Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
Originally posted in Javagoth’s Livejournal.
This is going to be a brain dump of stuff around dieting, being large, and fat acceptance that’s been floating around my brain for the last week. I’m doing the brain dump in hopes that it will settle my brain down a bit. I’ve been having what I categorize as stress dreams a lot for the last week. I don’t really remember my dreams much after waking but I am aware when I’ve been dreaming and some images stay with me, though it’s common for me to have trouble describing them in any kind of articulate way because they are, invariably, an amalgam of images, feelings, and impressions.
I’ll start with Fat Acceptance and why the people who insist of having the knee jerk reaction that it promotes willful unhealthiness irritate the ever-loving fuck out of me! The people who insist this sort of thing are so monumentally and willfully IGNORANT and either so self hating or fat hating/fat phobic that no amount of explanation will ever result in them having any other view because it would mean they would have to come out of their self absorbed bubble of stupidity long enough to actually LISTEN to someone else and would require they actually expend some energy thinking. Not going to happen. This post is not for them.
What this post is about is what Fat Acceptance means to me.
To me, Fat Acceptance is about changing the toxic tapes in my head to something more productive. I was put on diets from age 9 up to almost age 18 and it only stopped because the person putting me on them, my mother, died. I loved my mother. I firmly believe that she did the things she did out of a desire for me to be happy because she loved me. That belief doesn’t make her actions any less emotionally abusive, toxic, and harmful.
I forgave her.
American society directed her actions and still directs the actions of others in this regard. There are literally hundreds of messages sent out every day on every form of media available telling us that we are not good enough. We will never be good enough. I think that realization is part of why most diets fail. We’re told if we diet and lose weight all our problems will be solved and life will be sunshine and roses. With our mutilated and tattered shreds of self esteem, we cling to the belief this is so. The only problem is that there is no such thing as “thin enough” and even if there was then we’d be too old, our hair wouldn’t be perfect, our shape wouldn’t be perfect, and there are a million other things that are picked on every day.
I was large before I ever had any say, choice, or real knowledge about what I was eating. Because I was a large child and my sisters weren’t, it was always assumed it was because *I* was doing something wrong. Being fat has always somehow been *My Fault* and still is – no matter what I do. I was accused of eating things I never touched all the time. In fact, sometimes my sisters would use this against me – particularly the bulimic one who was hiding the fact she’d gone on an eating and purging binge. Let me give you your first clue if you have never been fat and/or not grown up fat: when you’re a young child you are neither aware that you are fat much less *why* you are fat. I was always treated like I was a BAD CHILD who had willfully done this to myself for reasons I can not fathom. Perhaps my mother thought I did it to embarrass her. How could she possibly have raised a fat child?? I don’t suppose it ever occurred to her to think of things like how the food she served when I was growing up differed from when my sisters were growing up. The fact that we ate later in the evening because she was a working mother when I was growing up as opposed to when she was a housewife when my much older sisters were growing up. The growing prevalence of processed foods. Diet soda & diet sugars that are much sweeter than the natural alternative and what ingesting all those chemical sweeteners has done to my system. Then there was the yo-yo dieting while I was also still having growth spurts.
Worst of all were the messages and tapes that went with all of this. I was put on one fad diet after another and when I failed to lose weight or subsequently gained it back afterward, this was always deemed my fault. If only I was stronger. If only I had more will power. If only – insert negative message here -. I was told I was lazy because I was fat. I was told I was stupid because I was fat. I was told I was ugly because I was fat. I was told it was okay for others to verbally abuse me and harass me because I was fat. Everything was my fault because I was fat. If my mother had a hard time finding me school clothes I liked, that fit well, and weren’t too expensive, this would facilitate a lecture and humiliation session where she would invariably threaten to send me to school in a gunny sack because I was too fat and disgusting to fit into any clothes. Every failed diet would bring more despair and result in more feelings of self loathing and self hatred. It was very clear to me that I would never be fully loved and accepted until I was thin. There were so many things that I could never be or do until I was thin. Being thin has always been so out of reach in my mind that I never realized how close I was to it at times.
This is really hard to write. It brings back many long suppressed memories – buried deeply because they were so very painful.
Here’s the thing: No amount of degradation, humiliation, self hatred, self loathing, despair, cajoling, or threats ever resulted in me losing weight. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s pretty impossible to make good and positive decisions in your life when you hate yourself. It’s pretty impossible to stick to an eating plan when you feel hopeless. No one ever explained what I was “doing wrong” in any satisfactory way. I wasn’t eating differently than my friends as far as I knew. Hell, some of them ate all manner of junk that was marketed to kids that we never had in our house. I only ever ate these things (hostess snacks, sugary cereals, etc) when I was at their houses. Eating foods that were not viewed as “normal” by other kids only caused more teasing and taunting. I became more bitter, cynical, and jaded as the years went by because I didn’t understand why I was fat. I didn’t understand why God and the Universe did this to me or what I had possibly done to deserve this.
