Beauty

Why We’re All So Damn Obsessed With Our Weight

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I’ve never been particularly thin. It’s not that I aspire to be a plus-size girl, or that my efforts at weight loss have been unsuccessful; it’s that I don’t generally spend a lot of time dwelling on size – mine or anyone else’s. In fact, I once committed a major faux pas when a friend mentioned that she had been going to weight watchers and I asked her if it was working for her. She had lost 40 lbs! I hadn’t noticed. In my defense, for what it’s worth, I contend that when I look at someone I tend to see the person, and not necessarily the particulars.

We live in a generation obsessed with weight. Weight has become a multi-billion dollar industry which uses consumers as pawns in an ultimate financial chess game. Advertisers wage psychological warfare on the masses by promoting junk food alongside diets and weight-loss programs. The media constantly refines its concept of ‘ideal’ beauty by airbrushing and digitally enhancing models until the finished image is striking, though in most cases, biologically unattainable.

Why We’re All So Damn Obsessed With Our Weight

Magazines promote dessert recipes and weight-loss tips side by side on their covers. We are inundated with the subliminal message that we don’t measure up – that we could be happier, healthier, infinitely more successful – if only we were thinner.

I recognize that obesity is a major concern nowadays. We are a sedentary culture influenced by the dubious benefits of convenience. We drive instead of walk, we eat processed foods, and we watch a lot of television. We should all try to be more healthy and active but, in my opinion, we should do it to be health and have more energy; not because we want to look like the models we see in ads and the media.

Beauty is a billion dollar industry and we’re the pawns in its game.

Why We’re All So Damn Obsessed With Our Weight

Media has become a member of the family, with TV‘s in the bedroom, video games an adolescent appendage, even our children’s first words, and ideals, often come from the animated characters they see on television. Consumption has become a way of life, insidiously influencing our behaviors, attitudes and perceptions. I was in my thirties before it occurred to me to challenge that influence, but now that I have, I’ve realized that beyond the preoccupation with society’s obesity rests the more troubling pervasive negativity that we seem to have adopted as our mantra.

Women are more guilty of embracing this negativity than men. Self-deprecation has become a popular basis for female bonding. We feel infinitely more comfortable commiserating over our shortcomings than taking a compliment or (God forbid) tooting our own horn in public.

Why We’re All So Damn Obsessed With Our WeightI wonder sometimes, at what point in our lives we begin berating ourselves over all the things we aren’t. Are some people psychologically predisposed to have low self-esteem or is that something which is cultivated over time, reinforced by whatever negative feedback we receive from loved ones or strangers? Regardless of when it happens, the tendency to compare ourselves to others seems to be innate.

At some point or another we start to feel as though, for whatever reason, we don’t measure up. That’s when the litany of “if only’s” begins: “if only I were smarter,” “if only I were prettier,” “if only I were thinner,” “if only I were more like HER”. It’s tragic how readily we overlook or dismiss our own redeeming qualities in favor of obsessing over our shortcomings. This is not an attitude I want to perpetuate.

I have a neice. At 5, she is the epitome of self-confidence. Unlike other girls her age who have already started dieting, it hasn’t yet occurred to her to doubt herself. She is a happy little girl, and I pray that as she gets older, she will carry that intrinsic sense of self-worth with her wherever she goes. I want her to be able to recognize this ‘negativity phenomenon’ for what it truly is – psychological masochism.

It is futile to measure our own sense of self-worth based on how we compare ourselves to others because there will always be people greater and lesser than ourselves. Life is not an even playing field and it is both unhealthy and unrealistic to feel as though we constantly have to conform to some imaginary standard of acceptability.

Like most of life’s problems, weight isn’t really the issue as much as it is a symptom. We only focus on it because it is readily apparent. What we – as a society – need is a reality check. We need to drop this perverse preoccupation with our appearance and get on with the business of living. We need to experience more and obsess less, liberating ourselves from the self-imposed pressure of judgment. We need to toot our own horns more often so that when we look into the mirror, we can feel confident as we focus more on the person and not so much on the particulars.

