Ok, as promised! Here’s the thing: After that last post, a few people commented or implied (but not in a bad way) that wow, they thought they were ok with themselves . . . but apparently not so much. And it was a LEEEEEETLE TEENY BIT depressing.
I get it. But here’s the thing (again), speaking TOTALLY personally, if I can get angry about something like this, I can usually use it in a MUCH stronger and more constructive way, internally.
So the quote of the day?
“Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”
Look at that quote, and think about all the things you could think about if you didn’t think so much about what you ate and how you looked. What could you do? How many advanced degrees could you have gotten with that brainpower? How much more could you accomplish?
Several years ago, I went on a modified fruit-and-juice fast. It was modified because I ate dinner every night, but the rest of the day I mostly drank juice. And sometime late in the 2nd day I realized that I felt like I had so much EMPTY SPACE in my head (no jokes from the peanut gallery, LOL). I felt like I had all this space to think extra thoughts because I WASN’T CONSTANTLY THINKING ABOUT FOOD. I wasn’t constantly thinking about what I could eat, what I couldn’t eat, whether or not I should or shouldn’t have eaten something, how many calories, fat grams, FIBER (thanks a LOT, Weight Watchers). I just felt . . . free. And I wondered: if I felt this way all the time, how much more could I accomplish? How much LESS overwhelming would my life seem?
Whether or not you’re a feminist, whether or not you agree or disagree with Naomi Wolf, just think for a MINUTE about how much time you devote in your mental and emotional spaces to food. Ten percent? Thirty percent? Forty? Fifty? NINETY? I think my ratio is probably around 75%, and that’s AFTER I’ve worked on it a LOT. I’d guess it used to be well over 90%. Really think about it: what could you do with all that extra brainpower? (I mean, I know the stereotype is that women are bad at math, but come on, how bad at it could we BE? We’re COUNTING ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME! Calories, Points, body fat percentages . . . don’t tell ME we’re bad at math! We’re just directing our skills at mundane things!)
So here’s how I think about it. I imagine that “perfect” scenario that I metioned in the last post. And I realize that if I were to wake up in perfect health tomorrow, all my fitness goals met, etc., I STILL would not be happy with myself. I would STILL feel fat and gross.
If I had everything I THINK I want, why on EARTH would I still be unhappy? Because I live in a society that assigns VALUE AND WORTH to the way that I LOOK. Read that again. Value and worth to the way that I LOOK. The. Way. That. I. LOOK. Whether or not I am VISUALLY PLEASING to OTHER PEOPLE. THAT is how society determines a large portion of my value.
Society does not determine my worth by how fast I can run, how much I can lift, whether or not I’m a good person, whether or not I give to charity. My friends and family do, but society doesn’t. At FACE VALUE (interesting term, don’t you think: the value of a face?) society looks me over, assesses my size, decides whether or not I take up too much SPACE for its liking, and then finds me either acceptable or unacceptable.
And I believe its assessment.
You know what?
Do you remember when your mother said, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” Remember how infuriating that was? Well, Mom was right, kids. Because in those moments when we were whining about how everyone ELSE had one, everyone ELSE did it, everyone ELSE got to go, what we were really doing was learning to let society (in that case our immediate peer group) make our decisions for us.
Remember what I wrote yesterday about how we all like to think we’re independent thinkers, but none of us are? Yeah. We absorb all KINDS of things from our cultures, whether we want to or not. How old we “should” be when we get married, how many kids make up a “normal” family, that we should “save for a rainy day,” etc. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: a society can’t survive without some level of conformity from its members. But when it comes to something as personal as the way I FEEL about myself, I call shenanigans on society. Society at large does NOT get to determine whether or not I love myself. It just doesn’t. That’s when I get mad, and I holler my war cry:
“YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF MEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!”
Yeah, it’s childish, but it works for me. It reminds me that when I feel like crap because I weigh more than I did in college (even though I haven’t had a bloody nose in FOREVER because, oh, I don’t know, I’M EATING NOW), that feeling is NOT mine. It belongs to the outside world, but I’ve adopted it as my own. I know someone who is fond of saying, “Don’t just THINK any thought that pops into your head! You don’t know where that thought has been! It could have come from ANYWHERE!” It always cracks me up, but I think it’s pertinent here. Are you thinking your OWN thoughts about your body? Or are they thoughts you just picked up somewhere? Get mad. Get them out of your head. Yell at them. Curse at them. Throw some pillows at imaginary forces who WANT you to hate your body, because really, WHO THE HELL ARE THEY TO TELL YOU HOW TO FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF?!?!?
I found that it was REALLY hard at first to get those social thoughts out. But it got easier. I hope it continues to get easier. Now I see them sneaking in the back door and most of the time I holler, “YOU!! OUT!!!!” and they slink away. (Sometimes after that I find myself muttering like a crazy person: “I don’t know WHAT that was all about, but I am NOT going to entertain that CRAP in my HEAD anyMORE.” Kind of like a crazy mom, LOL.)
Now, without any time to digest all that, here’s another one for you. In our society Fat=Bad, and Thin=Good, right? So when we feel “fat,” are we really just feeling “bad?” Check out this comment (edited slightly for length) by Rebster from another post at Shapely Prose, which sums it up so much better than I can:
Something that might be important to remember is that (as I have learned in “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies” as well as other FA positive books) that saying that we “feel fat” or “feel thin” is really code. The code is that fat can cover a multiple of negative feelings/experiences and thin a multiple of positive feelings experiences.
Fat is not bad. What do we really mean when we “feel fat”? (unattractive? unwanted? lonely? unsuccessful?). It seems that people in general connect fat with negative things and thin with positive things ([asking if] you’ve lost weight when really you look happy). I know I do this to myself, as well. The key, for me, has been to figure out what I really mean when I tell myself I’m “fat.” (Which is different than acknowledging the fact that, yes, I am fat, and that’s ok.).
So if I accept that fat isn’t inherently BAD, then the next time I feel fat, what am I feeling? I’m probably feeling an emotion connected to my perceptions of what it MEANS to be fat. In other words, “I feel fat” might very well translate into, “I feel fat and gross and ugly and like no one will ever want me, ever ever ever.” No? Just me? Oooooookay. (Liars.)
And then I have to stop. And I have to ask myself, “Why would being fat make me any of those things? Why do I think that?” And the answer of course, takes me back to the top of the post. To a society that determines my worth based on how I LOOK, according to standards that THEY determine. And to that I say:
“Fuck off. YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!!!!!!”