There is ONE thing you have to do to get started on your journey. You ready?
The title had me at hello — Here’s How I Got Fat, by one of my favorites from the former Fierce, Freethinking Fatties blog. I got ready to click, read, recommend, and give it the love that would get it read by others, doing my part to spread the seeds of fat acceptance around just that little bit more.
But then I read it. And I was bitterly disappointed. Because in a world that desperately needs stories of fat acceptance, this ended up being yet another post linking self-love to the results of weight loss surgery.
Though the author found her way to loving herself and out of disordered eating, she did it by way of weight loss surgery. And that disappoints me deeply. It disappoints me because she wrote these gorgeous lines:
I was still fat, but I stopped hating myself.
Not over night. It took some time. A lot of time, actually. But it worked.
I kept looking at myself. I stopped talking about how much I hated my squishy belly. I worked hard to heal my relationship with food and with my body.
All good so far … but then she wrote:
And then one day, I realized that it would be okay if I was less fat.
That it would be okay to do something that would make it easier for me to move and to breathe. I wasn’t betraying myself or this new found non-hatred if I did something to start to build a bridge across that gap.
She chose bariatric surgery as the bridge across the gap between doing something to make her stop feeling so badly in her body and no longer hating it.
This is where I get lost.
I don’t understand why embracing her body required that body to be less fat. It is true that she coupled the aches and pains and troubles she had sleeping with her fat body, and it is true that these things can go hand-in-hand.
But guess what? In that same moment where she decided to do something to make it easier for her to move and breathe, she could have just as easily chosen to improve her habits. She could have chosen to try to eat healthier foods and move her body more. She could have chosen to stretch and meditate. She could have chosen to increase the amount of vegetables she ate every day. She could have chosen to make her own version of her beloved Cherry Garcia with more cherry and less sugar. She could have chosen to work with someone who could help her heal her relationship with her body.
But she didn’t. She chose to make her body smaller.
And she then continues on to celebrate the new disordered eating she must engage in to accommodate the 80% smaller stomach she now owns:
I eat Cherry Garcia because it feels perfect on my tongue. A spoonful now, or two, not a pint. Or two. I eat normal, normally, non-disordered. And it is wonderful.
As a Certified Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition who’s worked with anorexics to binge eaters and everyone in between, I can tell you that both can be regarded as disordered eating. One, deprivation. The other, binging.
Reading this article, I honestly felt like I got mental whiplash.
For someone who wrote such beautiful words as:
I stood there in the freezer section, holding a pint of Cherry Garcia, and I looked until I wasn’t parade-float sized anymore. Until I was just me. Three-hundred-and-sixty-eight pounds, not three-million-and-sixty-eight pounds.
I looked until I could be as kind to myself as I would be to any other human being on the planet.
That was the first day.
The first day that I understood that the way I talked about myself didn’t stay inside of me. That self-hatred wasn’t only about me. My daughters heard. Other women heard. Women I didn’t know, that I didn’t even notice, heard.
…to then come out and follow through on her former impulse of literally mutilating her body was so striking to me.
Half of the time I was highlighting her words.
I celebrated, shared, and resonated with so much that she said. Because it is completely true that what you are doing and saying to yourself is not done in a vacuum. Others are watching, others can hear. And it’s those others who also suffer your negative choices.
That’s why the other half of the time I was cringing.
You can’t do something negative to create a positive change. And when weight loss is the overarching goal, you do things like deprive yourself, move in ways that are punitive instead of loving, and cut out 80% of your stomach, leaving yourself at high risk for vitamin deficiencies, ugly complications, and even death. So it was really frustrating to see her write at the end:
It was a long time coming, but it was worth the ride, this road to knowing how to respond when I flinch at my own reflection, this trip toward love and peace and self-acceptance and trust that really didn’t have a whole lot to do with being some less fat after all.
I appreciate that Shaunta found a way to love herself — that’s a message I’ll proudly support any day. But I am profoundly disappointed that the message she leaves us with is that being fat was the actual problem, only through changing that was she able to really learn to accept her body. And I have to ask …
If the trip had not so much to do with being less fat, why did it take being less fat to make it happen?
You’ve heard it all before. You know, shit like, “You wouldn’t be so fat if you could just stop eating your feelings!”
“You’d be so pretty if you just lost XYZ magical amount of weight”, and of course,
“I’m just saying this because I care about your health!”
But the truth is that none of that shit matters.
People are shoveling this shit your direction because they think — consciously or not — that because you’re fat, you’re just going to lay down and take it. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough: their shitty opinions have nothing to do with you, and you don’t at all deserve any of it. It’s all about the crappy person who’s shoving it your way. (And yes, that includes your sweet old granny who has the best of intentions… because unacceptably shitty behavior is unacceptably shitty behavior, no matter what.)
So what are you going to do about it? Something really fucking radical, if I have anything to do with it.
You’re going to find a way to oil up your fat duck feathers so that rain of crazy runs straight down your back and away from you. You’re going to become that rubber that Pee Wee was always talking about. And you’re going to do it by doing something that is deeply radical: taking care of yourself.
Wait, what? So I run myself an extra bath, how is that radical?
