Body Hate: The Sport For Girls!

As many of you know, it is the hap hap-happiest time of the year; the beginning of premier league Proper Football all over the world, and as I’m organizing my fantasy team and plotting my Saturday mornings (and afternoons, and potentially evenings if I keep getting these mezcal hangovers) from now until the end of May, it occurred to me: Fat Fighting is a sport, and all girls –almost all girls– are expected to play.

Women are encouraged to follow, worship and obsess over the Fat Fighting the way men are over sports. Somewhere along the way, it was decided we were supposed to care about some actress’ visible rib count the way some men worry about their favorite baseball player’s RBI.

Like any sporting fan, there’s pain involved. Teams are fickle, players disappoint. There are drunken midnight promises made to God and self that get called off the moment your side scores a miracle or loses the penalty shoot out. You devote time, passion, money and so, so much emotional energy to what…some men kicking a ball? Some number no one else will ever see, much less care about?

No one understands you, no one cares.

No one wants to sit next to you at the bar because you’re just going to go on and on about points and weekly whatevers until someone –quite possibly you– gets stabbed in the eye just to break the monotony.

Still, I understand the appeal.

It’s not just suffering –unless you support Arsenal, then yeah, it’s pretty much suffering, but that can also be enjoyable in a martyred sort of way– there’s also the elation when your side pulls it off.

I accidentally broke a bar stool when Madrid scored a penalty kick against Barcelona last season, and we all know someone who did a victory lap when they finally fit into the dress that needed a shoehorn and some axle grease just a few months before.

And then of course it becomes a compulsion.

Skipping work to watch the Clásicos (no, I’m not prepared to talk about the Supercopa yet…give me time) spending money you don’t have on tickets, whiling away your Saturday mornings getting drunk in an expat bar even if you’re not a journalist. Where, precisely will the madness end?

I think about the Diet and Beauty industry and how easy it is to get lured in.

We learn it from our parents, from our friends. We support a team because it’s the one we’ve always been around. It’s a way to bond with our social group, or expand the one we’ve already got.

But what if we just don’t LIKE that sport or at least don’t want to go to EVERY game?

Obviously we can choose not to engage, but at what price? Do we lose community? Is it a community we mind losing?

I’d be extremely interested in hearing about the experiences of any of you who had been heavily (er, you know what I mean) into the dieting/obsessing/calorie-counting lifestyle and come out the other side, or anyone who feels their unwillingness to follow that particular “sport” has caused them social woes. Put it in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

18 Responses to “Body Hate: The Sport For Girls!”

  1. Jennifer P August 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Sometimes it is a small rebellious act to order dessert without negotiation. (ie: “Are you having dessert, too? Should we split something? Well, I had a light lunch so I don’t feel guilty…I mean…if you don’t.”) There’s a big hush that falls at the table if you do it, like, doesn’t she know that she’s supposed to go through this public handwringing process first? And also, “no wonder she’s fat.”

    Or, when the negotiation starts, to say “No thanks” when you don’t want dessert but the other person is trying to get you to split something or order it so she’ll feel better about herself.

    Have you ever sat next to a group of Americans who are dining out in Paris? Nothing like sitting down to a meal of beautiful food without a long, boring conversation about fat and calories and how many points that is and how it’s ok to eat this because we did so much walking today, but only if you have one, too!

    It’s so interesting to watch these little call-and-response scenes play out. You sit down to eat lunch with a new colleague for the first time and she starts talking about calories and Points like she expects you to join in….I used to take the bait, but I don’t anymore, and it makes me awkward and weird when it happens.

    There’s a whole thing about women and martyrdom and pleasure in there, as well as body policing and food policing. Fortunately most of my female friendships do not involve this annoying sport anymore, so it takes me by surprise when it comes up.

  2. Camo August 18, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    I’m stretching the boundaries of what’s a relevant comment on your post – but I feel like I flout this kind of crap when I straight-up don’t participate, because the older I get, the more I know that this sport will never change, and that women that I am otherwise friends with are disappointing, stupid and small when it comes to weight and size.

    One of the ways in which I will never again participate is by attending a f@*%ing clothing swap. I am taller and of a different ethnic background than every other participant in one of my pal circles, and I went to two of these competitions where a couple of stunted, dumb brats twittered about being size zeroes and otherwise bragged and preened about size. My attitude is that if your only superpower is to be a size 0 or 2 (at 4’9″ – 5’2″), you should’ve held out for being able to see through walls, produce plumes of flame while snorting or something similarly awesome. Or you should have focused a little more on not being a manipulative, mean little a-hole.

