onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “fat acceptance”

Lots of love, but no pretending

When I first started this blog, I wanted to heal the parts of myself that had been squashed and damaged by all of the self-preservation I had put in place. I wanted to work through the default thoughts and actions of my life to that point that kept my life small. That kept me protected from any kind of hurt or embarrassment. From really any kind of emotions.

Also, I hated fatness. I hated being fat. I hated seeing fat people. Even the ones I loved and liked and admired and respected. And having given up sugar and lost over 100 pounds, I felt incredibly self-righteous. 

Since then, I have grown and changed a lot. Much of the change was because of this blog. And one thing that I have changed my mind about is fatness. I am so much less judgmental. I have love and compassion for my fat self, and that love for myself has overflowed into love and compassion for others.

But there is a place that I stand that is very much considered fat phobia by fat people and fat acceptance culture. And it is that I do not want to be fat. 

It doesn’t matter that it is about me and nobody else. It doesn’t matter that I have been fat and hated it. To not want to be fat is to value thinness. (Sigh. Again. I am not that thin. I wear the biggest of straight sizes and I have plenty of chub.) But I do value not being fat. For myself. For my life. For how I feel about my body. For how I feel about navigating the world in this body. 

I am writing this because I saw a social media post that said “If you don’t want to be fat, that is fat phobic.” And I immediately thought “No! Not me! I’m not fat phobic!” But maybe I am. Probably I am. 

My body stays relatively thin-ish, because I don’t eat most sugars, grains or starches. And I don’t eat those things because I am addicted to them and I have the same kinds of behaviors as an alcoholic or drug addict (btw, sugar is a drug for me, so I really am a drug addict.) I lie, cheat and steal. I manipulate. I am self-centered and emotionally volatile.

I don’t continue to abstain from sugar because of my weight. I do it because I don’t like the person I am when I eat it.

But I also don’t want to be fat! And I don’t want to have to feel bad or ashamed or uncomfortable or like a heartless asshole because of it. And I guess if that makes me fat phobic, then I am. And I don’t feel the need to do any work on myself over it. 

I remember what it was like to be treated like a disgrace for being fat. The way people would comment on my body with laughter and jeers and sneers. Strangers and acquaintances and people I considered friends. And how people would stand by and let it happen to me. And to this day I hate doctors, and the medical community in general. Because the way they treated me as a fat person always made me feel like I was a failure as a human being. I always felt ashamed and embarrassed. And I was scrutinized and reprimanded whenever I went for an appointment. And yet, I was never offered a solution that worked. (Willpower is not a solution, my friends.)

I see other people, fat people,getting the same hate and cruelty that I received for so long, and I am so sad and hurt by it. When I listen to the casual fat jokes and dehumanization of fat people in all forms of media, I still feel an echo of the excruciating pain I used to feel as a kid when I saw a fat joke or a fat shaming on TV shows or in movies. Some of those movie lines and jokes are burned into my psyche.

I want to be trusted and accepted by the fat acceptance community. Because even if I don’t look like it, I feel like fat people will always be my people. But maybe I can’t. And maybe I shouldn’t. And maybe I need to let that go. Because the actual, absolute truth for me is that if someone wants to do what I do – give up sugar, weigh their food and keep strict portion control, keep boundaries about when and how and how often they can eat – I want them to. Because it is without a doubt, the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and it is the foundation for the life that I have which is a life beyond my wildest dreams. And I didn’t get it because I wanted to have a spiritual awakening. I got it because I didn’t want to be fat anymore when I was in my 20s.

So I am going to keep following my fat brothers and sisters on social media, and loving them and their hot fashions, and their beauty. But perhaps I am going to have to give up wanting to be accepted, and a true part that movement and that moment and that group. Because I have a different set of experiences. And I don’t know how to be over here, grateful to not be fat, and still make fat people feel loved and honored as themselves.

Maybe I can’t. Maybe I can, and I just don’t know how yet. But I love having an easy body. And I am not willing to pretend I don’t.

