One thing that frustrates me about a lot of the discourse on the internet is many people’s assertion that their experience is (or should be, or will be) everyone’s experience, and that others should feel obligated to make major health decisions based on their experience/opinions.
I hopped on this train of thought because of a comment I received today on my post “Stop Pretending it’s About My Health” It may be triggering for some but it is also highly amusing to me. There is a warning on the comment that explains possible triggers.
Here’s the bit I want to talk about today:
“I am overweight myself. But I understand this and accept the fact that it was my own overindulgence that created the situation. I have gone from 280 in 1990 to 150 in 2000 back to 280 in 2010. It was all of my own doing, and I know it was wrong. I would never make excuses about it. Facts are facts. You cannot deny it any longer.”
Then, a Yoga Instructor who is on a Body Positive listserve with me wrote what I thought was a beautiful, respectful open letter to the Yoga journal and was repaid by someone writing a blog that called her personal health choices “bullshit” (Nope, I will not be helping that blog get traffic by linking to it here, and it was everything I could do keep my rule of not commenting on inflammatory posts).
My issue is this: I feel like I am very clear on this blog that I am not trying to tell anyone how to live. My goal is always simply to demonstrate an option that people can choose if it makes sense to them. It seems that Anna was doing the same thing with her letter. However, people seem to respond to this vehemently – almost as if my choosing something different than they chose is somehow threatening to them. My best guess is that their self-esteem is based on what other people think. Society values thinness, they are thin, therefore they are valuable. I, and everyone who agrees with me and does not value thinness, is therefore diminishing their value and a threat to their self-esteem. That just my guess, who the hell knows? Some days I’m just glad to be so separated from mainstream culture.
You’ll notice that the commenter starts off talking about his/her experience but then veers at the end to tell me what I can and can’t do. Since we’re not sharing a body, it seems like the only appropriate thing to say here is “I don’t agree with you and therefore don’t choose that path to health”. That’s a perfectly valid life choice. You go with your funky bad self. Saying: “I don’t agree with you and therefore you must choose my path to health” is not okay, as you are not the boss of my underpants.
If you want to post comments on my blog telling me that you disagree with me that’s fine, but may I first suggest that you complete this quick exercise.
First, just read through a couple of examples to get the hang of it:
- I think that the research shows that dieting doesn’t work so I don’t diet.
- You think that research shows that dieting is the path to health so you do diet.
I’m ok. You’re ok.
- I think that weight loss surgery has a low success rate, lots of dangerous side effects and virtually no health benefits so I don’t have weight loss surgery.
- You think that being thin means being healthy and that weight loss surgery will make me thin, so you pressure me to have weight loss surgery.
I’m ok. You’re NOT ok.
- I think that movement I enjoy is the key to health so I choose exercise options that I like.
- You think that you must do specific exercises to be healthy, so you do exercise that you hate.
I’m ok. You’re ok.
- I choose to concentrate on healthy behaviors to the exclusion of concentrating on my weight because I believe that it is my best option for being healthy.
- You choose to concentrate on being thin because you believe that it is your best option for being healthy.
I’m ok. You’re ok.
Now that you’ve got the hang of it, you try one:
- I find that a Health at Every size approach works great for me so I share my experiences on my blog. If you disagree, I support your right to choose your own path to health.
- You doubt the efficacy of the Health at Every Size approach, so you come on my blog and say that everything that I say is bullshit and that I need to think and act like you want me to.
If you guessed “I’m ok. You’re not ok.” then congratulations you are ready to comment! If you got it wrong, go back to the beginning and try the exercise again, or feel free to peruse someone else’s blog – you never know who might be looking for health advice and body shaming from random people on the internet!