Why my resolution is never to “lose weight”.
Please note that this post may be triggering for anyone who has an eating disorder, or is currently recovering from one. It’s not my intention, but it might happen.
Apart from my frequent declarations of love for her, I try to avoid writing my girlfriend’s stories on this blog. Still, this one involves her. Why is my resolution never to “lose weight”? Because my girlfriend has an eating disorder – indirectly, anyway.
But let’s talk about me. Have you ever thought about the degree to which, given sufficient amounts of food of every conceivable variety, everyone’s eating will be a little bit disordered? I have. A lot. Not just because of my girlfriend, but because it took me a long time to recognize and resolve my own disordered eating patterns. Being a boi growing up in L.A. with an extraordinarily health conscious family sort of creates a perfect storm. Here’s why:
- L.A. itself: L.A. is not that different from every other city. But the part that I grew up in, the affluent, overwhelmingly white part, owes a lot to visual culture. We all know that the media affects everyone’s body image, particularly that of young women’s. L.A. has a unique symbiosis with Hollywood, and because of that, there’s a different and more intense image obsession there than there is anywhere else. It permeates everyone’s lives, regardless of how entwined you are with Hollywood (for the record, I was not at all involved in the entertainment business – not my family or me).
- My family: Bless their hearts. I don’t know if you can tell, but I do love exercise and sports. I got it from my parents. My family’s interest in nutritious eating and exercise borders on disordered. It’s not, but it’s close. As a teenager, I was taken to a nutritionist at the tender age of 14 to help me learn how to eat better and lose weight. Is going to a nutritionist helpful for many people and did I learn how to eat well? Yes. Was going to a nutritionist helpful for a young woman at the time in her life when she is learning that she needs to be slim to be considered attractive by mainstream society while her body rebels against that script by sprouting hips and boobs? Um…no. My parents are so matter-of-fact that I don’t think they really thought about the self-loathing they were casually approving by “helping” me eat well.
- Being a young woman: This one barely needs explaining. Women (and increasingly, men) are encouraged to hate their bodies. I’ve done my share of it. Doesn’t it seem that “everyone” “needs” to lose 5-30 lbs? I love a wide variety (no pun intended) of bodies.
- Being a boi: It took me a long time to sort out what was gender dysphoria and what was not. There’s a visual ideal in queer culture too, whether or not there should be. I have SUCH a feminine body; that is not the ideal. Why aren’t I slim? Why do I have D cups? Why are my hips so large? Why don’t I have a six pack? If only I could look like… Being androgynous doesn’t mean being slender. That one I’m still learning.
I haven’t always been a sensitive soul. In high school, one of the most jarring, terrible things that happened was a peer of mine blaming me for her eating disorder. Even though such a thing isn’t truly possible – let’s just say I didn’t help. I too wanted to lose weight, and I thought I was helping her by offering to do it with her. It almost hurts to write that sentence, because I now know how painful, terrible, and triggering that offer was. Though this friend and I parted ways (She rightly realized that I was not a good influence during her time of recovery and cut me out of her life.), you can imagine my cosmic desire to “make it right” when, 4 years later, my now-girlfriend informed me that, on Saturday mornings, she’d be leaving my bed around 7:30 am in order to participate in an intensive outpatient program for her bulimia. At that point, I’d known her for about 6 months, and we had been dating exclusively for 2.5 months.
Dating someone with an eating disorder is not what I would call easy. That illness takes her and you on a million and one rides that you’d never want to go on. The lows can be pretty low. And so much of an eating disorder is about isolation that a healthy, two-sided relationship can be a struggle. But a healthy, two-sided relationship is always a struggle, no matter what.
My girlfriend’s recovery is her own. I can’t own that process but you can bet I support it. And just by learning to be the best support I can be, I’ve learned some really important things – even more important, given my previously poor body image. I’ve learned how to love my body and how important it is to do so. I’ve learned how to value bodies of many sizes, not just as beautiful, but as sexy. But what I’ve really learned is that it’s too acceptable to hate yourself. That eating disorders go unnoticed because people “look great” when they’ve lost weight.
My body is different from everyone else’s. In particular, mine can jump, run, fuck, smile and laugh. Not everyone’s body can do those things, but mine can and I am glad. My body is also bigger than some people’s and smaller than others. My mood is better when I eat a lot of vegetables and fruit and shrimp and I don’t eat too much of those things. Sometimes I am happy when I eat salmon but not always. I have breasts and sometimes I am happier when they are swinging under a shirt, bra free, and sometimes I am happier when I wear a tight sports bra so they’re a little less big and sometimes I imagine myself getting chest surgery – because I sometimes want to change my body, but I never, ever, ever, want to hate it again.
For some people, “weight loss” is just that: the desire to change their bodies, but for others, the desire for weight loss is the manifestation of their often unsuccessful struggle to love their bodies. So sometimes my resolution is to run a faster mile, lift a heavier weight, avoid alcohol, avoid sweets, or eat more produce. To eat well, but not “good” – because food has no intrinsic moral value. To exercise when I want to and it feels good, but not “enough” – because it’s not a competition. So for me, out of respect for my girlfriend, but also out of respect for myself, my resolution is never to lose weight.