27 July 2011

Weight(ing) For Change — Why Weight Stigma Impacts Us All

First, a little test.
What is the first thing you notice when you first met someone? Most likely you first notice the person's weight. And that is the first thing he or she mostly likely sees when meeting you.

Now I would like you to dig a little deeper. Do you have assumptions about people based upon their weight? Most of us do assume certain things about people solely based on their weight. All the stereotypes are right there in our heads. We assume people who are thin are healthy and fit, and we think that people who are overweight are unhealthy and not fit.

We have been trained since childhood by societal and cultural influences to think this way. But society is wrong, and we have accepted erroneous information based on nothing more than an arbitrary number. We can't tell if someone is fit or not solely based upon his or her weight.

We really don't know anything about a person based upon his or her weight. And often we can't see beyond that depending upon our own assumptions about people and weight. That is sad. We miss out on getting to know people because we have allowed our prejudices to dictate our actions.

Weight stigma goes both ways. I am not fond of a current movement that states, "Real women are not a size [X]." Why does someone get to decide who is a real woman based upon her size and weight? Aren't we all real women (and men)? We were all created different sizes and each one of us fall within a spectrum. That is the beauty of being human — each one of us is unique in shape and size, and we are perfect in God's eyes. We only start questioning our bodies and weight when society interferes and tries to force us to accept its values.

So what does weight stigma mean to me? It can be very dangerous because society continued crushing pressure on all of us to fit its very narrow definition of what is an acceptable weight. Some of us listen to society's voice and develop eating disorders during our quest to meet that narrow ideal. I am not necessarily saying that weight stigma and society's views about weight cause eating disorders. But it certainly doesn't help with either recovering from eating disorders or accepting our bodies.

It personally means that I have been a slave to this machine for years. I developed anorexia nervosa several years ago, and the number on this machine dictated my life for a long time. I am not saying weight stigma and society's extreme ideals about weight caused me to develop anorexia and almost cost me my life. But as I wrote earlier, it certainly didn't help.

I continue to move forward in recovery and am becoming healthier each day. Keeping my scale is one of the last vestiges of my eating disorder, and I still struggle with the numbers I see on it. I continue to work on eliminating weight stigma in my personal life, and I believe awareness is key to both recovery and eliminating weight stigma.

Because no one wins when it comes to weight stigma. The number is never right because none of us can meet the ridiculous standards set by society. Instead, we struggle and become frustrated until we reach a point where we can let go and simply be ourselves.

One last question. What if I had substituted the word race for weight stigma? Because that is what weight stigma is — one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice.

I'm still waiting for change. I hope it comes soon because weight stigma seems to be spreading during this country's obsessive fight against obesity. Perhaps some day we can focus on health and other things that are real and important about people.

This post was written as part of Voice in Recovery's Weight Stigma Blog Carnival. Visit Voice In Recovery's website for links to more posts written by a variety of bloggers on weight stigma and its impact on society and people.

07 July 2011

Day by Day

Living my life day by day . . .

"Day by Day"

Day by Day
Day by Day

Oh, dear Lord, of thee
Three things I pray
To see things more clearly
To love thee more dearly
To follow thee more clearly

Day by Day . . .

(From the musical, "Godspell")

As David sung this song to me this afternoon, I could feel the presence of God surround us. David was practicing the music for Sunday's outdoor Eucharist, and I asked him to sing this song again as it is one of my very favorites.

"To see things more clearly . . ." I want to see and be part of life in all its beauty and glory. I want to see that the Lord does love me, and that love surrounds me daily and is the strength I draw upon when I feel weak. I need to look at things more clearly... Life is beautiful and painful and wonderful and, at times, tremendously trying and it is worth every minute.

I didn't feel that when I was ensnared by anorexia. I didn't feel anything except either an all-consuming numbness or anxiety breaking through. I couldn't see the gifts that surrounded me, and I now see clearly that my life has been one of both beauty and heartbreak, joy and sorrows, and I have survived. I have survived an illness that takes the lives of many women and men, an illness that made me illogically starve myself and want to deprive myself of life.

I have been sick for several days, and have struggled to eat because of nausea and have lost a few pounds. In the past, I would have ignored that and rejoiced in that loss. Not now. I asked David to pick me up several packages of Ensure Plus, something I know I can get down me and that will halt the weight loss and turn it around. I am very proud of myself, and the fact that I clearly see that I have to keep eating to be healthy and have a full life.

"To love thee more dearly . . ." As I sung out these words along with David, I knew I want to draw closer to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want to be part of making His world a better place, and I can't do that if I am sick. And I want to thank Him and show Him my love, for it was through His grace that I am recovering from anorexia.

"To follow thee more nearly . . . " What more can I say? Christ, I am yours. You have given me another chance at life and I promise not to squander that.

Each day, David and I draw closer together and reconnect with each other. It hasn't been easy. There have been tears and painful moments brought up, but we are still working together and learning about each other after years of illness. We haven't given up, and there are many wonderful and joyful moments, too.

Such as hearing David sing as I relaxed on the couch, recovering from a minor illness. I can't think of anything more beautiful than hearing your husband sing to you. It lifted me up and made all the aches and pains fall away as his soulful voice practiced the hymns for Sunday.

Thank you, dear Lord, for this afternoon's beauty and for all the grace you have shown me each day.

"Day by day . . ." I plan to try to live my life more day by day. I think I will heed Christ's advice not to worry about tomorrow.

Day by day... I grow and learn and love and become more myself. Life is good.