Sunday, December 12, 2010

On Fat Acceptance

It remains a radical act to be a fat and happy woman in America. If you're fat, you're not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident—and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society's disdain and your own self-hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cow-calls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self-esteem; you don't deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery.
--Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, on Fat Hatred
I am fat.  This is not my way of fishing for a compliment.  It is just the truth.  I have had two babies in five years and the second baby was nearly more than my body could handle.  Having my baby E caused my hormones to get imbalanced, which caused my adrenals and thyroid to work overtime, which caused my weight gain and subsequent inability to shed the pounds.  I did not know the cause at the time of my pregnancy.  I was very mystified when I would eat normal portions of food and still balloon out as if eating twice as much as usual.
I am very lucky to have found out the cause of my weight gain.  With increased awareness of my body, and by taking care to rebuild my adrenal and thyroid function, I have been able to drop a few pounds in the last month.  I have found that weight loss has to do with reducing my stress, eating healthy fats, mindfulness while eating a meal, and accepting who I am.
As I stayed fat for the last 2 years or so, I started to notice that I was being treated differently.  People seemed sorry for me that I was just so fat.  People seemed angry with me that I just could not lose that weight. People seemed to think that it was such a shame that I had so severe a personal failing that I couldn't starve myself enough to lose the baby weight within the acceptable time frame after giving birth to E.  I started to believe that something was wrong with me, that I really lacked self-control or I would be thin again.
But the bottom line is that I am still ME, fat or thin.  Realizing that I still had worth even though I am fat, has been a huge victory for me.  We are constantly bombarded with images of what is acceptable for women.  Fat men can be jolly, even sexy and desirable if they are funny and endearing.  But fat women are just gross.  They need to get their act together and start looking good again.  Fat women have no business being sexy, or wanting full relationships, or being happy.  Fat women are expected to hang their heads in shame that they dare to be fat without apologizing for it.
Being fat in society is not easy.  Thin privilege is all around us.  If you are thin, you enjoy the privilege of eating whatever you like without anyone commenting on your portions.  You can feel happy without anyone shaming you.  You can go to the doctor without being belittled for your mass.  You don't have to brace yourself for any dirty looks or comments when you eat food in public.  You don't have to defend your very existence in the face of outright hatred, simply because of how you look.
I hate how I am treated now that I am fat.  Remember, I have been thin before.  I know how differently I am treated now.  In my fat body is the same brain, the same personality, the same wit, the same capability that I have always had.  In fact, it is that brain and capability that has aided me in tenaciously figuring out my body in the face of so much disdain from the society around me.
In spite of being considered subhuman, I have learned to love myself now in all my fat gloryI will love myself when I am thin again too, albeit with a wiser understanding of the privilege it will bring.

(cross-posted at The Exponent)

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