As someone who cares deeply about the interplay of body image, athletic nutrition, and banging big booties, I’d like to shed a somewhat different perspective on Bunniesarenom’s “Weighloss at Amherst”. I too, have struggled for most of my adult life with a large-ish figure (frame?) – specifically my larger-than-life bottom half. I too, have been comforted by the imagined relative ease my wide hips will afford me someday when it comes time for my trim-waisted friends to start popping out babies. But as I’ve aged, my figure has meant even more to me. It represents my quirks and my personality, and it responds to and interacts with the stressors of my life. For example, I’m 99% sure my stomach problems (minus the aggressive lactose intolerance) are linked to anxiety. And more importantly, (lest I digress) I have spent years fighting/learning to love and cherish my body for exactly what it is, and not what I wish it could be. My body is inextricably linked to who I am, and while I struggle like all of us to come to terms with it, I recognize the futility of trying to make my pants a size 2, my shoulders less broad, or my tummy less soft.
As I read “Weightloss at Amherst,” I fist-pumped when I read, “I realize that womanly curves are fucking GREAT.” I cheered heartily when I saw, “Studying abroad in Russia made me realize that America really is as fucked-up as we all think–humans vary, and there is no need for us all to strive for someone else’ body when we all have our own!” Right on, Bunniesarenom! Why shouldn’t we love the banging bodies we were all given?? And more importantly, how could a culture brainwash us into thinking a little curve isn’t actually the sexiest thing of all? But I couldn’t help but disagree with the conclusion of the post…. dieting??? Huh? When I read a post that began with a declaration of bodily acceptance, I thought it would surely end in an equally witty and spirited renunciation of all food-hating endeavors. But instead I read about how difficult it is to eat healthy in Val (just kidding I agree with that) and how the college binge culture has thwarted attempts to live in bodily peace. Like Bunnies, my brief stay in a foreign country taught me that not only are Americans addicted to unhealthy bodily ideals, but they are also by FAR the craziest about exercise and dieting fads.
In that vein, the specific issue I take with this otherwise excellent post is not with the forward-looking ideas about healthy exercise and eating plans for post-college athleticism, and it is not with the rejection of the notion that it is necessary to binge in order to have fun. The issue I have is the equation of healthy eating and exercise with weight loss. That sounds counter intuitive but hear me out. We all have natural weight range that we tend to stay within 10-20 pounds of throughout our entire adult life. I could starve myself for weeks and never have the flat stomach that some of my friends have without exercising for a month. Eating and exercise should exist as separate enjoyments. And I mean that when I use the word, “enjoyments”. I work out because, in the words of Elle Woods, “exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Working out gives me energy for the day, it keeps me active, and it stimulates me both mentally and physically. I eat because I fucking love food. And not just gourmet food, I love the act of eating almost anything. From plain buttered noodles to, yes – a raspberry crumble bar all mashed up in vanilla fro-yo (recall again the aggressive lactose intolerance). I regret it each time I ration off my dessert intake for fear that I haven’t worked out enough on that particular day to combat the calories. Overall, I have a healthy lifestyle. But there are days when I want to go out and eat a burger, have 10 beers, and order a pizza late night. And no, I can’t do that always because I would become physically made of lard and grease. I do, however, allow myself to – on those occasions – feel overfull, feel nutrient-deprived, feel unhealthy, without worrying that I have done my body some sort of permanent disservice. Strict dieting is so hard, so miserable, and in the end, the results are incredibly underwhelming. In fact, the health risks of drastically changing weights back and forth many times are greater than the risks of consistently staying a little overweight.
I guess my point is that healthy eating has a much broader definition than simply cutting back on carbs and loading up on whole-flax-grain-bird-seed-granola-wheat bread instead. Healthy eating should make you happy, and you shouldn’t do it simply because you want to be thinner. The stress of thinking, worrying, debating, and regretting the choices I’ve made about food is – to me – almost equal to the stress caused by the actual weight gain I am trying desperately to avoid. This is the lesson I learn every summer when I fall into the inevitable trap of trying to keep my figure through rigorous calorie calculations, dinner date avoidance, and dessert remorse. Binging – or even just indulging – is fun as hell, and being able to do it every so often and trusting your body to take care of it is 100% a part of healthy eating. Sure there are those who can binge all the time and feel great, but I know that I am not one of them. I know that after a night of drinking I might be in the 2% of the population who actually gets up before noon and works out. But that is not because I hate myself and want to forget the damage I’ve done the night before. It is because I enjoy leading an active life and for me, nothing beats a hangover better than feeling seasick on the elliptical for a half an hour (I’m only half serious about that).
Do I love myself always? Hell to the no. Do I stand in front of the mirror and grab my fleshy spots and think, “if only this were different…” You can bet on it. But even on my worst days, I know that I am by far the happiest when I allow myself the freedom to eat the foods that make me happy until I am full, exercise until I get a good sweat, and binge when the mood (or Saturday night) strikes me.
-BTphonehome (I couldn’t think of a clever sign-off like Bunniesarenom. Damnit.)