I was waiting in a dentist’s reception area and picked up a popular women’s magazine. The cover carried a picture of a newly slimmed-down celebrity and headlines promising that you, too, can easily drop 50 pounds. The glossy, bright colored magazine also promised 10 easy steps to save the planet.
I was intrigued. I could stand to lose some extra pounds. I flipped to the article about the celebrity weight loss. The plan was simple. Cut out that daily piece of chocolate cake. Restrict carbohydrates. Cut out sugar laden drinks. Use nonfat milk in my latte. Eat fish and fresh vegetables. Well, maybe this wasn’t going to work for me. I don’t eat a piece of cake daily. I don’t drink sugary drinks. I can’t afford to eat fresh fish weekly. Wasn’t there another article about avoiding fish because of mercury contamination? The nearest latte is a half-hour away. Most of the things to be avoided aren’t a regular part of my diet, so I can’t eliminate them. If that’s all there is to it, I should still weigh what I did in 1970.
Then there is the rest of the story.
The celebrity dieter, besides adopting a well-disciplined meal plan, spent hours every day in the gym with a professional trainer. She worked out like a professional athlete to drop her excess cellulite. Her new, trim, body required really hard work.
The magazine’s article about the easy steps to save the planet listed things like hanging out your laundry, using a reusable grocery bag, buying local organic food, shunning paper plates for your picnics, taking public transportation, recycling, buying products that use less packaging, turning off electronics, and installing compact fluorescent bulbs.
The ideas were all good and seemed simple enough.
The next time I washed clothes I considered hanging them on the clothes line, but it was late in the day and they wouldn’t have gotten dry before the evening dew settled, so I put them in the dryer.
I forgot my reusable grocery bag when I stopped by the store for a couple of things when I was in town.
The farmers market doesn’t start until July and only runs on Thursdays. If I forget to organize my trips to town, I have to make a separate 30 mile drive.
I don’t have a public transportation option. I try to walk to my mailbox, but sometimes it’s just too cold, too windy, too rainy, too hot, or I’m too busy.
Should I throw away all the regular light bulbs in my house and put in the new energy efficient kind? They’re quite a bit more expensive. There’s a warning on them not to dispose of them in the garbage because of the small amounts of mercury they contain. That complicates things since I don’t know where to get rid of the compact fluorescents when they burn out.
Maybe saving the planet isn’t going to be any easier than losing weight.
Popular magazines are doing us all a disservice by portraying either weight loss or saving the earth as “easy.” There are no easy ways to lose weight. There is no magic pill or simple diet that will allow us to quickly shed weight without any work. Experts tell us that effective weight loss requires hard work and developing new eating and exercise habits. Habits are hard to change.
Even habits that cause us physical harm are not easy to drop. The convenience of throwing a few towels in the dryer at the end of a long day, hopping in the car to mail a letter, or opting for paper plates and plastic utensils are things that don’t hurt us immediately. They feel good at the time.
Will changing the course of global warming be accomplished by occasionally hanging a few clothes on the line, taking the bus sometimes, or buying an energy saving appliance unless it is more expensive? Small acts can create large changes, but we have to do these things daily, even when it’s inconvenient or it costs us more.
What the magazine doesn’t tell us is that sometimes weight loss requires more than new habits of eating and exercise. Sometimes major surgery is required.
Saving the planet will also require more than simple, small changes in our behavior. Major changes in how we travel, build, grow our food, light our homes, dispose of our garbage will be needed.
Losing weight and saving the planet are not impossible, but neither is going to be easy.
Copyright © 2014 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains