Read this if you wish you hadn't finished that last slice of pizza.
That's the word I've been chewing over lately. Sometimes literally.
When expressing myself and thinking about what I want in the world, stifled feels like a fitting word. My experience is not that different from others. This feeling of being stifled is especially true for women.
We're often told we're too much of something. Too bossy. Too fat. Too serious. Too emotional. Too silly. Too flighty. Too vapid. Walking the delicate line between being too cold and too emotional is impossible.
Because it's impossible, we stop. We barely walk at all actually because each step could make us fall.
Women learn at a young age to limit themselves. This often starts with food.
One obvious way we learn to limit ourselves is through dieting. Our daily walk on eggshells starts with each morsel of food that passes our lips.
At age 15, I have a distinct memory of enjoying a cookie. Some man noted, "A moment on the lips, forever on the hips" while he proceeded to eat his own cookie.
Because I was not an adult woman with the ovaries to say "fuck off," I nibbled slowly at the rest of the cookie. I promised myself it would be my last for a while. And that was when I learned that having what I wanted wasn't acceptable and it was okay for dudes to police my eating.
Years and years of this feeling of being watched every time you eat slowly wears down your psyche.
We learn by living this not to trust our bodies. Over time, we unlearn how to trust ourselves. We look outward to others to answer our questions. Or at least that was my story.
Years of ignoring hunger culminated in a total lack of attunement with my own needs and desires. Each calorie skipped was a daily reminder that my most basic instincts were incorrect.
As a young woman trying to navigate the world, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have agency. What does it mean to ask for what you want?
It might start with asking for what you want to eat.
I'm not going to lie. The news has been getting me down.
Planned Parenthood is close to being defunded. A pro-life judge was appointed to the Supreme Court. Bombs are exploding on the Russian subway system. Someone is attacking Syrian children with nerve gas. For me, feminism and activism have a large role in helping the world. It's been exciting to see how active and involved people have been since the election of Donald Trump.
Instead of actually doing the work of activism, a lot of us are caught up in commodified feminism.
A lot of women have a perfect Instagram-style way of looking really feminist. Their haircuts are cool. They have that perfect Rosie the Riveter red lipstick on. Their tattoos and piercings seem to flaunt their totally bad-ass rebel lifestyle.
Cool hair and tattoos don't tell me that they're ready to write to their senators. All these rebellious fashion allusions point to is a well-curated social media account.
This article by Aminatou Sow on Racked explains this idea really well. Buying a t-shirt is way different from real political action. She writes:
" 'Capitalist investors' use feminism to sell us clothes! Because feminism is cool now! We are told that everything from “period panties” to “granny panties” to high-end couture most of us cannot afford can be feminist. Don’t let all this canny marketing distract you from the fact that wearing high-waisted underwear is not in fact liberation work."
Feminism is cool. It's something we want to buy. It's something we can buy. But, don't get it twisted (especially not your period panties.. hehehe). Wearing period panties is different than volunteering to provide period supplies to homeless women.
I want more unshaven "ugly" intellectual activist friends than I want beautiful Instagram friends.
I keep looking for my tribe out here. I want to hang out with smart feminist ladies who are trying to make the world a better place.
I want them to challenge me to not give a fuck. I want them to help me lean in or tell bosses that their attitudes are patriarchal. I want them to invite me to the rally or the march or the letter-writing campaign.
I think the world needs it.
Many people like to talk about weight loss as if it's a super simple set of directions.
Promoters of the "fewer calories in than out = weight loss" approach don't account for things like plateauing or just, you know, diets not working. They just walk around shaming people for not doing something that seems simple enough.
We know from set point theory that it's not so easy. 95% of diets don't work over the long term. It's not just a matter of choosing salads over french fries on Wednesdays.
The worst part is that some of these people are struggling with weight, too. Even when dieting fails us, we still prescribe it for others.
Here's the really really really big problem with this: it lacks empathy
It dismisses all the pain and discrimination that comes with living in a larger body. Despite body-positive activism, people still believe that larger bodies are somehow inferior.
Instead of taking a moment to acknowledge someone else's struggle, we jump into the solution. This is the definition of lacking empathy. To truly empathize with another human being, we have to be brave enough to imagine ourselves in their situation.
What is it ACTUALLY like to be in a different body? What is it like to try dieting and for it to not work? What if you do all the things people suggest and it doesn't change your body? What if you do work out and eat right?
If you're thinking about giving diet advice, please remember:
1) Diets don't work
2) Because diets don't work, your friend may be having a really hard time.
3) Try to be there for your friend.
If you're on the receiving end of this: that sucks, dude. You can passive-aggressively post this on social media and hope that they get it next time.
Seriously, though: share it.
Last week I talked about how we aren't encouraged to take care of ourselves. We want so badly to be productive, we ignore our physical needs. Even though productivity seems so important, so is taking care of yourself. Listening to our physical bodies can actually make us healthier.
It turns out that listening to your body is correlated with lower weight.
One study found that people who are good at listening to their bodies tend to have lower BMIs (a high BMI is a risk factor for decreased longevity). Hard-working and self-sacrificing dieters love to believe that ignoring hunger is making them skinnier. This research says otherwise.
Physical self-care is a beast of its own. It includes eating, sleeping, exercise and rest. The best way to way to measure if we are getting enough is through listening.
We are good at listening to our bodies if we consistently respond when we feel a physical need.
Just like you go to a crying baby, we need to attend to the little cries of our bodies. Do you eat when you're hungry? Do you stop eating when you're full? Do you sleep when you're tired? Do you drink water when you're thirsty? Do you go to the doctor when you're sick? Do you floss when there's something stuck in your teeth?
Every time we listen when our bodies call out for help, we build trust and intuition. The better we know our bodies, the more likely we can make them healthier.