Instead of a blog post today I wanted to share one of my pieces of fat-positive art with you! I created the original version of this piece about seven years ago, but since I recently changed my name I wanted to update the piece. I hope you enjoy!
Instead of a blog post today I wanted to share one of my pieces of fat-positive art with you! I created the original version of this piece about seven years ago, but since I recently changed my name I wanted to update the piece. I hope you enjoy!
Like many, possibly most, I have a complicated relationship with my body. I always have. I’ve always been bigger. Bigger than what? Bigger than everyone else, bigger than I was supposed to be, bigger than what was considered good, right, or healthy. In my mind, as a child, I was huge. Looking at old pictures, I was a little bigger than the other kids, and usually taller, but that was it. But that self-deception is a blog post for another day.
Until a month ago, I identified as a woman. For 32 years, I was a girl, then a woman, who was bigger than everyone else. Girls are not supposed to be big. We are supposed to be small and delicate and cute and quiet. I’ve always been loud and big and bold and expressive. Not anything a girl is supposed to be. I’ve grown bigger and bigger as I’ve gotten older, more often than not being the fattest person I know, and the fattest person in the room. If there’s one thing proper women are definitely not supposed to be, it’s fat.
A month ago, I came out as non binary. I wouldn’t say I was closeted before then, because I didn’t realize I was non binary. I was fully identifying as and living as a woman. I was a big, fat woman. Now I’m a big, fat non binary person.
Since realizing I am non binary, the way I view my body has subtly changed. I’m at a point in my life right now where I am not physically comfortable and am trying to lose weight slowly via moderate exercise and eating a more plant-based diet. That being said, I don’t have hatred for my body. I think hating a body for being big is a waste of time and energy. It’s your body! It’s the only one you’ve got! When I was a woman, hating my body seemed like an obvious choice, because that is what fat women are supposed to do. I still didn’t hate my body as a woman, but I knew I was supposed to.
Now that I’m not a woman, I feel like I’m cheating the system. Haha, I don’t have a gender, you can’t make me do anything! You can’t make me hate myself anymore! Who is you? Society, I suppose. The world. The people in it. The people that want me to diet myself away to nothing because that is what fat people-fat women especially-are supposed to do. So as someone who no longer identifies with any gender, what has changed?
I feel like the rules shouldn’t apply to anyone, but not having a gender has almost given me a head start on breaking away from the idea of how my body is supposed to look. My body is not a woman’s body, so why should it look the way women’s bodies are supposed to look? And that being said, why should any body look a certain way? What’s the point? Why are there any rules at all? Who makes the rules?
Fuck the rules!
Today I went through my closet on a mission to get rid of things I never wear but it quickly turned into a mission with a different goal. Pretty soon, as I looked over the rows of clothes, I realized I wanted to get rid of everything that didn’t fit me anymore.
I’ve been putting on weight over the past couple years. Like many tend to do, I made resolutions this year to be healthier and be more active. I am doing this with the goal of getting stronger and having better stamina, but also wanting to lose some weight. I’ve reached a point where I’m not comfortable in my body and I want to navigate the world a little more easily.
Despite my goals to lose weight, I don’t see the value in hanging onto clothes that don’t fit in the hopes that they might fit again someday. I think this creates an unhealthy pattern where were lose a little weight, try the clothes on, find they still don’t fit, and get discouraged. I think it’s easier in some ways to discard everything that doesn’t fit and just get new clothes as we reach new weights. This is just what works for me, and to each their own.
As I rifled through my closet I thought about things that have changed. I used to wear lots of t-shirts and now I almost exclusively wear dresses, because I don’t have to worry about my belly poking out. I can no longer button up my favorite pair of ripped denim shorts that I used to live in a couple summers ago. I decided to get rid of my last two pairs of jeans, because I now wear leggings everyday (and have never looked back. Leggings aren’t just pants, they’re BETTER than pants. Fight me.) I hung onto my Star Wars shirts despite wearing dresses almost everyday, because those I knew I would miss too much.
