onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “January, 2020”

I don’t have a pretty red bow for you today.

I have been thinking a lot about the evolution of this blog, which is actually my evolution. And, if you read regularly, you know I have been thinking about fat acceptance for a while now. 

So this week, I binge watched a TV show about a fat teenager in the 90s. And I happened to be a fat teenager in the 90s. And I identified with so much of the show. I laughed and sobbed and could not get enough of it. My poor husband doesn’t really get it. He kept asking me, “why are you purposely watching something that makes you cry?!?” (The answer is because I love art that evokes feelings! Even difficult feelings.)
But one thing that I had a hard time identifying with was that this girl had a classically good looking boyfriend who was proud to be with her. That was not my story or my experience. And this girl was ashamed of her body at first, but learned to be comfortable in that body with this classically good looking boyfriend. And I have been thinking about that pretty much non-stop for days. Could that have ever been me? Could I have ever gotten to that point? Could I have been as fat as I was, and be comfortable being naked with a super hot guy?
And it makes me cry to say it, (like literally cry. I am crying right now. Again. My poor husband.) but I don’t think so. I can’t imagine it. I can’t think of a possible situation that would have had me accept my body that much at that time in my life. 
And I hate that. I hate that the girl I was hated herself so much. And that even in retrospect, I can’t imagine her loving herself exactly as she (I) was. And I don’t know how to process that really. What does that say about me? What does that mean about my character? 
I know that the problem I had when I was fat was not a body problem. It was an eating problem. Food was making me crazy, and unhappy. It made my life more difficult. It made me high. It facilitated my bad behaviors and intensified my bad feelings. But it also created the body that I was in that I hated. I was fat because I had an eating disorder, and an addiction. 
The two are tied up so tightly for me that I don’t know if I will ever be able to unravel them. 
So that is it. I don’t have any great revelation in this post. This doesn’t get tied up prettily with a big red bow. It just sort of ends with this uncomfortable sadness. 

Don’t Watch The Biggest Loser. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

After last week’s blog, I don’t have much to say. That took a lot out of me. And I don’t really want to talk about what Jillian Michaels said. So I will keep it short and sweet and say this: 

Don’t watch The Biggest Loser when it reboots. (This is not about Jillian Michaels. Her being in the news just reminded me. I don’t think Jillian Michaels is on the reboot, but the truth is I don’t know and I don’t care. That’s not why I am saying this.) 
Don’t watch fat people be shamed, berated, dehydrated, worked to exhaustion, malnourished, and generally abused for a dramatic story for your entertainment. The Biggest Loser is not offering a long-term solution to anything. What they are offering is not a solution to a food problem. It is not a plan for sustainable weight loss. First, it’s exercise bulimia. They get people to lose weight by exercising for more than 6 hours a day. Unless your job is playing a superhero in the Marvel Universe, I’m not clear how that is sustainable. They are literally only offering a game of who can lose the most weight the quickest. It is meant to be a circus side show. Fat people feel like a “safe” spectacle. You can judge them and pretend it is about caring about their health. Watching someone lose weight can be very dramatic. I assure you, *losing* weight in an unsustainable way can be very dramatic. But this is not a fun game once it’s done. The contestants of The Biggest Loser don’t get anything lasting from it. Some might get money.   But mostly they all just get broken metabolisms, and an inability to maintain the weight they lost. 

What could be more feminist than doing what I want with my body?

Ok. I think I am ready to do it. It has taken me some time to get my thoughts in order, but I am ready to talk about fat phobia and weight loss. 

A little set up for this post. I follow a fair number of body positive, fat acceptance, pro fat, fat activist, fat model, and in general size-inclusive accounts on social media. I do it because I still feel very connected to this group. I did not lose over 100 pounds to feel like I am “better than” anyone. And I am not here to promote weight loss. 

But there is an idea that gets floated around within these groups. That the personal desire to lose weight is inherently fat-phobic and therefore anti-feminist. That you can take actions to “be healthy” but actively trying to lose weight is against feminism.

Ok, so now you have pissed me off. 

Let me lay out some things I believe are true.
• I believe that in the U.S. and Western Culture in general, we have been fed a narrow (and ever narrowing) definition of beauty through a bombardment of images and advertising, to control and make money off of women. This culture and the corporations driving it have tried to convince us to starve ourselves, exhaust ourselves, nip and tuck ourselves, and generally be disappointed in ourselves so that we are willing to pay for the next thing that will make us beautiful and worthy. (Worthy of male attention, primarily.)

• I believe that diets don’t work, and that decreasing calories and eating in moderation is impossible for the majority of people who are not just doing that naturally. I believe that the medical industry has never offered me anything in terms of advice, diets, surgery, or medication that in any way makes long-term weight loss attainable. That what they do have to offer, besides physical mutilation, is “willpower” and “moral fortitude,” which are both bullshit, decidedly not helpful, and only reinforce the messed up idea that being fat is a moral failing. My experience is that it takes a lifestyle overhaul around food and eating to change your weight in the long-term. And that if you won’t or can’t do that, that’s fine. And totally valid. And doesn’t mean anything about your heart, mind, or morality.

