Thursday, July 22, 2010

Some Travel Reading for Your Journey out of Shametown

Himself writes book reviews on a regular basis. (Interested parties can drop in here.) He's been bugging me to do it for a while. I told him it was too much like work, too much like school, and too much like he was telling me what to do and he could suck it. (Because polite discourse is always our preferred method of communication.)

In this case, however, its a good place to start. A good place to begin to explain the mental remodeling that's been going on with me these days. So I'll follow his format, and try to explain how much these books mean to me.

Book the first:

Title: Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body
Author: Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby
Publication Year: 2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 223

How I Found It: I'm having a tough time remembering how I found this book, but I'm pretty sure I stumbled upon Kate's Shapely Prose blog and it went from there.

This book is like that friend you wish you had in high school. The one that stood beside you, thought a little faster, and had the right thing to say when football players made ignorant comments about your weight at your locker. The fearless friend. The one that moved effortlessly between the cliques and refused to fit anyone's definition of cool because she had her own thing going and anyone who didn't like it could kindly fuck right off, thank you and goodnight.

Kate and Marianne quote Melissa McEwan of

"It remains a radical act to be fat and happy in America, especially if you're a woman (for whom 'jolly' fatness isn't an option). If you're fat, you're not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident-- and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society's disdain and your own self hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cowcalls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self esteem; you don't deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery."

This book is a manifesto for finding that will and bravery. It dusted me off, set me upright, and dared to suggest that coming from a place of pressure, self-loathing, and miserable resignation to yet another diet is really not a foundation for effective self-care, never mind that its frustrating, ineffective, and turns you quickly into a sanctimonious preacher of the most tiresome ilk in a desperate effort to milk what little rush comes from those early days of control, when you make your little books and charts and buy your tools and convince yourself that this time, despite some 35 years of contrary evidence, THIS effort is going to magically make you someone you aren't and you'll stay that way, aloft, by some bottomless measure of effortless grace that comes from the Being Thin Fairy, who transports you to a magical land where everything fits and you feel fabulous all the time and your checkbook always balances.

I recommend this book as a starting point. More are recommended in its Appendix to suggest a better pattern for caring for yourself simply because you deserve good self care, WITHOUT weight loss as the goal. This book has made me pay attention to how often people talk about diets and dieting, how often they declare themselves good, bad, worthy or unworthy based on the number the scale gave them or whatever they ate that day, as if specific foods have a moral value. How many times I've done it. And how very, very tired I am of doing it. I'm learning how to be that friend I wish I had, both to myself and to others.

Next Time: The Nuts and Bolts of it all: 'Health at Every Size' by Dr. Linda Bacon


Kristen said...

Even though I've been scrawny and underweight most of my life (I WISHED for curves, but never got them), this post still really spoke to me. We beat ourselves up for all kinds of stuff, start self-improvement projects to "fix" what's wrong with us, and start the self-abuse cycle over when we fail. I've done it with house-cleaning, finances, homeschooling, writing my novel... Loving yourself for who you are and learning to work with what you can, when you can, is such good advice for all of us, no matter what our personal issues. Thank you for sharing this and keep us posted.

JD at I Do Things said...

I've lost and gained weight (I'm currently in "gain" mode), and I work hard not to beat myself up about it. When I'm ready, I will lose it. I've done it before. Until then? Well, I wish my skinny jeans fit me. But otherwise, things could be worse.

Shieldmaiden96 said...

It just feels good to come at self care by asking the question "How can I best take care of myself today" instead of "What do I need to deprive myself of today so I can conform to someone else's idea of acceptability?" THAT is the difference I am having trouble articulating to my family. The idea that it is okay to address your needs without loss as a goal.

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

Hey, you're Rambler's girl! I just now made this connection, thanks to having read this post a few days ago and then reading his post tonight.

And your post is excellent, by the way. We can't torture ourselves into submission. We have to move toward submission in a way that's postive and affirming and freeing, as opposed to enslaving. It's tough to master, but possible.

Tricia said...

I must have missed this back in July while enjoying my last days of summer unemployment.

I needed this today - I constantly beat myself up about what I eat and what I do and how I look and it's insane for sure.

I have not been watching what I eat - but not been obsessing about food either. I eat when I am hungry and I eat what I want to eat. My weight has been steady for about a year with this - now not going down rapidly but neither am I creeping up. I think at my last dr. appt I was down 6 lbs for the year, but hey down is better than up. LOL

I do have that friend now in the form of a very attractive dance instructor bestie who while having a body we all envy is not at all about projecting her image onto anyone else and accepts and loves me just as I am. I have needed this friend all my life! :)