Tuesday, November 8, 2011
What We Talk About When We Talk About Weight
At the risk of sounding terribly cliche: we talk about our own fears. When I notice that Lea Michele has lost weight (see yesterday's post), I start to think: Oh god, here goes another one. Do I have to lose weight again now too?
I've seen myself on camera and in photographs recently. I understand the urge to change everything about one's self, starting with just 5 pounds.
About 6 years ago, I decided that I was too fat. (To give you some context, I was about the weight I am now.) That feeling of "too fat" was so strong that I would have given anything to change myself. I went on a very restrictive diet (under 1,200 calories a day) and lost over 20 pounds.
I thought I looked fabulous. And so did everyone else. But honestly, I didn't feel fabulous. I felt rather frail. I wrote down my calorie intake every day in my notebook at work. (I even included coffee.) My digestive system was a bit messed up. I tried to self medicate to fix it.
I started to worry about gaining weight. I knew it was inevitable. How long could I maintain 1,200 calories a day? I knew my days as a skinny person were numbered. That dread of gaining weight defined my life for some time.
And then, at some point, I just gave in. It was terrifying. I still wrote down calories and panicked when they went over 2,000. I gained back the 20 pounds, and maybe then some. Life went on. I stopped writing down calories.
Before the photo shoot for my book in August (for which I had to model 27 garments, yikes), I went on a brief crash diet again. It felt good, knowing that I could do something about my weight. But it also felt horrible because I knew I could never do enough. I lost about 5 pounds, felt briefly triumphant, and then gained it back.
So. That's where I'm coming from when I talk about weight, and what I was thinking when I mentioned Lea Michele's weight yesterday. Another woman may see my post and think I'm slamming naturally thin women. While it may have felt good to get my own thoughts out, it feels bad to tap into someone else's insecurities.
And that's the interesting thing about the conversation about weight between women: it never really feels better, does it?
While it's wonderful that we can have so many frank discussions about body image, too often we use language that makes us feel better, but simultaneously alienates another group. You know: "Real women have curves." Or: "It's not healthy to be so fat." And so on.
The best body image moments I've had in my life are when I've realized that we're all different, and it's all good. (No, I wasn't high. I think I was doing yoga. I have to get back to that.) I could look at a skinny woman and not feel less than--I just felt okay, like we all looked the way we were supposed to look.
Anyway, this post has probably gotten awfully hippie dippy. But I thought it was time to get back to our own experiences as a starting point for talking about weight, rather than feeling defensive (as I know I did when I wrote about Lea Michele yesterday). I hope you'll share your own experience.