|Amazing essays by other Body Image Warriors can be found here.|
Truth 3: Nourishment + Activity + Rest = Health At Every Size = Happy and Healthy.
The Health At Every Size movement fights to disentangle body size from health. It argues (with a TON of supportive scientific evidence) that all bodies are naturally different, and that behaviors are more indicative of health than being a certain size or shape. It also points out that being stigmatized, or being self-hating, are bad for health (not to mention miserable!). The tenets of HAES (according to the official website) are:
1) accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes,When I follow these HAES principles, I am healthier and happier. That (finally) matters more to me than being "skinnier."
2) eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite, and
3) finding the joy in moving one's body and becoming more physically vital.
When I finally decided to enter a recovery program to "deal with" my eating disorder I was in poor health. My bones were slowly disintegrating (I was diagnosed with osteopenia and am thisclose to full-blown osteoporosis), and my kidneys were showing signs of irreparable damage (in addition to getting 5 kidney stones in 4 years, my blood tests for kidney function were about 85% of where they should have been. I was told that this would be permanent.) Yet, my BMI was in the "normal" category. I remember thinking "Okay, well I'll go to treatment so I'm not so obsessed and miserable, but I won't gain weight. I'm at a healthy weight!" My body disagreed.
While in treatment, and in the still-recovering years after, I slowly learned to eat a variety of nourishing foods in response to feeling hungry, and to stop when I felt full. I learned to exercise for the joy of being active, or for the pride of finishing a race, rather than as punishment for "eating too much" (or as a get-out-of-jail-free card for a planned binge). I discovered that sleep is medicine, and that sleep deprivation makes me feel really negative and bitchy. I gained a little weight when I stopped restricting food, and then I gained a little more when I finally found an anti-depressant that helps me feel like myself. I learned that there's no such thing as "perfect" eating, and that I still need to be more mindful about food than most people, both to insure that I don't fall back into old habits, and also because my meds make me ravenously hungry for foods that aren't particularly healthy. Today my BMI is a smidge over the official line between "normal" and "overweight,"which is a fuzzy way of saying that, at 159 pounds, I'm technically overweight. Yet I am in much better health.
I am just one story of HAES. Everybody - ahem every body - is different. But that's the whole point, isn't it? :)
Truth 4: "My body is perfect, my mind could use improvement."
BIG Truth 2: Feeling beautiful is more important than looking "beautiful." If you feel beautiful, you are.
Why is this better than looking "beautiful"? (I put this version in "scare quotes" to signal that it's a different matter entirely!)? In it's most obvious sense, looking beautiful is on the outside, and feeling beautiful is on the inside. Looking beautiful is something most people want, but it doesn't actually guarantee happiness (indeed, research suggests that - despite the many perks that beauty bestows upon those who have it - there is ZERO correlation between attractiveness and overall happiness!). Besides, striving to look beautiful can actually cause a lot of misery. Even if we reach a point where we are, somehow, objectively beautiful, it can't possibly last. (How many of us have one or two old photographs we hang on to because we're convinced that at that moment - and perhaps never since - we were stunningly beautiful? I do. I was 14.) But we age. We go out of style. We burp and fart and catch hacking coughs that make us pee ourselves just a little.
Before I gave up mirrors, I'd never imagined I could feel beautiful without knowing what I looked like. I assumed that the hyper confidence I sometimes felt during special occasions (especially after a glass of wine!) was me, feeling beautiful. But that was just what it feels like when you conflate your looks with your self-esteem, on a good day. On a bad day, conflating looks with self-esteem is disastrous. I've probably been less "beautiful" since starting this project, but in doing so I've managed to better separate my looks from my self-esteem. THIS is probably the most powerful secret to feeling beautiful.
Most of us are never "beautiful" by movie-star standards, anyway. Yet, we live rich and full lives. We find love. We give love. We make friends. We make things. We make babies. We burp and fart and catch hacking coughs that make us pee ourselves just a little, and yet we still get to feel beautiful. Because if we feel beautiful, we are.
Day 241 and Day 257 about my reaction to being labeled "overweight" by the "initial report of findings." Anyhoo, my doctor looked over the myriad report findings, which included:
- body measurements of my height, weight, BMI, and body fat %- blood pressure and heart rate- oral health- hearing- muscle strength- lung function testing- urine tests- STD tests, and - a complete blood count, and - blood tests for measuring over 50 substances/enzymes/whatever.
Guess what? Other than the measures of my body size (and an oddly high level of mercury in my blood - damn that sushi habit!), EVERY SINGLE TEST CAME BACK NORMAL OR EXCELLENT. Even my kidney function was decent (just a teeny smidge below normal, but better than it was years ago!). My doctor complimented me on my excellent health. I asked her about my BMI, waist circumference, and body fat %, since these were identified as issues to talk to my doctor about. She responded that I was obviously healthy, and that I shouldn't worry about this stuff as long as I continue to eat well and exercise regularly. Will do!