Out in the real world, I continue to have long, impassioned discussions about this post and so, even though this is on my list of least fun things for me to talk about, I’m dredging it up again. I just have some random things I want to say about it.
1. I am rejecting the notion that my weight is an indication of my worth as a human being. This is in part due to the fact that I have been shamed and ridiculed about being fat my whole life and I look back at the miserable starving girl I was for most of my life and, guess what? Sometimes I was really fat and sometimes I was just fat. The only time I was “thin” in my life, I was riding a bike four hours or more a day and eating only dinner, because I didn’t want my parents to catch on that I wasn’t eating. And they still put me on a scale at home and encouraged me to lose weight. And my doctor still put me on a scale at his office and encouraged me to lose weight.
There is no way to win the fight. You can say all you want that you eat well and exercise and, if you’re fat, people assume that you’re lying or lazy or both, that there’s always more you can do, and, if you’re not doing it, then you deserve what happens to you.
Well, it pisses me off when strangers assume I’m lying or lazy (well, I tend to be lazy, let’s call it slothful) and it deeply hurts my feelings when my friends assume that.
2. Food is a powerful cultural symbol and sharing food is an act of intimacy and good-will. When you want to talk about what I eat and how I eat it, I feel like you’re questioning my value as a human being, that you’re questioning whether I have a right to participate in rituals of sharing and intimacy and good-will. That also pisses me off and hurts my feelings, especially when you are a friend or family member.
3. To me, this feels very superstitious, like we’ve taken guidelines that we know will help people have healthy lives (eat well, exercise well, etc.) and pumped them full of almost religious meaning. I am, of course, not the first person to notice this (Naomi Wolf is where I read it), but it strikes me every time we have these discussions–we being human beings in general–how quickly it turns into a discussion of whether one is behaving properly, if one has been bad or cheated at one’s diet, whether one has been strong or weak, whether one has the will-power to resist temptation, whether one has brought this on him or herself, whether one is one of the lucky ones who has done everything right and achieved salvation, whether one is denying him or herself a proper amount, whether one is disciplined. All of the language with which we talk about trying to lose weight comes out of the Church.
I reject the notion that my soul is so corrupt that I have to beg a god to give me a second look and have mercy on me.
I surely reject the notion that my body is so corrupt that I have to beg a person to give me a second look and have mercy on me.
4. A lot of fat folks talk about the importance of coming to terms with who you are right now instead of holding in your head some ideal you by which you judge your self. I honestly think that’s important for the friends and families of fat people. This is who I am. I’m not going to be the girl in your head who is thin and pretty and whatever.
You need to look at me and like what you see, as I am, before you because that’s who I am.
5. So, it turns out that even fat girls are starving themselves and it doesn’t do any good. (H/t kateharding) And that teasing your kids about being fat is a shitty thing to do.
A history of teasing about being fat was one of the strongest predictors of risk for being overweight and extreme dieting— and taunts from family seemed to be worse than teasing by peers. When family members teased teens about weight, it doubled their risk of being overweight at the second survey. Although this kind of study cannot prove that the link is causal, it suggests that even light-hearted joking about weight at home could be problematic.
I would guess that part of this has to do with exactly what I talked about in point two. Food and the sharing of food are powerful ways we bond as human beings. For family members to tease kids about their relationship to food doesn’t feel like only being teased about a relationship to food, it feels like being judged as being unworthy to participate in our food rituals and the sharing of food, indeed in the central rituals of family life. Little wonder that it fucks kids up. Who wants to be constantly reminded that they aren’t welcome without judgment or scrutiny to participate in their family?
I was watching TV in the middle of the afternoon yesterday. (Thank you, kidneys!)
There was a commercial for Alli. You know, the shit-your-pants-without-warning-but-be-skinny drug.
Let me just say that I’m completely in love with their slogan. It fully illustrates all that is wrong with dieting.
“If you have the Will, We have the Power!”
Yes, that’s correct.
1. Regardless of how the drug works, you have to have the Will to Change. And the Self-Discipline.
2. If the drug works–it’s the drug.
3. If the drug fails–it’s your fault for not having enough Will or Self-Discipline. (If I recall “discipline” also makes a showing in the language of the ad.)
As you point out this is the language of religion as well. Anyone who’s seen the “Name it and Claim It” preachers knows this song and dance by heart. If God doesn’t answer your prayers, you just aren’t praying hard enough and with enough faith.
Most Fat People I know are in a constant struggle with their weight and the society that marginalises them. If Will and Discipline were the deciding factors there truly wouldn’t be a fat person around.
What a marvelous rejoinder.
I think people don’t realize how deeply the fear of excess flesh is ingrained into a cultural mythology.
Or how wrong-headed it is to feel the need to punish and chastise people who don’t conform to our ideal notions of what bodies should be or do.
Your body should be your own business!
My sister has always been big, ever since she was a toddler. She went through a brief anorexic/bullemic stage in her early teens, but then got back to her regular size shortly thereafter (regular being big). She has currently dropped almost 75 lbs in order to quality for IVF programs and it makes me laugh to no end as she says she can’t wait to eat again. I told her that she looks good small, but very strange to me. She just doesn’t look like herself to me. As we talked she said that this lower weight size just doesn’t feel natural and I agreed with her, but I was proud of her no matter what she looked like. I don’t understand why people can’t love themselves and others in such an unconditional way.
“If Will and Discipline were the deciding factors there truly wouldn’t be a fat person around.”
I’m sorry, but I have to disagree. I was overweight until I was 21 and thought for the longest time that there was a problem with my body and that I couldn’t help being overweight. When I moved here in 2001, I weighed 235 lbs.
For various reasons, I decided it was time to change and I changed everything. My lifestyle, my eating habits, my exercise routine, and over the course of 16 months, I lost 95 lbs and have kept it off.
Will and discipline were required for my change and absolutely required for my maintenence. No drug, no secret remedy. Just admitting that I wasn’t doing all I could to change things.
But I wanted to change things. I was not content, I was not willing to “be okay” with what my body was like then. My body is not who I am, so I didn’t feel bad that I wanted to change it.
I’m not saying this to say that everyone who’s overweight can do what I did, or should do what I did. I’m just saying that Will and Discipline are key components to losing weight and keeping it off. Or at least they were for me.
