What 'Lost' Taught Me About Body Image

It's not all just smoke monsters and fish biscuits

Last night was the culmination of six years of the fantastically epic science fiction show Lost. Whether or not you've been tuning in since Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Juliet, Sun and Jin crashed on The Island; whether or not you’ve watched them hurtle through time, battle the Smoke Monster, struggle with science vs. faith and more; no American with a TV, magazine subscription or office watercooler has avoided learning at least a little bit about the hit series with a cult following.

I dedicated a good six hours to Lost last night, between pre-show sangria with friends, the two-hour series recap, a break for deep dish (spinach, mushroom and black olive) and the two-and-a-half hour grand finale. Sometime between the rain-soaked brawling, Locke’s successful spinal surgery and the plane magically lifting off The Island, I realized that many of Lost’s themes could be applied to how we deal with our body image. Among my sangria-soaked revelations on the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815:

1. With a little perspective, things really aren’t all that bad. You think moving from a size 8 to a 12 is bad? Try living with the guilt of serving as a torturer in the Iraqi Republican Guard, crashing on a crazy deserted island, watching your one true love be hit and killed by a car that was meant for you, being whipped, shot, drowned, electrically shocked, "infected" and ultimately getting blown up by a bomb.  Those size 12 pants don’t seem so bad now, do they?

2. People are not always who they seem. The Smoke Monster masqueraded as Christian Shephard and John Locke, among others, taking over their dead bodies and speaking through them. But an outside observer would never know the evil that existed inside. Remember that the next time you see a woman with a perfect body walking down the street and start feeling sorry for yourself, thinking how fabulous and care-free her life must be. Chances are, she’s just like the other 99 percent of us who have days where we wake up feeling fat and don’t stop beating ourselves up until bedtime. That also goes for idolizing celebrities -– they, too, can have crappy body images, Just Like US

3. We are all flawed. True, the Lost characters’ flaws including the ability to rob, torture and murder, while most of us tend to obsess over faults like cellulite or muffin tops. But no matter how convinced we may be that losing another 10 pounds or having our inner thighs liposuctioned will bring us inner peace, the truth is that until we’re happy with who we are on the inside, no amount of physical tweaking will make us truly happy. There will always be another flaw that can be corrected, another wrinkle or sag or bulge to be erased. I myself struggle with this, particularly when I see myself from behind while wearing a bathing suit. I say to myself, "If I could just make my butt tighter and smoother, I swear I would be happy with my body and stop having bad body image days." The truth is, I've exercised and dieted and obsessed and my butt has basically never changed. It is what it is, flaws and all, and ultimately, I’m just going to have to accept it or risk living a life viewed from behind –- literally.

4. Portion control and regular exercise are all you need to stay fit and healthy. Our castaways didn’t have gummy bears or Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. They lived off mangoes and bananas, plus the occasional DHARMA fish biscuit. They practiced mindful eating with imaginary peanut butter.  You’d think Michael Pollan  served as a consultant on the show considering their reliance on fruits and vegetables, lean meats and very few foods with a wrapper or from a box. Combined with the fact that they were constantly running from Widmore’s thugs, being chased by polar bears, swimming through ocean waves to their boat, jumping out of helicopters, leaping off cliffs and beating up Ben, those characters were incinerating calories day and night. That explains Kate bangin’ bod  but it begs the question: Why didn’t Hugo slim down? 

5. You can’t go back in time. Well, OK, apparently this cast CAN time travel -– backwards, forwards and sideways -– but not without mind-altering headaches, nose bleeds and the risk of remaining in eternal Purgatory. As for us mere mortals, time travel is even trickier. That’s because living a life of "Remember when my stomach didn’t have these rolls when I bent over?" and "I fit into these damn jeans last year, how did I let myself go?" is mentally abusive. I just battled the desire to time travel yesterday when my husband and I hit the beach for Chicago’s first 80 plus degree day. Waiting in line for a smoothie, I turned around and saw a girl, maybe 21, wearing a teeny rainbow-striped bikini. Her abs were as flat as my laptop screen and looked like you could literally bounce a quarter off of them. She was eating a hotdog. Of course she was.

Having just turned 34 and feeling not so hot about my 34-year-old body, I found myself thinking, "Oh, I used to look like that. My stomach was that flat. Why didn’t I appreciate it back then?" But you know what? I work out all the time, I eat a very healthy diet (deep dish and sangria notwithstanding) and the reality is, when Hot Dog Bikini Girl is 34, her abs won’t look like that either. Did most of us have thinner waists and perkier butts when we were 18? Of course (besides Kelly Ripa, I mean.) But we also had age, lifestyle and genetics on our side. Gravity is inevitable, and with that comes some wrinkling, sagging and softening. Living in the past won’t help that.

6. You can create your own destiny. Science vs Faith was a major theme on Lost, as was the issue of Free Will. In the first season, Locke tells Jack, "Each one of us was brought here for a reason... The Island chose you, too, Jack. It's destiny." Jack, a spinal surgeon, doesn’t believe in destiny, even though he ultimately winds up meeting a paralyzed Locke in a different reality and restoring his ability to walk.

Whether or not YOU believe in destiny or free will, the fact is that how we act and the way we live our lives absolutely can have an impact on our future. I don’t have a specific study to back this up, but I’m willing to bet that if I were to wake up on the right side of the bed on a Monday morning, log a butt-kicking workout, enjoy a tasty breakfast of fresh fruit and oatmeal and get a good five hours of solid writing in, I’ll have paved the way towards a fantastic, productive week. I'm happier when I'm healthier; I enjoy work more when I’m busy and juggling multiple tasks.

Small steps can help manifest destiny just as much as big ones, and they’re in our more immediate control. We might not be able to prevent our plane from crashing on an island with bizarre electromagnetic powers, but we sure can set ourselves up for joy.

Plus:
-PHOTOS:The men we love on Lost
-The burning questions you wish Lost would answer
-Jin Talks: 8 questions with Daniel Dae Kim of Lost
-POLL: What's your reaction to the Lost finale?

Did you watch the series finale Lost? What did you think of the ending? Chime in below.

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