I thought about how this moment would be considered by many to be a failing of sorts. Here I am giving up, getting rid of my smaller clothes instead of striving to fit into them. But what do I have to gain (pun fully intended) but hanging onto the past? I have plenty of clothes that fit me now, and are stretchy enough to fit me as I lose some weight, so where is the benefit to be had by letting ill-fitting, uncomfortable clothing take up space in my closet? What will I get out of trying on my shorts every few weeks, hoping that this time they fit? I would much rather buy a new pair of shorts in six months. Out with the old.
There is a fear that comes with getting rid of things that only those of us with limited means really understand. What if I need this someday and it’s not there anymore, and I can’t afford to replace it? This is why so many of us hang on to things we don’t need, “just in case”. I used to do this with a lot of things. I hung onto large amounts of art and craft supplies, for a project I might do, someday, sometime in the vague future. I hung onto books I never read, movies I never watched, things I never used. As the years have gone by I’ve become quite fond of clearing things out. I love going through boxes and drawers, finding what I don’t use, donating things, only keeping what I really need and use. I have very rarely found myself missing something I got rid of, and it was never anything I needed, only things that had a small amount of sentimental value. So why hang on to clothes that won’t fit me for months, maybe a year, maybe longer?
I filled up three paper grocery bags with clothes I don’t wear or fit into anymore. I thought, oh, I’m supposed to feel ashamed aren’t I, that I’ve outgrown this much. But no, I just felt relief to be getting rid of that which is not useful to me anymore. There is something comforting and pleasing about looking at your clothes and knowing you can fit into all of them. There is something freeing in letting yourself be comfortable, in not punishing yourself for getting bigger. Outgrowing clothes doesn’t make you any kind of failure.
Today I took control and decided to do what was best for my well-being by letting go of that which does not serve me any longer. It felt good and even more, it felt freeing. I refuse to play the game of holding up a pair of pants, desperately hoping I fit into them this time. I refuse to hang onto anything that makes me feel less than good about myself. After all, I can always buy new shorts.
I tend to feel frustrated when I hear people decrying fat acceptance or health at every size because they had a bad encounter with a blog or blogger. I want to wave them back over, so to speak, and tell them no no, it’s okay, this really is a great place to be. This place really is for everyone, it’s all about acceptance! But I’ve been hearing a couple specific, related complaints from people who have decided that FA or HAES are not for them, namely that they felt shamed for choosing to lose weight. I’ve also heard people say they are uncomfortable with some writers and activists who give the impression that you should never listen to your doctor, or that any doctor who suggests weight loss is pushing body-hate.
The truth is, as much as I may see the FA movement as a place of pure acceptance and positivity, that has simply not been the experience for everyone. I personally only read blogs and books where insulting women for being thin is strictly forbidden, so I forget that some thin woman are still told they need to eat sandwiches, or inundated with the message that “real woman have curves” ( a message I am completely against, as previously discussed).
Not only are there thin women being told that their bodies are not acceptably feminine or desirable, but fat women are saying they have felt judged or shamed for deciding that weight loss is the best course for them. I can say that as a fat woman who doesn’t diet, doesn’t own a scale, and who tries to just practice intuitive eating, it’s almost like being in an alternate universe when fat women say they are shamed for dieting. In the normal, non-FA world, we are encouraged to lose weight at every turn. Commercials, magazine ads, television shows where fat people are almost exclusively used as jokes, and of course the regular interactions with well-meaning family, friends, and doctors. Many things unwittingly conspire to encourage fat people to lose weight, telling us we are unhealthy because you can’t be fat and healthy, telling us we are undesirable, unsuccessful, lack willpower and ambition. That is my reality, but it’s the reality for others that they feel unwelcome in some body-positive spaces because they feel that by choosing to diet or lose weight, they are going against everything we believe and will be judged for it. And, unfortunately, sometimes they are judged for it.
Here is where I stand: I am pro-health, by choice. I support people doing what they want to do in order to be healthy and feel good, as long as they are doing it by choice and not being shamed into their decision (and is that is the case, I am against the people doing the shaming). I am against forcing people to follow a strict path to supposed health. I am against listening to doctors unquestioningly, because doctors are prone to bias and do not always recommend what is best for each individual. I am against shaming people for their size, be they fat or thin, and I am against shaming people for being unhealthy, be they fat or thin. I am against trying to achieve weight loss by unhealthy means, but also do not judge those that do so. I do not support shaming people for deciding that they want to lose weight.