I’m just saying that Will and Discipline are key components to losing weight and keeping it off.
So was I. Because I’ve got Will and Discipline. I’ve also got Genes and Metabolism.
I argued for a long time that my genes and metabolism kept me from losing weight. But its actually very rare that there is an abnormality, and when there is, medication can usually help with that.
I know what you mean when you talk about people criticizing what you eat. It’s annoying and tiresome. I really think that all the “will & discipline” talk is overplayed, there’s no shortage of people who know what’s best for you. Weight is a fashion thing anyway. Used to be ok to have extra flesh even desirable. Now we’re stuck with nothing to look at but walking sticks with handbags
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Colleen, I think you’re an exception, not the rule. While genes and metabolism may not “keep people from losing weight” all of the time, they certainly influence the different healthy weight ranges for different people. I’m glad things worked out well for you, but there are tons of people for whom the loss of 95 lbs is not going to be healthy and sustainable.
Will and Discipline are admirable enough, but there is a point after which will and discipline become disordered eating… that was the point of studying B. cites at the end there. And since we hear about Will and Discipline in conjunction with every diet plan ever, I think it’s a good idea to acknowledge other variables.
And above all, it’s a good idea to recognize that people can carry extra weight and be healthy, and that it’s unfair to assume that they didn’t have enough of that holy Will and Discipline.
So, Colleen, what I understand you to be saying is that most people who are fat can change in the same way you did, by losing weight.
Even if I were to accept that to be true, why is that change necessary for every fat person?
I say that’s fine. Absolutely fine. Just as I believe there are people trapped in bodies of the wrong gender, I believe there are people who are trapped in bodies of the wrong weight class.
You felt trapped, so you changed you.
But not every man is a “woman trapped in a man’s body” and not every fat person has a “thin person struggling to get out.” Which is why, in cases like yours (and Pink Kitty’s), I fully believe there is an ingredient beyond Will and Discipline.
I absolutely do not think that every fat person should change, and I said as much, didn’t I?
Weight is a fashion thing anyway.
Yes, it is…but at some point, it is also — and most importantly — a health thing.
I absolutely do not think that every fat person should change, and I said as much, didn’t I?
I apologise; you did say that at the end of your initial comment.
Yes, it is…but at some point, it is also — and most importantly — a health thing.
When and how and why? Please provide actual medical studies validating the causality between high rates of body fat and illness.
That’s a rhetorical question. Because you can’t. Because they don’t exist.
It’s a commonly-held preconception not grounded in reality.
Yes, but that point tends to be the point where you can’t get out and exercise. No one’s arguing that the person confined to her house or creaking around in pain is healthy. But trying to get reliable information about whether just being fat is unhealthy is nearly impossible. We talked about this before, about how the government’s own studies show that people who are slightly “overweight” live longer than people in the “normal” range and yet, the government is still encouraging people to get down into the “normal” range. Or how it turns out that overweight people tend to recover from heart attacks and other ailments better than people who are of normal weight.
That’s why so many of us are advocating for a definition of “health” that is actually about factors that correlate to health. If you exercise for 30 minutes a day and eat well and can get your body to do what you want it to do and your blood pressure is good and your heart is healthy–that’s health.
And that’s something folks across the board can aspire to and benefit from achieving. That’s one of the ways I knew there was something really wrong with me–when I went from being able to get the dog around the neighborhood in 25 minutes to 30 to 40.
I think, too, that Colleen has said something important. In order for her to do what she did, she had to completely transform her life. That’s more than Will and Discipline.
Will and Discipline is being “I’d like dessert. I could have cookies or an apple. I choose the apple.” We can all do that.
But I don’t think it’s fair to say, “Well, anyone can lose weight if they only completely rearrange their lives in order to do so.” First, many people wouldn’t be able to lose weight, even with a complete transformation. And second, Colleen, don’t sell yourself short. It’s hard word to completely change how you live; most people cannot do that.
Several things: :
I know she’s probably just trying to use authorial language, but I do think it’s ironic that they “only look for these behaviours” in very thin girls. Society often sees radical weight-control measures as a pathology only in the very thin. There are just as pathological in the overweight, but either ignored or societally encouraged.
2.No one’s arguing that the person confined to her house or creaking around in pain is healthy.
I resemble that remark! :) Although any doctor will tell you that my illness is not caused by my being fat.
3. But I don’t think it’s fair to say, “Well, anyone can lose weight if they only completely rearrange their lives in order to do so.” First, many people wouldn’t be able to lose weight, even with a complete transformation. And second, Colleen, don’t sell yourself short. It’s hard word to completely change how you live; most people cannot do that.
That’s exactly why I’ve recently begun to liken long-term maintenence weight loss to gender reassignment surgery. There’s a massive undertaking there which requires every aspect of one’s life to alter radically. It goes beyond food choices, exercise plans, etc.
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Are you kidding me, Kat? Just about every medical authority will tell you that being obese can cause diabetes, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, joint pain, strain on your musculoskeletal system, and on & on. No, I don’t have the studies, and you know what? Even if I did, I’m sure you would find something to argue about on it.
Please. Just please. I have struggled with weight my entire life. It is a daily battle for me. I’ve ridden the roller coaster since I was 12 years old. I can tell you first hand that when I am heavier, I don’t feel good. It is just a fact.
Yes, you can be of a bigger size and be healthy, but not the healthiest you can be. If that’s what a person chooses, then that’s wonderful…go for it…a person’s happiness is what’s most important.
Hmm. I don’t know about that, Kat, but only because I haven’t given it enough thought. I was looking at the complications to gender reassignment and the complications to bariatric surgery and I have to say, I knew there was a great deal of psychological work one had to do in order to be cleared for gender reassignment, but I had no idea about the psychological problems people have after bariatric surgery.
I do think you’re onto something with the similarities though–both folks are getting a new body, with all of the implications of that.
B, I’ll be part of the psychological problems after bariatric surgery is due to the self-image issues of always seeing yourself fat even when your extremely thin. When I have been at my least weight, I have had people tell me that I was not fat…but when I look in the mirror, I see myself at my heaviest no matter what.
Also, the pain and recovery of such an invasive procedure would be cause for depression.
“bet”…I mean, “I’ll bet…”
But Ginger, why would you do that? Why would you struggle and battle and feel like shit about yourself over a number?
The things you have to do to lose weight in a healthy manner–eat right and exercise–are things that will make you feel great no matter what you weigh. It will also allow your body to settle on a weight that you can maintain without struggling and battling every day.
That’s what I don’t get. If you feel better when you’re thinner, why do you talk about it in terms that make you sound like you’ve got to subject yourself to a great deal of misery in order to achieve that?
Ginger, it looks like we’re cross-posting, but that’s exactly my point. It’s nearly impossible to talk about weight without talking about people making value judgments (even when “people” is us) about fat people.
I mean, girl, I love you but here you are saying both “When I’m thinner, I feel better” and “even when I’m thin, I still feel fat. I still see myself as a fat person.” Which says to me that you’re talking about two things–you might feel better physically, but you don’t feel better psychologically.
Folks trying to come to terms with who they are psychologically and accepting themselves for who they are psychologically as having worth and value no matter what they weigh is not the same as rejecting being healthy.
I think we all tend to mistake one for the other.
I wish I could answer that question, B. It is a struggle and there is misery involved when I have been 40 or 50 lbs. overweight and then I have to work like a sonofabitch to try and get that weight back off.
I don’t really measure it by a number anymore…it’s more of how I feel. If I tried to stay within the number I’ve been told I should be (between 115-135), well, as you say (which always cracks me up): Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I haven’t been 135 since I was, like, 12? Seriously. There was a time I would do aerobics and starve myself only to get to 145…and NEVER below.
Yeah, in my experience and opinion (that’s all it is, an opinion), when a person is trying to lose 50+ lbs., it is miserable… and yet at the healthier weight…if you can get your metabolism to freaking cooperate and get settled at that healthier weight…it probably is better/healthier.
I dunno…it sucks balls all the way around.
Are you kidding me, Kat? Just about every medical authority will tell you that being obese can cause diabetes, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, joint pain, strain on your musculoskeletal system, and on & on.
No, they won’t.
It’s that little word “cause” that’s the problem here.
They’ll say “is linked with”; “is associated with”; etc.
But they never say “cause”. Because CAUSE is a word with a very strict scientific meaning…one which has not been and likely never will be proven in this instance.
You–like so many others–have bought into the propaganda that high body fat content CAUSES diabetes, etc.
It’s that propaganda which concerns me, because that leads to the pushing of very sizest agendas in public and corporate policy issues.
oops, cross posting again
ah! Yeah, I see what you’re saying…that IS a perception out there, isn’t it? “Why don’t they take care of themselves?” Well, duh…as if a fat person is going to make a conscious decision to be unhealthy. Yeah, that’s warped, and it’s a perception that’s out there.
“But Ginger, why would you do that? Why would you struggle and battle and feel like shit about yourself over a number?”
I’ll take a stab at this one, and answer for myself.
I am very weight tolerant (I hope you’ve learned this by now). Except when it comes to my own weight.
As someone who’s been on both sides multiple times, I feel better about myself when I’m skinnier because others feel better about me. It’s wrong, and I know it, but, dang it, I like when men look me in the eye and women subconsciously flirt with me. I like that people treat me like I’m smarter, more motivated, a better worker (none of which are true just because I’m skinnier)
Life is just easier when you’re skinnier. It ain’t right. But it is. And it isn’t going to change.
That probably means I’m a vain and superficial person, but I’m just trying to be honest.
By the way, do you realise how much you sound like Gwen Shamblin in this post? :)
But let us all remember that very few thin people are all full of self-esteem and move through the world with ease knowing full well that everyone else desires them, recognizes their inherent worth, talent, intelligence, and beauty. Sure, being fat can be hard. Sure, lots of people – of all sizes – can be quite mean about and to fat people. Nonetheless, losing weight doesn’t really solve problems, not even medical ones. Many reasons it is so important for fat people to feel good about the bodies we have aren’t about weight but are true for everyone with a body. Some of the disdain for fat is really just a way to distract people from their own self-hatred. I’m not going to help them do that. I’m not going to hate myself, and I’m not going to hate them either for who they are or for how they misunderstand me. But, like B, I’m also not just going to sit by and take their crap.
I think it’s easy to say “I feel better when I’m skinnier” because, as Slarti is saying, you get a lot of societal validation for being skinny which is noticeable if you’ve been on the heavier side. An ex-girlfriend of mine used to tell about how she lost a ton of weight when she was miserably ill and people kept telling her how great she looked. While she was sick.
But to be able to strive to be healthy AND also appreciate how you look, whatever size you are, is not something we do a good job of teaching. In fact it is something we do a piss poor job of teaching.
So you know, when we lose weight, we end up with a skinnier body but still no ability to appreciate how we look. Because there is no limit to the amount of criticism we are encouraged to heap upon ourselves in the name of consumerism (no matter what you hate about yourself, there’s a product or service that can address it!) and borne of the WASP-y tendency of American society to obsess with guilt and shame over everything possible.
I’m sick of it. I really am. And even saying so, I can’t even seem to shake it from my thinking. So how is anyone who’s not fed up to here with it all going to reform their ways of looking at themselves?
Wow, Professor, we were on the same train of thought. Cool.
I think it’s easy to say “I feel better when I’m skinnier” because, as Slarti is saying, you get a lot of societal validation for being skinny which is noticeable if you’ve been on the heavier side.
I’ve personally found it to be very affirming to come to love me for me. As much as I possibly can. I’ve discussed the sex positivity issue here before, and I still deal with that.
But honestly, losing weight to fix self-esteem seems like a band-aid on an axe wound to me.
(no matter what you hate about yourself, there’s a product or service that can address it!)
I’ve actually been helped quite a bit on the road to self-esteem and size acceptance by–of all things–a toothpaste.
Because about 5 years ago They began pushing various tooth-whitening pastes.
And a lightbulb went on in my mind. Even if I were to lose 100lbs (which would put me at an unsafe 110, but I’d look “good” to society), there would be another thing and another thing and another thing to fix. My teeth would be too yellow or my hair would not smell terriffic, etc.
