Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Further proof that I am a bad person

Ohio University's student recreation program has decided to hold a Biggest Loser-esque program. The program starts with a "body composition and physical fitness test," which I know from experience will include calipers and big marker x's on your thighs and belly. There will also be individual and team challenges throughout the quarter. Team members keep track of how often they work out to gain points and can also increase their scores by attending weekly seminars about nutrition and fitness. The word "competition" doesn't appear anywhere in the information, but prizes will be given to those who lose the greatest percentage of body fat as well as the "winning team."

I get that I'm more sensitive to this than most. I know that The Biggest Loser is probably not the horrible social commentary I sometimes think it is. But I feel very strongly that competing to lose weight or body fat is not a good idea.

Why am I a bad person, you ask? Because I'm tempted to register.

No, not because I'm begging for a relapse. I just want to see what they'd do with me. It would be interesting - I don't "look anorexic" anymore. My weight is at a healthy place and my BMI is finally "normal" (though BMI is crap). I wonder if, during the initial assessment, they ask if you've had a history of eating disorders. I wonder if they'd be visibly surprised or not. I wonder what my body fat percentage is.

I'm feeling ornery enough to do it. Thing is, I don't want to look like I'm mocking overweight people. Getting healthy is wonderful, so I don't want to appear derisive of people who are genuinely trying to do so. It's the idea that weight loss and fitness are competitive sports that bothers me.


Alice said...

I understand exactly what you mean. When I was at UE, a popular fitness magazine... I believe it may have been "Men's Health"... declared UE the second-fattest campus in America, within its size (IE, a small university).

After that, the administration went thoroughly insane attempting to remedy the "problem." Fitness challenges began at the rec center. The "Flush Flash," a silly weekly-calendar posted in all campus restroom stalls, began to feature "Fit Tips." These tips included: "Before dinner or lunch, fill up on broth-based, low-calorie soups. These contain barely any fat and will prevent you from overeating" and "Cut food up into tinier portions at each meal. Between bites, put down your fork; you may feel full sooner than you even realized!"

...In short, UE began promoting all of the tips and tricks associated with ED's.

I was furious. At the time, I was not even in recovery, per se. Don't know that I am in recovery now, really. But I felt that they had crossed a line and begun to reinforce the unhealthy thinking that I was already accustomed to. It KILLED me, every time I sat down to use the restroom, to have to look at those "Fit Tips" that I knew, if I wanted to get better in my own realm, I could not follow.

At the same time, obesity is the largest health threat in the USA. Can't be denied. So I constantly work to try to understand that, to see that the inundation of weight-based "tips" or whatnot probably will help the majority of Americans.

Still, it sucks to be in the minority (millions though it may include) who need ANYTHING but to be told "lose weight, be skinny, or you suck." It's propaganda, and it's bullshit.

What I wish? I wish campus campaigns such as those at UE and OU focused on personal happiness rather than percentages of body-weight lost. Why not gain "points" for feeling comfortable in your skin? For exercising your body not in order to burn fat, but to appreciate its potential and get it in working, healthy shape?

I still remember a couple years ago, when my bulimia crossed paths with anorexia. I was drastically limiting calories, exercising at least two hours a day, then working an 8-hour job on my feet. I was creepily-thin for my body frame and type (IE: I have a medium-to-large body frame, and I inherited a DD-chest from family genes... to be "thin" is not in my nature). I look fine now at 150 pounds. I could be 135 healthily, I suppose. But at that point, I was down to 120. I was so sick.

My brother came home... you know, my brother, the eternally and naturally skinny, bony male specimen.

I weighed less than him. And I was so happy. I had somehow won a competition that did not even exist. My father, not even knowing (at least directly) of my eating disorder, looked at me with grave concern and said, "Let's not make this a competition."

Had no effect at the time, but now... well, I try to remind myself of how stupid it is to compare one's own body to anyone else's. We're all built differently, we're all meant to carry fat and bones and muscles in different ways.

Am I happy today? Not as much as I'd like to be. But is my life being controlled entirely by the intake and output of calories? No.

And that means the world to me.

Lisa, take care, and please don't be creeped out by the fact that I have read and commented on your blog. You put truth, wit, humor, and compassion out into the blog-o-sphere; it means the world to many readers, I'm sure, and you can count me among the folks positively affected by your writing.

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