What Are Your Survival Techniques?

All right, folks, I’ve got two long, thinky, almost-finished posts in the drafts folder, so I swear you’ll get some real, old-style content at some point this week. But right now, I just had to stop working on them and post about one of Samhita’s latest posts at Feministing. I hope she doesn’t mind that I’m about to quote huge portions of it. The deal is, she’s just moved back in with her parents, and, well…

Before moving in, I set some ground rules for my parents. They were not allowed to talk to me about my lack of allegiance to our religion, my dating and/or marriage status and my weight. I got to give it up to them, they have definitely not bothered me about religion or dating (too much), but they have failed miserably at making comments about my weight.

Since I was young, it was considered totally acceptable for my family to pick at, poke fun of or make me feel bad for being chubby. Even when I thought of myself at a “skinny” place, I was told that I had gotten fat. In my teen years this led to struggling with multiple forms of eating disorders, including dieting, fasting, starving myself and even a small bout of bulimia. Looking back, I don’t totally know how I worked through it but having a strong community of women’s studies professors, feminist friends and queer men certainly helped me right along.

Samhita says that generally, she’s got a positive body image (yay!), but it’s a daily struggle (nodnod), and being criticized for her weight is making her think more about the hysteria over fatness. 

What bothers me is that if you are overweight (whatever THAT means) you are somehow a bad person and everyone has the right to judge you or make comments about the way you look. I would be lying if I said I always feel great and confident about myself and the way I look. I struggle on a daily basis with food choices, emotional eating and feeling “fat.” But when can we move passed this belief that being larger than the hideous exaggerated fat-hating images of women we see in the media makes you unhealthy, lazy and self-loathing? It is totally acceptable to be hateful towards fat people and mask it with, “but I am worried about you.” Seriously, fuck you.

Yup. And finally:

It is the worst feeling in the world to hate yourself because of your body weight and one of the deepest wounds in my psyche. My mom is starting to understand the impact it has on my emotional/mental health and I have worked hard not to take it personally and recognize that she doesn’t mean it to hurt me. But that doesn’t always change the way I internalize it.

What are your survival techniques?

That last line is what made me drop everything to post. The comments over there are terrific — though frequently heartbreaking — so far (which they’re not always when Feministing talks about fat, quite frankly), but I wanted to see what Shapelings have to say. What are your survival techniques? What would you tell Samhita?

102 thoughts on “What Are Your Survival Techniques?

  1. I have a small list of things that I remind myself of when I’m feeling down, or dealing with fat hatred or body-loathing:

    I am a wonderful human being.

    I am smart.

    I have lots of love in my life.

    I have a body that allows me to go all sorts of wonderful places, and experience wonderful things. I have legs that walk, and a mouth that talks and expressing my opinions whenever I want and arms to hug and be hugged, and so forth.

    It becomes harder to hate your experience of your life lived in your body when you remember how awesome it can be to be a human who is alive and who can do and see so much.

  2. My own survival technique was to ask them to stop, and then remind them to stop every time they “forgot”.

    “Please stop making comments on my weight.”
    “You remember that we agreed that you would stop making comments on my weight.”

    Yes, sometimes they’d come back with “But I’m just worried about you.” I never address that. I just keep repeating “You agreed to stop saying such things.” I don’t get distracted, I just keep repeating the same idea over and over. Yes, it annoys them after awhile. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, I felt like a broken record.

    But this actually worked with my family: the last time we got together not one word was said about my weight, either good or bad. Now if only I could get my mother to stop complaining about her own weight (but that’s another issue….).

  3. This is way off topic, but I totally love the new banner.

    My main survival technique is surrounding myself with good friends, people who bring out the best in me. Focusing on the positive in other people helps me the things about myself that I consider to be negative.

  4. This comment killed me:
    Anywho the advice that I do have for those people who have those “fat” days/years/decades is the following. For a long time I would cry myself to sleep because of the way I looked and then one day I got totally naked and I apologized to every part of my body that I berated at one point and time and I slowly started to forgive myself for what I had let others do to me. Now as soon as someone makes a comment, and I think those thoughts I lock myself in the bathroom and forgive myself for hurting that body part (stomach, thighs, butt etc). It’s really helped I’m actually much happier now. : )

  5. I didn’t realize it would back when I started, but becoming pagan and absorbing all the internal-meditation-goddess-power stuff that entails has become my survival strategy for almost everything.

    I still struggle, but I’ve got better tools and much better support than I used to.

  6. The book “When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends” by Victoria Secunda has been a GREAT help to me. It focuses on mother/daughter relationships, but could be useful to anyone trying to figure out how to set boundaries in a relationship that has become uncomfortable. I can’t recommend it enough. Nor can I lend out my copy, because of all the copious and intimate marginal notes in it!

    Sadly, when I look back at my notes I realize that, though I read the book close to ten years ago, and though it’s changed MY behavior and happiness, my mother’s criticism hasn’t changed at all. But at least I’ve gotten better at dealing with her.

  7. I thought of responding on Feministing, but I couldn’t get past the title of Samhita’s post, which was, “I don’t see a fat person when I look in the mirror.”

    See, when I look into the mirror, I *do* see a fat person. And I sort of think that I’m not really in a place where I can respond, on Feministing (a space with a history of being fat-hating and not connecting fatphobia to feminism) to a post that seems to begin, from the outset, from a place of such disconnect.

    But if I did post, I think I’d say:

    The first step is to look in the mirror and actually see a fat person.

    The second step is to acknowledge that others see a fat person as well.

    The third step is to recognize that, when you look in the mirror, there’s a lot of other stuff you’re seeing, and a lot of other stuff they’re seeing, and you need to value all that other stuff, and accept the fat part as just another part of who you are–something that doesn’t negate any of the good about you nor contribute to any of the bad.

    The fourth step is to set boundaries around respecting yourself, and that includes keeping out of your life anyone who can’t take that third step with you. That means not apologizing for them or saying, “They’re a good person but–” because good people don’t insult us, berate us, or fail to acknowledge our accomplishments, even if they think they’re doing it “for our own good.” And they certainly aren’t good people if they continue to do such things after we’ve explicitly asked them not to.

  8. My survival technique is probably not useful: Spend no longer than 5 days at home in one go.

    This for me inevitably leads to screaming fights because I dare to consume actual fruit juice. The HORROR, it has REAL SUGAR in it, I’m going to get fatter and fatter until IDROP DEAD from fruit juice. No seriously, fruit juice, not kidding.

    Boundaries are really helpful. But they take a long long time.

    Very weird things I do to stay happy in myself:
    When I’m walking down the street and I feel bad about myself or I’m afraid of walking into a room I picture myself looking amazing in the most gorgeous dress I can imagine. I know that sounds really weird, but it makes my posture fabulous.

    I also have a list of songs that make me feel particularly bad-ass, and I keep them in a play list for when I need a pick me up. I consider them my soundtrack. (If only I could get someone to play Veruca Salt every time I walk into a room. All would know of my awesomeness.)

  9. My parents, while they will make comments, are not my worst enemy.

    I am.

    After struggling with an ED for about 20 years I am surviving by going to therapy, limiting visits with the parents, and reading Shapely Prose for courage and reminders that I’m ok.

  10. - reading FA blogs
    - wearing clothes that fit (instead of ones that *almost* fit, or fit if I suck it in/ stand a certain way/ don’t sit down.)
    - avoiding blogs and conversations that deal with fat shame
    - redirecting other people’s diet talk to ‘how do you feel’ conversations, to refocus the topic onto health
    - forgiving myself for the many, many times I fall back into thinking of myself as unattractive, an outsider or a failure because of my fat
    - thinking of myself as a stranger – when I’m down, I’m much more appreciative of others’ bodies than of my own, and it can be easier to get into a positive mindset if I trick myself into it.
    - treating myself well when I feel shittily – giving myself permission to eat what I’m hungry for, sleep when I’m tired and make the time to work out is much harder when I’m feeling cruddy, but over time it just strengthens my feelings of self-empowerment. I don’t have to ‘earn’ any of those things – I deserve them.