So I just figured to do my best to be the best me I could at the time and not worry about trying to change the things that were beyond my control. Sorta like that Serenity Prayer thing.
I don’t have too hard a time with it, except for the Sex Positivity. Because I’m still at the place where I can accept that I’ll look how I look and it isn’t always that bad. But there are times I wish I were more societally “fuckable”. We’re working on that.
Nice. You have a vay vith zee metaphors, my dear. :)
Actually, I think we’re all on the same page.
We all want to be healthy physically and psychologically, and want to be accepted for who we are in our journey toward being so.
Kate O’ and Professor, yes, I think that’s a good point I don’t want to exclude. Being thin is indeed no guarantee of happiness, and a great chunk of it has to do with the fact that you can’t sell things to people who don’t need things and there’s a great deal of shit out there that you don’t need unless you feel like crap about yourself, hence the lengths that are gone to in order to make you feel like crap about yourself.
And it starts young. I hear SuperMousey complaining all the time about how fat she is, especially compared to her one friend. I see her with this friend all the time and they look basically the same to me. SuperMousey’s a little taller and got a larger frame and bigger tits, but no one else in the whole world would ever look at them and say “That girl’s fat compared to that girl.” They look the same size.
And, worse yet, SuperMousey isn’t sitting around watching Desperate Housewives and reading Cosmo. She still plays with dolls and hikes through the woods. And yet, she has already learned that being fat is something bad and something she is and something she should be distraught about being.
That’s the problem–they start us so young convincing us that there’s something wrong with us and, like Kate O’ points out, we do a terrible job of getting the counter message out.
How do we combat that? I don’t know. I think that’s an interesting and important question, though.
Damn it, folks. Y’all are writing interesting stuff while I am.
Coble, I would just remind you that you look like Clara Bow. That is all.
I think there are two very different sets of issues that cluster around weight. One is the really frightening one that has SuperMousey considering herself fat. As far as I can tell, only to the late Duchess of Windsor is she not perfectly fit — in fact, she’s a lot closer to slender than she is to chubby. This attitude is kind of terrifying to me, and it fits in with the way advertising tries to make us feel bad about ourselves so that we’ll buy things, I think.
But the other set of issues has to do with getting older. I refuse to apologize for that, ya know? So I’m not going to grieve over being a little pouchy in places I used to be flat, any more than I am over having lines on my face when I didn’t use to. They’re smile lines, so I consider myself lucky to have them. But I consider a lot of the “you’re too fat” advertising, and the “you’re putting on weight” looks and comments from physicians or whoever to be code for “you’re getting older.” Yep, I am, you betcha. Ask me if I’m in shape; don’t obsess over my BMI, because it’s never going to be what it once was. And this set of issues is all about obsession with youth, and maybe with fear of death as well. It doesn’t terrify me the way it does when people make young girls hate their bodies, but it saddens me about our culture big time.
NM, I think you’re absolutely right and it goes back to a point Coble made a couple of days ago, which I meant to respond to and didn’t, about how our bodies change as we get older and in ways we don’t always know to expect. I mean, I know I’m going to get gray hair. I didn’t really get that I’d have to start seeing the doctor more and more, at least not yet.
And so, yeah, I do think talking about weight becomes a kind of code for “OMG! Your body is different than it was!”
And the other thing I think is crazy is that, aside from the not breathing well thing, which irritates the shit out of me, I feel better about myself the older I get. I feel more attractive, more together, sexier, at home in myself. No, I don’t look like I did when I was twenty, which, I guess is too bad, but I also don’t feel about myself like I did when I was twenty and I’m deeply glad for that.
Yeah, I meant to credit Kat with bringing the thought to my mind, and in the course of writing I forgot. My peak feel-good-about-my-body year was about 30. By a year after that, I was starting to believe that my warranty had just expired. Sad.
nm, I adore you.
Just want to say that, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m three sheets to the wind.
It’s mutual, dear.
I’ve been reading this thoughtful discussion…
My experiences differ in degree…
But I’ll agree wholeheartedly that there are 2 thinngs happening…the self esteem psychological thing and the physical
And, I’ll admit to a third.
I come from a family of addicts, to exersize,to alchohol….
I have an addictive personality.
I believe that has colored how I deal with food.
Would an AA person tell their people “You *have* to go to a bar once a week because that’s where you get your water….and sit between two people drinking liquor and *order the water.*
But, that’s what seriously overweight people are told to do…
We can’t *stop eating,* like a drunk can stop drinking…we have to *change* rather than stop altogether.
But I really think fat people are shamed *more* with less choice in the matter….
Aunt B…here’s an even more infuriating aspect…
Supermousey’s 11…my daughter (who I refer to as BabySnaps in Supermousey’s world) is 7…even last year, in First Grade, she and her little friends were talking about how fat they were…and how they had a belly, and would try to suck it in, and how their thighs had baby fat… That’s at SIX years old!!!
I have to be VERY careful about what I say about my own body insecurities around her. The *last* thing I want to do is pass down that kind of warped self-image to her.
imfunny2, I think you raise an important point, one I think is important to hear, but I don’t quite know how to address with the care it deserves. That’s why I think that study kateharding links to is so important.
At some level, we need to become more aware of how what we eat can make us feel, and accept that, if we’re eating healthy, we may come to weigh less or more than we do now, and make our peace with that.
At another level, though, we need to disconnect “how we look” from “how we eat” because, I think, what the study shows is that there are a lot of girls (and I would guess women) who are engaging in behavior that we recognize in dangerously thin women as being disordered eating.
Do you see what I’m saying? If a 100 pound girl eats a whole cake and then goes into the bathroom and throws it up, we recognize that as a problem, an illness. If a 300 pound girl eats a whole cake and then goes into the bathroom and throws it up, we tend to dismiss that as a rational consequence of her inability to control herself. Same behaviors and possibly causing the same kinds of body disfigurment (though on opposite ends of the scale), and we see it as two different problems.
I think that’s important–to understand that just like there are naturally slim women, there are naturally fat women. And also, just like there are slim women who are eating (or not eating) in ways that cause that, so, too, are there fat women who are eating (or not eating) in ways that cause that.
