Corollary 1: Not dieting is hard

There was a lot of taking-things-personally going around the Fatosphere yesterday, in response to Kate’s post about how she does not judge dieters but feels that support of dieting is antithetical to support of HAES and unconditional body-positivity. So I feel that it’s very important to state, outright, this corollary: There is absolutely NO problem with acknowledging that not dieting is hard, that the urge to diet (or to relapse into disordered eating) is a constant companion, that there is massive pressure to diet, or that it’s so tempting to grasp for a little bit of societal acceptance by flagellating your fat self like you’re s’posta. If you want to be an activist — and maybe you don’t, maybe you want to be a supporter or an observer or a skeptical but open-minded inquirer and that’s fine — you are under no obligation to pretend like loving your body is natural or easy. Quite the opposite, in fact.

First of all, activism always involves sacrifices and challenges; that’s what sets it apart from support. Sweet Machine said in comments that she is a feminist but not a feminist activist, and I’m the same; I live feminism, but I do not, for instance, court violence and ridicule by shepherding women to abortion clinics. I would, but it’s fucking hard — it takes a lot of time and energy that I don’t have right now because I have to pick my battles, and also maybe I’m a coward. So okay, I’m not an activist. Even cowards have our roles to play. (And not everyone who declines to go through strife to fight for their cause is a coward! As it happens, I am. I’m also a journalist, so my activities, at least under my own name, are curtailed.) Part of what we give up when we contribute to fat activism is the safety and comfort of conforming to diet culture.

Second, we would be doing supporters, allies, and interested parties a huge disservice if we pretended this was easy. I made a post in a personal journal not too long ago, shortly after the “fat friends make you fat” debacle, saying that I was utterly fed up and researching gastric bypass. I wasn’t really considering it, but the point of the post was both “look what our culture will drive people to” and “see what a ninny I am.” I talked about my eating disorder history and how tempting it was to fall back into those habits. The result was that a (thin) friend with a history of ED said the following (quoted with permission):

I didn’t know that you once dealt with an ED until you mentioned it in your post yesterday; I had just assumed you came by your humble-yet-proud self-image naturally. I was really envious of that. Finding out that it’s still something that bothers you to a pretty significant extent makes me look up to you even more, because it makes me feel less ridiculous about my issues. I thought “if she can deal with it, why can’t I?”

We owe it to anyone who is reading with interest but who is not able to bust out of the diet mentality to make this very clear: it is so fucking hard, all the time. Nobody is saying that it should be easy. And certainly nobody is ever saying that we know what’s best for you or your health. What we’re saying is that it’s possible to care about your health MORE than you care about your weight, to care about your health independent of caring about your weight — but that it takes vigilance, and that you will constantly experience cognitive dissonance when you know you’re taking care of yourself but people tell you that losing weight is what you need for self-care. Learning to trust yourself and your body, learning to trust that taking care of yourself is taking care of yourself regardless of what size you might end up, is the only way to resist that cognitive dissonance, but you have to push through it first, and (especially at the beginning) that is very very hard.

But here’s how it works, once you decide you want to commit: you start to really believe that you can treat yourself well independent of weight, and that your body will do what’s best. Good with Cheese (have I mentioned how much I love Good With Cheese?) recently talked about losing weight because she’d moved to the next phase of demand eating: instead of eating junk because she could, she was eating nourishing food because she wanted to. She was freaking out a little and wondering if she was a traitor for losing weight, but of course she wasn’t any more a traitor for losing weight than she was for gaining it; her body was simply doing what it does when she eats and exercises in the best way possible for her. Sometimes that makes you lose weight. Sometimes it doesn’t. Whichever one happens, you have to trust your body that it’s the right one. That’s hard at first; it gets easier. I certainly don’t believe that GWC is any less pro-fat than she was before losing weight (whether she considers herself an activist is up to her). And I certainly do not believe that she’s any less pro-fat for having a hard time, psychologically, with sticking to self-care independent of loss or gain.

