Is weight and the effort to lose it too personal of a matter to talk about it online? I definitely don't think so. Do we need to change how we talk about and view health and beauty? Yes, yes we do.
In Yes, I'm Overweight, and I Don't Care, blogger Michelle Arnold shares her story with weight, from watching her parents' relationships with their own bodies and health to horrible comments directed at her because of her own weight. At the end of the post she makes a couple of statements:
Do not talk about weight on the Internet. Do not talk about your weight, or anyone else’s. If you have decided to lose weight, either for health reasons or because you are unsatisfied with how you look, that’s great. More power to you. I wish you all the best.
But there is absolutely no reason the Internet needs to know about your mission.
Because when you call yourself “fat,” you are not just hurting yourself. You have the potential to hurt others who struggle with weight, and whose stories as to why they are overweight you may never know. When you do that and you also deny the reality of fat shaming, you provide a handy link for all the thin fat shamers out there who are compiling evidence for “interventions” with overweight friends and family. “See! This person is [or was] fat too, and she says that being fat shouldn’t be glamorized!”
Weight is an extremely personal issue. Let’s keep it that way, shall we?
Here's the thing: being fat shouldn't be glamorized. Neither should being thin. Michelle and I are in total agreement there. What is important - so, so important - is being healthy. Health is what should be celebrated. And one person's healthy body will look very different from another's.
I believe that I have a moral obligation to be healthy because our bodies are important. My body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit. All of me - soul and body - has been redeemed by Christ and all of me - soul and body - will be in Heaven for eternity. I am responsible for taking care of my body.
I also know that I have not been doing the best of jobs with that. Further, I know that for me to be super trim and toned I would never get to eat or drink food I enjoy and I would have to work out a ridiculous amount of time. Since I like food and I hate exercise, manipulating my body into that kind of shape would be horrible, a punishment almost. There is a balance, a happy medium we can call it, and I call that being Healthy.
Now I have a whole sub-category in my sidebar called "being fat" and I use that term because I'd much rather think of myself as "fat" than "obese." Hopefully when I've written about my struggles with my weight I've never hurt anyone else. Michelle is right though, there is the potential that when someone who looks like me sees me and then hears me calling myself "fat" they may feel like I just called them fat. I may even be unintentionally striking at a wound they have. I hope everyone knows that when I'm talking about myself I am only talking about myself, and I sincerely hope I haven't hurt anyone.
But since a healthy body can look very different from one person to the next does that mean we shouldn't talk about it online? Should we not share our weight loss failings and victories on our blogs and social media accounts because it's too personal and may hurt or be used as ammo against someone else?
No. No way.
Weight loss journeys are no more personal than the many things we bloggers talk about: politics, religion, sex, death, addictions, child loss, family planning... If I were to not write about topics that may hurt or offend I would having pretty much nothing to write about. Writing about my kids could be a wound for the child-less; writing about my marriage could hurt the single, divorced, or widowed; writing about the beauty of Christ in the Eucharist could hurt someone who is outside the Church.
Plus, I have always found inspiration from those who are willing to be vulnerable and share their weight loss journeys. My friend M.H. blogged her weight loss and I still think of her (even though I only know her through the internet) when I am trying to do better. Right now The Crescat is sharing the same journey on her blog and I've found her honesty to be both inspiring and encouraging - even when she's struggling.
Healthy can look like a lot of things. I actually like my body with a bit more "softness" and feel much more feminine that way than if I were super trim and toned. But I also like when I can comfortably sit, bend over, walk up stairs, play with my kids, go for hikes, buy clothes not in the Plus / Women's section of stores. Finding that balance is hard and it's one I plan to continue to discuss on my blog because it helps me and hopefully it will help others. I hope you all will stick around for it and I hope that as I have success you will celebrate with me and that when I fail you will not tell me to try Paleo but will continue to cheer me on.
If you want to read older posts on weight here's some of the highlights:
Removing the shame so it will all taste better
A letter to myself as a new mom
PSA: Never ask a woman when she's due
Real Beauty: hard to watch
Running to Lose: a guest post on weight loss
Well said, Bonnie.ReplyDelete
Perfect! And I love your description of why we need to take care of our bodies (the moral obligation) and also what that looks like. I want to do all those things you said about hiking and sitting and playing and that is my motivation! Buy also, I think you are beautiful just as you are :) and so am I!ReplyDelete
Excellent. I am on my own journey of weight loss and document that journey through my blog. I find other people speaking about their journeys very motivating and empowering. I hope that the people who see my journey find some good in it and use it. Thank you for sharing this.ReplyDelete
Bonnie, this is such a healthy, balanced and articulate response. Great work.ReplyDelete
Love you and agree with your take wholeheartedly. And since I just wrote about this topic yesterday, well, this was very timely. Let's pray for each other on this journey to better health!ReplyDelete
I was JUST contemplating this topic. I think you wrote about it beautifully.ReplyDelete
Bonnie I love your realness...I think there are probably many others who want to share on this but are maybe even afraid. Thanks for opening the conversation up!ReplyDelete
Look forward to reading along:)
I like that you include moral obligation, since I think that gets overlooked oftentimes. For me, it also helps to imagine my body at a cellular level. Yes, my mind and mouth crave XXX, but what does my body REALLY want. Then I imagine my cells talking to each other: "Yes! She sent the good stuff!" or "What?!? I already have two blocked mitochondria and this is what she sends?" Admittedly, a bit strange, but I find that these juvenile imaginings actually help me make better decisions...FINE, body cells, I'll give you want you really want. :o)ReplyDelete
Ha....I actually just posted about weight loss today in my 7QTF.ReplyDelete
Honestly, I can see the side saying that you people shouldn't talk about it. I will admit feeling a twinge of something (jealousy, anger) when someone "skinnier" than me says they are trying to lose weight.