Ginger, holy shit! Wow. It makes me wonder at what point you sit them down in front of the computer on one of those airbrushing sites and say “Look, no one looks that way. Even these supposedly ‘thin’ women are airbrushed all to hell before we see them in magazines.”
The other thing I wonder about, and I wonder about this with Supermousey, too, is if “I’m fat” isn’t code for “I feel bad about something I don’t know how to articulate and since I don’t know how to articulate it, I’m going to turn it into a problem with myself.”
I, of course, think they’re becoming aware that the game is stacked against them. They get, at some level, that, if they just went by what society tells them, they’d have to believe that their primary value is in being attractive enough to make other men envious of their boyfriends, that they are just objects to be shown off and so they’d better be prepared to be shown off.
I know I felt that when I was younger, but I didn’t learn to articulate it until I was in college or beyond.
So, yeah, I hear what young girls are saying and I blame the patriarchy. ;)
The little niece wouldn’t eat last summer. Homer and I were very nervous and I felt myself nagging her. Now, I felt bad about nagging her but I didn’t think it was a phase. I felt that something was wrong.
And it was.
She was told she was fat. Now if you ever saw the little niece, you would see a very fit kid. She’s active, think as a rail, but someone called her fat and she believed them.
This problem has been resolved, thank God, but with that said, I can’t help but believe that what was just written about little girls saying they are fat and refusing to eat is a problem about self-esteem.
I say that to go into this, the word “fat” is as much of a weapon when used for ill intent, and that is to break another person’s spirit. Yes, people are fat, yes, people are too thin. Yes, people are unhealthy and others are healthy. I’m built just like my grandmother. Could be her twin in body shape, literally. Recently, I lost 90 lbs and after my hysterectomy, I gained 10 back. I lost the weight because I was sick. People told me how good I was looking but I was ill.
So many conundrums, all having to do with the way we look and not who we are.
Long ramble with no real point, but felt compelled because it just is all so overwhelming. I don’t want the little niece to quit eating again because someone tried to hurt her by hurling an insult on the way she looked.
Ginger: I have to be VERY careful about what I say about my own body insecurities around her. The *last* thing I want to do is pass down that kind of warped self-image to her.
Ginger, you’re a good mother. It strikes me that this needs to go onto B’s list of countermeasures NOT just to help your daughter, but also to help you (or other women modeling behavior for their daughters). Because if you go around acting body confident for her sake, you probably will, just a little bit, start feeling more confident in/about your body. And that will make the world around you, also just a little bit, treat you as someone a bit more attractive. And you will get a small but meaningful positive reinforcement going. It won’t get rid of the biggest external/societal problems, but it will help with some of the internal ones.
Hey B, just a thought to ponder. I haven’t taken the time to read all of the comments, so I may not be the first one to bring up a “prime example”. I’m the last one to point out that someone who is, let’s say, “weight challenged” (“Hello, Pot. Meet Kettle”). Do you remember my husband? You met him at the SuperGenius’ wedding. He was just diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, or weakening of the heart muscle. He, as you may remember, is a very large gentleman and only 35 years old. It is a disease that is incurrable, but definitely treatable, and he only has a slight case at this point, so all should be fine if he agrees to lose weight, excercise, take his medication, etc, etc, etc. He says he will do it for me and the kids, but I told him he had to do it for himself. All I will say is, Take care of yourself B. You are young and it’s not too late to make changes, but only if you want too. Don’t do it just because somebody else says you should. It just doesn’t work that way. Just my 2 cents.
Is anyone commenting here a Doctor or Scientist?
Yes, lord knows, you can’t have a discussion this long about issues women have to live with every day without some man checking in to make sure that the people with authority (in mostly male professions) have been given their proper respect.
Because, clearly, it’s not possible to have a discussion among women, about women, without it circling back to men and what they say and what they need and what they expect. The world would end.
My family is full of women who are obsessed with weight. My mother once said that she believed deep down that my grandmother (who was a wonderful and forward-thinking woman in so many contradictory ways) would have preferred a skinny and dumb daughter to a not skinny and intelligent one.*
And it continues. My mother did not visit any of this on me for which I am eternally grateful. But society does all day, every day. Because I am not skinny to the point of being downright scrawny, and because my teeth are not capped and snow white, and because my breasts are natural, and because I fail utterly to submit myself to the myriad modifications available to make me a better and more valuable female, I am invisible, defective, wrong, stupid, amoral, etc.
*My grandmother didn’t link intelligence with weight. The point is that my mother is a beautiful, intelligent woman and not one bit of that was as important to my grandmother as her weight.
Well, B, there ARE women doctors and scientists. just sayin.
I know I’m catching up this morning, but I’m still a little stuck on the Will and Discipline conversation.
Aunt B said:
and then later,
I guess I’m not understanding the difference between the changes I made and Will and Discipline combination. I am very proud that I was able to change the way I live, and I think it was my Will and Discipline that got me there.
B., the example you give with the cookies vs. apple is very close to what I would do when I was making those life changing choices. Instead of eating a whole bag of french fries, I’d take 5 out of the bag and throw the rest away before I even started eating the 5. I knew once I tasted them, I wouldn’t be able to stop at 5, so I took that option away, but still allowed myself to eat some of them.
I consider that exactly Will and Discipline and it was choices like that that led me to where I am now.
I know there are other factors to weight loss. But for those who are physically able to lose weight, i.e. not restricted by some other physical complication, I believe that Will and Discipline are what make it happen. What’s so wrong with that?
Mack, don’t be putting your facts in the way of my feminist rants. Ha.
Jane, I hear you. Part of my strategy for dealing with this has been to try to honor other women’s attraction to me. This doesn’t mean I’m running around having lesbian sex all the time, but it does mean that I have to do my part to dismantle the structure that says that desirable men have to find me desirable in order for me to have value. I am invisible to some people. To other people, I am clearly visible. Or to put it another way, Ginger says I have beautiful eyes. Mack says I have beautiful eyes.
I have to learn to hear both of those things as the equal compliment that they are and to not give more weight to Mack’s compliment, just because his is a voice of authority. Society may think his voice counts for more, but it’s my job to honor Ginger’s voice with equal weight.
That’s hard, but that’s something I can learn to do, to hear those other voices and trust that they’re not full of shit.
