I just finished Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb. It took me all of two days. It is written with the words from the author's own diary from 1978, when she was 11 years-old, and chronicles the development and details of her eating disorder and it hit way too close to home. But it was also an incredible reminder. A reminder of just how hard it is to be a girl at that age. A reminder of just how powerful the messages are that we send each other. A reminder of the incredibly powerful hold that diet culture has on females. A reminder that things really haven't changed all that much in 45 years.
I remember it all. I remember the message that being fat was the worst possible thing that could ever happen to you. I remember the shelves of diet books in our home. I remember the ways we would compare if our legs touched at the tops or our collarbones stuck out. I remember when our weight was on our drivers license and the heavier among us, or even just the self conscious, would scribble out the weight with a pen. I remember comparing waist sizes on our Levis. I remember EVERYONE wanting to be thin. I remember finally losing weight and getting the thin body people always wanted and finally, finally, FINALLY I was good at something.
And I remember the fear. The intense fear that no matter how much weight I lost, I needed to lose just a little bit more in order to have a "buffer." I remember the horror of gaining a pound, which meant that I was blowing up, uncontrollably, and my life as I knew it was over and I would be one of those sad, fat women who nobody loved.
I remember being so stuck and so hopeless. This book brought it all back.
It has been 41 years since I hit bottom. I never, ever, ever want to enter that hell again.
So when you see me pushing back...pushing back on the diet culture and the fitness culture (because nobody wants to admit to dieting to be thin any more), it is because I remember. I refuse to jump on any bandwagon, be it the organic one or the keto one or the intermittent fasting one or the vegan one or the "sugar is poison" one (it is also delicsious). I refuse to go with the special supplements that will fix all my ills except for those of my bank account (they are always super expensive).
The reality is that the horrific diet culture of my teens is still out there. It has just grown up. Now I go to the menopause support group on Facebook where I think I can find camaraderie for my achy joints and my saggy skin and the fact that I am indeed a brainless wonder with no ability to remember anything whatsoever and, while I do find some comfort with my menopausal travel companions, I also find an awful lot of women pushing their solutions to weight gain with "before" and "after" photos and descriptions of their insane personal training agendas and I am 14 all over again. And I.WON'T.GO.BACK.THERE.AGAIN.
Listen, people. The messages out there that say that you won't amount to anything unless you attain a certain body size and shape are just toxic. Yes, I know it is important to be healthy. But you can be healthy in a lot of different sizes and a lot of different ways and what good is a rock hard, super fit, thin body if your life is consumed with what you eat and how much you move? (I have to say this because I always get pushback from people who think I am encouraging them to "just be fat and not try.")
Eating disorders are real. Body dysmorphia is real. Exercise obsessions are real. And they can all be horribly destructive. They can literally suck the life right out of you.
I am staring 59 in the face and weigh the most I have in 35 years and that's ok (even though every article tells me how I have to stave off menopausal weight gain). But sometimes I have to revisit my former self to remember just how ok I am now. There is nothing out there worth the obsession over weight or diet or exercise.
And there is a lot to be gained (pun intended) in letting it go.