I’ve always been fat. Sometimes it’s a problem for me, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes I’m bigger than I normally am, sometimes smaller. But one way or another, I haven’t been in my “healthy bmi range” since I was in sixth form, and that was only for about six months.
Yeah, that’s right, healthy bmi range. Yes. I know. I know that everyone’s different, I know that some professional athletes are classified as obese, I know that there are other risk factors to take into consideration. But come on. We’re different, yes, but we’re not a different species. I may be built more heavily than someone else, but I’m not a giraffe. They’re not a hummingbird. Two healthy adults can expect to roughly resemble each other. And, sure, the athlete thing. I don’t really think doing yoga once a week qualifies me as that. And there are other risk factors to health. Of course. But it seems perverse to ignore one so obviously signposted.
The diet industry is massive and destructive. I agree. But I do not accept that my GP, on an individual level, is out to fuck me over. I am not a medical professional, and her opinion counts for more than mine. That’s how a society based on specialisation of labour works. And I find the concept of BMI useful. I have spent so long having destructive and unrealistic thoughts about my shape, I can no longer tell what is right for myself. Without an impartial guideline, I have no idea. I need one. All society gives me is “Size 6, or something. I don’t know. How thin do you reckon you could get?” The concept of BMI helps me grasp the idea of an optimum weight rather than just thinner = better.
This is not how a lot of my friends think about weight. But, without meaning to slag it off, I find the fat acceptance movement deeply unhelpful. It makes me feel like I am being judged for wanting to be healthier, and to look better. And we do all want to look better, on our own terms. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If we didn’t, we’d all walk around in bin bags. And I do want to be healthier. When I look after my body, I have a better time in it. I’m not apologising.
The thing is, when this is a case of me cycling to work and buying strawberries instead of chocolate cake, that’s all excellent. But that is not always how it goes down. Often, I get it into my head that I want to be thinner. Much thinner. NOW. And I don’t want to feel it. But I do. On Sunday I watched a recording of myself doing a poem. A poem about feminism and how I am not an object, and my purpose is not decorative. And I turned it off halfway through because I couldn’t stand how fat I looked in it.
I hate this about myself. Every few months something will happen – I’ll see a video or photo of myself, or maybe not fit in a dress, or sometimes (and I’m ashamed of this) just feel like I want to portray myself as … more vulnerable somehow. Weaker. And so I’ll stop eating. Sometimes it’ll just be nothing for a day, sometimes it’ll be only slimfast for a week, sometimes it’s no lunch for a month. But it’s always destructive. Also, approaching weight like this doesn’t even work. I don’t think that’s really why I do it. I think it’s a combination of punishing myself and proving a point. Because once you’ve started, there’s something intoxicating about refusing food. It makes you feel invincible, like you’re in some way better than your biology.
“Look at me! I’m so excellent I don’t even need food. Or sleep. I could probably get by without breathing, if I cared to. I am MIGHTY.”
But it’s not mighty at all. As a feminist, I feel it’s one of my biggest weaknesses. I wish I didn’t do it, I wish I didn’t care, and I wish I didn’t buy into the idea of prettier means better, and thinner means prettier. I know that neither of those things are necessarily true. But apart from catching myself on a case by case basis, I don’t know how to challenge this about myself. I feel it’s not as simple as just eating more pies. But conversely, it is not about eating zero pies. I need to eat the optimum amount of pies. And stop beating myself up.