Thin is not always healthy. Healthy is not always thin.

Thin is not always healthy. Healthy is not always thin.

I hope this is not the first time you’re hearing (reading) this, but take a moment to digest it either way.

Thin is not always healthy. Healthy is not always thin.

I’m not talking about disordered eating, either. That’s an issue that’s so complex; I really could not do it justice here.

I’m talking about how statements like “Oh, you’re in great shape! You’re so thin!” and “I really want to lose weight so that I can be healthy” create a fundamentally damaging mindset.

Image

Source

I am fully cognizant of my own privilege as a slender person. While I believe that statements about size and weight can be damaging no matter who hears them, I want to go on record as someone who is aware that I live in a culture where thinness is valued and prized and I fall within this spectrum of acceptable body types.  And I am fully aware of how utterly fucked up that spectrum is.  Thin privilege is articulated beautifully in this article: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/10/lets-talk-about-thin-privilege/

Thin privilege is just like white privilege; it is pervasive and real, and most importantly: it is my job to know about it and to know that I benefit from it and to try to correct it.

I am slender because of my genes.  There are no two ways about it.  No matter what I eat, I stay thin.  Everyone in my immediate family is thin.  I eat pretty well now; I avoid processed foods, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, drink lots of water, very little alcohol, no soda.  And I weigh almost exactly the same as I did when I used to eat GARBAGE.  To give you an example: In 2008, I worked in a coffee shop. I drank a LOT of coffee (to go with my cigarettes, natch). I ALSO drank RedBull and Five Hour Energy.  And NO water.  When I needed a quick snack at work, I would go across the street to 7-11 and buy Lunchables.

One day, I started noticing that it hurt to pee. Like, a lot. I had gotten piercings and tattoos, and nothing hurt like peeing.  I had no idea what the fuck was going on.  This went on for about three days.  I felt like I had to pee constantly, and every time I did, I wished I hadn’t, because it hurt SO much.

I was at work, dealing with a long line of customers when I suddenly felt like if I didn’t pee right then and there, I was going to do it in my pants.  But I was the only one on that shift who was trained on the espresso machine, so I HAD to stay, because otherwise there was no one to finish these drinks. So I stayed and made drinks, feeling sweat pour down my body, while my face flushed red, then drained white (according to a co-worker).  Finally the line was done, and I bolted for the bathroom.  When I peed, I felt pain that I still have nothing to compare to; I’ve since heard it compared to childbirth.  I felt something move inside me, where nothing should be moving, a profoundly science-fiction sensation.  The pain peaked, and then… It was gone.  I looked in the toilet (what? I was curious) and saw some strings of blood and a tiny little black pebble.  It was a fucking kidney stone.

Yeah, I had a kidney stone at twenty years old.  Actually, let me re-phrase that; it’s too passive. The kidney stone didn’t just happen to me. I GAVE MYSELF a kidney stone at twenty years old.  Because of what I was eating.  It still took me a long time to get my shit together with eating right, but that kidney stone was a fucking wakeup call.

The kidney stone was just the beginning.  The real wakeup call was the death of my father.  My dad was skinny and “in terrific shape” according to our culture’s narrow and idiotic definition of health.  He was thin, but he was not healthy.  He ate meat for every meal, he drank soda with every meal except for breakfast, he drank no water, and after I entered high school I don’t remember seeing him exercise.  When I was younger, he used to walk every day and lift weights in the basement.  He also didn’t go to the doctor for regular checkups, and he didn’t go to the dentist (for more on the connection between periodontal and disease and heart health, click here: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/periodontal-disease-heart-health).  But, according to our cultural definition of health, at six feet and one hundred and fifty pounds, he was perfectly fine, and no one, including his family, thought otherwise.  Until he had a heart attack at fifty-eight years old.  He’d never had heart problems before. Just one heart attack, that was all it took.  My brother and sisters and I woke up in the morning and he had been dead for hours.  There was no way we could have saved him.

Of course, there are always multiple factors at work in heart disease, and the last thing I wish to do is blame my father for his death, though his lifestyle cannot be ignored as a factor.  Another factor at work here was his genes.  Though he had “the skinny gene,” he also had the “dodgy heart gene.”  My father’s father died before the age of sixty as well.  He had a heart attack.  My father’s nephew died in his early forties, from a heart attack.  I need to be on the lookout as well.

Thin is not always healthy. Healthy is not always thin.

I want to live for a long time.  I want to enjoy the time I have.  I feel better, physically as well as emotionally, even spiritually, when I eat better.

I want to be able to make healthy children someday.  I want to be healthy enough myself to chase them on the playground.  I want to see them grow up and have children of their own.  I know that I will never want to leave them, though it is inevitable.  But I want to leave when it is the right time, when I’ve lived a full life.  I owe them that.  And I owe myself that.

Image

Stress was a major factor as well. For my father, for myself, and for so many other people.  Stress is hideous and awful.  But I fully believe that self-care is an assertion against madness of all kinds.  No, it won’t pay your late bills, or get your boss to crawl out of your ass, but it does help. I promise.

I’m twenty-six years old, and that might seem young to be concerned about health, but I assure you: It is not.  There is no such thing as “too young” for this.  There is no such thing as too young to take care of yourself, to eat well, to drink water, to run around and get your heart racing.  And it’s never something you’re finished with.  I work with people in their nineties who go to the gym every day and hike when the weather is fine; I have no fucking excuse.

Yeah, we’re all going to die someday, but that is no excuse for passivity.  “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Healthy is always healthy.

One thought on “Thin is not always healthy. Healthy is not always thin.

  1. I loved this article. I also loved the photo. I want it in my gallery.
    I tried to influence him. He gave me the courtesy of listening but he would not change. Persuasion is my job but I failed and it still hurts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s