As an author, people ask me about the origin of my stories. Almost every person who has read my stories has asked, “Are they real?” Maybe this is a good opportunity for me to write how I came up with them, because some of the stories are so real it was painful. All my characters are based on real people whose personalities I borrowed without their knowledge, but some parts of the stories are twists I created to convey a message.
Here is how the story “Bojé’s magic powder” was born (I have changed the names to keep people’s privacy).
Mary was one of my first coaching clients. One of her goals was to get into one of the education organizations and as an action step, she volunteered at the Eating Disorders Association as a secretary. Naturally, we started talking about diets. I hate talking about diets, but Mary told me about the holy work the association did with anorexic girls and I learned that anorexia was an epidemic. Mary showed me that one out of 3 girls fast during their high school years in order to lose weight.
One out of three girls? That seemed too many. What about my daughters? I would not want them to be part of this statistic. I love them so much.
“Girls today fast to look like celebrities or cover magazine girls, even though the pictures they see are all touched up”, Mary said.
“What a shame”, I said, “Maybe if they knew the devastating outcome, they would act differently, but hey, people know the outcome of eating junk food and they still eat it. Maybe that is not enough. Well, I cannot blame them. I would want to look like a magazine cover girl and I do not even buy magazines. I only glance at them at the supermarket checkout and I hardly watch TV. Mary, can you explain this?”
“It was planted repeatedly in us since we were babies. Girls are destined to suffer bad body image. From the age of 3, when they go to buy toys, girls’ toys are all about beauty and looking good”, Mary said.
She was right! I had even bought my 4-year-old daughter her own makeup set so she would not use mine.
“I wish we could weigh our ideal weight without having to diet”, I said.
Mary started talking about the concept of “ideal weight”, but my mind was already looking for a solution. “Maybe a pill that gets rid of the fat and we can take it as long as we need? I hate pills. They make me feel sick. How about a powder that makes us skinnier the more we eat it. Yes, I like it! I would make it tasty, so people would love the powder”.
“20 years ago, the ideal weight was higher than today”, Mary said, “Did you know that Marilyn Monroe had the perfect ideal weight at 75kg? The ideal weight today is only about 55kg”.
“Well, that means that in 20 years, when my magic powder will be invented, the average person will be even skinnier”, I thought, “What will happen in 100 years? Wow, people will be so skinny! Is it good? Karen Carpenter was anorexic. She died so young from anorexia… What a shame! She was such a talented singer and though she overcame anorexia, her heart failed”.
“So many girls die from anorexia today”, Mary continued and I imagined a world where everyone was skinny and sick.
“Interesting, what if it happened the other way around – a skinny world trying to gain weight? Well, if we continue like this, people will wake up one day and realize that losing weight is not that appealing and then the cycle will change and people will start trying to gain weight. This could continue forever – 100 years of fat people dying from heart attacks and 100 years of skinny people dying from heart attacks… I like this idea! On the cover magazine, full figured women would be so attractive. I’m sure people would die of jealousy, but then I wouldn’t have to diet and my daughters would be safe… Actually, would they be safe? How can I keep them safe from becoming too skinny? … That’s it! I will keep them away from the powder, like I keep them now away from MSG. When I go to the Chinese shop, they sell Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in bags. Not small containers. Big bags! Only those who are health conscious or have allergies or sickness avoid them. This is how I’d keep them safe! The powder would make them feel bad, just like the MSG makes my daughter have Asthma attacks”.
“There is a whole industry of diets which brain washes people to think something is wrong with them”, Mary kept going.
“Of course she’s right. Maybe diets were created for health reasons, but people lost track along the way. I’m sure the creators of diets had good intentions… Well, I’m not so sure. Why would anyone come up with that horrible powder? Maybe to save his obese wife or sister… But then, maybe the powder killed another family member, like Nobel with his dynamite invention… He had good intentions that turned bad…”
“Kids today don’t even know what their food is made of”, Mary said.
“Funny, I know a 5-year-old who was asked what bread was made of as part of an IQ test. I’m sure some 5-year-olds today, although they have so much more knowledge, don’t know what bread is made of… There are so many reports saying kids do not eat fruits and vegetables… In 100 years, they won’t even know what fruits and vegetables are… I wonder how life would be, raising kids on food without knowing its ingredients… Well, we do not have to wait 100 years, even now people look for processed food that looks good, heated fast and they do not even bother to look at the ingredient… what if we did live in a world where people order food that looks good and they do not know what it is made of… oh, yes, it will be full of this magic powder that is killing them slowly… poor guy, I do not envy the guy who invented it… interesting idea… what an experience it would be for people in the future to try the original ingredients, fruits, vegetables, grains… after 100 years of eating this powder, it probably changed their taste buds… it is not that far away from now, My mom used to cook with Tamarind in Iran a lot and I tasted Tamarind first time in my life when I was 30 and it happened only because I lived in Thailand… if I tasted a dish with Tamarind I would have never guessed it as one of the ingredients… well, maybe we lose track of the original flavors… what if everything was synthetic?… we sure go there very fast… no, it won’t even take 100 of years…”
“Think about it. You walk down the street and almost every woman you see is preoccupied with her body image”, Mary says.
“Almost every woman? That’s scary!” I looked around. We were sitting in the balcony, having dips and olive with a great Turkish bread. “Women are preoccupied with their body even when they do not walk on the streets… I need to enjoy my food if I want to be healthy… My God! I’m not sure what’s worse, trying to lose weight or to gain weight… From what Mary says, it seems harder to gain weight, yet it goes together with gaining the joy of life…”
“I like this story I’ve just thought about. I think it delivers an important massage… Who will play each part best? Who will be my characters?”
“Shelly, the woman who introduced me to healthy eating, should be the mother. With her short hair and vast knowledge, she would be the perfect woman for that part… Sean, my wonderful student, will be her son. I like him so much. He is so perfect for the part, so sensitive and loving. I won’t write anything about his hair style so no one will recognize him… Maybe I’ll mention his hair style in another story… He will be a good friend to his sister… Who can play his sister’s part? Rebecca, my high school friend. She has so many siblings and always talked about them with so much love and affection… And the cover girl? Who will be my cover girl?”
I think I will keep the cover girl a secret!
Here is a sneak peek into “Bojé’s Magic powder“.