(I didn't post this a couple of nights ago when I wrote it, because after being up all night I didn't want to have to deal with the comments that day. Now I'm well-rested.)
It's the middle of the night, and I've been up agitating about the implications of the cat. I mean, here's this cat, right? She eats only an optimal nutritious diet. She doesn't have access to junk food. She lives nearly her entire adult life in complete health: aside from routine vaccinations and one small and quickly-remedied bout with fleas, she never needs medical care for anything. She weighs 12 pounds all that time---and at every annual vet check-up, the vet mentions that she should lose weight, that her "healthy weight" would be more like 6 pounds, that we should try reducing her already-below-average intake of nutritious food, that we should try feeding her food that includes stuff that isn't food.
This struggle goes on for nearly the cat's ENTIRE---and COMPLETELY HEALTHY---LIFE. She reaches 16 years old, which is a nice old age for a cat. Finally she begins to have some old-age-related health problems, and then her thyroid breaks, and she drops to her "healthy weight."
The quotes are deliberate, because what does "healthy weight" even...MEAN here? The weight at which...what? Clearly not "the weight at which the creature is healthy," because Mouse was healthy at 12 pounds, eating a nutritious diet. Clearly not "the weight that is natural for that particular creature," since again, 12 pounds was natural for her. I suppose her "healthy weight," then, would be the amount of flesh that would be average for the size of her frame, but what relevance would that have for her individual cat self? Her own body was round and plump, so how does the average of the entire cat population, including all cat body types, apply to her? Why would she need to strive to put her body RIGHT AT the average, rather than letting it contribute its own data point to the average?
The main question I'm asking---duh---is what does this cat's body tell us about our own bodies? If a creature that doesn't have food choices, isn't shamed by news-like television showing pictures of fat people walking down the street with "THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC!!" flashing over them, and is an ANIMAL who doesn't have Food Issues to work through with her therapist----if THIS CREATURE is at her correct weight when she weighs twice as much as an average cat of her frame size, then what does this tell us about our own weights and our own health---and our own "health"?
I'm awake in the middle of the night thinking about how there are women who go on diets so they won't be the embarrassing Fat Mom. These are women who wouldn't get a nose job if their nose shape embarrassed the kids. They'd laugh long and rich if those children suggested the women should change their own personal fashion style for something the children considered cooler. But they'll have their healthy digestive systems surgically altered so that those systems will be unable to work properly and the effect will be weight loss, and they'll do it so they won't embarrass their children with their appearance. (I'm FULLY IN FAVOR OF SURGERIES ((including nose jobs!)) for people who want them, and have looked into it for myself; what I'm not in favor of is an atmosphere of shame and disproportionate fear, or the idea that a person should alter their appearance to avoid offending/embarrassing others.)
Or they won't have the surgery, they'll instead change their lives to dedicate enormous time and energy to the alteration and upkeep of their bodies. The boulder will have to be pushed up the hill, and then it will have to be held there, NEARLY at the top, for the rest of the women's lives. It will be their life's most consuming project---with all the work gone the instant they die, leaving nothing of value behind to show for it. I hope it's obvious I'm not talking about situations where this brings a person joy.
Well, or maybe some of them won't give the embarrassment reason, maybe they'll say it's because they want to be around to see their children grow up. They want to be around to see their grandchildren. Women in their 30s are dropping dead of fatness all around us, leaving their poor motherless children behind, and of course we want to prevent that. Well worth the cost, financial and otherwise, to take actions that are in fact MORE UNHEALTHY and MORE DANGEROUS than carrying some extra weight. (I'm FULLY IN FAVOR of keeping healthy to prolong life, and as a parent I know how motivating it is to think pleasant thoughts of future family stuff, and it's a great idea to use that as motivation for making the choices we want to make. Again, what I'm opposed to is the atmosphere of shame and of exaggerated/inappropriate fear.)
Pardon my French, but what kind of fucked-up merde is this? Let's think again of Mouse, whose healthy weight (if we must try to apply such a term) is TWICE AS HIGH as an average cat of her frame size. Should we have had her healthy digestive system surgically altered in pursuit of that average? Should we have put her on a little cat treadmill for 2 hours a day while letting a mean person scream at her that she just needed to DO IT and STOP WHINING ABOUT IT!!!
