fix a plethora of ailments, and I’ll reiterate it again. We’re all looking for a panacea to fix all our problems, but most people assume it’s something they can buy (like a pill or a diet book or a gym membership). I think the panacea for our cultural epidemic IS mindfulness, and you can’t price it because you can’t buy it. It isn’t a thing; it’s an action. It can’t be owned; it has to be done. Mindfulness may be a noun but its function is more accurately aligned with the verb class of words.
As it pertains to this post’s focus on dieting, in his most recent post, “The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring,” Leo Babauta from zen habits offers up mindfulness as a realistic, long-lasting approach to dieting. And really what he’s doing here is outlining the “lifestyle change” we constantly hear about from our family doctors as well as famous doctors like Dr. Oz and the coaches on shows like The Biggest Loser with specific and small examples.
When you start paying attention to all the minutia of your life, you’ll see how eating the #1 combo at any fast food restaurant hurts you as well as the local and global community. Likewise, when you start being mindful of your purchases, you find that you really do have the power of the almighty dollar to change the world. Are you going to buy this kind of chocolate that is only available to you in its condition and at its price because it was farmed for by the hands of child slaves in Africa? Or, will you spend a little more, thus requiring that you have the treat a little less frequently, and instead buy this chocolate that’s likely better quality, likely better for you, but definitely better for our world because you bought it from a certified fair trade farmer?
Taking a mindful approach to life will un-do all the damage of our epidemic of disconnect. It will help you with your diet, your domestic budget, your road rage, your marital relationship, your work-life….the list goes on and on.
Suggested Reading for Reconnecting
The book and PBS documentary, Affluenza explains our cultural epidemic of disconnect much better than I do and with better references that I have here, and it is what inspired me to take an “epidemic” and “symptomatic” approach with this post. We read the book as part of our required Biblical studies senior-capstone course (Christ & Culture) in college, and it challenged us to enter the world as recent college grads with the knowledge that we were about to enter an all-devouring machine, but only if we let ourselves be consumed by it.
David Korten, an American economist wrote, Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth-A Declaration of Independence from Wall Street in which he proposes an alternative culture to the current Wall Street economy. His suggested culture is based on the Main Street economy of locally owned, community connected enterprise in which success has more than just a monetary or consumerist value. We read this book during our congregation-wide focus on economic justice at Church of the Savior in the fall, and we were charged with passing it along to other interested persons to continue the work of economic justice. So, if any of you locals want to read this book, let me know and I’ll GIVE you my copy!
Suggested Practices for Reconnecting
Breathing. Yup, that’s all I’ve got. Really, you can do lots of things to try to reconnect, but breathing is the easiest, cheapest, best way to get started. Just breathe. In and out. Slowly, or quickly doesn’t matter as much as paying attention to what it does in your body.