America has its Nicole Richie. Britain has its Victoria Beckham.
It’s like a union of two powerful countries: Nicky and Vicky, like the United States and the United Kingdom, together forever till death do them part – which, unless they start eating, might just happen.
We all know why Nicole and Victoria are the perfect pair – both are young and famous.
They are American and British counterparts stylishly dying to be thin. Yet the cultural differences for their skinny inspiration are vast.
Unlike in the United Kingdom, we live in a country that profits from the fat phobia it helped to create.
We can turn to Los Angeles, Fen Phen and negative calorie foods for the support (or guilt) we need to fuel our hunger to starve.
And though Nicole isn’t the only scary skinny American celebrity, Victoria isn’t an anomaly in her home country, where although eating greasy fish and chips with a pint of Guinness is a national pastime, I have yet to walk by a truly overweight person or even a plus-size clothing store here.
Americans live in a society where gluttony is accepted as much as grossly distorted views of unattainable beauty. In today’s fitness-obsessed society, we are fighting a war with ourselves – and unlike 1776, the Brits seem to be coming out on top this time around.
The first thing I noticed about London’s restaurants was a distinct lack of green.
Want a Greek salad, minus the cheese and croutons with a dribble of no fat, no sugar and no carbohydrate dressing from Saladworks?
Too bad, because while a make-it-yourself salad eatery is as common as a Starbucks in New York City, they’re literally nowhere to be found in London.
And trust me, because I’m the type of girl who would look.
I say that because this time last year, I was falling fast into the depths of anorexia.
I began counting calories and eating rabbit food in an effort to look like the bikini-clad models on the covers of fitness magazines I religiously read.
As my self-image grew increasingly distorted, my goal to eat healthier mutated into a sick drive to make every ounce of my flesh disappear.
Even more frightening is that while the scale’s pointer dipped lower and lower with each weigh-in, I still wasn’t happy.
I was far from feeling like the smiling, skinny models I saw in magazines. In fact, I had never been more miser¬able in my life.
Americans are founders of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, La-Z-Boy recliners and elevators to the first floor.
It has cultivated a society of miserable men and women absorbed with their country’s health-obsessed culture.
Nowhere else can you find calo¬ries published directly on a restaurant menu or buy a magazine strictly de¬voted to losing weight.
Some spend hundreds of dollars to lock themselves in the gym every day, while others take the easy route of paying
their nearby spa to cleanse their body of “impurities” by undergoing a procedure to suck their colon dry so their bum can finally squeeze into those one-size-too-small skinny jeans.
In the United States, not only do we fail to eat in moderation, we fail to be healthy in moderation as well.
Today, no fat may be all the rage, but tomorrow it might be no carbs and sugar. Neighborhood parks, intended to serve as shared community green space for exercise and play, are losing the battle to pavement for expensive fitness centres.
Now, thanks to the power of Splenda, practically every manufactured food is available in a low cal, low sugar form at your local grocery store.
Just as the golden arches taunt us on our drive to work, the very small world of the Richies and the Beckhams has led our country to harbor self-hatred and shame in the form of workout tapes and diet shakes.
The United States has a health problem, and we are equally as unhealthy in how we handle it.
As has happened with other U.S. trends, the Brits are beginning to hop onto the American-exported fitness frenzy bandwagon, too. Gym memberships are the latest fad and U.K. fashion magazines idolize Victoria’s model-ready style just as much as they criticize what’s lacking below the designer cloth.
Living in the United Kingdom won’t cure an eating disorder, but it has reminded me that there are more important things in life than fitting into the size two pants that sit gathering dust in my closet.
I’ll never 100 percent love my body – and most likely neither will you – but if we can separate ourselves from the culture of thinness, we can be at peace with the people we are and the society we live in.
Whether we like it or not, McDonald’s is part of our culture – and sometimes you just need fries with that.
Sammy Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.