onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “beauty”

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?

If you don’t like Lizzo, don’t look.

One thing about writing a blog that is so personal is that sometimes I need to stew on things for a while. I need to sort my feelings and my thoughts. A lot of things, as they relate to fatness or society’s view of fatness, can be particularly loaded for me.

I have some things brewing in my head that I have not gotten a handle on. Things that are so emotional for me that I don’t want to write about them this week. Things around what it means to *choose* to lose weight in a fat phobic society. And how it reflects on fatness to love having lost weight. To have zero regrets about not just having my eating under control, but to also be in a smaller, easier, more comfortable, and more socially acceptable body.

But then this week, while I was trying to sort out these very personal feelings, about some very personal choices, I ended up hearing Joe Rogan and Michelle Wolf talk about Lizzo on his podcast and I was reminded again how being fat is vilified in this society. And how the argument for vilifying it is that it *isn’t* vilified, or at least not enough. 

Lizzo, of course, is a fat, black rap artist who has had a year very much in the spotlight. She regularly dresses provocatively, dances in sexy and suggestive ways, and enjoys herself and her body. She has fat, black backup dancers who also dress and dance provocatively and enjoy themselves and their bodies. In other words, she is unapologetically fat and black and encourages fat blackness. And while this clearly speaks to a lot of people, as her popularity suggests, there is a lot of backlash.

On his podcast, Joe Rogan asks (in all seriousness, which would make me laugh if it weren’t so angering) why Lizzo is allowed to show her butt, while thin women (women *he* would actually want to see) are not allowed to. I would like to know where this magical land where Mr. Rogan resides is, that loves it when fat women show off their bodies and doesn’t like it when thin women do. Because I want to go there and be worshipped as the goddess that I am! 

This idea that thin women are not loved and admired for being thin is ridiculous. It’s blatantly false. Look at any tv show, magazine ad, calendar, literally anything depicting women, and tell me that half-naked to naked thin women are looked at with scorn. How many people have been upset by Victoria’s Secret fashion shows with skinny women’s butts on display. 

And then Joe Rogan made the comparison of Lizzo showing her butt to a baboon showing its butt. I wonder if he has ever made the same comparison when a thin woman has shown her butt. Is he comparing Victoria’s Secret models to animals? I’m going to guess not.

And the other thing that makes me angry is this idea of “confidence” as a code word when dealing with the discussion of fat bodies. Confidence, when used in this context, really means “nobody actually wants to see that so you must be confident if you’re going to show it anyway.”

And that seems to be the general through line. Certain groups (I’m looking at you straight men) have decided that what they want to see, or at least what they claim they want to see, is the most important thing. That they are the valid voice of truth and beauty. But the actual truth is that lots of people want to see that. All sorts of people. 

So here is the thing for me. When I was fat, there were lots of straight men who were attracted to me. Lots of classically good looking, thin men. And they pretended they weren’t in public, and treated me like shit, because they were embarrassed to be attracted to me. So I am going to guess that there are a lot of straight men who are attracted to Lizzo. Not by her “confidence,” but by her actual body. The one she’s using to dance and sing and be joyful.

And here’s another thing. Straight men are not the only people whose attraction counts. Many of the people who are attracted to Lizzo are going to be women. Lesbians count. They have opinions and tastes. They have money to buy the things that are being sold. And many are going to be straight women who have been told that they are not sexy. But they look at Lizzo and they think she’s sexy. So they can maybe start to look at their own sexiness. They count too. 

Here’s the deal. Everyone counts. And just like I do when I see underwear models that I find too skinny, too filled with silicone and botox, and too plastic, Joe Rogan, and all of the dudes who don’t want to see, and all of the women who are shocked and appalled, can turn it off, change the channel, not look.

I am still unpacking a lot of thoughts and feelings about where I fit in a fat phobic society when I go to great lengths to both have my eating under control, and keep my weight at a place that is comfortable for me. But do not tell me that thin women have somehow gotten a raw deal because one fat black woman is unapologetically loving her fatness. I will not be buying what you are selling.  

