onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “fat acceptance”

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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