October 1, 2011

Like being in the mafia?

Blogging and living in an active social network creates an atmosphere of constant emergency and reaction. Real life mediates that by leaving too little time to respond to everything. Yet, my delay in writing about Jess Weiner's Glamour article controversy was more deliberate. I knew the blogosphere would glow for a while and Facebook would trade updates and "likes" for a while until thoughts settled. Some TERRIFIC writing has gone on about this issue.

In short, the drama here is that Weiner is a longtime activist  - she says "actionist" - for body acceptance and if you've seen her entertain a crowd you know that she is enormously engaging and delightful. She's been very successful at getting the word, and herself, out to a mainstream audience with messages that really weren't making the big time. For that I admire her. But being a skilled humorist and speaker doesn't make her a skilled analyst of the issues or, seemingly, someone with a deep grasp of the issues. My greatest shock has been that Weiner actually did not, and still does not appear to, understand the concept of Health At Any Size. Her body acceptance actively omitted the "health" part.

In her essay for Glamour, "Loving My Body Almost Killed Me", Weiner describes how "loving my body" led her to avoid medical care, fail to eat or be active in a healthful way, and led her to see any attention to her health as a betrayal of her self-love.

What's shocking here isn't the idea - I hear that mistaken and heartbreaking idea all the time - it is that Weiner of all people is making it. She insists on saying that it is her weight loss that is saving her life and that weight was her health problem.

I don't know what is worse: that a well-known body image activist was spreading poor information before or that she's compounding it now by becoming converted to another set of myths.

Weiner is now taking care of her health. She's active, she's learning to eat what her body tells her and as much as her body needs. News flash: these ARE the principles of body acceptance - as long as you are not confusing it with a pursuit of weight loss for its own sake.

I won't pretend that my own friends and family understand HAES. I have plenty of people in my life who continue to cling to the idea that the reason to be active and to nourish themselves in a balanced way is simply a pursuit of a slimmer body. Health is not the pursuit of a weight, and weight is not a measure of health. It is, admittedly, neither an easy or a popular set of ideas - but surely Weiner should have known all this if she was going to spend years in front of audiences and young people as she has - endorsed by so many in the ED world. Surely Weiner knew better than to "learn" this and still get it so wildly and publicly wrong?

I guess not.

For some of the best analyses:
Kate Harding
Margarita Tartakovsky
Deb Burgard
Katja Rowell
Claire Mysko
Becky Henry
Atchka
Carrie Arnold




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