Love for myself and my fat sisters

The internet is a fascinating place. And I am in an unusual position. I am a person who grew up fat in the 80s and 90s, when being fat was less common. And I lost my weight just at the rise of smartphones, when the internet, and more specifically, social media, became prevalent. 

In this blog over the years, I have had the opportunity to get over a lot of the feelings I had about being fat. I got to learn to separate my eating disorder from my body. I got to learn to separate how I felt about myself and my body from how I was treated by others. 
But in the 80s and 90s, there was really only how *I* was treated. Fat shaming was just a person to person experience.

On the internet, now, in 2019, we have these self made soap boxes and anyone and everyone gets to spout an opinion about all things. And I get to see a lot of nasty, fatphobic, self-righteous ranting about the wrongness fat people, very specifically fat women. Some of it from men, but so much more of it from women. 

There were, for so long, so many things tied up together in my own brain,  that I now understand shouldn’t have been. Like how I hated being fat, and how others hated me being fat. The first is my business and nobody else’s. The second is none of my business and not my problem. Or how I hated my fat self so much for being disgusting and a failure and I transferred it on to other fat people. As if now that *I* had the solution to my own self-hate problem, those without it were foolish, or lacking, or disgusting. Just like people used to treat me.
It took years for me to untangle these messy feelings. For example, I had to give up any notion that I could convince someone to do what I do with food, or that I knew better. I had to give up any notion that I was helping anyone by forcing my story on them with the expectation that it would save them. I had to give up the idea that fat me and straight-sized me were different people. I had to learn to love and appreciate my young fat self for all of the things being fat taught me and created in me. And I had to forgive the mean girl I was when I first got my eating under control, who fought so long to hate that fat Kate. 
But being in my forties, and very happily married, and so much less self-conscious than the skinny 30-something woman who was getting so much attention, while getting used to fitting into a socially acceptable body for the first time, has given me a new perspective on what it is to be a fat woman. And not being skinny, but still feeling sane, happy, and beautiful, has changed what I want for fat girls and women. 
I do have a dog in this fight. I have a little girl/young woman inside me that could still use some healing. And my guess is she always will. Because she was hurt a lot, by others and by myself. I wish my young, fat self had been available to be liked and loved. But I was not. I wish my young fat self was told she was amazing as often as she was told she was lacking. And I wish that for all of the men who were attracted to me then, some of them would not have acted like it was a shameful thing. But I should take some responsibility for that as well. Because just because I was offered crumbs, doesn’t mean I had to take them. I wish my young, fat self knew her worth. 
It’s a mine field out there for fat women. And there are more and more fat women out there, and they are facing discrimination. As soon as someone tells them they are OK, someone like Bill Maher says, “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end it needs to make a comeback.”
Being shamed is a part of life for fat people. And perhaps the Bill Mahers of the world will never entirely go away. (Though a girl can dream…) But I am not going to be one of the people talking about the shamefulness of being fat. Did I hate being fat? Yes. Do I love keeping boundaries around my eating so that I can maintain a weight I am comfortable in? I do! I absolutely love it. But I am nobody but myself. And I think how much better my life would have been if I had not been ashamed. So I am not interested in shaming, myself or anyone else . I want to be an example of love. Self-love, and love for my fat sisters. 

The meaning of fat

I read something interesting on Twitter this week. It was a fat woman asking for thin women to stop saying they are fat when they have recently stopped their restrictive diets, when they have gained a few pounds, or when they feel ugly. This woman lamented the fact that we don’t use (or really have) different words for these things. 

And this was of particular note for me because I have been 300 lbs, I have been a size 28 (the largest size in the plus size stores at the time) and even after maintaining a weight-loss of over 100 lbs for over 10 years, I still talk about being and feeling fat all the time. Just like this person said, if I gain a few pounds I think of myself as fat. If I eat heavier than usual (let’s say I have pork rinds twice in one day or a few days in a row) I may say I feel fat. I may actually *feel* fat. It doesn’t matter if I know that I am not fat. That word, that concept, is ingrained in me. In many ways it haunts me.

