Well, last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and it’s appalling that Her Body Politic didn’t blog about it. But… what can I say? Lately, my life has been taken up by other things: unrelenting grief, pain, loss, tidal waves of violent hysteria and feelings and thoughts so dark that I wonder if I will ever be able to share them with another human being. Enough of that.
Here’s what I wanted to write last week:
“As long as she’s healthy.”
I’ve seen this phrase more and more recently, and it’s starting to get on my fucking already rattled nerves. Now granted, I know that because of the stress I’m under, and the pain I’m in, there’s a good chance that I am just a giant bitch. I’m willing to accept that. I’d apologize for it… but fuck that. I’m sick to death of apologizing for shit that I didn’t do, wouldn’t do, haven’t done, or have had done to me by other people. This is an epidemic among women, and certainly chronic in my case. How many times have I said, “I’m sorry,” when I had nothing to be sorry for? Countless times.
If you get a chance, check out “The Body is Not an Apology” on Facebook. I dig this page, because at first I was like, “What? What does that even mean?” And then I realized… how long I lived my life, constantly apologizing, for being me. I apologized for “being fat” (whether I was or not isn’t even the point) by starving myself, devaluing myself, and carrying around a belief that the bigger I was, the less of a person I was, and that the rules were different for me. Every human being needs food to survive. Period. If you don’t eat, or receive any nourishment, eventually, you will die. There are no exceptions. I believed I was an exception. That every morsel of food I put in my mouth was a sign of my weakness; that I should be able to survive without sustenance, where others could not.
I believed that the outside mattered most, what I looked like could tell you exactly who I was. If I am fat, I am weak, unhealthy, and lazy. If I am thin, I am strong, healthy and motivated.
I can post pictures (and I probably will at some point) of myself, “healthy” (translate: “thin”). And I can assure you that when the picture was taken, I was mentally ill and most likely starving – physically and emotionally.
I can also show you pictures of myself “unhealthy” (translate: “fat”). And I can assure you that I have come leaps and bounds in terms of my mental, physical and emotional health. The sadness I’m experiencing in my life is directly related to grief and loss and has virtually nothing to do with the way I look.
I recently saw a picture of a woman in a very challenging yoga pose (on the page I mentioned above; see below). It’s a very cool photo. She is completely nude, balanced on one knee and the tips of her fingers. The caption read something about the “lines and curves” of the human body. Her body? Large. The picture? Beautiful, artistic. You can imagine the onslaught of comments.
One of them of course being “as long as she’s healthy.” I’m SO FUCKING SICK of hearing this phrase. People say it about Adele. “As long as she’s healthy.” She’s a fucking singer ass-face, not a bikini model, and further more it’s her business if she wants to wear a bikini. And the woman in this photo above? She posed for a fucking picture. It’s art. Who cares what she ate or if she runs on a treadmill? It’s art. She’s not advertising some weight loss pill or exercise equipment and claiming to “be healthy,” she’s posing for a goddamn picture. And even if she were promoting a “healthy lifestyle” and you think she isn’t healthy, how about this plan? Think for yourself, dumb-ass. You decide what’s healthy for you, let her decide it for her.
The reason this phrase – “as long as she’s healthy” – bothers me is two-fold:
First: when you condescendingly say “as long as she’s healthy,” I believe it carries the implication that she’s not. If a woman has a “great body” – in other words, she fits into the narrow idea our culture has of a great body – she is assumed to be healthy. I’m sure some people have used this annoying phrase to describe super-thin women too, but mostly I’ve heard it specifically in reference to a woman who is not thin. I feel it necessary to repeat something I posted in one of my earlier blogs: YOU CANNOT TELL BY LOOKING AT A PERSON WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE “HEALTHY.” If their body is dead, they are no longer breathing and their flesh is starting to decompose, maybe then could you say something about what’s going on. “Oh shit, that motherfucker is DEAD.” If they are coughing up blood, you can see that they have a pretty severe gunshot wound, and their flesh is turning necrotic, you may be able to hazard a guess that they are a little “unhealthy.” If they approach you and say, “please for the love of god help me, I’m so unhealthy!,” you may get the idea that they are “unhealthy.” But if they are thin, fat, or anywhere in between, and that is your only criteria for judgment, you don’t know shit about their “health.”
Second: Maybe, just maybe, the person you’re saying this about, isn’t healthy. Okay, so fucking what? You don’t fucking know her. She’s a stranger. Maybe it’s none of your goddamn business what she does. Maybe she’s got a giant ass and she had two cans of Reddi-Whip for breakfast, and she’s happy with that. Shut the fuck up and worry about your own health. She’s not your personal trainer or your nutritionist? Don’t fucking worry about what she’s eating or if she exercises. If you love and care about someone, and they are doing something to harm themselves – starving, overeating, binge-drinking, smoking, shooting heroin into their eye sockets – then, okay, you have a personal relationship with that person, and you say, “hey I’m worried about you because…” and you fucking talk about it. But if you don’t know the person: it’s none of your business.
So, now for the onslaught of “obesity” rants. People feel like they need to butt in on all kinds of shit people do. Oh my god, obesity is an epidemic, second-hand smoke kills, drinking is bad, teen pregnancy is on the rise, fast food is disgusting, sugar = Satan. They spout all kinds of statistics about how many deaths per year are caused by these social diseases and addictions we have, and that it’s costing taxpayers bazillions of dollars in medical costs. Employers are losing money because we are taking too many sick days to smoke cigarettes and eat Big Macs and we are calling in fat to work.
Oh. My. God. There is a line between “educating the public” about the dangers of something, and “banning and ranting,” and I believe we’ve crossed it. When we rant about the ills of something, and possibly try to ban it, a few things happen. First of all, we desire it that much more.
Example: I hate Big Macs. They are disgusting. When I say I never eat them, I mean, I NEVER fucking eat them. But if I knew they were going to be banned? If someone told me I couldn’t have one? I can tell you I’d be running out to get one so fast that I’d burn all the calories it has getting to it. Vilifying something often makes it that much more appealing.
Next, we set something up as bad, we feel bad when we do it, and we also judge one another for doing it. “Oh gross, can you believe how much sugar she eats? That’s disgusting.” Because of my struggle with my weight, I used to feel (and I still fight this one) that if I ate something “bad” I should apologize for it. “I’m just really craving garlic bread, I don’t know why. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Is it PMS?” Yet a skinny person has every right to down an entire sheet cake, and she doesn’t need to apologize for shit? Well, that sucks.
I eat a lot more spinach than I do cake, but if I want to eat cake, I want to do it without judgment. I don’t want some asshole telling me that I’m unhealthy.
Let us eat cake. If we want to.
Let us be judged by the content of our character, and not by the size of our jeans… or the size of our genes.
And if you think genes don’t make a difference, try walking a mile in my metabolism.
And when you are wondering whether or not someone is “healthy,” remember that even if you could judge their physical health by looking at them, do you really think you can judge their mental, emotional, and spiritual health by looking at them? And do you really think these things are less important than physical health, or that they’re not ALL CONNECTED? If you don’t realize how connected they all are, then you aren’t “healthy” either. And even if someone tells you how “healthy” she is, and you think she looks great and has a winning smile, remember: people with eating disorders are very good liars.
I agree that the Body should never be an apology, and I know that sometimes the body is a lie. It tells ignorant people all kinds of things about the owner of it that are simply untrue.
My body is a truth. A truth of everything I have put it through, good or bad, up to this point. Only I really know that truth, and sometimes even I can get a little fuzzy on that, so the last thing I need is anyone else confusing the issue.