Like Hanne Blank, I have PCOS. I don’t metabolize sugars well, so I try not to overdo it, because I enjoy being awake and alert. I’m on a medication for this, which sometimes causes weight loss. I also have a lot of gut troubles, possibly ED-related, so I can’t eat anything too fatty or greasy, and I avoid dairy and meat. In an attempt to pin down what makes me sick (since it seems to be rather idiosyncratic), I’ve been keeping an intermittent food diary. Do I sometimes hope that the medication and the attention to food will make me lose weight? Sure. Do I sometimes hope they won’t? Again, sure; I don’t feel like buying all new clothes, and I really don’t feel like dealing with people going “you lost weight, you’re a good person now!” Am I doing these things because they might make me lose weight? Absolutely not. Will I be disappointed if I don’t lose weight, or if I do? No. Why? Because I am committed (most of the time; like I said, it’s still hard and will always be hard). I trust that if I’m treating my body well, then the weight it ends up at is the weight that my body ends up at when I’m treating it well, and will thus be a “healthy weight.” Might be higher, will probably be lower (since PCOS makes you gain weight you don’t need) — either one is okay. Getting over an ED, learning to stop dieting, has been all about learning NOT to second-guess my body. Why would I start now?

46 thoughts on “Corollary 1: Not dieting is hard

  1. oh, wow. this

    ‘I trust that if I’m treating my body well, then the weight it ends up at is the weight that my body ends up at when I’m treating it well, and will thus be a “healthy weight.”’

    really got me. I don’t even know, any more, what it means to treat my body well. If I ever knew. I don’t think my body and I speak the same language.

  2. Sarah, oh my god, I am right with you there. That’s been the #1 thing about this journey for me, is figuring out what the hell this thing is that I live in. My food journals are hilarious, because at least once a day I write something like “sharp pains (hunger?).” I’ve got no idea! It’s a process, for sure, and trust is never easy, even when it’s only yourself you’re trying to trust. Sometimes it’s harder then.

    I’ve found that solitary, disciplined physical activity has helped me a lot as far as proprioception. For physical cues, especially about things like hunger and satiety and what exactly you want to eat, I think the only recipe is attention and time.

  3. Sarah, have you read THIS It’s what I turn to whenever I am feeling incredibly disconnected from my body which is, still, pretty often. Fillyjonk, I think I’ve linked you to it before!

  4. You have linked me to it, and I read it, and I loved it! But even this essay makes it seem almost easy. I will say right now that I have not dieted or purged in years, and I still don’t always know when I’m hungry. Granted I have stomach problems, so part of the issue is that I can’t differentiate between a stomachache and a hunger pang, but I definitely don’t experience hunger “normally.”

    I do think it’s a valuable goal, though. And a goal I can’t pursue while simultaneously trying to tell my body that I know what’s best for it, against its protestations.

  5. I’ve been reading this blog for a few months now, though this is the first time I’m posting a comment. Before finding this blog, I honestly didn’t even know there was a pro-fat community out there, and I am so very thankful to find out there is one. I have struggled with being the fat girl all my life and in the last few years I’ve experienced a 50lbs weight loss and a devastating 60+lbs weight gain. I am now just starting to think about my weight as just a physical attribute, not a testament to what kind of person I am. But it is extremely difficult to change 20+ years of learned behavior! I honestly don’t think I would even be embarking on this journey if it weren’t for your blog, and I just wanted to let you know and thank you for it.

  6. Sarah, you are totally welcome. It’s one of those things that I can’t always read at work because it makes me cry. I’ve been reading and rereading it for a long time now and it always hits me just the same.

    Fillyjonk – I am TOTALLY not trying to imply that it is the same for everyone and I think this essay does a pretty good job of just relating Lamott’s personal experience of it. It’s just one of those things that helps because when I first started trying to listen to my body, I DIDN’T have any idea what language it spoke. Sometimes I still don’t!

    I have to say, I don’t if know if, at this point in our eating disordered culture, there is a woman who automatically knows what language her body speaks. And they all speak differently. Your body has a certain accent because of your innards issues and mine has a certain accent because of my food allergies and it’s fucking hard to understand what they are trying to say.

    The distinction you make is what seems most important – recognizing that we can’t tell our bodies what is best for them against their protestations. That still doesn’t make it easy, of course. Absolutely none of this is easy.

  7. Oh, Fillyjonk, THANK YOU for writing this. I was thinking of doing something similar today, but I wouldn’t have been half as brilliant.

    It is hard. It is SO FUCKING HARD. In fact, for my money (and I think I’ve said this before, but not recently enough), accepting your body is much harder work than dieting. (And dieting is HARD.) It is a brutal emotional battle.

    That’s exactly why I was only talking about my anti-dieting stance in terms of the politics and philosophy of fat acceptance, not in terms of people’s individual choices. Because intellectually, I think dieting is always a bad idea, but emotionally, I know it sometimes seems like the only thing you can do. That breaks my heart, and it’s a huge part of why I’m so vocal about fat acceptance. Because I know HOW BLOODY HARD IT IS.