Colleen, maybe it’s not a difference of kind but of proportion. It might be will and discipline, but it’s will and discipline at a level most people are not capable of. And, to go back to the girls in the study–who are behaving like anorexics, but still fat–often, it’s not a matter of will and discipline, but whether your body will cooperate with you.
Also, I want to make two interrelated points. Fatness, in our culture, is a class marker. We talk about it in terms of self-discipline, but it’s often more about one’s pocketbook. I mean, I have to tell you, Colleen, when you said, “I ate 5 fries and threw the rest away,” I had to read that twice just to be sure I understood what you were saying.
You spend money on food and then throw most of it away. In my whole growing up life, even with as much as I was teased about being fat, I would have never been allowed to buy food I didn’t eat all of. It’s hard, even as an adult, for me to wrap my head around that (though I certainly take home food and eat it later or the next day).
Couple that with what we talked about before, how people with poor diets, when faced with a burger or, say, pasta with mixed vegetables, will pick the burger because it almost instantly makes them feel better, if only for a short period of time, over the meal that would make them feel less of an immediate high, but for longer.
And I think you can begin to see how there’s both a real financial incentive and a biological incentive (even though misguided) for poor women to eat all of the food available to them.
But clearly, again, this is a complicated issue with a lot of complex factors and, again, talking about fat like it’s only about a failure of willpower is really shortchanging the complexity of it.
Just to be clear. Colleen, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what you’ve done. I think it’s hard for me to believe that, just because you can do it, anyone should be able to do it. There are fat women out there who are so desperate to be thin they’re taking a pill that makes them shit their pants. If that’s not will and discipline, what is?
And yet, a lot of them are still fat.
Is anyone commenting here a Doctor or Scientist?
What’s the point of that question?
Wouldn’t a better question have been “Is anyone commenting here fully capable of reading a scientific study and then discussing the findings with multiple medical professionals?”
Mmm. Complicating the will/discipline/how you feel issue is the fact that it’s a change. “How I feel when I’m skinny/at my lowest weight” and “How I feel when I’ve lost weight/exercised” are not the same things at all.
So if you look at your life and you’re not happy with your body, then you make some conscious choices, get out and exercise, and then lose weight, well, of course you’re going to feel good about that. Not just because you’re suddenly getting societal validation (though of course that’s a big factor), but because you’ve made positive changes in your life. You’re exercising. You’re eating better. And you’re putting your mind and body toward fixing something that doesn’t feel right to you. That has very little to do with whether you’re actually skinny at any point, and a whole lot to do with all the changes you’ve made.
I think that’s a big complication in the “well you should just work harder” argument set. Because if you’re working hard, you have the time and the energy and the money, and you’re doing things that work out as positive for you, then yes, you’re going to start feeling better. But if what you’re doing is making you miserable? If you’re trying to fit yourself into a mold that isn’t right for you, or eating food that you don’t enjoy, or worrying yourself all day long about what you’re eating and when… if you’re doing all that, even if you lose weight, you’re not going to feel better.
Weight is a health factor. It isn’t the health factor. And while it’s linked to a lot of problems, it isn’t causally linked to just about anything. When you’re thinking about making changes in your life, you have to keep all of those factors in mind. Are you losing weight by exercise? If the exercise you’re doing destroys your knees, or hurts your back, or costs a lot of money that you can’t realy afford… or requires you to put yourself in situations where you feel threatened or takes away from time with your family or causes you to lose sleep, or any number of other problems, you will not be healthier. Even if you lose weight.
Mag, as usual, makes many excellent points. Especially here:
Perhaps my biggest reason for antipathy toward diets is that every diet has affected me this way. It becomes an obsessive course in self-punishment buffered by constant feelings of failure, packaged in a lifestyle which is infinitely more stressful than just plain being fat.
If I just live normally, my weight stays the same. I’m happy. I eat healthily and exercise when my health permits.
If I “diet”, I spend about 22 out of every 24 hours obsessing over food, exercise and the numbers on the scale and the tape measure. And, as Mag mentioned, the bank account. Either I’m spending a lot more to buy Laughing Cow Cheese and Pirate Booty and other “Low Point Snacks” or I’m dumping cash down the exercise money hole.
Or I’m going to the doctor for slipped discs, sprained ankles, tendonitis and other exercise-related maladies.
I’m past the point of seeing why it’s all worth it.
I’m chiming in (on the borrowed PC–mine has been down for the count for some time now…)
I have to chime in here about the eating 5 french fries and tossing the rest out.
Although I understand the idea of relegating yourself to certain portions, what really bothers me is the assumption that A) folks have that kind of money to throw away, and B) folks are that wasteful. I know B and others have touched on it, but I’m going to make a big deal out of it (because it’s Wednesday and the work isn’t done and I’m bored?).
I know french fries aren’t expensive in the grand scheme of food purchases, but spending $1.50 for some fries just to throw them away..??? Some people (me included) don’t waste money that way. And we don’t waste food that way.
My willpower example comes more with the “don’t even BUY the potato chips because you can’t just have five” rule.
Having the luxury of being able to spend money on food of which you are going to throw the majority away isn’t about Will and Discipline. It’s about being in a socio-economic position where you have enough disposable income that throwing food away is a viable option.
Note: I don’t want to sound so on my soapbox, but…
Bonus: I am kissing you all via the internets.
You paid your $1.50 for the fries already –what does it matter if you eat them all or throw some away at that point? The money has already been spent.
I guess that’s what I’ve never understood about the “clean your plate” mentality — me eating all the food or throwing it away is completely divorced from the actual spending of the money. I can’t unspend it, so what does it matter what I do with the food?
Yes, yes, exactly. You cannot understand the “clean your plate” mentality and folks who have it cannot understand the mentality of folks who don’t.
Those are deeply ingrained differences. And it’s not just willpower that allows you to overcome that. You’d have to recognize that you had such a mind-set in the first place.
*I guess that’s what I’ve never understood about the “clean your plate” mentality — me eating all the food or throwing it away is completely divorced from the actual spending of the money. I can’t unspend it, so what does it matter what I do with the food?*
You don’t buy it in the first place. It isn’t as though you have to buy it. Leave it for someone else, and buy something smaller. If you can in this Super Sized society.
