One Rant Gives way to Another…

16 Mar

Something has been bothering me for a while.  I live in a community of very large people.  For some reason rural areas in the Midwest seem to be poster-children for obese populations.  I could go one of several ways off of this topic; First, I could highlight the plight of the Iowa family farmer, passionately defending a group of people who once endured countless hours of back-breaking labor only to have their government betray them and sell them out to giant conglomerations who are single-handedly poisoning America’s few sources of nutrition.  I could tell you about how these people used to get up with the sun, sit around a large table together as a family and eat potatoes, meat, eggs bread and butter every morning.  I could tell you about how these people were never overweight.  Perhaps the farmer’s wife was pleasantly plump, but no one looked down their noses at her on the street, not when she had three burly sons flanking her.  Yes, there are countless displaced farmers sitting in the sketchy Chinese Buffet downtown Grinnell at this very moment.  And people are looking down their noses left and right at the farmer’s wife of today because her family is hovering around the poverty line and they suffer from poor nutrition and over dependency on their multiple large vehicles.  Another direction I could go in ultimately has to do with those displaced farmers, but I will point my fingers at the mega-farms that bought them out.  Iowa is known for one thing:  King Corn.  All anyone grows here anymore is corn.  You can’t feed over 3,000,000 people on just corn.  Not to mention corn is one of the most parasitic plants in the whole of creation.  It’s lust for nitrogen is insatiable and one planting destroys the fertile topsoil Iowa used to be known for.  A trip to the grocery store in “America’s Heartland” is a depressing ordeal.  Most of our food comes from California and Mexico.  This means it costs more.  As stated above, a lot of people in rural Iowa don’t have that much extra dough to burn, so they prefer McDonalds, or KFC, or Taco John’s, or any other member of the surprisingly large population of fast-food chains that have brainwashed us to think we are getting a balanced meal for nearly nothing when we give them our patronage.  Or, they stick to what Eric and I have playfully dubbed “The Iowa Diet.”  Chops, potatoes, and corn.  Maybe with a side of green beans thrown in.  Although they can hardly be called “green” since they most likely come out of a can.  When we go to the grocery store here, we are more often than not the only couple in the place who don’t have any frozen pre-prepared products, white bread or potato chips in our basket.  If I ever witness someone else selecting tofu from the organic section, I might just have a heart attack.  Who am I kidding?  I shop at the Hy-Vee, when most of the population is across the highway at the Super Walmart, so I can only guess what kind of processed nightmares they have stuffed along with themselves into their SUVs.

But my frustration with the obesity around me is not with the individuals themselves.  It could be said they are victims of the situation they are in.  Can I blame a single mother working two jobs for driving to the grocery store instead of walking there with her kids?  No.  Can I blame that same mom for not taking advantage of the two yoga studios downtown, or the fitness centers out towards the interstate?  I looked into their pricing, so no, I can’t.  The interesting thing about Grinnell is the two classes that rub uncomfortably against one another.  This is both a college town and a blue-collar town.  There are even townie bars and college bars.  Getting a late Sunday breakfast at the A&M you may see the church crowd on one side and the hungover college students on the other.  As the partner of a Grinnell College alumnus-turned staff, I enjoy what the college has to offer.  Free yoga classes twice a week.  Zumba at least once a week.  Access to the pool as many days out of the week as I please.  Perhaps as a college faculty member, one could afford the classes offered at the studios downtown, or a membership to Anytime Fitness, but your average Grinnell citizen is a far cry from that.

It’s become part of the culture here, as well as in many other Midwest towns to be overweight and probably secretly ashamed about it.  So how does someone even begin to escape from this undesirable norm?  I can speak to this from personal experience.  I’m living it right now.  Even though I’m not the only fat person on the street, I still feel people’s eyes on me.  I imagine them thinking things to themselves I don’t wish to repeat.  So I’m caught in this catch-22 in a society that expects me to be thin, because what’s the point of having a woman who isn’t thin?  But at the same time I’m surrounded by a culture that makes it difficult to be thin.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed.  What’s easier?  Squeezing my body into a swimsuit to self-consciously splash my way through a pool where I am the only big person?  Or staying at home making a yummy casserole full of melted cheese and pasta for my man when he comes home?  It sucks going to the gym and being the only non-athlete there.  Every week at yoga class I am the only person above a size 10.  I am the only person who has to go the wall to do a modified shoulder stand, and the only one who can’t stand the full 3 minutes in Warrior Pose.  I am occasionally bothered by these things, but it is less shameful because I have such a wonderful support network.  When the three of us leave class we often talk about how hard X pose was for us.  The thing that always gets me is, where is everyone else? I know there are other plus-sized people out there like me who want to get started on a fitness routine, and are probably staying home scared because they don’t want to be the only big person there.  I particularly wonder where the students are.  Eric assures me there are large students on campus, and I know the benefits of an exercise infused study-break.  I can see how being a plus-size student on an otherwise skinny and predominantly white campus would be a little intimidating.  I just wish there was a way for me to get them out of their shells and into the yoga room.  Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I would feel less lonely if I had a friend doing modified shoulder stand at the wall with me.


3 Responses to “One Rant Gives way to Another…”

  1. Cleo March 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    This was a very interesting post. I agree with everything but the comment about Walmart. I know I’m suppose to hate Walmart because of their corporate greed or their ties to China, or whatever, but I am totally impressed with their fresh fruits and vegetable selections and they do have organic. And, I’m sorry, they are much more affordable than Hy-Vee or Cub or Econofoods. And living on a tight budget I need to worry about how much I spend on groceries. I’m not offended, but I’m sure a lot of those farmers are shopping at Walmart because they can save money.

    Just remember, I love you Fawn! – Cleo

    • fdcarlso March 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

      Absolutely, to each her own. I’m glad there are benefits to those who shop at Walmart. I just think it’s too bad that’s the only option out there for us who are on tight budgets (I’m feeling the squeeze!) I am also a hopeless Target addict, and I’m not supposed to like them 😉

  2. ajgunter March 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I thought what you said regarding being overweight and making good food choices being a catch 22 was so true. I think this has been true throughout history though, hundreds of years ago being “fat” was a good thing because it meant your family had enough money to buy a lot of food which mean you were rich. Today being thin means you have the money to afford a gym or personal trainer (or plastic surgery…). It’s just the opposite today, which is weird and frustrating…

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