On being fat

I’ve been kicking around some thoughts about being fat.

Thoughts that make me feel vulnerable.

Thoughts that are hard to process, and even harder to write.

But that’s the point of the blog, right? To write through the discomfort. To share, perchance, to grow.

It’s well documented that the experience of being fat is not a pleasant one.

Doctors don’t want to treat fat people.

Employers don’t want to hire fat people.

I’ve often felt that anything I had to say, or just my being, was dismissed immediately because of my size.

It’s the feeling of being invisible.

Just look at any major news organization talking about the so-called “obesity epidemic” – what photo do they run with their story? Most likely, it’s a headless fatty.

How do these messages affect our society?

How did these messages affect me?

They left me scared – confirming the feeling that I was, in fact, being ignored and overlooked because of my weight.

And the photos, the images of rolls and cellulite without heads that are blasted on TVs across the world, left me without a voice.

The results of the non-existent, but extremely visible and media-friendly “obesity epidemic” is a shame-fest on fat people.

If you’ve read this blog for more than a few days, you know that I’m all about promoting the idea that you can, and should, love and accept your body at any size and weight.

This war on obesity, which is supposed to, I guess, get people to lose weight, is instead taking the experience of the fat person out of the conversation.

In my utopia, bodies are as they exist.

Doesn’t that sound more peaceful than a war on fat?

But I struggle with knowing these things and my lifestyle of actively losing weight.

I’m the body that news organizations talk about. When I see these stories, I don’t see headless fatties, I see me.

When I read stories about fat children being bullied, being discriminated against, being forced to diet, I mourn for my own childhood of similar experiences.

I’ve lost weight because I’ve rediscovered love and acceptance.

I’ve lost weight because I’ve reclaimed space for myself to exist and my body as being worthy of attention.

I’ve lost weight because I’ve stopped, and outright refused, to be at war with my body, no matter how many advertisements and magazines and news pundits tell me I should be.

Dieting is harmful and dangerous.

And I worry, a lot, that dieting is something I’m promoting with this blog.

Let me be clear here: Dieting is the devil.

The body you have now is yours for the rest of your life.

Please, don’t waste another second believing it is anything less than perfect and deserving of all the love you can give.

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Fat Acceptance: A Love Story

I had a huge moral dilemma when I first started this blog. I did not and still do not want to promote diet culture. I know I have written some things that have done that, and it truly feels like a betrayal to myself and of how I actually feel about losing weight.

I’m in a hard place because on one hand I am actively trying to lose weight, but I know the only reason I’ve lost any weight is because I’ve accepted being fat.

I know that doesn’t make much sense on its face, but stick with me for a bit, folks.

Fat Acceptance. If you don’t know what it is, start here.

I’ll wait.

The thing is, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments over the last couple of months about my weight loss, and while I know people are being nice, I’m slightly, ok really, uncomfortable with people seeing my weight loss as inspiration.

Why?

Because I believe you should love your body the way it is right now, and I don’t want anyone to think that my life is better just because I wear a smaller size. I’d much rather promote body acceptance than weight loss.

It’s because of Fat Acceptance that I’ve managed to be healthy at all. Through reading Fat Acceptance blogs every day  of others who were living full, wonderful existences as fat women, I realized I could too.

My life, the one I wanted and dreamed of, didn’t have to wait until I was skinny.

People diet, I assume, because they are unhappy with their bodies. But diets are absolutely not the answer to this problem. You know what might be? Not letting your fat body stand in the way of going to the gym for some endorphin-producing, stress-reducing exercise. I don’t know if going to the gym will help you lose weight, many studies say it won’t, but I do know that your mood will absolutely improve from getting your sweat on.

My self-esteem grew immensely when I stopped believing a diet could change my life and started living exactly how I wanted to live. Me. With my fat body. Right at that second and not after I had lost weight.

Or, from the New York Times:

The aim is to behave as if you have reached your “goal weight” and to act on ambitions postponed while trying to become thin, everything from buying new clothes to changing careers. Regular exercise should be for fun, not for slimming.

Living a life that embodies Fat Acceptance means that I do not pay attention to the things people assume about me for being fat.

And when I truly understood that, the years and years of not living because I was fat ended. And so did my struggle with my weight.

That’s the truth.

I feel like I live between two worlds right now. In one world, I want to lose more weight. In the other world, I know I’m living life exactly the way I want to and that my weight does not have an impact.

It’s an internal struggle and the whole reason I wanted to start a blog.

Right now, I can confidently say that I am healthy and fit. Would you know that by looking at me? Probably not. And these are the kind of societal evils that I have dealt with my whole life and that seep in to my brain and act as sabotage.

Fat Acceptance is about seeing fat as an adjective for your body, not your person. It’s also not an adjective that is synonymous with “bad.”

I can write and read that, but what I really need to do is be feeling it.

Because, truthfully, At 174.5 pounds, I sometimes feel worse about my body than at 243 pounds.

I’ve been wrapped up in the excitement of losing weight, but instead of making me happy, it’s left me feeling like I’m not good enough when I don’t lose weight and that’s a dangerous place that I really don’t want to be in.

I’m putting my struggle with this out there, because really I want to spread a message of Fat Acceptance, not weight loss. This is who I am, Jodi, fat or not.

Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu

Facing my big, fat fears

A few weeks ago, my gym began offering free spin classes. I go to a cheap, bare bones gym that doesn’t offer any classes, so this was pretty exciting.