    So, no more of these dumbathons, no matter the promises of brunch, or pretending that thrice-owned pieces of crap purchased from the sale racks of Anthropologie are worth my time.

  3. jojo.k August 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    @ Plummie, That correlation is spot on. And one that I’m going to have to ponder on. Sadly, there’s only one team to support otherwise you can’t play in the Fat Fighting games.

    @Camo, Amen!

  4. SarahDances August 18, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Yeah, former internationally competitive figure skater here. Oy, the crazy. It’s like a shared bonding ritual amongst competitors. “I stopped eating normally two weeks ago.” “I haven’t had anything but salad for a month!” (leave aside how nuts that is given that we’re talking about ATHLETES here), and then the ritual bingeing on junk food the second you’re off the ice. Cuz that’s totally healthy.

    I should note this isn’t universal (and it’s far more prevalent in some disciplines than others), but it’s not uncommon, either. What I really hate is that in the last couple years, a couple of relatively famous skaters have come out and talked about their struggles with eating disorders, but the focus has always been “Oh, it was all this pressure I was putting on myself!” without any acknowledgment of the role coaches and judges play in the whole thing (blatantly telling [17 year old, 5’3″, 115 lb]girls they need to lose weight for aesthetic purposes if they really want to be successful).

    Anyway. It took me a long time to normalize my relationship with food after that, and any talk of dieting or calories or any of it makes me want to jam bamboo skewers under my fingernails. If I can’t gently change the subject, I do my best to zone out.

  5. Lisa form SoCal August 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    Mos Def. OMG the fat woman just ordered two pieces of pie because she wants to try them both! The Terror! No wonder, blah blah, boring boring, boring–what if she eats them both– dull dull. Where’s the $@#! negroni?

    This is one of the reasons why I never participated in the “yay, yahoo, good for you” rah rah around some of the early postings on this blog (or anywhere else) about nutritionists and whatnot. I really, sincerely wish people well in whatever they wish to do with their diets and bodies–as I do wish them well in just about anything that hurts nobody else and pleases them–but that doesn’t mean I have to give up part of my life to being engaged with it or read about. I usually just skipped those posts and read on to more important things like cocktails and perfume. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that talking about what one eats or what one doesn’t eat, and how one works out or what the scale says or whether some damn article of clothing fits you is in no short supply. I have billboards everywhere I look telling me about some strangers’ life with the lap-band, I really don’t need more. I have books to read and write, after all, and flowers to grow.

    And the points people. My lord. When they start, I begin telling stories about cats. Certainly if I find my cat amusing, certainly all the rest of you simply *must*.

  6. AnthroK8 August 18, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    I have established a No Negative Body/Food talk in my house. If you want to freak out over points or fat or blah blah, I welcome you to go out on my balcony and tell it to the tomato plants.

    It seems to have spread- people I know don’t talk that way when I am around, period. I think I hang around people aren’t that into that discussion anyway.

    My quality of life is much higher than it used to be since I quit it.

    Also, I am… pretty extroverted, so if it gets awkward, I steamroll it. Or, more like, I set the tone.

  7. Daantaat August 18, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    I did some things in my late teens that were extremely unhealthy in an attempt to lose weight and make my parents (and boyfriend, friends, etc.) love me; it didn’t work. I severely restricted my food intake and exercised to exhaustion. I developed an eating disorder and severe body hatred. I treated myself terribly and let other people hurt and abuse me too, because I had such low self-esteem and believed I was worthless.

    In my early 20s I decided to become a mother. I made a promise to myself that I would never, ever allow myself or anyone else to do anything to compromise my daughter’s good and normal and healthy relationship with food and her body. I didn’t put myself down about my weight/size in front of her. I never talked about “good” or “bad” foods. I encouraged her to try new foods but I never forced her to eat anything. We ate as healthfully as was possible on a limited budget and I never made a big deal out of it when we had an occasional fast food meal. I let my daughter understand her own body’s food needs and never judged her or commented on what or how much she ate. And I never let other people judge her either.

    My daughter is grown now, and has no issues surrounding food or her body. She is happy in her body and I feel like I did a good job raising her to love herself and to appreciate being strong and healthy and independent. She has a healthy relationship with food, which is so important to me because I have had a seriously unhealthy relationship with it for my entire life, thanks in no small part to my mother’s body policing of me as a child.

    I’ve eventually overcome all my past bad treatment/behavior and now I try to treat myself with loving kindness. Of course I still hear mean comments and get snide remarks from other people about my weight/size, but I say to myself “they don’t know me and they don’t know what I’ve been through in my life, and I don’t have to explain myself to them or defend my right to be alive and present on this planet” and then I just let it go.

