The other day, my sister and I were discussing our fatness. You know, that thing, that thing, children at the tender age of five, have already come to believe is more horrifying to be categorized as than the proposition of unexpectedly losing a limb. Sadly, during our conversation I realized, my Sis and I, now hold fundamentally differing views of what this means.
Personally, I’ve made huge inroads into accepting and making peace with the fact that I’m fat. After years, of kicking and screaming against this circumstance of genetics. Flailing against myself, against my own best interests, duking it out with invisible microscopic strands of DNA. The secret code behind who I am. I fought hard, continuously pounding at its chest, in the form of disordered eating and obsessive exercise patterns.
Slim Fast, Atkins, low carb, low fat, you name it, I tried it. And usually, if I maintained a strict enough regimen I was able to whittle myself into a more socially acceptable version.
Yet, I discovered for every pound I lost, I gained the heaviness of a new anxiety.
Year after year, my world centered food. Alternating between the highs of planning my next diet, and lows of the fear, blame, guilt, and shame that I always felt when I ultimately wound up gaining all the weight back. Something, that unlike my all of my diets, never seemed to fail.
I remember the first time I heard Virgie Tovar speak. I was resistant to this new way of thinking. “Huh, me, give up dieting? Not gonna happen! Huh, I’m not a quitter!” That’s what I took her rejection of diet culture to mean; giving up and giving in, to temptation.
I’d prided myself on my strong willpower and I was addicted to those glorious ass pats that I got when I was successful at losing some weight. Like Pavlov’s dog, they were my reward.
I was determined to hold on to my security blanket of diet culture. It felt safe, it was all I’d ever known. I mean, I started my first diet at eight. All these years later and up until that very moment, no one had ever told me I didn’t have to do these tortuous things to myself. I didn’t have to restrict myself until all of the spontaneity and fun had been drained out of my life. I could just live. I could just breathe. It was okay, I was okay.
It took a while for me to come around to this line of thinking. To fully accept me and embrace what I am: F-A-T. Still, it all felt foreign, the not hating myself, not constantly obsessing over calories. It felt uneasy not to be striving toward some unattainable stamp of perfection.
I was surprised to find that spending time on Tumblr and Instagram, seeing beautiful, naked and clothed fat bodies, like my own, helped drive it home for me. Fat and sexy don’t have to be mutually exclusive descriptors. I’ll forever be indebted to those amazingly fearless women.
This all leads me back to my sister. She’s actively involved in self-hatred. In our recent discussion, I’d merely tried explaining to her that she and I didn’t choose to be fat. That we just are. These words seemed to hit a nerve. I guess she’s just not ready or willing to shift her whole paradigm surrounding body image. Not yet anyway.
But, when she does I’ll be here to celebrate our heritage. A lineage that gifted us with our chipmunk cheeks and thunder thighs, minus the benefits of a full round bust. But, that’s us, that’s who we are. There’s no shame in it.
I can understand why it’s hard for her, it’s so uncommon for someone to tell a fat girl – “Hey, you’re okay! Actually your kind of beautiful.” in this world. At first, it catches you off guard. So you fight them on it. The programming screams, “No, I’m not! I have to lose at least 15lbs maybe 20 lbs to be okay.” Smh. No, no you don’t.
I guess she believes that is if she’s not continually fighting against some nebulous “it” that she’s actively choosing to be fat. Some would argue that she is right. Personally, I don’t think I choose to be fat any more than I choose the color of my eyes. As far back as I can remember I was fat. And let’s face it, short of some miracle drug I always will be, and that’s fine. Perfectly, okay by me.
Nope, I didn’t get to choose whether or not I’d inhabit a thin, or fat body but, I do get to choose to embrace this aspect of who I am. I’m fat and I’m okay.