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?

The possible effect of #BOPO in alternate timelines, and other things that are none of my business

This week I think I want to talk about body positivity and fat acceptance. I say “I think,” because I have a lot of feelings about it. And not all of them are positive. But that’s about my feelings. Rationally, I am all for it.

Rationally I believe very strongly in personal freedom. I don’t believe in shaming people for doing things. I don’t believe it’s anyone else’s business what each of us chooses for ourselves. And that includes our health. 

I think it’s nobody’s business if you smoke, or drink, or use drugs, or have sex, or gamble. And I think it’s nobody’s business what you eat. Or how much of it. And I don’t care if someone is a perfect specimen of health in every way. That still doesn’t give anyone the right to judge or make choices for another. We all make our choices. Our choices have consequences. We each live with our consequences. 
And don’t bother telling me how our choices affect one another. I know that too. I am already on board for the whole “all things are connected” way of thinking. I am asking you to consider how *your* judgements are affecting the world, more than you worry about the ramifications of a fat woman you may or may not know eating a candy bar.
And just to be super-extra clear, I believe that “well-meaning” judgements in the form of unsolicited advice for the sake of “health” are a form of abuse. So unless that loved one (or, as some people need to be reminded, that stranger) comes to you specifically for help, keep it to yourself. In order to really love someone, you have to love them the way that they are right now, exactly as they are. Not as their potential to be someone you approve of.
Having gotten that disclaimer out of the way, the body positivity movement gives me a lot of difficult feelings. I follow a few fat models on Instagram and Twitter. For the most part, I feel about them the way I feel about most models. I like some of their styles and looks, and don’t like others. (I really love clothes.)
But every once in a while, I will see something, the cut of a pair of pants, or a particular fat roll, that will remind me of how much I hated being fat. And how ugly I felt when I was fat. 
In retrospect, and I mean many many years retrospect, I can see that I was beautiful when I was fat. And I really wish I had known.  And I really wish someone had told me. And I really wish I hadn’t cared so much. And I really wish my fat body hadn’t been an issue that I dealt with daily, hourly, by the minute.
When I was fat, my body was on my mind 85% of the time. And 100% of the time I was around other people. It took up a part of my thinking any time I was in public. Literally any and every time. I was wondering what others were seeing. And then what they were thinking about what they saw. How they were judging me. If I deserved it. How I could draw attention away from it. Not from me. From my *body.* And how I could be recognized as separate from my body. Because I was ashamed.
And I didn’t even know that, didn’t understand the amount of brain power I was using to worry about how fat I was, or the depths of my self-hatred, until it stopped. It stopped after I had my eating under control for a few years.
I am not particularly thin, but I don’t really think much about my body now. At least not in terms of other people. I don’t always love what I see in the mirror when I am heavier than I like. And I occasionally don’t like the way my clothes feel if they are tighter than they were. But I don’t walk through the world thinking people are judging me by the size of my body. I can’t remember the last time I worried about what others were seeing when they looked at me. And that is a miracle to the fat girl I was growing up.
I didn’t like growing up in a fat body. But at this point, I don’t know if I was trained into that, or if I didn’t like it because it was not my true self, or rather, not me being true to myself.
I was eating, almost exclusively, things that I am addicted to: Sugar, flour, starch. I was high all the time. My thoughts were muddled. My emotions were a rollercoaster. I couldn’t cope with life in any meaningful way. I could only numb my difficult feelings, and put Band-Aids on my problems. And I felt *compelled* to eat those foods. Even when I didn’t want to eat those foods. Even when I wanted to stop. Even when I wanted to be thin. I had no control over what went into my body. 
Changing my eating changed so much more than my body. But it also made my body-hatred stop. 
I guess some of the difficult feelings I have about body positivity and fat acceptance come from wondering if I could have loved my fat self unconditionally. And if I had, how my life would be different. And if it were different, would it have been as beautiful as it is now.
And some of those difficult feelings come from the fact that the foods I was eating to be the size and shape that I was had contributed so significantly to the way I felt about myself. 
I guess I wonder, to a certain extent, how body positive and fat accepting I could have been of my own self, if I were still eating the foods I am addicted to. Did I hate my body because it was fat, or because I was abusing it with cake?
When I gave up sugar, I also took on a way of life. And one aspect of that way of life is to mind my own business. To practice attraction and not promotion. If you want what I have, do what I do. I am happy to help anyone who wants to try my way of life. 
But it’s not my place to tell anyone they need it. It’s not my place to tell anyone they are an addict. It’s not my place to judge people. Even if I have the same experiences as them, because I used to be fat and found a solution to my eating problem. 
So I am for body positivity. And fat acceptance. And self-love on its deepest level. And I believe that self-love is about loving ourselves exactly as we are, right now. Not some idealized version of ourselves that we could be if we were better. 
But I also have this thing, this amazing way of life that changed everything about my life, and gave me a life beyond my wildest dreams. And I got it because I was unhappy. I got it because I was vain. I got it because I didn’t *want* to be fat anymore. 
I guess the answer is all the way back at the beginning of this post. Let people be who they are. Honor freedom and personal choices. Let people choose for themselves. Love them. Be friends and family and fellows to them without judging them. Wish them happiness. And hope they get it however they get it, whether that’s through giving up sugar, or accepting their fat (haha! No pun intended, but I like it!), or some other thing that I don’t even know about. 
And I should also remember that my experience is just mine. But that if someone wants what I have, and I am a beacon for someone else, then I have used my connection to all things for the better.