  11. Reading Shapely Prose and the other blogs on the Fatosphere is a huge help.

    I’d also second TropicalChrome’s advice to keep repeating yourself like a broken record when your family forgets or ‘forgets’ and tries to bring up your weight.

    Also I personally find that dressing as well as I can and keeping up with my intellectual interests are both great ways of keeping the self-esteem up even when people try to bring me down. Knowing within myself that I’m taking good care of myself makes it easier to block out the troll voices.

    Remember, you’re a good person with a terrific brain and all kinds of talents. If someone else – even your mother – can’t see that because you weigh more than they think you should, that is ultimately their problem and not yours. Don’t accept it as your problem. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort.

    After all, as Dear Abbey used to say, nobody else can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission. Do your damndest not to give them persmission.

  12. My survival techniques are pretty shoddy. I find the subject psychologically incredibly complicated and confusing. Every time I think I’ve pinned down my feelings, something doesn’t make sense; every time I think I’ve set my mind to something, it gets too emotional.

    For now, that’s exactly my survival technique, perhaps. I tell people I’m still figuring it out. I tell people that I’m bound to make mistakes and assumptions, that this is something I feel very strongly about in every way. And if they judge me because of it, I simply cling to one principle: I will not tolerate being disrespected or disregarded because I am fat. *I* know what it’s like, *I* know how I feel and *I* know very well what I want to do to feel happier about myself. Nobody needs to take up a knowier-than-thou attitude with me, because my inner compass knows exactly where I need to go. And hating myself for the way I look? That’s not where I’m going.

  13. I told my mom that I would never lose weight if she kept bringing up my weight. Of course, I have no intention of dieting, but she doesn’t have to know that. She’s been quiet about it for around two years, with only a few slips. Of course, this means that I can’t really bring up FA stuff with her, because then our delicate balance of silence will be broken. I’m kind of afraid to see what happens when I tell her I want to get my PhD in something fat studies related.

    Otherwise, I try to wear clothes that make me feel cute, and when I’m having a really bad day, I read through the archives here.

  14. I did comment over there, and in addition to writing a self-indulgently long post about my own struggle with body acceptance, I suggested that she read you guys and the other wonderful blogs in the Fatosphere. Because y’all have changed my life for the better. Really. Thank you.

  15. My father has a long history of jumping on my back about the weight issue. When I lost a lot of weight VERY quickly a few years ago – due to divorce and severe depression – his comment was, “I was just getting ready to talk to you about how big you’d gotten, but it looks like you already took care of it!” I was about 23 at the time – a grown adult in no need of “helpful” lectures about my weight. I didn’t know what upset me more – how he so plainly could not see my weight loss was a symptom of a HUGE problem, or how he thought he could control me by having a talk.

    Anyway. He has been much better lately, and my response strategy may have helped. I simply don’t engage him. If he brings up my weight, I act like I didn’t even hear him. I move right on to the next topic of conversation. He gets the point pretty quickly. It’s a little passive-aggressive, but it works for me. I’ve set my boundaries without having to explain myself to bits.

    Internally, I spend time thinking about all the wonderful things my fat body has done with itself. It’s as easy as listing them (grew a healthy baby, walked those X miles the other day, and so on.)

  16. My family has gotten pretty good about it, vut when they slip?

    I give them a silent, withering, STFU look and then walk away. They usually follow me to apologize.

  17. The first step is to look in the mirror and actually see a fat person

    Clarification: Samhita is not, far as I can tell from pics, especially fat. I don’t want to get into who has the right to call herself fat here — if you think you’re about Samhita’s size and you identify as fat, I can totally understand that, given our culture’s ridiculous standards. But Samhita choosing not to identify as fat doesn’t necessarily mean she’s in denial — it might just mean she’s rejecting those ridiculous standards, in which case, more fuckin’ power to her.

  18. - Wearing clothes that fit & look nice.
    – Taking care of myself in ways I enjoy – candlelit baths, rubbing my feet, using body lotion that feels great, yoga, stretching, getting out of the house to do fun things, making my space comfortable for me.
    – Not watching or restricting TV.
    – Not reading or restricting women’s magazines and “health & fitness” websites.
    – Hang out with people who share interests in things other than dieting and weight loss.
    – Changing the subject if weight loss is brought up.
    – Leaving the room if weight loss is brought up.
    – Having a job (software development) where looks are less important than many other jobs.

    I also talked a bit about this here, but it’s less pertinent for Samhita because I have my own home, a partner who loves me the way I am, and so on…

  19. A couple of years ago I was listening to NPR, and they had a guy on who was talking about ethics, philosophical ethics. And he said something that amazed me, he said the flip side of the golden rule, “Treat everyone like you want to be treated.” is “Within your power do everything you can to not allow people to treat you badly.” That is such a simple statement, but has completely change my life.

    It is so easy to get wrapped up in the minutia of relating, especially to people we have long and emotionally fraught relationships with, and difficult to step back and say, “Why do I allow you to treat me like this when I wouldn’t let someone else get away with saying the same things?”

    Now, when situations like this arise, I just say directly, “I’m sorry, I don’t let people speak to me that way.” and then, of course, make sure I extend them the same courtesy.

  20. If I’m feeling negative about my body, I try to remember that it’s not my body’s fault. It’s society’s standards and “brain colonization”–so then I complain to my twin/boyfriend/someone willing to listen about the obnoxiousness of patriarchal beauty standards and how damaging they are. It works for me because I can be angry at the real cause, and not be angry at myself. But I don’t think it’d work as well, at least in the complaining part!, if I didn’t have like-minded people to listen and agree with me.

  21. I think a good foundation of knowledge is important. It’s harder for other people to trigger self-doubt in me if I have taken the time to educate myself about the facts (even if that just means knowing that there are no absolutes when it comes to fat and health). Whether that’s by reading good fat-positive blogs (wonder where we could fine one of those?), or by reading studies, or whatever else might work to keep reminding me that the jury is (probably always going to be) out…keeping that knowledge present in my mind is really helpful in allowing me to roll my eyes and/or not start internalizing when someone I love says something that directly or indirectly implies that I am a bad, bad fattie who’s going to rot in hell.

    Normally, I’m usually all about the direct confrontation, but when it comes to close friends and family, I know it gets slightly more complicated. I’m pretty confident telling acquaintances to quit fat-hating or fuck off, but I’m not willing to be that blunt with my family (’cause, you know, I just have the one)…so I think there’s room for a lot of finesse in trying to open up minds there. I also think, though, that if it’s becoming abusive or too much of a toll on well-being, sometimes harsher lines have to be drawn.

    But, for me, knowing what’s bullshit and what’s reasonable in the realm of health and fat is a really great place to start.

  22. If it was me, I’d yell “NO WEIGHT TALK!!!!!!!!!!!!” every time the subject came up and then rush out of the room – *slam*.

    They’d learn, real quick. People don’t like being yelled at. And if they tried the “Don’t yell, it’s rude to yell.” you can agree yes it is rude to yell and they are violating an agreed rule, so if they want her not to yell, then they need to not do weight talk. Simple. They really don’t have a leg to stand on here – they agreed to it for heaven’s sake.

    But she’s GOT to draw a line somewhere. She did draw a line when she moved back and they are trampling over the line and she is letting them. I know it sucks and they shouldn’t be doing it, but they will KEEP doing it until she reclaims that line. Broken record, withering glares, yelling, whatever, but she’s got to DO IT.

