Last weekend I was talking with my friend who happens to be a registered dietitian. We’re both huge goof balls, we’re both a little blonde; and while we’re both incredibly smart and educated, we both rely on each other for accountability and support. More than once I’ve had her review my meal plans and she’s had me review her fitness plans. We co-teach groups that focus on healthy eating and fitness, but we know a lot about each other so we bounce ideas off each other.
She was telling me about a recent beet dish she prepared, and I was intrigued. I explained that I was struggling recently with my own nutrition plan because I’m bored of my usual vegetables and fruits. We then started talking about different ideas to spice things up a little bit. Here’s the conversation as we remember:
Ashley: What about rhubarb? I saw that it was on sale … but it sort of freaks me out. I always think it should be with the celery and carrots, but it’s always with the berries? Is it a fruit or vegetable? Can I just eat that like a stalk of celery? Think I’d like it?
Joanne: No! It would taste bitter as hell … oh and by the way, don’t eat the leaves, they are poisonous. (We argue, I’m pretty sure she said it would taste like ass crack, but she also says I’m making that up).
Ashley: Haha! Good to know. Guess I won’t be trying that one anytime soon.
Joanne: Yeah. It’s really bitter. People tend only to eat it with lots of sugar. It’s used in pies and desserts. It’s not really something people eat raw. What about squash and zucchini?
We moved on. Later that day, I made a post on my personal Facebook page jokingly thanking my friend for saving my life and being glad I have professionals in my life. I didn’t name the food mostly because I felt like a moron and because I thought the whole situation was a display of my blondeness. It was meant to be playful not informative. Two people asked me about it, and I sent both the link(s) Joanne had sent to me with the list of poisonous plants/produce etc. I didn’t think anyone would really care about this post, but they did – so I decided I’d work on something for a future blog post that would address some of the more dangerous items. For now, however, I’d leave it alone. I have a personal rule though that I will not present food as good or bad, and I will never list foods to avoid or not to eat. Rhubarb leaves weren’t worth risking my integrity. Things got out of hand really fast, and I actually took down the “status”. I couldn’t tolerate anymore statements like, “I don’t see what the big deal is about telling people not to eat some food you thought yourself was dangerous.” You see, I believe there’s always more to the story and that by simply putting up one food to avoid, I’d be playing into the social media craze. Where truly there’s a whole bunch of hidden dangers that are more important to address than rhubarb leaves. Further, some of us just need one little excuse to go rogue on our own health journeys. This wasn’t my intention, and I wasn’t going down that road that day. There are more qualified individuals out there to do that. I got into a heated discussion with a friend who owns her own health coaching business about this. I sent her the links too and told her she was more than welcome to share them. She thought I was being too stubborn and should just share the links myself, but I wasn’t going to share a link that I knew would only get hits because of fear and a sexy title. She shared it. It was ridiculous how many people opened the link; however, not many people felt the need to share, comment, or like it. So, maybe I wasn’t too far off.
This week, I’ve seen a lot of articles and posts on “skinny fat”. I’ve been purposely avoiding them. This morning, I saw that 10 friends share the same link! 6 people shared another. I read them, and after I was pretty sure I was dying of obesity. Both articles explained that thin people have higher fat percentages because they have less muscle. They said things like, “Grab a skinny person’s arm, I promise you, it will feel like mush.” I sat there squeezing my arms. And my legs. And my stomach. (My arms weren’t mushy – they were either boney or tight …and I don’t feel like I’m mature enough to answer this about other body parts.) I texted my dietitian friend. Am I skinny fat? Should I give up almond butter? My birthday is next week, am I not allowed to have dessert and wine? Oh crap! I need a glass of wine. I can’t believe I’m skinny fat! How did this happen? She made me do a mental check of where I was in that moment. My cholesterol is good, I don’t have diabetes, I eat pretty well, I work out, and just because I don’t think I look good naked, that doesn’t mean I have a medical diagnosis of being skinny fat. Just as I was getting ready to give up food, she stepped in, and she saved my life again.
I look at last week, and all of those who told me to “just post that rhubarb leaves are poisonous and not to eat them.” I questioned myself a little last week if I was wrong to NOT share the links I had, but I realized today that I made the right decision. The probability that I would read something like “Am I skinny fat?”, decide I am skinny FAT, stop eating to make sure I’m JUST SKINNY (and not fat), and throw myself back into a disorder I can’t control and has a pretty high mortality rate IS MUCH HIGER than the probability that I would randomly go to the store and start eating leaves I don’t know anything about. With eating disorders having the highest mortality of any mental illness and anorexia being the leading cause of death for girls ages 15-24, I still don’t get it. I got “emails” and “messages” that it was my responsibility to warn people not to eat rhubarb leaves and that I should share this potentially life-saving piece of information with the world right away. People got upset because they thought I was withholding information; I was being vague, and I was risking people’s lives. Yet, I had 16 potentially triggering and life threatening links to articles in my news feed this morning! 16! How many of you shared, opened, or read a skinny fat article today? How many of you thought about eating rhubarb leaves? I know where I was more at risk, so I’m still happy with my decision from last week and I still stand by my personal rules, values, and decisions. I still believe I shared more lives sharing this than I would have sharing a post about not eating rhubarb leaves, raw kidney beans, or puffer fish.
This is why I’m careful about what I post and I set weird rules for myself that people don’t always understand. This is why I don’t share things with sexy titles to make a sale or advertise. This is why I SHOULD NOT be reading things designed to make me feel bad about myself. The articles were written by certified health coaches. This means they didn’t go to school for this. These skinny fat articles aren’t being written by medical professionals, and they aren’t being read by professionals. They are just out there to sell something in most cases. Of course, I am my own brand too, but no worries I’m not here to sell you rhubarb alternatives or to body shame anyone into working with me. I’ve also learned that some people don’t get my sense of humor in posts, and that’s okay too.
My point here in all of this, be careful what you read out there folks. I will be putting together a future post of key words to avoid and to look for so you can do your own research. Until then, just be careful. And remember from my post last week, before you share something – not everyone thinks like you, so not everyone will get the message you are trying to send. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes before trying to get them to see the world through your eyes. Ultimately, it is our own responsibility to keep ourselves happy and healthy. We decide what we feed our bodies and our minds. Choose wisely!
Thank you for reading! As always, if you think this was important, please comment, share, or send me a message. – Ashley Kelso