Poor T-Rex! I’m so worried about him! Those shorty arms can’t be healthy!
I’m basically the most insecure person I know. That may be partly because I don’t live in other people’s heads and spend too much time in my own. Or it may be because I watched too much “Daria” when I was younger. But still. I’m always wondering if I’m measuring up to people’s expectations. Am I nice enough? Pretty enough? Kind enough? Thin enough? Smart enough? Funny enough? Enough for what, you may ask. Enough to be loved. And I don’t know whether to punctuate that last sentence with a duh or a sigh. You choose.
But! I’m doing a lot better with that than I used to – in the worst of my eating disorder I’d be so paralyzed by my fear of not being “enough” that I simply couldn’t get dressed. I’d have a teary breakdown nearly every morning. Everything I put on made me feel like a failure because it made me look “fat.” And, in my messed up brain, fat = failure. These days, while I still have a really hard time getting dressed, I’m able to see it for what it is and force myself out of my closet anyhow. I’m still insecure but at least I’m insecure and out of the house. And I even have days now where I look at myself and think “I’m awesome!” (My husband, however, still bears the scars from earlier days of being perpetually late to everything – now whenever I ask him how my outfit looks he immediately responds, “You look beautiful. DON’T CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES.” )
Anyhow, it was this insecurity that my mind immediately went to when I watched this interview with super celeb trainer Jillian Michaels. The sound is super quiet so here’s the transcription:
XO Jane Reporter, Emily: A lot of our readers are really into size acceptance and Health at Every Size. Your brand is so aligned with weight loss, I just wonder how you feel about exercise for fitness vs. exercise for weight loss.
Jillian: I don’t even really know what that means. I’ll define health for you. If your cholesterol is good, your blood sugar’s good, your blood pressure is good, that to me is healthy. I believe that you should accept yourself as every size. But I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that you’re physically healthy at every size because you’re not.
And I also don’t believe that even though you might be 100 pounds overweight, you’re going, “Oh I’m good the way that I am.” BULLSHIT. I don’t believe that you don’t wake up in the morning and feel uncomfortable in your skin. I don’t believe that you don’t feel insecure when you pick your kid up from school. I don’t believe that you don’t feel uncomfortable when you’re naked in front of your husband or your wife for that matter. I don’t believe you.
So while it is critical that you love yourself right now to begin any transformation, you’re really loving yourself enough to invest the time in yourself to become physically healthier. My definition of healthy as I said is not a size 2 or a size 4. It’s the numbers that your internist is gonna give you. But I’ve yet to meet a person who is 100 pounds overweight and is a specimen of health and wellness.”
See, my first thought was WAIT, I’M UNCOMFORTABLE picking my kid up from school or being naked. (Hopefully not both at the same time.) Heck, I wake up in the morning (just some mornings, thankfully) and feel uncomfortable in my skin! And I’m not 100 pounds overweight. People, detractors and supporters alike, like to make “size acceptance” about health but for me someone’s health is a private matter – between them and their doctor – whereas acceptance seems pretty public. First, I really don’t believe that you can tell someone’s health simply from looking at them or from their weight. Second, so what if they’re not perfectly healthy? Who is? Jillian? Someone else’s health has no impact on how much I love, respect or value them. (Although I’d be willing to bet that how much someone is loved, respected and valued has a lot of impact on their health.)
While Jillian started out pretty good, talking about a concept of health based on measurements other than weight (yay!), she kind of switched horses midstream. “But I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that you’re physically healthy at every size because you’re not.” I don’t know about this, honestly. Can you be physically healthy at every size? Probably not. But can you be physically healthy at most sizes? Perhaps. Can you be physically healthy at a much greater range of sizes than society currently deems “healthy”? I think so. Either way though, I don’t like this equating health with acceptance. I want my loved ones (and myself) t0 be healthy but that has nothing to do with my love for them.
Emily paraphrased my unease, adding, “A lot of my discomfort was caused by Michaels’ tone. Her attitude toward fat people seems to go way beyond “tough love” — it feels personal, and unnecessarily harsh. Before I even got out the words, “size acceptance,” Michaels was already rolling her eyes. When she imitated a fat person claiming to be happy with themselves, she affected a high, mocking voice. To speculate about how fat people feel being naked in front of a sexual partner seemed like a nasty low blow.”
And yet I know a lot of people who feel like Jillian is speaking the truth, albeit in a brutally honest way. For them, love is caring about someone’s health. They don’t like to see their loved ones “suffer” (and I only put that in quotes because suffering viewed from the outside can look very different than suffering viewed from the inside). They want to help but it’s hard to fix society’s expectations. It’s much easier to try and fix the person. Who cares about kind if it’s saving their life? Plus, this is Jillian’s job right? I’m certainly not qualified to comment on anyone’s fitness, health or mental state but as a post-Biggest-Loser community we’ve given her that power. (A power that she’s used to market dubious “cleanse” and “burn” supplements...) I do think that Jillian believes that she’s being loving.
Yet I’ve been going over and over her remarks in my head in the week since I first read them. I think Jillian’s statement felt so personal to me because I desperately need to believe that a) being secure in my own skin need not have anything to do with how large or small said skin is and b) that there are women out there doing just that. It gives me hope, if not for myself, then at least for Jelly Bean. Can Jillian be right? Are all these confident, beautiful, every-sized women that I see really lying or deluded? Can you “accept” yourself while still feeling uncomfortable in your skin? She can’t be right, can she?
Perhaps her most telling sentence was her first one: “I don’t even really know what that means.”
What do you think – can you be 100 pounds overweight and be honestly comfortable in your own skin? What do you think size acceptance means? Does loving someone mean worrying about their health? Am I sleep deprived and over-thinking this??