  23. As someone who nearly died from ED complications, it baffles me that my family will even bring up weight and diet suggestions. But alas, “So and so cousin is selling HerbaLife and lost xx lbs!” or “Your sister has lost xx lbs with Alli!” or “You’ve lost xx lbs, haven’t you?!!” So I take my husband’s advice – I find a reason to leave immediately. I don’t know what I’d do if not afforded that luxury. Living with my parents again would result in my complete madness in short order… If it’s a situation where I can’t leave right away, I just make this really silly, adorable, dimple-riffic, wide-eyed face at them and giggle. It must be unsettling because they usually just shut up entirely.

  24. I had such a hard time trying to find a survival technique. The one I USED at the time, which I totally don’t recommend, was to bottle EVERYTHING up, all that anger, frustration, humiliated silence suffered in fury, burning tears that would blind the back of my eyes from a lack of ability to respond, and then “let it all down the drain”. By which I mean I would take a hot hot shower until I could “Flush all those demons away”. Or, when I was able to drive, I would let all those feelings overwhelm me until I would just Scream. Drive through quiet areas and just open my mouth and SCREAM. (I really identify with the scene in Lilo & Stich when both sisters are screaming into pillows in frustrated anger!)

    However, like I said, I really don’t recommend that route as it is more a coping mechanism than an actual way to solve or ameliorate the situation. What I’ve done now is move over 500 miles away from the family, going back only for short visits. I send body-love emails when I can in response to those “Jesus loves you” email forwards. I enjoy the feeling of my body when I bellydance and lately I’ve started interjecting “Weight is NOT directly correlated to health” into any phone conversations that drift to diet-talk. The Jury is still out on the later effort but it seems to be working towards altering the conversation a bit (for example, just a few calls ago my mother was talking about using the WiiFit because playing with it until she got all sweaty made her feel good; not because it made her lose any weight and brought up something along the lines of “well I like doing it even if it doesn’t make me lose weight” which is a HUGE improvement).

    It is hard to define lines in relationships with family; especially since boundaries have really already BEEN set since we were all wee little things. The difficulty is that now you have to BREAK those boundaries and re-define them and that can be a huge task. Baby steps are helping in my case. But all families are different. I hope Samhita really does find some means of addressing the situation that works for her!

  25. As I said in my comment over at Feministing, one of the most helpful things for me is to realize that so much of fat hysteria is unconscious people parroting an idea that is pervasive in the collective consciousness now (fat = bad). Even ordinary, decent people get caught up in it. Some of us are hard-wired to question it, and some people are hard-wired to be mouthpieces of this collective idea.

    So when some towering asshole yells shit at me from a pick-up truck or there’s yet another article on the “obesity epidemic” that makes no fucking sense at all to anyone with half a brain, or my mother makes yet another comment about my weight, it’s been extremely helpful to remember that it’s really not about me personally. It’s people projecting their own insecurities onto something outside themselves. I happen to be a convenient target. Does it bother me? Sure. It bothers me that people like that are blind to their own ignorance. It makes angry that someone feels entitled to pass judgement on a stranger, a fellow human being, because of how I look. When I was younger, I felt I deserved all the scorn and derision anyone threw at me because I was ashamed of being fat. I was made to believe I was lazy and gluttonous and out of control and even possibly mentally ill because I was fat. I now know that *none* of that is true. It’s not *my* stuff, it’s *their* stuff.

    One of the things that set me on the road to body-acceptance—besides feminist reading in general, which I took to in my early teens— was reading Kim Chernin. I have a feeling there are some ideas in her books about weight and body image that I might find objectionable now, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there as well. Stuff that made me question the very idea that it is bad or shameful to be fat, stuff that made me realize that fat shaming is a mechanism of oppression.

  26. Great stuff. Specifically re: Moms: I confront mine’s language (with the ‘come on, that’s hateful and you’re too smart to be one of the people spewing that kind of hate’ kind of confronting), while simultaneously reminding myself of her indoctrination/abuse about body and ‘beauty’ by her mother, my grandmother, and the multi-generational power of this stuff. The first lets me feel okay about how I’m responding, the second helps me remember compassion instead of solely getting mad (though some mad is okay too, IMO).

  27. Nobody needs to take up a knowier-than-thou attitude with me, because my inner compass knows exactly where I need to go. And hating myself for the way I look? That’s not where I’m going.
    This is made of win.

  28. my number-one survival technique is to always have shapely prose open in one of the tabs on my browser, often to a meaty post + thread (lately “Stop her before she diets again!” has been a godsend) so that whenever i feel the hatred coming on i can read a little bit and get my head above water.

  29. i don’t know what the fuck to do about my mom, though. She clearly tries harder than she used to but I don’t think she can really stop talking about food and weight.

  30. I don’t really care too much any more about the opinion of strangers who feel the need to comment on or criticize my size, my grocery choices, my eating habits. It may hurt momentarily, but I have learned through experience not to give those people the ability to make me miserable.

    As for family…. It’s a battle sometimes to remember that this is MY life. I’m not living it for someone else’s gratification. I usually respond to umpteenth repetition of “I’m saying this because I care about you.” by saying something like “You care about me so much that you deliberatly try to make me feel like shit?” That USUALLY makes their jaws drop long enough for me to either change the subject, or make a quick get away.

  31. When I’m walking down the street and I feel bad about myself or I’m afraid of walking into a room I picture myself looking amazing in the most gorgeous dress I can imagine. I know that sounds really weird, but it makes my posture fabulous.

    shinobi42, I do something similar! Sometimes when I’m walking around and feeling self-conscious, I pretend to be someone else, like another version of myself. Instead of shy, quiet TwinkieD with the go-nowhere job and emotionally manipulative boyfriend, I am vivacious, witty TwinkieD, independently wealthy with a harem full of gorgeous men and women who adore me!

    So I guess you could say that my survival technique is to live inside a fantasy world of my own making. Here’s to having an overactive imagination!

  32. O.C., i just read over the thread and that book sounds fantastic. i will definitely track it down. i recently did tell my mom, twice in a row, when she tried to give me diet tips, “i have no interest in losing weight.” i do sometimes talk to her about this stuff, but i always frame it in terms of principle. i can’t quite bring myself to tell her how much it has hurt me.

  33. As for family…. It’s a battle sometimes to remember that this is MY life. I’m not living it for someone else’s gratification.

    Oh Bev, I remember that well. My mother really DID seem to want to live through me sometimes, which was rather frustrating. I got to the point where I’m leery of “I want my kids to have a better life than me” because so often Mom would start with that and go on to … “So you have to do all things I wish I’d done, and take me along with you so I can experience them vicariously and isn’t this FUN when you’re doing what I want?”

    Sigh.

  34. I used to have serious issues with body acceptance and my mom. I have this rack, see, and she has been telling me since I was sixteen that she’ll pay for me to have a breast reduction. I don’t WANT a breast reduction. I mean, sometimes I want one, but I don’t want to want one, you know? I want to like myself as I am, boobs and all.

    We were shopping for dresses one day, and I was complaining that the one I liked didn’t have enough stretch to fit over my rack. She said, kind of kidding, “Well, if you’d let me get you that surgery like I offered–” and I just started crying. I told her that I didn’t want her to offer to “fix” me with painful, invasive, unnecessary surgery. I said, “You’re my mother. Can you please tell me I’m okay the way I am?”

    Seems silly, maybe, but even now I’m getting teary thinking about it. Anyway, she hasn’t brought it up since then, or made a single comment about my weight. I think once she realized how much it was upsetting me, she decided it wasn’t worth eroding my self-esteem.

    Of course, this technique only works on parents who have good intentions but are a little misguided. The truly insensitive or clueless may require more drastic measures.

  35. I am in need of survival techniques. My mom in law is a weight watcher’s leader/coach. She used to be my weight, but once she lost it she became the authority on weight loss. I avoid her because not only do we not get along well, she eye balls me like she’s terrified of becoming my weight again. Last year I avoided going to her house for holidays because she makes me feel like the big fat ugly thing in the room. I’m tired of listening to her either complain about food and their calorie content, or, complain that she wants to eat more but won’t. Food seems to be a huge battle for her, and I feel badly she’s stuck in calorie counting hell. But I can’t be her punching bag either.