I guess that’s what I’ve never understood about the “clean your plate” mentality — me eating all the food or throwing it away is completely divorced from the actual spending of the money.
The fact that you have enough money to spend on food that you may or may not eat further makes the point.
I’m in better financial shape now than I’ve been in a long while. But it’s not too long ago that I could tell you just exactly how much a box of Hamburger Helper and a pound of ground turkey cost, and whether or not I had enough change left in my End Of The Month Food Money bank to cover it.
I could also tell you just how many days we’d be able to eat off that one box of Hamburger Helper and Ground Turkey.
For many people the concept of spending the money and eating the food is not at ALL divorced.
As I said, some people (me included) don’t waste money that way. And I think telling people that their diet option is to buy food just to throw it out isn’t financially realistic. Eating the food or throwing it away is not completely divorced from the actual spending of the money, not if you are on a budget.
This isn’t about cleaning your plate. This is about buying enough to sustain you, on the one hand. And not buying the food that you either know you shouldn’t (french fries, potato chips) on the other. I think throwing food away in such a manner is indicative of a wasteful culture.
Okay, yes, but let’s keep in mind that this is clearly a cultural divide of some sort (the kind which we could devote some time in trying to get to the bottom of or not). There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating everything you are given and there’s nothing inherently wrong with not eating everything you are given. This is just a cultural difference.
Colleen has every right to be proud that she wanted to do something (in this case, lose weight) and that she found a way to do it that worked for her, in part because she was still able to enjoy tastes she loved.
These are hard things to talk about and I just want us all to be sensitive to that. It’s hard to talk about why you’ve decided to stop trying to lose weight, knowing that folks will pass judgment on you for that. And it’s hard to talk about why you’ve decided to try to lose weight, or maybe even succeeded at losing weight, knowing that people will pass judgment on you for that.
I’m not really interested in making any of my readers feel like shit for being brave enough to talk about hard things, so please, let’s be careful with each other and respectful of the fact that this is one area in which we’re deliberately taught to assume that we’re all the same and in which we are so very much not the same.
Believe me, I didn’t do the “buy the bag just to throw the majority of them away” for very long. After a few times, I realized I didn’t really need fries that badly. Basically, the way I describe it is that I weaned myself off of them.
At that point in my life, it wasn’t about the money, it was about making a change in my habits, my desires, and my outlook on food. But I did realize the wastefulness of it and therefore didn’t keep it up for long.
Oh, and B., you rock. *smooch*
Because if you go around acting body confident for her sake, you probably will, just a little bit, start feeling more confident in/about your body.
nm, that is an excellent point… A lot of times I have had to psych myself up mentally/emotionally with regards to something going on between her dad and I so that I wouldn’t influence her negatively about him. In turn, I have usually ended up not feeling as frustrated with the situation overall. I’d venture to say that kind of “mind over matter” can work when it comes to self-esteem as well. Then again…is that me lying to myself? I dunno…
And, to go back to the girls in the study–who are behaving like anorexics, but still fat–often, it’s not a matter of will and discipline, but whether your body will cooperate with you.
This rings true with me because of what I was saying before about times when I would do aerobics and starve myself only to get to 145lbs…and could never, ever get below that weight. We do have a “set point” that is hell to lower.
there’s both a real financial incentive and a biological incentive (even though misguided) for poor women to eat all of the food available to them.
It isn’t only financial, it can be a moral issue, too…
I was taught that being wasteful meant you were ungrateful for what you were given by God. Therefore, if you wasted your food, you weren’t really thankful for it. Now that’s a heavy load of guilt to lay on someone, isn’t it?
Oh, and I’m pretty sure that’s why whenever I go to a restaurant, it is almost always a sure bet that I will get a doggie bag for my leftovers. It is still ingrained in me!
Fascinating discussion. And B, not only can you count the ability to buy good food and having the time to exercise or otherwise work hard as class markers, but you can also count *sleep* as one. The health news here has been saturated for the last few weeks with how not getting enough sleep will make you fat. Today’s installment was that you can tell how much sleep you get by how big around you are. So if you have to work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet and are therefore only getting about 5 hours of sleep a night, everybody can tell because you’re fat. Even if it’s true, that’s all we needed was one more thing we’re not doing right if we’re over the desired norm weightwise.
Ginger, I think that the acting positive can lead to feeling more positive, but in small ways and degrees. I don’t accept the idea that a positive attitude can finesse real, complex problems. But there’s nothing wrong with small steps.
Wow…there is so much going on in this conversation that I feel the need to address. First I would like to start by saying that I am an over-weight (very over-weight), late twenties, recently married professional. I have struggled with weight my entire life and have always endured pressure from my family and others around me to lose weight. I’m going to make some very bold statements in the coming paragraphs, they are in no way intended to put down a person’s beliefs or values. These are just my observations on life being fat.
Losing weight, most of the time, is 100% about will power and discipline. Yes, there are medical causations for obesity, some genetic, some caused by peripheral factors such as medications. I’m not talking about these cases. I am talking about the population of people, who are just like me, who try to cram way to much into a single day and who shuffle personal fitness and being health conscious to the bottom of the pile. I wake up in the morning and I choose not to go to the gym. I come home at night and I choose to plop down on the couch in front of the TV and order that pizza…just because it’s easy and I’m tired. The operative word being ‘choose’. These are my choices.
We choose everything we do in life. That’s not easy to hear sometimes, because why would someone choose hardship? But the cold hard truth of the matter is, we are always ALWAYS faced with a choice…that is the priciple that the concept of free will is built upon.
Colleen chose to purchase french fries and throw the majority away. That doesn’t mean that she is not aware that there are other people in the world that do not have that liberty due to financial constraints. It just means that was her personal choice.
Some people choose not to lose weight, they find their happiness in other ways. And that’s a beautiful thing, embracing who you are. And I have great respect for people who chose to lose weight and apply will power and discipline to get it done and I have equally as much respect for people who realize going to they gym just ain’t their thing. Because I believe above all else, in today’s shallow society, we need to embrace who we are. The rest will just come naturally.
Why did you read more into my comment than what I ask? Or do you just assume that every “man” has ulterior motives in every statement he makes? That ain’t me. But thanks for assuming, and insulting me.
