Since adolescence my weight has been on a roller coaster ride. Choosing puberty to show its ugly face, my issues around being too big or too small set the tone for my struggle with a borderline eating disorder (diagnosed by me) that involved binge eating for a day or two followed by once daily banana consumption to make up for the previous days’ transgressions. Being a black girl highly influenced by the video vixens prancing around my afternoon link into BET, I found acceptance in having a little extra something special on my hips and thighs. This was an attribute to be lauded, not ridiculed. However, my very weight-conscious family reminded me that my second helping of fried chicken and mac’n’cheese was not doing anything for my already compromised figure. Thus began my journey into accompanying mom to her Jazzercise classes and tap dancing four to five times per week.
College presented its own unique challenges in my quest to be comfortable in my own skin. During my first semester my roommates and I dined on apple sauce, Ben & Jerry’s and the occasional Ramen Noodles and left the rest of our diets up to chance. I lost weight, gained it back, committed to a regular fitness program and then exhausted myself with my obsession to remove the blubber from my mid-section and look skinny in my skinny jeans.
I’ve never tried an actual diet. I simply ate (or refused to eat at all) what I thought would make me “skinny.” But my failed attempts were no different from friends who tried their hands at the Atkins Diet, then the South Beach Diet and then Weight Watchers — which simply left them hungry, restless, and restricted. We’d all been so focused on losing the weight that we never stopped to think about how to be healthy.
In her article for Jezebel, writer Laura Beck argues, “Weight Watchers, and programs like it, focus on fat people, but ignore the issue that, as a country, we’re eating like garbage. That’s all people, not just the fatties. We now want to push our citizens into programs like these — programs with very high failure rates that quantify success with a number on a scale — but we don’t want to, you know, stop subsidizing shitty crops and serving up crap school lunches. Programs that focus on weight loss above all else make it easy to shift the conversation away from the things that matter — food justice, government subsidies, pesticides, hormones — to extremely difficult individual accountability in the face of a system that pushes everyone, not just fatties, to consume garbage.”
My new approach to my body is filled with reading labels, discovering new foods, trips to the Farmer’s Market for fresh ingredients and simple ways to incorporate more physical activity into my everyday life. I’m sure that I could be doing more, but for now I’m teaching myself how to be a better eater and make the right choices when it comes to my dinner plate.
Beck continued, “What we’re doing now isn’t working, and it’s time for change in priorities — one that places health above weight, and real nutrition above counting calories.”
I for one couldn’t agree more.
Have any of you had trouble with diets and the past and have now found solace in simply living a healthier lifestyle?