Is This Really Healthy?
Updated: Jan 7, 2021
I cried yesterday.
Lord knows that was not unusual. I’ve spent at least half of the last decade subsumed by tears. At least half of those tears were shed between April and June of the past year.
I was talking to one of my dearest friends, a therapist, about a recent highly praised series of cover photos for the popular young women’s magazine Cosmopolitan U.K. It featured a number of fairly sizeable ladies with the tagline “This Is Healthy!”
Not all of them deserved scrutiny as there was a rather muscular woman, a woman in a wheelchair, a woman with disabilities and other women who, while not the slender sized model you’d typically see on a magazine cover, still looked healthy, simply carrying a larger build. It was a nice array of shapes and sizes and a message I could totally get behind.
As someone who struggled with a host of body image issues, I empathize deeply with the stories of trying to conform to an ideal and no matter what, feeling shame around the way you look or what you eat. It is sheer torture.
However, a couple photos were of severely overweight women with that same tagline "This Is Healthy!" Not just carrying a few pounds. Clinically obese. As I described the spread to my friend, I started crying. “This is NOT healthy,” the tightness in my throat becoming noticeable. “Promoting it as such is wrong,” I cried. I couldn’t understand how people allowed themselves to get that large. It only took me a second to come to a realization - why I was so upset. As the tears started to flow, I said, “It’s fucking selfish.”
It’s selfish. In that moment my memories took me back to the day I wanted to kill myself.
“I can’t imagine how you would feel hearing the news I had died,” I said to my friend through my tears. “Or how my parents would have felt. It was the most selfish thing I have ever done. The most ignorant I’ve ever been.”
Not caring about your life – and by an extension – your health - is selfish. Do you know how much time people spend worrying about you, wondering if you’re okay, not knowing if you’ll die the next day or year? That’s obesity. How can you care so little for your life that you’re not even going to say “I’ll try.” I’ll try to lose weight. I’ll try to understand why I may not be able to. And if I can’t think of a reason to do it for myself, I’ll think of those that care about me.” This is where I can not accept the veil of 'healthy at any weight'. I don't think I need to cite studies that link obesity to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, BREATHING PROBLEMS.
This is why Covid is causing a disproportionate number of deaths among those who are overweight (over 60%) and other wise unhealthy patients. This particular virus does not kill just anybody. It kills a greater percentage of people that don’t have adequate defenses to fight it.
To claim obesity is ‘healthy’ is a flat out lie. Why aren’t we ‘fact checking’ this magazine?
We cannot cover up obesity - a disease - in some sort of body positivity paradigm. I’m all for feeling good about the skin you’re in and there is no reason these women should feel shame or not love themselves. In fact, if they truly loved themselves, they would get healthy. You can accept yourself and still want to grow and be the best version of you.
If I love you, I care about you enough to tell you the truth.
About fifteen minutes later, my adrenaline pumping, I hopped in my car to hit the stairs in Calabasas and release some pent up emotion. I was frustrated and angry.
The tears came flooding back.
“I’m so sorry,” I cried speaking to no one but God.
I felt such an immense amount of guilt. Guilt for not considering the life He had given me as precious and sacred. For holding myself, an extension of Him, in such low regard. For turning away from the love He was showering upon me.
“It’s okay,” He reassured me. “I was there. The whole time. Now you know.”
I cried even more. But I know I will never make that same mistake again. To feel this loved by something so powerful means you never take your life for granted.
Whereas even a few years ago I would have pushed up that trail and trudged up those steps out of guilt for something I ate the night before or to try to burn more calories, today I leapt and bounced in joy for my life and gratitude for my body that carries me through it. In this state of true love, I make healthy choices naturally.
I went to the grocery store after my hike and salivated at all the yummy choices surrounding me. I was guided by what my body craved – salmon sashimi the color of a red/orange sunset sky. A granny smith apple I would bake. Little portion sizes of cheese – one of my favorites and a new one I had never tried – from the under $5 basket. Fresh arugula. And my favorite sweet treat from Honey Mama’s, on sale. I stocked up on three of them. I was going to have a party. To celebrate my life.
I couldn’t wait. I reached into the bag as I sat in the driver’s seat and pulled out the sashimi. I delicately pulled off a slice from the line of fish, bit into and groaned orgasmically. In that moment it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. This was living. I couldn’t wait to get home and have another piece, dipped in a bit of avocado mayo. When I am this connected to food, and this grateful for the health available to me, I only need a few bites. My body, my heart and my soul are full with gratitude. And nothing is more satiating than that.