Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
As Living 400 Lbs reported, I started the #bodyacceptance hashtag on Twitter to talk about some things that have been chapping my hide about the way people in America, particularly female people in America, relate to food, as well as body shape. Sadly, a lot of the things I want to talk about require way more than 140 characters to fully discuss, and serial tweeting is kind of disruptive and difficult to chain thoughts together, so I thought I’d do some talking here.
Twice in the last five years, because of surgery and illness (both completely unrelated to my weight), I have gotten to the point of being unable to eat much of anything. About two and a half years ago, I had rectal surgery which required me to not, ahem, “strain” myself at potty time. Then there was an infection at the incision site, as is common, which resulted in two other surgeries, which extended my recovery time to six months. As a result I became phobic about eating anything, and survived mostly on fruit juice, soup and yogurt drinks. I was also prescribed laxatives until the “all clear” at around six months post-initial surgery. So, I lost a lot of weight. I also lost a lot of my hair, my skin was dry and kind of gray-tinged, I was always cold, and caught every cold that came down the pike.
Hot on the heels of that I contracted whooping cough (Who knew? Suffering from malnutrition lowers your resistance). Because my throat was so raw eating hurt like hell, and I got nearly all of my nutrients from enriched fruit juices. A dear friend, who I know meant well, at one point called me to warn me to be careful drinking all that fruit juice, since it had so much sugar and I might gain weight. This is in spite of knowing full well that fruit juice and yogurt were pretty much all I could ingest at that time. ( I couldn’t eat soup, the salt hurt too much.)
After all of this, I was probably the thinnest I’d been in years*, and exhausted. I couldn’t walk more than half a block without stopping to catch my breath. And people noticed the weight loss, but not the rest of it. I was repeatedly congratulated for effort and willpower, until one day I exploded all over someone at work:
“Oh, yes! It’s been great! Being unable or afraid to eat for months, losing my hair, not being able to do the grocery shopping without leaning on the cart to stay standing, and let me tell you about shitting my guts out several times a day. Yes, I am a veritable TOWER of willpower! The fact that I haven’t killed myself is the true victory. Fuck weight loss!”
I do feel a little bad about that rant. I mean, that person didn’t just receive their own portion of ire. They got the ire generated by the countless well-meaning irritants who’d congratulated me on my successful weight loss effort, or my strength of character, or my virtue. Granted, most of these people didn’t know about the surgery because there were no outward indicators. I didn’t have crutches or visible bandages. However, I was constantly out of breath and leaning heavily on walls just to walk down the hall. It’s kind of fucked up that these people who had seen me daily for years, apparently thought that kind of weakness and level of debilitation were just part and parcel of the effort required to lose weight, and therefore perfectly ok.
Last April, I developed an allergy to our laundry soap. Sadly, it took us about a week to figure this out, and since my hive response is usually food-related, I cut EVERYTHING out except for foods I knew were 100% safe. This meant I spent about a week eating english muffins with butter, milk, water, and oatmeal, with the occasional piece of completely unseasoned chicken breast. After doing that didn’t make the hives go away, I noticed that if I napped on the room-mates blanket on the couch and not MY sheets, that the hives subsided. However, before we figured this out, someone who I know meant well, again, asked me if I should be eating so many carbs.
Well, if I’d cut the carbs, I’d have been eating either nothing but unseasoned meat, or milk and water.
And the thing is, like the friend with the fruit juice comment, I know that person just didn’t think about what she was saying. She was unconsciously parroting food advice that she’d been bludgeoned with since childhood. We’re constantly inundated with what we should eat, shouldn’t eat, this is good, now this is bad. You should eat lots of this, but too much of that is bad. And it’s constantly shifting. This year’s “good” foods are next year’s “bad” foods.
It’s really, really hard to remove the diet talk from our vocabularies. Especially as women, diet talk and food policing are hammered into us almost from birth.
But this year, I have two resolutions:
#1 – Ban diet talk. I’ve been working on this since discovering HAES and Body Acceptance, but I want this year to be the year I master it. I want to completely remove all moral judgements about food, and about people based on what they’re eating. I don’t know what they eat all the time. This could be Captain Vegan’s once a year splurge on a chicken burrito. Or he could eat like that all the time. It’s no one’s business but his. And that’s what I’d like you all to keep reminding yourselves if you feel the urge to check out someone’s grocery basket and judge them. Because ultimately, it’s none of your fucking business.
#2 – Take myself and my writing more seriously. I know, this one’s not body acceptance related, but it is Me Acceptance related. Like a lot of women, I have a hard time valuing things I do that I enjoy. (Boy, let me tell you about feeling guilty for going to the gym because I like it.) I also have a hard time believing that I’m really good at things or that anyone would want to read what I read, in spite of reams of evidence to the contrary (site views, retweets, pingbacks). Blogging has two strikes against it right there, as I both really enjoy it and have a hard time believing you all want to read it.
So that’s what I’m working on this year. I’m going to stop undervaluing myself and my efforts, and the diet and food policing stuff is part and parcel of that. I need to quit beating myself up for eating this or that, or not eating this or that. I need to realize that sometimes I really am legitimately too busy or involved to remember to eat, and not wonder if I’m spiraling back into disordered eating. I also need to remember that cookies and cakes and pies are not the enemy, and I don’t have to do penance if I succumb.
Happy New Year, Everybody!!! My best advice to you for a good resolution is to learn to love yourself, and take care of yourself. Self-care is hideously undervalued in this society, particularly if you’re not rich. So take care of yourself, and take the time to appreciate you and all that you can do.
*None of you will be surprised to find that I have since gained it all back, with friends.