Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is it fit or fat that matters?

A friend of mine shared some of her thoughts about bodies and fat and fitness yesterday.  She had correctly noticed that her particular area of curiosity was not one I've addressed before, but most likely others have had similar thoughts, so it definitely seems worth exploring...

Here's part of what she wrote:

[This woman modeled for me after a long process of figuring out if it was the right thing for her to do.  We had a great series of emails about it.]

Over time, I came to a place of acceptance that all of me is beautiful.  Perhaps not always "attractive" in the classic definition of the word, but beautiful nonetheless.  Any pose could be lovely, real, and truly me.  Of course I have my own personal preferences of what looks more attractive or beautiful to me, based on my own thoughts and feelings about beauty.  How I was raised, my own influences over the years.

So I've felt that I am beautiful, just as I am.  A nearly 50-year old woman, with a few extra curves (rolls, if you will) in some places... and a couple of places where there aren't enough.  A standard weight chart would list me right now as being 40+ lbs overweight, and a BMI chart has me just under or at the "obesity" level; even though most people looking at me (especially clothed), would never guess that.  And I've been content.  Peaceful about it.  I accept that this is how I am today.  I will eat that extra brownie, because I want to.  I don't aspire to be, nor do I have any need or wish to be, the skinny model that a 20-something woman may want to look like.  I've earned my body as it is today, with all its lumps and wrinkles and smile lines. I am happy, just as I am.

And then... it hit me in the shower.  Am I really being content?  Or am I being lazy??!  Am I really "loving" my body right now, allowing it to be 40+ pounds overweight, without exercising or watching what I eat?  Or am I in fact being abusive to my body?  Am I allowing my body to be unhealthy, opening it to diseases, heart risk, cholesterol, etc.?  Is this really acceptance of who I am today, or is this criminal neglect of my God-given precious body?

So now I'm feeling somewhat torn.... should I feel at peace/acceptance?  Or should I feel guilty for neglect?

I don't know.

Where's the line between loving and appreciating my body just as it is today with its imperfections, flaws, wrinkles, extra rolls and pounds; and abuse of this precious gift by neglect (I know I COULD work out, I COULD eat less/better, etc. but I choose not to)?  Is the "line" something that I can/should choose for myself?  Is the line different for everybody - i.e., it is NOT the line that is given by those damn charts, or even by our doctors?  Could my 'line' between accepting myself and being content with my weight be different than anyone else's?  Can I be satisfied with accepting that I do not want to/have no motivation to/don't care enough to be 30 pounds less.. and can I then walk around in that body weight *without* having some vague feeling of guilt about it?

What's the difference between healthy and heavy?  Is it okay to accept 'heavy'?

How much of those 'vague feelings of guilt' have to do with the media vs. doctors/healthy charts?  Everything?  Anything?  I secretly wonder how women who are much heavier than I can accept their bodies... don't they feel MUCH more guilt for being 'unhealthy' than I do?  Or is this crap only the stuff that goes on in my head, based on my own life experiences?

I think she brings up some great questions.  On NPR the other day I heard a doctor quoting masses of research which show that it isn't weight which is the indicator of poor health - it's fitness.  People of any virtually any weight can be healthy and fit.  And people of virtually any weight can be unhealthy and out of shape.  This doctor said that research is showing that people should be more aware of their fitness level than their weight.

Yes there are so damn many messages out there that our weight matters.  How do we stop listening to those?  Should we?  Could we?

A study was done with 5-year-old girls.  They were asked questions to indicate how they felt about themselves then were shown a series of images of rail thin fashion models strutting their stuff.  Then the little girls were again tested to see how they felt about themselves.  Afterwards their body image had plummeted and they showed signs of depression about their looks.  Ouch.

In another study, 6-year-old girls were given a choice between two dolls which were identical except for how thin they were.  95% of them chose the thinner doll.

25% of 8-year-old girls are on a diet.

95% of diets DO NOT WORK.

Any ideas about how to stop this insanity?  How to help young girls grow up loving their bodies and selves like the little girl in the video I posted the other day?  Twould be lovely!

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