    I think the best thing a person can do for themselves is to love themselves and enjoy life; who cares what other people think about you? Life is too short to spend it being unhappy.

  8. Leah August 19, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    Here is my view/rant:

    I LOVE (GOOD) FOOD. I’m southern, for us, food is love. I love to cook it, I love to bake it, I love to smell it, I love to create it & I love to eat it. My blood pressure, cholesterol & glucose numbers are VERY good (& not just for a fat girl). I eat food that is enjoyable. I don’t go to McDonalds & eat a happy meal, they taste like crap! I DO eat heavy cream, organic veggies, local & organic beef, awesome home made bread, harp cheeses & fabulous buttery pastries.

    If you don’t like what I eat, kiss my plump white butt & look away. I REFUSE to apologize for appreciating as well as having the talent to create amazing food. I was at the butcher last week & had previously given the owner my brisket recipe. Another lady was listening in & asked about it. The owner told the woman, “if she (me) gives you a recipe, make it. It will be good”.
    That made me proud, not what size I can fit in, or fake-superiority because I had a salad & skipped dessert, no that my food makes people happy.

    I apologize for nothing. Look at me & judge? Go right ahead, it’s your loss as there will be no cake for you.

  9. ChaChaHeels August 19, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    I’m just reading this after reading an article about a book scheduled to be released in the UK next month, about a 6 year old girl who “goes on a diet and gains self esteem”. It’s called “Maggie Goes On a Diet”, by Paul Kramer. The cover features a nice, pro-Ana illustration of body dysmorphia that we can probably all identify with or at least see as remarkably familiar. Here’s the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2011/aug/17/diet-book-for-girls
    (I encourage you to think twice about reading the comments as a shocking number of people think this is a good thing, and I can’t bear it).

    I guess I’m pretty typical in that I’m one of those people who grew up never ingesting a morsel of anything without some kind of uninvited commentary from someone, which goes a long way towards creating an obsessive mindset. Like others in the same situation, I eventually learned as much as possible about food and nutrition as I could–and I still study and research and push to know more. It’s one part of what I do for a living now, getting people to eat really good, healthy, whole foods–specifically to reverse diseases and to support an enriched quality of life.

    Do you know who the authorities really are when it comes to “healthy” good food that every body needs? They are the chefs, who study and carry on the food traditions of various cultures throughout the world. The really well trained ones, the ones who go out of the way to understand food the way it’s been prepared as part of a longstanding, well challenged and adapted nutritional tradition. The ones who insist on using butter, lard, duck fat, goose fat, cream, rich cheeses, real eggs, natural sugars–all the “no no!” foods we’re told will kill us by making us obese, which then lines us up for the earliest grave (though this is not supported by science anywhere). There isn’t a food in a “health” food store I would buy (except good coconut oil or an unpasteurized chestnut or acacia or linden hon). As for “diet” foods and corporation-enriching “medical” diet programs, I think we need protection from the criminals promoting this stuff because they are out to ravage those who are on that roller coaster ride of trying to stay thin to avoid being victimized by discrimination, hatred, critique and humiliation. Or, worse, just desperately trying to please people they love who won’t accept them.

    And that’s the whole issue, isn’t it? All this drive to be thin is about other people’s insecurity. Other people’s intolerance. Other people’s inability to reason past what they’ve been taught to hate.

    If you can find some way to refuse to be part of that “sports” program, you’re already way more healthy than those around you. That’s a hard bit of work, to know and live by the fact that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for who you are, and what you decide to do.

  10. Kimks August 19, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Bravo!!! A girlfriend and I have had this very discussion earlier this week. We agreed that we would no longer participate in this sport. It is a no win situation that only leads to self loathing and the appeasement of people who do not know or care about us. We decided the following;
    1: We will eat good, real food
    2: We will support the eating of good, real food
    3: We will celebrate the fact that we are smart, beautiful, funny and compassionate and these attributes have nothing to do with the food we eat.
    4: The eating of appetizers and desserts when one feels like eating an appetizer or dessert is allowed, and accepted.
    5: We will not judge what another eats or does not eat
    6: There are far more important & interesting things to discuss than points, weight, calories & carbs.

    So far, so good

  11. Thea August 19, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    I stopped playing – about the same time I stopped reading women’s magazines. I loathe it when intelligent, educated, articulate women started lisping in little girl voices over dinner that ‘I’ve been SOOOO good today!’ in reference to what they did or didn’t eat.

    I always join in with “I’ve been good today too – I didn’t kill anybody and bury them in the back yard.”

    It seems to reset the tone in a positive way.

  12. DEL August 19, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    While I had always been a casual sports fan, I didn’t become a really truly obnoxiously crazed stat-quoting fan (college basketball and football) until around the time I decided to quit dieting for good (about twenty years ago). Whadya know.

