Monday, January 21, 2008

Love Your Body!

As Camryn Manheim said, This is for all the fat girls. And the thin girls. And the in-between girls who struggle, as so many of us do, with self-loathing.

Well, here's a way to fight back.

Print this out. Use it as a bookmark. Tape it to your fridge. Frame it for your bedside table. Say it out loud.

I promise you, someday you'll actually believe it.


Anonymous said...

I am here as a result of reading about your pledge in Tuesday morning's NYT. Your pledge is lovely.
I am a non-skinny middle-aged femal physician, and my hope for your pledge and this publicity is that it causes those who take it to love themselves enough to become physically active every day of the week, to eat only real food, and to be conscious about what---and most importantly--WHY they eat.

We evolved to eat, to pack on the fat to survive famines. Years before the scientific data came in to support me, I knew my peasant genes--which allowed my ancestors to nurse babies when food supplies were low and thus get those genes replicated!---were the reason this Czeck girl has the most "efficient" metabolism on the planet.

It's not my FAULT that smelling food makes me want to eat---but it is my responsibility to control my behavior, to make the time in my day to sweat for 20 minutes, to not bring processed food into my home, to realize I am a big "BLT eater"--Bites, Licks and Tastes--that do put calories into my body that I often don't acknowledge.

Acceptance, understanding and self-love are important steps to take in self-care. Fat may well be a feminist issue. It is also the number one treatable health care problem in our country, bar none.

There is absolutely no denying that fat is an inflammatory furnace, and that inflammation is behind almost all disease we experience--diabetes,vascular disease, autoimmune diseases, cancer.

As Weight Watchers said, stop dieting, start living. Take control of HOW you live--love yourself enough to be healthy and fit. I'm never going to be a size 10, let alone a a zero---but that doesn't mean my BMI has to be over 24.

Harriet said...

Welcome anonymous,

I've been reserching and writing about fat for a couple of years now, and it seems pretty clear to me that the jury's still out on the health effects of fat.

We hear much about how fat causes all kinds of health problems, but there's actually little evidence to support this. I have seen studies that correlate overweight with diabetes. But in terms of overall mortality, I refer you to Katherine Flegal's 2005 study, which showed a J-shaped curve for mortality, with the lowest mortality in the moderately overweight to obese category, and the highest mortality at either end of the spectrum. The most recent studies show what researchers are calling the obesity paradox, since it goes against their expectations: that in many instances, fat seems to confer a protective benefit, especially as humans age.

So welcome to the world of fat acceptance. I hope you'll read up here. I'm all for eating well and exercising--and loving your body no matter what shape or size it is. Because for many of us, eating well and exercising just doesn't translate to being thin. But it can translate to health at every size.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. Someday I may actually believe it. I cried when I read it.

When pleading with my physician for help with maintaining a healthy weight, he responded, "Stop eating those cakes and cookies, for starters." I don't eat sweets. Never have. His inability to see past his limited understanding of my physical form was obviously impacting the medical care I was receiving. I found another doctor.

mary said...

I am thrilled to read that this made the papers. Who can argue with such a powerful statement? I dare them! This is how we can fight the discrimination and also work towards living a life in which we honor ourselves. We all have our inner struggles with ourselves at times. This sends the message to the world that we are taking back our birthright to love ourselves unconditionally.
thanks Harriet!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Harriet!

Hope you had your coffee today!

Alain said...

This pledge is important, and I'll do my part to pass it forward. It does however highlight just how difficult the language of self acceptance can be. How loaded the slightest turn of phrase can be, to whit “ compassionate towards it's failings ...”. At face it might suggest betrayal by the flesh when in fact the source of “it's failings” lies squarely between the ears. Lets keep the conversation going. One Love

Anonymous said...

You have really missed the point. Condoning an unhealthy lifestyle is wrong no matter how you slice it. I have been heavy before and I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure because of it. This was a fact not opinion. I lost the weight and it went away. Having a mountain of fatty lipids in your blood stream is not healthy period. No one should ever be ashamed of their bodies but we cannot continue avoiding the facts in this country. Look at the statistics we are an unhealthy country overall because of our diets. Any other conclusion is avoiding the facts to try and make yourself feel better. Don't hate yourself but don't kid yourself either. Being a hundred pounds overweight is just that. You cannot live as full of a life no matter what anybody tries to tell you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous! As my 10 year old daughter who is battling anorexia and dropped 20 pounds in two months said when the Weight Watchers commercial came on:

"Boy that's ironic. Weight Watchers IS a diet -- Weight. Watchers. It's their name! jeez."

