The Final Fifty

{March 13, 2013}   Body Image, Eating Disorders (trigger warning), and the Damage We All Share.

I was talking to a friend at rehearsal last night. When I first met him, I totally misinterpreted his demeanor and appearance. He sort of looks like a bro. He also has this sort of sarcastic smirk to him, which I of all people should know not to think the worst of, as I tend to have the same expression at times. Historically, these were markers for people who were likely to make fun of me, which I think is why I got the wrong impression. Fortunately I’ve gotten a chance to get to know him a little bit more now that we’re cast in the same show.

Last night we got to talking about the sort of stuff I typically talk about here: diet, health, body image, eating disorders, etc. I never would have guessed, but apparently he used to be overweight, and has since vacillated between highs and lows, even hitting a point where he was unhealthily thin and dangerously close to having an eating disorder. It just made me so sad. As a society, we inflict so much damage on one another by supporting the idea that being thin is the only way to be, or that everyone’s body is subject to criticism and comment.

And yes, I said “we” and “supporting”. Because we all do. Raise your hand if you’ve never spent money with a company that reinforced an unhealthy obsession with thinness, conventional beauty, or that sold you something  with a half naked woman’s body as their main attention-getter. Anyone?

Here’s another one. Raise your hand if you have honestly, truly never said anything shitty about a person’s body. And make sure you understand, it counts if you’ve said “that girl needs to eat a sandwich” about a thin person. Body shaming works both ways. It also counts if you’ve ever said “ugh, I’m so fat” or “gawd, I hate my thighs so bad.” Body shaming yourself, particularly out loud in front of another person, contributes to our body toxic culture.

I’m guilty of these things, too, so don’t think I’m over here feeling all smug about myself. Hell, I’ve started a diet blog, and I’m sure that no matter how hard I’ve tried not to, I’ve said something here that isn’t entirely healthy. It’s like racism and sexism. When you have it trained into your mind your whole life, you contribute to it in ways you are not even aware of. The key is to try and become aware of it, and to try, consciously, to make an effort to be better about it.

I think with body image, it has to start with yourself, but it can’t end there. Think about the things that jump into your head when you see other people. Try to stop the words before you say something about someone else’s body, even something you think is totally positive. Remember that every comment has implications beyond what you may mean. “You look great, have you lost weight?” Hey, good thing you’re less fat now! “Real women have curves!” Thin women aren’t real women. “Thin people look good. Fit people look good naked.” There’s only one type of person who looks good naked, and it’s not thin people, or fat people.

But it’s not even just body policing that happens, it’s all sorts of choices that go along with body image. How often do people police each others food choices? Or exercise choices? If anything, it’s more insidious, because people feel like they’re doing others a favor by “helping them to get healthy.”

No matter how much you learn about losing weight or getting healthy, it’s a decision each person has to make for themselves. Not only that, each person needs to decide on their own rules and parameters. What works for me will not work for everyone, or even for a big percentage of people. Come to that, I lost 60 lbs before, which is not an insubstantial amount of weight, and I did it without eating a single vegetable. It was what I was able to do at the time, and what I was able to stick to, and it still worked for me.

When people DO ask me for diet advice, I always tell them to be patient with themselves, and to set flexible rules that pass the common sense test, and to not engage in the cheating-guilt cycle. And, above all else, to listen to their body. Pay attention to hunger cycles, pay attention to hydration, pay attention to how you feel. Learn when you’re really hungry and when you’re thirsty or tired or something else entirely. But it’s the THEIR BODY part that is important there. Not only because we are different (though that is important), but because a big part of being healthy is learning to understand the language your body uses to communicate with you. My body is having less digestive trouble, feeling less sluggish and heavy, my skin is getting less dry, and I’m finding that I am satisfied with the amount of food I eat even though I am consuming roughly 1000 fewer calories every day.

Incidentally, it was remarkably easy for me to turn down the apple crisp and various flour-less chocolate cake options that were presented for my co-worker’s birthday. Even after seeing and smelling all of it, the desire to eat it wasn’t there. Not even a little. We joked around about it, and I told another co-worker that I would live vicariously through her and she went on jokingly about how amazing it was, but there was no twinge. No temptation to think “eh, I can live a little”, or temptation to check how many calories I have left for today. I didn’t contemplate dancing longer to work it off, or fudging my diet and resuming normal operations tomorrow. I viewed it just as a type of food that I don’t eat anymore because I know it is counterintuitive to me being as healthy as I can be. That feels like a real victory.

The sweet potato burgers were pretty awesome, I have to say. I think our ratio of sweet potatoes to beans was a little low, so I might adjust that the next time I make them, and I’ll make sure to drain the beans more thoroughly, but they came out well anyway. As is typical for me and DBF, we ended up putting in some cayenne pepper and curry powder. I’m not sure we’re capable of going more than 24 hours without it. They take a long time to bake, like at least 45 minutes, though I wasn’t clocking it exactly, and I ended up flipping them over about 40 minutes in so they could brown on the other side (the bottoms browned, the tops were not browning.) We have tons of leftovers, as the recipe made about 17 patties, and we only ate 5 between the two of us.

They did not look nearly as appetizing as the picture that goes with the recipe, but they tasted glorious. I put some colby jack cheese on each one and put it back in the oven for a few minutes, and then topped them with sliced avocado. It’s definitely one of my favorite new food items. I actually might put a little bit of salt in them next time.

It’s strange to find myself adding salt to things, because I’ve never really done that before, but I think that’s because I ate more processed or pre-prepared things that were already salted. Now that I’m eating food that at least starts out in its totally natural state, I find that they need just a little something. I’ll keep an eye on my app, though, to make sure I don’t overdo it on the sodium. I mainly use sea salt, which has a higher ration of potassium to sodium than other salts, so it’s not as bad for you.

I did 50 minutes of ballet last night, so I still haven’t managed to make it all the way through Ballet Boot Camp, but I at least feel like I pushed myself to do it better than I’ve done it in a while. I find that my dance workouts mainly fall into three categories when it comes to intensity: 1) Satisfying workout where I push myself to do better, 2) Acceptable workout, where I make it through all the movements, though I don’t feel like I pushed as hard as I should, and 3) Unsatisfying workout, where I go through the motions half assed and don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. Generally, when a session starts to go through door number three, I take it as a sign that my body needs a rest, and I stop and try again the next day. This has been working well for me, and I’ve still managed to hit at least 5 days a week, so I feel like I’m  getting sufficient exercise in.

I picked up some kale yesterday evening, and I’m planning to make a frittata with it this weekend like the one my roommate made last week. She used regular potatoes, but I’m thinking I could use sweet potatoes in mine, and it should go well enough with onion and kale. Still haven’t decided though. It’s not like potatoes are bad for you, they’re just not good to eat all the time and there are other things that provide better nutrition.


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