Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Two Truths I Wish I Could Live By:

1. Dieting is notoriously unsuccessful at producing substantial long-term weight loss.

2. Aim for healthy habits -- choosing healthy foods and exercising regularly -- and let your weight stabilize where it will.

As a woman, a mother of seven daughters, and a feminist, I often become concerned about body image issues. I sincerely believe that women who are healthy and self-confident can be beautiful and attractive no matter what their shape. I deplore the use of overly thin, unrealistic and photoshopped women images to sell products. I literally cheer when I see non-traditionally shaped women confidently presenting themselves in the public arena. Among my favorite exercise videos are the Richard Simmons series where hugely fat people are dancing and sweating as an inspiration to all to get in shape.

But here's my confession: I'm a chronic dieter. At a visceral level I can't convince myself that I'm OK at the weight my body would like to maintain. I have a constant fear that if I let myself eat brownies and cheesecake my weight will quickly soar over 300 pounds. Although my background is in health and physical education and I am capable of sound nutritional counseling to those who consult with me, I have read hundreds of fad diet books. I'm ashamed to admit I've done Grapefruit Diets, Three-Day Stewardess Diets, Atkins, the Zone, Low-Fat, and Nothing-But-Green Diets.

One of the most profound statements on this issue by Church leaders is Jeffrey R. Holland in an address he gave to the Young Women of the Church in 2005:

I plead with you young women to please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style, with a little less longing to look like someone else. We are all different. Some are tall, and some are short. Some are round, and some are thin. And almost everyone at some time or other wants to be something they are not! But as one adviser to teenage girls said: “You can’t live your life worrying that the world is staring at you. When you let people’s opinions make you self-conscious you give away your power. … The key to feeling [confident] is to always listen to your inner self—[the real you.]” And in the kingdom of God, the real you is “more precious than rubies.” Every young woman is a child of destiny and every adult woman a powerful force for good. I mention adult women because, sisters, you are our greatest examples and resource for these young women. And if you are obsessing over being a size 2, you won’t be very surprised when your daughter or the Mia Maid in your class does the same and makes herself physically ill trying to accomplish it. We should all be as fit as we can be—that’s good Word of Wisdom doctrine. That means eating right and exercising and helping our bodies function at their optimum strength. We could probably all do better in that regard. But I speak here of optimum health; there is no universal optimum size.

I know-beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt that when I die, my body will instantly revert to it's most perfect form--the 105 pounds I weighed at age 21. :) But in the meantime, I cannot be satisfied with the extra padding I have added since then. What is it that makes many girls and women deeply ashamed of their bodies? Why do we diet when we know in our rational minds it is unhealthy and ineffective? Does our emphasis on modesty for women keep us from being pleased with our bodies and presenting them attractively to others?

I think the woman in this video is gorgeous, sexy and feminine. She also looks healthy and vigorous. But she is overweight. Would I dare to be happy with myself if I were her?

Miss Platnum -- Give Me The Food


rachsticle said...


I can totally relate. By the way, I am one of Zillah's best friends, that is how I found your blog.

I have had an eating disorder for 13 years and even though I have been in recovery for a few months, I still find myself challenging the belief that there is nothing worse in the world for me than to gain weight. This is a sad paradigm indeed, but when you have been sick for so long, it is a reality.

I think it is really important to make sure that we become critical viewers of the media and challenge the messages that it sends us. I find that I cannot look at fitness, health, diet, or fashion magazines without sending me down relapse road. I know that most people can behave more moderately than myself, nevertheless it

Additionally, I have worked in the fitness industry for many years, and I can tell you that healthy bodies do come in ALL shapes and sizes, even in weights that insurance tables might say are "overweight." Women need to challenge the messages sent to us by these industries because they are money-driven, not necessarily driven to help people feel better about themselves.

Thanks for the wonderful wisdom and compassion in your blog.



Bored in Vernal said...

Rachel, I'm so glad you read my blog! 13 years is a long time to have an eating disorder. I hope you are ok. I think working in the fitness industry is so hard, because you know that when you gain weight, everyone can see all your little bulges! It's embarrassing to lead them in aerobics if you are bouncing around all over the place! You wonder what they are thinking and if they will take you seriously. This is especially hard for me as I age. But I think it is actually helpful for the women we teach to see that a real person can be healthy and exercise and be a role model.

Kalola said...


This is off topic, but I noticed you have privatized your other blog. Is it possible to get an invite? I would miss reading about your experiences.


Bored in Vernal said...

Kalola, and all my other bloggy friends,
Thank you for noticing, and I am still trying to decide what to do about my other blog. The bishop and SP have asked me to take it down along with all references to this country and my religion. For now I have taken it down and no longer posting, and I'm trying to be inconspicuous on this one.
Send me your email at clbruno at hotmail and if I start posting again I will certainly invite you!

Hamad said...

Me also I have been enjoying reading your other blog on your experiences to your stay in Saudi Arabia which is my home country. Hope to see your blogs again.

journeygal said...

BiV - I am also recovered from an eating disorder and concerned with body image issues, but have all these little habits that do nothing but support society's obsession with one form of beauty (thin and un-realistically fit). For example, I agree with what you say about deploring the use of overly thin, unrealistic and photoshopped women images to sell products, but I love reading magazines that include TONS of those types of advertising images.

In your experiences with women who are not allowed to show there bodies in public and don't wear nearly the amount of revealing clothing that American women do, have you found that there is less obsession with weight and body appearances? Or do they still find ways to be just as concerned and aware of it?