Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Jane Doe and a tale of fad diets, body image and media manipulation

I'm writing this not as someone who has suffered from anorexia for over half her life.  I'm writing this is a female.  As a daughter, a sister and auntie.  Someone who that although deemed to be mentally unstable (true) is able to look at the world in a somewhat stable way and is fed up.

I find it despicable that in this day and age, the idea of gaining weight is as deplorable as the black plague.  There are very few people in this world who I believe can actually say they would be OK with the notion of putting on weight.  Even people, who in medical circumstances became underweight and need to regain the way they had lost. In society today, weight gain is such a taboo. Food and eating are  seen and treated as a sin, something to associate with guilt and shame especially if it's not green and squeaky clean.
 It's almost as if, if you're not watching your weight in some way then you're a freak. You have to be eating clean, or cutting SOMETHING out of your diet as god forbid someone eats a slice of cake without feeling guilty!
This is something I said over and over again on Instagram. Guilt is for murderers, rapists, thieves, CRIMINALS, not for people choosing to nourish and keep their body alive

Now let's talk about Jane Doe.  Jane Doe has everything. She has the 'perfect' life, she has friends, a family who love her, a husband, a job she loves, money, she's beautiful, she has a pug.... but she's a size or two bigger than she'd like to be. She's a size or two bigger than society deems acceptable enough to be OK with.

 So even though she has everything you could want in life, everything she set out for, she goes through life saying no to dessert, yoyo-ing with her weight because whilst she might lose a little weight it creeps back on. 
Her set point (which is another topic entirely) is more than likely higher than what she's aiming for (but that's not something that people outside of eating disorders necessarily know about) so she goes through life with all the ingredients for happiness, her kids and husband love her maybe eventually her grandkids, with an unhappiness even a hatred for her body. 
Looking back at all the happy times, moments and beautiful things they are tainted by struggles with the zip going up, the sadness at being THAT dress size again, the scale showing THAT number, smiling politely at the slither of birthday cake when quite frankly she wanted a SLAB, or even worse saying no thank you I'm full. WHO'S TOO FULL for birthday cake?!?!?!
It's a micropig eating rainbow cake. This picture right here WINS at the internet

Then there's Jane Doe B   All her life she's been underweight, Naturally so as she has a small frame but underweight nonetheless. She has a small appetite, eats like a pigeon and has low energy levels, so could do with eating high energy density foods to feel and be healthier, yes?  No this person has read in the barrage of celebrity and women's trashy, articles in the daily mail, so called health monthly magazines to cut out this, and that to be healthy she needs to 'eat clean'.  For her eating healthy would probably be doubling her calorific intake but that's beside the point.  Thinking outside my non-ED brain here the media has the world so wound up, hanging off it's every word as if its every word wasn't largely a load of bullshit that is.

On almost every food and drink packet, you will find the recommended daily amount of calories at 2000 and where did this number come from?  How can one single number stand true for almost every single human being on this planet?  Every single human being who has different expenditure needs, whose body is made up differently?  How can somebody who is 4'9 required the same amount of energy to survive and thrive as somebody who is 6'4.

And yet this is what it states as the recommended daily allowance on every single item of food.  There is no subtext of  'If you have different needs, a health condition, higher muscle mass or live an active lifestyle'. The only difference you'll find on some packets is men get an extra 500.
Why does having a penis entitle you to an extra 500 calories?
Obviously it's not having a penis. It's the general average or estimation that men are taller, expending more energy and have a higher muscle mass. That may have been true in say, the stone age, but it doesn't always stand true today. (I'm almost 6 foot, the same height as the average man, would my calorific requirements, therefore, be the same as theirs (or do I need to grow a dick for that?) So why are we seeing this as some kind of food law that if broken will make us clinically obese? And where did it come from?
If you're interested in reading in where this number came from then click here.2000 calories a day myth

To sum it up, ITS MADE UP. OK, there was a little bit of science behind it but a lot of averaging, rounding up and down. But one thing you can take from it is it's OUTDATED
So why do we use this as verbatim?
Even if somebody who is as I stated earlier on underweight, not eating disordered, just naturally underweight, but aware of calories  may think that eating over 2000 is going to make them fat (this terrible awful thing) or that 2000 is the magical number to be feared as its printed everywhere and going over it shouldn't be done, right?  It would be unhealthy.  Then obviously they're going to try and maintain a lower calorie intake despite the fact that they are one of the category of people who needs a higher calorie intake over the magical 2000.

