Monday, August 18, 2008

Posting, yet again, on something I know very little about

I've been reading a lot of blogs in the so-called "fatosphere" lately, and I wanted to make a small, uninformed documentation of my thoughts over here.

Having dealt with an eating disorder for most of my life, I live in constant fear of being or becoming fat. It is not something I am proud of. It has made my life miserable in many many respects. It is something that I will always struggle to overcome. I think it's somewhat like being an alcoholic. Alcoholics Anonymous shows people that, though they might not have had a drink in 25 years, they are, in fact, still alcoholics. They will ALWAYS be alcoholics. Having an eating disorder means realizing that I might not have starved myself or thrown up in years or months or weeks, but I still have an eating disorder. I will ALWAYS have an eating disorder. It's something to do with the interior workings of the mind. Something inside me that craves control patterns (or for alcoholics, the lack of control, or the lack of caring), will always want to return to eating as a way to manifest anxiety, stress, and pain. I have to accept it. The strength to accept the things I cannot change....

To come from this background where fat = fear/loathing/bad, delving into the fatosphere has been a very unique experience. I have long felt/known that fat people are society's whipping boys. It's acceptable to hate, demean, berate, judge, discriminate against, and blame fat people in ways that would never be acceptable to any other demographic. Even sitting in a puddle of my disordered hypocrisy, this has always bothered and offended me. Being a close scrutinizer of people's bodies, I have noticed time and time again that there are plenty of "fat" people out there, who are healthier and fitter than myself. I never believed the BMI bullshit, and talk of the "obesity" epidemic has always made me sneer.

Anyway, reading the blogs in the fatosphere has been an extremely empowering experience. I love hearing these (mostly women) people talk about their struggles to remain healthy and body-positive in a world that reviles them. As someone who struggles to remain healthy and body-positive with a mind that reviles me, I have found a lot of inspiration in their messages.

When I was taking a 40-hour training course on crisis counseling, we had a chapter on bias. Representative David Litvack, (one of my personal heroes) then the Volunteer Coordinator for the Rape Recovery Center, said something to us that I will never forget. We did an exercise regarding racism which was supposed to show some of our racial biases. At the end of the exercise, he got up and said, "Some of you are probably congratulating yourselves for coming through this test with few or no biases. I want to tell you that your work is not over. If you cannot find an immediate prejudice or bias, then your job only becomes more difficult because it means that your darkness is more hidden, more nuanced. I challenge you all to keep constant vigilance on your thoughts and to find the places inside yourself that are bigoted and racist and ugly. You have them. We all do." Obviously, this probably isn't a verbatim quote, but I remember it quite distinctly.

I think it will ultimately be up to individuals to challenge the greater society bias on "fat." To do this, we'll not only need a body of evidence that contradicts all the research being produced by diet companies, we'll need to challenge the idea that a person or a society can judge someone simply by their immediate appearance. We will need to get past our idea that nutrition is something that we should leave to scientists and that exercise is something that should be done at a gym and that if you don't follow those guidelines, you are wrong and bad and other.

I'm not perfect at this. I read Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food" and I agree with his observations about our cultural food famine. And then I go buy "lite" butter and throw up my lunch. But I think the main point is to keep trying and keep asking questions, especially of ourselves and our perceptions.

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