The New You

"Y’know, we’re conditioned, weaned on, and addicted to ‘looking like’ rather than actually ‘being’ or ‘feeling.’ The fact that we prize beauty is the reason that we live in a perpetually disposable society. We worship something that is nothing but transitory. The standards for beauty have changed more over the ages than the names tattooed on Johnny Depp’s arm.”

--Dennis Miller

Ranting Again


So, another year arrives. Did you make that always-elusive resolution again this year? The one about making the physical alterations to your body that will help in your quest to make your life resemble a light beer commercial?

How about a $750 gym membership that you prepay in January and stop using by Valentine’s Day? How about the newest miraculous piece of painted steel and plastic being hawked by the washed-up sitcom star on the infomercial that will shave the pounds off daily (“but wait, there’s more…”)? Maybe you have a few more bucks saved and you are getting the surgical favors: liposuction, facelift, collagen injections. So many choices and only one body to rebuild …

The problem is, after you’ve hung all the “new-you” clothes you bought on the new and rarely used piece of exercise equipment (see also “clothes rack”), you just might find you really don’t have any place to wear that purple sash and open pink shirt. It looked really good in the magazine, but how’s it going to go over at the office? The best you can hope for might be, “Uh, Ron, your shirt is unbuttoned …”

Separating Fact From Fiction

The association, and we’ve all fallen into this trap at some point in our lives, is that I want these clothes so I can be like that guy. But isn’t that exactly the point? You can’t wear that outfit in the real world; you can’t play that role in the real world because it isn’t you.

The same thing applies to weight loss. When you put together a program to redefine yourself and get that momentary addiction to health, nutrition and working out, you definitely can re-shape your body, but it takes a lot of maintenance to keep it in that condition. For most of us, the momentum of life catches up to us and, eventually, we fall off the wagon and end up putting that weight right back on because we haven’t learned that the real change, the one that will help us stick to our plan and maintain discipline, is our internal changes.

Remember Jane Fonda’s workout regimen of the 1980s? She scolded the world for not being in shape. A few years ago I caught her on a Barbara Walters Special after her divorce from Ted Turner.

“Do you still work out, Jane?” Barbara inquired. “No,” Jane said flatly, “not at all.” Now this is a gal who turned fitness into a zillion dollar industry and gave the whole world the guilt trip for not getting into her addiction to living healthy, and here she was, maybe 15 years later, denying the importance of the very lifeblood that was her “career” for more than a decade, from playing Barbarella to playing the quinella in a mere decade and a half. Go figure, literally.

Seen the Governator lately? Still broad-shouldered to be sure, and although Arnold is knocking on the White House door, Stallone has certainly won the last round of that long-running physical competition. Sly is still under the physical addiction that makes that possible. Arnold has other priorities. Apparently, even the top of the physical food chain struggles.

In the end, doesn’t all of this seem rather pointless? Don’t get me wrong, for good physical condition is very important, but usually these addictions are not about that; they are about looking good. Doesn’t that ring rather empty for you?

The Beauty That Shines

Think of how many beautiful people you know – the ones who give off a light that makes them that way, not the looks as much as the inner beauty of confident, caring, listening, giving people. Ones who are not carved in a gym but rather formed from witnessing the needs of fellow human beings and tending to them with heart and caring.

What if the thing you remodeled was inside you? What if the results you had to show were more important than those you prove to your Chubby Checker Counselor at the local weight loss clinic on your weekly scale trip?

What if this year’s resolution was about who you are and not about how you look? Or better yet who you might try to become in the next year?

I knew a girl just after I got out of college who was dating a buddy of mine. She was about 20 or 30 pounds heavier than she probably should have been, according to all those medical associations that know those things, but she had a spirit that was undeniable. She lived life to its fullest but in the end she was too much for my friend to handle. Her giving ways left him feeling ignored, but she soon hooked up with another fellow who was a lot like her. He too was a bit heavy and wore thick glasses, but what a power couple they became. I recall them coming to my apartment right before Christmas with a van full of people, and they drove us down to the local hunger center, where we fixed sandwiches and soups for the homeless. On another winter evening, they asked a few of us to come along and bring sandwiches rolled up in blankets that we gave to street people, huddling in doorways against the weather. When friends got married, she made them huge scrapbooks, chronologies of their lives. They married, and often their cars didn’t start and they lost their keys or misplaced her purse, but they laughed and loved and lived and cried in a way that made me so envious. She was always finding the most unique restaurants and places of interest, and as the years passed, they had kids who were well-adjusted and happy people.

In short, they were beautiful people that I always wanted to be around. They made the world a better place wherever they went, and he fed off her energy like an addict. They could always “spin” a story to the good side. When I hear people complain about the crow’s-feet near their eyes (laugh lines), or the belly fat they have to lose (wife is a good cook), or the cost of college (improving their children), I really value these friends who always see life in a positive way. Their inner beauty outdoes the importance of physical attributes in a way that makes them a “model” with which the Sports Illustrated swimsuit girls could never compete.

Let’s look at 2007 as an opportunity to do something different instead of committing the same mistakes and falling into the same pitfalls. Be firm with yourself and decide that you will give people more of your time. Find ways to be generous with your heart and soul. Let your inner light shine and start to feel good about the daily contribution you make. I bet you any money your body will make physical adjustments based on how good you feel about yourself that would make Jack LaLane proud.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail at