What ifs

This is an old draft I didn’t release at the time I wrote it, thinking it was a bit full-on.  But reading it again, there are some interesting questions here.

I come in from a late night run, where I don’t thing I’ve burned enough energy to offset the wild chocolate fling I had earlier in the day.

Over the past week I’ve started reading two books by/about women recovering from eating disorders. One book I started after a search lead me to it, and the second was mentioned by the first. So I come in from my run, feeling a bit guilty about “all that chocolate”. And I wonder, just for a second, what if?

As someone who first discovered running to lose weight (and as a byproduct became awesomely fit and healthy), and now needs to again lose weight, i can’t help wondering about the path not taken.

What if?

Where do we draw that line between diet and disaster, exercise and extremism. Running is almost by definition an extreme sport. It taxes the body until it can’t take it anymore. Running gives (fitness, great calves) and it takes away (crappy knees, sore muscles, marathon crazies). It takes discipline and a fair amount of craziness to be a good runner (or even just a consistent runner). What if… what tiny thing would need to be different for me to slam headfirst into obsessive overdrive?

Where do I draw a line between calorie counting and “food restriction”. Probably it’s just the numbers – anyone restricting themselves to 700 calories a day is clearly sick. But Isn’t quantifying every bite also just a little bit on the edges of sanity? Has MyFitnessPal normalised eating obsession? Is it ok to log every meal, is it ok to memorise the calories in a sip of milk?

Of course not, but sometimes it feels like a fine line.

I just remember all those people (women, all women!) telling me that I had “lost enough weight” several times along the road. I remember the same people pointing out other fit, muscled, gorgeous women and saying they had “gone too far”.

At the time, I think they were just jealous. Even now, I still think they were just jealous. But what if I really was sick? (I wasn’t!) But if I was sick, I would probably just think they were jealous.

What if my view of ‘what I should look like’ is fundamentally wrong? I wouldn’t know, would I? I do think that I should be thinner. But really, I just want to be lighter and stronger. Mostly stronger! I don’t think anyone else has to be thinner. Or fatter. But isn’t that the hallmark of body image issues – believing that you’re the only one who needs to change to be normal.

Right now normal is so loosely defined, and we get caught up in letting everyone define their own version of it. I wonder if sometimes there isn’t too much room between the cracks for someone to slip down and never be heard from again.

Today I was at a cafe next to some very unhappy women eating, I’m not sure. It was pancakes, I think, smothered in Nutella, ice cream and other things. This plate looked like it could put a family of 5 into a diabetic coma. And they were… fat. They were also incredibly unhappy about everything. Now would you tell them they had “gone too far” in their body modification? Maybe a doctor would. But no coworker in the lift announce “you’re too fat!” But when I was steadily losing weight, toning up and gaining muscle, it was a constant comment – “you’re too thin! You’ve gone too far!”

These days there is a push to make women feel OK about being within a normal range, to get over the days where a starving Kate Moss was the height of being a lovely lady. Dove wants us to be happy not being sticks, which is awesome. I actually love when I see a poster or magazine where a model hasn’t had her teeny tiny fat rolls or skin crinkles airbrushed off. It always makes me jump at first – argh, real body!

But even Kate Moss just looked like Kate Moss.

And Dove has to stop short of glorifying women who are unhealthily overweight. What kind of positive message would that be? So there is an opening middle ground where women from 10-14 are feeling kind of ok, but to be honest they probably felt kind of ok anyhow. They could always shop at Sportsgirl and Portmans. Ok they aren’t wearing Cue, but really, who is wearing Cue? Pencils. Maybe biros.

Thin-thin girls are on the slow train out. Fat-fat girls were never ever in and won’t ever be. Women who have very damn nice bodies are learning that they are ‘courageous’ by showing them off.

Actually, I don’t think that’s ok. It shouldn’t take any courage at all.


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