Thursday, May 31, 2012

Food, Health, Weight, and the Freedom to Make Your Own Choices

I went shopping the other day, and it felt like freedom.  It is really, really nice to have the food I like to eat available in the house.
groceries: tortillas, cheese sticks, raspberries, pudding, egg whites
And this is what freedom looks like.
"I found a neat recipe on Pinterest," I told my mom last night.  "But it takes a whole cup of sugar."  

"That is a lot of sugar," said my dad.  "You should use high fructose corn syrup instead."

My mother and I both want to lose weight.  I want to lose weight because I want to feel better, have more energy, and I know it will get harder when I get older.  I gained thirty pounds over the school from stress, eating too much, and not having the time to cook right or exercise.  They say it's important to be a healthy weight before you get pregnant, too, and I want that in my future. I think my mom wants to be healthier too.  We don't talk much about it.

"We should join Weight Watchers together!" says my mom regularly.  She is trying to be supportive.  It feels, sometimes, like she wants to let me know that my weight isn't healthy.  I already know my weight isn't healthy*.  I maintain that university is not a healthy environment: you don't have time to cook healthy food (or exercise), and you don't have money to buy healthy food (or, worse, you're locked into a meal plan.).  It's full of stress, and you don't have financial resources to offset the stress, because you've already paid the university all your financial resources (and then some).

My weight bothers me in part because worrying about weight is such a gendered phenomenon.  You don't hear vitriol spewed toward men with beer bellies, but if a woman is overweight, everyone seems to feel entitled to comment. I don't want people to comment: it isn't my job to look pretty for them, and it isn't their job to care about my appearance or my health**.

I hear it around the holidays, too, from other parts of my family.  "Oh, you look so good-- did you lose weight?" (Sometimes I get this even if I have gained weight.)  Or: "You know, you gained some weight-- that isn't very healthy."  I know when I gain weight, thank you very much, you didn't need to point it out.

And so I do not want to join Weight Watchers. I don't want to hold myself up to an outside standard, even a kindly one.  I know it works for a lot of people, but I have a nifty app on my phone that tracks my calories and my current weight, and that works for me***.  If you want to bond with me on a weight-loss quest, we can exercise together or trade recipes.

I want to feel good, and I don't want to worry about people commenting on how I look.  I want my clothes to fit, and I want to be able to shop for clothes that are not labeled as "plus" sizes.  (I'm medium-tall and I have hips-- anything smaller than a ten is never going to happen for me.)  I want to be healthy, and I want "healthy" to happen on my own terms.

*My parents are both physical therapists, so they care a lot about being healthy.
**Unless you are my physician.  Then, you may comment on my weight if you would like.
***I know it works for me, because I was able to lose significant chunks of weight when I was away from school on internships.  They key element to the weight loss, in my opinion, was having the time and money to establish a routine.

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