Not fiction

I have done a bit of reading lately that was more educational than recreational. Sometimes it’s easy for me to get into a rut of only reading fiction, or things that are easy to pick up and set down. But this past week I read two non-fiction books: Rising Strong and Body of Truth. Both of these books were pretty great, in my opinion. Rising Strong had a lot of interesting parts, and some that I just didn’t really care much for. But for the most part, my time was well spent picking up the wisdom of a wonderfully bold woman. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger” probably because it has only been more recently that I have come to realize just how much genetics can affect how people grow and change. My mom and I were talking recently about the situation I am in, and I brought up the fact that everyone says I am at such a low weight, and have been for so long, that it’s surprising my body isn’t totally…well, dead. I asked her if she thought maybe my genetics had a part to play in that. My grandfather on my mother’s side was very slim naturally, though he did enjoy walking a lot. But the fact that I may have inherited those genes from my mom (it’s very likely that I did, because all of my siblings seem to have inherited them too!) and that they may have helped me cope with the dire situation I have let my body get into, is intriguing. Perhaps my genetic makeup is allowing my body to function at such a low weight, because I am naturally going to be a slim person? Now, that’s not to say I want to take advantage of this blessing anymore. My doctor keeps reiterating that I have been lucky so far, and that if I were to go on much longer, starving my brain and body, I will die. I believe her. And that’s partly why I want to change.

Body of Truth was another really good read, but I couldn’t say I related to very much of it. Certainly not as much as to Harriet Brown’s previous book Brave Girl Eating, a book chronicling some of the struggles her family went through after her daughter was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Body of Truth focused a lot on the obesity “epidemic”, but it also had lots of good truths about beauty, how we perceive it, and lies the media feeds to us like candy. A few quotes really stood out to me:

“Like many women who’ve dieted on and off for years, I was scared to stop counting Weight Watchers points or calories or fat grams or whatever I was counting at any given moment, afraid that if I stopped restraining myself, my hunger would be insatiable. I had to learn to trust my own appetite, and man, was that scary. I mean, if there were no rules, what would stop me from just eating and eating and eating until I weighed five hundred pounds? How would I know when to stop eating the foods I loved if there was no one to tell me to stop?”

“How many evenings did I stand in the middle of grocery store aisle, paralyzed with fear and indecision? It’s not just the time I regret; it’s the loss of who I might have been if I wasn’t so consumed. It’s who I might have loved, how I might have lived, what I might have accomplished. I might have been a force to be reckoned with.”

Yes, yes, yes. I can so totally relate. I guess I have recently learned that lots of people struggle with eating and shame around food. Harriet Brown really delved into that issue in a few of the chapters, saying how when she asked her students a question they cane back with one for her…what is normal eating? It is so easy for me to make up a story in my mind (Brené Brown talks about this in Rising Strong) about how my problems are different from someone else’s, how they wouldn’t understand, or they would think me crazy for how my mind works. But the truth is, it’s not just me. So many women deal with guilt surrounding food. Maybe not to the same level that I do, but it’s still there. And how can this be surprising, when everywhere we turn there is a display full of “diet” food, an ad showing a model who is way out of proportion or airbrushed…it’s hard to think healthy about food when the food itself isn’t healthy.

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