Monday 20 November 2017

Shape Up: Break free from Bridget

Unlike Ms Jones, don't let the emotional turmoil of everyday living ruin your quality of life

Damien Maher

The countdown to Christmas Day is well under way and the days and nights of socialising that accompany it are at the top of many people's agendas.

Around this time of year employees' productivity draws to a halt, as 'Oh no it's Monday', 'Over the hump Wednesday' and 'Thank goodness it's Friday' all require a trip to the pub. In fact, a 2005 study conducted by Japan's Tokyo Women's Medical University found that most people suffer heart attacks on Mondays as that's when blood pressure is highest due to the stress of returning to work.

Like every other year, the TV channels will be showing everyone's favourite festive movies such as 'Miracle on 34th Street', 'The Polar Express' and re-runs of films like 'Bridget Jones's Diary' (below) and 'The Nutty Professor'.


The latter two were big box-office hits as they brought laughter to the lives of many. The reason why is that people could relate to the lead characters' challenges.

'Bridget Jones's Diary' addressed the subject of one woman's life as a singleton, and her battle with weight and diets, while 'The Nutty Professor' told the story of a college professor's quest to develop a 'cure' for obesity.

I did laugh at Bridget's exploits. Her lifestyle and dietary habits mimic the lifestyles of many females who like to party and subsequently gain weight and then react and embark on the latest fad diets to try and remedy the situation.

They obsessively count calories, just as Bridget does. They also let the emotional turmoil of everyday life -- work, family, friendships and boyfriends -- impinge on their eating and drinking patterns, and become paranoid about putting on a few pounds.

Bridget certainly has a taste for alcohol, as her diary claimed she knocked back a massive 3,836 units a year, or the equivalent of 10.5 units a day. The Department of Health recommends that women have no more than three units of alcohol per day.

Success coach Tony Robbins says that people develop a conditioned response to food. When children cry or feel sad, it is common for doting mothers to give them chocolate or ice cream to soothe them and make them feel happier.

As adults, we continue the same response and this explains how Bridget's calorie intake fluctuates daily, from 1,500 to 8,450, depending on how the day went. Unsurprisingly, she is always heaviest around Christmas.

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but really they should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.


The longer you live this lifestyle the bigger the risk to your health. It is said that your body is the baggage you must carry through life. The more excess baggage, the shorter the trip, and there are too many people out there digging their own grave with a knife and fork.

In 'The Nutty Professor', Sherman Klump's journey resembles that of many men in this country. His desire to change his physique was spurred by a love interest, not because of a risk to his health.

I have talked to many men who had high blood pressure and high cholesterol yet their desire to change their body shape was fuelled by an impending school reunion, not the danger to their health.

Sherman's turning point came when watching American TV fitness guru Russell Simmonds, who told his audience if they wanted to lose the pounds, they needed to work.

There is a sense in these movies that Sherman and Bridget are settling for where they are. Sherman said: "The truth is I'm a big man. Now I will lose weight, but I'm always going to be big no matter what I do. So anyone I end up with is just going to have to accept me for who I am. More importantly, I'm going to have to accept myself for who I am."

Bridget says: "Suddenly I realised that unless something changed soon I was going to live a life where my major relationship was with a bottle of wine and I'd finally die, fat and alone, and be found three weeks later half eaten by Alsatians."

While movies make for great entertainment, the characters portrayed do not often make for great role models. Our internal conversations and visions need to be strong because inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but for some, they can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake.

Irish Independent

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