Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Radical Act

Warning: If you do not want to read about body issues, please skip this post.

Through dooce, I came across this blog post by Mihow where she describes the way that her weight has fluctuated through-out her life using the real numbers (read: her weight in pounds and her height in feet and inches). Many of her commenters (and dooce) commend her for being brave enough to put her real numbers out there and setting a goal for herself.

I do think it's brave to publicly admit to how much you weigh. It's sad that in our society this is a brave act, but there is so much baggage accompanying the numbers on the scale. So I don't want to sound like I'm coming down on Mihow here. However, when I read her post, it just made me feel bad.

You see, I am two inches shorter than Mihow and weigh about the same amount. And so the comparison game begins. She considers herself overweight, should I? Do other people? Reading Mihow's numbers added fuel to the fire of voice in my head that tells me because of what I weigh I am a failure and others see me as a failure (or, if you want, that I am unloveable and others see me as unloveable). (Let me take a moment here to say that I don't want comments that say that I am not a failure and I am loveable; although I appreciate the sentiment, I feel that that is equivalent to saying "Don't feel the way you feel.")

Recently, I reread my diaries from middle school hoping to find something I could use "Mortified-style" for my friend's variety show. I didn't really find anything funny in there. What I did find though was hundreds of entries that contained the phrase, "I failed today. I ate between meals." I remember wishing that I was thinner in middle school, but I had forgotten how it made me feel like I was a failure because I wasn't thinner.

I don't know why I was so surprised though, because those feelings are still around.

I need to lose some weight for health reasons (because a laminated paper chart taped to a doctors wall was consulted and ordain it). So take the amount of weight I'd like to lose for health reasons. Triple it. That is how much I actually want to lose.

This little math exercise is significant for me because I do believe that weight loss has a healthy, positive place in my life. If I were treating my body as I should be, exercising and eating correctly, the by-product of that would be weight loss (I am told). However (and here's what my little math equation is meant to demonstrate), the kind of weight loss I am really interested in, in my heart of hearts, is divorced from treating my body like I love it. It is deeply linked to hating my body and hating myself for failing to have the kind of body that I think I might love.

Since the end goal is the same, a leaner and therefore healthier body, perhaps it doesn't matter if my motivation is to be healthy or to look "good," but I think it does. Every time I exercise (or chose to stay on the couch) and every time I deny myself food I want (or go ahead and eat it), there's part of me that's doing it out of self-love and there is part of me that is doing it out of self-hatred. And I have a feeling that if I listen to the self-hatred enough, it's not really going to matter if I wildly exceed my expectations in regards to weight loss.

I am coming to terms with the idea that this self-hatred/self-love dichotomy is not like two paths in the woods, where I just have to get off the self-hatred one and step onto the self-love one. I am always going to struggle with feelings of inadequacy in regards to my appearance/weight (as are so many other women and increasingly men). But you know how when you see someone bullying someone else on the street, there's this moment where you have to decide whether or not your going to intervene and stand-up for the person being bullied? I like to believe I'm the kind of person who would intervene for a stranger and now I want to be the kind of person who will consistently intervene for herself.

During college (this is the wrap up, I swear), in one of my Feminist literature classes, we watched Margaret Cho's stand-up at the end of the year. Some of the things she said always stuck with me. She talked about how she use to take time out of her day to look at herself as she passed buildings with glass windows to think "I am fat," and how she could spend her time so much more productively. And she also said this (watch it please, it's good).

She says it so much better than I can.

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