Humanism isn’t just a lofty label to attach to what I aspire to, or to identify myself with a particular sect of humanity. It’s also a reminder to myself about how I want to live.
Today, I want to share something I read a while back on Greta Christina’s blog – a personal account of her struggle to reconcile her ideals as a skeptic with her daily life.
She opens her account with this question:
How do you be a fat-positive feminist who’s losing weight?
On the one hand, she believes that society has an insanely inflated idea of the dangers of excess body fat, and that this distortion is especially bad for women’s emotional well-being. In her own words,
My attitude towards my fatness has largely been shaped by the feminist fat-positive movement: I wasn’t going to make myself miserable trying to force my body into the mainstream image of ideal female beauty, and I was instead going to work on being as healthy as I could be — eating well, exercising, reducing stress, etc. — at the weight that I already was.
On the other hand, she has a knee problem that makes it very sensible for her to try to lose weight.
Now, I suspect that many of the rational types in the audience are already shrugging and thinking, “What’s the issue? Follow the evidence, lose the weight, problem solved.”
But of course, anyone who has ever been through the emotional turmoil of unsuccessful dieting in the general atmosphere of society’s condemnation of excess weight can tell you that it’s not that easy. There is a minefield of emotions to navigate through, even when one has a very supportive and accepting social circle.*
Here’s an example that Greta Christina relates:
It’s really hard not to feel like a traitor about this. When I reach a benchmark in my weight loss and get all excited and proud, or when someone compliments me on how good I look now and I get a little self-esteem-boosting thrill, it’s hard not to feel like a traitor to my feminist roots, and to the fat women who fought so hard to liberate me from the rigid and narrow social constructs of female beauty.
So, she doesn’t just want to assert the right answer; she is also after ways to make it work in the messy, emotional rough-and-tumble of real life.
What I’m looking for is psychological tips. Ways of walking through the emotional minefield. Ways of framing this that make it more sustainable.
That’s how she closes the article.
* To be perfectly clear, I have not been through such emotional trauma firsthand, but I have at least one very close friend who has walked that minefield. I have the blind luck to have a naturally thin frame: on the ancient savannah, I would have starved in the first half-decent drought. As it is, I can indulge in the gastric excesses of our culture without visible consequences. But I must remember, a healthy diet and regular exercise are as good an idea for me as for anyone – most of their benefits are not dependent on body size.