Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Chart

CNN has been running this chart on the state of our American waist: hip ratio on a regular basis. It illustrates what we already know: Americans are betting fatter by the decade.

When I was a little kid, I can remember fat people (let's just call those people fifty pounds overweight or more) being a rarity. So unusual was it to see someone without a definable waist line that I was tempted to stare. (I was six years old and very skinny. I was also rude).

Nowadays, it seems everyone is carrying around a little something extra. For some of us, it's five pounds. Or ten. The number of us, however, who are carrying around twenty pounds more than we need to be? Legion. The mostly fit are rare. The morbidly obese are common. And the moderately overweight? Normal. Average.

For women the business of weight is deadly serious, and sometimes literally deadly. Between 1-5% of American high school and college age women get anorexia, and of those, between 5-20% die from it. Between 2-4% of American high school and college age women get bulimia, and up to 13% of women not strictly fitting the diagnosis exhibit purging behavior. Bulimia, while not as commonly fatal, has a high relapse rate, up to 25%.*

I know about anorexia and bulimia first hand from my sisters. One had anorexia, the other bulimia. Both recovered very well with therapy and are now among the 5 or 10 to lose crowd.

Their issues - or mine - are not the point. (Ramble, ramble).

What I find irksome is the blase acceptance of both extremes: people look around and say, well everyone is overweight these days, so it doesn't matter. (It does). And people also look around and say, well everyone is overweight these days, so the thinner I am the better I am.

Excuse me?

Recently, a friend (and closet bulimic), heard me joking about throwing away some jeans I can't fit into anymore - the ones I have been holding onto since high school. She turned very earnestly to me and said, "Oh but if you really try, you can get into them again. You can. Don't give up."

And I thought, don't give up? On the dream of being 85 pounds again, which I had no idea I should be aspiring to?


All this is on my mind right now for three reasons:

Reason one: I have entered medical season** - the time of year when I make appointments: eye doctor, dentist, (I like to start with the easy ones) GP (blood work), gynecologist (gack), radiologist (mammogram), breast surgeon (I already have one picked out)***, and nephrologist (I only have one kidney).

The last six months have been a drama sandwich with a trauma chaser - and when life is "like this" -temperance vanishes. I just try not to die. The result is uniformly bad: I floss less, I eat more, I only get to the gym when my 85 pound friends demand it as a condition of continuing friendship.

And I get puffy in ways that are profoundly disturbing. Explaining why and how to my GP will not satisfy her or change the puffiness.

Reason two; I have realized, not for the first time, that in order for me to get really good at climbing, I need to pare down. If I were not afraid of my doctors' collective chagrin, this alone would be a good enough reason.

Reason three: While reasons one and two are compelling, I have a complication. Sadly, I have the temperament and the genetics to ge into (dammit) both, kinds of trouble, depending on which grade of crazy happens to ensnare me. My mother fought**** off the pounds her whole life. And I have two sisters who weigh themselves four times a day. And as previously noted, I have a penchant for numbers... charting, graphing... measuring.

It could all go so very badly - especially if I get on a scale. And most definitely if my doctor pokes me in the belly and makes that little dough boy squeak. Dammit.

Many women want to lose weight so that they can attract men. I can't say I care about this. I kissed someone last week and I still cringe when I think of it. So regarding weight and attractiveness or mate-ableness, I have little to say. From what I have observed, men will date a woman if they find her body appealing, and plenty of men find the 5, 10, 20 pounds overweight situation appealing enough. Others not. But one thing that really sucks about being thinner (ducking because I am about to say something that will piss off every woman in the room) is that the thinner I am, the more men like me. I find this annoying as hell. And no, it is not because I have a strikingly beautiful face. It is because my breasts do not shrink when I lose weight. When I hit my ideal weight, my bra size goes down maybe one step. Maybe. My breasts are tenacious, and because of them, I have to bat men out of the way with my broom if I get especially thin.

So as you can see, reader of a Thursday rambling-ass long post, I am conflicted. I have to banish the puffiness and satisfy my GP and get better at climbing, but I also have to not acquire an eating disorder - and also not become thin enough that I have to spend a significant percentage of my time refusing to give out my phone number to boob addicts.

I am confused, as you can see.

And please, don't comment and give me a lot of shit about being grateful men want to date me even if the reason is something as stupid as having breasts. You try having a conversation with someone whose mouth is hanging open and who cannot seem to locate your face, with his eyeballs. *UGHHGHGH* is all I can say. If you have something to add, by all means, comment like mad, but don't give me a hard time about my breasts. I did not choose them and they are mostly a nuisance.

* I am not an expert. I trolled the internet for these statistics - and I am not responsible for their accuracy or validity. If you are worried about precision, google it yourself.

** Medical season this year is going to be rough. To my dentist, I have to explain why I have only been flossing on Sundays. To the eye doctor, I have to explain why I haven't taken my contacts out in three months. To my OB/GYN, I have to confess that, yes, I have wasted another year of my precious ovarian reserve on rock climbing and ignoring relationship opportunities; to my radiologist I have to explain that, no, I don't really regret NOT coming in for that 6 month rescan she so earnestly recommended. (See below). My nephrologist will beg me to quit the caffeine and alcohol, and he'll fail. But the person I really fear is my GP, who will want to know why I am no longer measuring appropriately.

***My mother died of breast cancer. I have a whole squadron of doctors scrubbed up and just waiting for that suspicious mammogram so they can cut my breasts off.

**** In my filing cabinet, I have a copy of my mother's medical records. I rarely look at them, but when I do, I turn to the page where the nurse's notes indicate that my mother is "delighted" to have lost so much weight... from the chemotherapy. I cannot read this page without crying.

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