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Archive for the ‘outside expectations’ Category

Is it really hate?

I recently read this viral post on Facebook about one woman’s journey to Thin, and how it wasn’t as great as she’d always been told it would be. (It was such a big hit that Cosmo did an article on the post.)

A life long fat person, she finally decided that society was right, and everything that was wrong with her life was because she was fat.

I felt deep inside that as long as I was fat, I wasn’t going to be able to stop hating myself enough to ask for more. So much cultural messaging says that if you are fat, you should be grateful for whatever love you can get – even if that love isn’t love at all.

So she went on a program of extreme weight loss. She doesn’t detail her method, because that’s not what this is about. I’m sure it was calorie restrictive and exercise abusive, because that’s what she says, and she got down to a place called Thin.

And you know what? Every horrible voice in my head, every bit of horrible anti-fat messaging from society was validated when I lost weight.

Attention from the opposite sex and better jobs and everyone was nicer and more thoughtful. The heartfelt dream of every fat person in America.

For five years, I got to be treated like a human being.

And it pissed me the fuck off.

I think that quote, right there, is one of the most important things she says in the whole piece. We the fat are told that all our problems will go away if we can just get to Thin. So she did. And sure enough everything was fixed and everyone was nice, even though she was exactly the same as she’d always been.

I understand completely. Glennon Doyle Melton talks in some of her interviews about how women are taught to be smaller and smaller and take up less space until we’re barely even there. Being fat flies in the face of this cultural imperative. Not only that, we do it on purpose. It’s a different kind of prejudice than racism, because your skin color is luck of the draw. If you’re fat, It’s Your Fault. So we deserve every molecule of heaped scorn and derision. No accomplishment can ever balance out the size of your behind. It boils us down to one, single aspect of ourselves and balances the entire universe of our experience on that soft, jiggly fact.

Statistics prove that We the Fat make less money, get less comprehensive medical care, have fewer opportunities, and miss out on more social niceties than those of normal weight. Put a normal weight person in a fat suit and they are horrified and astonished every time. It’s not codified. There is no law that allows it. But it is unending and universal.

Then life happened, and she didn’t have time to obsess about every bite of food she put in her mouth, and she didn’t have time to exercise every day. And she had a baby. And over time, she put all the weight back on. And now she doesn’t care, and she’s going to fight a society that says she has to.

My allegiance lies with fat me who missed out on half of her life because society said that she didn’t have the right to live it. …My allegiance lies with every kind and wonderful person out there who is told that they have nothing to offer the world because their body takes up too much space.

The second line that really, really stuck in my head is this.

I will not give the abusive assholes who say that they matter more because they weigh less the satisfaction of watching me hate myself into a small enough body to be loved by them.

Is the obsessive dieting and the endless determination to be thin at all cost a form of self hate, rather than the self love that society and medical professionals tell us it should be?

Frankly, I haven’t decided what I think yet. They tell us to diet to be healthier, but it hasn’t actually done me any good in the long run. Extreme dieting isn’t sustainable, every bit of data and research proves that. Yo-yo dieting is worse than no dieting at all. The research shows us that too. Did I diet all those years because I loved myself and wanted to be healthier? Or because I hated myself and wanted to be the ‘good girl’ that society wanted to see?

I think I know the answer, and I think I don’t like it.

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Dear young self

If I could go back in time and tell my young self one thing, it would be to not diet, no matter how many people told me “If you just…” and other annoying untruths. Because the science is clear now. While short term a diet can and often does improve some health markers like cholesterol and blood sugar, over the long term what repeat dieting is mostly likely to do is make sure you stay fat.

And if you think about it, really, would dieting be a multi-gazillion dollar industry if it actually worked long term? Of course not. If it worked, you’d do it once, the weight would stay off, and that would be it. They make all that money because you have to keep going back and doing it again longer and harder.

I found this article written by a neuroscientist to have some interesting things to say.

The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.

