Today as I was driving to work I heard three consecutive radio commercials that I found troubling. The first was an advertisement about some magical weight loss pill, the second was an advertisement for a plastic surgery office, and the last was an advertisement for a weight loss surgical procedure. I guess I had been thinking about this kind of thing for awhile because it seems like I have heard about several people getting gastric bypass or lap band procedures in the past few weeks. Now, I'm not opposed to weight loss (I'd like to shed what I've put on in the past year). I'm not even opposed to plastic surgery and or weight loss procedures in certain circumstances and with certain boundaries. What I find concerning is this seeming craze or fad toward drastic measures to improve physical appearance, whether that is nipping here or removing there, augmenting here and lifting there. As far as I can recall it has only been in the past few years that we have seen this enormous increase in unabashed advertising, from billboards, to radio, to TV commercials. What is wrong with us that we are so obsessed with size and poundage? I frankly find it disturbing when some chick announces on the airwaves, "Just because I wasn't blessed with large breasts from birth doesn't mean I can't have them now" - or something lame like that.
Some would argue that such procedures greatly improve health and self-esteem. I can agree with that to a point. I am certainly not passing judgment on anyone who has or yet will undergo any such procedures, I'm not in their position. But, it seems to me that they are now handing out gastric bypass and lap band procedures to anyone who asks, rather than to those who are in chronic medical need. Furthermore, those who are in chronic medical need generally have a food addiction and without addressing the function of the acting out behavior (e.g., eating compulsively to mood alter and/or avoid pain) the maladaptive pattern will likely continue, just with a different behavior. Next thing you know they are in my office with an addiction to sex, drugs, gambling, or any other number of compulsive and or mood-altering behaviors. Should not everything be tried before these kinds of invasive procedures that offer a "magic fix" and take away any real personal effort or growth. Fortunately there are some programs that require counseling, lifestyle change, coaching, etc. as part of the process. However, I am afraid that these are the exception rather than the rule.
The issue of "self-esteem" really gets to me too. I would suspect that all of us have one or a number of things about our bodies that we could stand to change. Women tend to be more vocal about this than men, but don't be fooled, men are just as bad as women in their own way. I can accept that self-confidence may improve in some respects as a result of these operations but if self-esteem is improving because your gut is smaller or your rear end tighter, that is some pretty superficial self-esteem. Sure, I think we can and should feel satisfaction in caring for our bodies and strive to be presentable, attractive, and healthy - but for goodness sake, does my esteem for myself and others really depend upon a number on a scale or a cup size? It is all so vain and so surface. Is there not a lot worse in the world than being overweight, under average, or over average? Why don't we put this kind of money and effort into something that actually has some real meaning? We are different and have blemish for a reason. Perhaps part of that reason is learning to love ourselves and others despite those things. I'm not professing to have this down, far from it, but I'd like to. I am professing that this focus on weight and body shape and size has become way over-the-top. It has become a cultural obsession and we're all caught in it. At the end of the day for the vast majority of people when we are dead and gone, not one person is going to remember us for how much we weighed or how big or small our body parts were. If they do, that says more about them than it does about us! What we will be remembered for is how we lived and how we loved.