Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Body Positivism: Health in a post-BMI Mentality

One of the most valuable things I have taken away from Feminism is how to love myself and everyone, no matter what shape they are. I especially have to give a hat tip to the lovely ladies over at Shapely Prose for all of their hard work. I feel like the battle to accept myself, and others, is constantly uphill. The work of feminists and fat acceptance activists has helped me increase my self esteem and be healthier, mentally and physically.

Nevertheless, various health issues connected with food run in my family. For years, I struggled to control my intake and exercise religiously. This struggle was mostly fruitless, because I love to eat and cook. Running in place on a treadmill was nowhere near as fun as inhaling the heavenly aroma of home-made risotto as I stirred it on the stove, and then receiving glowing compliments on my culinary abilities from my family and friends.

The age-old "diet and exercise" shtick wasn't sticking. Fat Acceptance mentality in tow, I decided to go to a friend-recommended local nutrionist for a check-up that I refused to receive from my weight-obsessed general physician.

Before she began, I set a few rules. No talk of BMI. No discussion of weight and "weight classes". I stressed that I really did not care about what size I wore. I wanted to know if I was getting the right vitamins, if my cholesterols were in balance, and I could pass basic physical fitness tests. In short, I wanted to know everything worth knowing, and nothing that wasn't worth knowing. If I was healthy and moderately fit, I didn't need "weight loss tips".

She agreed, thankfully. I don't know how well such rules would have worked for regular nutrionists (she was more of the natural hippie variety), but she was perfectly agreeable, and understood why I asked her to leave such inconsequential things out of my check-up.

I passed the physical fitness tests, with moderately high endurance ratings, but low strength ratings. She said those could be increased with more fiber in my diet and simple things like carrying more grocery bags at once. I'm awaiting my blood and urine tests though.

I feel like looking after my health in this fashion is much more productive. Weight does not really determine a lot of health issues. I could have the body of a super model, but be malnourished. I could be as toned as an Olympic athlete, but have serious cholesterol issues. More than weight and BMI, excesses and deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals in your blood are responsible for various ailments. Besides, dieting has been found to be useless in the long run, and a constant drive to "improve" my body, on the assumption that it is "bad", is not healthy mentally or physically. My intestinal disorder and allergies can and have put me in the hospital. I have no wish to screw around with food unnecessarily.

Fat Acceptance and health are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I have found them to be very inclusive indeed. Here's to enjoying food, my body, and my life!



FeministGal said...

good for you for setting rules with your nutritionist and telling her exactly what you were looking for, what was important to you, and what you were hoping to get out of your consultations. that's an awesome thing to be able to do. great post and inspirational body love message :) thanks!

Angelia Sparrow said...

On the other hand, my weight is harming me. It's exacerbating the arthritis in my knees and ankles.

It makes me do twice the work I need to at work. I drive and unload a semi. I'd be pleased to get down to two hundred pounds.

So, I'm stepping up the whole grains and veggies and cutting out the soda. Those can only help.

Joylene Green said...

yeah! I love this post. You are so right that health is soooo much more than a particular size.

cyn said...

I am so glad you posted this. Many people in the feminist movement forget that fat is also a feminist issue. Now that we're not prisoners of society nor our households, the patriarchy wants to make us prisoners of our bodies. They make us believe fatness is the reason why everything happens to us (from diabetes to arthritis to pneumonia to bad hair day) when it only has to do with our lifestyle and our genes, regardless of our size. And many people amongst women's rights activists and even animals' rights activists fall into the trap. Look up that awful letter Ingrid Newkirk sent to Michael Moore after he released Sicko.
If I did exactly what you did with your doctor and set them the rules, they would kick me out of the place immediatly. Or ask me what's wrong with me, if I don't want to get a boyfriend (I'm already in a relationship? Hello?) or if I just want to die. You are my hero.