My grandmother was a square, stout little woman. She wasn’t obese, she wasn’t even really fat. But she was soft. Every now and then she might have gotten on the scale and she’d say “Ahh! How’d those five pounds get there?” But that didn’t change the way she felt about herself. She kept going, and she made her macaroni, and stuffed everything in sight including peas. Maybe she’d eat a little less to make up for those five pounds. But she felt good about who she was and her place in the world. Five extra pounds on the scale was not a life or death issue.
It’s hard to believe, but her world was so different. Yes, that’s a big DUH! She did not aspire to look like anyone else since movies, magazines and television were not yet a huge part of the culture. She and her immediate community of friends and family were not barraged with constant information that led them to believe something was wrong with them. They weren’t assaulted with marketing techniques that made them feel deformed for having a little cellulite, or that they should check into therapy if they felt like having fried eggs for breakfast.
Now we are given the hardcore facts behind everything. We can find out what our body-fat ratio ought to be, we can discover what disorders we might be prone to, and we have gadgets that can inform us of every bodily function. Virtually every message sent to us by the media and by the marketing of almost every product for sale in America is that “you can improve yourself.”
Many people, in their quest for self-improvement, have become so dreadfully serious and stressed out and dull that they’re losing what’s most important about life. Fun! Connection! Pleasure! Excitement! How many times have you heard people go on and on about what they ate today? The fat police: “I ate a slice of pizza at lunch, I just can’t believe it!”
Why can’t they believe it? Did they somehow suffer amnesia immediately after they swallowed their last bite? Then they have to tell you they’re going to have to work out twice as hard to rid themselves of the pizza slice. PLEASE! Just stop! I often want to respond by saying “ I ate everything in site and it made me so happy!”
We all have faults, neuroses, physical imperfections and psychological quirks. That’s what makes you unique. If you want to change, try to consider that changing behaviors involves complex interactions between genes, chemistry and lifestyle. Self-improvement should not be a prison sentence, but one that builds toward a happier, healthy life. And please don’t become overly serious about it. Do it with a sense of humor and above all try to make it fun.
— Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360. Visit her website at stressed.com.