Posts Tagged ‘fat acceptance

12
Oct
08

los thingeles.

I live in a city of thin people.

Let me clarify.

I live in a city filled with thin and beautiful people.

Let me clarify again.

I live in a city filled with people of all shapes, colors, and sizes, but the people I live near, work amongst, and see parading around the hip streets of central Los Angeles are thin and beautiful and cool beyond anything you have ever seen.

Now, the coolness thing I can handle. Nothing is so uncool as the parade of coolness, and whenever I see a scruffy-necked, long-haired, aviator-besunglassed, dirty-jeaned, beautiful-mouthed boy or girl lounging over their espresso or their ginger-infused carrot juice at a cafe or restaurant or sometimes just sitting in the street, I feel fond and sisterly and immensely cooler since I don’t have to try to be cool. I just am. I’m not bragging, it’s the truth. (There’s a certain amount of irony riddled through this last paragraph. Just so’s you know.)

And the beautiful thing I can handle, too. I like beautiful people. I surround myself with them for a reason. The thing is, beautiful isn’t qualified for me by thinness or coolness or regular features or typically Caucasian phenotypes. For me beauty is created by a certain combination of radiant health, personal carriage, clarity of mind and a glowing sense of humor. So I don’t walk around with a cartel of Christy Turlingtons, yet I still think I live and play with beautiful people and one day I hope to have the esteem skillz to count myself among them.

It’s the thinness that doesn’t work for me.

Los Angeles culture, white Los Angeles culture at least, is so heavily invested in thinness and so heavily equates thinness with general prosperity, beauty, and humanity that I’m finding it hard to maintain a mantra of size-doesn’t-equal-health. You know all those commercials and films and fashion magazines that so relentlessly deny worth in any body but the thin one? Yeah, living in Los Angeles is like living IN those commercials and films and fashion magazines. This isn’t a phenomenon for women only, either. A couple of days ago I was eating lunch with some friends at work and a colleague of ours stopped in to chat. He sneaked a sweet potato fry from my plate (which were delicious, mind you) and then moaned, thumped his flat stomach, and said, “Look at this gut! Time for a cleanse.”

A cleanse? Did he mean fasting or an enema? Because either answer proves that the man has an eating disorder if he thinks he needs to radically purge a single sweet potato fry. It also proves that he might have body dysmorphia on top of it, if he thinks his flat stomach is a “gut.” I’m not trying to diagnose him, but I do remember being flabbergasted at his suggestion that day and ready to contradict him (probably a pointless exercise but what can I say) except that my friends responded first with emphatic nods and quick delineations of their own expanding bodies and derailing diets. What? Not a single one of them, from what I can tell, are overweight. They may indeed be unhealthy but no one was talking about health in any real terms – it was all about the size of their bodies. In fact, it was all about certain parts of their bodies, as if their guts or their flabby thighs or double chins were somehow disconnected from the rest of them. The word “health” was tossed around plenty, but it was mostly accompanied by such phrases as “good power cleanses” and “healthy raw food diet recipes” and not about living a happy, active life.

So there’s a certain amount of performance involved here. It’s something I’ve noticed a lot from people who’ve been living in LA for a while (including me): this need to perform one’s health-consciousness or diet-consciousness for the sake of others. Diets and strategies for diets are easily the most discussed subjects at my work outside of politics and general moaning about the workload. People can negotiate their anxiety about their bodies by acknowledging their anxieties (fat thighs, double chins, guts) and then quickly assuring their listeners that they’re about to start a diet to take care of those imperfections. “I know I’m eating a sweet potato fry and that you might associate me with reckless eating and fatness because of the one sweet potato fry, but rest assured, I’m on it, I know I’m fat, and I’m on a diet.”

I’m not absolving myself of this phenomenon myself. I often feel the need to explain to people that I haven’t been fat all my life and that really I’ve been either thin or in a cycle of expanding and contracting the size of my body. That narrative is true, but doesn’t the repetition of it scream thou dost protestest too much?

Just a thought. More of them a-coming.

27
Sep
08

on the first night of yoga.

Last night I went to the first class in my all-you-can-yoga package, ready to be limber and spiritually at one with myself. It’s been about a year since I took a yoga class and maybe three years since I was in regular practice. I was already humble about my yogic ability and had no delusions about what I could accomplish – thus I took the most basic of basic classes, a hatha yoga class for beginners, and figured that I might at least hold my own. I did okay – the story follows – but it reminded me of a couple of my personal foibles and setbacks, the personality aspects that, let’s just say, I need to work on if I’m to be a balanced person.