Don't mind me.....
Common Food Misconceptions
Sugar is bad for you. Carbs make you fat. Fat makes you fat. Protein makes you bulk up. Wheat makes you fat. Dairy makes you fat. WHAT ELSE IS THERE LEFT TO EAT? Shall we all just live off of a diet of dust and air whilst dreaming lustfully of cake and getting electric shocks from licking the screen whilst watching Charlie and the chocolate factory (never did that)
 Your body needs glucose (sugar) for metabolism, digestion, cell repair and recovery, cognitive function. Everything. It's like when you're driving a car the petrol's the sugar and fat is the equivalent of the accelerator, protein's the gears (shit analogy normally I'm normally better). If you've not put enough petrol in the car, you're not going anywhere and without the combination of all three working together? You're stuck on your driveway unable to move.
The bodies ideal way to function is the  perfect combination of fat carb and protein, balancing it too much in any direction will alter how your car runs. HOWEVER, your body eventually adapts. Just in a lesser efficient state. This is metabolism and is why people with EDs can survive on such low fuel for so long as your body has learns to adapt. And this is the same as someone who has yoyo dieted their whole life. If they've treated their body like a Ford escort, they shouldn't expect it to run like a Ferrari.
Carbohydrates especially have seen a real bashing in the media in the last decade or so mainly due to the rise in popularity in diets such as the Dukan diet, South beach, Atkins, in fact MOST diets advise you restrict carbohydrates as they are seen as 'empty calories'.
But glucose is essential for the central nervous system. The brain primarily uses glucose as its energy source, and a lack of glucose can result in weakness, dizziness, and low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). Reduced blood glucose during exercise decreases performance and could lead to mental as well as physical fatigue. It's impossible to live without carbohydrates and if you cut them out or reduce them, as soon as you start eating them again you will regain any weight you have lost as it's not sustainable in the long term. Your body needs a certain amount of glycogen stores to survive and if that has been depleted through a low carb diet when you start eating carbs again your body will go into panic mode thinking it's going to be starved of carbs (ya know ITS MAIN SOURCE OF ENERGY) so will stockpile it for fear of future deprivation. And every gram of glycogen your body stores is bound to 4 grams of water, so that's 5 grams in total which overall can add up and also why after eating a carb heavy meal your body can feel puffy and you retain water.
 (But I didn't want this post to be about carbs protein and fat, I want this post to be about venting my frustration that food is too restrictive I wrote the above to try and help smash some of the misconceptions around food).

There is so much emphasis on calories and what you should and shouldn't do that people forget the most important thing and the thing that will help maintain your boy and happiness most of all and that is your hunger cues. Your natural hunger cues. Not driven by emotion, boredom, media manipulation but by fuelling your body to make it work at its best.
 If you've been through refeeding, or whether you're just somebody who has been conditioned to not listen to their natural hunger cues, perhaps if you've been taught to believe the medias ideal of calories and diets and what you should and shouldn't do and should and shouldn't eat. It can be confusing and you can go through periods of both extreme and no hunger as your body is confused.
People can proclaim it's the health benefits, but what's healthy about counting points for foods, depriving yourself when you're hungry and looking longingly at an item of food you want it or denying yourself that because (not for health reasons) you're slightly bigger than you feel you should be.  What's healthy about eating a takeaway on a Saturday night and then eating at a severe deficit to your bodies requirements JUST TO JUSTIFY TO YOUR HEAD.

