Being Jealous Doesn’t Get You Anywhere

© Andy Dean - Fotolia.com

Straight Talk And No Nonsense

Have you ever perused the ten commandments? They are the basic rules for civilized human behavior, summed up concisely in only ten basic simple sentences. But has it ever occurred to you to wonder what something relatively benign like jealousy is doing right up there with murder? “Thou shalt not covet.” Why is that regarded with such seriousness?

It has dawned on me lately how motivating jealousy actually is. I was always jealous of thin, pretty people. They seem to get all the breaks; they certainly seem to get more sexual attention than do fat people. Studies show that they are even more respected in the workplace.

My features are pleasant enough. I might never be a great beauty, but I would never be considered ugly. All I needed to do to be on the good side of that attention and respect divide was to be thin. On the surface it would seem that that was a no-brainer. I’d even known for decades that low carbohydrate diets worked best for me. Why not just do it?

I now understand that there have been many conflicting emotions behind my eating decisions, many undercurrents of feeling which pulled and tugged against the surface flow toward thinness. And jealousy was one of those.

Because it’s not fair. It’s not fair that I don’t get what I want and someone else gets it instead. I don’t begrudge other people respect or admiration or love, but why should they get it when I don’t? It’s not fair. There really is no argument against it, but it doesn’t make me one ounce thinner thinking this way. I have to do what I have to do, which is either change my behavior in order to change my appearance or accept the fact that I will be on the wrong side of that divide if I don’t. I can’t change the culture.

I think the most insidious jealousy most dieter’s experience is the jealousy of not being able to eat like “normal people” eat. Time and time again we hear someone lamenting that they just can’t eat like a normal person and they resent it.

This is pure jealousy, and in this case it’s even irrational. How do normal people eat? Well, if the statistics are to believed, the majority of American adults are overweight, with a significant minority considered to be medically obese. At the rate we are going, in a few more years we will be a nation whose “norm” is obesity. If “normal” is defined as what the majority do the majority of the time, then of course we can eat like normal people eat. We will, of course, then look like normal people look: overweight. What is there to be jealous of in that equation?

Nothing, of course. Those were not really who we were talking about. We’re really jealous of those people who can just eat “anything” and be skinny.

But are we quite sure such people exist?

I know many thin, attractive women. I watch them when we go out; I watch them when we are just sitting around at the office, or standing around at a party. First off, they don’t hover in front of the buffet table. I’ve actually seen them go through an entire cocktail party without eating. I’ve seen them watch a movie without anything more than a diet drink to sustain them. When we go out to eat they order salads, or maybe grilled fish or chicken. The bottom line? The thin, attractive women I know are very careful about what they eat. That’s what keeps them thin. What is there to be jealous of in that equation? Only the fact that they are already where we want to be. But there is no barrier they are erecting to keep us out. If we are very careful about what we eat, then sooner or later we will be attractive, too.

Of course, we all know a few thin people who really do eat a lot of junk. Almost every seven-year-old boy falls into that category. But I have to be honest. I had my turn. When I was a child I ate a lot of candy and I was a normal weight. As a teenager I ate even more junk food. A little disposable income of my own, vending machines in the high school cafeteria, and next thing you know I was eating almost nothing but junk food two meals a day. But to be honest, I also exercised at least 10 hours a week. And I wasn’t happy with my weight then.

If I do a flashback to high school, I do remember that the thinner girls were often munching on apples while I was eating peanut butter cheese crackers and Cheetos. Certainly the slender teenage girls nowadays are careful about what they eat. Many of them, of course, are too careful.

My teenage son has, of course, been known to scarf down huge quantities of food and not all of it lean meat and veggies. But I get tired just watching the two hours of track practice he has every afternoon. He runs more laps just to warm up than I ever do when I call it exercise. So there’s another equation. Eat anything and lots of it and exercise hours and hours every day. What is there to be jealous of in that equation?

So who are these really thin people who can eat anything without consequence? I know only one. She cannot seem to keep weight on her frame and has to eat a big bowl of ice cream every day just to keep from losing below a size 4. She also had chronic arthritis by the age of 40. Her skin tone is rough and her attitude toward life is sometimes even rougher. I can be jealous of how she looks in a bathing suit, but I know that something is not right in her physiology. I can fix what I hate in my body by diet. She can’t fix hers. What is there to be jealous of in that equation? The truth is that she is sometimes jealous of me.

All right, so let’s just accept the fact that “Why can’t I eat like normal people?” is a meaningless jealousy. There are still people to be jealous of. There are all those beautiful people who have so much money and so much time that they can afford personal trainers and personal chefs and plastic surgery and botox treatments. Be jealous of the money and the time, if you will, but remember they are still not eating anything and everything that they want to, and they are still exercising a lot.

The worst jealousy is the jealousy of a wife. The husband and wife both decide to go on a low carbohydrate diet together. They each need to take off a few pounds, or more than a few. She is religious in keeping to the diet; he cheats on it every day at lunch. In two weeks she loses 3 pounds and he loses 7. She’s jealous, and who can blame her?

But the bottom line for her is still the same as it is for all of us when we begin to be jealous of what other people can eat. Who is our jealousy hurting? Does it make the slightest change in the way the world operates? Does it lose us even one ounce?

Jealousy has motivated us as a race to accomplish many things in our history. It has also been the driving force behind some of our worst behaviors. But for a dieter it can sometimes be a debilitating hindrance, because every bit of mental energy spent coveting can build a wall between us and what we need to do, which is, eat right and exercise more.

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