    It is still hard for me. I brought up the Lexapro example in my post because, even though it would not be dieting, there is the part of my brain going, “Hmmm, could I get thinner by NOT taking a pill?” It never goes away. I just have to keep challenging those thoughts every time I have them.

    And maybe more importantly, my ability to accept my own fat did not come about overnight. It came about over YEARS. I was dieting when I first started reading about fat acceptance. It can be an incredibly slow process, full of ambiguity and cognitive dissonance. I don’t want to drive people away who haven’t fully accepted themselves.

    But I also don’t want to allow any room for pro-dieting talk on my blog, and I don’t think it belongs in other fat-positive spaces. I’m not going to back down from that point in the interest of being more inclusive. I can acknowledge that it is SO FUCKING HARD to stop dieting; but I cannot say that makes it okay to promote dieting in a fat-positive community. That’s all.

    Awesome post.

  8. Man, I wish reading about how something was hard made it somehow easier. But, it’s still hard. Crap.

    Kate, I totally support your stance on not wanting pro-dieting talk in the fatosphere. I think there really are TONS of places where people can hear about how great dieting is. If people need to be supported in their dieting they can go to weight watchers and discuss points ad nauseom, or read the many weightloss books or talk to the billions of people in the world in the process of starving themselves. Dieters do not need to be enabled by a community who thinks they don’t need to be dieting.

  9. This is an outstanding post.

    TR:

    I have to say, I don’t if know if, at this point in our eating disordered culture, there is a woman who automatically knows what language her body speaks.

    The thing that kills me right now is that I think I did, for a while there. I am pretty sure I was mostly there and it made me feel really mentally healthy. And then I got a fucking intestinal disorder and now I understand my body’s language less than I ever have in my entire life. I’m not trying to whine or anything! I’m just having a bad body day (well, week) and reading your comment made me remember that for a while it was so much easier — and subsequently, I felt more walled off from the disorder inherent in our culture.

  10. Ok, I’ll admit this is the part about FA that makes absolutely no sense to me…

    The claim is generally something along the lines of “very few people stick to diets” and therefore diets are not effective. Sure, there are a few who stick with it and eventually they will lose weight. But most won’t stick with it, that’s the numbers. I have no argument there.

    But isn’t the same true of exercise? Almost all the people who have never exercised regularly and start a program quit after a few months. It’s an open secret and how most gyms stay in business. So isn’t it disingenuous to tell people to start exercising when most of them will fail and yet avoid diet talk for the same reason?

    Maybe being completely neutral about diet and exercise is the way to go. It keeps things on track and avoids a lot of these questions.

  11. Rakshasa, this is just the first thing that pops into my head, but I think that many FA people advocate for exercise that you do because you enjoy it, not that you do because you feel you have an obligation. Of course most people quit their programs; they start doing something grudgingly for a new year’s resolution or to get a goal weight, and like all resolutions, they eventually stop doing it, whether they achieve that goal or not. But if you find something you actually enjoy doing, that makes you feel better day by day, and you don’t see it as a means to an end but as an end in and of itself, then you probably will stick to it. And you’ll probably feel better physically.

    For me, the only thing that I’ve really been able to stick with is walking, because I like doing it and it fits with my lifestyle and it doesn’t bore me. Kate is some kind of yoga master, and Fillyjonk recently discovered that she adores bellydance. But we do these things because we enjoy them, not because we know technically that if we do them for 1 hour 4 times a week then we might burn X calories and then lose Y pounds.

  12. The claim is generally something along the lines of “very few people stick to diets” and therefore diets are not effective.

    Rakshasa, the claim is actually not about whether people can stick to diets — it’s about the fact that dieting fucks with your metabolism, and even people who do stick with it eventually gain it back.

    And joining a gym is not the only way to start an exercise program. I went from being very sedentary to walking everywhere over 10 years ago — when I started my first diet. Lost the weight, gained it back, lost more, gained it back, etc. Finally stopped dieting. But I’ve never stopped being a walker, which is really good for me. There’s just no record of it in a gym somewhere.

    Meanwhile, I’ve taken dance classes and tae kwon do classes I didn’t stick with, and I’ve joined a couple gyms I never went to… but at the same time, I also discovered I love yoga, and made it a regular part of my life. So now I’m a yogini AND a walker, and much less afraid of trying various exercise programs — knowing it’s about finding something I love to do, not about losing weight.

