Weight problems: a diet dilemma
“Operation Shred,” Shane Warne teased in his latest Instagram post alongside a shirtless image where he looks lean and muscular. The rest of the caption read: “Goal by July is to get back to this form.” After Warne’s untimely death, his manager revealed he had been on a 14-day liquid diet. While it’s impossible to know if this contributed to his heart attack, there is enough evidence linking crash dieting to cardiovascular disease and stroke. An elite athlete like Warne really should have known better, but as anyone who’s struggled with weight knows, it’s easy to overlook the health consequences when the price is immediate slimness.
In the wildly popular Warne Cleanse Juice was on – it’s been endorsed by celebrities, who want to look smooth before red carpet events – there are no solid foods, only veggie smoothies , teas and soups, usually no more than three days at a time. According to film folklore, Katrina Kaif drank nothing but buttermilk for a week before shooting for the song Kala Chashma, to create the illusion of washboard abs. Naturally, a person’s weight decreases, in the short term. Invariably, when you start eating normally again, the body compensates for the calorie deprivation and the weight returns immediately. Nevertheless, the juicing diet will always have takers because the results are instantaneous. Human beings are attracted to guarantees. Since weight is a primary concern in people’s heads, it blinds them to the established facts that diets like these are utterly futile.
Despite all that Warne has accomplished in his illustrious career, he has continued to believe in the binary, thin is good and fat is bad. Like millions of others, he undergoes desperate measures to achieve a height perceived as less than “ideal”. There is an unacknowledged moral construct to weigh that is quietly putting us all under pressure; in the popular imagination, the fatty body represents dissipation and a weakness of will, while those who exist in a state of focused deprivation are revered and envied. That’s why every dietitian worth their salt proudly displays ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of their clients – when it comes to weight, proof of the pudding is not eating. Note the phenomenal rise of wellness tourism (“wellness” being the socially prudent code word for weight loss). Guests pay more than Rs 30,000 a night at resorts that have bridged the gap between health and leisure with gut reset, sleep recovery and weight loss meal plan programs.
Body Positivity influencers flooding Instagram and TikTok can shout out loud that you can be healthy and beautiful at any size; secretly, no one believes them. They will get the emojis and likes on their posts because people, for good reason, are prone to keeping their biases to themselves. On social networks, everyone says what they think should be said. The fact remains that few people care about losing weight for fear of getting type 2 diabetes, but many are motivated by the idea of looking good. But in this age of politically correct messaging, admitting vanity is no longer legitimate. It should seem absurd to everyone that admitting, publicly, a desire to get rid of fat could be a big shame. But ending the so-called conceit doesn’t change the truth that being overweight makes people miserably unhappy. To improve lives, reconciling all of these puzzling extremes requires honesty, not lies and posturing.
What the Body Positivity movement gets right is the claim that there is more to life than worrying about a size. This post gets lost between nonsensical hashtags like #healthyatanysize and #fatandproud. It’s true, it’s a colossal waste of mental space to spend this precious life obsessing over what not to eat. People dreamily believe that if they lost a few pounds, their lives would change and their problems would disappear. They might, temporarily, until the restless mind finds something else to stress about. Nothing is ever perfect for long. It might be wise to remember that good and bad serve the same purpose.
(Writer is director, Hutkay Films)