If I end up in the political correctness slammer, please don’t sneak a file to me in a cake…

Perhaps you read the article in the New York Times this week called Losing It In the Anti-Diet Age. If not you can read it here

I found it interesting. Especially because the author is, herself, a fat person who can tell you first hand what it’s like to be a fat person in America. I too know what it’s like. I know how it feels to go on a diet, and lose weight, only to gain it all back, even though you don’t want to, don’t mean to, would literally do anything to not, from sticking things down your throat to make yourself throw up (something I did personally), to, say, getting your stomach removed (something I did not do, but know people who have). I know what it is like to be made fun of and have people talk about you as if you are a thing, with no feelings. To have them question your goodness, your honor, your worth; a fat person must be lazy, stupid, careless, and pathetic, or they would deal with their weight. I was struck hard by the author’s mention that a commenter on another article she wrote said, “Why doesn’t she stop eating so much?” As if we hadn’t effing thought of that ourselves already. There is talk of willpower. A doctor talked about getting an individual down to a goal weight with medication so that they could make a fresh start, but then they were going to have to get willpower. (Seriously? Screw you.)

All of this sounds to me like thin people who have no idea what it is like to be fat, trying to solve a problem they don’t even understand in the first place. Thin people don’t need to figure out how to stop eating. They already don’t overeat. That’s like having a person with a lot of hair try to cure baldness just because they have hair and bald people don’t.

But another issue in this article that I wanted to address is the change in the language of dieting in the culture. Words like “diet,” “dieting,” and “weight loss” are becoming taboo. We want to talk about “health,” and “strength.”

Except that we only want to talk about them. Ultimately, we want, as individuals, especially fat individuals, to not be obese. I didn’t want to be fat. I still wanted to be treated like a whole, worthwhile human being, fat or not, but I did not want to be fat.

Perhaps this is where the disconnect lies. See, I hate this new cultural phenomenon that I call “the feelings police.” We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, so we don’t talk openly and honestly about difficult subjects, for fear of being branded politically incorrect, hence heartless and out of touch.

But not facing these things head on is not helping anyone. Strike that. It’s helping the sugar and junk food industries. And it’s helping companies like Weight Watchers. Who are still selling a diet, but are marketing it, in true politically correct fashion, as a program for getting healthy.