    So I just don’t see it as the same thing at all. I don’t believe the failure rate of diets is because people don’t stick to them, and I believe that when people find a form of exercise they love, they’ll stick with it because they WANT to. But finding that also involves listening to your body, which is incredibly hard, as this post says.

  13. At age 46 (no I’m not afraid to say it,) my life has been pared down to its barest essentials due to a series of social and financial disasters. My home, my little luxuries, and even my children have been lost to an unfair and brutal divorce. Today my relationship with food is based solely on survival. I am compelled to cook all things from basic scratch ingredients and focus on conscientiously maintaining proteins, complex carbs and vegetables in order to maximize efficiency and stretch scarce food dollars. This has been going on since last year in September. Despite this experience which I have repeatedly read – ought to have resulted in a least a small downsizing in my waist measurements, I remain a very large woman at 310 pounds. I recently met with a new doctor because my health insurance kicked-in from my new job. On the doctors scale I was shocked to discover my weight remained exactly the same as it has for the past five or six years. My cholesterol levels have reduced dramatically from 210 which was usual for years to 164. My Hdl’s and LDL’s similarly were much healthier. My blood pressure is still excellent at 118 over 70 – it always has been. Despite these things my doctor – a skinny and somewhat “brittle” appearing woman treated me judgmentally as a walking poster-gurl for diabetes disaster. My conclusion is that I must be perfect just as I am. I have come to believe that agonizing over my body shape is a luxury that pales in significance to day to day survival, inability to pay the rent and the constant threat of eviction. I have concluded that my own body shape is a function of my own “sensuousness”; that it relates to my ability to experience life with great depth and texture. I find that I have come to trust and admire women with more weight far more than those that seem to scrupulously monitor their calorie intake. In short, body acceptance seems to be akin to enlightenment as an evolving growing being.

  14. I’m 31 years old, size 26/28 (and over 300lbs) and it just occurred to me that I’ve never in my life been on a diet. I don’t know whether it’s more shocking that I’ve never dieted or that it’s never occurred to me that I should!

    I’ve always been fat and I have, through reading blogs such as this one, The Rotund and Fatshionista, come to what I thought was a recent conclusion, that the shape I am is my natural shape and that I look great! But on reflection, I suppose I must subconsciously have always felt that way, otherwise I’d have done something about it!
    In fact I was moaning to a friend recently about how someone had upset me at work by equating fat with ugly, only for my friend to look at me in puzzlement and say “But why let her upset you? You’ve always loved your curves!”

    Which brings me to my point (and I do have one), that from the perspective of a non-dieter, I don’t feel that you can be part of the fat acceptance movement and diet. Dieting is the antithesis of fat acceptance. And people who do it with the justification that they don’t want to be slim but they think they look better as an 18 or 22 or whatever, make someone of my size feel marginalised even in the fat acceptance movement – like being fat is only ok and attractive if you’re just a little bit fat. And that’s not acceptance as far as I’m concerned!

  15. Ruth, I’m right there with you – always been fat, never dieted, and sometimes feel guilty as hell because of it (like, how is it I’m okay with me, when so many fabulous people I know are torturing themselves?!).

    I also just want to toss out that (being another 300+ fat chick) I’ve never felt marginalized in any fat acceptance discussion I’ve been a part of (which admittedly is a relatively small number, since I’ve only recently taken my fat acceptance beyond my own circle of the world). I’ve never felt like there’s a line drawn anywhere, past which point I’m considered “too” fat.

  16. Most fat acceptance places I’ve been on the web have been great. And I must admit that this is one of the first discussions I’ve really taken part in, since I tend to lurk and either nod or shake my fist at my poor Mac!

    I’ve never felt that there is any conscious suggestion that only certain levels of fat are acceptable – but it is how I feel when people start discussing losing a few pounds so they’ll fit back into x size! I suppose my feelings are compounded when new plus size ranges come out which go up to a – wait for it – size 18!

  17. “it’s possible to care about your health MORE than you care about your weight, to care about your health independent of caring about your weight…. Learning to trust yourself and your body, learning to trust that taking care of yourself is taking care of yourself regardless of what size you might end up, is the only way to resist that cognitive dissonance… I trust that if I’m treating my body well, then the weight it ends up at is the weight that my body ends up at when I’m treating it well, and will thus be a “healthy weight.”…. Getting over an ED, learning to stop dieting, has been all about learning NOT to second-guess my body. Why would I start now?”

