Mixed Messages

So, today I went to a thing on my campus. It was a beauty contest of sorts, though there was no beauty aspect involved. There were four parts, an intro, a values, a talent and a Q&A. It was a heritage thing and the values and intro were about their countries of origin. It was also a small thing. All four contestants wore pretty dresses and high heels and had hair and makeup done up. There were skits in the middle done by people that seemed to be about feminism. Kind of. It was a little iffy, but hey, college kids in a cultural club get points for trying in my book. Oh, and full disclosure, I am not part of the club, I was working the event for another group. There were also dance groups that were pretty awesome. I’d love to be able to dance like that, and honestly, I wasn’t discouraged at all since these dance groups had dancers with a variety of body shapes. In fact, there was body diversity everywhere, dressed in cocktail dresses since it was some sort of banquet. And these women knew that they were beautiful. All the dresses* were as short and sparkly and strapless as the next woman’s. Getting to see that kind of confidence was really refreshing. Since offline in my daily life outside, I tend to start believing that body confidence doesn’t come in my size.

And then the Q&A happened.

And the last girl got asked about the obesity epidemic. And her answer was that people didn’t know that eating a lot of food was wrong and will give them diabetes. And that we should teach them that. And encourage people to exercise. And I don’t know why, but that question and that answer made me want to run out of the room and cry. Maybe it was because I was eating my first meal of the day** as she was answering that question and it made me want to stop. Maybe because I hadn’t eaten I wasn’t thinking as clearly. Maybe it was that question and that answer combined with all the women (and men) in that room who are obese and who were hearing that they could be “fixed” if they just ate right and exercised, and that they were too stupid or ignorant or whatever to know that. Or possibly because some dancers were on stage only minutes ago proving that health and size are different. Maybe it was just because I’m used to seeing questions framed like that on the internet and it was hard to see it spear its way into my outside world. I don’t know but it hurt.

And then they crowned the winner. She was the “fat chick” of the bunch and if I were to guess, she was probably obese. It wasn’t pity votes, she rocked that show. And I felt a lot better.

*There were also skirts and pants worn, but mostly sparkly, short, strapless cocktail dresses.
**I’m guilty of being a breakfast skipper.

February 26, 2011. Tags: , , . Current. Leave a comment.

Eating And Health

New post for the new year. This was originally going to be a comment on The Rotund‘s post on mindful/comfort eating but then the comment just kept getting longer.

Society views health as something visible. Anyone who has been “invisibly” sick and disbelieved knows this. Just as people have been “invisibly” (e.g. fat) and healthy and disbelieved know this. If you look good, then you must feel good, amirite? Everyone else is lying or faking or doesn’t know what’s good for them.

And that’s where all sorts of eating issues come in. I’ve mentioned before that I find emotional eating perfectly fine. There are two aspects of health. The physical and the mental, and we ignore the mental. It’s not uncommon for us to ignore the mental to the point of damaging it. It is not unhealthy to eat if eating helps. If eating something comforting on a bad day improves someone’s mental health, then actually, it’s healthy. Becoming dependant on it to feel better is not, but same goes for anything else.

I’m not saying that exercise can’t help someone’s mental state. But it doesn’t help everyone’s all the time. Sometimes, if there is an answer, food can be it. Or food can help be it. We look at cute videos of small animals to make us happy. We listen to up beat music to make us smile. We take a warm bath to relax. We step outside in the summer and take a whiff of freshly cut grass and feel at peace. We use all our other senses to aid ourselves in feeling positive. Only taste has this added layer of guilt or shame. And that’s not going to help anyone who wants to feel better. The shame about playing music too loud and damaging our ears or taking too hot showers can cause dry skin is barely there. But it is for taste because taste has to do with weight, and well, all that.

I was thinking about this yesterday. I woke up late and rushed through everything skipping breakfast and missing lunch. By the time dinner came around, I had zero interest in anything in the kitchen besides some ice cream. But I couldn’t just eat ice cream. So I left it alone and continued to be hungry. Until a few hours later, it hit me. Yes, I could just eat ice cream. Because, get this, eating ice cream was healthier than not eating it, in that context. It’s true that eating a lot of other things in my kitchen would have been healthier than the ice cream. Maybe a salad or some oatmeal or . . . really just about anything. But the thing is, those weren’t options because I wasn’t going to eat them. I just wasn’t. My relationship with food, my relationship with motivation eliminated these things as being options.

I think the point is kind of lost in there. My point is sometimes re-framing is in order. In that situation, I wasn’t choosing what to eat, I was choosing to eat. In a comfort eating situation, it isn’t choosing to indulge in something unhealthy, it’s improving one’s immediate well-being. The morality of food is another issue, but even saying “brownies are bad for your body” does not make eating one for comfort morally wrong or overall unhealthy. Because while bodies are awesome, we are more than our bodies. We are also more than our minds. We are a unit of both and that means understanding balancing the health of both is important.

Yeah. That. Mental health. It’s ignored. Combined with the Big Bad of eating for something other than sustenance makes people fail to see comfort eating as a tool rather than a Terrible Idea. I guess I could have just written that comment without the ramble. But it’s the journey and all that. . . I need to get used to this blogging thing again.

January 19, 2011. Tags: , , . Current. Leave a comment.

Bad Day

I’m reluctant to write about today, but I keep reminding myself that the whole point of this blog is to publicly (and I use that term loosly) reconstruct my ideas about weight and body image etc.

Today was the first time I stepped on a scale in five months. It didn’t suck. Five months ago, I weighed less, but six months ago I weighed a lot more. I’m pretty much where I always am, and I’m fine with that.

The problem came when my mother was like “But you’re going to lose weight this summer right?” When I offered her a skirt that didn’t fit me and I don’t particularly like anyway. I said “No.” She said “Why not?” I said “Because I haven’t lost any the last four summers.” And then she offered to take me to an endocrinologist because clearly that means something is wrong with my thyroid*.

She also told me I had gained weight since the last time I was home (not true). To me that “No” was hugely emotionally … something. I’m still not over it and it was an hour ago and she apologised for hurting my feelings. I then did 50 crunches. I don’t know if I’m going to eat dinner tonight. I’m going to start jogging tomorrow with my mother since her apology was “I’m sorry but it isn’t like you can’t fix it with exercise.” Since I’m doing it with her, I want to get it over with ASAP. She might be thin, but she’s not in very good shape.

I’ve done this before. Being the friend someone chooses to go running with because they assume since I’m fatter than they are, I’m in worse shape. At the very least they assume I’m not in better shape. It doesn’t make people feel very good when I am. I wanted to play that time. This time I just want to get this over with. I’ll play your game, I’ll play by your rules, but don’t blame me when you quit because I’m winning.

I know I’m being irrational because I was thinking of doing this anyway (without my mother), but the way this came about does not make me happy.

I don’t know if the “No” is a small step, or a step forward accompanied by several steps back.

*Granted, thyroid problems are not unheard of in my family.

June 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Current. 1 comment.