What is the difference between wanting to be healthy and wanting to be thin? I know that, for some, there is a meaningful difference. But for most of us, is there a difference at all? I know that “healthy” has all sorts of other connotations attached to it—having a body that supports what you want to do, good poops, lots of vitamins and minerals. But, ultimately, I think that health has been distilled into being skinny. Because all that other stuff, that’s all tangential to being healthy. There aren’t “fitspo” Instagram accounts about healthy pooping. (I just double checked—there are only 15 posts under #poophealth and no major Insta accounts dedicated to bragging about healthy pooping. In case anyone was wondering.) Counting vitamins and minerals isn’t as popular as counting carbs and calories. People use weight and body size as a direct measure of health—losing weight or getting skinnier as a proxy for getting healthier.
I want to treat my body as well as possible, but I don’t want to let fatphobia be my guide, both because I know fatphobia is cruel and dehumanizing and just bullshit, and because it would make me a happier person to not buy into that shit. Even if buying into fatphobic ideas about body size and health leads me to do things that are “healthier” for my body, like exercise or avoid Cheetos, believing that the size of my body means anything about who I am as a person is bad for my mind and if I’m being corny about it, my soul. When I’m starting from a point that is unhealthy emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, all my happiness related to my body is derived from that mental unwellness. I am my body and my mind; when it comes down to it, I’m not sure how to distinguish between the two. To prioritize “physical health” over “mental health” is, I think, ultimately unhealthy, period. It’s not a compassionate way of treating myself, and it is part of an ideology that posits that big bodies are less deserving of care than small ones. That’s not an ideology I want to be a part of.*
Additionally, because of the relationship between mind and body, it can be hard to figure out how to distinguish between feeling good physically because I’m physically treating my body well, and feeling good physically because I’m feeling good about myself mentally (because I feel like my body is becoming thinner). How bad would fast food make me feel if I didn’t care about the size of my body? Would I care so much that it makes me a little gassy if I didn’t think that it made me fat?
I think this is a worthwhile conversation to have, even just with yourself. I know that I need to figure out my motivations for eating the way I do, for exercising how I do, and I need to grapple with the feelings I have when I don’t live up to those standards. I need to figure out how my love of food and eating can be in balance with my body’s needs; how I can enjoy without guilt; how I can think about physical health in a mentally healthy way. I shouldn’t feel bad that I think kale is fucking gross or that I think cheap Chinese food is fucking delicious! We should probably all be letting ourselves off the hook more for stuff like that. I guess that can be my first goal.
*fatphobia is not a standalone ideology. It works because it involves oppressing women, people of color, and low income/poor people by socially policing their body size and creating a false equivalence between fatness and moral degeneracy. To read more, there are tons of articles about it on everydayfeminism.com, bitchmedia.org, ravishly.com, and kateharding.net (obviously a very incomplete list of possible resources).