Anyway. The story.

I was very, very nervous to take the class, I’ll admit it.  Almost terrified, in fact.  I even forgot my brand new yoga mat.  First, there’s the whole I-haven’t-been-in-shape-for-a-good-year thing. Then I had performance anxiety, stemming from the years I spent studying ballet (not that the instructor would have me do a solo head stand on my first night or something, but you know how these things go). Finally, I had a number of insecurities about the other people at the studio, insecurities I had barely acknowledged when I so blithely signed up for my two-week trial. It’s a trendy studio and the day I visited, it had hit me how many of the people there had uniformly thin bodies: a disappointing and isolating realization. Everyone, on that first day, had been so glowy and dew-skinned and slender, exuding radiant health (it seemed they did, at least). Not one glowy, dew-skinned, radiantly healthy plump body to be seen. Therefore, last night, I entered the studio nervous enough to confess my performance anxiety to the two very nice women at the check-in. To my surprise, though, I did see a number of differently-shaped bodies and just that was enough to let me relax.

It was a nice, slow class. Lots of breathing and deep stretching, which is just fine. Then the usual asana, a few very modified sun salutations. Fine, fine. Warrior pose. Fine, fine. I ran into some trouble doing any kind of plank pose (I have virtually no upper body strength) and balancing on one foot proved to be more difficult than I’d remembered. However: the class requested inversions (to my horror, something I felt I wasn’t at all ready for), and I managed to keep up nicely. At one point, while I balanced on my head against the wall, the instructor came by, smiled, and said, “It’s like riding a bike.” It is, indeed. I smiled back and almost toppled over. After the class, I floated home and splayed my body over the couch, oozing into a meditative stupor. I had managed to keep up. I hadn’t embarrassed myself. Even though my flesh seemed to get in my way at almost all times, my breasts (sizable) pressing against my chin in certain poses, I hadn’t embarrassed myself.

So here’s the thing that I’ve realized.

Just as I always do, I managed to make this attempt at inner alignment and balance about how I look to other people. The performance anxiety, for example. I mean, what? In a beginning yoga class? There is no way that anyone had the smug ability to be so strong in their own poses that they might glance around and criticize anyone else’s. I bet at most they were like me: worried about doing something stupid. I was fearing a criticism and a judgment that a) simply wasn’t there to begin with, and b) would have no effect on me even if it had been there. I mean, no actual effect. The assumed effect might have been immense. I was intensely concerned with doing my poses “right,” so that the instructor wouldn’t hate me and that I could blend in with the other students. Maybe it’s not exactly a notch in the patriarchy of pain, but the experience definitely illuminated a particular form of competitiveness that lays latent within me. I don’t have a real desire to be the “best” in a sport (let’s call yoga a sport for now), but I sure as hell don’t want to be at the bottom of the class. I’d like to be snugly in the middle or perhaps one of the top students, someone who does the poses “right” and doesn’t call attention from the instructor.

So why don’t I want attention from a yoga instructor when I’m taking a yoga class?

And why am I so concerned with what other essential strangers think of me, especially in a class where everyone is thinking about themselves?

And why did I feel more comfortable when I saw a few other ladies whose bodies don’t fit into the LA mold? What do I need from them in order to feel comfortable?

.alicebody.

25
Sep
08

just so I don’t have a gaping yawn of nothing.

OK, warning: fluff.

I wanted to start this blog on the right foot, with a smart, nifty post, but it’s late, I’m tired, and I don’t like virtual emptiness. Thus the fluff.

Yesterday, in an attempt to both submerge myself in Los Angeles culture and to find an activity that has proven successful before, I plonked some quid down on a two-week trial of all-you-can-yoga yoga. Joining this particular studio felt something like a job interview: I went in for a consultation, filled out a rather extensive personal history form, and discussed my prior practice and current physical health with at least two different consultants before receiving a tailor-made trial schedule of no less than 24 yoga classes (my consultant laughed and said I couldn’t possibly get to them all, and I laughed too, but kind of, you know, not that hard). This studio is a bit trendy for my usual tastes but I liked that no one assumed that my number one reason to practice yoga was weight loss or even exercise and that they all seemed to believe me when I asserted that while I’m not strong, I’m actually pretty flexible.

The one thing I noticed that didn’t strike me as so hot was the lack of fat or round bodies. Everyone was LA thin. But this is LA.

Anyway.

Tomorrow I try my first class. I’ll report whatever happens unless I write a real post about something that matters.

.alicebody.