  13. Jophiel August 20, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Grew up playing sports for which being light or slim really didn’t constitute as a competitive advantage (ex. gymnastics or figure skating). Twelve years of that, and tiny, starving martyrs just look like prey ;).

  14. larkspur August 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Reading this, i was struck by how very, very fortunate I am. At an early part of my life I did a series of diets, with counting, measuring etc. My roommates did too. My mother has been on and off diets ever since she first got heavy at around 30. Crazy yoyo dieting for decades. She’s actually the one who got me started! but somehow, that stuff all faded away. I have never owned a scale (started off just because I didn’t own very much stuff! and ended up being a choice. Best choice I ever made!). Somehow, the people I do things with now are not into that. But I don’t do a lot of girly things either (book club, gym). Also helps that my husband grew up vegetarian and his idea of a treat is spaghetti squash – lol! So somehow I’ve settled into a shape and size I am comfortable with. But I bake twice EVERY weekend and love it. And if the guy selling Moroccan sweets is there at the farmer’s market you can bet I’m going to buy some! and it doesn’t matter whether I’ve been “good” or not. How did I end up with this group of people? probably because I found the other kind of talk not fun. There are great people out there who don’t talk about points. Go find them!

    The biggest thing for me was to help my two daughters (both teenagers) have a healthy respect and love for themselves and their sizes. My younger daughter has inherited the curvy southern European shape, but her older sister (who has a totally different shape and seems to have inherited other aspects of her very mixed heritage) has helped her sister to find things that flatter her body and make her look pretty. I really don’t think we could have done that with the scale in the house.

    my advice: enjoy food, get out of the house, enjoy moving around, and GET RID OF THE SCALE (from your house as well as your conversation.)

  15. larkspur August 21, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Just realized it looks like I think book clubs are girly. some are great, but many are all about making snacks and all the discussion that goes along with whether to eat them or not…

  16. Leah August 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Larkspur, I only belong to one book club & it’s the most awesome type I think, a gourmet book club. We read a book that is somehow about food (this quarter was the book reviewed here Season to Taste) & then we each make a dish inspired by the book. With scent or the loss thereof being the focus of the book, we will all be bringing dishes with our favorite aromatic. =)

  17. schmemily August 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    I was “heavily” into the dieting/obsessing thing for about twenty years. I’ve been in recovery (a term I don’t use lightly) for more than a year and a half and feel utterly relieved that I’m not wasting so much brain space on all that stuff anymore.

    I have just recently begun to set boundaries about diet/food talk and how I respond to it. I began with talking to my closest girlfriends individually. I explained that I basically had an eating disorder, that I was doing something different now (Health at Every Size), that they didn’t have to approve or support it if they didn’t want to. I also asked that they not engage in any diet- or negative-body talk around me. It went pretty well because I framed it as about what I needed, not about what I think is an acceptable topic of conversation.

    The longer I settle into the HAES mindset, the less I’m worried about what other people thing about my food choices and what my body looks like. I have become a lot more frank with people in general, not just those closest to me. I’ve been confronted with a lot of body talk from folks who don’t know me well, because I’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight. And while I dislike the weight-loss compliments, I try to see them as an opportunity to make it clear that I am not dieting or exercising to lose weight, that I’m simply recovering a healthy relationship to food and my body, and some weight loss has been the result of that. My goal is not to be thin, but to be healthy, to fully accept myself, and to maintain a fairly stable weight.

    I apologize for the length of this comment, but I also want to add that I would encourage those of you who are non-judgmental about different bodies and different food choices to also reserve judgment for people still trapped in the cycle of dieting and self-loathing. As Ms. P points out, there’s a tremendous amount of social support for these behaviors. In the midst of my eating disorder, I avoided fat people who seemed unashamed of their size, because I totally didn’t understand them. I wasn’t sure if they were lying or otherwise faking … they made me nervous and uncomfortable. (Not that I realized this at the time.) As much as it frustrates me to hear “You’ve lost weight! You look great!” or “Good for you, you ordered a salad!”, I try to have compassion for those speakers. They really don’t know what they’re saying, and our best chance to get through to them is through understanding, not anger.

    End Oprah/Pollyanna BS. :)

  18. marvel August 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    Late to the party! Tell me a new one.

    But did you see this report:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2025905/Women-spend-hours-EVERY-DAY-gossiping-claims-study.html

    24 minutes a day talking about diet/weight! I don’t know the “average woman” of whom they speak but I can’t imagine spending that much time droning on about diet. So boring. So many other things in life to talk about.

    So I don’t play the game.