For those not in the know, ‘fat acceptance‘ is a movement that tries to change society’s attitudes towards fat people. A lot of fat people embrace this, and personally, following on from my tweets about being fat and the struggle with that sort of thing, I’m not sure it’s the answer really.
I could be totally wrong here but to me, there are basically two schools of thought:
1) I accept that I am fat. It is ok to be fat. When others are fat I feel better because I’m not alone.
2) I hate myself for being fat. Being fat is not ok. If others are fat it means they are unhealthy.
I think we should have a new school of thought:
Being fat is not something that defines me as a person – it is incidental to my existence. It is neither ok, nor not ok. I do not place a value judgement on other people who might be overweight, nor am I dismissive or unsympathetic to their concerns about their weight. I support those who want to lose weight, I support those who want to gain weight, and I support those who are happy as they are – whether medically/socially deemed ‘overweight’ or ‘underweight’. I place emphasis on personality and happiness over weight or size.
Ok, a bit long, but this is a kind of mission statement of sorts, so you have to bear with me.
I am trying to change how I feel about myself. I am trying to change these horrible feelings of ‘If I am fat, I do not deserve…’ ‘If I am fat I cannot do…’ ‘If I am fat no one will love…’ ‘If I am fat I will never be happy…’ I’m not even trying to change them into positives; I don’t think that’s going to work for me. I’m trying to make my weight and size something that is not an issue. Not a core part of who I am. I know it isn’t. It never has been! I am more than flesh, I am thoughts, feelings, ideas… I am more than a shape, I am a do-er, a giver… An active, constantly-evolving mind in a host of a collection of cells, and however large the sum of those cells is, the fundamentals underneath are never going to change so wholly as to warrant different treatment.
I’ve been working on it for a long while, it seems. For somebody who constantly thinks big (I don’t want to move out into London, but I would be fine with moving abroad, for example), for someone who is always looking for a big challenge and shunning the small ones, this is strange, to feel like on an issue that is so, so tiny, that I have made very little progress. The truth is that for me, it’s something that is going to take a long while. I have to undo the years of self-hatred that I’ve harboured. The years of feeling like I’ll never be good enough. How fucking long I spent telling myself that I couldn’t do things until I was thin. Time wasted, hating myself, wasted not appreciating how awesome I can be at any size. Wasted time that I could have spent actually doing everything I ever wanted to!
One thing I’ll always remember from the Fem11 Endangered Bodies seminar (my blog here) was that someone stood up and said that she obsessed over dieting and she told herself she would be able to do things when she was thin. She said she had promised herself ‘when she was thin’ that she would learn French, that she would travel, that she would become a whole new person who did things that she wanted to do, and who would be loved by everyone she met. This is how I have lived my life. Putting things off until the day that I step on the scales and I am the size that I am ‘supposed’ to be. The day that I look in the mirror at myself naked and say ‘I look pretty hot actually’. I told myself I had to wait because when I was thin, suddenly my life would undoubtedly become amazing, I would shed my shyness, I would become the Woman Everyone Wants To Love. This is no way to live a life, promising yourself the impossible. How are you ever going to be happy?
I made a promise to myself that I would endeavour to do these things that made me happy, whatever weight or size I was. I went to Dubai in May and for the first time in just under a decade, I went to a water park. Small steps, remember! I went swimming and god, I was so nervous. Everyone would stare at me, I thought, they would think ‘what a pig, taking up more space in the water’, ‘look how fat and ugly she is’. I actually spent the whole day talking to new people, laughing, playing around in the water by myself, enjoying the water slides, basking in the sunshine on top of the water, doing my own thing. I rocked that day, and I felt great afterwards, because I put on my swimsuit, I saw how fat I looked, and in spite of this, I took a deep breath and told myself: ‘Don’t care. Act like you own this place. You deserve to have fun too.’ I don’t walk around caring about what other people look like; why should anyone care about me?
I went indoor skydiving yesterday and that was similar, except I did feel bad. I couldn’t do as much as other people could – I instinctively attributed this to my weight and stature, not to, say, my lack of ability in the skydiving department! I didn’t even think that perhaps I had just been with a pretty talented bunch of people with a natural gift for skydiving! So, ok, I didn’t deal with it so well. I was upset, and I hated myself. Sometimes life doesn’t go your way – you envision it so strongly that the reality can not really match up.
I’m trying very hard to see past this, to give myself a break from all the self-hatred and guilt-tripping. Sometimes I need chocolate. Sometimes I am just being greedy. Does it matter? I’m not perfect, and yes, I need to lose weight. I’ve always maintained I’ll lose weight when I’m happy (I tend to sad-eat) and I honestly believe that. But if I can’t see a way to ignore my own weight for the time being, and enjoy myself in spite of it, then I’ll never find happiness. Which means I’ll never lose weight, and I’ll go on forever gaining weight and hating myself and then no one else will like me and then I’ll sad-eat myself to death. Umm, maybe even literally!
Fat acceptance isn’t my way forward, because I don’t believe that my being-thin-ness will fix much, and I don’t as such believe that simply accepting that I am ‘fat’ is key. But seeing myself as a real, 3D personality; as something more than just ‘fat’, and seeing ‘fat’ness as a genuine irrelevance to me as a person… That really is. Defining myself in different terms and consequently allowing myself the opportunity to be happy, the chance to love life and to be loved in life… That is going to make a huge difference to my life.