"We shouldn't need to justify fuel to our heads its our right, a requirement to live"

Getting on the scale and seeing youve gained weight is a scary thing for anyone.  I defy anyone to tell me they like all relish the idea of gaining weight (outside of sport maybe).  Why does it cause so much anguish to be considered plus size, to be in the overweight BMI category to be the highest weight theyve ever been (even if perfectly healthy), to not be in the underweight BMI category. BMI is a load of outdated bullshit anyway:)

Questions to ask yourself-
Before and after you weighed yourself, in those very seconds did you visibly change? Did you irrevocably become something or someone else?
Did it alter the way the outside world see you?
Are you of any less use now?
Are you of any more use now?
The only thing that's ACTUALLY changed in those seconds is you knowing the number. There's nothing you can do about what that number is (in that moment) and letting it affect your mood so drastically to the point where it affects your everyday life? Why are people driven to that point?  (I'm not just talking about people with eating disorders here) you look how you look. you are who you are. You are in YOUR life regardless of the number and your size, do you believe that you deserve to be ejected from the life you're living because of your size, ostracised from your friends and family because you're bigger than the media deems to be acceptable. OF COURSE NOT. So fucking what if you've gained weight. So fucking what if you don't fit into the same size jeans as the photoshopped models in magazines.
If you've gained weight, unless you gained it through a medical condition which causes unexplained weight gain (Which by the I can tell you from experience SUCKS), you got that weight though coffees with friends, biscuits with tea, home cooked roast dinners, maybe a cake cooked lovingly by a child,, hot chocolates by the fire, sharing bags of chocolate with your loved one (or yourself because who shares chocolate....), glasses of wine with friends, takeaways for 4 eaten by 2 before a night of raucous sex conceiving your first child, Christmas dinners.... need I go on? None of which I've ever experienced. would you trade any of those for that extra weight?

 I don't weigh myself anymore and I have refused for a very long time to be weighed as A it's pointless as my body does what it wants regardless of what I am or aren't eating and B not matter what the scales say it will affect me in a negative way, I am never ok with my body, my face, who I am inside, knowing the number will do nothing but cause me more distress.

"But Charlotte are you aware of what a hypocrit you sound?"
 First I hope I've made it clear I'm not talking about people with eating disorders. I'm talking about how nowadays there is such a small portion of people who have a strong and healthy attitude towards their body and who are attuned into their hunger cues and feel at ease with themselves.
I'm aware I can't change the world. I can't make women everywhere say fuck the scales, throw out their size 8 jeans, Special K and cash in all the "maybe later" slices of cake.

What I'm saying won't change a damn thing it's just what I see around me makes me angry and sad and I don't want that for anyone.
I don't want that for my nieces.
Would you rather look back on a life of ryvitas, rice cakes,plastic protein bars, cottage cheese, vegetable stir fries and green tea and flitting between sizes because before you can even celebrate losing weight you've gained it back as it's not a sustainable weight for you or would you rather look back on a life that was happy. Food was there, you know it was good. Amazing at times, but you were too busy living life to worry about worrying about it? Unless it involved chocolate ganache.... Those memories stay with you forever

Am I saying never say no to food? NO! Binge eating is not what I'm promoting.
I'm promoting a healthy attitude and respect for your body and mind. Fad diets, restrictive eating, over exercising are all  going to contribute to an unhealthy body and mind.  There may come a point when you have to accept your body is supposed to be a slightly bigger clothes size than you'd like and with that acceptance you will find a new found respect for what your body  can do by treating it right (Hello Ferrari) and learning to enjoy your life because you won't spend it having to over everything that passes through your lips
If you balance your diet and exercise right, no food should ever be off limits in moderation.

I don't want my nieces growing up in a world where their food decisions are made by points, numbers, shame, guilt and deprivation.  It's bad enough Lily has food allergies.  I want their food choices and the way they see themselves and make decisions to be about hunger, Fuelling the body they love to do the things they love.  If they are overweight or underweight so long as they are healthy I just want them to look in the mirror and smile.  And whenever they have Ben and Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie ice cream they won't have to think of anything but how fucking good it tastes and their Auntie Charlotte.

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