I’m back in that “feeling-fat” place and I wanted to share the only thing I’ve read thats moved me on this subject in a really long from some I admire very very much online, Ijeoma Oluo.
“Earlier today I posted a request for greater care when discussing issues of weight and weight loss. This resonated with a lot of people, who were feeling beat down by repeated reminders that people were trying so desperately to escape bodies like theirs. And there were a lot of people who commented that they had a right to feel proud about their weight loss, and that they shouldn’t have to tailor what they say to the feelings of fat people. A few people commented that I and the commenters who agreed with me were overreacting. A few people insinuated that we should feel bad about feeling fat and work to be less fat.
I’m going to share a story here. Or a facebook essay if you will.
I was thin for 5 years of my adult life. I had always had what was called a “pretty face” and that was always said with a sense of mutual regret – if only I could get the rest of me to match. For 5 years, I did.
I went on a diet the day after I was sexually assaulted by an ex-boyfriend. I was twenty two years old. I didn’t know how to process what had happened to me. After surviving childhood sexual abuse, and recently leaving an abusive marriage, I didn’t want to be a victim again. So, I blamed the only other party – myself. I had decided that this had happened because I had settled, once again, for someone who had never once pretended to value me. And when I tried to figure out why – why someone who so many people had repeatedly said had so much going for her would be hurt so often, I settled on my weight. I decided that as long as I was fat, nobody who wasn’t abusive was going to want to be with me. I felt deep inside that as long as I was fat, I wasn’t going to be able to stop hating myself enough to ask for more. So much cultural messaging says that if you are fat, you should be grateful for whatever love you can get – even if that love isn’t love at all. And while part of me knew that was wrong, I couldn’t figure out a way to really believe and live it. So I lost weight.
Over the next year I lost a major amount of weight. Everybody noticed, it was regular conversation with everyone in my life. And you know what? Every horrible voice in my head, every bit of horrible anti-fat messaging from society was validated when I lost weight.
Because when I used to walk around thinking, “nobody will ever see me because of my weight” it was true. When I used to walk around thinking, “men don’t talk to me because of my weight,” it was true. When I used to think that, “people think that I’m lazy and of less worth because of my weight,” it was true.
When I lost weight, I suddenly mattered. People held doors open for me instead of letting them slam in my face. I got better service at restaurants. People complimented my “hard work” and “personal strength” to lose weight. Men – men were everywhere – saying hi, striking up conversation, telling me I was beautiful, funny, smart. Women wanted to be my friends, they wanted to hang out at clubs – it finally occurred to them that I too am someone who can have fun in public.
And I could wear clothes. I could go to any clothing store and just buy an outfit. I could wear whatever fashions my heart desired and my checkbook could afford. I didn’t have to settle for “flattering” or “available in plus size.” I could slouch without worrying that I’d catch someone staring at my belly. I could stretch and yawn without taking one hand to hold my shirt down in case someone gasp viewed a roll of fat.
I got to sit in any seat I wanted at concerts, on the bus, at restaurants. My doctor acted like I’d cured myself of cancer, even though I had no more or less health problems than I had before.
For five years, I got to be treated like a human being.
And it pissed me the fuck off.
Because I had done nothing – nothing but starve myself, obsessively count every fucking calorie that entered my mouth, step on a scale 3 times a day worrying about every incremental change, run every day until my knees ached, obsessively take pictures of my body to compare with the previous months pictures to see if I could find a visible change, measure all of my body parts to feel good or bad about a lost or gained centimeter, forgo dinner so I could have a cookie for the first time in months, spend thousands of dollars on every book and every magazine that would help keep my motivation up for eating shit I didn’t want every single day. And all of this work that took over my entire life gave me nothing but a smaller body.
I didn’t become a better person, I didn’t become a more interesting person (if anything, I became far less interesting), I didn’t become more creative or kind. I became me, only smaller, and absolutely obsessed with what I put in my mouth.
And that was what was needed to be treated like someone who deserved to exist in public. That was what was needed to be treated like someone deserving of love. That was what was needed to be able to wear clothes and sit in seats and be given good medical care. That was what was needed to no longer be the butt of jokes.
And I resented every compliment, every smile, every establishment where the seats just fit my now smaller ass, every employer that saw me as more professional – I resented it all while desperately clinging to it, terrified that the moment I stopped dedicating my every waking moment to shrinking myself, the world would go back to treating me like a failure, and I would no longer be allowed to love myself.
Because there is no amount of self-love that can fully counter a world that hates fatness.
When I got pregnant with my youngest, I gained back about half of the weight I lost. These last three years, I gained back the remainder and more.
These were the years that I pulled my family through crisis, bought a house, launched a writing career. These were the years where I packed my life with more accomplishments than I had ever before imagined. Or, these are the years I got fat again – it depends on who you ask. Every day when I look in the mirror I fight voices that tell me that I failed and I should be ashamed. But I love fat people, I love fat me. And I don’t love the people who decided that I only mattered when I was no longer fat. They are not where my allegiance lies. My allegiance lies with fat me who missed out on half of her life because society said that she didn’t have the right to live it. My allegiance lies with my mother who used to ask, “are you embarrassed of me because I’m so fat?” after someone would yell names at her from their cars even though to my brother and I she was the embodiment of love and beauty. My allegiance lies with every kind and wonderful person out there who is told that they have nothing to offer the world because their body takes up too much space.
And so no, I will not talk about diets, and no I will not congratulate you on your weight loss. I will not support the harmful notion that a smaller body is a moral victory. I will not give the abusive assholes who say that they matter more because they weigh less the satisfaction of watching me hate myself into a small enough body to be loved by them. And I can do that at any size, I can do that as a fat person, I can do that as a thin person. I do that by refusing to do anything for or to my body that is not for myself alone. I do that by refusing to place the size of my body on a value scale. I do that by standing up to those who would try to remove my ownership of my body by claiming that it has to please them. I do that by calling out fatshaming language for the perpetuation of abuse that it is.
I will not debate this. I have lived through this my entire life and what I am fighting for is a world where people are treated with respect and dignity and kindness because they are human beings. Full stop.”