Saturday, December 29, 2018

You Do You

I've been fortunate to be invited to speak about eating disorder recovery and share my story in the past. I will always consider myself an advocate, but I spend more time as a mentor offering advice to those in the throes of the illness than I do promoting myself. In fact, I don't really promote myself much at all anymore and was never very good at it in the beginning. Plus, in case it wasn't obvious, I'm not willing to hide my political, religious, and other views, which can be a turnoff to some.

The eating disorder recovery community needs all types, from those who are very vocal and in the spotlight as much as possible to those who are more quietly reaching out to others in need. Eating disorders are tough illness to overcome or manage, and educating the public about recovery is essential, no matter what form raising awareness takes, unless, of course, the message is skewed.

It's hard to explain just how disappointing it is to see so called advocates engage in jokes that support diet culture, promote fears, and suggest terrible ideas around eating and exercise. Even those with degrees in nutrition aren't always careful about what they popularize.

The other day, I saw a lady who has put herself in a position of being a healthy eating advocate (but obsessively posts photos of every fucking morsel she puts into her mouth) suggest to her audience that they should consider cravings merely thoughts. She then implies that doing this is a good thing because that way you can avoid eating the food you're craving. I get what she's probably trying to say, that not every single craving needs to be acted upon, but the message is all kinds of fucked up the way it's presented. And that's the thing; since her main topic is weight loss, it doesn't really matter to her how anyone else interprets the message. All that matters is that she gets more attention, more likes, more "you go girl!" comments, and more approval. Unfortunately, she has a lot of people who are struggling or have struggled with various eating disorders following her, but she still seems to think it's OK to continually toss out ideas that potentially or sometimes quite clearly counter eating disorder recovery strategies.

Here's the truth. It's sometimes just fucking fine to eat because you fucking want to, because your soul or brain or some remote part of you calls out for it or because you're tired and need a little pick-me-up. That's normal. This idea that we must always eat only when hungry and only at certain times and not at night and not too much sugar and rule after rule after fucking rule is tiresome. I'm so glad that when I went to see a respected dietitian, she didn't try to shame me into not eating a midnight snack or wave her finger and tsk tsk me for eating ice cream and chocolate most days.

Hey, it's great that you found what works for you. Just stop shoving your goddamn diet plan down other people's throats and asking for money to do it. I am so glad that I stressed in the books that I wrote that everyone is different, that there is no one right way to do things. The best thing you can do for yourself is work on self-compassion and self-trust. What someone else does might be helpful in terms of giving you ideas, and it might not be. Worse, it might be hurtful, so you really have to be careful with all the fad diets, fasting suggestions, and general bullshit floating around lately.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Strong Not Skinny and Other Attention Grabbing Nonsense

The first time I saw a strong not skinny hashtag, I cringed and figured it would be a short-lasting fad, something instagrammers would use in an attempt to promote themselves or their products until people realized how ridiculous the concept really is. Instead, it seems to be spreading, even into the running world. It's a completely flawed and potentially damaging idea. All this kind of saying really does is set new parameters around how a woman is "supposed to" look instead of remove the parameters altogether.

One of the most obvious flaws with this statement is that an athlete can be both skinny and strong. Saying #strongnotskinny is almost an insult to those who are both. Another problem is that many people who are very clearly unwell and underweight are using the hashtag, because in the hashtag world, it's all about getting attention, not reality or necessarily helping anyone. There are also those who use it who are healthy and fit but very publicly trying to lose weight or restrict in some way giving those who witness this kind of behavior widely opposing mixed messages. None of this does anything to better anyone, and it really puts a lot of pressure on vulnerable individuals.

What I would love to see is a step away from our cultural obsession with body. People might mean well by using this kind of hashtag, but they're not thinking things though. They're not seeing the bigger picture. If you move the very narrow restrictions of how a woman or an athlete should look from here to there, it's not really helping all that much. Focus, instead, on the actions of the individual and who she is rather than how she looks. Thin, fat, fit, strong, weak, or out of shape, I don't fucking care. It's not important. What is important is how she treats others, how happy she is, how healthy she is, and what she does in life, not what her outer appearance is. I'm all for celebrating the body and how it looks aesthetically, but I'm adamantly opposed to sending messages to the public about what any body should look like. That shit gets on my nerves.

The more I see people starved for their 15 minutes of fame and willing to do nearly anything for attention, the more I want to retreat into the shadows. There are so many bad role models out there, even in the running community. It's really important to be selective about whom you follow online. I know so many people who are negatively affected by what they see others promote. It's unfortunate that some are more concerned with notoriety than how they might affect others. Maybe one day things will change.