Love your body, love food, love the people in your life!

Harriet, I love your writing and the pledge. It's going on the fridge today!


Harriet said...

Dear Anonymous,
I was waiting for a comment like yours.

Fact is, cholesterol levels are what's known as a false surrogate endpoint, meaning they don't translate into mortality data. Meaning that your cholesterol level may or may not affect your overall health and mortality risk.

You've been brainwashed, anonymous, and I encourage you to do some reading that goes a little deeper than the conventional wisdom here. Read Sandy Szwarc's marvelous blog Read Paul Campos and Kate Harding.

I believe in eating well, exercising moderately, and loving yourself no matter what shape or size you are. "Health" is a relative concept, you know; what's healthy for you may not be what's healthy for me. And what's healthy for you may not be possible for me--not if it includes wearing size zero jeans.

Emotional health is just as important as physical health, however you define it. Read Ellyn Satter (, whose new research shows that eating competence correlates strongly with emotional and social health.

I hope you'll learn a little something here . . . and you are welcome.

Harpy said...

Anonymous Cholesterol Person and Harriet: Not to mention Dr Ancel Keyes' famous studies showing no relation between the amount of adipose tissue a person has and their serum lipids and levels of atherosclerosis. And there have been other similar studies. What Anonymous had there was essentially a coincidence. Serum lipids have been known to sometimes reduce with increased exercise - and when people lose weight AND their SLs go down, it's not the reduction in body fat that causes that, it's ususally the increased physical activity.

Then again, plenty of thin people exercise a lot and still have high SLs. Plenty of people lose weight and their SLs remain high too. For some people, elevated SLs may well be normal, whereas some people do just fine with puzzlingly low SL readings (no matter what they weigh).

And high SLs may also be caused by malnutrition: (correct me if I'm wrong, Harriet) people with anorexia nervosa often have hypercholesterolemia, as well as those with anorectic behaviours, such as strict or chronic dieters - who may well be "obese".

And like you said, high SLs are a false surrogate endpoint anyway.

Serum lipids, adipose tissue, weight, they are all far more complicated than most people imagine, even many doctors.

Harriet said...

All excellent points, Harpy. And yes, people with anorexia and in recovery from it often do have very high levels of cholesterol. I'm not a nutritionist so I can't explain it in any meaningful way, but it is certainly true.

I would also recommend Ancel Keys' research with prisoners in Vermont--kind of the opposite of the Minnesota Semi-Starvation Study, where he took healthy volunteers, starved them for 6 months, and then re-fed them. In this study he took healthy volunteers and stuffed them, trying to make them fat. It was surprisingly hard to make thin men fat, and they all went back to their usual weights after the study. Very interesting reading.

Harriet said...

Hi littlem,

I forgot to say--thank you! Thanks for being a reader, for engaging in the dialogue, and for that rockin' cite.

Alain said...

Dear "You have really missed the point..." There are really three conversations taking place here. The first is about body/self image, how it's shaped by ideals imagined in New York and Hollywood and not anchored in the culture at large. The second issue is health, I certainly don't advocate a self destructive lifestyle, however the pathologies that drove your choices, may not express themselves similarly in others. Weight alone is hardly the only factor - genetics, race, diet are all important variables. But most telling is your use of the word "condone". It betrays an underlying paternalism that at it's weakest is simply a replay of the "moral" sanctions against obesity and at worst simply disrespectful. Ultimately the final authority for our choices lay within ourselves and I suspect that were some other aspect of your life path be subject to the acceptance or rejection of another you might chaff as well.

Erishkegal said...

Just thought I'd share something you inspired me to put together, which I hope might make a difference in some more women's lives:

The Pledge, Scrapbooked

I was really excited to see that someone posted an "acceptance challenge", and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get the word out.

It must be exhausting to be so awesome. ;) Thanks!

Harriet said...

Actually, erishkegal, you're the awesome one! That's so cool and groovy and beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Cnn just reported that Camryn Manheim was found dead at her home!! OMG! First Heath and now this great lady! I'm so depressed!

Harriet said...

I don't see anything about it online.