Treating Food And Exercise Like A Zero-Sum Game Is Peak Eating Disorder Culture

Here’s a horrible idea that promotes disordered eating: Researchers in the United Kingdom have suggested labels that list the amount of exercise required to burn the amount of calories in a food. As someone who nearly died of anorexia, I know that displaying this information in this manner — on literally all packaged foods — is a direct threat to the lives of the tens of millions of people struggling with eating disorders.

Eating disorders are hell. They make enemies of food, movement, and living life in general. With eating disorders, numbers become instruments of obsession, self-hatred, and self-torture: calories, nutrients, bites, steps, pounds, and sizes.

Putting the number of minutes required to ‘work off’ a food is peak eating disorder culture because food and movement are two different aspects of life that should not be presented as prerequisites for one another. You deserve to eat whether or not you exercise. You deserve to enjoy exercise without verging on the brink of collapse.

Food is fuel and nutrition as well as culture. At times food is an instrument for expression of creativity, love, and joy. Our bodies are built to eat food. Without food, we die. Movement and exercise are energizing, empowering, and make us feel good in body and mind. Even considering the range of disabilities that bring diversity to our communities and perspectives, our bodies are generally built to move.

The authors of this study suggest their food labels could help fight obesity, and troublingly, one representative responded to CNN with concerns about eating disorders with a dismissive, “we’re interested in the population as a whole.”

In the United States, more than 30 million people struggle with eating disorders. As an anorexia survivor, I have learned the hard way that people struggling with lethal eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, weights, genders, races, ethnicities, socio-economic classes, and ages. We are your children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings.

As for scientists who wish to be ‘helpful,’ please can you not? Let’s not turn labels into weapons slapped onto every food at the grocery store. We’re still working on getting rid of the digitally altered magazine covers at the checkout aisle.

Note for readers who struggle with eating disorders or negative self-image: I want you to know that I believe in you and your ability to live a life without this horrible stuff. You deserve happiness. Recovery is possible. Seek professional support. Keep pushing, it’s worth it. xoxo

Things I’m Telling Myself Before Running A Marathon In Maybe A Blizzard

I’m running a marathon in 48 hours! Maybe in a blizzard because it’s in Northern Minnesota in October. I trained in the summer. I’m currently wearing sandals because it’s supposed to get up to 75 where I live. Here’s what I’m telling myself:

  • You trained for this.
  • You got this.
  • Maybe the weather will change.
  • Probably the weather won’t change.
  • This is your story for the ages.
  • You do not waste hard work.
  • You can handle anything that is put in front of you.
  • You trained for this.
  • You got this.
  • The faster the race, the sooner inside.

Erin sweating and wearing running gear

 

I Would Never Be Able To Run Marathons If I Still Had An Eating Disorder

I did not set out to develop an eating disorder. I wanted to get in shape. I started running. I started eating ‘healthy’ snacks. I started dieting. I lost control. I almost died.

I would never be able to run marathons today if I was still playing around with that bullshit.

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Me at the finish line of my first marathon

Through multiple humiliating rounds in the hospital, I have learned in the hardest way possible that dieting is an addictive scam. Attempting to placate negative self-image through restrictive eating or unhealthy exercise patterns is an onramp to self-destruction without brakes.

Thank God I figured out how to keep running, because it’s so great.

My primary trick is this:

I don’t diet.

I don’t listen to negative body thoughts.

I don’t punish myself for having a stomach that comes with regular queries about whether I’m pregnant.

I eat with joy.

I run for me.

Not All Requests To ‘Pick Your Brain’ Are Bad

A simple request to ‘pick your brain’ can be costly and frankly insulting to some consultants who make money based on sharing the expertise they have built in a given field. But I’d like to argue for a more nuanced position:

Not all requests to ‘pick your brain’ are bad.

Personally I grant a good deal of requests for ideas, conversation, or advice from young and/or less established people who share my values. My belief is that if I’m not investing in the next generation of feminist leaders and creators, I’m not doing my job as a social change agent. This not to say that I’m a pushover: If I’m too busy, or simply don’t see a request for a conversation as a good use of my time, I will respectfully decline. But I am proud to have spoken with a number of people over the years to offer support, encouragement, or a few words of advice on their journey.

I respect those who have boundaries such that they automatically turn down all requests for free advice or quote an hourly rate. Where I have landed, however, is evaluating requests on a case-by-case basis and maintaining strict control of how much time I allot to these requests. As I do so, I remember all of those who have helped me, with gratitude.

Thinking Of Running For President As A Democrat? Please, Just Don’t.

There are too many Democrats running for president. The vanity and ridiculousness in the 20+ Democrats running could be hilarious if it weren’t so serious —

We have a classroom’s worth of politicians angling to be captain rather than part of a winning team. This is not how we defeat an authoritarian leader who lies, violates democratic norms, and welcomes misinformation campaigns from foreign adversaries that actively work to sow division among his opponents.

Let’s be honest: The current bloated field is filled with candidates who are replicas of one another. An ever greater number of these candidates don’t have a chance in Jupiter of winning Democratic primaries, much less the general election. Democratic Party leaders have failed to take control of this situation. This has happened likely in part because of fear of a renewed batch of complaints similar to what occurred from the Bernie Sanders campaign and its supporters after the last election, but an intramural and dated fight about a ‘rigged system’ within the Democratic Party shouldn’t be a factor, because it’s both an echo of the complementary waves that brought Trump into power within the Republican Party and also irrelevant to voters in the suburbs and exurbs who need an alternative to Trump.

I am not arguing for a coronation; an ideal number at this stage would be five or so candidates — enough to have a significant exchange of ideas, but also enough to get real and create the conditions where candidates with low poll numbers decide to move on. As it stands, not getting traction or polling into relevance is not enough incentive for our bloated field to winnow itself down now, because most candidates don’t have traction or high polling, creating an effect where no one leaves.

We cannot choose a strong candidate to support when we can’t even fit all of our candidates on one stage. There is a reason why no conference, ever, invites more than 20 panelists to weigh in on a given topic. Please, for the good of the Democratic Party, the United States of America, and the entire free world, if you’re thinking of running for president as a Democrat just now, don’t. And if you’re not getting traction, do the honorable thing and drop out. 

Sometimes the greatest acts of leadership are not when one person’s name blinks in giant lights, but when that person assesses the real landscape in which they operate, recognizes what exists and what is needed, and declines to blow a fuse.

 

 

Learning To Run After A Marathon

I ran a marathon. To achieve this, I surrendered to process. I stopped accepting my own excuses and limiting mental frameworks. And, one day I became an athlete.

Running is one of my love stories. Breath visible in the air, classical music on the radio, solitude in the found gorgeous.

Training and the finish line transformed me. Surprisingly, the biggest challenge has been what came after the marathon: not running.

I am learning the limitations of my body. After completing the race, my right knee announced itself as a hostage-taker. With time, it has transitioned to a toddler testing for power.

In the last week I have begun to ease back in. My pace is considerably slower than my endurance allows, and each step brings unwelcome sensation. One month later I do not look like a marathon runner. I look like someone who is just learning to run.

Who cares, I think. I have found a way back on the road. Accepting pain — observing my pain, accepting my pain, and embracing the deep and vulnerable plunge required to stop my instinctive resistance to my pain — is the deepest meditation I have experienced.

Although finishing a marathon was pretty fucking cool.

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