    I just want to tell you that that is not true for everyone. I guess it might be true for a lot of people, and I certainly hope it’s true for you, but it isn’t true for me, and I know I’m not the only one.

    I too had an eating disorder. I too put in a lot of hard work to rid myself of ED ideas and embrace fat acceptance and love my body. I totally divorced the concepts of health and weight in my mind, and lived according to health, and forgot about weight. I loved my body. I trusted my body. I still love my body. I trusted my body for more than a decade, and that trust was misplaced. I did not stabilize to some kind of weight that was healthy for me. There was no weight I ended up at. My body’s systems are some kind of messed up and it just gains and gains and never stops. I find myself staring into what seems like an abyss, and I can’t prevent myself falling forward…

  18. That would have been frustrating!

    I live in Britain and there are so many stores which supposedly sell plus sizes, yet only go up to an 18, 20 or 22. Which does my fat ass no good whatsoever!

    The only plus size bricks and mortar store which does my size, apparently operates on the principle that fat women don’t have waists, since none of their pants fit me unless I do alterations!

  19. Peanuts, that’s interesting. It was true of me too for a while there, before I was diagnosed with PCOS; is that something you might want to look into? Dieting and EDs also mess with your metabolism hardcore, so there’s a chance your body just hasn’t yet reached the weight it wants to settle at — though I can understand (from experience) why that would be a daunting prospect.

  20. Rakshasa, I’ve been thinking about blogging this conversation I had with Terry, the gym manager at my building, but just for you I will put it here instead or also:

    Terry: You’re here every day, that’s great! Do you have a goal?
    FJ: I just feel really crummy if I don’t get some exercise in during the day.
    Terry: But… you don’t have a goal?
    FJ: Just to, you know, not sit on my ass for eight hours straight and then go home and pass out.
    Terry: Because lots of people start out strong and then stop coming.
    FJ: Yeah, well, that’s because they have a goal. I’m here because that’s what makes me feel good.

  21. fillyjonk: Your post made me do my own blog post tonight. I know you will not be able to read this post as it is in Swedish, but my pictures will pretty much tell why I do exercise.

    Everyone: Btw I am a Swedish sorta fashion blogger with my own Swedish sorta Fat Acceptance community and I have read this blog for some months now.

    I’m an inbetweenie like Sweetmachine and I to think that not dieting is very hard, but I am doing it just the same. (I mean not dieting!) I am also practising demand feeding, I came to test it after reading Kates post about it here.

    There are a lot of links to this blog on my blog now. :D

  22. I can’t tell you how much I love this post. I respectfully disagree with the premise that one cannot diet and be for fat acceptance, but I know what an extremely difficult tightrope that is to walk, as hard as accepting your body and as hard as dieting. Nor do I ask anyone to agree with me on this subject. I also won’t hijack your blog to try to explain my position. I appreciate the difference you make between an activist and a supporter, and I appreciate the honesty you have about body acceptance and the nuances that life brings to it. One of the difficulties I’ve had with fat acceptance is that so many of the voices supporting it come across as Officially Designated Enlightened Beings above the fray of the conflict of accepting oneself, as if patting those of us who struggle daily with loving our fat bodies and our selves are lesser beings who cannot understand their superior position. In short, the other side of the coin of the same crap we take for being fat in the first place. This entry helps mitigate that.

  23. Thanks, Cynthia. I was thinking of talking to Kate about instituting a regular “confessional,” where we can talk about the challenges we’ve faced with staying positive and avoiding diet culture and diet pressure. I think Kate does a fucking amazing job of keeping things realistic and human while simultaneously being all “rah rah fat acceptance,” but I wonder if we also need a space to say “wow, fat acceptance, it’s a real slog isn’t it?” I don’t know, do you guys think that would be good or bad? Uplifting or down-dragging?

    Klara, dang, you’re right, I can’t understand a word of that post except the English. I’ve often been able to parse out some Swedish, but I think only when it was littered with cognates. I keep meaning to learn at least one Scandinavian language, but instead I just learn no new languages, which is a poor substitute. If anyone has used Rosetta Stone please tell me whether it’s worth the money. Anyway, your pictures are gorgeous, and those I can understand — boy do I wish we had natural beauty like that where I live! (I mean the waterfall and you, both.)