    I don’t know if my mom in law and I will ever be able to be close.

    The holidays are coming, and everyone expects an appearance from me.

    I hate to say this but, ever since I have met this woman, I have hated each and every holiday. I used to enjoy them, decorate for them….and it’s to the point where I just want them over and done with.

    She’s turned all food into an enemy, and all holiday dinners are controlled by her. She makes everything low calorie, swapped out with all kinds of sweetners that makes me sick. I just don’t know what to do….I feel nervous already.

  36. Also, and not that this has anything to do with anything, but I just realized that tomorrow is Love Your Body Day–and I have a tattoo appointment. What better way to love my body than by having it decorated with beautiful art? I’m so excited by this little bit of serendipity.

  37. One of my survival techniques is reading the fat positive blogs, and if I’m not finding what I need on one, you have a fabulous list in your side bar to choose from.

    I also let myself get angry at others. I have spent my life only being angry with myself. Being self-righteously pissed off that someone else feels the right to comment on my private business (and my body is my business, yo!) helps a whole lot.

    I also have really been trying to learn what my body tells me about my life. It’s gotten really good at telling me when I’m stressed or doing too much. And I treat it the way I should in response (i.e. baths, walks, hugs from friends, etc).

  38. A friend told her family: “My weight is no longer a topic of conversation. If you talk about it on the phone, I will hang up. If you mention it in person, I will leave the room.” She had to hang up a few times but they eventually got it.

  39. Oh, Tabby. That really sucks.

    At the present time, my method of surviving is just by retreating into routine and avoiding the better part of the world because it’s taking most of my strength just to keep on going, unfortunately. The coping skills I used to have decided to take a long-ass break on me, and still haven’t given me a clue as to when they might return. It’s a tad craptastic.

  40. Fortunately, I don’t have problems with my family, but pretty much any time anyone else around me brings up fat talk or weight-loss talk, I shoot them down by giving concrete examples of why what they’re saying is bullshit. (Or occasionally by indicating that I am not even remotely interested in discussing it, depending on the circumstances.)

    Frex: “The South Beach diet is awesome!”

    “You do know that yo-yo-ing your weight like you have been on the South Beach Diet is awful for your health and has, every single time, resulted in you gaining weight so that you weigh more than you did before you started this iteration of the diet, right? Also, that it’s going to be difficult for you to lose weight in any case, if not impossible, because you’re on the Pill?”

    Of course, on the other hand, I can’t think of a nice way to tell my two friends on WW that what I think they’re doing is ultimately bullshit, but hey. I sort of exist in this weird universe where I can think that perhaps WW is doing some good for these friends (not that they had any problem with portion control in the first place, but whatever, and I *know* they’re not getting told that carrots are keeping them fat) and where I can think WW is a dangerous pseudo-cult simultaneously.

  41. Linz, I too have a monster rack. But I also get enormous sexual pleasure from my monster rack, as in, orgasmic pleasure. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, but that’s been a big reason to NOT have my nipples cut off and otherwise “break” what isn’t fixed.

    Tabby, Maybe you and your husband could do some holiday traditions of your own, at your house with your favorite foods, so at least you get “your” time? You could even try doing a holiday trip – the man of the house & I have done several holidays in Victoria to avoid having to rush between my dad’s and his folks’ houses in holiday traffic.

    If you do go, there’s nothing wrong with avoiding artificial sweeteners if they make you sick – and bringing your own food if necessary.

  42. Has anyone seen this before, Byron Katie? Her thing is basically, accpteting what is, no matter what it is. She’s talking to a woman here who believes she is too fat. It’s really deep, maybe too deep for some, but 100% fat and body accpetence, I promise. The website has other videos about dealing with critical parents and other issues, too.

    http://www.thework.com/video_fat.asp

  43. Stephanie wrote: I sort of exist in this weird universe where I can think that perhaps WW is doing some good for these friends (not that they had any problem with portion control in the first place, but whatever, and I *know* they’re not getting told that carrots are keeping them fat) and where I can think WW is a dangerous pseudo-cult simultaneously.

    Yeah. One thing that makes it easier for me is that 2 of my friends are discussing the cult-like aspects of the meetings as “things to be careful you don’t buy into”. (Doesn’t hurt that both have studied psychology and multiple religions! ; ) They also delight in making fun of the “weigh-in tricks”. One was proud that she flabbergasted the leader by warning newbies that since joining WW her normal blood pressure has dipped into the “officially too low” range, so she’s working with her doctor on that. (Current treatment? Caffeine and salt.)

    I also find it amusing how their “points talk” is rather like how they discuss role-playing games. :)

  44. Oh Tabby, that’s awful. My first thought? Don’t go.

    I’m sure there would be pressure to join the family. But can you let your husband go by himself?

    or, if you really don’t feel right avoiding the trip altogether, minimize the length of time you’ll be there.

    You and your husband are your family. You have the right to have your own traditions, in your own home, and not to spend the holiday with a person who makes you uncomfortable.

    I know this could be a hard decision to make, and to stick to. But I’m trying to make the same decision now, just to not go to my mom’s for Christmas, for the first time. So I’m with you in spirit.

    And I’ll recommend the “When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends” book to you too, because it really really applies. (I promise to everyone I’ll try to stop harping on this book, but it really is that good! And super relevant to the discussions we’re having. :-)

  45. I’m looking at everyone’s wonderful comments, but I can’t help but think that they’re useless for me. I’m a full time student with AP level courses, and I barely have time to breathe and eat and sleep, let alone take care of myself the way I want to. Since school started, I’ve gained weight, and I know its not a nominal sum, and I fluctuate within that range normally, but knowing it almost makes my clothes feel smaller. It doesn’t help I’m stuck in a uniform (uniforms are never flattering, in my humble opinion) and I can’t go out and exercise with my usual routine to make myself feel better.

    Not to mention the Holidays are coming, and we’re a very big eating family. On Thanksgiving alone, I go to at least three different dinners!

    I’m going a little stir crazy and getting close to an anxiety attack.
    Help? Please?

  46. This is pretty much my first post here, but I just wanted to say to Tabby: you absolutely have the right to refuse to spend time with your mother in law. Period. You do not have to go to a single holiday gathering at her place, or invite her to a single one at yours, ever again for the rest of your life. You have that right, and you have that choice.

    Make your own holiday traditions and don’t invite her over. If your partner wants to see his/her mother, s/he can go without you.

    I am getting better myself at making boundaries and sticking to them. Persistence, stubbornness and remembering that you are not only right but have the right to set them and stick to them help a lot.

  47. I’m sorry, Tabby. (hugs)

    I thought I had it bad because my boss is a WW leader… and an “expert” in diabetes. Gah.

    Thalia is right on. You can compromise by trying to be close to her during the rest of the year (the best you can) but the holidays are sacred space for you to celebrate as you see fit.

  48. BeccaBoo:

    You are not perfect, it is not realistic for you to think that if you try hard enough you can juggle one million and one obligations and not ever drop anything. You can’t, no one can. Perfection is not a natural state for humans.

    Things do not get easier and life does not get less full after high school. Everyone has too much to do, no one treats themselves the way they would if they had unlimited time, money and energy.

    For example, I work full-time and am in my first semester of grad school. And sadly, grad school is much harder than my undergrad. So, sometimes assignments don’t get done until the last second, and sometimes they don’t get done as well as I’d like, sometimes, like now, I surf blogs while I should be doing the job I’m getting paid for, and sometimes I cancel plans with my loved ones because I need time to sleep and/or do laundry.

    All you can do is decide what things are too important in your life to give up, for me that is work, school, my friends and family, and getting laid on occasion. Then, you do the best you can with those things, and you make compromise other things.

