The irony of tonight’s post does not escape me. I’m writing about why I don’t want to write about an all too popular topic. Namely that old chestnut – the body image debate. However before I weigh in, I need to provide some back ground information.
When I was 15 years of age I was hospitalized for anorexia, albeit briefly. Many of the people in my life now, are unaware of this. I rarely speak of the experience for a variety of reasons. Foremostly it was 27 years ago, back in the virtual prehistory before the digital age. Secondly by anorexic standards I was an under achiever. Finally looking at my flabby thighs nowadays I doubt anyone would believe I once had an eating disorder. Happily a short stint in a psych unit was all that was required to shock me out of it. Nonetheless for a young teenager it was a confronting experience. It gave me a startling glimpse into human frailty but that’s a bummer and not really what this post is about.
Anorexia is closely linked to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I tell you from experience that the condition completely consumes you mentally. Every waking minute is spent thinking about food – how to avoid it, get rid of it and burn it off. Sufferers have very little capacity to left to focus on other goals which is ironic as they are overwhelmingly perfectionists. Being anorexic and enjoying life are mutually exclusive.
We’d all agree that anorexia is an extreme state of being but I’m led to wonder how much thoughts of food and weight control impinge upon the lives of ordinary women. I would say that most of us carrying out our own mental battle of the buldge on a daily basis. We compare ourselves unfavorably to others and are rarely satisfied with what we see in the mirror even when our partners think its spectacular. We fret about social occasions that translate to opportunities for face stuffing and regularly contemplate starting a diet and exercise program “tomorrow”. The constant calorie counting is as mind numbingly dull as it is time consuming. The pangs of guilt we feel when we have a transgression (and lets face it most of us have many) are life zapping.
I have nothing against eating well, staying fit and generally taking pride in your appearance. Its just that all the mental energy that goes along with it could be put to better use. I’d go as far as to say that the focus on food, weight and body image is holding women back. Imagine what we could achieve if we channeled all that angst into smashing the glass ceiling? Before you accuse me of / congratulate me for embarking on a feminist diatribe, I’d like to acknowledge that the problem is increasingly relevant for men. So many dudes are giving over half their existence to the pursuit of physical perfection as a visit to any suburban gym will attest. The pressure on guys to look “cut” and “buff” is ramping up. Equality between the sexes (in this arena at least) means we’re all equally miserable.
We’re constantly flogged over the head with “love and accept your body” type messages but they never seem to cut through entirely. In some ways they exacerbate the problem by keeping our thoughts firmly (or not as the case may be) on our bodies. Its time we break free and start thinking about something else. Anything else. To use a “Dr Philism” Mumabulous has “gotta step up to the plate”. I solemnly promise that this will be the last piece I write about body image.
Aaaaah I feel lighter already.
Let’s take the weight debate and “shove it”.