Today, I'd like to introduce you to a new blogger, Glosswitch, and what an introduction to her writing this post makes. It's emotional, personal and best of all, it will challenge you to really think about what being "healthy" means and why we seem to equate this with being thin.
In her own words, Glosswitch is "a mum of two who has recently started blogging. My main interests are feminism, body image and motherhood, but I'll rant about anything really, given half the chance ...".
You can follow Glosswitch on twitter and don't forget to visit her blog to read more of her thoughts.
Yesterday I ate cake for breakfast. Then I got into my car, drove to work and spent the day sitting at my desk. In the evening I drove home, ate a pitta bread for tea and watched some telly before going to bed. That is a typical day in the life of me. I’m super-healthy, am I not?
Of course, health is all relative. I have been much, much worse than this. Right now, relatively speaking, I treat my body like a temple. Don’t believe me? Allow me to offer a brief history of me:
1987-1993 I survive on 580 calories a day. I don’t know why I choose that number, but I do and that becomes The Rule. Not that I’d recommend it to anyone. I’m in and out of hospital and to put it mildly, it feels completely crap.
1993-1997 I don’t know how many calories I eat. I throw them all back up anyhow. It is not a very dignified existence but I manage. Hey, I tell myself, at least I’m not fat.
1997-1998 I am fat. I can’t be bothered to throw up any more. My thighs rub together, my tits are all chaffed, yet I feel more invisible than when I was tiny. So I eat more. There’s no reason not to. I eat and eat and eat and eat.
1998-2002 I am thin again. I smoke up to 30 cigarettes a day. At times I worry that it will kill me but then I think, it’s better than being fat. Anything, anything at all, has got to be better than being fat.
2002-now I muddle through. I no longer smoke. I am still not fat. Last year I finally persuaded myself that purging twice a week was not “a reasonable compromise”, not with the blood in my vomit and the pain in my teeth. I now eat cake instead of real food. Otherwise I’d eat real food AND cake. And then I’d be fat.
So here I am, 36 years old, not yet dead, not yet chronically ill, basically “healthy”. I think I am lucky to have done all the things I’ve done and come through relatively unscathed. Nonetheless, I’ve been left with a fear of “health”, and what it does and doesn’t mean.
So often “being healthy” is used as a euphemism for “being thin”. Manage your blood sugar levels (so you’re not fat). Eat a balanced diet (so you’re not fat). Take regular exercise (so you’re not fat). These are the messages I hear. How do I know what people really mean? Do they want me to be healthy or do they want me to be smaller again?
No one even talks about diets any more. It’s all “going on a health kick” or “cutting out the bad foods”. And yet, scratch the surface, and what people really talk about is under-eating. Cutting out fat or carbs can drive a person insane (I mean this quite literally, as you start to create all the crazy rules which will get you through the day without the sustenance you need). And yet we’re advised to do this so casually, so flippantly. By the way, just stop nourishing your stomach, and your heart, and your brain. You’re not going to notice any difference.
Facing the great health challenge is, to put it mildly, a minefield. But since we’re in it, what more can we do but our best? I’d like to do better. I’d like to run marathons, build muscle, think of myself only as big and strong. The trouble is, all that scares me. And right now, there’s cake to be eaten and, with luck, some sanity to be preserved.