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An adventurous, giggly 20-something-year-old woman who no longer believes that being skinny is the only way to be happy, healthy and beautiful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why I'm Healthier in China: My Thoughts on Linda Bacon's "Health and Every Size"

There are many reasons I love being in China: the stuff is ridiculously cheap, the food is fantastic, the public transportation system can't be beat, and my friends there are amazing people. But one of the other reasons is that I have this amazing ability to lose weight in China, and even just feel healthier. I'm not talking about a dramatic transformation; the most I ever lost was a 20+ lbs over an 11-month period, most of which was lost during the first few months. But in China food stops being something that I have to think about. I can eat what tastes good and just go about my everyday life, and in the end my body just feels better. In America, I'm paranoid about eating "healthy," which of course in the end leads me to binge-eat and hate myself.

That's not to say being a fat girl is easy in China; in many ways more so than here, you're constantly reminded of the fact that your body is different. You can never find clothes that remotely fit, you're permanently designated to sit in the front seat of cars, and you're always expected to be able to eat your weight in food, even when you're not hungry. My favorite moments are always when the old ladies ask me, in complete and total confusion after I protest that I really cannot eat an entire table's worth of food: "But ... if you don't eat that much, then why are you so fat?"

The first time it happened I had no idea what to say. Fortunately, my Chinese friend came to my rescue: "Grandma, it's a DNA thing! White people are just fat because they have different DNA than us!" Though I was grateful for her help, I "knew" she was just saying something nice to cover up the real reason I was so fat: I was lazy and didn't have the self-discipline it takes to be skinny like "normal" people.

If only I had listened to her back then instead of letting it fuel my self-hatred ...

A few people have been recommending Linda Bacon's Health at Every Size to me lately. These past few days, due to a nasty cold and a seemingly incurable bout of procrastination, I've finally gotten around to reading it. It is AWESOME! I'm totally in love! Things about my body (including my experience in China) just make so much more sense! Of course dieting doesn't work! Of course you can be fat and healthy! Of course a genetically bigger body would in our society encourage people to criticize me for my weight, which would in turn foster a punishment-reward relationship with food, which would lead to more weight gain, which would lead to self-loathing, which would stress me out and lead to even more weight gain and lower self-esteem and start the same cycle all over again! Of course your body would be genetically conditioned to try to stop you from starving yourself on some diet, making significant, permanent weight loss an unlikely outcome. Of course, as my Chinese friend, it's all in your DNA!

For those of you who haven't gotten the chance to read it yet, pick it up! The Kindle version is under $2 at Amazon, and it's the best money I've spend in a while. What I love about it is not only its message of self-care and fat acceptance (which I'd more or less come to on my own before reading it), but also its thorough re-examination of the so-called "scientific truth" that fat = gross = unhealthy = death. Her argument was well-researched, clearly explained, and simply mind-blowing. Who knew that weight gain can be a symptom, rather than the cause of Type II diabetes? Who knew that the vast majority of people who succeed in dramatically altering their size through dieting end up just gaining it back within a couple of years?

I'm looking forward to implementing some of the changes in my life that Bacon suggests in her book. Truth be told, I still can't say I completely agree with this idea of me being physically incapable of even tweaking my body a little bit on a more permanent level (I feel like over the course of my life I've had multiple "set-points" where my body naturally wants to maintain my weight ... some bigger and some smaller than my current weight). Besides, I've got two cute pairs of jeans in a size smaller than I am right now, and I'd hate to have to give them up. Nevertheless, I think her message about self-care, loving your body as it is right now, exercising for fun rather than weight-loss, AND having a healthier relationship with food based on moderation, not dividing the culinary world into "good" and "bad" foods, and trusting your body's own intuition is an important one. Basically, in a few words: "Women are beautiful and food is delicious! So live your life and be happy!!" What better message could there be?

And, in the spirit of a book I had not yet read, on Wednesday I did something I have wanted to do since my teenage years: become a redhead. And look how happy it made me!

If you haven't gotten the chance, look at my previous post for information on how to sign up for my free makeup giveaway! I'll be drawing the winner on Dec. 9th, so sign up soon!

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