Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Movement I Need

I got to thinking this morning about the difficulty of cobbling together the information and ideals I need in my own process, what a pain it is to have to filter out the stuff that puts me on anxiety high alert or that I know to be false and/or problematic.  There's no perfect place for me.  The closest I think I've come is the early-on first-person version of fat acceptance stuff: Fatshionista (siiiigh) and Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby and Lesley Kinzel, all of whom wrote beautiful, challenging work that lived on the boundary of theory and personal narrative, that never sacrificed engagement with the bigger picture and the difficult questions for cheerleading or bitterness.  Even those writers, though, in all their luminosity, don't have much to offer by way of a nitty-gritty prescription for healing.  And the folks engaged with the nitty-gritty often employ knee-jerk assumptions that agitate or fail me, and frequently fail to consider the macro stuff.

So what is it that I want, in my perfect movement and my perfect movement leader?  What do I need?  Some initial thoughts:

  • Weight/size neutrality.  That means I need a critical eye turned on the faulty (read: incorrect and often disingenuous) party line about the relationship between fatness and health status.  It also means I need a critical eye turned on the way aesthetics apply to bodies, such that weight loss and/or fat loss aren't used as default goals or recommendations, or worthy of praise unto themselves.  This also means that actions can't be validated nor theories proven by virtue of the visual bodily changes to which they contribute. 
  • An open, inclusive eating ideology that doesn't lose sight of research and policy.  I don't think it's a sin to like junk food.  I also don't think it's a good idea to live on it, not least because it is specifically designed to thwart hunger/fullness signaling.  I think people eat more of it than they would were it not for corn subsidies and the lobbying of the food industry for tax loopholes and lack of oversight and regulation, and this is sub-ideal.  But we need to talk about it on a collective level, not on the level of individual choice, and when we talk about it as policy, that policy should use more salient health and wellness markers than weight or size.
  • A feminist view of the cumulative effect of the bullshit women get about weight, size, eating, lifting, body composition, and embodiment in general.  It is perhaps not overstatement to say that women, as a class, are being starved by diet ideology.  The effects of (even semi-)starvation [the Minnesota volunteers consumed 1560 calories/day] include depression, anxiety, preoccupation with food, self-mutilation, low sex drive, and cognitive dysfunction, in addition to reduced homeostatic functions and immunity.  Do these sound empowering to you?  Is that the way you feed a population the abilities of which you care about?  This fucking enrages me.  I'm enraged, right now, typing away.  It is a feminist act, and a crucial one, for women to feed themselves adequately.  It is hard for a woman raised in diet culture to understand that "adequately" is significantly more food than she is being told is acceptable for her to even want.  We need a feminist voice for this.  
  • Subsidiary to the above, an understanding of eating disorders as physiological and psychological and social phenomena.  This gets tricky in relation to fatness: not every fat person is eating-disordered, and not every fat person is non-eating disordered.  
  • Some mad science.  N=1 experimentation is all well and good, and knowing one's own body is its own kind of wisdom, but the fact remains that pathology can erase itself, physiologically.  Disease can make you resist medical treatment.  Chronic caloric restriction can AND DOES make you "feel fat," regardless of whether or not you've added fat mass, and it interrupts your hunger cuing.  (This is why loads of women, including quite active ones, will tell you they are "not hungry" on 1700 calories a day.  Well, this and the way it props up a virtuous self-concept.)  I need someone who can read and present the literature critically and effectively.  And because of the way the funding structure for research works, there are tons of questions yet unanswered—ideally, I need someone to design new research with an eye to debunking myth and creating a strong evidence-based foundation for policy and personal change. 
  • Humor and sparkle and brilliance and joy.  If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.  Although in this case, the other things are so hard to come by that I will take you with or without these characteristics, and find them elsewhere or bring them my own damn self.  

It's a bummer that I have yet to find a resource that meets all of these criteria.  Generally, the people on the forefront of the metabolic-health stuff are body tinkerers, people who are invested in if not thinness at least leanness, and actively advance fat loss for health and aesthetic reasons.  Generally, the HAES folk aren't focused on metabolic health because of the way that tinkering impulse can trigger chronic restricters, or on policy because of its vocabulary's tendency to ditto.  Often, the people who do ED work have a tendency to attend primarily to the clinical situations of underweight-to-"normal"-weight patients.

So until then, I'm DIYing this bitch.

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