[What I had for breakfast today, and second breakfast, and lunch: jasmine rice, beet greens, fresh eggs and sriracha.]
There are three commandments in Healthy Hedonism: eat for pleasure, move for fun, and think for yourself. We've covered, briefly, eating for pleasure and moving for fun, and we'll talk more about those soon. But today, let's chat a little about thinking for yourself.
A lot of the time, we let other people think for us. Even the most independent-minded among us let other people think for us. And, okay, here and there, it makes sense to delegate our thinking: for example, I don't hang a picture in my home or office (let alone buy furniture or choose paint colors!) without consulting my friend and interior designer Emily Lynch Kelman, because she does brilliant work and always, always comes up with the exact right spot. Delegating decisions to people who are experts in making those decisions is smart.
But delegating all your thinking to people who do not have your best interests at heart is not smart. It's harmful to you and to everyone. And those people, the ones that don't have your best interests at heart? They are everywhere. Everywhere! They're on your Facebook feed. They're in your car, in between Top 40 songs on the radio. They are shouting at you from your television set, nudging you at the edges of your Google searches, spreading across the highway on your commute.
It's the ads. There are people whose entire job is to make you hate your hair. The people creating ads for styling products and shampoo are thinking for you, and those thoughts look like this: Your hair! It's so dull, or so frizzy, or so thin. Everyone who sees you figures you're dull, or have no control over your life, or are past your prime. You are undateable. You are not going to realize your potential in love, in work, in any way. This is tragic. It's too bad your hair doesn't look more like model hair. Oh, wait, though: if you just bought this one bottle of magic hair stuff, this beautiful man will love you forever, paint your toenails and propose with a giant diamond.
Oh, and the diamond commercials! Here's how they are thinking for you: If your man really loved you, he'd buy you a giant diamond. If he cared at all about your future together, he'd want everyone to know, and you'd be wearing diamonds all the time because, duh, DIAMONDS=LOVE. No diamonds? You are unloved. Move on and find someone with deeper pockets who will listen to our ads and buy you this ring that looks like everyone else's ring. Everyone wearing this ring is cherished, obviously.
There are commercials telling you that if you really love your child--or want your child to love you--you'll buy them some highly-engineered food product covered in way too much packaging and stick it in their lunch box. Your child is having a bad day? Don't think too much--just buy them some kind of shiny baggie with mush in it that they can squeeze directly into their mouths. That will fix it. All their friends will think, wow, that kid's mom is cool. Which will up your child's self-esteem, and then he'll get into a great college and your whole life will actually be worth something.
Weight-loss commercials: You know what? I can't even get started on those. Let's come back to those.
Car commercials: Your whole family will die in a fiery crash if you don't buy our safety-rated vehicle. Or: you could be picking up women at every red light, except you're not driving our slick coupe; in fact, you're the dork in the commercial that gets splashed with the puddle. Want to find love, scrub? Buy this one. Or: Your life is so boring; you never take road trips, but if you had this car you totally would, and your family would bond and everyone would turn off their cell phones and really listen to one another. Because you bought the right car. Good job, Mom. Your kids will remember this trip forever, and you could never have taken it in the car you already have. (Couldn't I?) You couldn't! Stop thinking and get the loan application started.
Frozen-dinner commercials: This is basically the same thing as eating a meal prepared from scratch. See how we put whole vegetables and a tractor on a farm in our commercial? A lady in an apron smiling as she dices potatoes and kneads biscuit dough? Never mind that each of the frozen-dinner components was produced in a separate industrial facility, and that if a lady did help to prepare it she wasn't wearing an apron but was definitely wearing a hairnet and was probably not smiling, and this came nowhere near anybody's kitchen. Never mind that you have to open a cardboard box to eat your dinner. You don't have time to make real food, who does? This is the best you can do. This is the best anybody can do. You're welcome. Oh, your family will love you, too. Your kids will all come sit around the dinner table and look pleased and surprised that there is cheese product on their plate. Family bonding accomplished.
Okay, back to weight loss commercials. If anybody, anywhere, called your kid fat, you would want to punch them in the face. Right? If someone called you fat, you'd be wounded. You'd feel insecure. You'd think, that's a mean person. And maybe you'd wonder if they're right. Somehow, when a commercial calls us fat, we think they are trying to help us.
They're not. They're really not. They are trying to make us wonder if we are in fact less loveable than we could be if we fit into the dress the woman is wearing in the "after" picture. They are thinking for you, thoughts like: You are inadequate. You are wasting your life. You are not living at all until you're skinny. You cannot get to a healthy place on your own power. You need to purchase our coaching, our powdered beverages, our compartmentalized meal plans, and then you'll have the energy you need to devote to the people you love, and then, finally, they will love you back. Give it over--your money, your control, your sense of self. Give it up. Don't you want to be loved? You can't do it without us.
They're insiduous. They are reaching up from gutters to sucker-punch us in our softest places, broadcasting images of our most encompassing wishes and our deepest fears. Don't let them. Don't be a part of it. Be an example of difference, strength, completion.
Here is the place I wish we were all starting from: I am loved. I love myself, exactly the way I am. When I buy stuff, I buy it because I want it, because it will serve me, not because it will make me complete. I'm already complete. If I decide to change the way I look, it'll be because it'll be fun and creatively satisfying to recreate the outward expression of my beautiful inner self. If I decide to change the way I eat, it'll be because I want to feel as strong and as healthy and as awake to the absolute glory of my life in every moment as I possibly can. I'm not making any changes that don't come from me, authentically. I'm not letting someone else create an imaginary need in my life. There is no hole, no deficiency, no inadequacy here that can be filled with a product. Nobody gets to think for me. I think for myself.
Please, please, think for yourself. There's no one else who's as much on your side as you. Don't let big, impersonal companies who don't know one single thing about you tell you who you are or what you need. You need you. You already have that, and it's the best.