    Everything else, don’t worry about, especially don’t worry about food that you may or may not eat in a month and a half, or clothes that may or may not fit if you do or do not gain weight. All of that stuff you can take care of when, and more importantly if, it happens.

    You’ll do fine. :)

  49. You and your husband are your family. You have the right to have your own traditions, in your own home, and not to spend the holiday with a person who makes you uncomfortable.

    Mr Machine and I did Christmas just by ourselves last year, and it was one of the best holidays I’ve ever spent as an adult. I don’t even have this kind of problem with my family (or his!), although Christmas has never felt the same since my stepmom died a few years ago. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is I whole-heartedly agree with O.C.: you have the right to make your own holidays. You can spend joyous time with your husband or your friends or your pets or whoever, making the day be about treating your own life as holy by not subjecting yourself to abuse and anxiety from families. It had never really occurred to me before last year that you’re *allowed* to not spend Christmas with family — but it was really wonderful.

  50. I know that I’ve always known intellectually that I wasn’t the only one with a mother like this, but reading all these other posts of people who obviously have been through the same thing I have makes me want to sob with relief.

    I spent the entire first year of college, and FINALLY away from home with her comment echoing in my head, ‘Honey, if you don’t lose some weight, no one is going to want to date you when you go to college next year.”

    My therapy that year was to go on as many dates a week as I could. Yeah, even with the freshman 20 that I gained, I was still likeable and guys wanted to be with me.

    She made a comment about my weight her last visit and I responded by saying, “I have been working out regularly and eat what I want when I feel hungry. And I can run a mile in 11.5 minutes.” She actually seemed impressed by the last part and it bought me some peace.

  51. - Participating in blog communities that are feminist or FA

    - Throwing most women’s magazines in the trash (unless it’s Bitch!)

    - Having healthy and open discussions about body image with people I’m close to

    - Staying away from a scale (seriously, who needs to check it all the time?)

    - Going for a walk (clears my thoughts, gets my body moving and I start to appreciate that my body “does” things for me, it’s not just something to be looked at or objectified)

  52. I’ve brought my mom around by making it clear how counterproductive her focus on my appearance has always been, even though I know it came from a place of love and genuine concern. It took a long, long time, though, and I did resort to ending more than one conversation by getting up and walking out. Not! Acceptable! I don’t make you feel badly about your nose, do I? Well then.

    I find my own internalized negativity more difficult to deal with. I’ve tried to replace the negative tape-loop in my head with things that put me more in touch with the Me I was when I felt like the most Me…if that makes any sense. And the power of that Me wasn’t a function of being younger or thinner, but of simply not caring about other people’s opinions. Being powerful in self-appreciation and just refusing to deal in unconstructive crap on any level. Not in a reactionary fashion, mind you, but in a sense of just not having *time* for it, because there are too many important things in the world to address! (Admittedly this was rather easier in the obliviousness of my youth, but still….)

    Anyway, in my case this means an internal loop heavily populated by Elvis Costello & Big Country songs. (Seriously, there’s no way you can listen to “In A Big Country” and not feel like you can kick the world’s ass with your wonderfulness, even if the world fails to recognize or appreciate it.)

  53. TwinkieD, I’m a bit worried about your comment. You mention that you have an emotionally manipulative boyfriend and that you use your imagination to deal with that.

    Honey, I don’t know what else you’re getting from that relationship, but if you’re feeling manipulated then it might be time to imagine that you can do better…and then do it.

    Feel free to tell me to butt out or that I haven’t got a fucking clue what I’m talking about, but if you’re not happy with him, then it might be time to give yourself permission to move on. Nobody deserves to feel like they’re being manipulated by their nearest and dearest. And you just might find that manipulation is part of what’s keeping you from being ‘vivacious witty TwinkieD.’

    And I shall now butt out until given specific permission to do otherwise.

  54. My mom, a fat woman herself, used to lecture me constantly about how I looked in a bikini, a low cut t-shirt or fitted jeans. I used to tell her that I knew I didn’t look like barbie in a two piece but that still gave me the right to wear one. She thought that just because I wasn’t skinny meant I should be embarassed of how I look. Her favorite sayings growing up were, “If it ain’t pretty, cover it up”, or “The world is not ready for…” Insert: “Me in a bikini/an evening gown/riding a bike” etc.
    In college I started screaming at her, leaving the room or changing the subject when she tried to lecture me about how I looked in things. That helped a little, but sadly, the only thing that stopped her was when I quite be accident dropped 20 pounds after college. (I moved to the city and was walking everywhere.) Actually being “thin” is the only tihng that has permenetly shut her up. She used to buy me clothes that were two or three sizes too big for me in an effort to get me to cover up, now she buys me clothes that are a couple sizes smaller than my real size because she sees me as a skinny person.

    I wish she would stop criticising herself and my sister. Everybody deserves to dress the way they want and feel happy in their own skin.

    Also, last time she made the “world is not ready” comment about herself, I emailed her a link to the big moves dance troupe’s website and told her she should join. I don’t think she’d ever seen other “fat ladies’ dancing before, and I think she might have liked the concept…

  55. i got sick- gained a ton of weight and never lost it so people thought they could use concern for my health as a legitimate reason to needle me about my weight -so i went to a few 10k races- got the tshirt- got my time and sent them to the anoying relative with a note- thank you for your concern but i believe i am healthier than you- and i actually have not had to hear anything from those 3 in years

  56. I’ve a couple survival strategies. First, I refuse to be ashamed of being fat anymore. Shame is for moral failings; fat is not moral, and it took me long enough to learn it that I will never forget it again. That helps.

    When I’m having a day where I look in the mirror and feel like I must’ve gained 40 lbs. overnight, I realize that I just have “fat eyes” today, that it’s impossible, and that I am exactly the same size today as I was yesterday when I thought I looked smokin’. I also pay attention to the calendar; very often, the fluctuations in self-image match the fluctuations in hormones. In both cases, it’s about reminding…and re-minding myself, that what I’m seeing that I’m not happy with at this moment isn’t really reality. You can’t believe everything you think.

  57. I’m still barely coping myself (though I will say, you want to appreciate your body, have part of it break and you’ll realize how much you’d give to have a functional, healthy body of any size) so I have no advice.

    I do hope this post encourages feministing to become more fat-friendly. I’ve been avoiding it recently because of the barrage of fat hatred that often surfaces in the comments and also crops up in the posts (as opposed to Shakesville where they’re far more vigilant about these issues).

    DRST

  58. What not to do (from personal experience):
    Smoke more
    Eat more
    Simmer with burning anger and hatered

    What I wish I could go back and do differently when I lived with my parents in my early 20s:
    Therapy
    Have a great, safe place to be physically active
    Have places to hang out away from home so I wouldn’t be there as much

    Those are the survival techniques I recommend. Moving back in with parents is generally associated with saving money, but the investment in therapy, a comfortable gym, and cups of tea or coffee at coffee houses is money well spent.

  59. For survival, the best I’ve found is saying either out loud or to myself -

    “Whatever: diets don’t work.”

    I’m not great, all the time, at body positive thoughts, but I’m better.

    However, when I slide into the truly negative zone, ‘diets don’t work’ is my life raft, hard won on experience before I found research and this blog to prove I wasn’t alone.

    Even IF all that’s said around me is true about my size, it’s moot. I am a strong, intelligent, research oriented woman who has overcome enough challenges in life that if it were possible to be thin, I would be.

  60. Linz-
    Your first comment made me cry a little. My mom was constantly on me about my weight for as far back as I can remember. She’s said and done things that have absolutely devastated me. A few years ago, I broke down when we were on a walk and screamed ‘Why can’t you just love me the way I am?’
    She got better after that. Recently she told me how she admired me for being comfortable with who I am. I explained to her that if I can not love myself for the way I am, I will not love myself if I change.
    That’s my biggest survival mechanism. I figure that I have to accept me as me with all the imperfections. I know that no matter what there will always be something socially unacceptable about me, there will always be a reason society will give me to hate myself. I can spend all my energy trying to conform to an impossible ideal or I can love myself the way I am and spend my energy on things I’m more likely to achieve (and are way more fun).