Now some of that is because the experience of growing up fat in the US has shaped me. It has created the basis for how I see myself and how I see my culture and society. The name of this blog is a nod to the idea that “Once a fat girl, always a fat girl.” Having grown up fat is an irrevocable part of me. It cannot be taken away. I cannot unsee the ways that I was treated. I cannot forget that I was judged, and often humiliated, for the size of my body. 

I also cannot forget that as I grew up, I was inundated with images of thin women. And that over the past 35 years, those women became thinner and thinner and those images more and more impossible, and that inundation more and more inescapable. After all, I am writing this from a mini computer connected to the whole world, that fits in my hand and goes everywhere with me. 

But when I think about it, it seems a little obnoxious to me that I want to be able to use the word “fat” as I want just because I was fat in the past. And I know what actually fat Kate would think of me right now complaining about my weight or feeling fat. She would roll her eyes so hard she’d get a glimpse of her own brain. She would cheat, steal and kill for the opportunity to shop in regular stores, fit in a seat, not have strangers make remarks about her weight in public. So it seems a little cruel to her, and to fat people in general, to deny the fact that fat doesn’t mean “not skinny.” And fat doesn’t mean “bigger than before.” 

I don’t have an answer to this right now. I am just thinking about my language and how I want to think about and express my experiences. Because I may not be skinny but I am not fat. And it is worth it to find language that fits my personal situation as well as the situation of others. Society is not getting skinnier, for all of our glorification of it. And language creates our world as well as describing it.

Beautiful. But still not skinny

When I got my eating under control 13+ years ago, I expected to find my husband right away. I thought that the only thing keeping him away was my being fat. Because even when I wasn’t fat while I was still eating compulsively, any hold I had on staying the size I was was tenuous at best. I could always feel it slipping away. 

But when I put boundaries around my eating, and especially when I stopped eating foods I am addicted to, like sugar and carbs, I lost my weight, and it was staying off. And I wasn’t afraid of gaining it back. At all. I didn’t feel like it was a fluke. I wasn’t what they call “white knuckling” it. I was in a regular sized body and fully expected to stay that way. 
But he didn’t show up. For years he didn’t show up. I went on dates. I got pretty hair cuts from a salon. (The kind where you needed an appointment!) I regularly got my nails done, fingers and toes. I wore pretty clothes. For a few years there in the beginning I even wore makeup every day. (I would stop after about 5 years of having my food under control.) But no husband.
I went on dates. I went to bars. I talked to men on the subway and in Starbucks. But he did not show up. 
And then I quit smoking. And I gained weight. I gained a lot of weight. After the first 30 lbs, I stopped weighing myself. I had my food under control, but my weight was out of control. I was terrified. I was miserable. I felt betrayed by my body. But I kept my boundaries around my eating, even in the face of that weight gain and insecurity. 
And I thought “I missed my window. My husband didn’t show up while I was skinny. And now that chance has passed.”
And then my husband showed up. When I was not skinny. When I was, in fact, the heaviest I had ever been with my eating under control.
And I had to come to terms with the fact that being skinny was not what made me beautiful. And it occurred to me that having my eating under control is actually the thing that made/makes me beautiful. The clarity. The kindness. The confidence. The good judgment.
So here I am, a woman with her food under control, who is not skinny. I am fit, and present, and growing, and happy. And still in love with my husband who is still in love with me. He still thinks I’m beautiful. (I still think so too. Because…humble.) But still not skinny. 
And I am so grateful that I got to learn that lesson. That my beauty is not determined by my physical size. That my size is fine, whatever it is, as long as I have my eating under control. Because it was the compulsive eating that made me feel ugly and crazy and unlovable. And in having my food taken care of, I am showing my body that I love it. That I think it is worthy of love. And that opened the way for my husband. Love opened the way to love. Not being “skinny and perfect.”

