It ain’t easy being “obese” on a campus where the trend is to be a skinny hipster. A place like Vassar should have so many happy wonderful women, and yet hardly a day goes by when I don’t hear some sort of comment come out of my mouth or a friend’s that has some self-hating laced with it, the vast majority of the time referring to weight and body fat. Even my professors who have been so formative in the development of my own feminism all seem to find themselves at the gym running on treadmills like hamsters on a wheel, claiming they need to slim down. It’s hard to find a balance in all of this. Sure we all want to be healthy and beautiful, but what if we already are?
For pretty much as long as I can remember doctors have been telling me I’m overweight or obese and that if I don’t do something about it there will be deadly consequences. Up until recently I’ve always accepted this as fact. And maybe in some ways it is. A lifetime of being the pudgy kid with glasses who gets picked last for kickball is certainly not the ideal healthy life style. And I do have to worry about health, as we all do for some reason or another. My mother has type 2 diabetes as did my grandfather. It’s in my genes, I’m at risk.
But after reading Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose and seeing her BMI Project, I’m starting to wonder just how seriously I should take my doctor’s warnings. Confession: I’m 5′ 6” and a fairly steady 190 pounds, BMI 30-31. I know, it’s alarming. But before we get all fat-phobic on me, let’s think about what that actually means. Last summer I hiked up and down Cadillac Mountain with relative ease. When not at school I travel my hilly hometown nearly all by foot. In high school and for the past few summers when I worked at the school, I walked every weekday a total of roughly 2.5 miles because I don’t have a car. While I’m not very fast, I can swim for pretty long periods of time without too much effort. I take a pretty strenuous yoga class once a week and while I’m no yogi, I manage to achieve new strength and peace with each class. My last checkup alarmed my doctor, because wouldn’t you know I have excellent cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels, despite being “Obese” according to my BMI. Everything about my health was normal or better than normal. But still my doctor pulls me into her office to have a “serious talk” with me. It’s time to take care of my health she says. If I don’t do it now I’ll regret it my whole life. But what if I’m actually healthier just as I am?
Could I eat more veggies? Of course, even as an aspiring vegan, I know I don’t eat enough leafy greens and too many french fries. Should I go exercise more? Sure, and so probably should you, dear reader of the interwebz. But maybe as a young non-smoking 20 year old I’m a lot healthier and hotter than I, and you, and my doctor give me credit for. And maybe we should stop freaking out that I’m so fat. Because in terms of health, the only thing really “wrong” with me is the amount of vertical force I exert as a result of gravity, which I’m just gunna put out there I kinda have no immediate control over. I’ve been to nutritionists, endocrinologists, therapists, you name it. Is it poor diet? Poor exercise? Thyroid Problems? High Testosterone Levels? After lots of worrying, shame, depression, and loneliness, I still have no definite answers, and I’m still exactly as I am. And It starts to become obvious that maybe no one can fix me because there isn’t anything really wrong with me, despite what doctors and society tells me. Maybe it’s time to stop the hatin’ and just love myself for myself. I know super rad, right?
So if you call yourself a feminist, stop playing into the patriarchy of the health profession, media, and whatever and start to love yourself, and all your womanly curves, lovely lady lumps, or whatever you want to call them. Love the woman at the heart of this fight–yourself.