Evolution designed us around periodic famine. If too many died too quickly, then we’re a failed experiment. So those who had some way to slow their metabolism when necessary are the ones who didn’t starve to death. Fat is important for survival, if you don’t live in a world with a McDonald’s and a Starbucks on every corner. Your basic functions do not believe that a size 2 is more desirable than a size 22, and every time you ‘starve’ (ie Diet) it is more convinced that you need all the help you can get to survive.

On my most serious diet, in my late 20s, I got down to 125 pounds, 30 pounds below my normal weight. I wanted (unwisely) to lose more, but I got stuck. After several months of eating fewer than 800 calories a day and spending an hour at the gym every morning, I hadn’t lost another ounce. When I gave up on losing and switched my goal to maintaining that weight, I started gaining instead.

The author’s own story mirrors mine. There was a joyful time when I quickly and fairly easily (if you consider involuntary vomiting easy) lost 100 lbs in just a few months. I was on a strict low carb diet, and I was being introduced to my soy allergy. Soy is in everything, so every salad with soybean oil dressing, every handful of snack nuts roasted in soy bean oil…a huge list of common every day foods caused me to be violently sick almost every day. It took me quite a while to figure out why. It wasn’t intentional, but I took the weight loss gratefully. But then I got down to a certain point and that was it. Nothing else I did over a several years following ever took me down below that point. No matter how dramatic.

The causal relationship between diets and weight gain can also be tested by studying people with an external motivation to lose weight. Boxers and wrestlers who diet to qualify for their weight classes presumably have no particular genetic predisposition toward obesity. Yet a 2006 study found that elite athletes who competed for Finland in such weight-conscious sports were three times more likely to be obese by age 60 than their peers who competed in other sports.

I find this particularly interesting. Devoted athletes, no genetic predispositions, and yet repeated dieting seems to cause overall weight gain over time.

But our culture’s view of obesity as uniquely deadly is mistaken. Low fitness, smoking, high blood pressure, low income and loneliness are all better predictors of early death than obesity. Exercise is especially important: Data from a 2009 studyshowed that low fitness is responsible for 16 percent to 17 percent of deaths in the United States, while obesity accounts for only 2 percent to 3 percent, once fitness is factored out. Exercise reduces abdominal fat and improves health, even without weight loss. This suggests that overweight people should focus more on exercising than on calorie restriction.

And here’s the real winner. Despite the media telling us what a horrible drain on the system fat people are, the data actually shows that it’s being sedentary and out of shape that is the issue. Sure, those often go together, but our sedentary life style is the real problem.

So if I could go back an talk to my young self, I’d ask her to take another dance class. To ride her bike every day. To ignore how she thought she looked in sweats and go to the gym anyway.

So this January, don’t start another diet. Find something physical that you enjoy, and put your time and attention to that instead.

 

 

 

Appreciate the journey.

Not long ago I got philosophical about the difference between gratitude and appreciation. I think we all need more appreciation in our lives. Certainly I do.

An issue I’ve had for a long time is the admonishment to ‘enjoy the journey’. That life isn’t about the end result. It’s extremely difficult to ‘enjoy the journey’ when you are limp and in pain, but now that I’m feeling better and moving forward with my life again, I’ve come back to that idea with some new insight.

By taking time to appreciate things in your life. To “to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something”, really can help you to slow down and enjoy the journey by reminding you that each minute can be precious, just like the books say.

We have a practice in our house where, should you see a moment of amazing natural beauty or a particularly adorably sleeping cat, then that moment should be mentioned immediately so that the others in the area can admire and appreciate it too. This does not count as an interruption of whatever is going on around it, rather it’s an elevated moment that is much more important that what was going on.

It can be very difficult to do that with more prosaic things. It’s easy to give thanks for the amazing spread at a special holiday meal. We’ve lost, many of us, the habit of giving thanks for the smaller meals of every day. It used to be a very common part of religious observance. The understanding of religion is changing, but maybe we should look back at some of those regular observances and see what they still have to offer.