• I believe that being fat does not *necessarily* equate to being unhealthy. I know that there are plenty of healthy fat people. But having said that, I have met a great number of fat people with serious health and pain issues *directly related* to being fat. And for many of these folks, losing weight and maintaining that weight loss has made them measurably healthier, and has greatly increased their comfort.

• I believe that being fat is now, and has been for generations, an easy mark for cruelty and discrimination. Whenever I hear someone say that society has “accepted” fatness, it’s usually to also say, “and that’s a problem and is contributing to the breakdown of morality in our society,” or some such nonsense. And that is bullshit. Society has not embraced fatness. And when (if) it does, it will be an important step towards inclusion and equality. Not the slippery slope to moral decay.

• I understand that I, as a straight woman, have a different relationship to thinness than many women who are not straight. The widely accepted and agreed upon view of the kind of woman men are attracted to is that she is thin. The thinner the better. Skinny, sometimes to the point of death, is what the fashion industry has been selling as the height of beauty for at least the past 30 years. So yes, I wanted to lose weight in the first place to meet a bullshit beauty standard. But as I have pointed out before, there were many classically good looking  men who were attracted to me when I was fat. But they were embarrassed by it. And I was shamed for it. 

So I do understand how loaded weight loss talk is. And I do agree that fat *is* a feminist issue. But when you tell me that my weight loss is anti-feminist and upholds the patriarchy…well now we’re going to have words.

It reminds me of an argument I occasionally heard growing up, that women who chose to stay home with their children and work as stay-at-home moms rather than have some kind of career meant they could not be feminists. 

But I thought feminism was about making our own choices, and doing what we chose for ourselves. I thought feminism was about agency and autonomy. I thought I got to choose what to do with my body. All of my body, in any way I wished.

When I was fat, I hated stairs. Sometimes, if I knew I was going to have to climb a lot of stairs at some point that day, it would haunt me until it was done. It would take up space in my head and create anxiety. I did not hate stairs because of internalized fat phobia. I hated stairs because that level of exertion caused so much pain that I lived in fear of stairs. When I lost my weight, that stopped. In fact, I started to love physical exertion. I started to love moving and walking and jumping. And yes, even stairs. OK, maybe I didn’t start to *love* stairs. But I most definitely stopped fearing them.

When I was fat, I loved to dance. I went out dancing several times a week. And there was always a point when my feet would ache so bad i couldn’t dance anymore. Even if I wanted to. Even if my favorite song came on. I wasn’t not dancing because of internalize fat phobia. I was not dancing because the weight of my body on my feet was more than I could bear. When I lost that weight, I could dance all night, and my feet never hurt. Or if they did, not enough to keep me from jumping up for my favorite song.

And here is another thing. (But it’s muddy. And I get that.) It was also a relief to be in a body that people didn’t feel entitled to shame. 

I don’t think it was OK for people to shame me for being fat. And people did. Men and women. Family, friends, and strangers. People made me feel less than, and disgusting, and shameful. And I most certainly internalized that. 

But when that stopped, there was a freedom for me. And I am not going to tell you that I don’t like it. I do. I like not having to worry about someone making an unsolicited, cruel comment. I like not thinking about my body almost ever. Especially when I thought about it, and lived in fear and anticipation of vocal judgment, constantly though my early life. 

It is not the way the world should be. And I will fight against it with everything I have. It is not OK to shame and belittle fat people.  But you don’t get to tell me what kind of body I have to have in order to do that. And this world, the world where fat people are shamed publicly and privately and in backhanded and overt ways, is the world I live in. And since I have to live in this world for now, I like living in this world much better in a body that is not continually scrutinized. 

The last thing I will say about this is that I could not have had this conversation when I was still fat. Because I really had internalized fat phobia. I hated myself. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I was also addicted to the foods making me fat. It turns out, I didn’t have a weight problem. I had an eating problem. I gave up man made sugars, grains, and starch because eating them caused cravings for more. They made me feel crazy and out of control. I started to control my portions, because part of my addiction was always wanting ”more.” My weight was the physical manifestation of my addiction. The physical addiction and the psychological addiction. And I didn’t know that until I gave up those addictive foods and put boundaries around my eating. I did it for vanity. But what I got was sanity. And the ability to look at fatness with love, and with compassion for the way fat people are treated.

I say it pretty often here. I am not skinny. I can shop in regular stores for straight sizes, but I am not lean. I have a big butt and hips and belly. I eat decadently. I am never hungry. I don’t deprive myself. I just have clear boundaries for how much food I will eat and stay away from foods that I am addicted to. And I don’t miss them. I don’t miss cake. I don’t miss French fries (which was a surprise to me. I thought I would miss them the most.) I feel great in my mind and my body. 

So I am not advocating weight loss. But if you think you would rather be in a thinner body, I understand and appreciate that. It doesn’t make you less of a feminist. It doesn’t mean you have embraced the patriarchy. It just might mean you are tired of fearing stairs and missing out on dancing to your favorite song. It just might mean you want some control over your body. The one that is yours to do with whatever you want. And what could be more feminist than that?

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