  61. At one point I came home and said: I know what you’re going to say about my weight, you know what I’m going to answer. We’ve been saying the same thing to each other about this subject for the last 20 years. So why don’t we just skip this part of conversation in the future?

    It worked. But maybe I’m just lucky. And I was always certain that my family loved me, which helped a lot when it came to not exploding because of certain comments.

  62. So this conversation happened last evening:

    Me: Mom, you know, the other day you told me that when that girl asked about me, you told her I was “doing okay but a little too fat?” That kind of pissed me off.

    Mom: Oh.

    Me: I mean, I don’t go around saying “she’s doing okay but a little too tall” or “doing okay but a little too dumb” do I?

    Mom: Well, yeah, you have a point. I’m sorry for saying that.

    Me: It’s not like it should matter whether I’m fat or not; it doesn’t make me worth more or less as a person.

    Mom: You’re right, sorry.

    Tadaa! Victory. :D

  63. Thank you everyone, for your support. I think I just needed to hear someone tell me that I don’t have to go to my mom in laws. That I have that right. My husband is supportive and understanding. His mom’s treatment of me has driven a wedge between him and his mom. I feel badly for this, but at the same time I know I can’t control what other people do.
    This year I will make my holidays the way that I have missed them. Thank you…

  64. Unfortunately I don’t have time to read all the comments just now but I thought I better comment while I remember. *smile*

    I don’t have a clue what my survival techniques are. When I look in the mirror I see a fat person, when I look in the mirror while naked I see an ugly fat person, and I constantly struggle to find anything that I think I look good in, any reason why I have any worth at all, any reason why I should try to eat more healthily or go outside and see people or do my work or, well, some days I find it really hard to work out why I should do anything since I’m always going to be like this, I always have been like this, and I have been told since I was 5 years old and started Primary School that I am worth less than others because of my weight.

    Saying that, I’m not as bad as I used to be. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I notice that I have very pretty eyes, that my face is quite symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing. I’ve stopped wearing clothes that other people tell me I should wear and I don’t buy anything I’m not sure whether I look good in them. I now have many pretty clothes. It helps. I avoid talking to my father, I’ve completely given up on romantic relationships because I don’t need that crap anymore, and I limit the amount of time I spend with my fat hating, women hating friends (they have positive opinions too, so I just have to keep them on topic). I try to remind myself that I have a Masters Degree so I must be intelligent. I have friends who love me so I must be at least worth something to them. I have family that, although they say things that hurt sometimes, do care about me- they just suck at showing it, my Dad especially.

    But do I think I have survival techniques? Nope. Just an ongoing project to someday not really deeply dislike myself.

  65. Who says that you have to be with all your relatives, including ones you didn’t know you had, on holidays? Thanksgiving and Christmas in my household are celebrated with immediate family and very close non-hating relatives by marriage. This time of year can be stressful enough without having to worry about seeing people you don’t want to see. Don’t feel bad about not wanting to see the MIL Tabby. There’s no rule that says you have to.

    As for my coping techniques:

    -Not reading magazines unless it’s geared towards big gals (and even those don’t really feature women who wear a size 20 and up) but it’s better than the Cosmos and Glamours and Redbooks, where anything over a size 10 is OMG…FAT!

    -Reading SP and similar blogs.

    -Buy good-looking clothes that fit and give away the ones that don’t, whether they’re too big or too small.

    -Getting educated about fat hysteria and realizing that the more they rant & rave, the more desperate and stupid they sound. Seriously, it seems every five minutes there’s a study that tries to prove how awful and yucky and close to death fat people are. Then when we fail to follow the stereotype, they come back and say “OK, we were wrong about that BUT fat people are awful and yucky and close to death in THIS area…” To quote Public Enemy, “don’t believe the hype.”

    -Not dieting. I know for a lot of people, it’s considered terrible. But unless I had a severe physical condition which caused me to greatly alter my eating habits, there’s no reason for me to deprive myself and become a cranky, hungry witch obsessively counting calories and points. Food is here for a reason folks. It should not be treated as the immoral enemy. WW, Jenny Craig, and Nutri-System can go suck it as far as I’m concerned.

    -Also having a family that realizes you either love me for who I am or lump it helps too.

  66. I read Shapely Prose! Honestly, I thank God I found this blog and it’s links.
    My story is simple. I’m 5’6″ pear shaped, mother always rode me about it was always a size 8-10. Fast forward to the Ally McBeal era and now an 8 is fat. I’ve always hated my upper thighs and knees.
    Starved myself down to 112, funny other women told me I looked good, though it didn’t matter nor did they notice me wearing jeans and long sleeves in 90 degree weather or you could practically see the outlines of my bowels.
    I’m back up to where my body wants to be and it’s hard.

    This morning I was *this* close to dieting and the “If I can just lose 5lbs”.
    I came on here and Kate’s post came just in time.

    I’m not going to abuse myself again. I’m not going to worry about what I’m putting in my mouth or my cellulite or whathave you.
    I abused my body with exercise…badly. My joints hurt, I strained my groin (don’t ask), my abdominals, etc.

    I’m sorry, maybe I’m insane but I don’t think tracking every morsel/macronutrient/etc and “winning the mind game over 10lbs” is some wonderful mystical worthy thing.
    There’s other shit that needs to be done in this life.
    So I’m going to unsubscribe from my fitness message boards. I’m tired of reading about people who want to look like Madonna, or reading that “you need to get your head in gear to win the battle vs. menopausal weight gain” or “you’re not eating clean enough”.
    Swap the supermodel for the fitness model and you have yet again another unrealistic ideal.
    It’s maddening and I’m over it.
    I’m going to find a mode of exercise that keeps me healthy and going strong until I’m an old lady (hopefully I get there).

    Thank God for this blog, that’s all I have to say.

  67. Who says that you have to be with all your relatives, including ones you didn’t know you had, on holidays?

    My problem’s always been the ones I know about. :)

    Tabby, I’m so glad the comments helped!

  68. I spent years with severe bulimia, and I’m not shy about it, so if anyone starts to do fat talk around me, I just frankly say, “Look, I’m only 2 years in recovery from an eating disorder, and it’s not healthy for anyone, but especially me, to play that game. Kindly refrain.”
    This works for everyone BUT my mother-in-law, who has never commented about my weight, but has to insert a comment about hers in every aspect of every conversation ever. The main one is, “I used to be a size 2 and weight 100 pounds.” Uh yeah, 25 years ago. I always just tell her, “You know, you don’t have to feel that way. You have a right to be happy and love yourself no matter what.” and she’s like, “Well, I would love myself if I wasn’t a big fat cow.”
    *tears out hair*
    And the thing is, we’re the same clothing size and about the same proportionally, so if I wasn’t in such a good place from FA and therapy, that would be so fucking triggering.

  69. Bree: …there’s no reason for me to deprive myself and become a cranky, hungry witch obsessively counting calories and points.

    You know, changing one letter doesn’t make “w”itch not sexist. I’m sad that you aimed that stereotype at yourself.

    Unless you are actually a witch (like I am), and were making a joke — in which case I’ll shut up now.

  70. Tricia – it’s true, though, that being around a cranky, hungry witch is a dangerous thing. The best thing is to feed her with really good foods, and start praying to your gods you weren’t too late!

  71. Yes. We also have a saying that there are two kinds of witches after ritual — the quick and the hungry. :-)

  72. Yes. We also have a saying that there are two kinds of witches after ritual — the quick and the hungry. :-)

  73. I commented to this effect on Feministing, but the number of people pulling the “But, you’re not fat!” card in the comments kind of bugged me. I hate to think that they really think it would be okay to be subjected to those comments if she were in fact their definition of fat, but all the same, I was irked.

