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?