As I said earlier, I’m sorry about getting on a soapbox (I think I’m prickly about not being able to use my computer).
I didn’t want to dismiss Colleen’s efforts or methods. So forgive me if I came off that way.
I also think there’s that thing in our head that we have to separate between the not cleaning our plate type of “wasting food” and the just tossing food out because we can always afford to buy more type of wasting food.
Breaking what are essentially bad eating habits is difficult enough, but as so many here have noted, it’s even harder to lose weight when you are not able to afford (time and money) a lot of the resources that would help in weight loss.
I mean, I’ve just stopped for the first time today, and I’m about to go out and get the shopping done before I can really stop. So come 9:30 PM or 10:00 PM… I’m going to want to eat a little something, take the dog out for a quick pee (she makes it quick, not me), and read myself to sleep. But I won’t be able to because I’ve got to do some necessary chores first. Time for that exercise program? Ha.
I could stand to lose 20 or 25 pounds. But if I was looking at 50 – 100… I really honestly don’t know what I’d do. I’d seriously have to rearrange my entire life. I applaud those that can do it.
The 5 french fry delimma:
Fry your own. A kettle costs $20 at Walmart. You’ll use it for years. You use the (canola) oil over and over because used oil makes things taste better. You cut up a very inexpensive tater (if you’re really in a hurry, use a $10 mandolin slicer).
If you have a family, make everybody small portions. If you don’t, cut up half a tater and put the rest in tomorrow’s stew.
Eat 5 french fries. Throw on some seasoned salt, and their better than McDonald’s.
Convenience is the bane of mankind. Get out of the convenence mindset, and life will cost less and be healthier. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.
I won’t discuss fat issues anymore, but somebody mentioned french fries.
Kevin, whatever. I don’t treat you like you’re stupid; don’t treat me like I’m stupid. I was, in fact, teasing you, but trying to make the point that it’s bullshit to pop into a conversation, throw in your question like it trumps everything else, and wander off.
Be respectful of the conversation. People are doing some hard shit here and they don’t need you starting in on how we’re all dumbasses.
And please, don’t deny that’s exactly where you were going with that line of questioning.
Editor, yes, too, I think you kind of articulated for me something that nags at me about TK’s comments. I mean, clearly, we all have certain choices (though I think that not everything is a choice, unless we’re defining choice so broadly as to make it meaningless), but the problem comes when we say “We have so many choices; we can do whatever we want” and then we so harshly judge ourselves and others for not making the very few choices society tells us to make.
And let’s be clear. The game is rigged. You can lose weight and then find out that you have “cankles” and now that’s why you’re supposed to feel like shit about yourself or you’re too old or too short or too whatever anyway.
We can talk about choices, but the truth is the only choice we have is to fail at something. So, are you going to be too fat, too old, too smart, boobs too small, hair too flat, what?
This thing about choices… I think that “choice” has to be defined pretty narrowly to make it meaningful for the purpose of this conversation. ‘Cause there are long-term choices, and short-term choices, and choices that aren’t exactly choices because they are really fallout or consequences from choices or accidents or whatever. Unless we get all really deep philosophically and start talking about how not choosing is also a choice, I think we need to talk about choice in terms of what is feasible for one person’s situation at a particular time. For instance, if on any given day my choice is between exercising for 30 minutes and getting 30 more minutes of sleep because I chose to work 3 jobs instead of staying in a homeless shelter, at what point in the choice stacking do I NOT get a finger pointed at me for not having enough willpower and determination to create an 24.5-hour day for myself?
I mean, hurray if you choose not to be fat any longer and are actually in a position where you can prepare healthier food and exercise and get enough sleep and and basically rearrange your life so all of this stuff works to get the weight off. When I was in my twenties, I was actually able to do that after I gained something like 30 pounds while my broken leg was in a cast. And I felt really proud of myself because I had successfully rearranged my whole life to do that. And I bought into this whole idea that it was a matter of choices and willpower and so on.
But nowadays, making it all a matter of choice sounds an awful lot like privileged thinking to me, with a little bit of Old Testament punishment unto the 7th generation, except you’re working with the 7th generation of choices in the stack instead of the 7th generation of descendants. I mean, suppose the reason I’m working 3 jobs to keep a roof over my head is because I left my abusive husband. If my choice was between being economically stable with beatings and working my butt off without beatings, then somehow it’s still my fault I’m fat because I didn’t have enough willpower and determination to avoid marrying a jerk in the first place? Or maybe because I chose to study a subject I loved instead of one that would get me a high-paying job 20 years later, I was insufficiently prescient? Making the weight-loss thing all about choice and determination is pretty much total crap unless you are in a position where those choices (i.e., apple vs. potato chips, exercise vs. sleep) are not being driven by other considerations. YMMV.
You mean that “Old Testament” forgiveness of sin for a thousand generations? Otherwise, Original Lee, I agree with what you’re saying, but I do get tired of my religion being blamed for things we don’t actually believe. I’m just saying.
O’ Lee! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Therefore. kicking ourselves in the behind (or in B’s case, the Aunt B-hind) because we don’t “take the time” to be skinny when we’re already running our bruised up fannies off is self abusive.
And Beautiferous B! YES!
This notion that there is some exalted state of perfection that can be attained if only we would (fill in the blank) so we could become (fill in the blank) is doo doo.
NM, though, that’s one of my favorite things about the mix of people we have here. There’s always someone who can speak from personal experience and knowledge in order to remind us that we don’t know everything as well as we think we do.
But, yes, exactly Original Lee, I think you’re right on about all of the layers of this and how there’s a kind of class privilege at work.
That’s why this topic is both incredibly painful for me to talk about and so damn interesting to me at the same time–because it’s where a lot of my own experiences, abilities, and cultural background come slamming 90 miles an hour into unspoken cultural expectations.
And for me, I think that puts me in a position where I feel impaled on a lot of cultural trash and I know that laying here, all embedded in this nonsense is hurting me and I know I have to get up, for my own good, but moving hurts, too, and reveals hurts I didn’t know I carried.
I suspect that’s going on for a lot of us, hence all the bristling. But I still think this has been an incredible conversation and I’m glad for it.