  74. I’m stunned by the proportion of commentators who seem to have critical and/or weight obsessed mothers. Is this representative of the population at large, or are readers of Shapely Prose more burdened than average with fat phobic mothers?
    Personally, my mum never mentioned my weight as I grew up, and I never mention it to my daughters. I never talk – and rarely think – about my own weight. We don’t have scales in the house, or any low calorie foods. We would all be categorised as “normal” weight by medical professionals. I never thought before, but maybe this pattern of behaviour is really unusual?

  75. Alison S, my mom is actually very body- and food-positive…it’s my dad who’s the critical one. I think I’ve mentioned all this before, but he, among other things, told me I was getting ‘pudgy’ in high school when I went from a size, oh, 2 to 4, told me repeatedly in college that no one would want to hire me after I graduated if I remained fat (this after having recovered from an eating disorder), and recently bribed me to lose weight. But like you, I’m really not sure if this pattern is more or less common.

  76. Allison S – SP might not be completely representative but I do think most women in North American society are fairly preoccupied with weight and afraid of getting fat/self-hating if they are fat. So, that would include most mothers.

    Personally – I’m lucky in that the only person in my family who brings up my weight is, yes, my mother. And she only brings it up when I try to bring up FA stuff with her. So my coping mechanism is to not bring up FA stuff. Of cousre, I still have to listen to her talk about her weight, which is hard seeing as we have quite similar bodies. My coping mechanism in that case is unobtrusively getting up and walking away – I don’t have to deal with that.

    Although I need some work coping mechanisms at this point – I went from a job where I worked with mostly older men to a job where I work with several young women, and while it’s great sometimes I’ve discovered the joys of office body talk. I spend a lot of time listening to tiny girls talk about how their tiny measurements are too big (yes, they include numbers, and yes those numbers are much smaller than mine). And getting up and walking away isn’t an option because they’re talking beside my desk and I have work to do. I could say something, but I don’t want to be the bitchy fat girl.. ugh.

    Danielle – good for you for bringing that up to your mom!

  77. I know this is childish, but once with my (thin) cousin I responded to a comment about my weight with “I’m working on it. What are you doing about your body odor problem?” with a serious tone. Not the most progressive comment but it shut her up quickly which was the goal. Unfortunately, I think sometimes giving the rude right back works.
    Now I usually leave it at “Wow, it’s pretty rude to bring that up.” or something similar if I even choose to verbally respond. I work to keep that mindset where I’m more appalled by the person commenting than letting some sort of twisted shame be forced on me from an external source, family or otherwise.

  78. I’m sorry, I didn’t get to read ALL comments. I’m quite new here and still trying to find strategies for me to accept my body.
    I am terrified to read those things which happened to me actually happened to all of you too.
    I actually found the ultimate strategy and broke contact to my parents (and family in general, as they all are obsessed not only with their own weight, but also with mine).

  79. When I was fifteen I threw a temper-tantrum and broke a dish or three when confronted in a “loving” manner about my weight. My weight has not been brought up since. Turns out my family values dishes over thinness.
    Plus, these days my family is more likely to pump me for details about my boyfriend than they are to harp on my weight. There was always a subtext that the discussion on my weight had more to do with boys than health and the fact that I have had a boyfriend for long enough to introduce him to the family seems to negate the “boys don’t like big girls like you” subtext of the weight discussion. Now its just a lot of diabetes 2 discussions

  80. I don’t have many. The ones I do have are still in development, because I’m so new to this scene.

    My biggest one is to come here.

    Like, right now. I feel like crap because Mom just tried to convince me to go on NutriSystem with her. I turned her down, flat. But… ugh. I hate seeing my mother go through this, and I hate the way she dragged me into it, and I hate the way I finally realize how much of my own problems with looks and self-image and self-esteem and self-worth come from HER.

    A while ago, I found a picture of me from back in high school. Back when everyone told me I was fat. Back when I was convinced I was fat, and hideous. Back when Mom always wanted me to go on diets. And do you know what? I. Was. Shocked. I couldn’t believe it. The girl in that picture? There was barely an ounce on her! She was skinny as a damn rail! I WAS THAT SKINNY?! NO WAI. I, who refused to wear a bikini, who wanted desperately to wear a bikini but knew I COULD NOT. I, who was convinced the world was pointing and laughing. I was fucking gorgeous! You should have seen that picture. I mean, seriously. My heart cracked a little bit. All that misery, and how hard I could have been rocking that beautiful body… wasted, wasted.

    And I showed my mother. My otherwise loving, supportive, intelligent mother, who looked on it and said, “I don’t remember you being that thin.”

    My cracked heart broke neatly in twain, with barely a sound.

    … and I came here.

    You, dear, dear, oh, incalculably dear Shapelings, you are my solace.

    Thanks.

  81. A strategy I totally forgot about until it came up on my playlist just now? “Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige. Instant self-esteem and happiness injection. I recommend it highly.

  82. I’m an advocate of the ignore/escape stratedgy too. I tried the ‘explaining why comments-can-really-hurt-especially-from-people-you-love strategy’ for years, but to little effect. Sadly, things only improved (and only for a little while) after my father died, but then my brother assumed the mantle of Hateful Fucking Comments Psycho Bastard (he hits as well), so things have gotten worse.

    Anyway, I found that good ol’ fashioned financial & domestic independence is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. No matter how small your apartment/room in houseshare/caravan etc., or how poor your purse – the fact that’s its your own, bought and paid for by you can be a) an incredible boost to your self esteem, and b) bloody handy to escape to when it all begins to kick off at whatever tradish “family” gathering you find yourself obliged to attend.

    Bascially, if it gets nasty I leave. I’ve got somewhere nice, safe and cosy to go to :-)

  83. :::offers SugarLeigh a hug:::

    I hate seeing my mother go through this, and I hate the way she dragged me into it, and I hate the way I finally realize how much of my own problems with looks and self-image and self-esteem and self-worth come from HER.

    Seriously, for me that was one of those therapy realizations that just left me on the floor for a while. Dammit, I have enough problems on my own, why am I carrying hers, too? You’d think that knowledge would be a relief, but for some reason it’s not — it just feels like more work. :-(

  84. Alison S., I think healthy attitudes towards weight and food are rather rare in this country.

    I’m lucky. Growing up my mom rarely talked about weight, never expressed hatred or even disatisfaction towards her body, and didn’t feel guilty about eating what she wanted, (although she was always concerned with nurition and wanted up to get enough protein and eat our vegetables). She was also completely comfortable being naked in front of my sisters and I, and told us there was no shame or inherent sexuality in naked bodies.

    My two sisters and I have healthier-than-average body image. And all of my friends with serious body hatred or eating disorders (all but two of my female friends) have at least one parent with a strange attitude about food, who hates their own body, who has hatred and fear towards fat people, etc.

  85. Hey viv, I don’t know if you’re still reading this but I have the same problems with the fitness community. I stopped watching some of my online ones after a blowup about how a skinny poster wasn’t getting dieting support, and everyone in the community blamed fat activism for making the ideal size now “too fat”. It seriously bummed me out.

    But! Your comment made me get off my butt and make a livejournal community safe from diet talk and focusing on HAES and movement for enjoyment. So if you want to check it out, it’s everyonemoves at livejournal.

    As for my strategies? I’ve been getting mad at people talking about diets for years. Since my Fatty Revelation, where I picked up Fat Girl’s Guide to Life and broke off all my diets, it’s the only thing that’s kept me sane. That is, until i found Shapely Prose. Coming here has put into words a lot of my frustrations with diet culture, and being better at articulating my frustrations has helped *immensely* at making my life free from diet talk.

