So, I’m cautiously interested in the conversation going on in the comments to this post by Roni Noone over at We are the Real Deal. (I say “cautiously,” because the some of the comments in the thread have been taking a bit of a turn towards anger and intolerance. We’ll have to see what happens.)
There’s certainly stuff that could be said regarding the assumptive slip Roni makes between “having a healthy conscious relationship with food” and losing weight — as if one were always to lead to the other. But the piece I’m keying in on right now is this series of semi-rhetorical questions from the opening of her post:
Aren’t I suppose to be spreading a message of self love and body contentment? I mean, I definitely shouldn’t be inspiring people to lose weight? That’s just plain wrong. Isn’t it?
The anxieties expressed in Roni’s questions are also forefronted in her chosen post title: Is it Wrong to Want to Lose Weight?
Wrongness. So many times this comes back to notions of wrongness.
Wrongness about appearance — too blond, too short, too fat, too skinny, too flat-chested, too red-headed, hips too big, figure too boyish, wrong facial shape, too “ethnic,” too “white bread.” Too just plain wrong because we don’t thread the needle of what is deemed attractive in a celebrity culture. (And here’s a familiar reminder that even celebrities don’t come up to the standards of celebrity beauty.)
A couple months ago, I was asked, in an FA context, if I saw myself as beautiful. And I admitted that I’m not quite There yet. But here’s the thing, I remember saying.
I never saw myself as beautiful when I was younger and thin, either. I grew up skinny and had a really awkward adolescence, in which I had physical characteristics (flat-chested, glasses, braces) that in my white, upper-middle-class high school marked me as unattractive. As far as I can guess, there may have been a magic week or two during my transition for “too skinny” to “too fat” where I hit the mark of what I “ought” to weigh. But I wouldn’t be surprised if during those magic weeks where I weighed the supposedly-right amount, I carried some other marker that kept me from being attractive — or, more accurately, from feeling attractive.
Because there’s so much judgement out there, and so much internalized self-judgement that stems from that. And — no shocker here — the judgements, the feelings of wrongness aren’t even remotely limited to questions of weight, or appearance, or the physical realm. There’s plenty of societal messages about the ways to act, to live, to be. Which plays into all the ways we feel wrong in our behaviors, our choices, our circumstances.
I truly believe that fat is a feminist issue. But for me, fat acceptance is part of the larger challenge of self-acceptance. And for me, self-acceptance and self-esteem are very much spiritual issues. Letting go of feeling wrong. Letting go of the self-protective, defensive instinct to make someone else wrong when I’m feeling judged and threatened. Opening my heart to the possibility that each and every person I encounter is 100% perfect in this moment.
So, do I think it’s wrong to want to lose weight? No, I don’t.* We want what we want, and none of it is wrong, and going into the self-beat-up for wanting the “wrong” thing is only going to perpetuate the patterns of self-judgement that keep me feeling bad about myself.
Where Roni’s questions get a little tricky for me is when she asks about “inspiring” folks to lose weight. Because that will all very much depend on how she wants to go about inspiring people. If it’s a process of living her own choices and speaking openly about them, and letting people choose freely whether or not to follow her path, I’m pretty much on board. (Insofar as I fully believe in the perfection of Roni’s choices for Roni while choosing myself not to aspire towards weight loss.)
But if her version of “inspiring” includes blindness to the perfection of choice for those embracing HAES — and that assumptive slip I mentioned above gives me some reason to fear that sort of blindness — then I’m a bit more troubled about the potential for this to be yet another message about how the FA/HAES community is wrong in our choices and our beliefs.
So Roni isn’t wrong. And I’m not wrong.
When we’re able to tap into compassion for self and make heart-centered authentic choices for ourselves, each of us is wonderfully right.
* Not that anyone needs my approval anyways.