Fall is officially here, and with it comes the pumpkin pies, cakes, cookies, muffins, and lattes. I am not a coffee drinker, but even I find it hard to resist the sweet, foamy kiss of that first sip of spiced pumpkin goodness. And, of course, I am counting down the days until I get to taste my mom’s pecan pie.
Of course, we all know that the fall season is famous for another reason: No Shave November! Many of my male friends spent their post-Hollow’s Eve delicately removing every hair from their chins in preparation for this month-long beard-growing contest rather than gorging themselves on candy.
In light of these celebrations with both food and facial hair, I have decided that the theme for this month’s posts will be “No Shame November.”
This month, I want to explore the different ways people relate to food and exercise. One of the central tenants of dietetics is that all foods have a place in the diet in moderation. For some, well-intended health behaviors intended to moderate food intake or balance it with exercise turn deadly. Well-known conditions such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and muscle dysmorphia interfere with people’s ability to see themselves as they truly look or control their eating or exercising behaviors. Us average Joe’s and Jane’s tend to down ourselves in less clinical ways, too: in America, we value thinness for women and muscularity for men. It’s what you see constantly on TV, in movies, in magazines, and in a majority of the rich and successful. Google “magazine covers” and observe.
Now, the marriage of happiness with fitness is not unfounded: being overweight or obese is gaining attention as America’s number one health problem and is said to be linked to five of the ten top causes of death worldwide (WHO, 2014). We’ve been hearing for years that exercise not only helps you look great, but feel great, too, thanks to the endorphins that cardio and strength training release. We all know eating well and exercising to maintain fitness are beneficial to health. However, fitness is a completely different term with completely different criteria than being “skinny” or “ripped.” Merely being a size 4 does not necessarily correlate with healthy or happiness.
The reality is that people are all shaped differently. Individually. Not everyone is a size 4, but not everyone should be a size 4. Some people have curves, some are pear shaped, some have broad shoulders and small hips, some resemble a 1X4 piece of plywood. I myself am 5′ 10″, 165 pounds, and a size 10. I will never get much lower than an 8, and I am okay with that. My body has a shape, and that shape was never meant to be squeezed into size 4 jeans. “Size 4” is just a number, a way to find pants that fit YOUR body. The alternative is walking up to a store clerk and saying, “I need pants….roughly this (holds hands out in a circle) size…”.
Alternatively, I have been known to run a 5k seven days a week. I love lifting weights and ballroom dancing. I would consider myself fit, healthy, and happy, and I will never be a size 4.
“Size 4” should not be a status quo. And while I am a bit concerned about Adele’s health regarding the above statement, it is her life to live. Some people want longevity, some want to live the way they want despite the consequences. As Sid Vicious famously said, “I’ll die before I’m 25, and when I do, I’ll have lived the way I wanted to.” As a dietitian, my goal is to help people live the longest, healthiest life possible, but that may not be their goal. They may want to have a good time and eat everything and never exercise. However we feel about the wisdom of their choices, they should not be judged for their body. They should not be invalidated because they do or do not have curves or a six pack.
I’m going to start out this month sharing two articles about what it means to be a “real” woman or a “real” man.
“Real women have curves,” is something that has been going around the internet for a long time. While I appreciate the body acceptance message intended here, my reaction to this statement is: oh really? Maybe I missed something somewhere, but I’m pretty sure being a woman has a lot more to do with the possession of a few key anatomical parts, not their shape or size. This post on MindBodyGreen by Kristen Hedges emphasizes the point that, indeed, us women are all real women.
They look pretty real.
She also looks substantial; I vote real.
Fellas, I’m not going to leave you out. The Sun, an English newspaper, did a little body image project themselves when they asked four average Joe readers to pose next to photoshopped photos of models. The project was meant to illustrate that women and men hold unrealistic expectations for men just like they hold unrealistic expectations for women. This article falls a bit into the “what does it mean to be a ‘real’ man” trap, but the idea is valid: all sizes of men exist, and there is no better judge of what size you should be than how comfortable you feel in your skin.
Be real this week, everyone. Happy fall! I’ve got a date with a hot little latte at Starbucks. 😉