Tuesday, 2 April 2013

It's not my fault

I should really just change the title of this blog from "unpopular opinions" to "how to piss off, hurt and alienate your friends in 1,000 words or less." I do wonder about who I might be angering or hurting etc. I really do. Many of my friends see these posts and read them and may or may not think I'm a horrible person for writing the things I do (or the opposite). That's not why I keep this blog. In that vein, please read on. I will caution, this time I'm talking about weight and body image issues and how we treat people of different sizes.

You can't say I didn't warn you.

My employer decided that it would be a terrific idea that since spring is coming and people of all ages and genders are guilty of enjoying eating a lot in the winter and put on a few pounds that they might want to or feel the need to loose. Perhaps so they can atone for the sin of eating. So this challenge is office-wide and it extends all the way to the end of June if not a little further. I'm hazy on the details, I didn't read the email thoroughly because it really rubs my rhubarb and I have no plans to participate. I actually can't for a few reasons.

I think it's a horrible and insensitive idea. It doesn't take into account how many people in our office there are that can safely participate. It doesn't account for anyone of any size with an eating disorder. It puts a lot of attention on the people in our office that are, for lack of a better word: curvy and puts just a little more societal shame on them for having larger fat cells than the rest of us.

Let me be clear. If anyone wants to lose weight and feel better about themselves and does it safely I am behind that 100%. I'm more concerned with someone being healthy and happy than what their dress or pants size is. I don't care if you can't squeeze into a size 6 or even a size 16. I care about you. I have friends and co-workers of all shapes and sizes and I love them all equally.

While I'm being honest and clear, I will also state for the record I'm 5 foot 4 and 140 pounds. I'm not embarrassed about it. I've been working really fucking hard at maintaining that for my own well being and self esteem and physical health as well. I don't think I look like a person who weighs that much (I've been working incredibly hard on building muscle), but it doesn't change the number on the scale that I've been seeing without fail for three months. It's not going to change. I'm at peace with that number and all the work — physically and mentally — that I've put in to get there.

There's a misconception that if a person is thin they shouldn't ever complain about their weight. Ever. Why would they. Thin = happy. Right? This has become even clearer to me now that the work-place challenge has begun. And I don't like it, but women are worse for this kind of behaviour. What I refer to of course is the (almost) "othering" of skinny people. As if they couldn't possibly have any body issues at all. Easter treats came into the office today and they got put on my desk, because I'm skinny and therefore exempt from the challenge and "allowed" (if not encouraged) to eat milk chocolate. The word skinny lately seems like a substitute for something much meaner lately, it sounds loaded. I've heard it this way in a couple of different contexts lately. And all I want to say is this: it's not my fault.

It's not my fault that society has put so much pressure on everyone to be ridiculously thin. It's not my fault that sweets and deep fried things are so tasty (I have a weakness for them too). It's not my fault that I am thin and others are not. It's not my fault that people have eating disorders (on both sides of the spectrum). It's not my fault.

And I can't stress this enough: It's not your fault either.

We, as individuals, alone control what we eat how much and the level of exercise we partake in as well as the frequency. We all choose because that's our right as human beings, it's not a fault. If there's someone out there who needs the motivation or a little push to lose a few pounds they've wanted to be free of then I guess the work-place weight loss challenge is the perfect opportunity. I just wish it wasn't so "public". If there's someone who may be larger, but doesn't feel the need to lose any weight because they're (perhaps after years of self-work finally) content with their size, I worry that they'll feel pressured and shamed into participating for that reason. I worry about those who might not succeed. Will they feel better or worse about the whole thing and themselves at the end if they don't lose even one pound.

I confess I've never been a large person, but I have my body-issue demons. These days there's a truce between us but it's an uneasy one. I can't and won't pretend I understand what it's like to have lived a long period of time in a large person's body and everything that entails. The assumption that because I appear to be a healthy body 'size' I should never ever complain, that I don't have the right to do so? That's what gets me.

People of all sizes have their issues and it's no one's right to judge how harshly someone else feels about their own weight or, for that matter, how much (and what) they should eat based on the size of their waste line. Seriously, people. We need to stop that. Myself included.

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