I don’t want to feel broken even after the broken part got fixed

I have been struggling with how I feel about a recent(ish) weight again. I feel like this happens once a year or so, in the past 4 years. I gain weight. For no discernible reason. I do not change the way I eat, at least not it in any major way. I just gain weight. Eventually I lose it. (At least that has been the case so far.) And then I gain it back months later. And then lose it again. Back and forth, over and over.

When my gram was sick in the hospital before she died, I lost a lot of weight in a few months. I definitely was not trying. I just dropped weight. I got down to about 131-133 pounds. That’s skinny for me. I was still pretty curvy, but definitely skinny. And from about April of 2010 to about August of 2012 I stayed basically the same weight. I stayed skinny regardless of what I ate. I ate a lot of bacon. I ate a lot of fried foods. I had to add a second piece of fruit to my day to keep from losing even more weight. And I just stayed skinny. 
But ever since I quit smoking, my weight has fluctuated wildly. A huge gain in the months following the weight loss. 3 years of maintaining that higher weight. Then I lost it in just a couple of months. Never all the way back down to my skinniest, but back into my size 6 jeans. Then a gain and a loss and a gain and a loss. Again and again.
A friend who has thyroid problems recommended I get mine checked. It’s not a terrible idea. But living on the road makes it a bit of a pain. Though we have great insurance and I could find a doctor anywhere. 
But the problem is also that I don’t like doctors. Having grown up fat, I don’t trust them to listen to me, to respect me, to look at me with anything except what seems to be a disdain for my lack of willpower. I was told for a long time that everything that was wrong with me was that I was fat. And that I could do something about it if I would only pull myself up by my bootstraps, or whatever. 
It’s hard for me to take doctors seriously when they all had opinions about me, but none of them could actually help. They sent me to nutritionists who told me to eat in moderation. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just stick to a diet. They were frustrated and angry with me. For not being good enough. It’s hard for me not to feel like they were the ones who weren’t good enough. That they were the ones who failed me. That they shamed me for my disease, when they didn’t actually understand the disease. And kept forcing on me a “cure” that wasn’t.
But that’s unfair. Kind of, anyway. Because I don’t know if I would have been able to give up sugar if that had been the recommended treatment. I don’t know if 12 or 16 or 23-year-old Kate would have been available for that. Thank God 28-year-old Kate was. That took care of the eating. And most of the weight.
I don’t want to worry about my weight. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to care about it. I don’t want to be ruled by how much gravity is exerted on my body. I want to take care of it to the best of my ability, and just have that be enough. I want to nourish it and hydrate it and move it with love.
I probably should find out if my thyroid is not working properly. I should probably brave the doctor and find out if there is something wrong with my hormones, something that could be corrected. For that love of my body. Not to squish it into a socially acceptable size and shape. 
But that said, even if I do get my thyroid checked and it turns out that I am not running at 100%, I don’t want to care about my size. I don’t want to judge myself for the size of my butt or my belly or my thighs. I don’t want to feel like I am sick or broken because I am not skinny anymore. Especially when the thing that was most sick and broken about myself, my eating, my addiction to sugar and carbohydrates , is taken care of, with commitment and honor and love, 3 times a day. No matter what.

My new kind of vanity

It is my experience that when we talk about the “whys” of making life changes, we have a go-to reason. Health. 