But, you know what.that is MY problem and MY issue and I'M the one who should not be comparing myself to others. The other person is saying NOTHING about me an they have every right to talk about their journey of weight loss.
I agree with you, it's personal, but aren't blogs personal? I blog anonymously, basically, so I have no problem talking about this. I admire you and Michelle Arnold for putting your true selves out there. Inevitably, there are trolls, and I can understand why she took the stance she did. However, I understand your stance too, and I wish we could be more honest about weight. I never NEVER never NEVER EVER comment on another person's weight. Even if they've lost weight. Because you never know why they are down a few pounds. I come from an abusive background, and one of the areas of craziness growing up was body image. My mom was not anorexic-thin, but she literally counted every single calorie, then worked every single calorie back off. Everyone's weight was commented on as if being overweight were immoral. I can't tell you how many times particular body parts of mine were ridiculed for being "fat" or "big" by my parents. Looking back, I was a skinny/athletic kid. Then, when puberty hit, I wasn't fat, just not stick thin. I didn't know how to dress to look my best, and it was the '90s grunge-era. It would have been hopeless with those fashions. When I went to college, I lost a lot of weight, mainly because I was so much happier away from my parents, I could eat or not eat whatever I wanted. Since then, I've realized I have a blood sugar disorder and a hormonal imbalance. I'm about 5'3" to 5'4" and I fluctuate between 135-150. My doctor has told me at least 3 times this year to lose weight because I'm back on the higher end of that range. I work out regularly. I don't have a scale in the house. My clothes all fit. My weight just fluctuates depending on stress, diet, etc.ReplyDelete
All this to say, our society is SO screwed up. I don't have children, but I can only imagine the added stress women hear about "losing baby weight," as if carrying a child to term, then taking care of them isn't enough!! I'm still trying to un-learn the message that skinnier is better and healthier and more beautiful. I don't wear anything sleveless, I don't wear bathing suits in front of anyone besides my husband, and I would be considered a "modest dresser" by most standards. Most days, I'm covered from neck to ankles, if not neck to below-knee. Part of this stems from how immodest our culture is. Part of it stems from feeling like I was never beautiful or skinny enough, and I don't want anyone seeing enough of me to judge me. It's hard for me to take a "compliment" that "you've lost weight," because I feel like, yeah, but do you know why? And what will happen if/when it comes back?
I hope that women can be honest with ourselves. We can wear and create fashions that flatter our bodies and refrain from the nonsense we are fed at practically every media outlet, even Catholic ones. Healthy is best. Skinny doesn't mean healthy. I know and believe this, yet I still have major body shame. My weight, working out, and eating right is literally a CONSTANT struggle for me. Every day, multiple times a day, every meal. It's so many choices before us. I just wish women could see how valuable and beautiful they are, and appreciate what their bodies have accomplished and are capable of, myself included. We have such a long way to go in understanding our "feminine genius" in the context of our world. I am just barely learning how to accept myself, and I wish we could all be loving, honest, and accepting about this.
I like to read about people's weight loss struggles and such, because I have them too. I really don't know why reading about someone else's story would be "shaming", but to each his own I guess. One always has the option of clicking away. ;) Treating obesity like it's a dirty secret (because...no one will notice I'm fat??) is kinda silly. Anyway. I am fat. I have always been fat. I was a fat baby, a fat child, a fat teen, and a fat adult. Calling it something else more PC feels pretty silly to me. In 7th grade it was an insult. I'm a grown up now...a fat one. I'm not happy about it, but there's no need to call it anything else on my account, lol. I am currently paleo-ing with some success. We shall see....ReplyDelete
Thank you. Michelle just deleted my comments from her blog because I noted similar thoughts. Fat shaming is wrong but simply talking about a goal you are working towards is not. Online support can be helpful. Using her logic to its natural extension, anything can be offensive to anyone. We can't let our own insecurities hinder the free exercise of ideas.ReplyDelete
Thank you for getting the ball rolling on this topic Bonnie! I would love to read more from Catholic bloggers about weight loss and prioritizing personal health. Conceptually I understand that my body is a temple for my soul and a gift from God to be cared for, but when I try to lose weight or make time to exercise (inevitably taking time away from prayer, the house, or time with my husband and children) I have tremendous guilt. In addition, I struggle (understatement!) with separating my desire to lose weight and stay healthy in order to honor the gift God has given me from my desire to fit into the dress I wore to my rehearsal dinner 10 years later on our anniversary and to look as good as that perfect mom who drops her kids off in full make-up, perfectly coiffed hair and stylish clothes every morning at school. I currently cannot separate weight loss/physical fitness from vanity/sin, and I'd love to hear others opinions and advice about the topic. On a side note, I am currently reading These Beautiful Bones - An Everyday Theology of the Body by Emily Stimpson, which has been insightful.ReplyDelete