17 November 2015

looong post

i came across a comic strip the other day which has sort of stuck in the back of my brain. there's something about it which just doesn't sit right with me.

it's called 5 ways i've learned to love myself as i gain weight, and it's about coming to terms with internalized fatphobia and learning to love yourself, both of which are good things, i think.

being nice to your body is important. absolutely.

doctors blaming every illness on fatness is horrible and unhelpful. agree 1000%.

we're all different sizes and shapes, and that is okay. i've posted before about how my body has changed and weight has changed and mostly these two measurements change in ways that are unrelated. i know i've had doctors look at me differently after weighing me and doing a quick bmi calculation - when i was young and fit and strong, i weighed more despite being thinner. i think my doc did a "she doesn't look fat though" double-take in those days, as i balanced on the 24.9 point, just barely this side of "overweight." as i got older, my weight stayed the same but my body got bigger as muscle turned to fat. my body also got weaker when that happened. my bmi didn't change, and so the changes in my health and fitness didn't get noticed.

and this is where i take issue with the comic.

there are good reasons for bodies to change. if you are young and still growing. if you are recovering from illness, or recovering from an eating disorder. if you are pregnant. if you are working out and building muscle.

there are also bad reasons for bodies to change. eating disorders or emotional eating are obvious ones. there are also all sorts of health conditions that include "unexplained weight gain/loss" among their symptoms. it's also the side effect of any number of medications.

these are all reasons why body change shouldn't just be "accepted." unexplained loss or gain could signify anything from cancer to diabetes to thyroid problems to lung disease.

step number one in the comic strip on loving yourself as you gain weight is "never keep old clothes." this made me go "wha?" because keeping old clothes is my number one vector for tracking my health! and overall, i would say it is a more useful/reliable measurement than weight - since in the past i gained body fat without gaining weight. i also lost strength, and frequently found myself short of breath. i was still in the general "healthy" zone weight-wise, a bmi of 24.9 for years. but as my body got bigger and softer, my health got worse. i would be out of breath at the top of a flight of stairs. i even relied on inhalers at one point!

keeping old clothes is the easiest way for me to keep on track. sometimes i am super diligent about health, sometimes i'm relaxed or a total slacker. but when i have a struggle to do up the button on my jeans? that's when i know it's time to look at myself, think about what i'm eating, check what kind of exercise i'm doing.

my rule number one: maintaining is easier than changing.

if i start focusing on my health when my jeans feel too snug, it's easy to get back on track because i haven't yet gotten very far off. for me, this means walking more briskly, drinking more water, doing calisthenics every morning, eating more fresh fruit and veg, and not snacking on junk in the evening.

the great thing about using your own clothing as your yardstick is that it means you are only comparing yourself to yourself - not worrying about whether you weigh more or less than decreed by some chart or media ideal, but "what was healthy for me before? how can i stay like that?"

the comic seems to be advocating gaining weight for the sake of being better able to empathize with people who are dealing with fatphobia and fatshaming. to me it sounds like a road to poorer health - especially if the weight gain is caused by some underlying health problem.

it goes both ways too; unexplained weight loss can be just as problematic. i personally know people who've congratulated themselves on losing weight effortlessly, right before getting diagnosed with diabetes.

i guess what i would say is: keep your clothes. accept yourself for who you are, and think before you change. you don't need to gain weight to gain empathy.

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