True Confessions

I don’t know how I missed this for over a week, but Colleen at The Pretty Pear wrote a wonderfully honest post about being a fat acceptance blogger and still falling victim to the call of dieting.

But I see now that words of encouragement and girl power and yay you! aren’t always enough. If you still have it in your head, no matter how buried or deep it is, that being fat is BAD, then all of the “real women have curves” catch phrases in the WORLD are not going to make you 100% comfortable with your body. There’s real work involved. You have to really try and struggle and like me, you may slip a little.

That is the goddamned truth, right there. Part of the reason I write this blog daily, bang this drum incessantly, is that it took me so long to get over secretly thinking, “Yeah, fat acceptance is a great concept, but if I just diet one more time and keep it off, I can be thin AND argue in favor of fat acceptance. Win-win!” I mean, I’m talking years between first hearing about the concept of fat acceptance, learning about all the evidence that contradicts what we’re told, and actually accepting my fat.

Which, truth be told, I can only honestly say I’ve done about 95%. I have bad days, like everybody. I don’t consider dieting anymore, but I have occasional thoughts like, “If I start swimming — only because I love to swim! — maybe I’ll drop 10 pounds. That would make shopping easier!”

Fortunately, that’s immediately followed by, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU THINKING? If you want to swim because you love it, do it, but whether you lose weight is completely irrelevant, remember? You’re healthy and you look fine, remember? Also, shopping wasn’t any easier when you were a goddamn size 4, because you were still a short hourglass, remember? Also, you blog about fat acceptance, remember???”

But it’s there. It’s always there. And I know that for a lot of readers who are new to fat acceptance, it’s not only there but still winning the battle more often than not. I know I had to have all these messages pounded into my head, over and over, before I could honestly say I love my body more than I don’t.

We are up against some hardcore indoctrination, y’all. Getting past it does not happen easily or quickly. Colleen rocks for being so candid about that.

Having said that, I hate her a little for making me aware of this dress, because man, my credit card just doesn’t need that right now.

Posted in Fat

22 thoughts on “True Confessions

  1. Everyone has bad days. No one is 100% accepting. To borrow a phrase often lobbed at us, fat acceptance is hard work. And more often than not its thankless work. But it is worth it.

    I think the most important thing anyone learning to accept their bodies can do is also accept that they’ll have bad days. The important thing is to not pretend that we can be perfect. That we’ll never have moments of doubt or self-loathing. Its too much to expect from ourselves. It would only be setting ourselves up to feel like failures.

    You can accept that you’ll never be 100% without accepting the moments of doubt and self-hatred. Accept that you’ll have those moments, but don’t give them strength. Don’t validate them. That’s the most important thing for me. Its how you respond to it. Giving in would be bad, but just as bad would be beating yourself up for having moments where you feel that way.

  2. Aw shit. It’s so true. It’s really, really difficult for women NOT to be tempted to diet. Everything on earth conspires to make you feel like a FREAK if you’re fat and not dieting (heck, maybe even if you’re NOT fat and not dieting). Men are still given much more of a pass on drinking beer and eating fries and such, that’s still a part of the Dude Nation thing. But women? Surrender your vagina if you’re not counting what you put in your mouth.

    So I’m a freak. But I still get caught up in, “If only I could lose 75 pounds, I’d have so much more credibility, even as a SA activist.” After all, there’s no way Gina Kolata (for instance) would have been allowed to publish her book with a major publisher if she’d been fat. I can’t imagine any major publisher telling a gay person who wanted to publish a book on gay liberation that “you’re just looking for an excuse not to get conventionally married and have a family and grow up,” and only allow straight people to publish books saying that you can’t turn most gay people straight. (Although I’m sure they did that sort of thing 30 or 40 years ago.) But fuck if that’s not what they pull on us.

    And the BMI charts, good golly. I guess there’s like this huge Death Plunge for white women between the BMI 30-34 and BMI 35-39 categories, and I reside right smack in the middle of the latter. So I think, “Thirty pounds, I only have to lose thirty pounds to be safe, how hard can losing just thirty pounds be? All I have to do is take an extra walk around the block and not have drinks with calories, is that so hard?”

    Of course I know better than that, I know I’ve “cut calories” significantly (just by not overeating out of habit) over the last five years and bumped up my exercise significantly also in that amount of time and haven’t lost a frigging ounce, not an ounce. But…people…don’t…believe…me. Nobody wants to believe stuff like that. If people believed in God in America like they believed in calorie theory, we’d let an ayatollah take over for real.

  3. But I still get caught up in, “If only I could lose 75 pounds, I’d have so much more credibility, even as a SA activist.”

    Uh-huh. I’m keenly aware of having size privilege there, and that I might be able to reach a different audience that wouldn’t listen at all if I were fatter. It infuriates me… but I also use it. And I mean that in good and bad ways.

