In ‘Enough, Already’ Globe and Mail columnist Judith Timson discusses the cover of January’s O magazine, where a now “fat” Oprah stands before the freakishly slim Oprah of yester-month(?). I don’t know how quickly Oprah’s diet yo-yo is currently going but seasonal weight changes seem to be the norm for anyone with a media empire.
Timson makes the point that if weight obsession makes the cover of O in a month where economic downturns, the first African-American president in history and senate scandals are but a few of the big issues, maybe Oprah’s “body problem” isn’t that important?
“We’ve got to get off this depressing and self-defeating obsession with weight. And when I say “we” I mean it: Apart from not being a 200-pound media queen worth billions, I’m just like Oprah: I have thyroid disease and have packed on a few pounds. My doctors told me that it wasn’t my “fault,” which made me feel better until I remembered that last winter Saint-André cheese was my comfort food of choice.”
Okay fine, I read about Harper’s statement on the economy before dashing over to videos to look at Jennifer Aniston almost naked on the cover of GQ (and an adorable picture of a Macedonian Squirrel in a tree but that is not germane to this discussion). Nevertheless, I am as much a part of body-image obsession as the next person.
I leave for home on Saturday, and this week I have been careful to schedule 2 long trips to the gym to ‘prepare’ for 9 days of minimal exercise. Years ago, in order to combat some genuinely life-threatening “weight management strategies”(read: eating disorder) I had to make the irrevocable decision to never diet again ever. “That doesn’t mean I can’t maintain a healthy exercise regime,” is how I explain my need to go to the gym every few days.
Since starting the no-diet policy of 1996, I only eat when I am hungry and I only eat until I am full. Luckily, once I recovered from Bulemia, and managed to stop binging for reals, it got mighty hard to look at emotional eating as a ‘comfort activity’. So while there are very few benefits to having an eating disorder, having one did teach me to treat my stomach like the precious and delicate organ that it is. Presently, I can limit food intake due to allergies or allergy -testing, for health or to fast for religious reasons, but no diets nu-uh.
But woah… am I tempted sometimes. Yesterday at the gym (natch) I was staring at that fat part of my upper arm where soft tissue connects my lower arms to my shoulders, in genuine despair. I found myself thinking: “Maybe there is a diet that is specifically for cellulite, like if I only ate proteins and vegetables, and no bread or sugar or anything for a month, maybe all my cellulite would go away and then I could go back to my morning latte and cinnamon toast routine, it wouldn’t be a ‘real’ diet; it would just be like, a month of eating whatever I want still but only if whatever I want is not a carb.”
Yes I know, that diet exists somewhere and it is named after some fella who wants to profit off my self-disgust and if I sign up online this month I get 20% off and some free chocolate-flavored protein bars and access to all the inspirational podcasts I want ya de ya de ya.
The holidays can be a hard time for people who believe deep down that they are still the chubby little kid who got pinched on their roly-poly knees, or whatever happened to leave the impression that a little chub is a loathsome thing. It can be hard to sit with family over rich plates of food and relive identities or practices that can make problem-eating issues re-surface. Group meals or house-guests can make it hard to maintain limitation practices you use in your day to day life like meal-skipping or ritualized eating. It can be equally hard to decide to go it alone over the holidays or visit a partners family and have to integrate with different families, or friends and their customs.
During the holidays problem-eaters go on high alert and that can seriously ruin the vibe. I would guess that Oprah decided to write about fat just before the holidays because it is a difficult time for anyone with weight issues, no matter how minimal, and that is a huge proportion of women. And yes, maybe for those of us that worry, a dress size, or wanting to scarf that whole box of cookies while everyone else is nodding off to “It’s a Wonderful Life” does trump the economy (sometimes).
So from a size 10 who already knows she will come home after 9 days and look in her mirror and see a giant sausage roll wearing the new sweater from Aunty RE that already looks too small, let me remind us all. It’s all in our heads and we look amazing just as we are.
So Happy Holidays and eat that frigging shortbread already.