Monday, September 15, 2008

Happy is the New Thin

There's this book I'd like to read, Thin is the New Happy. Have you read it? Then, there's this post (yes, this one) I'd like to write, and when I think of a launching point, somehow, that book title comes to mind. Except in this case, I unconsciously flip flop the terms.

Happy is the new thin.

Out with the thin, in with the happy (or in with both, if that's just the way you are). But, out with trying so hard to be thin. Out with depriving ourselves of what we want, of abusing our bodies, both with actions and with words. In with happy. . . in with good coffee. . . and in with the remnants of summer sun, peaking in my office window, warming my shoulders as if to say farewell.

As fall arrives, I'm acutely aware that we're supposed to be doing something about our weight. Yes, I realize that bikini season is closing its doors, but still, there is something, right? Are we supposed to be "shaping up for fall?" With "back to school," do we go back to our diets? Enough lollygagging about, what with flirty drinks and sand-crusted beach chairs and lengthy summer reads. . . . or, maybe it was a particularly active summer, in which case, it's going to take a lot to keep that up. . . not enough time in the day. . . better start cutting back, watching what we eat.

There's always something.

How about nothing?

Happy is the new thin.


Chuckles McGee said...

How about eating well all the time? Never deprive your body of anything it needs, never abuse it. Follow exercise guidelines set forth by the World Health Association. Oh wait...then you'll be thin and healthy. Woah, snap. Who'd've thought?

April D said...

Too bad "Chuckles" doesn't seem to understand the whole point here: that maybe, just maybe, you can be eating well all the time; never depriving your body of anything it needs, never abusing it and STILL not be thin. And yet still be happy. "Snap" of preconceived notions McGee; thin and healthy are not synonyms.

himawari said...

Ditto what April said. For a large percentage of the population, eating healthy and exercising do not automatically equal thin. Yes, treating one's body well by not depriving or not abusing it is a very very good thing. However, this does not always equal weight loss, and especially does not always equal "thin." People settle at a large range of weights. Some of them are thin, most of them are in the middle, some of them are fat. Too many of us here found that out the hard way, and have spent years abusing our bodies to try and make them smaller. I know far too many women who have received compliments for abusing themselves, or who truly believe that it's normal to feel constant hunger.

Great post, Dr. Stacey.

Ai Lu said...

I love this! Yes, we should be happy instead of trying to be thin.

Thanks to your site and others like it that I've read in the last few months -- I have been reading your back-posts over the summer -- I am starting the Fall feeling a lot better about my body and its limitations. So what if my pants are getting a little tighter? It might be my imagination or it might be real -- but it doesn't make much difference, in the long run, when it comes down to how much I can enjoy listening to music, or walking to the subway in the sunshine, reading a great book, or spending time with friends. Guess what? I can do any of those activities, no matter my weight.

Why does this sound so subversive to many of us?

I will be happy this fall, thin or not!

~Ai Lu (coincidentally, at a blog about happiness:

azusmom said...

This is a GREAT post! I do think that choosing to be happy, regardless of weight, size, facial features, inability to accessorize, clumziness, what have you, is one of the most subversive and revolutionary things we can do!

azusmom said...

BTW, I read "Thin Is The New Happy" and loved it.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I'll be thinking about it on the tougher days I've been having lately.

valerie frankel said...

I'm the author of Thin Is the New Happy. The point I make in my book is that as soon as you stop dieting and purge the negative emotions about body image in order to be happy, the extra pounds disappear, too. I've been Not Dieting for 2 years, and my weight has been low and stable, which makes me happy every day. Best, Val

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the book so I comment with little knowledge. But I think Valerie Frankel misses the point. Stop dietint- YES!!! I'm all in favor. But real freedom and happiness come when you stop THINKING about dieting and stop worrying about being thin and stop CARING about being thin. Not winking to yourself that "If I just quit dieting and eat 'healthy' I will lose weight without dieting". And I guess I don't even need to point out how many thin people are unhappy, right?


azusmom said...

Hey Annie!
I agree absolutely that it's more important to focus on being happy and to let go of dieting/wanting to be thinner. But, also, in the book, Ms. Frankel discovers just that: her attempts at dieting were a way to avoid dealing with deeper issues. Once she started dealing with them she became much happier and stopped stuffing her feelings down with food and/or dieting to avoid unhappiness. The weight loss was kind of a fringe benefit.

Emily Jolie said...

Hey Dr. Stace!

It's been a while since I've visited, but I've finally made it back to your neck of the woods!

This post really resonates with what I've been giving a lot of thought to lately. As I have put on quite a few layers of padding (I'm consciously not referring to 'a number of pounds,' as I don't weigh myself and, numbers, in my opinion, don't mean much), and as I am allowing myself a lot more indulgences these days, I have been pondering the connection between thin and happy. When I had less padding on me and my clothes were looser, yes, I was quite thrilled about the thinness. But it wasn't 'real happiness.' In fact, a large part of the time, I wasn't very happy at all! Nowadays that my body is bigger, well, I do have some unhappiness about that fact, but if I put that aside and stop judging myself by my size, then I can see that it really has nothing to do with my level of happiness! I am a lot happier these days than during some of my very thin days.

Now, that's not to say you can't be thin and happy, and I believe that the 'happy medium' for me would be at a slightly lower weight with slightly less indulgences. But what I'm trying to be really conscious of these days is to NOT let the amount I've eaten and the way my clothes fit determine my happiness level for the day - or even the week! It is just not worth it!

As to the book, I think it's neat the author actually commented here. (Hi Valerie!) I picked up the book at a bookstore not too long ago and started leafing through it. I ended up putting it back down in favor of something else, but I might come back to it at some point. I'd be interested to read more. And I would definitely want to read more before making any statements suggesting the author had missed the point! But that's just me.

Thanks for continuing to inspire and provoke thoughts with your posts, Dr. Stace!

with care,


P.s.: On the subject of happiness... I am currently reading an AWESOME book that I would highly recommend. It's called Happy for No Reason, and the author is Marci Shimoff. A truly great book!!

MB said...

As you know, you don't have to be extremely overweight to have issues with body image. It doesn't matter if you have 5, 10, 100+ pounds to lose, if you aren't happy in your own skin then you don't feel good. I really enjoyed this book even though I wish I ONLY had 20 pounds to lose. Here is my review:

Kristin said...

The author of the book states that the pounds will come off when we stop worrying about dieting. Why should we be holding out for that hope that pounds will come off? If we have that idea (that longing to lose weight) in the back of our minds, there is something telling us that we are not okay as we are. Doesn't that cause so much psychological stress? Let's get help for our relationships with food. Let's make help more accessible for people who need it. Let's start to unweave our obsession with weight loss on an individual level, and stop going to these books that are just making us feel like we should be losing weight. We need to continue this conversation in a huge way.

Proud FA said...

Eating well is eating what every you want.

Melissa said...

I read Thin is the New Happy, and i understand that in Valerie Frankel's family and most of our world, being thin makes us many of us happier.

I was raised in a family much like hers -- bludgeoned with thinness, and i turned out anorexic and bulimic.

I'm neither of those now. Yet as much as I have tried to accept myself at larger (easier to maintain!) weights, I am happier thinner.

I have read Overcoming Overeating and gone to the workshops. Read everything by Geneen Roth (and everyone else), but I still like my size 8 jeans and breasts that no longer rival Dolly Parton's