Saturday, May 27, 2017

Same As It Ever Was

Yesterday I went through my 10th foot surgery. Though I'm on a light dose of painkillers, the oxycodone seems to have created a lot of brain fog. I'm still trying to get through this blog post I started earlier and keep coming back to, even though I think these are ideas I have already expressed and I'm not doing a great job of remembering what I write from one sentence to the next.

I've been following the body positive movement off and on for a while now. Some of the most inspiring thinkers in this movement include Ashley Graham, Carmen Cool and Allison Epstein. There's a lot of confusion around and hostility toward both the body positivity movement and the fat acceptance movements. Some of the main concepts are acknowledging discrimination against heavier people, avoiding judgment about health based on weight alone, and moving away from the sick beauty standard that has become the norm.

Some people want to believe there's a double standard when it comes to body shaming and thin people, but there really isn't, at least not one that's ingrained in our culture. People who say there is don't fully understand what body shaming and discrimination based on weight really are. I get the same kind of reaction when folks scream, "ALL LIVES MATTER" to the black lives matter movement. That's not to say bullying never happens to thin people, but some will mistakenly call expressing concern about someone's health and behavior "body shaming" when it's nothing of the sort. There's a big difference between negative and intentionally mean comments directed at someone based entirely on weight and those expressing concern based on specific unhealthy behaviors. I addressed the latter in a previous post. And, yes, some people are bullies, trolls or mean-spirited and will say nasty things to thin people or to just about anyone, however, this doesn't mean that there's an inherent "thin is bad" problem in our society. "Body shaming is the practice of making critical, potentially humiliating comments about a person's body size or weight." Got it? 

I was bullied when I was young. People, both strangers and those I knew, yelled at me, called me fat, fatso, lardo, and said I was ugly etc. all because of my weight. When I was anorexic, I looked scary. People stared and yelled at me on occasion, but the comments were more along the lines of, "Go eat something!" or "Stop running so much!" Throwing out these kinds of comments is not bullying. If anything, there's an underlying concern when someone says these kinds of things to someone who is emaciated. Yes, they can be upsetting, especially coming from a stranger, but they simply are not bullying statements. 

Obviously, there are still issues I'm addressing in my own mind when it comes to certain individuals online and why the content they share affects me. People who promote thinspiration or pro-ana have become the irritating thorn in my side. 

What I keep coming back to is the way people try to inflict their fears, rules, and ideas about diet, nutrition and exercise onto others. I'm not one to try to police anyone or tell anyone how she should be living. I find fault with people who try to do this and follow it by lashing out at anyone suggesting she shouldn't promote an unhealthy lifestyle, though, and I will continue to say something about it. I appreciate so much those who can present scientific findings around nutrition without trying to badger anyone. When Sam Harris interviewed Gary Taubes, neither one tried to order anyone to eat a certain way, but both were able to address findings in various studies that relate to sugar, insulin and obesity in a thoughtful and thorough manner. Sometimes you will find people who stretch the results of studies or surveys to support what they want to believe, but Sam and Gary did a good job of addressing why this happens.

I was concerned a few weeks ago after reading one woman's blog post about her obsessions with food and weight. Though she claims she is no longer plagued by obsessive thoughts or compulsive actions, the content she posts shows an entirely different story, one that's the opposite of what she claims and downright scary. Anyone can justify an unhealthy habit in her mind, but if she's honest, there's a part of her that at least recognizes the unhealthy behaviors in which she engages. The absurdity of claiming to be free of compulsions or obsessions while admittedly engaging in them and going one step further by actually promoting them publicly is shocking. Sean Spicer chews an unbelievable 35 sticks of gum in a single day, but he's not suggesting others do the same. A blogger sharing the unhealthy thoughts circulating in her head as a way to process is one thing, but a blogger encouraging others to engage in the same disturbing behaviors she does is something else. I'm not sure why, when it comes to diet and lifestyle, so many people think it's OK to do this. Merely admitting a bad habit doesn't mean a person is over or free of it, and it absolutely doesn't mean that the behavior is suddenly OK or not as bad as it seems.

Speaking of gum, a lady I know used to chew at least a pack of gum every day. That's a hell of a lot of gum. She has an eating disorder, so she came up with all kinds of excuses about why she did it. The reality was that she used the sticky paste to avoid eating meals, something she confessed later. I've heard about people who chew even more than a pack of gum a day, which seems unbelievable to me, but I know it happens. In fact, I recently read one lady's blog post in which she admitted to chewing far more than this. Addictions like this don't always mean the habit is dangerous, but there must be a reason why someone would rationalize this kind of behavior for an online audience. Again, I believe when someone is bringing these kinds of behaviors out into the spotlight, there must be some part of her that's aware that any extremes like chewing several packs of gum daily need to be acknowledged and analyzed. Always look at the deeper issues. What is it really about?