We want our loved ones to quit smoking for their health. We want them to eat right for their health. We want them to exercise for their health.
Maybe health is a good reason for some people, but I promise you, those people aren’t addicts. There is a saying that I love. “You can’t scare an addict.” 
I was well on my way to being a diabetic when I was eating compulsively. That is not the reason I stopped eating compulsively. I smoked a pack a day for about 17 years. I knew that it was bad for me. That is not why I quit.
Every good decision I ever made for my life and my health was made in the name of vanity. And the longer I have my eating under control, the more my concept of vanity changes. 
For example, for many many years, I would not leave the house without makeup. I had very strong feelings about what I looked like and how I wanted to project myself. But one day about 8 years ago, I left the house without it and got more attention than I usually did. That changed my views on my own vanity. Now, I almost never wear makeup. That is its own kind of vanity. I am vain about my natural beauty. 
When I quit smoking, it was because I was looking to be in a relationship, and the guys that I was interested in weren’t interested in dating a smoker. I wanted to look like I had my shit together, so I got my shit together and quit smoking.
I am currently obsessed with my hair. When I stopped using traditional shampoo and started using cleansing conditioner, I discovered that my hair, which I had always thought was straight, is naturally wavy. I have started a new hair care regime that is, quite frankly, kind of a pain in the ass. But I love my naturally wavy hair. So I make the time.
When I was eating compulsively, I had lots of structures in place to project a specific me to the world. A lot of artifices to fit in. (Which is saying something, since I have always been at least a little on the fringe. Though some of those choices, I would realize once the food was taken care of, were artifices too…) 
When I got my eating under control, I started to break down many of the structures I had put up, and I stepped into the real me. Who was both not as weird, and much much weirder, than the me I had been projecting.
In putting strict boundaries around my eating, and abstaining from simple sugar and carbs, I find that I am continually becoming more and more myself. And that is beautiful. But not always what I thought it would be. 
For one thing, I am not skinny. Even with all of the rules and restrictions I have around food, and my regular exercise. And that one has sometimes been hard to let go of. But this body that I am in is really me. Not starving on a diet, not binging into oblivion. Just eating real, nutritious food, three times a day in specific portions.
And, like with the vanity of quitting makeup, there is a kind of vanity in loving my not-so-skinny body. Really, that is my new vanity. I am vain about the real me. The me in a real body with my real hair and my real face. And I grew into that vanity by getting my eating under control. By not covering myself up with fat, or paint, or artifices. Though I do still love a hot dress. I expect that will never change, but who knows. I’m open.

I am a precious thing

One of the most important lessons I have been learning over the past 13 years is to stop worrying about my weight.

I used to think I had a weight problem. What I had was an eating problem. It resulted in me being fat. In living in a body I didn’t like or love. It resulted in a physical vessel that was hard to live in. A body that I was embarrassed of. But also a body I was shamed for. A body that was considered ugly and unworthy by society.

And I had it particularly rough, because I was particularly fat. But I can see now that over the years, none of us, especially women, get out unscathed. If we’re fat, we should be thin. If we’re thin, we should be thinner.

I want to stop that kind of thinking in my life. I still don’t want to be fat, but I want to stop thinking of my worth as tied to the size of my body. I want to stop thinking of my beauty as tied to how big my belly is, both compared to other women, and compared to other times in my life. I want to stop thinking about “losing 5-10 lbs.” I kind of have. But I want to more.

Here is what I can tell you. I have peace in my body when I treat it with care, no matter its size and shape. I don’t have to be my thinnest to enjoy my body. But I do have to keep my food boundaries, and my exercise and water drinking commitments. I have to floss. I have to sleep 8 hours a night. I have had to *show* my body love before I can love it.

Action is an important part of loving my body. As soon as I do something good for myself, I like myself that much more. I did not have to lose all of my weight to get comfortable in my body. First I just had to put boundaries around my eating. The longer I kept my boundaries, the more confidence I had. And it grows. The better I treat myself, the more self-care I take on, the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more I love my body. The more I love my body, the more I want to honor it with self-care.

I guess what I am saying is that I am not always comfortable with how I think others see my physical beauty, and sometimes I want to look the way society says beautiful women look. And *that* is what I want to stop. I want to decide my own beauty. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I want to judge what I see in the mirror as true beauty. And I think I can, as long as I treat myself as a precious thing.

My just desserts (spoiler alert: it’s not desserts anymore)

I consider myself to be lucky. I am very happy with the way I look. I don’t love the creases between my eyebrows, or my knock knees, or how big my belly is, but I also don’t hate them. And I feel like that is pretty good for a modern, Western woman, especially one who used to be morbidly obese. I think I am naturally beautiful.

And I think a lot of that peace and confidence in my physical self comes from taking care of myself.

