Friday, March 14, 2008
I'm in a film club, which is basically the slacker version of a book club: no preparation required, save a good appetizer. Instead, a few friends and I get together once a month to watch a documentary, drink wine, eat something beyond grilled-cheese crusts and have a lengthy discussion, post-film. I love these Sunday nights; they make me feel smart and thoughtful and able to process an argument--all qualities that took a deep dive south when the rugrats arrived.
On Sunday, we watched Beauty.Mark, a must-see film by former elite triathlete Diane Israel. About ten years ago, I went to a cool body/mind/sport camp called Women's Quest, where Diane was a coach. I remember her bringing up her body and eating issues during a seminar. A specific detail: when she had to travel, she used to get up early enough to run to the airport. I can't remember more details, like what she did with her luggage, but the fact that she would get up at 3 a.m. to run 20 or so miles was both bewildering and, truth be told, slightly inspiring to me.
In Beauty Mark, Diane cracks herself--and her eating disorders and beyond screwed up body image--open for the world to see. She didn't get her period until she was 30 years old. She would eat one Powerbar for lunch during days she'd spend exercising. She had something like 17 stress fractures in her feet, and would just run through them. She'd pace like a mad animal on days she couldn't work out. What looked like a world-class athlete on the outside was actually a person killing herself. In telling her story, which happens to also be a exposure of the history of her immediate family, as truthfully as possible, Diane puts a very human and raw face on how obsessed women can become with body image.
I wish I could say I was immune to body obsession, but I'm not. And I'd guess that anybody who makes athletics a priority in their life isn't either. True, not everybody falls as hard as Diane and some of her interviewees--a bodybuilder who used steriods, a spinning instructor, with about 5% body fat, who still can't see her body for the amazing one it is--but I'd bet the film resonates more deeply with many female athletes than they'd like to admit. I know I was uncomfortable in scenes, in the same way that walking by a homeless person asking for change makes me feel. I know the situation is wrong, and I want to help, I'll be damned if I know even where to being tackling it.
While I grunt through the plank pose, I look down at my stomach and am less than pleased with the sag left from carrying two nearly 10-pound babies. Rationally, I know I should celebrate the fact that I could carry two healthy 10-pounders to term, but I'm not always rational. When I have to squeeze my thighs into size 14 jeans, I curse my legs, which can run a marathon, not the dumb designer jeans. (Why does it matter what the tag on my jeans says? I wish I knew.) Somebody else might wonder, as they run, if their quads will ever stop jiggling;somebody else hates that they have thick ankles or big boobs or small boobs or turkey-wing triceps or whatever is the despised body part du jour. Running and other sports have immediate, tangible benefits, and tasting those can lead you down a slippery slope thinking that if you run harder or spin faster or just do one more set of squats, you'll be fixed and whole and somehow, a better person.
After being forced out of triathlons--her body literally could not stand anymore--Diane became a psychotherapist, which is perfect for her: she's intelligent, funny and engaging--the kind of person who you can instantly connect with upon first meeting her. I imagine she's healed many people through her practice. This film, which has a few showings on the east coast in late April (and hopefully many more in the future), has the potential to help many, many more. See it if you can.
Posted by Unknown at 10:19 AM