Here’s the problem: Weight Watchers never changed the barometer for how you would know it was working. It’s the same barometer. Did you lose weight? If we were truly having a conversation about health, we would have a different measuring stick. Stress test results, for example. Getting off your diabetes medication. Being able to run with your dog in the morning. If you are calling your program “Beyond the Scale,” perhaps you should measure success with something other than the number on the scale.

But I am not actually condoning that; I am merely pointing out the problem with consistency. If you want to be healthy, and you don’t care what your weight is, and you use some benchmark other than weight for your own happiness, good for you! You go! Do it! I am all for fat acceptance. I will not judge you for loving yourself at any and every size. In fact, I encourage it. I truly believe that it is in loving ourselves without caveats and conditions that we can begin to make changes that are both healthy and lasting. But I think that if you want to lose weight, really, you are going to have to look at it for what it is. You have to stop worrying about political correctness. You may have to deal with a late night knock on your door from the feelings police telling you that you have violated statute whatever-whatever stating that you will not say anything that could, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt the feelings of any person, or group. You are going to have to get real.

The author talks in the article about going back to Weight Watchers for a third time in her life. And perhaps you are asking why. She already knows from her own experience that it does not work, so why yet another attempt? I don’t have to ask why. I already know all too well why. Because if you hate being fat, you will do whatever you can, whenever you can to stop being fat. And you will hold out hope against hope that this time will be the special time where the thin “sticks.” And also, because, in my experience, programs like Weight Watchers tell people that if they are “good” they will get results. If they get some willpower, they will be thin. As if willpower is out there to be had, if you are lucky enough to run across some, like a perk in a video game. You have acquired willpower. Lose 100 pounds and level up.

But here’s the thing that I found lacking in the article, perhaps because the author doesn’t have a context for it: when she talks about going around the Obesity Week conference she says, “…it [made me sad] because if you have this many hundreds of smart and educated people trying to figure this out, and nobody has anything for me but superfood and behavior modification and an insertable balloon and the removal of an organ, it must be that there is no way to solve fatness.”

To this I say, abstinence from processed, and sugary foods. Or, perhaps it is better to say, abstinence from your personal binge/trigger foods. (I know a man who knows that his personal trigger foods are “the guy foods,” like barbecue ribs, as opposed to me and cake.) Total and complete abstinence. To my mind this is not behavior modification, because that term seems to imply that the problem is with my hand, rather than my brain. “Doctor, my hand just keeps grabbing donuts and shoving them into my mouth! What should I do?” This article in no way addresses food as an addictive substance, or mentions any modification in diet (specific foods as opposed to portions) as a lifestyle change. The author talks about Thanksgiving as a kind of food hell for dieters. But of course it is! It’s a room of foods that trigger our reward centers and create a craving for more. If you go to Thanksgiving and you eat the things you have not been eating for the past week/month/year, and they are back in your system, so are the cravings.

I cannot think of a person that I have met who has had long-term weight loss by “managing.” In fact, I believe it is exactly this “managing” that keeps us in the cycle of losing and gaining it all back, feeling like this time we can do it, and then feeling like failures. If you cannot or will not give up your binge foods, then I recommend that you either get comfortable with that cycle of yo-yoing, or you stop trying to lose weight in the first place.

I am not talking about thin people. We all know that thin people are not having these problems. They can, as the author ends the article noting, lovingly lick the icing off a cupcake with impunity. They already are managing without having to think about it. I am talking about people who are fat and don’t want to be. Eat whole foods, in moderation, and abstain from foods that make you want more of them.

Perhaps you are thinking, “But cupcakes are so good!” Or “I could never give up barbecue ribs!” Cool. Then get your fat acceptance on! Work that! Eat your cupcake and love your beautiful, fat self! But if you want to lose weight and keep it off, chances are you are going to have to give up certain foods forever.

That is an unpopular opinion. Feel free to call the feelings police. I may get sent to political correctness jail, but I’ll be there in a comfortable body with my dignity intact.

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