I started writing this in June 2018 and got sidetracked. Recent conversations brought this back to the front of my mind, so I’m publishing it now, even though what inspired this initially is no longer fresh in people’s minds. I highly recommend clicking through to Self Magazine to read what lit this spark in me at the start. And maybe spend some time re-examining your own biases on the topic…
Yeah, I’m fat.
As news of The Weight Issue rolled out from Self Magazine in June 2018, I spent some time reflecting upon hurts of the past. How I’m not that person anymore. How it has taken a lifetime to get where I am now. And why loving yourself is more important than anything else. Something I hope my children are paying attention to.
Diet culture permeates life. People who are supposed to love you can say the cruelest things, brushing it off because they mean well and are only concerned about your health. Family members who, if I ate “too much,” compared me to familiar fat people who served as cautionary tales of what was apparently the worst that could happen to me. Popular girls at the tender age of 10, offering fashion advice that required losing 10 more pounds. Middle school boys telling me I should just kill myself because I was such a fat whale. High school boys saying I would be pretty if I wasn’t fat. The terror of having to shower in front of my classmates in high school, so many of them svelte and conventionally attractive. Beautiful bodies everywhere. Mine not fitting in any beautiful clothes. A pharmacist who touched my belly and congratulated me on my pregnancy, when I had just lost 35 lbs post-delivery of my first child. The warnings from my mother that people would think I was pregnant.
Sometime in the last 5 years, I stopped caring about what all of them thought.
Sometime in the last 5 years, I started falling in love with myself.
I’ve dieted. I’ve starved myself. I know the game well. In eight grade, at the urging of a friend, I subsisted on popcorn only for a week to try to lose 4 pounds. As an adult, I’ve done such contorted things as limiting myself to 35 grams of fat a day for months at a time to make myself more attractive. It worked: I lost over 30 pounds. But was it worth it? Even with “healthier” programs, like SparkPeople, I would obsess over macros. Insist on remaining below 1200 calories and, at one point, I only ate packaged food, because I could easily add up those values to determine my self worth. There were too many variables in anything I prepared myself. It was too messy, too hard to control perfectly. Is that a large or a medium apple? Where’s my trusty food scale while I’m at a friend’s house? Again, it worked: I lost 35 pounds. I also lost some of myself. The most successful diet I had was during a period of emotional trauma when I lost 25 pounds in 5 weeks (8 of them in a matter of days) because I wasn’t eating. And then I started running for the first time in my life. And the crowd cheered–my consolation prize during that bit of Hell.
I believe it was Lindy West who said, essentially, only in dieting do you try to find a greater value in yourself by diminishing yourself. Wasting away is applauded. Decreasing numbers are supposed to increase self esteem. Less is supposed to be more. That’s some shitty mathematics.
I don’t know about you, but there are so many things that taste better than skinny feels.
What kind of a life is it to constantly live in fear of what your meal will do to your body? What kind of life is it to punish yourself because you “cheated” at your diet? There will never be enough hours spent on the treadmill to erase the damage done to your soul.
I am worth more than this.
So, for the most part, I don’t care anymore. Some days are harder than others, but I try to remind myself that there is no prize for deprivation. All you do is miss out. Morality police would like to claim there’s a virtue in saying no to the cake because it’s bad food and you should eat an apple instead because it’s good food, but they’re wrong. Food doesn’t have a moral value–unless you’re an asshole withholding it from someone who needs it, in which case, you’re very bad. Your health, your body, your business.
Nowhere else in life do you see people butting into other people’s business with such an attitude that they are your savior. Yet, it’s somehow okay for people to proclaim how wonderful it is that I’m eating a “healthy” lunch if I have a salad. To pat me on my back, like I need to be treated as a child, encouraged for abstaining from a far more satiating and satisfying macaroni and cheese because, HEALTHY!!! Should they also be standing outside the stall, singing praise over my ability to wipe my own ass in the restroom? Do I get a ribbon because I dressed myself, all by myself? Where are my trophies for putting up with this shit?
Think about the things you say and what your subtext is communicating to your loved ones, especially since you’ll likely be gathering more at this time of year for the holidays. Concern trolling serves no one but the troll. And in the process, you alienate the ones you claim you’re aiding.
And, as for the rest of you: be fabulous you. Don’t let anyone cut you down to make themselves seem greater. You’re better than that!