As I’ve talked about before, self care isn’t about bubble baths and yoga classes, not really. While there’s nothing wrong with those things, they’re not the only way (or maybe even the best way) for you to take care of yourself. Because ultimately, self care is just doing anything that makes you feel rejuvenated. And in a society that tells you that you should crawl into a corner and die just because you don’t fit a preconceived notion of beauty, making the commitment to care for yourself and your body is hugely radical.
OK, so let’s get down to brass tacks. How do you practice self care as a fat woman?
Any way you want to… it’s your body, your choices. But here are a few areas to look at:
— Releasing negativity, and letting your true self out
As a fat person, you may have learned to swallow your feelings (with or without food), and keep your real self locked safely up inside. The problem with this is that all you’re doing is hiding behind some mask that people find pleasing, never allowing yourself to be yourself which feels hollow, fake, and exhausting.
Instead, how about you try to remember that each negative comment made at you is a simple reflection of some ugliness the speaker is dealing with inside of themselves. It’s really not you, it’s them. So feel free to focus on pleasing yourself since yours is the only opinion that matters.
— Saying what you mean, especially when you mean “no”
Being fat often causes you to be the last pick for everything from dodge ball teams to sex partner, which usually causes the desire to be sure that when you do get picked that they won’t regret it!
But saying yes to everything can be hurtful, especially when you’re accepting things that feel wrong or bad or even simply tiring. In these situations, you’re allowing yourself to be abused, which is no good. You have inherent value as a person and deserve better. Refusing to take part in activities you don’t enjoy is your right because you have the right to be respected and feel good about the things you choose to do.
— Avoid comparing yourself with other people
It’s so incredibly tempting to look at other people’s bodies as cautionary tales or sources of inspiration — but as long as you’re comparing yourself to other people, you’re automatically putting yourself in the “wrong” category.
The truth is, both breaking other people down by their shape and size and comparing yourself negatively to others are hateful acts. When you stop doing this, you can start to appreciate the things you admire in people’s bodies, including your own. Feel free to observe other people around you, but don’t buy into the “I wish I had that”/ “I’m so glad I don’t have that” dialogue.
Yeah radical self care isn’t quite as dramatic as burning your bra or chaining yourself to a tree. But self care of a radically rejected body and self is a beautiful, powerful thing, and I know from my own experience and those of my clients that it will absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt change your life.
So my challenge to you is… choose just one thing to do today to care for yourself. And if you’re feeling particularly juicy about it, share your self care win in the comments!
P.S. Want some help transforming your relationship with your body? I’m your girl! Click here to book a free consult and learn how to truly love your body.
I talk about self care a lot. It’s mostly because as fat people, we are often called upon (or forced into) positions where we do the emotional heavy lifting for those around us. Our supposedly jolly dispositions (think Santa), our perceived safety (she’ll never steal my man), our friendliness (feigned or otherwise), our frequent inability to say no (because I really, really, really need you to like me… pleeeeeease!) all make us the ideal person to confide in.
When your friends or family members, or colleagues and acquaintances have some issue they need to get off their chests, they come to you because you’re easy to talk to and you don’t judge, maybe you even give good advice. This can all be good stuff, but it often is nothing but negatively taxing for us. Especially if we begin to slide on over into the realm of caretaking. And that’s why it’s so important that we practice self care.
So what is self care anyway?
Basically, self care is participating in an activity that rejuvenates you. Rejuvenation can mean relaxing (taking a luxurious bath or giving yourself a pedicure) or doing something fun (dancing or masturbating, whatever works for you), but in the end the goal is to connect yourself to yourself and things that make you feel refreshed, ready to start again, recharged.
So take a moment to examine how you’re feeling right now. Do you feel fresh, ready for something new? Or do you feel tired, stressed, or worn out? If you’re feeling more of the latter than the former, you’re in desperate need of some self care. Make some time for yourself, because you deserve it.
What kind of things rejuvenate you? Let me know in the comments!
Did you know the 2016 Fat Activism Conference is coming up in September? It’s completely online and you can even call in by phone. Come and get your tools for the revolution! Register by clicking here.
I’m super excited to be speaking at the Third Annual Fat Activism Conference. The conference will be 100% online, so you can listen from wherever you are by phone or computer.
It will take place September 23-25, 2016 and features a diverse group of speakers and topics all related to Fat Activism (including ME!!!).
Today we launch our 48-Hour Rush Registration meaning that if you register before 12:01 Pacific Time on June 24th you’ll get the lowest registration rates, and special bonuses.
Check it out by clicking here!
Disclosure: I’m proud to be a part of the Fat Activism Conference organization team as well as a speaker and affiliate. By clicking on the link above and registering for the conference I will receive a commission on your purchase. Thanks in advance!
Full length mirrors are often the bane of fat existence. But what if I could tell you it doesn’t have to be that way? As a person on the other side of a huge, physically transforming event (pregnancy and childbirth, in my case), I decided to take a full length mirror as an opportunity to see what my new body actually looked like now. Have you ever tried that?
You can read more here on the blog of a friend of mine named Lindley, the owner and artist behind Sweet Amaranth, body positive portraits.