I watched a family member suffer from severe eating disorders when I was in college. Hospitalizations, feeding tubes, rehab facilities – the list goes on and on and on. It consumed her.
I also watched (and honestly, still watch) another branch of my family yo-yo diet like it was their job. So many “lifestyle changes” that ended like any other diet. Hundreds of pounds lost throughout the years, which always turned into more pounds gained in the end. Deep-rooted self-hatred over their bodies.
I played soccer for multiple teams as a kid. Ran outside with my friends after school every day. Yet I was still aware and embarrassed by my body by early elementary. I joined Weight Watchers in middle school. I watched as friends taught each other how to throw up after they ate. I was angry that no matter how far I shoved my hand or toothbrush down my throat I couldn’t ever do more than a gag. I went to high school and college still ashamed of my size. I went through various phases where I would restrict when and what I ate, would take weight loss supplements, count my points and run several miles a day. I would lose weight. I was always praised and celebrated when I dropped a few pounds. But I always gained the pounds back.
So many of the behaviors that people in the “wellness industry” encourage are so painfully similar to behaviors my in law, who nearly lost her life to her eating disorders, engaged in. She weighed not much more than my seven-year-old when she was in high school. Anyone who saw her knew she had a problem, knew she needed help. And yet at the same time, it is completely accepted, encouraged even, for fat people to treat their bodies the way she treated hers. Don’t miss a workout. Write everything you eat down so you don’t eat too much. Drink water when your body tells you you’re hungry. Weigh yourself regularly. . . The biggest difference was how her body and brain responded to these obsessive behaviors.
We’re told that we need to be stronger, more self-disciplined. If we loved our bodies we would take care of them (aka make them smaller). That this diet, this program, this lifestyle change – will help you get there. If you could only be skinny or “fit” you would be happy and live a good life.
We’re not told that statistically, you’re more than likely going to gain all the weight you lost (and, in most cases, more weight) every time you intentionally lose weight.
We’re not told that biologically your body will always try to get you back to your highest weight and that you will have to run on substantially less to maintain the same BMI that someone who was never fat does.
We’re not told that the easiest way to gain weight is to try and lose it, even though research proves it true. We’re not told that losing weight doesn’t cure a person of the fear/feeling of fatness.
We’re not told that fat people can be healthy or happy or do great things.
We’re absolutely not told that there are people who live in small/skinny/lean bodies that are both unhappy and unhealthy. We’re not told that small people have back pain.
We are told that every problem we experience in life is because of our fat body, and if we were better humans we would change our body and all of our problems would magically go away.
My morality is not measured by how small my body is. Embracing my fat body has made me a much better person, not only how I view myself, but to how I view others. I cringe thinking of how judgmental and superficial I was. For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like a complete loser simply based on how I look. My body has been good to me, and I have learned to love it like it has always loved me. Knowing that my big belly doesn’t make me a bad person has been such a relief. Eating what, when and around whoever I want has been so freeing. Not stressing about my body has given me life. That’s not to say I don’t have days when I struggle. Because even though I’ve come to peace with my body I still live in a society that sees my body, my existence, as nothing more than a problem, a crisis, an “epidemic.” The mere idea of me actually loving myself, with zero intention to change the size of my body, gets people more worked up (in opposition) then when I talk about food waste and the thousands of kids starving to death every day. I’ve heard it all so please spare me the lecture on my ‘health.’
I think of the BILLIONS of dollars and hours we as a people spend chasing after a ‘perfect’ body. I contrast it to all of all the real problems in the world – sex trafficking, child hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, drugs, pollution, political corruption, child abuse, animal abuse and I believe our energy could be put to better use.
Someone trying to sell a weight loss program recently asked: “What kind of example are you setting for your kids?” My answer is simple. That their value as humans lays within the bodies that house their souls, that treating themselves with kindness is the best thing they can do for their health, and that there is so, so much more to life then when you aren’t stressing about how you look.