My boyfriend and I were recently discussing some of the more bizarre Instagram and Facebook profiles we have seen. He referenced one person who happens to also manage a blog and gives out advice about how to lose weight and supposedly be free of various obsessions about food and weight by abnormally focusing on food, weight, calories and body image. I bring this up because some people believe that if the intent is good or at least not intentionally malevolent, this kind of content, as bizarre as it might be, is not malicious. I disagree. It is malicious to give tips about losing weight to someone who is already underweight. It is malicious to perpetuate a lie, claiming that you are free of obsessions while the content of your posts so very clearly demonstrates otherwise. It is malicious to try to dictate how others should be living and how and what they should eat when you can't see your own unhealthy compulsions, and it is malicious to suggest that athletes, or anyone for that matter, consume what amounts to a starvation diet in terms of calories. This person's intent might not be outright malicious, but the end result potentially is.

I fully agree that we need to move away from judging others based on weight alone, and I will never support someone who throws out numbers relating to what's found on a scale, BMI, calories or nutritional values publicly as a way to suggest that what she is doing is good for her or, even more to the point, for anyone else. You do you, so to speak. What others eat or don't eat doesn't give them any kind of moral upper hand. When I looked a one lady's post recently, her calorie count for the day was added incorrectly, and this is someone who counts down to the individual calorie. I know anyone who shows a propensity toward eating disorders can get upset if she unintentionally goes over what she intended to eat, but it shows how illogical these kinds of self-imposed rules can be, how arbitrary these numbers are when it comes to actually having a dramatic impact on life. I just don't understand why anyone would put this kind of information out there, and I don't see it being helpful to anyone in any way whatsoever. If anything, it can be dangerous. Restricting, especially when exercising a lot, can have all kind of long-term consequences. It's just not helpful to put that kind of information in the public eye as a guideline, and people who are truly healthy don't typically do it.

I believe it was Carmen Cool (thought it's possible she wasn't the first) who suggested that we assign worthiness by accessing behavior, not weight. Other people don't need to know how many calories anyone else ate in a given day. This kind of information is personal and should remain so.

“Personality begins where comparison leaves off. Be unique. Be memorable. Be confident. Be proud." -- Shannon L. Alder 


  1. Eating disorders are unique among pathological compulsions in a few ways. One is that EDs, though progressive and sometimes fatal if untreated, are sometimes more apt to ruin you psychologically than they are to cause direct and undeniable damage to your day to day life in the form of getting fired, being arrested, and so on. The cost, apart from the physical damage that may come in the form of a slow burn over years and even decades, is more likely to be terrible isolation, shame, anger and basically being unable to enjoy being you, and that is something no decent person ever deserves to feel. In this way, you may not run afoul of society while acting out in your psychopathology, because you aren't apt to experience serious, jolting consequences and (external) punishment.

    That's always been true, but now we have this great new social-media phenomenon where people can basically starve themselves publicly and receive praise for doing it. These aren't pro-ana sites in the nominal sense because they cloak the things they do in exercise, ultras, "healthy" eating, veganism and that whole train of giddy rationalizations. So, you can literally delete dissenting input and allow your page to full up with "You go girl!" horseshit that is entirely supplied by de facto bots and fellow anorexics and bulimics.

    What you've described here, the whole "I'm OK with myself and this is me" means of dealing with this kind of psychopathology, follows from these unique aspects of EDs as a form of addiction. You could never, for example, post photo after photo of yourself passed out in a pile of puke from drinking too much and caption it with "Nothin' wrong with partying! I accept what I am, messes and all! No more obsessing!" and expect a positive response, and you wouldn't get away with accusing your rightful critics of "Fun-shaming."

    Having suffered through similar periods myself, and being an admitted stickler for rational analysis of one's own running performances, I get very irked at the people who go from running 37-minute 10Ks to slogging through 50-mile ultras at 9:00 pace and claiming proudly that this proves that they are healthy. Never mind that these performances aren't in the same solar system, or that posting what amounts to the same photo of your abdomen literally dozens of times a year it ispo facto evidence of a mental problem of some sort no matter what the photos reveal.


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