Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How did that happen?

I think The Obesity Myth helped the most.

The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health, by Paul Campos.

It wasn't even that it was completely new information. I read about it on blogs where I was already getting similar information anecdotally. It was helpful to have someone but it all together and correlate with studies.

Three things stand out as notable now. One is that obesity only becomes a health risk when it affects mobility. That helped the things that are good about my health make sense, and gave me a motivation to maintain mobility. I mean, I like my mobility anyway, but it is important enough that it should be emphasized, and Campos did a good job of that.

The story about Susan Estrich may have been even more helpful. A very accomplished woman at size 12, her proudest accomplishment came when she went down to a size 6, though it meant not having any other notable achievements because losing those sizes in between took everything she had. Enjoying food and exercise and work -- life, I guess -- could not coexist. Given the things that I have tried that haven't worked, I can't want thinness enough. It would not be a good choice for me.

The other thing The Obesity Myth did was send me off to some other books: The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear by Seth Mnookin; Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch, and Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos.

None of those books had anything to do with fat or body image, but they had a lot to do with how wrong people can be about all sorts of things. I don't know that this specifically helped me get over caring what other people think, but at least it didn't hurt.

Still, I was done with all of those books in March and April. I may have felt better about my body then, but it was not where I am today.

I know Beauty Sick helped a lot:

Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women by Renee Engeln.

That was in July. Originally I would have thought it was not going to make much of a difference. I have been considering myself not even in the running for beautiful for so long that my reactions were more about feeling terrible for other women. That worked out though, in two ways.

Some of the exercises they use to get women out of these patterns involve role-playing explaining the destructive patterns to others. After you have told someone that they don't need this and should not be hurting themselves, it is harder for you to stick with that behavior. They harness the cognitive dissonance of it all.

Now, I know women have a long tradition of thinking everyone else is beautiful, and reassuring other women of their beauty while holding on to a deep knowledge of personal flaws, and are rarely bothered by cognitive dissonance there. Focusing on the behavior, though, is different. It appears that I can tell you that you are beautiful without believing I am beautiful, but I can't talk to you about the dangers of purging and still feel right doing it myself. Perhaps actions do matter more than appearance, but my empathy having been activated by everyone else's stories seems to have mattered.

That wasn't even one of the exercises that I was able to replicate, but I did try a few, and they were very affirming. I realized some good things about myself, and it was a boost. Once there is a focus on substance instead of appearance, I come off a lot better. There is another tradition for women where we are not supposed to know good things about ourselves, because that's conceited, but I may be past that too.

I felt better, and yet I still wasn't where I am now. I was on the way. Some of that may just be that even after you have intellectually realized something it still takes time to assimilate it emotionally. I have had some time.

There were other points along the way, and things that made the realizations more clear, and that will be something to post about tomorrow.

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