I used to want to change my body desparately. I knew exactly what I wanted every part of my body to measure. I mean every part -- not just bust, waist and hips, but neck, thighs, calves, wrists, ankles. I weighed myself daily and I measured myself weekly for a good portion of my life. Buried in my mind somewhere is an encyclopedia of the calories, carbs, fat grams and other nurtritional measurements of thousands of food items. I was meticulous. I was disciplined. I was often successful, losing inches and pounds.
But every time I got close to a goal weight/measurement, something went wrong with my health. At first, it was just colds or electrolyte imbalances. Each successive loss and gain, however, led to more and more serious ailments. I now know I dieted my way into disability. I permanently messed up my metabolic and endocratic systems. I don't have a lot of science to demonstrate that statement but I do have personal experience and I believe it to be so.
So 10 years ago I stopped trying. I do not allow myself to be weighed at the doctor. I threw away all my tape measures. I do not measure my food. I spent two years learning to know my own hunger cues and my satiation cues. I learned to do what should be natural. Eat when hungery. Stop when full.
After I turned 50 it got harder. Before then I didn't have a lot of the metabolic problems that are associated with being larger. I had health problems but they were not typical ones for someone of my size. Then I was diagnosed with a bunch of stuff all at one time. I wondered if I was wrong. Maybe there was a way to diet my way to health and beauty. But I rethought it all over again and came to two conclusions that do have some scientific support:
1. It is far more likely that the stress of stigmatization for being fat and disabled contributed to the metabolic disorders;
2. It is also possible that the fact that the hyperthyroidism went undiagnosed and untreated for 10 years also contributed to metabolic
I have ample personal experience that suggests dieting will not help me.
So after re-thinking it again, I came to the same conclusion I did 10 years ago:
I LOVE MYSELF JUST AS I AM.
I LOVE MY FAT BODY.
I LOVE MY SICK BODY.
I LOVE MY DISABLED BODY.
I LOVE MY MENOPAUSAL BODY.
I LOVE MY AGING BODY.
I am not and never will be ideal.
I'm posting this on Love Your Body Day.
I encourage you to think about what the world would be like if we all loved ourselves and were comfortable in our own skin. Think about how much time we would have to do productive and fun things. Think about how much love we would have for others. Think about how much money we would save not buying things meant to make us ideal.
This week has also been promoted as "Fat Free Talk Week" by the Tri-Delt Sorority. I have not really been willing to participate in this effort. I applaud the intent. I lived the experiences that they are trying to change. I exercised way beyond reason. I ate less than 800 calories a day for over 2 years at one point in my life. I abused diet pills and laxatives in efforts to lose weight and reach for the elusive thin body. I know how much of my life was wasted and I've paid a high price.
But I cannot support their efforts and I think that it is appropriate as I contemplate Love Your Body Day to explain why.
I am fat. I look fat. I am what I feared and what many people with eating disorders fear. Avoiding talking about fatness or fat is not going to solve the problem. The problem is NOT that fat is bad. The problem is that trying to be something you are not is bad. So while sorority sisters tell each other to love their average-sized bodies as they are by not talking about fat, what do their fatter sisters feel?
I have welcomed the support from eating disordered counselors and advocates in the fat acceptance movement because I do believe the stigma placed upon fat bodies contributes to the convuluted relationship most women have with food, health and their bodies. But the liason has always been and will probably continue to be a tense one. Many eating disorder counselors spend lots of time with clients helping them to see they are NOT FAT. In other words, the reassurance is that they do not look and never will look like me. They do not spend a lot of time with clients helping them to see that FAT IS OKAY. So it does not surprise me that an organization that is trying to stop eating disorders cannot see the inherent stigma is calling something "FAT FREE" asking students to refrain from statements like "I'm so fat."
Imagine how much howling and protest would be lodged against such an effort if sorority sisters were celebrating a "GAY FREE TALK WEEK" in which they were admonished to not talk about their sexuality in negative terms like "I'm so gay." To me this is tantemount to inviting white people to celebrate their whiteness by refraining from racial epithets aimed at each other.
So I encourage all the tri-Delts and all women (and men) to love their bodies and not to worry whether they are fat or thin or average or blue-eyed or brown-eyed or short or tall or whatever. There is NO IDEAL HUMAN BEING. There is NO IDEAL HEALTH.
There is only YOU and YOU ARE UNIQUE. Be who you are. Be the process. Be the journey. None of this will matter if you celebrate and grow and learn and blossom.