So last night I was watching the Daily Show, and a commercial for Special K cereal comes on. It shows a lovely women wearing a bright red turtleneck sitting in a tiny chair meant for a child, having fun playing "tea" with what you assume is her daughter. The little girl looks to be somewhere around five or six years old. Then the phone rings, and the woman stands up to get it, and the chair sticks to her hips and butt. So she pauses for a moment looking shell-shocked, then you hear the announcer say something along the lines of, "Are you ready to lose the weight?" and this woman — this incredibly slender, healthy looking woman — heads off for a tiny bowl of Special-K cereal to launch her new diet. (I tried to find video to embed and couldn't).
This woman is not just what I personally consider to be thin — basically, I find anyone fitting into a size 18 or lower to be pretty darn skinny by my scale — she is THIN. Probably in person a size four or maybe a size six. Far more thin that the average American woman, who is supposedly a size 12. In fact, she looks much like what you remember being a perfectly acceptable size to be on television say about ten years ago, before our current size zero craze started.
What gets me about this ad is that for some reason, this woman — WOMAN — is supposed to feel ashamed that she is in fact an adult and has an adult sized body. In other words, she should feel horrible guilty and immediately LAUNCH A DIET because her ass is SO HUGE she cannot fit into a chair designed for a five-year-old. Instead of applauding her for being skinny enough to get in the god damned chair in the first place. Because Lord knows I couldn't.
There is so much to respond to about that ad. The whole down-sizing — literally — of women's bodies, the idea that we should stay fragile and child-like (even removing all of our body hair!), the public shaming of a woman, and the fact that she stays silent in the commercial so we don't have to really acknowledge her. It drives me and my feminist heart crazy, frankly.
But what I really want to talk about is the challenge of maintaining my current healthy-eating plan — my complete and utter NON diet — while being bombarded with a New Year onslaught of advertisements and people talking about dieting. While I am extremely happy for my friends that are all working on increasing exercise and changing up how they eat — if that's what they want to do, more power to them — I find that I have been so trained by our society to think that dieting is the ONLY way to do things, that I have to work triple-time this time of year to keep to my intuitive eating principals, and know that the way I am doing things is the RIGHT way for me.
Complicating that is the fact that I am losing weight. Slowly but surely, the needle on the scale is moving (yes, I know having a scale is counter to the principals of intuitive eating, but I still have it from my pregnancy when I did have to watch for weight spikes, a common symptom of preeclampsia, plus Charlie uses it now, so I can't help checking my weight now and again) lower. I'm feeling better, stronger, leaner, and more content with my body as it gets smaller. Note that I am not deliberately trying to lose weight; my main goal is not weight loss but sanity when it comes to food: I want to have a good, happy relationship with what I put in my body to sustain my energy.
When the intuitive eating is in balance, I basically do not think about my food at all. I select something I want for each meal, paying attention to what my body is asking for. Do I need carbs? Do I crave protein? Does fruit sound good? Am I craving veggies? Then I just make my meal without a thought. I eat it, enjoy it, and then I forget about it. The worst thing about all those years dieting is how MUCH TIME I put into eating. When dieting I have to plan my food carefully, and it was always about getting the biggest volume for the smallest calories/points/etc. I would think about my meals between meals, counting the minutes until I could eat again, because I was always so damned hungry. If I slipped and ate something I wasn't "supposed" to, I would spend hours agonizing about it afterward, feeling guilt and shame that, more often than not, led me to binge. And I would spend hours daydreaming about eating enough food to feel full, food that I longed for and denied myself.
In other words, dieting left me obsessed with food.
But when I wasn't dieting, I was just as bad. I was a sea of craving, constantly planning the next high-calorie indulgence, going to the store far too often to get whatever I wanted. If I wanted something sweet, I of course also bought something salty to "balance" it. When I ate high-calorie, high-fat, highly processed food on a regular basis, I would regularly have a sweeping food high after eating, accompanied by an equally strong crash and burn that created still more cravings.
Intuitive eating has changed that for me. My meals are, generally, simple and delicious and healthy, and don't cause big craving swings. But if I want a donut, I eat a god damned donut. If I want some potato chips, I go ahead and have some. When they are done, they are done, and I don't think about them ever again.
It is so completely liberating.
When the holidays ended I felt, just like most of us, that kind of drag-ass feeling I get from eating too many rich foods too many days in a row. So I tossed the leftovers and went back to eating normally. But my brain is a sick and twisted place, and can easily try to trick me into dieting. I've found myself over the last few days eating energy bars and calling it lunch, and going to bed hungry because my 25+ years of dieting training tell me that is good, that I'm a good girl if I'm hungry.
I fucking hate it.
Thank GOD for that commercial last night. Because it snapped me right out of my New Year's daze and reminded me of what really matters — sanity around food, not trying to get small enough to fit in a child's chair. But the ad still enrages me.
We have it tough as women in this country. Every where we look someone is telling us that we are wrong: we're are pushy bitches if we fight for what we want, we aren't young enough, pretty enough or thin enough. No matter what area of advertising that is targeting toward women you discuss, the underlying theme is SHAME. We should be ashamed of looking like we do, acting like we do, thinking like we do.
I'm done with it. Fuck you, Special K. Even if you are owned by a company that shares my last name.
While we're talking about beauty and bodies: have you voted for Sarah? She's competing in another photography contest, and she needs votes! All you have to do is go to THIS LINK and click on the stars below her photos (go ahead, give her five stars. That would be the last star, the one all the way to the right; you don't have to click all five of the stars. Just the last one. M'kay?). No registration required. And you can vote once every 24 hours! Do it for me, pretty please? :D