Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jennifer Hudson’s Motivation for Weight Loss

In recent posts, I have focused on our culture’s emphasis on what women look like.  Women are judged and valued based on how attractive they are.  Women who are considered to be physically beautiful are considered to be more important, more acceptable, more worthy than women who are not.  We aren’t necessarily always conscious of such judgments, but if we reflect on this for even a short period, it is obvious these attitudes are pervasive.

Such attitudes are extremely disturbing for a person of faith.  As Jesus taught us, such attitudes are completely at odds with those in the Kingdom of God.  A human being’s value is not based on what they look like.  It is based on the fact that they are a precious child of God. 

In this vein, I was very saddened by an article I read recently.  The person who gave me a copy of Allure also gave me a copy of Good Housekeeping, which is another magazine targeted to women.  Whereas Allure seems to target a younger demographic with few responsibilities beyond looking good, Good Housekeeping is appealing to women with families.  The magazine does focus on fashion and make-up sometimes, but it goes beyond to focus on raising kids, health issues, meal planning, sustaining marriages and personal finance topics.  I actually enjoy flipping through Good Housekeeping from time to time.  And sometimes I pick up practical tips that are helpful.

The copy of Good Housekeeping that I was recently given had acclaimed singer and actress, Jennifer Hudson, on the cover.  The article inside included an interview with Ms. Hudson.  That article is available at the link below.

The focus of the article was Ms. Hudson’s recent weight loss.  She lost 80 pounds and has kept it off for over a year.  That is an amazing accomplishment and I certainly admire her for it.  I have always struggled with my weight, but the struggle got particularly challenging after going to law school and entering a sedentary profession with long hours.  As a result, I know how difficult it must have been to lose so much weight and not gain it back.  With that perspective, I was interested in reading the article.

There are a number of reasons that being overweight is not a good thing.  There are a number of serious health repercussions including diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, etc.  As a result, I guess I naively assumed that the motivation for Ms. Hudson’s weight loss was her health.  I was stunned in reading the article that my assumption was very wrong.

The article describes how comfort foods were a staple in Ms. Hudson’s family and those around her were also overweight.  When she traveled, she was shocked that people in other parts of the country thought she was heavy.  Apparently what initially motivated her to lose weight was that she was not getting work in the entertainment industry despite lots of enthusiasm for her voice.  She was told she was “too big.”  This feedback inspired all kinds of dieting attempts, but each failed.  She remained heavy for years.

This continued until she became a mom.  In the article, Ms. Hudson said her son “deserved to have a mama who could run after him without getting winded or getting tired, to have a role model who could teach him to make healthy food choices.  I needed him to grow up with a mama who always would be there for him by caring enough about herself to take control of her health and her eating.” 

I respect and admire that epiphany.  I had a similar one when we adopted our first child.  It prompted me to join the YMCA and work out regularly.  It also inspired me to incorporate a lot more veggies, fruits and legumes in our family’s meals.  I ended up losing 30 pounds and have kept it off for a number of years.

So, I am second to none in admiring people who resolve to improve their health by losing weight.  That is a laudable goal.  And I can particularly related to and respect those who are inspired to improve their health due to caregiving responsibilities.

What does trouble me, however, is the impression in the article that Ms. Hudson’s initial motivation to lose weight was her career.  To be clear, I don’t judge or fault her desire to have a career.  It is natural for one to want to be a good steward of one’s God given gifts.  I also do not judge or fault her desire to have a career in the entertainment industry even though that industry can be highly superficial and seems to be populated largely by people with questionable values.  Ms. Hudson’s God-given gifts include a tremendous talent for singing, so it is natural that the talent would be used in the entertainment industry.

My concern with Ms. Hudson’s initial motivation to lose weight is more a concern about our culture, not her.  The entertainment industry is well-known for its imposition of and demand for unrealistic standards of beauty, particularly on women.  Women are expected to be stick thin, even right after pregnancy.  Women are also expected to have “perfect” facial features.  Plastic surgery, Botox and other expensive, risky treatments are apparently quite common.  This is so sad to me.  Breast implants and artificially full lips are pervasive.  Botched attempts to prevent visible signs of aging on one’s face are frequently seen as well.  Sadly, such Hollywood actresses are caricatures with their distorted facial and bodily features. 

Again, I don’t judge or condemn such Hollywood actresses.  But I am deeply saddened by the culture that would drive women to such lengths.  I cannot understand the values of a culture that would make women feel that such drastic measures are necessary to be successful.

Nonetheless, I don’t doubt that such pressures do exist.  I’ve never been in the entertainment industry, but even where I have worked women are judged by their appearance and they know that. 

On a more uplifting note, the end of the article on Ms. Hudson emphasizes her Christian faith.  She was raised in the church and her family spent lots of time doing work for the church.  Bible studies and choir were important parts of her upbringing.  She reads the Bible regularly and cited prayer in helping her get through trials in her life.  Ms. Hudson indicated in the interview that she tries to attend services regularly now.

Luke 12:27-31
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!  And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."

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