  24. I think the that would be a really good idea, fillyjonk.

    I think fat acceptance is much harder than dieting, it is the road less travelled. It is condemned as ill-disciplined but I find it’s not about that. Discipline is not a panacea if it is misapplied, it means diddily squat. I used up lots of ‘discipline’ on trying to lose weight, it was futile and eventually made me increasingly ill-disciplined and out of control, which bled into other areas of my life, yes dieting lessens your discipline and self control, regardless of your intent. It takes huge resolve to go against the establishment, the public and family and friends. Anyone who thinks you don’t need discipline for that is an idiot.

  25. fillyjonk: it’s in slovakia (so it’s quite far away from here). but that’s the answer to why i exersice above that i love exersice: i want to be able to do more trekking. i love that!!

    i would also like a place like what your suggesting, where one can discuss the difficulties of fat acccepting.

    my swedish forum has taken another kind of approach.we have just banned some kind of talking instead. it’s not allowed in there to tell anyone if one are on a diet and not to say something positive about weight loss or methods at all. we edit that. and there is not okey to talk bad about fat bodies, not even our own. what we are allowed to however is to talk bad about the thin ideal, and bad about dieting and weight loss companies like ww.

    and even if i’m not a huge fan of censoring i think that there need to be fucking spaces where we girls (it’s just for girls) can go and where we know we will not hear something bad about our bodies or fat and noone will tell us to diet.

    it’s fake, of course and i’d say 90 percent of the girls at the forum diet, but once in a while another make her voice heard and proclaim she has stopped. i live for those moments.

    and I don’t really care if it’s fake, cause it’s creating more and more confidence in the girls in there and even allowing some of them of letting go of dieting.

    but sometimes when i know that 90 percent of them do diet i feel a little alone, and then i would really much have a place like what you’re suggesting where i can talk to people in the same boat as myself. cause sometimes one just needs to rant a little.

  26. fillyjonk, I like the idea of a confessional. It’s scary to be honest about the hard parts of accepting one’s self, because you don’t want to send someone who is right-there-on-the-edge of not-dieting screaming back to Jenny Craig.

    But the hard parts show us our strength and the depth of our commitment. The internal rewards are great, but we pay for them, and if we send the message that it’s somehow easy, how we’ve flipped a switch from body-hate to body-love, then those who are on the cusp and still struggling may feel even more isolated.

  27. Fillyjonk, though I don’t like the word “confessional” to describe what you want, I love the concept. People often learn by seeing what other people go through to do something. Seeing the struggles and the how tos of self and body acceptance make it more possible for someone to appreciate the final messsage. It’s one thing to read, ” I used to have an eating disorder and hated every curve on my body, but now I think I’m fabulous!” and quite another to read, “I look at myself in the mirror everyday and sometimes wince but repeat, my body is good because it is mine, and I will love it, until actually do love it and know that I am fabulous, just as I am.” It helps the other messages come through easier.

  28. Cynthia, what word do you think would be more descriptive and appropriate?

    I love the idea of a confessional, no matter what it is called.

    For me, one of the things that has come up during this whole discussion, repeatedly, is that people are assuming being anti-diet means you never have a moment of doubt about your body or that you don’t struggle with the constant messages that we should all be thinner. Which, you know, for most of us couldn’t be further from the truth!

  29. Thanks, Cynthia. I was thinking of talking to Kate about instituting a regular “confessional,” where we can talk about the challenges we’ve faced with staying positive and avoiding diet culture and diet pressure.

    Consider it discussed and deemed an officially awesome idea.

    It always surprises ME when people are surprised to learn I haven’t always been 110% fat positive. To me, all of this stuff comes as a response to decades of despising myself and being absolutely miserable. And when you’ve got those decades behind you, fat acceptance does not come easily, automatically, or all at once. I try to acknowledge that whenever I can, without diluting the end message — it is possible to love yourself, and damn, it feels so much better — but I think a regular feature acknowledging our own continued struggles would be brilliant.

  30. I think a “confessional” is a great idea. I think it’s a good idea, though, to make it a separate site, so that people who find that stuff “triggering” or just plain annoying won’t have to see it.

    But yeah, FJ, you’re so right about not dieting being hard. It officially makes me a fat freak. I mean, the most beautiful woman at my workplace, the one there I’d most love to look like, who has a lovely curvaceous figure, she’s on a frigging diet. And she has a loving man in her life and everything. Well, OK, I assume he hasn’t made any disparaging cracks about her butt, maybe I’m wrong. But my “Nigel” certainly never has, and he wouldn’t want me to go on a diet, and still it’s hard.

