Sun, 26 Mar 2000

Fighting the difficult battle of the bulge is heavy going

By William Furney

JAKARTA (JP): The never-ending story concerning female celebrities and their weight continues to fascinate people the world over. Current talk centers around the ever-decreasing waistlines of pop singer Posh Spice, alias Victoria Adams, and actress Calista Flockhart.

One would think that surely all the jabbering pertains to health, but as we are all too aware, matters of health have nothing do with it.

Women criticize other women for being overweight as many may feel threatened by others who supposedly have the "perfect figure".

Some women are like cats. They just love their creature comforts and experiences of decadence. Put a woman in a five-star hotel with a large bath, scented candles, a big box of chocolates and a bottle of champers and she is in heaven.

After she towels off and turns the pages of a glossy gossip magazine and sees the likes of Posh Spice wearing a slinky red dress, she feels insecure and bad about herself, then promptly calls for room service.

Then she wonders how the weight has piled on and bemoans the fact that those portrayed in the media have hourglass figures.

But the simple fact of the matter is that a) You can't have your cake and eat it, or put another way, you can't have your bread buttered on both sides, and b) Those portrayed in the media do not lead what we would call "normal" lifestyles. Therefore, they should not be emulated, as this obviously leads to feelings of frustration among many.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that it is dangerous to eat too little, but also dangerous to eat too much, and that only by exercising balance and temperance can one achieve a happy or harmonious life.

But while these may seem like wise words, they are difficult to put into practice during everyday lives.

For, nowadays, we are like children in candy stores, surrounded by so much delicious choice we want to sample everything and then take more than we need.

A recent report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute research group revealed that for the first time ever the number of overweight people matched that of those who were malnourished and had little to eat. Up to 1.2 billion people eat more than they need, and as many go hungry each day, according to the report.

So, what is the solution, or even the happy medium?

Should you live on a tropical island in the South Seas for the rest of your life, with little more than coconuts and wild berries to content yourself with? After a few months swimming for your supper, you too will look like Kate Moss and her cronies, albeit minus the drugs and gallons of coffee. A new, lithe, healthier you.

Nice thought I hear you say, but only in your dreams or on a two-week package deal.

We are all only too keenly aware that we are eating the wrong kinds of foods, foods that are mainly fabricated and that humans were never meant to consume in the first place.

In their book Fit for Life, Living Health, fitness gurus Harvey and Marilyn Diamond point out that humans are the only species on the planet not eating food in its natural state and that we also are the only species that combines different foods together in one meal. And then we take billions of dollars worth of drugs after meals to ease the discomfort eating has caused.

They maintain that the biggest threat to people's health today is processed foods.

They go on to say that there is an organ in the brain called the appestat which monitors blood for nutrients. When there are not enough nutrients in the blood this organ triggers hunger pangs and we eat again.

The trouble is, they say, that certain companies have designed foods that bypass the appestat as they are devoid of nutrients or those nutrients are artificial. Therefore, you eat more of the product as you are always hungry and, in turn, you put on a lot of weight.

Ah, yes, chocolates, cake, french fries, alcohol, sodas -- they were not meant to be the food and drinks of choice for us. Take a look at different animals around you -- is your dog, parrot, goldfish or cat overweight? Not unless you are letting them chow down on dinnertime leftovers. But we continue to shovel as much junk down our overworked throats as we can.

But we are addicted to them; something manufacturers are all too aware of as it is them who have added all manner of concoctions to keep us hooked.

Put yourself on a diet of salad and juice for a week and after a few days you will have detoxified so much that you feel exhilarated. But shortly thereafter you'll feel the need to chow down on something a bit more man-made.

Ask yourself why when you have been out on the town for the night that you have a craving for fast food, curries and the like. Researchers say that when we have had a few drinks and then feel hungry it is foodstuffs containing the most basic elements humans need that people go for. Hamburgers and fries: fat-soaked carbohydrates. And that's why junk food is so popular, if unhealthy.

So, what to do if you are lying on that hotel bed, munching chocolates and looking at a pic of Posh? Down to the gym with you and eat healthier food. It's not perfection you are after, it's a better you.