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Is everyone some shade of anorexic?

10.October 2008

First of all: required reading if you want to completely understand why I’m so worked up:

Margarita Bertsos Glamour Magazine “Shape-up” Blogger introduces herself.

More from MargaritaThe one where she brings her own food to restaurants.

Jezebel’s commentary on diet blogging. They’ve already done it better than I will, but I’m going to go ahead and rant.

As a disclaimer, this is meant in no way as a criticism of Margarita’s diet OR her blog. I admire her candor and her courage in writing so freely and honestly about things that are typically so wrapped up in shame that people won’t admit to even thinking about them. God knows, I wouldn’t have the guts to write so in-depth about my issues with food and my body on such a highly publicized stage.

That being said, it seems like a version of something I’ve done in the past and something I’ve heard other people planning to do – entering into a semi-codependent agreement to go on a crazy diet with someone else. I call it “keeping me honest” and I guess it is helpful to have someone help you be accountable for your actions (ingestions), but it seems like Margarita didn’t necessarily enter into a healthy agreement with her thousands of avid readers (brought to her by the Glamour Magazine publicity department). It seems instead like she was frustrated at not advancing out of her “Executive Assistant” position and saw that in her chosen industry, she would have to be thin to be successful.

And so she volunteered to put her insecurities on parade and embark on a project of precipitous weight-loss (looks like about a hundred pounds in just over eight months, though I don’t know her height, so can’t really gauge) in order to advance in her work. If diets involved sleeping with her boss, she could level the company with a sexual harassment suit. (And I realize I’m being a little reactionary here, as the company doesn’t seem to have approached her and said, “it’s too bad you’re not skinny, because you’d make a great health editor,” but I am, I think, rationally pissed off at the tacit understanding that anyone working at any level in fashion or related fields must be thin. See also the diet Emily Blunt had to go on in order to pretend to work in Fashion for the movie The Devil Wears Prada, as well as the really unhealthy pressure that Anne Hathaway’s character succumbs to – and to which she also seems to have bowed in real life… girlfriend is THIN now.)

Anyway. This is all hooked in with my body- and food-issues. The standards for what is overweight these days seem entirely insane. Sizes of clothing keep getting smaller and smaller, while the population’s size as a whole doesn’t seem to radically be changing. This results in lots of perfectly normal-size women looking for a lone size 10 in a sea of 00s left over at the end of a season and in other women (myself included, in some stores) never fitting into even the largest of sizes that stores stock, (and here the issue is not that they don’t make clothes that fit me, but that they don’t make them available. I, for instance can’t try on a pair of jeans in the Gap store I most often shop in because they don’t STOCK a size 14 Long. They stock a size 2 Long, but not a 14 Long. Because THAT’S logical.) without being fat. (And here I don’t mean to imply that “fat” women deserve to not fit into any clothes at the Gap… I’m simply trying to point out the illogic and unfairness of the way retail has changed to reflect the radical thinness that is in style in fashion magazines and on runways. It is NOT a realistic ideal, even for the naturally-waif-thin women of this world.) There is also, for the record, a gulf between where “normal” clothes stores cut off and where “plus sized” clothes stores pick up. That’s where I live. And while I think I’ve actually got a pretty great body (at the moment and for the first time in a REALLY long time), I don’t look good in almost ANYTHING I wear because I’m in this no-man’s land.

I’m a tall woman. 5’11” on a short day and, though I don’t know my weight (I step on the scales backward at the doctor’s office because the number makes me uncomfortable and I prefer to judge my body by how it feels and not how it measures. This is because some Crazy Person inside of me thinks that I should still weigh the 125 I did just after my 6 inch growth spurt.), I do know that my BMI (Body Mass Index, for those who aren’t even a little bit obsessed) puts me just over the edge into Overweight. Though I measure as Overweight, I also think I would look kind of scary if I lost the approximately THIRYTY pounds it would take to put me squarely in the Normal category. (a. I HATE that they label it Normal. b. I understand there are medical theories behind the BMI, but it’s supposed to account for men and women equally. I, however, have probably 25 pounds of boobs (I read somewhere that your averabe D-cup weighs between 15 and 20 pounds, and I’ve moved on past the D-cup, to be honest) but I just can’t believe that breast tissue and the accompanying fat can be accounted for in a measure that is also supposed to work for a man who has the same height and weight as me.

But I digress. I’m falling into the trap that Jezebel put thusly:

Even more than that, I wonder if diet blogs can be positive at all. It’s good for women to have spaces where they can speak freely about their issues and feelings, but whenever we do posts about weight, discussion always devolves into people posting their heights and weights down to the decimal point.

It’s not about my weight or my clothing size or my food issues. It’s about the culture of thinness and the pressure put on women to conform to an ideal that, if they attained it, would certainly cause bad health and possibly even death. I just think that our society needs to broaden its understanding of what’s thin, doctors need to either explain to me how my boobs fit into their BMI or come up with a system that fairly tells women (who have all the parts they came with) what’s healthy and what isn’t, and stores need to actually cater to their customers, 95% of whom are NOT shaped like their models.

And with that, Captain Obvious signs off for today.

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