Read more: How to Beat the Media’s Pressure to Be Thin

Originally from Denver and now living in NYC, Angie has been writing since she was small. She lives in the Flatiron district with her partner Tanya and their mutt Sparky (always adopt!) In her spare time she loves to paint (mostly abstract) and talk to random people on the street to find out what's interesting to them.

16 Comments

  1. Ana Brose

    Thank you for this influential article. I won’t deny that I went on “diet craze.” But then I came to a point where I was sooooo frustrated so I stopped and made the decision to accept my body. Believe me, that’s when I lost weight without struggling.

  2. Jenifer Jeni

    I think women need to read more articles of this sort. Media is very influential. I wish I’ve read an inspiring piece like this before. I used to be obsessed with my weight, went on a diet but found myself eating my way through my unhappiness and ending up right where I started. Bad memories!

  3. Jeni Morgan

    Lose or gain weight because you want to, NOT because you feel forced by an ideal image of beauty.

  4. Maria Bruce

    Sadly, media wants us to hold onto our insecurities because they exploit these for profit 🙁

  5. Quin Meri

    I agree that media has become a member of the family. With this, we should focus on preventing unhealthy weight gain and promote healthy lifestyle at childhood.

  6. Kathryn Gibson

    Let me just share, when I gave up on dieting last year, I felt happier and satisfied. To my surprise, I lost pounds! I think obsession won’t help. At least based on my experience…

  7. Rosie Barela

    The last paragraph is a truly wise advice…

  8. Courtney Watson

    Are you obsessed with your weight?

    Well, I always check my weight and I am conscious with the foods I eat.

    Sometimes, I try to compare myself with what magazines feature. Don’t get me wrong, I’m familiar with all these “photo-editing” software that are used and utilized to make these models truly beautiful, but I still sometimes think I want to be like them, for some reasons, this is what I believe, “I’m sexy, beautiful and confident if I’m like them.”

    Some might agree, others won’t but this is really how I feel.

    This article is an eye opener for me and is pushing me to stop, think and reflect!

  9. Joanne Samonte

    “Be confident and contented with you have” It’s easier said than done…

    I’m a victim of weight obsession. I really don’t know how to deal with it. 

    But I keep coming back to Urbanette because every new article uplifts me and makes me proud of who I am

  10. "We should do it to be health and have more energy; not because we want to look like the models we see in ads and the media"–I completely agree! Putting physical appearance before your health leads to a litamy of health problems. Instead of going on "crash diets" to lose weight quick, go by the traditional method of healthy adjustments to your diet and exercise. Focus on being healthy, because staying alive and feeling good should come before looking beautiful. (And besides, healthy people tend to look beautiful!)

  11. Weight obsession is a big problem among our American society…and it happens to fall among the female population. As a sex, we always have to be on our game and measure up to other people's standards and expectations. (Including that of men and other female counterparts.) This idea is totally wrong, as women we need to love ourselves for who we are as people…not our weight or body shapes. People need to stop putting pressure on each other to live up to these imaginable standards and just love each other and who they are. When you feel confident…it catches on to other people around you 🙂

  12. Arabella Clarington

    The media plays a big role in why people are obsessed about their weight. When advertisers “Photoshop” and edit images, it is indirectly telling ladies that the only way they will be noticed is if they’re skinny. What a person needs to realize is that it doesn't matter how much you weigh, you just have to be comfortable with your skin and body. Do not let anyone tell you, “you're to fat.” Just keep reminding yourself that “you are beautiful the way you are.”

    And of course, mothers like me play a HUGE role in educating our children, especially our daughters.

  13. Just imagine how many industries would go out of business if we learned to accept ourselves just the way we are.

  14. Gabrielle Williams

    So true! Most girls are obsessed with their weight. I believe we need to educate women, especially young ladies that what’s important is to be HEALTHY. Being thin doesn’t mean one is healthy.

  15. Sandra Brown

    Self depreciation is indeed a part of a typical female conversation. Remember that scene in mean girls, where they were looking at the mirror, pointing out their flaws? YEP, that happens to us.

    Sad but true …

  16. Janine Roberts

    Oh how I would love to quote your words to the girls in my class. They are all obsessed with the way they look and how much they weigh. I feel like Im the only sane girl in our school. 😀

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