Monday, May 10, 2010
FP's First Guest Blogger: Mayim Bialik!!! Can you believe it?
"I hope you got fat. I hope you got really fat.
'Cause if you got really really fat, fat, fat, you just might want to see me come back."
"Fat" by Violent Femmes
I can't say when I realized I had gained 35 pounds. Okay, that's sort of a lie. It was the autumn of 2004. I was married in 2003, and I was on a medication that was a known teratogen (unsafe to ingest while pregnant), so before I got pregnant, I switched to a medicine that was safe. The side effect, I was told, was significant weight gain and metabolic disturbance so that even if I tried to not eat "too much," I would probably gain weight anyway. And gain I did. My first son was born in October of 2005, and at that point, I weighed several pounds more than my husband. And he's a broad shouldered, wide-chested 6 feet tall.
I have never spoken about "the 35 pounds" publicly. Why? Because it's really nobody’s business. But why have I always sort of wanted to talk about it? Because being "fat" in show business is just about as unfriendly a thing to be as anything you can imagine. Besides the fact that the internet has made it an international pasttime to anonymously and cruelly attack people's physical appearance (saying things you would not say to your worst enemy face-to-face and trying to “top” other people’s vicious name-calling and insults in some sort of bizarre cyber-competition), the fact still remains that thin is as in as ever in Hollywood. It is still seen as the ideal, which ought to be attained at almost any cost, and ultimately, thin still rules the day. I made a feature film called "Kalamazoo" at that weight, and someone during the filming told me how "courageous" it was of me to take the job. I like to think that I am, indeed, a courageous woman for a lot of noble and significant reasons, but not because I chose to be in a film at "that weight."
Fortunately, I got off the medication after my first son was born and lost both my pregnancy and medicine-induced weight pretty quickly by simply breastfeeding on demand and taking mild walks with my baby in a sling. I did not (nor do I now) diet, have a trainer or a personal chef, and actually, I eat a LOT in general, help myself to seconds, and really enjoy eating dessert (when vegan dessert is an option). When people see me eating as enthusiastically and unashamedly as I do, they often joke that I must be bulimic. A) I'm not, nor do I have any eating disorder, and B) it's not funny to joke about bulimia. But I know why the way that I eat makes people squirm: most women a lot of us know (actors or not) have a complicated regimen of eating habits that range from covert eating disorders to overt avoiding eating and/or compulsive exercising. When we see someone eating without worrying about it, especially someone who is not obese, it makes us wonder what is going on both with that person and with our culture.
I don't blame women for being the way many of us are. It's what we are told we have to do to compete, to be loved, and to be accepted by our society. And I am not asking for sympathy because I happen to be small by genetics (being a foot shorter than my entire class every year from kindergarten through 10th grade was NOT fun). No one likes to hear the skinny girl describe how she doesn't diet or exercise, eats what she wants and still fits into sample sizes. And being a vegetarian since I was 19 and a vegan now, I know that I tend to eat a low-fat diet even though my motivation for eating this way has absolutely nothing to do with weight or fat intake.
So what I will tell you is the strange truth. Even though I am small-ish, by Hollywood standards, I am still somewhat of an oddball. I go to publicity events where size 0 is the norm, and I feel like a clumsy, giant woman when I stand next to the truly tiny ladies with very little fat or flesh on their bodies who grace the covers of your average magazine. When I see those magazines, I shrink a little bit and wonder "what if" I were to start working out twice a week, four times a week, maybe a little bit every day!? What if I started to abstain from second helpings and followed all of the advice from those magazines. You know what advice I mean: drink a lot of water to fill yourself up, take tiny bites, eat super slow...Could I then compete and wear "whatever I want?" Would my life be perfect then... if only I were really truly thin?
And then I think of the sadness and the intensity of our culture's influence and its obsession with perfection in the form of thin. And I think of the millions of young girls -- and boys -- who are growing up thinking that happiness lies in how thin they are. And I think of the generations of women who fought for us to have equal rights in the voting booths, in the factories, on the streets, and even in our homes. And I try to remember that the value of my character, my dignity, and the potential to somehow repair this fragmented world matters more than the size of my dress.
And so I try little by little to find clothing that I feel dignifies my body without the need for a girdle, to enjoy my body as it is, to love my body for birthing children and nursing them, to respect my body as it changes and grows, to and to nourish it the best way I know how. With seconds.