Bonnie Louise Hellyer is a Type 1 Diabetic who is passionate about health, feminism, do it yourself projects, and figuring out life.
I’m feeling a lot of very complicated things as of late, especially pertaining to weight, weight-loss, food, diet, and exercise. I have always believed that being healthy was being slender, that I could maybe, one day, become this skinny waif (who has magically retained my tits and ass) and my life will be complete. My mother was dissatisfied with her body to the point of hatred. Both of my grandmothers hated their bodies to the point of hatred. These women unintentionally passed on their curse of body hatred, dysmorphia, and distraction. More than religion, more than country, I knew I was too big, too ugly, and on some level that I could never become something beautiful. I accepted this, I internalized it, I made it apart of my inner monologue.
And I was wrong.
I have had doctors tell me, at the height of my health (in my twenties, playing roller derby, at my lowest adult weight) to exercise more and to be put on cholesterol medication, though my numbers weren’t bad enough to warrant that (I didn’t see that doctor again). I have stepped on scales, I have endured the bullshit of BMI, I have worked out relentlessly, starved myself, given up carbohydrates, severely restricted calories, and destroyed my gut. I have listened to relatives tell me how good I look only when I’ve lost weight. I’ve been compared to my naturally slender sister, and been found wanting. I have trusted the women in my life to tell me the truth, and instead, they have followed the lies set before them, and passed them onto me.
And I am done.
When I have cut calories down to fifteen hundred (and often less) per day, I have gotten the same results as when I have eaten twenty-three hundred calories per day. When I cut carbohydrates down to an extreme of ten to twenty carbs per day, I only lost fifteen pounds in one month, and upon continuing the practice, gained all of it back. When I asked my doctor for guidance, he gave me nothing.
I am supposed to lose weight. But I can’t. And thus begins the inner dialogue: I am a failure. I am ugly. Why do these things work for everyone else and not for me? What’s wrong with me?
My body is not meant to be slender.
And I’m not going to lie to you, that was really difficult for me to write. I sort of still feel like crying, even though I know that I take care of myself, that I work to do what’s right for my body, that I do what I can, and that’s okay. That I have assets which are beautiful is still a tough, and somewhat foreign concept to me. I have thirty one years of hating my body. Thirty one years of knowing that I’m ugly. Knowing that I’m fat. Knowing that I’m a failure.
And why? Because my mother believed that about herself. Because my grandmothers believed this about themselves. Because the majority of television points out that women are only valuable, hot, pretty, when they are thin. Because the fat girl, the loud girl, the bold girl, is the one who is the best friend, the oaf, the unwanted. The Alone. And that’s really what it boils down to. This is the lie that we are baptized in before we are able to understand, to question, to argue. We are indoctrinated against our will, and we are led to believe by those who should love us enough to question, to argue, and to fight for us, that we are not adequate until we are thin.
That being thin is desirable, and if you aren’t thin you will end up alone. If you think about something other than exercising to rationalize that burger, if you think about something other than food, and health, and your body, and your insecurities, you aren’t worthy of love.
Why? Men don’t (by and large) think of this. Men give up fast food and soda and loose weight in a snap. It’s an old joke rooted in truth (my boyfriend can attest to this fact, honestly). There are men who are accepted as being big, and they are deemed healthy based on the merits of what they do, not how they look. A woman does something and her merits are still based around how she looks. “She’s gained weight”, “she’s fat”, “She’s ugly.” But, what does she accomplish? What does she have to say? What does she stand for?
What message does this send women? That I don’t matter until I am beautiful. I am not beautiful until I am thin. I will not achieve what I want in life until I am thin. Everything points back to losing more and more weight, because women are taught to never be satisfied with their bodies.
What would the world look like if women were allowed to just be in their bodies? What would happen? If maybe we exercised because we like exercise, rather than feeling like it’s another “To Do” on our list? If we enjoyed food free of guilt, and had clothing which we enjoyed wearing, and didn’t worry about what anyone else thought of us in it? What if, rather than worrying about superficial bullshit, we were encouraged, nay, empowered to be productive human beings. How much further would humanity as a whole be if this were our reality?
Maybe I’m idealizing.
Then again, let’s look at how the beauty “ideal” of skinny, affects everyone across cultures. Especially when you consider that the “ideal” is also white. This is something ingrained in everyone, including medical professionals, where it is most insidious and potentially lethal. There are numerous accounts of men and women being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, instead of Type 1 Diabetes, because they are persons of color. Treating a person with Type 1 with Type 2 treatments for too long can result in those persons being admitted to the emergency room with life threatening DKA, due to their misdiagnosis. Though “Diabetes” is in the names of both diseases, type 1 is autoimmune and results in insulin producing cells being completely destroyed by the body’s own defense systems. Without insulin, humans die. Full stop. It’s death. Type 2 is often treated – at first – with changes in diet, and an exercise regime, and, oral medications. These three things aren’t bad, but they aren’t helpful to a type one unless insulin is involved.
And this is just one example.
I have noticed that my care and treatment has changed, depending on what my body looks like. Yet, when I have requested guidance, there is none. The latter I don’t necessarily blame doctors for; they’re given about a week’s worth of nutritional studies before moving onto more important things. But doesn’t that beg the question – if weight-loss and obesity are the underlying current of all medical issues (an exaggeration, but let’s be real, that’s how it feels), then doesn’t that meant there is a great incentive for solving the “problem”? And paid studies, by the way, are not acceptable – they are biased and base their conclusions on correlation, rather than causation – the inverse of what reliable studies do. Reliable scientific studies base their findings on the causation – finding what truly causes the issue – rather than saying, “Oh, this thing happened at the same time, so it must have caused it.” Basically, it’s like me saying something insane like, “I parked my car in a new spot last night, and it snowed today. I parked in the same spot, and it continued to snow.” This statement doesn’t take into account things like the time of year, which have actual connections to snow, rather than where I park my car, though it happened at the same time.
What if we didn’t do that anymore? What if instead, we focused on doing things because we loved them? Worked out because it’s fun? Ate because it’s fun? Enjoyed life because it’s fun. What if I stopped hating myself when I stepped on the scale? Hell, what if I stopped stepping on the scale all together? What might happen? Might I just be able to feel good in my body? Is such a thing even possible?
It is. And we don’t have to wait to reach a size we can never reach before we feel it. It’s okay to love where we are, to love exercise, to love food, and to just be okay in our own skin. It’s okay, it’s valid, and it needs to be accepted by society at large. We can do better than size two.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 Bonnie Louise Hellyer