I wasn’t sure how to approach this topic. I’m still going in slightly blind, so we’ll see where it winds up going.
I’m overweight. Obese. I don’t remember a time in my life where I haven’t been. Until I was about 14, it caused huge issues with my social life and self esteem. The worse the teasing got, the more I ate to feel better. Even when my life started getting much nicer, I had 14 years of emotional eating experience behind me that I’m still trying to conquer.
I never considered myself “fat positive”, nor a “fat activist.” My size does effect how the world treats me every single day, and I appreciate the positive message these amazing activists send. I’m just not one for groups. I have some very beautiful and thin friends who suffered with their own bodily issues, too. Maybe that’s why. We’re just women struggling with what it’s like to walk around real while surrounded by unreal.
I used to look at skinny, pretty girls with..well sadness I guess. I liked who I was so it wasn’t exactly jealousy, I just didn’t like what I walked around in. I’d walk into a room and pray there’d be another fat person there so I wasn’t the only one. Being fat did teach me to be observant of my surroundings, and it’s due to this observance that I no longer compare myself. Two incidents stand out. One being a small bachelorette hangout with an acquaintance and her friends.
I was the fat one of course.
This acquaintance did a lot of work for women’s organizations, and considered herself a rampant feminist. The second we entered the club, she and her friend began to take apart every single girl there. Low rise jeans? Slut. Tank top? Slut. Afterwards on the ride home, I asked her why she felt the need to rip the other girls there to shreds. “Oh I know I’m a horrible person.” was the dismissive comment I got. She was beautiful, she was thin and about to get married. Why did she care? I just didn’t get it then.
The second incident was a few weeks later while I was hanging out with my old hairdresser, S. She was STUNNINGLY pretty, blonde, bright…the works. She was crying that night because she couldn’t keep friends due to them being nervous around her with their respective boyfriends, and she’d overheard a girl at her salon wishing she’d get fired because she looked better than everyone else there.
Well shit, it’s not just me!
Surprisingly, changing my attitude on how I felt about other women built my own esteem up tremendously. I have no idea what I’d do without the women in my life, and I’m sad that I shut them out for so long.
Some very strange things happen to you when you’re fat. People say very confusing and insulting stuff, most of the time without even knowing it’s insulting. I remember being on the phone with a blind date once and I gave him my speech. This what what I told everyone before a meetup. “OK, so just to let you know. I’m a big girl. If you have an issue with that, you can bow out. ”
“Really? You don’t sound fat. ”
I got sort of quiet for a second before running on about some banal crap while my head tried to process what I just heard. How the hell does fat sound? Are you surprised I’m not muffled by all the donuts in my mouth? Am I supposed to have a deep bellowing Santa voice? Shall the sounds of crumbs hitting the reciever deafen thine ears?
Needless to say, it didn’t work out.
This is just one in a slew of many comments that run the gambit from the classic “you have such a pretty face” to “oh you’re not fat” which is a flat out lie. I am fat. I may always be fat. Still, these folks mean well and I try to stave off the desire to eat them.
Another strange thing that happens. People assume you’re lazy, miserable, and devoid of intellect. Although I have some bouts of all three, they’re not who I am! People seem surprised when you can pull together a coherent sentence or a decent outfit. One of the things I decided to do in order to protect myself was attempt to have a sparkling and self deprecating personality. Wanna have preconceived notions about me? Well not if I do it first, pal. Part of me enjoys watching people laugh uncomfortably, while another part of me just wants to not have to do that.
I’m sure some of you are asking yourselves, “Well, why don’t you go on a diet and lose weight?”
…Holy shit. I never thought of that before…I’ve…I can’t believe…you’ve just made it all clear to me. IT’S SO SIMPLE! OH MY GOD! WHY DON’T I JUST LOSE WEI you see where I’m going with this.
I’ve been schooled, shamed, forced, stuffed, pushed in, told off, given pills, given advice, work at a gym for 4 years…I know what I need to do.
This is the part that’s hard to write down.
I have an eating disorder. Food is different for me. It’s been a friend, a comfort, and something I can always rely on to momentarily make me feel absolutely nothing but pleasure. It’s momentary, but it’s undeniable. It sounds silly to you probably in the same way Heroin addiction sounds silly to me. I know I’ll get picked on, I know I won’t be able to buy clothes as easily. It won’t be easy to make the money thin people make. Get the jobs thin people get. Walking down the street constantly waiting for that one comment. Wanting to work out, but being deathly embarrassed by the concept of others watching. Having everyone in the universe know what’s good for you and not believing you know the same exact thing. This is not a conscious choice for me, this body.
The only thing I strive to be is healthy and devoid of shame. No matter what size I end up. Right now, part of who I am is being the size I am. I choose to change this, not you. Trust that I am intelligent and strong enough to do what is correct for me, and we’re golden. I have an amazing support system of both friends and family who drive me in the right direction every day. I really want to fix my addiction, but I have no preconceived notions that my life will suddenly become whole when I do. I’m in an amazing relationship, and I’m happy.
So no, I’m not fat positive. I’m body positive. Positive my body does not embody me. Positive that no matter what size we are, we will deal with an over-present media that wants to make us feel like we’re these half-done creatures, ever-tumbling through life in a fog without their self help books, handbags, magic diet pills, eye cream, giant boobs, six packs, cellulite smoothers and Oprahs.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that stuff up up there. If any of it makes you feel better, then it’s serving a purpose. Just believe that you’re a work in progress making your own decisions, and ignore the slightest suggestion that you have to live up to anyone’s standards but your own.
I feel you 100% on all of this. Thank you for sharing!
This is the best piece I have ever seen written on the topic of body image. You are a spectacular writer – keep at it! Can’t begin to explain how much I love you and how proud I am of who you are!
Ya know, you make so much sense Lauren. Im sorry if at anytime anything I’ve said may have insulted you unintentionally. You are my BEST friend, and to spite your addiction, one of the most self aware and powerful women I know. I love ya for it, and always looked up to you for that!
I love you just the way you are
Anyone that has ever dismissed you because of how you look has lost an opportunity to know a really remarkable person. I am very glad to know you and call you friend.