Every person has extremely unique circumstances. Some fat people may have back or joint pain that they can reduce with just exercise, others may need to actually weigh less in order to reduce their pain. Some people may be tired all the time, and have decided to cut out refined sugar and up their veggie intake to see if it helps. Some people may just be sick of being judged for being fat and want to change. There are too many reasons why someone may do the things they do, and at times people like me that are heavily into FA and HAES may jump to conclusions that if someone is trying to lose weight, it means they have failed to love themselves in some way. We need to be open to everyone’s stories. We need to make room for discussion about health, without judgement.
One thing I personally don’t tolerate is FA spaces becoming weight loss spaces. People who have decided to lose weight should not be shamed out of FA, but should also be sure to respect those that choose to remain the way they are. If weight loss is the right choice for you, you do not deserve to be judged for that, and it is a valid choice. It is also a valid choice for others to accept their bodies however they are, or decide to eat differently without the goal of losing weight, or really to do whatever they wish with their bodies. If those that choose diet and weight loss truly respect those that choose otherwise, we can show them the same courtesy. As long as our spaces are not taken over with diet talk, as long as we are not judged for our size, as long as our boundaries are respected, I hope we will make body-positive spaces safe for as many people as possible.
We all know the widespread concern over the obesity epidemic, and we are familiar with the language surrounding it. We are familiar with the concerns about heart disease, diabetes, joint pain. We know that some of the issues contributing to health problems in America are a lack of access to fresh, healthy food for many people, not to mention time to cook that food. We know it’s more convenient to stop through a drive-thru on the way home and spend five dollars on dinner than it is to go into a grocery store, pick out ingredients, and prepare dinner at home. We know that not all kids have a safe place to play and not all adults prioritize exercise. We know that these things can sometimes contribute to people being fatter. But what I want more people to acknowledge is that even if we found solutions to all of these problems, fat people will still exist. And that’s okay.
I am a very fat person. I used to be pretty active, taking walks regularly around my neighborhood in the suburbs when I was younger. I was still very fat even then. I also ate a lot of junk food, like soda and candy, which I do less of now, but am also less active. Like many adults, I don’t always prioritize exercise when I’m tired from work, but that’s something I’m trying to change. I’m trying to exercise more, eat more whole foods, buy fast food less. But I will still be fat. I can’t envision a future for myself where I am not big. That doesn’t mean I don’t think I will ever lose weight if I change some of my eating habits and exercise more often, but that because of how big I am, and how I am built, I will still always be big. And that’s okay.
I struggle to not speak up when I hear people talk about the dreaded obesity epidemic and the poor fat kids and how sad it is that so many americans are fat. I get angry, because I am a fat american and that doesn’t somehow make me less worthy as a person. I would not be better if I was thin, I would just be thin. I want everyone to have access to fresh, healthy, affordable food. I want everyone to be able to access grocery stores as easily as they can access fast food chains. I want all kids to have safe, clean parks to play on. I want people to encourage physical activity just because it’s fun and healthy. I want kids to be given the best start possible by having healthy options in life. But none of this will eradicate obesity.
The problem as I see it is the assumption that behaviors like lack of exercise and unhealthy diet are only a concern for fat people. The average person might not think this way, and probably knows that healthy food and exercise are good for everyone regardless of size. But the language used to discuss the obesity epidemic, especially language used in the media, implies that we need to make lifestyle changes as a nation so that we won’t be as fat, not so we’ll just be healthier. Health campaigns that target fat people serve only to imply that only fat people need to worry about what they do because as long as you’re not fat, you must be perfectly healthy. The targeting of fat people makes us just that-targets. It singles us out, makes us the problem, makes us the poor sad result of too much junk food in America, portion sizes that are too large, sodas that are too big. The focus on obesity is dangerous because it implies that all fat people are unhealthy and that you only need to worry about your health if you’re fat.
