690 days, 8 hours, and 93 lbs to go...
I'm 50. For most of those years, I have been on the continuum that begins at Chubby and ends at Bigger than a Blue Whale. I've done a lot of fat-hating, self-hating talk.
Interestingly, I've not been a fat-hater, fat-basher, not even when I was normal weight (but chubby by society's anorexia-level standards). I've dated chubby dudes and had crushes on BIG guys (Mario Batali, John Goodman come to mind, and I preferred John Travolta tubby). I also have dated pole-thin guys and had crushes on skinny "idols" (lots of J-Rockers and Japanese actors come to mind, who, collected in a room, still weigh in toto less than me, I surmise. Those bony boys are hot. Yes, that's a slim J-male in the photo below right. And, oooh, remember young Clint Eastwood, whose body was astonishingly vertical? ) I've seen fat women and thought they were beautiful, in art and in real life. It didn't occur to me in the slightest to mentally diss them. (Scroll down for a pic of the big-beautiful Crystal Renn, a plus-size model.)
But when it came to ME, I've been brutal over the years. I've been a self-verbal-abuser when it came to my body.
I'm deciding to be done with that. I've been more merciful to myself this year than others, and I want to continue on that path. I don't believe it has ever done me any good to self-hate cause of my weight. It's just added darkness instead of hope. It has not been a good motivator (and as the book I've been reading on change goes, positive trumps negative in the motivation/change game.)
So, I'm giving up the self-dissing re fat.
I hope you do, too. It's not helping us.
Interestingly, I can say there were other times when I seemed to transcend the social stuff and felt really beautiful in my fat. Fat may look worse than thin, but fat FEELS really good. I understood something my sister-in-law told me decades ago (she and my brother have been married 40 years.) She occasionally gets a bit chunky, but usually diets it back down. However, she'd said in conversation with my other sister, back when I was a teenager, how my brother liked how she LOOKED slender, but preferred her chunkier when it came to the bedroom.
I get it. I love the feel of my fat, but not what it does to my health or how it looks in clothes.
However, despite those fleeting moments when I was free of cultural expectations and felt beautiful and looked in the mirror and didn't let myself be horrified, it has been more common for me to berate my body.
I don't see how this is a good thing. But it is automatic. And I'm assuming it's very, very, very common.
The problem is that hating the fat tended to mean hating me. My problems with self-esteem and self-loathing began roughly when I got...chubby. I was normal weight (slim) from infancy to age 9. Then they started me on injected steroids (bad asthma ) and I started plumping up. It changed my self-perception. I began to feel suicidal at that age, too, which might have been depressions from the steroids or from feeling suddenly all that self-loathing from becoming "unpretty.". Maybe both.
Kate at Fabulous at Fifty, for example. I share her view of the Fat Acceptance movement: I believe we should love fat people as we love skinny people. We should not consider one to be more deserving of respect, love, caring, jobs, etc. Study after study shows there is fat discrimination, and I suspect many a fat person has suicided over the self-loathing and isolation that comes with fat, when they felt no hope. I know I wrestled with that after yet another failed diet in my younger years.
Fortunately, I have beeen well-loved--both when slim and young and fat and older--and that has a life-enhancing effect that kept me alive.
I worry when I see fat acceptance blogs that go beyond fat-acceptance or anti-fat discrimination and move into "My fat is me and it's staying put and any indication that it shouldn't stay put is insulting to me and shows you hate FAT PEOPLE!"
Well, no. I don't want my younger generations in my family to stay fat (or get fat if they are currently slim.) When I make lower fat or low-sugar treats for family gatherings, I do it cause I want to lose weight, sure, but cause I don't want to be a cause of gained weight in those who come after me in the bloodline. I don't hate them. I hate that the excess of fat at the obese level clinging to their bones will bring them disease and disability before their time.
All four of my nieces and nephews are overweight. Even the two boys, skinny and active when young, are now men with excess fat--one morbidly obese. Both nieces are obese. So far, the grandnephew and niece are slim and well. I want them to stay that way, but I shudder when I see the mom buying McDonalds fries and nuggets for lunch or letting them eat sugar constantly. I can foresee where they'll end up: where WE are. Too big for our hearts, livers, and circulatory system.
All my siblings who grew up in Cuba remained normal weight (some quite slim, slim) until they were old, when a few pounds creeped up (and by old I mean sixties). I grew up here, the next generation grew up here, surrounded by junk food and lousy fare in schools (greasy pizza, fried chicken, sloppy joes on white buns, greasy grilled cheese) and candy and sugary cereal ads and cars to go everywhere...and we're fat.
I don't hate my relatives. I want them to be well and happy. But I do hate our collective fat.
I hate the fat that's choking my country's people--including me.
But I decided I'm done hating the body as a whole or me as a singular fat being.
I'll join hands with the FA crowd when it comes to anti-discrimination. I will not join hands when it is about inertia or giving up the fight to be healthy. Excess fat is not good for us, so we should struggle to get to a healthier weight--and I don't mean a Hollywood weight, I mean something that improves blood pressure, sugar numbers, mobility, removes undue pressure from joints, reduces risks for certain cancers, allows us to sit in public places without fear of cracking chairs, allows us to get up stairs without wanting to pass out.
Dieting is a dirty word to some. Fine, don't call it dieting. Call it "eating less so I can live more."
Mercy is a beautiful thing. Compassion is a virtue. Understanding is important. Self-forgiveness is powerful and often necessary.
But powerlessness is not (and that's a word I take from Kate's post.) The Fat acceptance that sits back and says, "This is me and I can't do anything about it" is powerless and has surrendered to the temptation of food and the ease of inertia.
Should people stop fighting the temptations to cheat on spouses, shoot neighbors who are rude and loud, slap bosses who are overdemanding, rip-off the gullible, cheat on taxes, or any other evil thing or sin. Well, then the fight against gluttony--which, if you're a person of particular faiths, is often very clearly defined as wrong-- shouldn't be tossed off with a white flag, either. (The flipside being the excess of vanity that causes one to be obsessed with being thin and beautiful to a stunning degree.)
Today, say something kind and complimentary to your body. Appreciate the amazing things it does for you. And appreciate you inner being, too. I am --you are-- more than a body, but you and I live through these bodies. It's an insult to the Creator not to tend well to them. Including appreciating the gift they are.
Today, say a kind word and a prayer for the obese folks you run across. Smile at them.
We all need to know we're welcome in the bodies we inhabit right now.
But don't stop hating the excess fat that shortens our lives and lessens our mobility through this world. Don't stop fighting against fat anymore than you'd stop fighting against racism or sexism or the other --isms that make life miserable for us and others.