A recent topic of conversation in our house has been the untempered need in American society to increase. Every business must get bigger. Every person must become richer and more successful. My beloved’s company has been small and doing extremely well. Somehow they determined they had to grow, and suddenly things haven’t been doing nearly as well. The partners were all making a very nice living and running a company that did excellent work and had very happy employees. Why did they have to decide that wasn’t enough?

Have we always been that way, or have we lost the understanding between wanting to be more versus wanting to have more. Certainly if I look around it isn’t difficult to see that the dollar has become the bottom line for everything.

I’m pretty sure the value in the journey isn’t supposed to be about the price tag. How do we get away from that? I guess I’ll stroll along for a while and see if I can figure it out.

 

Is it gratitude?

 

Gratitude is a big thing right now in the spiritual communities that I partake in. “The way to get what you want is to be grateful for what you have.” is a phrase I’ve heard so often and in so many places I can’t even attribute it. I get what they’re saying.

But.

In my day job, I’m a writer, and a word geek. And the exact denotations and connotations of words are fun and exciting to me. How they can make us feel a certain way without us even realizing it. I love how you can express an exact and precise feeling when you find the right word, even though your audience might not catch the nuance. It warms my geeky little heart.

But I digress. Back to gratitude. I think we’re using the wrong word.

Dictionary.com defines it as “the quality  or feeling of being grateful or thankful:”

Freedictionary.com says it’s “The state of being grateful; thankfulness.   also a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation, as for gifts or favours.”

So first I had to check up on ‘grateful’, since that’s the word they were using to define the state. And I get “thankful for gifts, favours, etc; appreciative”

And that, right there, is why I think we’re using the wrong word. Because when I hear the discussions about offering gratitude, that’s the definition I hear and understand, “to be thankful for gifts and favors.” And I absolutely agree that we should be thankful for all the things that we have. Those of us privileged to live in the west have things at a level the rest of the world finds insane. And clean running water. And public education.

The thing is, I don’t think we always appreciate them.

Appreciate. That’s the word I think we need to be using here.

Freedictionary.com gives us this for appreciate:

1. To recognize the quality, significance, or magnitude of: appreciated their freedom.
2. To be fully aware of or sensitive to; realize: I appreciate your problems.
3. To be thankful or show gratitude for: I really appreciate your help.
4. To admire greatly; value.
5. To raise in value or price, especially over time.

To recognize the quality and significance. To admire greatly. To be fully aware of.

Those, as well as thankfulness, are what I think the teachers mean when they tell us to practice gratitude. To appreciate what we have and where we are. And if you think about it like that, you can almost imagine that the last definition in there, to raise in value, could almost be a hint.

 

Things in the media

I was thinking this morning that when I first started this blog I would often post a link to an article or a video that talked about food or health in some way. Then I got in the groove of having things to say myself, or, to be honest, I’d get away from posting for months at a time. Busy, or just limp and not excited enough about anything to write.

As I was thinking this through this morning, I realized I had just seen something that belonged here.

The idea that a woman can be ‘too fat to be raped’ is so wrong I might be frothing at the mouth.

It starts with the idea that rape has anything to do with sex instead of everything to do with power. I promise, ugly people get raped every day.

And then the idea that just being fat negates us as sexual beings.

Nope.

The problems fat people have with sex (aside from fat-phobic jerks) are that of our own self image. An unwillingness to be vulnerable to others when you perceive yourself as less. A fear that your bed partner will find you as unattractive as you find yourself, in your culturally brainwashed mind.

For all I’ve been fat my whole life, I’ve never had trouble finding a sexual partner when I want one. I’ve been turned down, maybe more than someone thin and conventionally attractive, but I’ve had plenty of admirers too. Some smarmy, and plenty of perfectly nice people looking for fun and companionship. And I definitely haven’t had any complaints after the fact, so you can be sure a good time was had by all when things went down.

Our culture is so determined to reduce fat people to non-people, now even the satisfaction of surviving something horrible and coming out the other side strong and sane seems to be something they’d like to deny us.

Meatloaf anyone?

 

What did your mother tell you?