Except, I had never tried spin before.

There are two thoughts that go through my head when I think about trying new things:

1. Am I too fat for this? I’m probably too fat for this.

2. It doesn’t matter if I’m too fat for this or not, other people will think I’m too fat for this.

Oh my god. Sometimes I think I got off “easy” compared to trauma other fat people face, then I become aware of my thoughts, and realize being fat has affected me in more ways than I probably realize.

It’s amazing what you hear when you start listening to your thoughts.

Rationally, I know I’ve been working out consistently for about a year, have run two 5Ks and have much more endurance  than I did at 240 pounds. Also, there is that tiny detail of not actually being 240 pounds anymore.

There was nothing standing between me and that spin class except for my big, fat fear.

I was really nervous going into it, but just kept telling myself that I belonged there and I would be able to complete the class.

It helped that the instructor was really nice and because the spin classes are new at the gym, there were other spin newbies like me.

Since that first class, I’ve been back whenever my schedule allows it and have a great time every time. I leave so sweaty and so, so happy.

Source: Uploaded by user via Bobbie on Pinterest

I know that part of the good feeling that follows spin are due to endorphins, but there’s a feeling of accomplishment every time I leave the class that I’m doing something I didn’t think I could do.

Losing 65 pounds has changed my life in so many unimaginable ways, the most important of which have absolutely nothing to do with how I look.

I hate watching TV when I’m on the treadmill or elliptical, so instead I usually stare into my reflection on the dark screen and challenge myself to go when I want to stop and do what I think I cannot do.

Today, let fear be your motivation to action.

Step 1: Love

I’m not a big believer in one “moment” that sparks a journey. You’ve heard it before, someone is sitting on a couch with one hand in a bag of chips and something comes on the TV that makes them reconsider their life and then they start a diet, join a gym, blah blah blah.

I’ve had many moments where I said to myself, “Tomorrow will be different” and vowed to change my life. These moments were usually alone, in the dark, after eating too much and drinking from the cocktail of shame, regret and hate.

It’s my experience of having a thousand of those “I’m going to change my life” moments that lead to me believe they don’t exist.

Why? Because when you hear about them, they usually start with some form of realization of disgust in oneself.

What a terrible place to draw inspiration from.

I also don’t believe in those moments, because I think it makes light of the work that goes into creating change.

Change doesn’t just happen. It’s not something that you wake up with one day.

But change does have a beginning.

Step 1: Love

Three fat women helped changed my life.

Lesley Kinzel of Two Whole Cakes

Marianne Kirby of The Rotund

and Kate Harding of Shapely Prose (which I think is now KateHarding.net)

They are all Fat Acceptance writers who have, in my opinion, some of the best insight into our culture and some the best messages to spread.

Kate Harding has an absolutely brilliant post about The Fantasy of Being Thin. If you’ve ever had the thought in your head, weight loss or not, that goes something like “My life will be different when ________” — then you need to read this.

She talks about Fat Acceptance as overcoming the fantasy that being thin will change your life.

Now you might think that as someone who is actively losing weight, I still believe in the fantasy of being thin.

And sometimes you would be right. Some days I let the numbers on the scale get to me. I see a gain and I’m ugly. I see a loss and I’m empowered.

But then I remember the reason I’ve been able to lose weight and my source of inspiration.

Love and acceptance.

In those weak moments I tell myself, “My life hasn’t changed from two seconds ago, before I stepped on the scale.”

It’s not a an easy battle, and it’s certainly not one I want to make seem easy, but fighting it is so, so worth it.

Because when you don’t lose weight (it happens) and when you don’t make it to the gym (it happens) and when you eat too much (it happens) – it doesn’t matter.

You’re still you.

I’ve put a lot into changing my life. Everything I have. As a result, I’ve lost weight.

But the motivating factor has always been love. And I’m here to argue that it has to be. You have to believe you are a person worthy of change before change happens. And to believe you are worthy of everything you want, you have to accept and love who you are.

It doesn’t work any other way.

There simply is no hating yourself thin.

I no longer read those Fat Acceptance blogs as often as I used to, but those three amazing women are the voices I come back to when I need a lift and when I need to remember why I’m living the way I live.

Sometimes my life between Fat Acceptance and actively losing weight can cause a bit of cognitive dissonance, but when I really get down to it I know I’ve changed the way I live because for me, loving my body means feeding it the right food and moving it around, fat or not.

Caught up in Calcutta

Hi!

I’m writing from an internet cafe in Calcutta where I’m staying with a friend. We’ve been out and about exploring the city, walking around markets and enjoying homemade Bengali cuisine. I’m starting to really miss my own cooking though! It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be to fit exercise and fruits and vegetables into my diet here, but I know that this is not a permanent situation so I’m just going with the flow. Lots of rice, fish, curries, chapatis, chai and sweets have been consumed in the process!

I’m reminding myself frequently to eat without guilt. I’m enjoying the food and the company immensely, and don’t want to spend time worrying about the nutritional or caloric value of the meals.

Sometimes it feels as if I am learning how to feed myself all over again. I’ve worked hard to shake the feelings of shame and guilt about eating, emotions that many fat people feel because of the stigmas in our society.  It’s been a process and I know I still have a long way to go.

Right now, however, I’m vowing to live in the moment, enjoy my last week in India, and continue to feel grateful for my life and what I have accomplished.