Camouflage is definitely not for me. I prefer pretty patterns and soft silky and satiny fabrics. Give me beautiful bold colors or light pastels. Browns and faded olive are not in my color palette. I may be nicely disguised in a flower garden, but I am an easy target on the battlefield. That may explain why I am fielding a lot of enemy fire in the trenches these days. The obesity war seems to be raging on all fronts.
It’s been a bad week for news journalism with the News of the World scandal, but a few stories got through from the correspondents. First, came the release of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “F as in Fat”, an annual report on the national state of obesity. Apparently, obesity rates are increasing in sixteen states, but, good news, there were fewer than twenty states with increasing rates. My state of New York, is apparently in better shape than most, with only 23.9% of its denizens classifying as obese. Our good showing can be due to the millions in New York City who don’t have cars, and still walk everywhere and climb stairs even to get in and out of the subways. Maybe an unfair advantage, but, Go, team!
Then, there was a commentary article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Drs. Lindsey Murtagh and David Ludwig, of the Harvard School of Public Health, proposed that morbidly obese children be removed from their homes and placed in foster care, to control for the harmful behaviors by which they are affected. They gave an exception to cases with genetic causes.
Reading this made me wonder if I should have been removed from my home due to secondary smoke exposure. I suppose the smoking could have been attributed to some genetic parental anxiety and my case would have been dismissed. Just imagine though what would it have been like to live with a normal, straight-haired and non-smoking family? But, maybe those parents would have drunk too much or would not have had the patience for my crazy curls? Didn’t everyone drink and smoke, even in pregnancy, back then? It took a while for people to understand the dangers of cigarettes, and for the tobacco companies to fess up. My folks didn’t mean to hurt me.
Now, most everyone has been eating processed and adulterated food for a long while, but, it has taken until rather recently to catch onto what it is doing to us and few in the industry are fessing up. My kids tell me how all their friends’ kitchens are stocked with big bottles of soda, large bags of chips and huge boxes of fun cereals. I know they have at times wished for foster placement due to this. But, maybe I should warn those families. The jig might be up–well, only if their kids are fat.
Despite this multi-paragraph ramble, the headlines are exactly what I don’t want to talk about. I want to discuss the war that doesn’t get covered, that wages within the many girls and women–of all ages and sizes–who hate their bodies and therefore deny a large part of their selves. Or, who, by not loving themselves, direct a lot of abuse to their bodies in both thought and action. Though they often wish they were invisible, we see them walking around in all types of bodies including those we deem acceptable and those we envy. Persons, whose self-worth has long been determined by the numbers on a scale or by an image in a mirror.
The confusion and dictates about food and eating cause as much, if not more, distress for them, than for those who are large-sized without such negative judgment about their weight. The collective pain and problems here are profound as are those we ascribe to obesity–and the physical consequences can be even more severe or deadly. Here, much potential is lost and much love is denied. I think we all have wandered into and many have lingered in this place where reality is distorted and self-flagellation and deprivation seem deserved.
This is the ignored epidemic. Not many resources are designated here, but I have apparently been assigned to cover this beat. My field notebooks are filled with stories and quotes that are usually too intimate for me to share. But they imply a sense that so many girls and women believe that without perfection they cannot be whole and should not take up much space on this generous planet. It is heartbreaking to witness this.
Having been touched by the lives of so many amazing, intelligent, gorgeous, creative, warm, gentle, caring and funny individuals who have been broken in this battle of self and body, these are some things I wish would receive front-page headlines: Bodies change, contours soften, bellies round, babies fill, bloat happens, hunger informs, weight is not absolute, judgmental words injure, beauty shines, food nourishes, wisdom evolves, body protects, hormones ebb and flow, pleasure is permissible, fat is often just a feeling in one’s head and restriction revolts.
If you are living this, put down the staunch resistance, begin the surrender and trust your inner feminine voice. Please know you are all so beautiful and you possess that which really matters. Take a moment to put your hand on your heart and belly and send love to yourself. Take a deep slow breath and be thankful to your body. Send a healing thought out to other women, because I assure you, you are so not alone. Hold the daughters and ask to be held. Reclaim your place. Change the internal tapes. Know there are many paths to healing available. The world needs everything you have to offer.
Any sharings will be welcomed and respected.
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In love and health, Elyn
My Plate Haiku
Deep scarlet red beets
Reveal your sweetness to me
Slip out of your skins.