Fat people are not all the same. We don’t all live off of fast food and big gulps from 7-11. We don’t all spend hours on our couch every day watching t.v. We don’t all need to be saved from a dreaded epidemic. We are people, not diseases. Everyone should be able to eat well and exercise in order to pursue health, and everyone should be informed of potential health risks to certain behaviors independent of a risk of getting fat.
When I speak out against the concern over the obesity epidemic, I am not speaking out against health. I am speaking out in favor of health for everyone. I am asking people to please see me as a human being, not a walking disease or a problem to be solved. I am asking people to not assume how I live my life based on the size of my body. I am asking people to stop seeing fat people as an unfortunate side affect of America’s problems. Fat people cannot be eradicated. All the safe playgrounds and fresh food in the world won’t make us all disappear. And that’s okay. If we want to solve the problems of food deserts, it should be for health. If we want kids to be more active, it should be for health. When we tie the language of health to the language of defeating the obesity epidemic, we make fat people a target and a problem, and we send a subtle message that thin people don’t have to worry about their health as much, even if they engage in the same lifestyle habits. Fat people can be healthy, just as thin people can be unhealthy. I don’t want to eat well and exercise so that I can shrink down to an acceptable size, I want to do so because it makes me feel better. And I will still exist. And I will still matter.
I just got something in the mail, and I’m pissed.
Normally I love mail, I mean who doesn’t? Nothing works so well as a little pick-me-up then getting an unexpected letter or package in the mail. Last year I signed up for Birchbox, a monthly beauty product sample box, but I cancelled it after two months. Well, much to my surprise, I just received a January box! Maybe it’s to replace a lost box that never arrived, or maybe my subscription wasn’t successfully cancelled. Either way, I didn’t care and was pretty happy to receive an unexpected package. Until I opened it and found, of all things, a fat-shaming perfume.
Tucked away in this little box, neatly wrapped in a deceptively friendly-looking envelope, was a sample tube of a fragrance called Skinny Chic.
I was immediately put off by the name. Can we please get over this obsession with tying chicness to size? It goes along with that obnoxious “Skinny Girl” drink mix or the book that proclaims there are no fat french women. If you think only skinny girls can be fabulous, you haven’t seen any fat fashion blogs lately.
Anyway, the name was bad enough, but it got so much worse when I looked inside the little card that the tube comes folded inside of. The description for the product reads: “We craft exceptional fragrances that empower women to feel young, happy, slim, and beautiful.” This reminder that this perfume is meant to make you feel slim is repeated on both halves of the inside of the card, just in case you miss it and think that maybe it’s acceptable for you to feel beautiful without also feeling young and slim.
Just now my boyfriend walked into the room and I handed him the card and asked him to read it. I watched him smile as he started reading it and then his brow furrowed and he cocked his head to the side. He looked up at me and asked “Do you feel slim?” and I looked down at my very fat body and said “Nope!”
The card is also decorated with a highly-stylized, extremely skinny cartoon of a woman. Now, if the perfume weren’t called Skinny Chic and if the description wasn’t encouraging me to feel slim, I would think this was just a cute cartoon woman with an extremely exaggerated long neck and a teeny tiny waist. Now she serves as a pretty reminder that I should want to be her, or at least feel like her when I use this perfume. How nice of them! How nice of them to try to distract me from my clearly terrible fate as a fat person by making this lovely perfume.
Can we just talk about how nonsensical this is, by the way? How on earth is a perfume supposed to make me feel slim? Are the scents of apple, mint, and amber know for their abilities to make people think they have lost 250 pounds? If you want to make a product that makes digs at all your customers that aren’t skinny, you could at least try to make sense.
I’m sure some people will think “It’s just a perfume, calm down!”, you know, the usual “blah blah blah” whenever fat people get mad and speak up. But explain to me how this product is harmless. Explain to me how a product that literally says “this is supposed to make you feel skinny” is completely innocuous. I’m not on a diet, I’m not on a juice cleanse, I just got some damn perfume and should not have to be reminded that I am not supposed to look the way I look, I am not supposed to feel the way I feel and by okay with it.
What’s sad is that if it weren’t for the annoying name and the offensive description, this is a perfume I would sing the praises of because it has the kind of scent I love. However, I will never buy it and never tell anyone about it or encourage anyone to buy it. I will tell you that the perfume is made by Harvey Prince and if you are as irritated by this product as I am, you can go to their website (which I do not want to link from here) and you can let them know. I know that’s what I’m going to do.
Fat Acceptance, Health At Every Size, Size Acceptance, Body-positivity. So many titles, so many abbreviations, for what is, at it’s core, the same idea: To accept yourself, to accept others, to show respect. Not everyone wants to use the same terms, and we all have our own reasons for that. Body-positivity and size acceptance are more all-encompassing terms that say not only is it okay to be fat, but it’s okay to be thin, or tall, or flat-chested. You are fabulous and worth loving no matter what. Health at Every Size, as the name implies, tends to focus on the idea that you can be healthy no matter how big or small you are, and that you can’t determine someone’s level of health or fitness from their size. I love all these terms. They all serve to spread a message of positivity and acceptance. For me, however, the preferred term will always be Fat Acceptance. It’s selfish, really; I am fat, and want to be accepted as such. I want all fat people to be accepted as such. Now, some people have a different idea of what Fat Acceptance means. Some think it means disregarding health, or hating on thin people. So to let you get to know me better at the start of this fabulous new year, here is my breakdown of what Fat Acceptance means, to me.
My fat acceptance is not anti-health. Who would be anti-health? That’s just silly. I never felt better than when I was working out regularly (and I was still fat, by the way) and I love drinking water and eating green things. Cheesecake made with green food coloring counts, right? However, I believe in healthy-for-you. I believe that not everyone can, or should feel they have to, work out for the same amount of time or eat the same foods to be considered healthy. People have different needs. Not everyone can take a thirty-minute walk every day because they have a bad knee. Not everyone can go vegan because they are allergic to soy. And honestly, I don’t give a damn. We get to make our own choices about what makes us feel the best.
2. Or not healthy at all!
What’s that? You don’t want to exercise at all and you always skip breakfast? No hate from this corner! I do not, as a general rule, believe that human beings have any obligation to be healthy at all if they don’t want to be. My only exception to this rule is if you are someone’s parent or guardian, then I do feel you have an obligation to take care of yourself to the extent that you are able to fulfill your responsibilities to the person who depends on you. That goes for many things, however, like not smoking excessively or playing drunk water polo, which I just feel would end badly. Generally, I think humans can tell when they feel like shit and what they need to do to stop feeling like shit, if they so desire. What it comes down to is choice. Not to mention the fact that many fat people do in fact make healthy decisions but people assume they don’t, because they are still fat.
3. No exclusions!
I may prefer the term fat acceptance, because yes, that is what I focus on. But that does not mean I don’t think you are beautiful and worth accepting as well! I do not hate on thin women for being thin, I do not hate on people because of their height, I do not hate on people’s chest sizes, and I think you deserve the same respect that I am asking for. Yes, we may be talking about fat right now, but a conversation about fat does not mean I hate people who aren’t fat.
4. Real women have whatever they want!
When I was a wee fatty, somewhere around late middle school, I heard the term “Real woman have curves” for the first time. And yes, I fucking loved it. I loved it because I had been told my whole life that my body was wrong and ugly and not worth loving. Now suddenly here was a message that I was good, and right, and beautiful. Fear not, dear reader, I have long since changed my tune. I fully comprehend the negativity of that phrase and how it excludes and hurts so many women. I completely understand how anti-trans this message is as well, and that is not a train I want to be on. If you’re a woman, you’re a real fucking woman. Thin hips, small ass, flat chest, facial hair, big breasts, fake breasts, one breast, hairless vulva, no vulva at all. WOMAN. I will never say “Real women have curves”. Never ever ever. It’s hurtful and a slap in the damn face.
5. Maybe just treat me like a person, ok?
What always strikes me when people argue against fat acceptance is that, whether they realize it or not, they are arguing against treating certain human beings with basic dignity and respect. Don’t moo at me from your damn car window. Don’t roll your eyes if you have to sit next to me on a plane. Don’t assume you know what I eat or how I treat my body right when you meet me. Don’t make rude comments when you see me getting seconds at dinner or eating raw vegetables. I’m a person, and I deserve to be accepted, fat and all.