And if we should have, what would have been the purpose? To take a healthy and natural cat body and make it into...what? and why?
Clearly I want to draw a connection between these two things: Mouse, who was healthy and round and plump at her natural weight of 12 pounds, and human women, many of whom are also healthy and round and plump at their natural weights of twice the average. And clearly, many readers are already composing their arguments why this connection can't be drawn, or why an analogy that doesn't apply in every single case doesn't apply in any cases at all, or why there's nothing wrong with being fit (of COURSE there isn't), or why fatness REALLY TRULY IS a terrible health hazard, or how if we allow people to think it's okay to be fat they won't eat well or exercise (the assumption is that fat people neither eat well nor exercise), or how if people really did eat a healthy diet they wouldn't be plump even though the cat was, or how for them being thin has nothing to do with appearance, or how they're sure I'm right that SOME women are healthy and plump but MOST of them are lying to themselves cramming fast food down their throats and eating entire bags of chips and getting diabetes and heart disease, or how they themselves are fat and eat this way, or used to be fat while eating that way, and OBESITY EPIDEMIC OBESITY EPIDEMIC OMG ROACHES CRAWLING EVERYWHERE OBESITY EPIDEMIC!!!!1!
Or they're composing attacks against women who are thin, or who are athletic, because if it's okay to have a fat body it must NOT be okay to have a thin one! If it's okay NOT to choose to get surgery for purely appearance-related reasons, it must be NOT okay to get surgery for purely appearance-related reasons, OR for reasons that include non-appearance-based elements! If it's okay to NOT feel that spending a lot of time in athletic pursuits is a good investment, it must not be okay for someone else to feel like it IS a good investment! There can't be more than one acceptable way to look and act or else HOW WILL WOMEN KNOW HOW WE'RE SUPPOSED TO MAKE OURSELVES LOOK AND ACT???
And many, many people will assume that because I don't think people should be shamed into changing their appearance, or because I think fatness gets a disproportionate measure of blame for health problems while other health-impacting things get disproportionately little (especially considering how very little science is even willing to make GUESSES about at this point), or because I think sometimes people say it's about health when it's not, this means I think people should eat nothing but junk! and should never exercise! and that weight has NO impact on health! and that I have no idea how important it is to be HEALTHY!! And some people will assume that because I think everyone has different body types and that not everyone can achieve the same results with the same efforts and that we should see if science can find out more about this, that means I think NO ONE CAN CHANGE AT ALL!! and no one should try!! and everyone should just pig out and sit around all the time because IT'S HOPELESS AND STUPID!! And some people will think that because I think the culture has become scary and toxic and non-science-based on the subject of weight and needs a major overhaul, that means NO ONE SHOULD TRY TO LOSE WEIGHT FOR ANY REASON. Sigh.
I'm already weary of all of it, and it hasn't even started.
So why deliberately post on the topic, if I'm going to flinch queasily every time a new comment comes in, wondering if this'll be a Bad One? Why do it, if the adrenaline will make me snappish with the children, and if I'll dread going to my computer, and if I'll have to start using all my anti-mental-illness measures such as sunlight and funny books and nice hair conditioner? Why do it when I KNOW I will be misunderstood by at least a few people and probably a lot of them? Partly it's because I think this subject is important, and I think the resulting feedback and discussions and posts end up showing the problem better than I can do by writing about it. Partly it's that I think we keep working with theories and not wondering enough why those theories give us inconsistent results. Partly it's that this is one of My Topics: some of us are super-laid-back and wonder why the rest of us can't just stop thinking about things if they get us so UPSET, but most of us have a small handful of hot issues we go back to AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN, despite ourselves. BECAUSE OF ourselves.
And probably more than any of those things it's because this is what I DO: I write about what I'm thinking about, and I publish it online. Some people think it out, some people talk it out, some people exercise it out, some people therapy it out---and I publish-it-online it out. I suppose a couple of generations ago I would have had to keep writing letters to the editor or something. Maybe get a little printing press and spend sleepless nights lining up the inky little letters, and spend the next morning handing out my little leaflets.
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