 

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

My mom did at least.

I think that’s something that most of us have trouble with. Not when talking to others, but when talking to ourselves.

The hardest part of feeling terrible all the time is the feeling that I’m letting the rest of the world down. All the things I could be doing and accomplishing if I could just buck up, force myself off the couch, move faster, pay attention longer.

But I can’t. I just can’t.

Apparently there are people who are content to sit around and do nothing, even though they are mentally and physically able. You hear about it now and then. But I have to wonder, is that true? Are they really mentally able? Because if they are, it is unfathomable. Who could possibly choose to do that?

I put every effort into trying to maximize what I can accomplish. I eat the best I can, I do research, I force myself to accomplish things. If it takes everything I have to accomplish what must be done and leaves me no energy for what I’d like to do, well, there we are.

But when I look at people who just stop off at the grocery store because it is a nothing little task, I could cry. If I had done this and that differently. If I could just. I want so much to be able to do that again.

And I take all the blame on myself. It’s all my fault. No shifting blame to the doctors who let me go 15 or 20 years with undiagnosed food allergies and a thyroid condition. No blame to the government that gave me all kinds of horrible advice about how I should eat that caused horrible consequences. Only a brief harsh word about genetics.

No, it’s all on me. I should be better. I should be different. I should fight harder.

I promise, if I had anything else to fight with, I would.

Body Currency

Body what?

It’s called Body Currency. The term was invented by the author of this excellent article about Tess Munster. The idea is propaganda of the worst sort.

You do know who Tess Munster is, right? She the beautiful, short, very fat new model that is all over every publication and social media feed, either because she’s beautiful, or because she’s fat. Everyone has something to say about her.

Even me.

You go girl!!!

Back to body currency. To quote the woman who coined the term:

It goes like something this: We are taught as a society that if we achieve the ideal body that we see in traditional media (and not before), we will then obtain love, worthiness, success, and ultimately, happiness. Which is what we all want, right?

Your looks are your worth, and you must invest heavily. If you aren’t perfect, you can’t be happy. Every clothing commercial, shampoo commercial, diet ad, they’ll all tell you. You have to be thin, athletic, thin, beautiful, thin, successful, and thin, and then you can be happy with your life.

Did I mention thin? Because thin is the key.

Somehow thin has become the ultimate standard of health and beauty and it must be every person’s goal to achieve. Which is ridiculous, yet pervasive.

If you have not yet achieved this standard, you must loath yourself, and put all your energy into achieving it. Because everyone can do it, it’s just a matter of effort and focus.

Careful, the sarcasm’s getting a little deep, sorry.

I’m a veteran of many, many diets, and diet website, and diet groups, and I can tell you they are full of people who are fully experiencing the culturally mandated shame and self loathing. They fret about every mouthful of food. Women won’t go to the beach for a day of fun with their children because they don’t want to show off their horrible bodies wearing sleeveless tops and shorts, and don’t even suggest a bathing suit. They are too disgusting. I’ve heard more women than I can count list the number of fun activities they can’t do until they lose weight and feel like they deserve to be seen in public.

The number of people who don’t feel they have a right to live until they reach a culturally mandated standard is tragic.

Multibillion dollar industries are heavily invested in making us feel this way. Every beauty product, every garment, every diet. If we don’t believe them, they lose money.

And along comes Tess. Unashamedly strutting her confident size 22 stuff and having a grand old time, and by the way a lucrative modeling career.

How dare she?

Because she has declined to buy into the thin frenzy, she is somehow undermining the work done by everyone who has. There is a definite feeling of who the hell does she think she is?

If she’s right, then all those people have been ruining their lives for nothing. An entire society worshiping at the altar of a false deity.

That ideology is not going down without a fight. So they spew vitriol of the worst sort at her. The ugliness is truly shocking.

On the plus side, if one woman can get so many people riled up, imagine what could happen if more and more of us gave up the idea that thin is the only thing that mattered and all got back to having a good life lived to the fullest.

Shall we try it?