Monday, April 14, 2008

Orthorexia is the new black and other random thoughts.

Rachel at The F-Word takes care of the heavy lifting on this subject, and you should make her required reading anyway for her remarkable insight on a variety of subjects. She threw down a great letter to the editor in response to this reporter's half-assed article--you can catch a link to it at The F-Word.

The reporter's decision to go for the snark rather than, you know, any kind of actual reporting/insight only highlights to me how little people understand eating disorders. What little *I* know comes from having a mother (a retired registered nurse) who worked with eating disordered patients, and the wee bit of knowledge I have could fit into a thimble. But there seems to be a fairly decent-sized contingent of people who believe that if the ultimate result of thinness is achieved, who the fuck cares how you got to that point in the first place or what kind of toll it took on one's mental state. The article put me in mind of an interview I saw many, many years ago on that Judith Regan interview show that was on...Fox News, maybe? She was talking to Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi on "Star Trek: The Next Generation) and at some point, the conversation turned towards looks and Hollywood standards for women. Marina discussed having been anorexic in her youth and Judith said, "boy, I wouldn't mind catching a little anorexia". It stuck with me so hard because I wanted to reach through the television and shake Judith by her shoulders for saying something so fucking moronic and dismissive. I'm sure she would have said she was just joshing around, and believe me, I like a good chuckle. BUT I'M NOT GOING TO HAVE IT AT THE EXPENSE OF A GUEST ON MY TALK SHOW WHO HAS JUST REVEALED HER EATING DISORDERED PAST. OH, and ALSO? ANOREXIA: NOT FUNNY. Eating disorders: NOT A HOOT.

But nothing matters more than being thin, no matter how you do it or what it winds up doing to your mind, your body, or soul. That is the message being sent, loud and clear, each and every day to all of us. If you really want to see me get bent, trot out any number of the "inspirational" cliches that have been trotted out over the years regarding weight loss:

you can never be too rich or too thin!
nothing tastes as good as thin feels!
a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!
"What? Lose weight."

That last one was my sister's "inspiration". Brief explanation: I have two older sisters, and all three of us were always big, stocky women. They got the boobs, however--I'm not particularly gifted in the knocker area. Anyway. My sister J.M. was fat for most of her life, and shortly after high school was enamored with a fella. She and he got on like crazy, the chemistry was unreal. However, his response to her when she confessed her feelings for him? "What? Lose weight." For a few months afterwards, she taped up pictures of swimsuit models to the wall with "What? Lose weight" scrawled underneath one of the pictures. She lost some weight...and gained it back. And lost it. And gained it. She did Jenny Craig. She did Weight Watchers (back when you weighed every portion of food). She did Sugarbusters, she did Atkins, you name it, she tried it. And in 2001, she had gastric bypass surgery.

I wasn't down with her having the surgery, and I certainly wasn't down with the second adolescence she went through. For about three years, J.M. was kind of insufferable because she was dealing with people's revised perceptions of her (suddenly, she was "good" because she was losing weight) and testing out just what she could do in her "new" body. After all, there were loads of things she simply "couldn't do" when she was fat versus her being thin. Now, almost seven years down the road, she's gained some weight back which happens with almost all bariatric surgeries. While she's still well, well, WELL below her top weight of 374 pounds, the nagging is still there, the voice screaming "you're not good enough, you're not thin enough" remains in her head. She's still "a fat pig", still "lazy", still all those things she was before having her stomach jacked with. But one thing I'm extremely grateful for is that she's starting to get it. She's starting to understand the Fantasy of Being Thin and how it applied (and applies) to her situation. Does she regret having the surgery? No. Does she appreciate how lucky she was that she didn't have any massive complications to date? Oh, yes.

It's not unusual for my sister to tell me that she's impressed that I go out and do things at the size I'm at, that I've rarely not done something because of my fat. I've done a lot of shit fat--I've been on Comedy Central, I've done a one-woman show, I recently traveled to New Zealand on my own, I've spent many nights going out dancing. I wish she could have realized the "old" her was just as good and able as the "new" her. But that she's starting to understand that her "old" self was as good as her "new" self? That impresses me more than she'll ever know.

No comments: