3 min

The new axis of evil

Learning to love my 31-plus-inch waist

Apparently the BMI is out and the WHR is in.

According to incessant news reports last week, we should no longer be worried about our weight dependent upon height via the Body Mass Index but should just make sure we fit (literally) into the desirable Waist Hip Ratio.

The way to tell if you are healthy or on the verge of dying a horrible death and bringing shame upon your entire family both immediate and extended is to measure your waist.

If you’re a woman and your waist is bigger than 31 inches then you are-and I’m not making this up-“abdominally obese”.

That phrase was repeated innumerous times on the news last week in tones that suggested the gravest of dangers. The “Axis of Evil” is so passé. Abdominal obesity is now the world’s greatest threat.

So, it turns out that I’m abdominally obese, as is pretty much every woman I know, according to this formula.

Thirty-one inches? Are you kidding me?! Who conducted this survey, the producers of America’s Next Top Model? What’s next? Will my doctor sit me down and worriedly tell me that I am neckularly obese? The whole thing is patently ridiculous.

News of this study conjured up visions of Maury Povich or Dr Phil taking a wrecking ball to the side wall of a house in order to free a woman with a 32-inch waist who had been trapped by her own obesity for years. Perhaps Richard Simmons would be there in his little stripy shorts to help. He would lead the neighbours in a rousing chorus of “I Will Survive” as no less than 12 husky firefighters carried the trapped woman out.

I found myself laughing and yelling at my TV all at once. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything on the news since so little of it is actually news but I couldn’t help but take this one personally.

When I was little my dad nicknamed me Morgan Fat Guts because I had that little belly that pretty much all kids around the age of three have. I grew up internalizing my mother’s issues about her body and seeing myself as overweight even though I was anything but.

I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting in elementary school where, instead of turning me away at the door, they welcomed me in and taught me cute little sayings like, “Being hungry is like being in love; if you’re not sure, you’re probably not” that I still remember to this day.

I’ve had a lifetime of people telling me there’s something wrong with my body and believing them. But when this 31-inch = abdominal obesity nonsense came out, even I called bullshit.

I don’t need any more encouragement to feel bad about my body. It’s already everywhere I turn. Unchecked hatred gets spewed at fat people every day, and the threat of getting fat is treated as more frightening than terrorism.

And then there are the voices inside my head that tell me I’m ugly and unlovable. It’s a daily fight to counter all of this and some days I don’t win that fight. Some days I hate my body and hate myself for not having more willpower or a gym membership or a love of celery sticks.

Some days I walk down the street and think that everyone is looking at me with disgust and I feel ashamed and apologetic.

But after years of bulimia and therapy when I was younger and reading wonderful books like Marilyn Wann’s FAT!SO? Because You Don’t Have to Apologize for Your Size and Hanne Blank’s Big Big Love, I now have both a political resistance to the fat phobia of the world and a love of myself and my body; not a love of myself in spite of my body.

After years of hiding in ill-fitting clothes in an attempt to hide my shape, I now choose to celebrate my body and dress like the femme siren I see myself as.

These changes didn’t happen to me overnight or come easily. Even when I found fat politics and started to espouse its tenets I still didn’t quite believe they applied to me.

I was dating a dancer at the time with a lean, muscular body. Despite evidence to the contrary, I couldn’t help but think she was just dating me as some kind of political statement and that anyone who saw us together would wonder what she was doing with me when she could obviously do better.

But just as years of being taught to hate my body took their toll, years of working on loving my body have taken a more positive toll.

I am now focusing on being healthy instead of losing weight because I know that being thin does not necessarily make one healthy any more than being fat categorically makes you unhealthy.

I know plenty of fat folks who are incredibly physically active and have hearts as strong as strong can be. I’m not one of those folks, but I’m working on it.

And I’m continuing to work on loving myself and the ratio between my hips and my waist. No matter how threatening that might be to the world.