  31. fillyjonk: I haven’t tried Rosetta Stone, but check your public library before you buy — ours has free use for anyone with a library card. And I’m in Alabama, so it’s not just a “big city” thing. :-)

  32. Well, OK, I assume he hasn’t made any disparaging cracks about her butt

    Haha, butt cracks.

    Having the confessional/support group as a separate blog is an interesting idea… hmm. I’ll have to think about this.

    Tricia, ooh, I never would have thought of that! I don’t really use the public library nearly as much as I should, which is to say I don’t ever really use it anymore. I should get on that. There’s one right nearby.

  33. Fillyjonk — Confessional just has too many overtones of religion, guilt and atonement for my comfort. It’s a personal thing, and I’m not even Catholic. Are we supposed to feel bad about feeling bad about ourselves sometimes? Maybe safe place, where venting and coping can be done. Maybe dumping ground, for all those toxic feelings. The Rotund and Kate — as a lifelong fattie, I’ve never assumed that any heavy person, no matter how vocally pro-fat acceptance, didn’t have moments of difficulty with her size. It comes with the territory. By brushing it aside among the other issues in size acceptance, it can alienate the people who struggle with it. It takes more than Just love your body, regardless of size. People need tools and maps, to learn how to do it for themselves. Is this possible in one blog? No, but there needs to be a place for it.

  34. A forum i frequent has a section which is just for girls (its very well protected too) and the most popular thread in there is the ‘confessions’ one. Its not a case of feeling ashamed about anything theyve done, its a place to share problems in a confidential manner among people who can probably offer help or just listen. I understand what Cynthia is saying ( im a catholic and i HATE confession…) but the ‘confession’ side of things on this forum really isnt about guilt. But i think the thing that makes it work is the privacy of it. Then again, if the blog is going to be about fat acceptance struggles and that alone, so much privacy may not be needed. The forum dealt with all kinds of things, some not so serious and some very serious and heart-wrenching problems.

    But yes, i want to say that those kinds of places can be really wonderful to be a part of. We dont do enough female bonding in real life, a place thats safe to talk about things without bitching is increasingly rare this day and age.

  35. Cynthia, yeah, I definitely see where you’re coming from here. I do want something that says more “support group” and less “we will shrive you of your sins.”

    And anonymity is something to consider too, though I think WordPress allows for it, for those who don’t feel comfortable. I’m going to consider whether it belongs on this blog or its own blog.

  36. How about considering a space for ‘grouse cleaning’ – or being able to clear out all of the grumbles, complaints and anguish of this really hard work?

    I am loving this energy today. I’d look forward to a place, space and time to clean out my own pile of poo. Too strong? I think not.

  37. Very late to this conversation :) I love a lot of what has been said. I don’t want to read diet talk either, mostly because I’m new to accepting myself and as someone said in another comment (another day? was it Kate?) dieting is contagious. I already have numerous people in my life who are dieting (family and friends) I certainly don’t want to come to places where we’re supposed to be happy with ourselves and read it there too.

    Which isn’t to mean I look down on people who diet. I just don’t want to hear it. I’m polite to my weight watching family members and my body hating friends. And then I come to the online world of size acceptance and it’s a breath of fresh air :-D

    For the comment on people giving up exercise – man, I should start my own blog and write a whole post on that because discussing this is a huge part of my life right now, LOL! But I’ll just quickly say I think one of the main reasons that happens is because so many people (ok, every single person I *personally* know) only start exercising (wait for it!) to LOSE WEIGHT. So when the weight loss stalls or reverses, they give up the exercise since it’s obviously “not working” :::headdesk:::. On the other hand, if you do some form of exercise because it’s fun, or because you feel better and NOT to lose weight or because you “have to”, I’d hope you’re more likely to keep with it. Unfortunately, I have no real life examples of this because I’m surrounded by dieters :-( But if I understand correctly, it’s a main tenet of HAES, right?

  38. klara, I just wanted to say that based on your comments here, I think what you’re doing with the Swedish fat acceptance community is amazing. As difficult as it is to make your way in US society and accept your body, from what little I know about it, it sounds like it is sometimes that much more difficult in many parts of Europe and the rest of the world. IMO you are doing a great service to women by getting these subversive ideas out there to an even larger potential audience than is already served by them.

