This blog entry is authored by Women’s Studies minor, Kaitlyn Funneman. In it, she reflects on the classic pressures on women to diet and control themselves and their bodies. These pressures, she notes, often come both from family and from healthcare professionals. Kaitlyn is an Anthropology major, so it may come as no surprise that after completing her degree, she wants to work to help women become more independent by using their own culture as a reference point.
Sitting in my doctor’s office, clothed in a light cloth gown, I wait. I wait for the nurse practitioner. I wait for her to tell me I need to lose weight. Sitting in my home, surrounded by my family, I wait. I wait for my mother to tell me I look so good now that I have lost weight, but I just need to work on that double chin. This waiting causes anxiety and fear which I cannot escape from. It causes me to sporadically exercise and diet in obviously unhealthy ways. It is just as Schwartzman states in her 2015 article “Appetites, Disorder, and Desire:” “…powerful patriarchal forces may encourage women to deny their own needs, pleasures, and appetites…” Because of all the pressures put on me in this patriarchal society to become smaller, I feel the need to start that shrinking as soon and as fast as possible.
Both of these images graphically illustrate the body hatred that is caused by anti-fat bias. One shows a young girl looking at a picture of a skinny model while she takes a pair of scissors to the folds on her belly which show when she bends over. It is in full color. Another, in black and white and much older, shows a slim woman pulling some of her belly skin and subcutaneous fat away from her body with one hand while she holds a pair of scissors in the other. Both result from a Google search of the phrase “girl cutting off fat,” a search the author ran after remembering the first image of the young girl. Image Credits: unknown.
For the longest time I have been warned of the doctor telling me I was getting too big. I heard my family’s stories of the times they were told to lose weight because of their health. The matrilineal side of my family have always been considered bigger than what is accepted as healthy. Because of this my sisters, grandmother, and mother all have been exposed to doctors and nurse practitioners handing them pamphlets on losing weight. I have always been worried about my growing body because of this. In high school I gained 40 pounds and now in college I have gained 20. I was always thinking about my BMI (body mass index) and how it was getting into an unhealthy range. I thought I was doomed to be like my mother’s side of the family. I ate to feel good about myself and then I felt bad because I shouldn’t be eating so much. With my continual weight gain from my comfort foods, I got more depressed. This was my vicious cycle.
My mother is very insecure about her own weight, and she forces her insecurity onto me. She consistently reminds me when I gain some weight. She always asks “Have you gained weight or are you on your period?” or “Suck in your stomach; it’s getting poochy.” When I first wanted to exercise she said, “That’s good you used to be so skinny.” Now that I have started to lose some of the fat and look skinnier she makes comments like “Now you just have to get rid of that double chin.” This helped fuel my desire to be skinnier for her. When she praises my weight loss, I feel like she is proud of me. Proud that I got out of the “trap” of fatness that her genes implanted in me.
When I went in for my first yearly physical as an adult, I was ready to receive the news given to all of the women in my family: “You need to lose weight.” It had almost become a rite of passage. As I had gained so much weight during college I accepted that this would be my fate. This nurse practitioner pushed and prodded on all my parts, checking them out, but she didn’t say anything about my weight. I kept waiting. She told me that I was perfectly healthy and to keep on doing what I was doing. She handed me a paper about keeping my body healthy as I grow older and that was it.
Image Credit: http://humon.deviantart.com/art/New-Doctor-546048204
That moment changed me. I began to realize I didn’t need to be a certain weight to be healthy. I had obsessed over my BMI when it wasn’t all that defines me or others. As Schwartzman states, “In reality, having a body that weighs more than the standard BMI (body mass index) is not itself unhealthy” (92). This experience showed me that statement holds true.
Weight is a serious topic needing to be discussed. Some people are unable to weigh a certain number without severe starvation. Some are very unhealthy in their skinniness, however, they are told that they look amazing. The reality is changes need to be made in how people’s weights are perceived. No one should feel the need to stain their pillows with tears after eating a slice of cake.
This picture shows Mirna Valerio, who writes the blog Fat Girl Running, during the Javelina Hundred 100k (62 miles) which she completed in October of 2015. Valerio is a Spanish teacher, choral director, cross country running coach, blogger for both her own blog and Women’s Running Magazine, and avid trail runner. She is fat and fit.