To me Fat Acceptance is about taking all the useless BLAME out of the equation. It’s about trying to stop hating myself because I am large – something that will not change overnight no matter what I do. It’s taken me years to get to the size I am after all. It’s about trying not to to feel like a failure in all I do because I’m fat. I have done a lot of things to work on eating healthier, avoiding processed foods as much as possible, avoiding fast food as much as possible, and cutting down on the artificial sweeteners I consume. I’m working on getting a better understanding of what my body needs and wants. I continue to work on adjusting my portion size. I still eat a fair bit less than others most days but I am aware that I also eat more than I need to. I sometimes have to remind myself that if I like something I can have it again as left overs or make it again. I don’t need to clean my plate. I don’t need to have desert all the time because I *can* have it whenever I want it.
Realizing, earlier this year, that I’ve lost 4″ on my waist is a double-edged sword. I worry because on one hand my clothes are getting loose and I don’t have money to buy new clothes or to pay to get them altered. On the other hand I keep waiting to fail – to have it come back again no matter what I do. Becoming aware that I’ve finally lost some significant weight has unburied all the weight loss demons that have been buried for so long. Between snow and illness, busy schedules and such I haven’t exercised as much as I have been over the last couple weeks. This results in feelings of guilt and self recrimination. As much as I’m trying to learn to accept and love myself as I am, I actually fail at this on a daily basis. I can not look at myself and think that I’m sexy or desirable. This has and continues to affect my sex life and relationships.
Most days, for me, Fat Acceptance means actively working not to hate myself to the point of contemplating suicide – which I did much of my Jr. High and High School years. Was I actually suicidal? No. I’m not sure I can explain it but in my mind it’s not something I’m inclined to do. I’ll think about it and ponder how I’d do it, but mostly as a form of expression of extreme depression and despair wherein I wish I was dead but won’t actively do anything to bring it about. It’s about changing those negative tapes that have never done one positive thing for me into something more productive and conducive to positive change. It’s about changing all those “I can’t do x because I’m fat” into listing and focusing on what I *can* do and rejecting some of them entirely – like not being able to belly dance because I’m too fat. Fuck that shit! Given the history and culture belly dance came from makes that one particularly stupidly wrong. It’s about looking at myself and finding things I like about myself. It’s about seeing the beauty in myself that is so much easier for me to see in others. It’s about working at rejecting the notion that people will never find me desirable and attractive. One of the most damaging things my mother ever said to me is that others would only have sex with me to use me and if I was “easy” (read: bad) if I was fat. I cannot tell you how much this has fucked up my sex life – how much it still does. I am completely neurotic about it. It didn’t help matters that my ex started rejecting me sexually because of my size. At the same time I’m not all that comfortable with people who think I’m sexy *because* I’m large. How fucked up is that?
Fat Acceptance is not about giving up. It’s not about being lazy. It’s not about promoting bad health or eating crap. It is about rejecting the idea that one should be loathed, rejected as competent, and filled with self hate simply because one is large. It’s about acknowledging that tearing people down emotionally and destroying their self esteem does not actually contribute to them making positive changes in their lives. It’s about rejecting the notion that ones self worth and self esteem should be attached to what size clothing they wear. It’s also about acknowledging that one size standard (BMI) does not fit all body types – nor should it try to. And, finally, it’s about acknowledging that we all have different metabolisms, body types, etc and that what works for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for another. Just because you might have lost weight by making X change to your diet and lifestyle doesn’t mean that will work for everyone else. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and doing things to be healthier because it feels good. It means not being afraid to go out and do those healthy things because people are going to actively work to shame you while you’re out doing it.
ETA: In case some of you have trouble believing that people believe this shit and do the things I’ve described here let me show you this snippet of comments from a video about people getting Trampled at a Black Friday sale at Target that perfectly illustrates the attitudes I’ve been describing:
P 1:50 pm on December 4, 2010 | # | Reply
“Not worshipping the treadmill does not make one a bad person, nor any more deserving of being made fun of.”
Yeah, but when we don’t mock people for doing stupid things like never exercising or drinking too much or smoking cigarettes these unhealthy behaviors tend to be more prevalent. Despite all the noise you hear about eating disorders in this country (which are a problem) a much bigger problem is overly positive body image in the face of obesity, not negative body image.
2010 folks – and the same philosophies that tortured me during my youth are still alive and well. Shame and degrade people until they are thin. Yeah, dude, because that’s obviously worked so well up to now.
Javagoth keeps a mostly private journal over at Livejournal. She also designs and makes wonderful beaded jewelery under the name TM Originals.
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This is a wonderful piece of writing. It articulated my beliefs on the issue perfectly and inspired me to keep on keeping on. As I’ve said often in my life, if bullying or mocking fat people made lose weight, we’d all be skinny.
Thank you! It makes me happy that at least one person finds this helpful! 😀
Wonderful post. It’s disgusting how many times a day we are all told–fat, thin, young, old, all of us–that we are not good enough. It’s also incredibly discouraging when one movement to spur acceptance does do by attacking another segment of the population. Fat acceptance mentalities that try establish self-esteem by disparaging thin people (“skinny bitches”) are still harmful to oneself and others.
Bottom line, it should be about personal acceptance, regardless of shape and size.