    My mom, like those of many other posters here, is pretty bad at understanding that her inquiries about my weight are pretty damaging. I know she keeps bringing it up because she has a lot of health problems correlated to weight, but she ignores the fact that one of them *causes* weight gain, not the other way around. For I while I’d just blow up and storm off, which just lead to neither of us talking about weight or diets and a whole lot of resentment. Once, though, after reading this very website, I talked to her and told her that reducing my health to my size ignores the fact that fat can be a symptom and not a cause, and that it makes me hate myself or feel like I’m not enough just because I’m not a size whatever. I think that let her know just how damaging those comments are and we had a good cry over it.

    Since then it’s been better. She’s on WW now, which I’m not all that okay with, but she’s learning intuitive eating through it. She earlier scoffed at the idea that she would know she was full or hungry or needed salt/protein/starch, but she’s getting to know what she wants now and understands me that little bit better. And conversations about health now revolve around my activity level. She complements my skin tone and my strength as results of going to the gym, not my waistline.

    I think a lot of it has to do with her own issues, about weight and men and weight and self-confidence, and I’ve broken both of those barriers myself (I have a boything that adores me, last in a long line, and I might be generously described as cocky). So a little compassion helps. But then again, we have an awesome relationship anyways, and she means well, which might not help those Shapelings who have rough relationships with family.

  86. I’m in the UK, but I doubt things are all that different over here. My older daughter, who is 14, is far more concerned with all aspects of her appearance than I ever was (weight, but also eyebrow shape, body hair, and so forth). I can only hope that a non-critical family atmosphere will be sufficient counterweight to the media and peer pressure. I think some part of it is due to individual character, too: her younger sister is far less bothered (and it’s not just age, the older one was always that way inclined).
    We all wander around naked at home too, Bonnie, but the 14 year old thinks our forty something bodies are gross and revolting (just because they belong to her parents, I think). I do my best to instill positive body images, but sometimes you just can’t win ; )

  87. I don’t have anything useful on the parents thing, I haven’t seen mine since I turned 18. We might share genetics, but we’re strangers. I know that sounds sad, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

    On the “bad body day” thing, I like to look at people’s photos on Fatshionista. It’s a nice pick-me-up to see women my size and shape looking cute (!), in clothes that would actually fit me. Then I get distracted looking for clothes online or go into my closet and dress up in something.

    Cutting out almost all commercial consumption from my media diet has been the biggest long-term boost to my self confidence. It’s amazing what a change it makes to not be told by every company on earth that I’m not good enough without their product.

  88. Thanks, everybody.

    It’s useful to know my mom’s not the only one. Useful, but very, very sad. How many women there are who are passing on a legacy of self-hate based on tangled desires that pretend to be self-love when they are truly about social acceptance. A complicated web of wanting to be seen as fuckable but not wanting to be treated as an animate sex toy, of wanting others to react to us as if we could push our inner self to the exterior. Yeah, it would be convenient if our potential friends, lovers, and enemies could be identified from some plainly worn visual characteristics… but life don’t work that way, baby.

    And you can’t win anyway! If you’re gorgeous, sure, it’s easier, BUT. At first it SEEMS like people are more apt to listen to what you have to say, or to see your talents or think you are smart or capable. But in truth, they still aren’t listening, now they’re just looking at you raptly because they want to bone you. GRRRREAT trade-off. A gal can look ugly and, example, run for president, and they will talk about her big thighs or whatever. Or she can look pretty and run for president, and they’ll say “I’d tap that!” (Yeah, I’d “tap” my bf too, have in fact, but that don’t mean I want him in the White House for crap’s sake). Meanwhile, men look like everything from Silent Cal to Taft and still get elected. I mean, Lincoln, that hat! And I love Abe, but… dude, not for his looks. That whole “gaunt face and sunken, haunted eyes because I’m prez during the Civil War, and maybe possibly also psychic or something” look got old after my first viewing of Dracula.

    Anywayz. Where was I? Looks. Fuckability. The desire to look like that and the corresponding weird urges to be a slut, only not (you know, that somehow alien notion that we’d like to express ourselves as sexual beings without getting raped, threatened with rape, or treated as though we are asking for sex from just any and everyone and so should happily accept such).

    I’ve been doodling in my sketchbook more, and lately I’ve had some weird free-form scribbles come out that are pretty telling about this stuff. I draw myself with my dog more often. She’s kind of a combo straight-man and sounding-board sort of character, in my drawings. In one I drew a failed picture of what was supposed to be me, only it came out all wrong, out of proportion, and made me seem to have bigger hips, smaller breasts, and a strangely shaped stomach. I’d been trying to draw a good simplification of my body for pages. Next to this, I scribbled Eppy, ears back, eyes looking dubious. To her right, a more accurate Me is sitting, one hand raised as if gesturing. Our conversation is as follows:
    Eppy: Why are you so in love with that image anyway? It’s not even accurate.
    Me: Meh. Heck if I know. I can’t even tell if it’s self-accepting or self-depreciating. My self-image is too convoluted.
    Eppy: Is this one of those “beauty vs. peer pressure vs. personal actualization” things again?
    Me: Yeah. I guess.
    Eppy: I will never understand humans.
    Me: That makes two of us.

    My dog is very wise, you know.

    I bet all your dogs are too. We should listen to the critters in our lives more often. Your guinea pig probably knows stuff, like, whoa.

  89. To SugarLeigh–YOU MADE MY DAY!!!!

    And to everyone else, THANK YOU!!!! I have chosen not to have a relationship with my mother, after years of emotional toture and it’s the best, healthiest, most powerful thing I ever did. I realize that strategy might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m here to tell: You DO NOT need to accept the unacceptable from anyone.

  90. Thanks for this Kate. I was surprised and happy with the comments to my post because you are right it is rare that we have an actual fat positive or fat acceptance discussion on Feministing. I want to change that, but even at 30 I didn’t realize how much fat hate I myself have internalized. Thanks for this great blog and I will check back often. And thanks to all the commenters for your wisdom. I will come back to it and share with others.

  91. Oh and I want to add, that it is true, the reason I don’t identify as fat is because as a descriptor I don’t think you would say that I am fat. But what bothers me is that when people say, “oh but your not fat…” they are already putting a value judgment that fat=bad, lazy, lack of control and on and on and on. That is bullshit, so when people do say I am fat, I prefer to say, “so?”

    Many of the commenters here already got to this and sorry I am late to the thread.

    I also want to say, it is amazing how many women of color came to the comments and that is something I want to explore more. What is fat acceptance look like within cultures that have been colonized by white standards of beauty? What is at stake?

  92. So nice to see Samhita here in the comments! Thanks for your post, Samhita, and for discussing it here, Kate.

    Although I really want to honor Miriam Heddy’s experience of looking in the mirror and seeing a fat woman, I think it’s also important for us to honor Samhita’s experience of looking in the mirror and NOT seeing a fat woman.

    As Kate said, I think Samhita is being accurate, not in denial, about her own physical dimensions. I know someone who’s 5’3″ and feels really tall, because she’s quite a bit taller than her five sisters, but it wouldn’t be very accurate for her to describe herself to strangers as “tall”.

    But moving away from that: I don’t think that everyone who is likely to be considered “fat” by society as a whole necessarily has a strong self-identification as “fat”.

    When I look in the mirror, I don’t usually see a fat woman, any more than I see a white woman, or a 44-year-old woman, or a woman wearing glasses or a woman with green eyes or a woman with short hair, even though all of those things describe me, physically.

    I usually see me. Sometimes I notice my fat; sometimes I notice the fair complexion I inherited from my Irish and English ancestors (and sometimes I contemplate the “white privilege” that carries with it in US society); sometimes I notice my glasses; sometimes I notice my green eyes; sometimes I notice my short hair.

    Now, I can imagine that if someone were to describe me, they might well describe me as “the fat white woman with short dark hair and glasses” but I don’t see that when I look in the mirror. I see a unique person, not a checklist of physical characteristics.

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