There was this thing I learned years ago. When we wrong someone, we have to justify it to ourselves, or we have to own up and make amends. So if we are not willing to make amends, we have to make the person we harmed appear wrong to us in some way. For example, if I were a jerk to my husband and yelled at him about something, probably trivial, (not that I would ever do something so imperfect!) I would either have to make it right with him, or I would have to really dig my heels in about what a jerk he is. (My husband is most definitely not a jerk.) This is easy enough to see in a relationship like a marriage. (Well…Easy-ish to see. It’s not always easy for me to admit I have done something wrong.)

But what I learned since I got my eating under control is that it works the same in my relationship with myself. Only not so straightforwardly.

When I was eating compulsively, especially because I just couldn’t stop, I was forced to reinforce all of the negative talk about myself in my own head. I was fat, I was ugly, I was worthless. Because if I were beautiful and strong and capable, I would have to admit that I was abusing my body. I would have to admit that I was harming myself. And I would have to make amends to myself. And for most of my life, I wasn’t going to be able to do that. I really could not stop eating. I had no idea how.

When I was harming myself, I had to choose that I “deserved” to be harmed. My “just desserts” were literal desserts full of sugar and flour, that were making me fat, and crazy and miserable. I hated my body, because I fed it junk and poison, processed sugar and carbohydrates that got me high and made me lethargic. I abused it, which only made me hate it more, and made it justifiable to feed it more poison.

Now that I take care of my body, I love it. I love it even though it is not tiny and svelte and “flawless.” I love it with all of its rolls and sags. I love its 41-year-old’s share of wrinkles and moles. It never had to fit into society’s definition of perfect for me to love it. Really, I only needed to start treating it like it was lovable.

And when I started to love it and treat it as beautiful, the world around me started to agree. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t dye my grey hair. I don’t wear shape wear, and I rarely wear heels. But, for the most part, people like me. People are attracted to me. And I think it’s because I love me enough to treat me, my whole body, the way I deserve to be treated. With love and respect.

I adjust for conflation

I was talking with a group of friends the other day about International Women’s Day, and someone mentioned movements like “fat is beautiful,” and “fat as a feminist issue.”

The truth is that I do think that fat is a feminist issue. I do think that being fat and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive. And at the same time, I absolutely hated being fat, and I never want to go back.

I think that part of the problem with these ideas is that we conflate them. Let me break it down for you. There is a difference between what you, as an individual with a body, want to believe about and do with your body, and what our society and culture tell you about what you *should* believe about and do with your body.

I have had to deal with this for myself. I had to do some serious and painful soul searching. Because I really hated being fat. I was miserable and I felt ashamed. I hated my body. I hated the way that I looked, and the way that I felt. I hated that I could not stop eating. I hated how hard it was to live in that body.

But separately, I also hated the way I was treated by others. I hated that people were given the “right” by our culture, to openly comment about my body. After all, this body is me and I am this body. Whatever its size and shape. If you shame my body, you shame me. If you disrespect my body, you disrespect me.

I have come to really understand, only after years of being in a comfortable body, a body that I am comfortable in, that just because I was unhappy with myself didn’t give anyone else the right to judge me. It was not ok that I was shamed and abused. It was not ok that I was humiliated by others. That I hated myself did not give friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers a pass for being jerks.

My food problem is a sickness. It is not cured by “pushing away from the table,” or “just not eating so much,” or “having willpower,” or “having some self-respect.” I don’t now, and never did, earn my place in the world by being beautiful, thin, accommodating, and feminine. I have always had a place in the world. I was born into it, by virtue of having a body.

And I will say that I consider myself to be incredibly beautiful (and my husband would add humble.) And I love it. And I don’t apologize for loving it. But it doesn’t define me. And I don’t owe it to others. Not to men on the street, not to my parents, not to friends, not to bosses. Not to my husband, either. I do not owe any particular body to anyone but myself.

So in honor of International Women’s Day, let me recommend to you that you love your body exactly as it is right now in this very moment. Remember that it *is* your place in the world. And if, like I once was, you are unhappy with the body you are in, love it anyway. I believe that it is only by loving ourselves first that we can make lasting change. If we are waiting to be “perfect” before we love ourselves, we will be waiting a very long time.

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