the ch!cktionary

I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.

For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.

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irregular features
Ask Lena: Reader Questions Answered
Anatomy of an Outfit
Bad Feminist Confessions
Freelance Friday: Career Advice for Young Writers
Hate Mail
Gratuitous Photos Of My Bulldog
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Wednesday* is Love Your Body Day! This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival.

Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a condition, you’re not exempt from disordered eating. Here are some warning signs from Self Magazine:

  • A very strong fear of gaining 5 pounds
  • Following strict food rules
  • Dieting for more than three quarters of your life
  • Use of diet pills or laxatives
  • Fasting or juice cleanses to lose weight
  • Overexercising
  • Cutting entire food groups from your diet, except for religious reasons
  • Eating the same “safe” foods every day
  • Extreme calorie restriction
  • Thinking about food more than 50 percent of the time
  • Obsessive calorie counting
  • Intentionally skipping meals to lose weight
  • Bingeing or vomiting
  • Smoking for weight loss
  • Lying about how much you’ve eaten
  • Weighing yourself daily, if it becomes obsessive.
  • Consistently overeating when you’re not hungry
  • Eating a lot of no- or low-calorie foods
  • Having concerns about your eating or weight that interfere with your life (e.g., you won’t see the doctor)
  • Considering foods to be good or bad
  • Visiting pro-anorexia or pro-bulimia websites
  • Adopting a vegetarian diet solely for weight loss

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve probably engaged in over half those behaviors. I would bold the ones applicable to me, butttt let’s save that embarrassment for another time. Though I clearly identify with the above list, I’ve never been diagnosed with an eating disorder and neither have any of my close friends. From what I’ve witnessed in my own life and in the lives of others, however, bodily obsession doesn’t need an official label for it to inflict serious damage to both mental and physical health.

I haven’t dieted in years - by which, I mean, that I haven’t restricted calories, blacklisted treats, or otherwise modified my food intake in pursuit of weight loss. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide that I didn’t want to diet anymore. It was a painfully slow process. I’d dieted on and off since I was in my early teens, and even though I was skinnier then than I was at times in my adulthood, I wasn’t really ever happy with my body. Then again, no one I knew in college was too happy with their bodies, particularly not my female friends. Ordering group take-out always brought out everyone’s neuroses. Some people overate to deal with stress; others simply forgot to eat or went on fasts to “make up” for the previous week’s binge. And though I hardly lived in Mean Girls-like conditions, the sad reality is that we were all our own Regina George. We tried ridiculous schemes in hopes of reaching the elusive goal of thinness.

A couple years ago, I realized through my observations of these weight struggles, that dieting and fixating on food was making things worse, not better. And by that, I don’t just mean that we weren’t losing weight. I think the diets we went on contributed to slower metabolism, nutritional deficiencies, and major, major mood swings (i.e. depression). And then there’s the question of how thin is thin enough? What do you need to be happy? I suppose if there is an “end state” that one can reach and stay happy at without unreasonable inconvenience, a diet could ostensibly work. That wasn’t, however, the experience of anyone I knew. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that most people latch onto diet fads that ensure quick results but no long-term sustainability. But I suspect that it’s also because weight loss itself doesn’t address our profound dissatisfaction with our bodies, and by reflection, ourselves. In the end, it’s not about a number on the scale, because if it were really just about a number, there wouldn’t be the shame and guilt and remorse. Which is why when we talk about physical health, we’ve got to also address the emotional.

* So I actually went back through the above list and counted which ones applied to me. I’ve engaged in 11 of those behaviors. How about you?

** An earlier version of this post suggested the wrong date! Sorry - mental calendar lapse :P

Throughout October, I’m competing to win my own web series on I’d really appreciate it if you supported in the Best Blogger Awards. (It’s super easy to vote, just a click!)

  1. drdevin reblogged this from lenachen
  2. favors-unique reblogged this from lenachen
  3. mostlygoesastray reblogged this from me-talk-kitty-one-day
  4. allthechocolatesinthebox reblogged this from me-talk-kitty-one-day
  5. anaerobic reblogged this from lenachen and added:
    I used to do all of these. Still do some of them, but I’m working on it.
  6. yrmillionsweetnesses reblogged this from me-talk-kitty-one-day
  7. me-talk-kitty-one-day reblogged this from lenachen
  8. mayaadore reblogged this from lenachen
  9. mayaadore said: Very well written, I found myself nodding to a lot of it. 11 for me, too.
  10. nocturnal--darling reblogged this from lenachen
  11. desalmada reblogged this from lenachen and added:
    This really neglects the fact that overeating is also disordered eating. (It feels like binge eating was only mentioned...
  12. hereforthefreebeer reblogged this from lenachen
  13. treatyoselfartie reblogged this from lenachen
  14. thatgirlallison said: I’m not sure what counts as “obsessive calorie counting” but I’ve calorie counted because it’s a good way to monitor your food intake. I don’t think it qualifies as an eating disorder though…
  15. lenachen posted this