Today’s Read: “Why Do Women Hate Their Bodies?”

I appreciate the apparent intentions behind this piece; however, it’s rife with examples as to why it’s so hard to burn diet culture (re: anti-fatness and patriarchy) to the underground. CW: Obesity, eating disorders

First, it’s not that women hate their bodies, as if it’s something we opt to do. It’s that people are influenced to hate their bodies. Always remember the motivation behind unrealistic body portrayals in the media is to sell products. It’s always about capitalism, power, and control. The article acknowledges the role the media plays, but it fails to shift the language away from diet culture nonsense.

Second, it cites examples of improvement in the media away from putting emaciated bodies first, and two of those examples use the BMI as an accurate indicator of health. If you don’t remember, the body mass index is deeply flawed and entrenched in racist, sexist views. It does nothing but measure the ratio of height and weight, which is a two-dimensional equation for three-dimensional bodies with fourth-dimensional (sure, I’m going with it) social and genetic factors.

Third, it makes little effort to recognize that fat is normal.

What I appreciate is its analysis of the media’s role. However, the company behind this website describes itself as “the largest health information property in the U.S.” a.k.a. the media. Y’all. I’M the media too. Websites, blogs, books, magazines, television, radio, music . . . it’s all media. We’re all trying to influence your knowledge. We should be asking what role they play as well. You should be questioning what I’m trying to do! You don’t think I hope to make a buck? (And yes, I have a ton of capitalist guilt, but that’s a post for another day.)

Yet again, we live in a society that puts continued attention on symptoms and never enough on the causes. This article would do a helluva lot more if it asked, “Who made women hate their bodies?”

My Body Is a Clusterfuck

That’s a mean thing to say about my body, so let me backtrack. Of late, my body has felt like a clusterfuck, but it still gets me up and down the stairs. I’m lucky in that sense.

It’s been a difficult time in my family. One of my mom’s physical and mental health are declining. It’s not a surprise, but it’s nonetheless painful to watch from afar.

We have a close family both in proximity and emotionally. Even my Trumper sister lives within a few miles of us and I still talk to her a few times a year. If we weren’t in a pandemic, it would be more often. However, I do thank the pandemic for keeping us apart because there would’ve been several harsh words said over the last year had we been around one another.

Pre-pandemic, my family got together often. We used to get together monthly, but as my nieces and nephews grew into teenagers and now adults, it was less frequent. Still, a bunch of us still talk every day via text and phone call, and we lean on each other for a great deal of support. We’re fortunate to have one another.

To watch Mom decline is the single hardest thing we’ve done as a family. Not being able to be together is gut wrenching. It’s hard to write this without tears. I haven’t hugged my parents in a year. I live point two miles from them, and the closest I’ve been to my childhood home is the deck. I can’t go in. The slightest chance that I might transmit COVID to my beautiful, flawed parents horrifies me.

But the very act of staying away from them, staying home, and watching my parents stay home is the same thing that’s causing Mom’s health decline. My parents desperately miss their grandchildren. They aren’t nearly as active as they were before the pandemic, and that’s saying a lot because my mom is a homebody as it is. (Dad is super active, but there’s only so much he can do anymore, as we keep having to remind him.) My mom’s body has informed her this level of inactivity is not good for her. She has several health conditions that exacerbate things.

And so do I.

Thursday, I told my chiropractor about a pain I’ve had in my lower back for months. I’m usually very upfront with him, but my attempts to tell him previously weren’t as direct as I needed to be. I pointedly told him exactly what was going on: If I lay flat for longer than 30 seconds, I get an excruciating pain in my lower back and hip that makes getting back up agony; if I stand for longer than 20 minutes (say to shower, do chores, etc.), my lower back and butt ache, then go numb. It takes sitting for the feeling to come back. Basically, there’s some jamming going on between my spine and pelvis, and it ain’t good.

He introduced me to some movements to help, but as I did one last night, I realized too late I’d done it wrong. The pain was so bad that it took me several minutes to even get upright. The pain carried on into the night. I eased my way out of bed around 1:30 a.m. and took Aleve. I was able to sleep, but this morning, I hurt. It feels like I got punched in one spot several times.

This is one of many ailments that have gotten worse during the pandemic:

  • I’ve gained a lot of weight, like everyone else. Except I don’t have anywhere to put this weight. My body was already suffering in its previous size.
  • I’m eating whatever I want, which is making my GERD worse.
  • My attention span is gone.
  • My social media and phone addictions are dominating my life.
  • Depression, anxiety, and PMDD converged in February to make life miserable.

The only good news is I think I’ve emerged from the latest bout of insomnia followed by hypersomnia, and my sleeping is leveling out.

All the while this is happening, I’ve been focusing on learning about my body. I’ve studied Health at Every Size, intuitive eating, mindful eating, mindful movement, intuitive movement, and self-compassion all with the goals of body acceptance. But what I’m stuck on is body size. And this is the same battle my mom is facing.

Most of the women in our family are big. You get Black and Indian together, big is gonna happen in the women. It’s how we’re built. But you add trauma, stress, and unchecked mental health issues, it’s gonna be worse. Mental health wasn’t even a thought in my family until the last ten years or so. But trauma? Abuse? Stress? We’ve had it all.

No one knows the harder side of life better than my mom. And life continues to pile on for her.

But I watch as I’m headed in the same direction she is. And it terrifies me.

I’m not an active person. Movement has been my nemesis since I long associated it with the rich, mean kids in second grade. I like sitting. I like comfort. Nothing is more desirable to me than sitting under a blanket and drinking chai.

But I don’t want to put my loved ones through what we’re going through with my mom. While a lot of what has gone on in her life is out of her control, I still see some measure of ability to change mine.

My question is: Will I?