There were two particular comments that came up in class today that really reflected my own thought process over the last few days about how I relate to my body in terms of thinness/fatness and my own behaviors to shape my body.
“To some extent, I think we all likely engage in some disordered eating.” There were several examples given in class for types of disordered eating that don’t necessarily come out of a goal to be as thin as possible. Whether these habits come from overloaded schedules, financial constraints, environmental constraints, or other sources, I think it is helpful to realize that not all “disordered eating” results in anorexia, bulimia, or obesity. It is, however, important to analyze our reasons to understand where our behaviors are coming from and how our relationship with food might impact our life/health/conceptions of self.
The question posed in class that really summed up the questions I have been weighing over the weekend was “Where do we draw the line?” When do we decide that an individual is too thin/too fat? Even if they appear to be a normal/healthy weight, where do we draw the line of what behaviors are healthy or unhealthy? And, I think most importantly, how do we define health?
In my own experience, I’ve struggled on and off over the years with my weight. When I graduated college, I was at my heaviest weight and was overweight according to most official scales/measurements. While I understand that scales like BMI are highly problematic because they don’t take into account the composition of someone’s weight, I was not comfortable in my own skin. I had spent my senior year having a lot of fun with my friends, drinking, eating, and rarely exercising, and my figure showed it. I have since lost almost 20 pounds, but it’s still a struggle to get to my “goal.” While I’m in much better shape than I was a few years ago, I still want to be more fit, more trim, and get to where I would see myself as being in “fantastic shape.” However, lately I find it harder and harder to take any more weight on, no matter how hard I try.
I’m starting to wonder whether I might just be at what is a natural, healthy weight for me. As all of the “fat acceptance” authors discussed, there is no one “right” healthy weight or size. So if I have to push my body to the point of discomfort to lose weight and keep it off, maybe I’m not supposed to lose more weight.
Coming back to the question of “where do we draw the line,” I wonder again how we decide what a healthy body looks like. How did I get this idea that to be healthy, to be fit, to be in “good shape” means to be skinny? While I would broadly say that I think Bordo puts too much weight on the impact of the media on our body image, I have to conclude that this is the main source of my ideas. I don’t get these ideas from my life – I know women of all sizes who are healthy and fit – and when I think of images that are explicitly supposed to be about women’s healthy bodies, they are exclusively thin bodies. Look at any cover of Fitness, Shape, or Self magazines, and they exclusively feature tiny celebrities. We never see an example of a more substantial healthy body.
For my own goals, I hope to remind myself that I feel good and am proud of what my body can do. But it would be nice to see some examples of healthy bodies that are not exclusively defined as thin bodies.