  4. I’ve given up dieting for good, but I don’t think that I’ll ever truly accept my body. I’ve had too many people (including people who are supposed to love me unconditionally) tell me that I’m disgusting and worthless because of my weight for me to ever completely de-program.

    OT – Kate, I’ve been trying to e-mail you, but my message keeps getting bounced back.

  5. Even as an inbetweenie, my brain still does this way more than I’m comfortable with. I’ve been on and off sick for more than a month, which has been extremely unpleasant and has altered my eating habits a lot. Mostly, I just wanna feel normal enough to have a really good burger or curry–but there is some part of my brain (no doubt left over from when I was 14) that thinks, well, maybe by the end of this you’ll be down to size x.

    And then I have to throw that part of my brain out the window. Which is tricky, physiologically speaking.

  6. I fall into the “credibility” trap, too. Not as much as I used to, but its still there. For me, its a little different, though. In a way, I think I have greater credibility on fat acceptance as a fat person than I did when I was thin. I can offer personal experience which is relevant to the discussion and I’m taken more seriously, in general. I think thats a bit of male privilege more than anything else, though.

    Where I do feel my “credibility” is weakened is actually as a Fat Admirer. Being a thin FA and being a fat FA are very different things, at least in perception. People assume you’re only with a fat person because you’re fat. Being thin, its more directly subversive to be seen with a fat person. It directly confronts people’s expectations. They still may well find themselves to an offensive conclusion, but its something they need to deal with. Being fat, it can be dismissed. No one would see me and have to even think about me preferring a fat woman because they just figure I’m fat so of course I’m with a fat woman.

  7. BStu, a lot of people actually assume that only fat men want to be with fat women., which my own experience has told me is absolutely false. My current boyfriend and the one before him have BMI around 21 or 22. I do think the boyfriend before this one was more of a “big boob admirer” than a “fat admirer” as such, though, and simply didn’t particularly mind if other body parts happened to be on the larger side too.

    I do find it a bit puzzling that men who are very thin seem to like fat chicks better than men who are “slightly chubby.” Maybe it’s because those slightly-chubby guys are still hoping to lose weight and be conventionally buff and thus are all caught up in diet B.S., like my dad. Or maybe the thin guys just like the padding we provide. (Chris Rock had a line once about his fat ex that I thought was hilarious, saying that when the two of them walked down the street side by side “we looked like the number 10.”)

  8. I think part of it is that fat FA’s have the option of being relatively invisible. Under the expectations of “having to” date fat women, they don’t need to identify their preference. Might not even really occur to them. A thin person being an FA is more obvious, so that individual might be more up-front and engaged about it. Another factor is that a fat FA may feel pressure to prove their value by entering into relationships with thin partners. Not out of preference, but as a status symbol. They would buy into the notion of dating a fat person as settling, even as a fat person themselves.

  9. I wrestle with this a lot. And feelin kind of disappointed that I start doing something I really enjoy, metabolism goes into WOOO mode and my clothes start fitting funny.

    I was actually considering talking about this today and now I think I will.

    And damn you both for alerting me to that dress.

  10. Colleen is terrifically brave. That’s hard stuff to admit. But I think most people who have struggled with (or continue to struggle with) body acceptance still have those echos of the dieting days rattling around in their head. I appreciate her honesty.

  11. I never seriously entertain thoughts of dieting anymore, because those thoughts just make me want to cry. As soon as I think of a diet I think of gaining the weight back (plus more) a couple of years later. As a super-successful expert roller coaster dieter, all I am left with is the despair that no amount of “success” (and I’ve had A LOT) will ever last.

    Where I punish myself the most is when I gain weight. It’s one thing to be size 18 and accept it and love it and find it beautiful. It’s another thing entirely to realize the 18s ain’t fitting anymore and it’s time for 20.

  12. “I’m talking years between first hearing about the concept of fat acceptance, learning about all the evidence that contradicts what we’re told, and actually accepting my fat.”

    This so describes the shift I’m in the middle of, it took my breath away. I knew about fat acceptance, but thought I couldn’t do it, and still bought into the “but if I only had some self discipline!” crap. (Nevermind the fact that if I didn’t have any self-discipline, I’d be drunk in a trailer like my background dictates, not having the rather nice, if fat, life I’m having. But I digress.) Then I saw Joy Nash’s “A Fat Rant,” then I started digging around a bit and found you and the folks you point to, and then my mind got blown.

    The idea that maybe I actually can’t be thin, but can be healthy, and that’s OKAY is so revolutionary. When I’m in tune with it, I feel like you feel when you’ve gotten over the flu and are thanking Goddess for your usual state of health…except I’ve had the flu for 35 years. It’s still so new that I fall out of tune with it, though, and the demons beat me up and tell me that I’m too fat to live. (I’m not really in danger – please don’t trace me down and call 911 on me – but it’s not *that* much of an overstatement.)

