Body Shaming

April 2, 2012

How many of you hate your body? I’m on the fence. Most days I don’t think about it. But sometimes I catch a glimpse of my baby belly in the mirror at Old Navy and scream in my head!

And I am certainly no stranger to that cruel internal voice. You know, the one that says, “For crying out loud, put down that third piece of cake already, you heifer!” Do I even need to discuss the message that society broadcasts about body image? If Michelle Obama can be called fat, then there isn’t much hope for me.

Google “body shaming” and you will see that people (especially women) are getting tired of these messages. They don’t want to hate themselves anymore and they sure as hell don’t want other people judging them. I support this movement. Hate is never the answer.

We have to face facts though. Being fat is not just another acceptable lifestyle. It is the symptom of a whole myriad of conditions that reveal a broken society. Learning to embrace this symptom is like choosing to embrace the lump that is indicative of cancer. You shouldn’t welcome it or ignore it; you examine it, search for the cause, and strive to reverse or eliminate it.

We have to learn to fight the disease instead of the symptoms. Right now, the disease is the saturation of our food supply with non-nutritional food-like substances. Obesity is just one symptom. We have to fight for a society where everyday, normal activities result in health and well-being. Fit should be the default.

By default, a person should be able to walk into a grocery store and fill their carts with nutritional food without scrutinizing labels. By default, a family should be able to eat at a restaurant and not wonder if they are being served food made from natural ingredients.  We should not have to petition for the right to buy milk straight from the source. And we sure as hell should not have to wage a full scale war to stop pink slime, sugared milk, and heavily processed fruits and vegetables from being served to our children at school.

I don’t think these battles will be fought by people who are only looking inward and hating what they see. Certainly the battle won’t be fought by people who don’t even recognize the enemy (and instead blame only themselves or fat people in general). I think these battles will be fought by people who love themselves. Who are sick of being lied to and deprived of good food choices. In that respect, fat acceptance is a good thing. A step in the journey, even if not the ultimate goal.

I choose not to look in the mirror with loathing. This body got me through all-night study sessions fueled by Coke and Twix bars. This body made it through Operation Enduring Freedom subsisting on MREs (possibly the world’s most processed “food”). This body gave birth to three beautiful babies. So I choose not to hate the body that brought me to this point.

But I can decide that from now on that I will take better care of it. I am not going to do it by forcing it to survive on 1,200 calories a day or wearing out the cartilage in my knees at the track. I am going to keep tweaking the food I feed it until I find a natural balance. I am going to move it and use it in ways that are productive or that I enjoy. Like swimming with my boys. Or playing racquetball with my husband. Weeding the garden, taking walks, riding my bike and living life out in the world (and away from this computer).

That’s the bottom line I think. If we are going to turn this obesity epidemic around, then we need to create healthy living conditions. Dieting is a band-aid. Going to the gym turns us into hamsters on a wheel. Can’t we figure out how to be active as part of living life? Can we think big? re-engineer our lives and communities in such a way that demands healthy choices? Let’s plan community bike paths. Plant gardens on school grounds. Spend our food dollars on CSAs and Farmer’s Markets. Walk to work. Bike to the store. Throw the kids outside.

Convenience has made us lazy and entitled. And being lazy and entitled has made us fat. Should we be ashamed? Yes, but not of our bodies. We should be ashamed that we crowded out small farmers, drove out local grocers, and now worship a body image that is unattainable without Photoshop.

Edible Forest

March 15, 2012

(Edible Forest)

This is such an amazing concept it makes me want to weep! I want to see this happen here, there and everywhere! Where do I sign up?!

Longing for Community

January 27, 2012

I am still trying to figure out the purpose of this blog. I know I want to communicate my thoughts, but I don’t know to whom. I know I would like to connect with others, but I find it hard to make meaningful connections in my day to day life. I think my angst can all be boiled down to this: I long for community.

I going to try really hard not to wax all nostalgic about the 50s. I wasn’t there and I know those who were are the same ones telling us they walked to school, up-hill — both ways!! But at the same time, I can’t help but feel robbed that I am living a 50s life with all the work, but none of the perks.

In many ways I am a stereotypical stay-at-home mom who does the laundry, manages the finances, cooks all the meals, and keeps track of the kids. But I don’t have a mom nearby who drops in occasionally with a casserole and hosts big Sunday dinners. I don’t have a neighbor who looks after my kids so I can run to the grocery store. I don’t have a brother who can fix the car once in awhile. And my husband does not have a job that offers a pension and premium health care giving us security about the future. For all the advances we have made in personal choice and feminism, I can’t help but feel we did it at the expense of security, stability, and community.

If anything I long for pioneer days — an entire family living on their own land, raising chickens and a cow or a goat, tending the gardens, working untainted, nutrient-rich soil. Grandpa rocking on the porch keeping an eye on the kids. Going into town, buying, selling, and trading with a small group of people that not only know you, but need you. All of a sudden that appeals to me.

Maybe to better understand what we’ve lost, it would be a good idea to examine what we have now. We do not have communities anymore. What we have are networks (that we often mistake for communities . We have our work network and school network. Some have a church group, other’s a mom network. Kids have their soccer network, and their karate network. But very few of these overlap, so our lives become compartmentalized. We are constantly packing and unpacking our various faces throughout the day and week. [1]

Before I go poking around the edges of this concept, let me try to illustrate it with a quote. John Gatto, an award-winning, New York schoolteacher who now writes books questioning the education system, explains:

Networks, however, don’t require the whole person, but only a narrow piece. If you function in a network, it asks you to supress [sic] all the parts of yourself except the network-interest part — a highly unnatural act although one you can get used to. In exchange, the network will deliver efficiency in the pursuit of some limited aim. This is, in fact, a devil’s bargain, since on the promise of some future gain, one must surrender the wholeness of one’s present humanity. If you enter into too many of these bargains you will split yourself into many specialized pieces, none of them completely human[….]The fragmentation caused by excessive networking creates diminished humanity, a sense our lives are out of control because they are.

That message really speaks to me. “Our lives are out of control.” Don’t get me wrong, I get through my days well enough. I love my husband, my kids, and my family. I like what I do most days. But sometimes I feel so very alone. I talk to acquaintances everyday on Facebook, but can’t remember the last time a friend came over to chat and have coffee. If I want to have the kids next-door over, we have to move heaven and earth to schedule a “playdate.” If I manage to get some other moms over from Meetup.com all we talk about is diapers and extra-curriculars. No one dares offend by bringing up politics, and no one cares enough to ask if you have read anything interesting lately.

Granted, I never felt this way before having kids. But I don’t blame my family. I think in my “previous life” I just never slowed down for long enough to think about anything. Funny thing about taking care of kids… your feet are always moving, but your brain has time to churn. All of a sudden things matter again. It matters to me that we are destroying our foreign relations. It matters that to me that Congress is locked into partisan politics and will not budge. It matters to me that the rate of obesity is skyrocketing, and it matters to me that kids are graduating high school and college unprepared to contribute to society. For a few years now, I have been feeling really dejected and hopeless about these issues. I threw myself into just raising the best family I could and ignoring the rest of the world, and I stumbled upon a strange idea. The things I do have control over, are the things that can turn it all around.

Well, that’s all the time we have for today folks! Johnny just stumbled by like an old man looking for coffee (except he’s looking for PBS Kids). I better feed the horde and start my day!

[1] Diagrams were inspired by the article “Real Community“, from the Kingdom Watcher website.