Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winning > Losing

I avoided Facebook for much of yesterday, which is a problem. Not in the sense that taking a time out from technology like Facebook is bad, but because I've been avoiding it for another reason.

Tuesday night was the finale of The Biggest Loser, as I'm sure most everyone is aware by now due to massive media coverage of it and all the critiquing that has been done post-reveal. I personally do not watch the show nor do I care to begin. I actually hate the show and secretly (I guess it's not much of a secret now) judge every person who watches that show--I mean, seriously, who spends their time watching a show that encourages people to engage in self-starvation and overexercise?! How is essentially teaching eating disorders entertainment? I literally have no idea. But what I do know is that my Facebook yesterday was flooded with articles about the controversy over how much weight the winner had lost... And that a lot of people were calling her anorexic and saying she looks sick and way too thin.

(First problem. Making judgments about another's body. Just stop. None of us know if that is a healthy weight for her. None of us know her medical history or how she's feeling. Also, stop with the criticism! Seriously. Just stop it. You have no right to stick labels on someone for how much they do or do not weigh.)

I had a conversation with friends I met at the NEDA Conference in October about it. One said, "Just looked at some of The Biggest Loser stuff (I never pay any attention to that crap)... So infuriating! She's not a winner, she's sick!" followed by, "I hate the show. I hate Jillian Michaels. I hate it all!" Another friend from the conference advised me against looking into show and even writing a blog post on it.

I've tried to avoid reading most of the articles because I've generally found them to be triggering, but I'll share a few of the good ones that I've skimmed here (trigger warning for numbers in these articles):

The Biggest Loser and a Bigger Hypocrisy by Carrie Arnold
The Biggest Loser and the Eating Disorder Epidemic by Lee Wolfe Bloom
Freaked Out by Rachel Frederickson's Biggest Loser Win? Read This by Golda Poretsky
The Biggest Losers by Timberline Knolls' CEO and Medical Director (Not specifically about last night's show, but worth the read)
Why Her 'Biggest Loser' Win Left Me at a Loss by Meredith Turits

I'm not writing this to express my concern over Frederickson's weight loss. I'm not writing this to chime in on the same chords so many of these articles have touched on--that the loss of 60% of your body weight and a BMI of 18 are medical criteria for anorexia. I'm not writing to warn against the dangers of extreme dieting and self-starvation and how that can lead to binge eating. I'm not even writing this to talk about the fat- and thin-shaming that is going on as a result of this show.

I'm writing this because I disagree my eating disorder disagrees with all the people who have called her too thin and sick looking. My eating disorder idolizes how she looks.

Yes, I said it. I want My eating disorder wants to look like that.

But here's the thing, my body is not built to look like that. It's genetically not wired to look that way. In fact, if I looked like that, I would probably be in the hospital because my organs would be eating themselves, I'd be severely bradycardic and orthostatic, and I generally just wouldn't be able to function. That's why it is so important in eating disorder recovery to get to your set point weight--not a 'healthy' BMI, like many believe, but set point weight. Set point weight is the weight that your body genetically is programmed to be at. It does not follow BMI charts--it could be under or over what is considered to be normal. It does not follow societal standards for what is acceptable. But is is what is best for your body.

I don't like my set point weight. I'm not sure that anyone with history of eating disorders actually likes their set point weight. But instead of getting angry and turning to ED behaviors in order to be less than what my body wants naturally, I'm working on trying to accept it. Trying to radically accept the fact that my body and genetics want me to weigh X pounds instead of the X pounds that I my eating disorder would prefer to weigh.

So here's what I'm trying to focus on--all the wonderful things that my body, at it's healthy, set point weight, can do. What's important to me, in this moment, is respecting my body's limitations. If it's tired, I sleep. If it's hungry, I feed it. If it's restless, I go for a walk. If it's craving intellectual nourishment, I read and write and study. But I'm learning to be fully present in my body, not to just inhabit it. And if I am fully present in my body, that means I am listening to it. I am taking care of it's needs and wants and not forcing it to do things that it doesn't want to do.

Our society is good at telling us exactly the opposite. It's good at telling us that we need to be less, take up less space, weigh less, be thinner. It's good at telling us that when exercising, no pain means no gain. It's good at telling us to not eat the carbohydrates, the proteins, and the lipids, the basic macronutrients required for survival, that our body so desperately needs and craves. And shows like The Biggest Loser only reinforce these things.

And after reflecting on all of the outcry about The Biggest Loser finale, I have questions. Why are we so concerned with Rachel Frederickson, her weight loss, and her health? Why are we not this concerned when our sisters, mothers, friends, relatives, etc engage in similar unhealthy behaviors in order to lose weight? Why are we so concerned with losing weight instead of creating healthy and strong bodies? Why are we so concerned with being the biggest loser?

If I look only at the number on the scale, the size on my clothes, the calories I am consuming and burning, I will always be unhappy because there will always be someone who weighs less, who is a smaller size, who ate less and exercised more. My focus becomes so zeroed in on these things that I forget about everything else.

Through my recovery process, I'm learning to not focus on them. My dietitian asked me a couple days ago if I wanted to know anything regarding my weight range--if I was in it, above it, below it, what end of it I was in. And I simply told her no. I know I will never be satisfied with a number on the scale because what satisfies me is having a healthy body and a healthy soul. This means nourishment, rest, and moderate exercise for my physical body. It means listening to it when it tells me to take a break or slow down or that I'm pushing too hard. But it also means realizing that I am so much more than my body and that I am not defined by a number nor am I defined by what I look like on a particular day. It means cultivating relationships, feeding my intellect, expressing my interests and regularly doing something "just because."

It means living my life and not caring whether or not I am the biggest loser. By accepting my body as it is, at it's set point weight, in it's rightful, healthy state, I am the biggest winner because I'm winning my life. Not a smaller dress size or a ton of money or more confidence, but a life full of adventures and possibilities.

My friends, winning is always better than losing. May we all try to be the biggest winners of life and not the biggest losers of weight.

For more information about set point weight, see Kelsi's posts here:
Set Point
Overshooting Set Point Weight
Overshooting Set Point & Kristi's Story