April's CR Diary

A diary of a 30 year old woman following CRON, or Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition, for health and life extension.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Women's Magazines

Last night in the airport I picked up one of those "women's" magazines, having decided that after driving from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, drinking two drinks with my new friends in the airport bar, and eating eggdrop soup (wow, it has been a terrible nutritional two days... no wonder I feel like crap... no giving up CR for me, not even after... but we're jumping ahead...) I lacked the mental focus necessary to give Dr. de Grey my full attention.

Now if you're looking for a diatribe about how those magazines are trash, how women shouldn't focus so much on beauty and pleasing men, you'd better read someone else's blog. I find those magazines very entertaining. I've often thought of myself as something of a later day, less uptight, better housekeeping, female Martin Luther, both as a freedom fighter and also as a lover of wine, women, and song... or in my case, wine, men, and pop music. So I am not offended by the content of Cosmo.

However, I don't read them nearly as often as I did when I was younger, so last night was the first time I had taken a look at a Glamour in awhile. In the magazine I found an article by the author of _The Vagina Monologues_, I can't remember her name but you know who she is. She was talking about her new play, I think it's called _The Good Body_, and urging women to give up their obsessions with their bodies in favor of other, more important pursuits. Like, say, taking over the world.

I've always had mixed reactions to this kind of advice. First, I wholeheartedly assent to the premise of Naomi Wolf's _Beauty Myth_. Keeping women focused on beauty, and keeping women divided into categories of irrelevant (if you're not pretty) and slutty (if you're too pretty) is a great tool for oppression.

However, I've never believed in "accept yourself the way you are, even if you're obese." What we eat is something that, unless we are in prison, we have some control over. Yes, it's hard. Yes, I struggled my entire life before March 26, 2004, with the whole body thing. But being relatively thin can be done, and there's tons of ways to do it. I was thin as a lowfat vegan, I'm thinner as a CR'd Zone wannabe, whatever, and I'm not one of those girls who is naturally skinny. Left to my nachos and margaritas, I look like a fertility goddess in a size eight petite.

The thing that was remarkable about this reading of the "Stop worrying about your body, accept yourself the way you are and take over the world!" advice was that for once, I was not one of the 99.9% of women cited as hating some part of their bodies.

That's right. I feel guilty saying it, the other women will no doubt come after me with pitch forks and pumpkin pie tomorrow, but I am happy with my body.

The author of play (wish I could remember her name) is right... liberation from the body hatred that governs most women's lives really does free up a lot of energy!

This will be hard for the brothers to understand, but the sisters should get it right off. Being set free from the "If only I were... thinner, more in shape, blah blah blah" mental feedback loop is like being given an entirely new life.

That's why I think it's so funny when people ask if CR takes a lot of time. Sure, it takes time to play with my DWIDP, to cook my veggies instead of grabbing a burrito, and it takes willpower to not eat like crap all the time. But compared to the constant mental self-bashing of the normal American woman... CR is the world's biggest time saver.

Yes, yes, yes, CR is not about weight loss. Yes yes yes, eventually I may get so thin that everyone will say, "You were prettier before." I remind you, it's not a contest for the cutest mouse.

Living in a way that is extremely healthy, refusing to poison myself with the deadly cocktail of bad food and bad body image, is unbelievably liberating.

Being back in my dad's house brings me back to all the struggles I've had with body image and weight. It's kinda scary to write about it because a) it's not considered cool for girls to talk about ever having body image issues b) I am terrified of not being taken seriously, and I am already fighting a lack of science background that makes me annoyingly clueless way too often. But I think it's important for us girls to be open about this stuff. If we talk about it, maybe we can save other women from the hell we went through. Maybe it just makes us feel better. In any case, here goes:

I was never anorexic. I suffer from a certain amount of survivor's guilt because several of my friends were very seriously anorexic, and one almost died. Have you guys ever read Marya Hornbacher's _Wasted_? It's a bit of an anorexic cult classic. She went to my high school... I am actually in the background in one scene, though not identified. As she got smaller, she gave me her old clothes. I was pretty tiny too, but at a performing arts high school where dancers were marked down on their grade reports for gaining weight, a curvy girl felt fat. However, the example of my friends losing their youth, their freedom, and almost losing their lives, made me too scared to go down that road. So while I wasn't always happy with my body, I did the Jane Fonda workout and ate bagels with mustard (remember those lowfat late eighties?) instead of starving myself. I was also lucky enough to have some great boyfriends and friend-boys who would talk me into sense when I started asking "Do I look fat?" For some reason, men were easier to believe than women. Your mom can say you're beautiful, but it really means something coming from the cutest boy in the class.

I remember the scale in the bathroom I shared with my step-brother at my dad's house. When I was in seventh grade, I weighed 108. I was exactly as tall as I am now, 5' 1.75" and I was one of those girls who started looking like a woman earlier rather than later. On a routine doctor's visit, my doctor told me that she thought I was getting heavy and needed to lose weight.

I stopped eating. I dropped to 92. I looked like a little ghost, and my parents were concerned, but you see, all the girls were shrinking. It's just what we all did. We didn't know about nutrition or anything like that... we thought that skipping lunch would make us look like we were supposed to look. I remember being so hungry that I once ate an entire candy bar that some kid on the bus was selling to pay for the band's trip to New York City.