    Anyway. Thank you so much for getting this information out there, and thank you for reminding me that it’s okay for un-indoctrination to take a while. I hope the good you’ve done me, and must be doing others, comes back to you tenfold.

  13. “And the BMI charts, good golly. I guess there’s like this huge Death Plunge for white women between the BMI 30-34 and BMI 35-39 categories, and I reside right smack in the middle of the latter.”

    Meowzer. Kate. I could have sworn we already had this discussion.

    With all due and appropriate respect, please stop cutting women who are not ALL Caucasian or ALL Ashkenazi descent (because, as you remember, I said I was multiracial, but I did NOT say what the “blend” was) out of the dialogue.

    Remember what people said about BStu in support of isolating one’s position/movement/work from potential allies?

    EVERY woman has an eating disorder in American society.

  14. Littlem, I don’t want you to feel alienated, but I really don’t see how what you quoted there is excluding anyone from the dialogue, seeing as Meowzer was talking specifically about herself.

    The second half of that sentence was about how the statistic she referenced applied specifically to her, a white woman. Furthermore, I daresay she specified “white” precisely because the same statistic does not necessarily apply to anyone who’s not a 100% Caucasian woman. But she happens to be one and she was talking entirely about herself in that paragraph, so frankly, I’m not buying the need for a lecture here.

  15. Well, it certainly wasn’t an attempted lecture.

    What I read you focusing on is the last part of the sentence, where she talks about where she resides.

    What I was focusing on was the beginning of the sentence, where she seems to speak about the Death Plunge being for white women. It reads (to me) as though the barbs for being within the Death Plunge area are going to be leveled at white women only, and I know I don’t need to tell you that that’s not the case.

    However, if you don’t see it, then you don’t see it.

    But I think I remember yourself telling some other reader, “privileged” in another way, that just because they saw something didn’t mean it didn’t — and doesn’t — happen.

    I’m just respectfully requesting a little care with the language, so that others who are reading casually don’t get alienated either. It’s certainly not just me.

    I know you read The Rotund, and I’m just a commenter (at least here), but she has a post up about potential movement allies being excluded for not being “fat enough” to join the debate. The analogy is not precisely exact, but I can certainly see it.

    It’s really just about care with the language, that’s all.

  16. Edit:

    Just because they DIDN’T SEE something doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

    Long day.

  17. Again, littlem, I just don’t think this was a matter of carelessness. My interpretation was that Meowser was talking about a study that only involved white women — ergo, we don’t know if the “death plunge” also applies to non-white women. I believe she specified “white” as an acknowledgment that the study she refers to was limited — yet it did apply to her, and the rest of her statement was personal, so it was relevant to the personal point she was making.

    Only Meowser can tell us if my interpretation is correct, but if it is, I am really struggling to see the carelessness here.

  18. This is where I have to admit ignorance of a lot of studies regarding BMI – IS there a Death Plunge located at a specific level for, specifically, white women? Is there a corresponding Death Plunge for black women? Asian women?

    I think this is also where, in an effort to possibly clarify individual experience, we’ve actually lost a little of the broader context just because we aren’t working from the same knowledge base. When I read Meowser’s comment, I stumbled a little (ooooooh, stumbling block!) over the phrasing because it made me think this whole Death Plunge thing was a specifically white experience.

    That said, I really DO believe Meowser’s comment was framed to reference her own experience rather than make assumptions about the experiences of others. Maybe this is a point where we all need a little education – do women of color, white men, and men of color also have a Death Plunge on the BMI charts that could create the same sort of feelings? Because I totally get what Meowser is saying – being close to having an acceptable body – whether that is aesthetically or according to arbitrary charts – is a really tempting thing.

  19. I’m assuming this is the chart we’re talking about? Since these are relative risk numbers, not absolute, I wonder whether the apparent White Fat Death Plunge is an artifact of higher mortality for people of colour overall.

    Being a person of colour in a society of white oppression is statistically associated with poverty, poorer access to and discrimination within healthcare, and a host of other factors that contribute to less favourable health statistics for slender as well as fat people.

    That “1.00″ number, artificially slapped on the 23.5-25 BMI group, is also artifically equalised across the races. Mortality risk of “1.00″ for a woman of colour is likely a higher number in absolute terms than the “1.00″ for white women.

    I believe the mortality difference in the USA for black/white people (both sexes), is around 30%, but I don’t have a cite for that to hand and welcome contradiction. For women and cardiovascular disease, the difference is around 70%. For pregnancy related complications, Black women are 2-3 times more likely to die. For indigenous people in Australia, it’s even worse; Aboriginal women have a life expectancy of only 63 years. (Of course, our government blames “lifestyle factors”.)

    Off topic-ish. Sorry.

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