  39. I’d put it this way: I gave up weight-loss dieting and other forms of structured “eating plans” over thirteen years ago. I realised *why* I gave up dieting about six years back, when my doctor started me on anti-depressants, because for the first time in my life, I *could* say “no” to the notion of food. I literally wasn’t hungry, and I didn’t feel the need to eat constantly. It was the most freeing experience of my life.

    In another way, it was the most frightening, because I suddenly saw, in those first few weeks where I only ate when I was hungry, just how disordered my eating had been while I was in the middle of weight-loss dieting, and just how much damage I’d been doing to myself by partaking in it. I also realised just how many of the symptoms of the depression which had been the centre of my existence for the previous sixteen years had been masked by the weight-loss dieting: the constant negative thinking (but it *was* my fault I was fat, wasn’t it?); the use of food as comfort (it was forbidden, I was being a rebel!); the misery and low self-esteem (of course I didn’t think much of myself – who’d think anything of a fat, lazy lump like me?); the lack of interest in living (I was a fat, ugly lump, after all); the suicidal thoughts (the world would have been better off without a fat lump like me) and the thoughts of self-harm (I wish I could just cut this ugly fat off… should I start with my throat?); the lack of social contacts (who’d want to associate with someone like me?). All of these were blamed by me on my weight, and my weight was the reason why I didn’t seek treatment for the depression – after all, if I couldn’t manage something easy, like losing weight, how the hell could I possibly believe I was worth treating at all?

    It took me three years and the encouragement of my partner at the time to go to a doctor and even *admit* I was depressed. That doctor sent me off for a blood test, and discovered that my thyroid hormone levels were all out of whack, and I had the classic symptoms of hypothyroidism. To this day, I’ve no idea how long I had it – it may have been that I developed that as part of puberty, or as an after-thought to ten years of yo-yo weight loss. Getting that treated was a good start. But it was another three years after that before I finally screwed up my courage, and risked seeing a doctor and admitting that I was depressed.

    So, from age fourteen (when I started experiencing the early stages of depression) through to age thirty (when I finally started getting the depression treated) I lived through sixteen years of absolute hell, and for at least nine of those years, I was thoroughly convinced I deserved every minute of it as a punishment for being so horrible, so ugly, so fat. Sixteen years of my life effectively wasted – over half of my lifetime. Ten years of dieting helped me to convince myself that I deserved it, and masking the symptoms.

    The incredible amounts of negative self-talk which are generated by weight-loss dieting are unbelievably harmful. The endless focus on what hasn’t been done, on what could have been avoided, and on a facet of existence which is ultimately peripheral to whether or not you’re “attractive” (I didn’t wind up with a partner until I was 26, because it took me that long to believe I was just as entitled as any other woman to have one – we’ve been together now for about ten years) is mentally harmful. It neutralises the energy of a whole group of people (indeed, it effectively neutralises an entire sex/gender identity as political and social forces, because if you’re female, the first thing you’re judged on is your appearance) and it takes away from what we could be. Worse still, it is *spreading*.

    When I was in high school, none of the boys appeared to be all that worried about their appearance. Ten years later, working for the public service on an IT helpdesk, I was surrounded by young men who were intensely worried about how they looked, and who were taking one supplement or another to help themselves look “buffed”. Most of these guys weren’t long out of puberty, and the ones who were worried were generally the long, lanky types, who couldn’t gain weight where they wanted it. I trust everyone sees the irony involved?

    I don’t want my nieces to have to go through what I went through. I don’t want them living the hell I did. It’s why I’m a practicer of size-acceptance (*any* size, provided it’s one you’re healthy at), and why I work to show there is an alternative to constant weight-loss dieting.

  40. fillyjonk (@23) wrote:
    Peanuts, that’s interesting. It was true of me too for a while there, before I was diagnosed with PCOS; is that something you might want to look into? Dieting and EDs also mess with your metabolism hardcore, so there’s a chance your body just hasn’t yet reached the weight it wants to settle at — though I can understand (from experience) why that would be a daunting prospect.

    I have considered PCOS, but no, I don’t think I have it. I agree with you that ED and dieting can mess up a metabolism, but after 15 years, I think I’ve given my body weight enough of a chance to settle. What actually happened after I stopped dieting and went through ED recovery was that my body gradually lost a little weight as a side-effect. Then one summer it decided to turn round and gain weight gradually, even though I wasn’t doing anything different in my recovery from the ED. Up and up and up went the weight. Only a ridiculously huge amount of exercise keeps the weight stable. Something is causing significant food cravings and I don’t know what that is.

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