Years later, when I was in college, I went back to visit the doctor who had said I was too fat and told her how that made me feel. We both had a good cry, and she said, "We just didn't understand back then."

I eventually re-fed, went away to school, fought the anorexic wars and won, and helped some other girls pull through. When I look back on those days of holding back my friend's hair while she threw up, or figuring out exactly what to feed a girl who had fainted due to hunger but just couldn't keep food down anymore (not eating makes it harder to eat... you feel sick when the food hits you) I feel so sad about the youth that was stolen from me and all those other girls. And some boys too... they were far from immune. It wasn't so much about thinness for us, though of course we thought that was the focus. It was about power, about controlling the one thing we had control of in a world where we were powerless.

I survived, but that bathroom scale never lost its grip... after I gained weight in college (knowing the location of every french fry in New Haven will do that!) I got into the lowfat vegetarian thing, at first to lose weight. It worked! 130 -> 110, my pre-CR lowest adult weight. I looked great, and felt a whole lot better than I did on the french fry and frozen mocha diet (does anyone out there remember the Daily Cafe, home of the frozen mocha? Ah, those sunny spring afternoons, skipping class and quoting Nietzche with my friend Katherine... I did enjoy college.) The weight came and went over the next eight years... up during periods of boredom and overwork, down during periods of excitement like the aftermath of the Republican National Convention (how can you eat when there are hunger strikers in jail? how can you eat when you have to clean up after six anarchists who are camping out in your living room?)

I've been thin, I've been really thin, I've been a little heavy, but up until now, I've never been at peace with my body.

Exorcism of the twin demons of anxiety and negative body image isn't like being quietly set free from a cage -- it's like smashing a mirror with a hammer. And the most important thing is that I did it myself... I carefully and quietly, sometimes obsessively, turned over every little corner of every book I could find, years of the CR Society archives, and the shelves of Whole Foods, until I found a way to save myself. At the time I thought I was just afraid of annoying the other people on the list by posting silly questions... in retrospect, I see how important it was that I did so much research on my own. While there were so many times that I could have asked, I had to figure it out for myself. Now I can look back and say "This is mine. I saved my own life."

Does that help you understand why I want so much to give something back? If you thought you were going to serve a life sentence, and you had resigned yourself to that, then suddenly they kick you out of jail, you have a whole new life! You've gotta do something with it!

I've been wrestling over the last few weeks, especially since the CRS Conference, with the question of what specifically I should do with all my newfound freedom and energy. I've been writing about it, and I've gotten some wonderful help from two CR brothers whose work is a constant inspiration to me.

Over the next few weeks, you'll read the details of my existential dilemma. I had no idea when I started CR that any of this would happen, but when I look back at last winter, I can see the storm brewing. I had, in a relatively short period of time, gotten almost everything I had ever wanted, both professionally and personally. At the same time, my anxiety was eating me alive and my health was going the way of most American woman in their thirties... to hell. These two forces hitting each other was bound to produce something weird.

I can't thank you, the people all over the world who read this nutty blog, enough for your support. When I think I'm about to get hit by a truck on the PA Turnpike, my first thought is, "Thank God some of the brothers have my blog password... someone has to tell my readers if I die!" The next few phases of this journey may take us into some unfamilliar territory. I hope you'll come along with me, and I hope that you'll find these new ideas just as challenging and difficult and powerful as I do. I won't stop telling you what I ate, throwing out easy, low calorie, always delicious recipies. You'll still hear about my cat's hunting trips, my eggwhites, and my adventures with VLC. But I may be going in a direction that neither of us expected when we first met. I hope all that I've written tonight, as weird as it was to share, will help you understand why I am so determined to go running down that road.

I'll close with my favorite quote from Martin Luther, a historical figure who may have had almost as many catchy lines as Michael Rae.

"Here I stand. I can not do otherwise. So help me God."


  • At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    April- Just a note to thank you for writing your obsevations and thoughts as well as the pragmatic side of your journey.
    Your insights are often thought provoking and interesting enough to make me check your blog at least a couple times a day. I actually woke up thinking about you this morning. (No, not that way, we haven't even met :) ) I was wondering about why people have such a strong reaction to someone percieved as overly thin, whether they got there through healthy or unhealthy means.
    If we look back to humankind's not-so-distant past many people died from infections and disease or from starvation during the lean years. Being heavier gave some advantage in these situations. Now of course things are very different, but that "fear of wasting away" may be buried deeply in our collective psyche. It's snuggled up with the fear of death which ultimately drives our desire to live a long productive life. Interesting circle, eh?
    Keep writing, I'll keep reading.

  • At 6:09 PM, Blogger Mary Robinson said…

    The Post had an article on the Body Parts woman today, too. I have the same reaction you do. I hate the focus on looks for women - but looks and health are totally different. I've always been about brains, which is difficult enough now - but was truly a challenge in the 50's and 60's.

    I also am now "at peace" with my body for the first time in my life - and get more happy with it every day. I think it is more than just how I look. It's how I feel. My body is comfortable in a way that it never was before. So, I am happy with it. I swear, I also continue to look better as the months go by - which is a miracle at 51. This is the time of a woman's life when things normally go downhill pretty fast. And I am going uphill very slowly. What a miracle.

  • At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Cathe said…

    I've been trying to find a frozen mocha that compares to the Daily's for nearly a decade.


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