From the Archives: Fat Acceptance and the Acceptance of Fat

As we’re facing a bit of a blogging slow-down here at Shapely Prose, we thought we’d occasionally repost some pieces that you might have missed the first time around or that might warrant a second look. If you’ve got suggestions for posts you’d like to see again, email me!

This post was originally written by Sweet Machine and published on September 5, 2007

In light of a truly hilarious misreading of my recent post about weight loss, I thought I’d write a bit about what fat activism means to me. Because the truth is, what with the recent weight loss and everything, I’m not fat. Not really, not right now. For the last few years I’ve been more of what the fine folks at fatshionista call an “inbetweenie” — someone who is not thin but not fat, who sometimes shops at plus size stores and sometimes at straight size stores, who sometimes gets disparaged for her size but sometimes gets a free pass for it. I found fat activism through a few friends and through fatshionista, and I can truly say that it has changed my life for the better. Sometimes, though, the participation of those of us on the smaller end of the non-skinny spectrum is viewed with understandable suspicion by other people in the movement. So in case any of our lovely readers at Shapely Prose are curious about what someone like me is doing blogging with the inimitable Kate Harding, here are some of my reflections. (Fatshionista members, you might find some of this dimly familiar!)

My experience as an inbetweenie puts me in a complicated relationship to fatness. I usually wear a size 12 or 14, and an L or XL on that scale; I’m well-endowed (if you know what I mean and I think you do) and that often affects what size I wear. Sometimes I can shop in straight sized stores; sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I’m the smallest person in a room; sometimes, I’m the biggest. I’ve been thinner than I am now, and I’ve been fatter. The fatosphere has, for me, been a godsend, because it has finally convinced me, for real, that I do not have to try to get thinner. I seem to have settled into a size my body likes with exercise and good food (give or take those illness-related 20 pounds!), and at age 28, I’ve finally learned to love my body, whether or not I can fit my hips into pants at some store or not.

So what would someone on the low end of the inbetweenie scale get out of fat activism? Are people like me double agents from the thinner world, getting our jollies out of pretending to be fat?

I can’t answer that for other inbetweenies. But here are some ways that reading fatshionista, participating in the fatosphere, and changing my thinking about fat have improved my life:

There’s the fashion. I love seeing how women of many different sizes and shapes dress. The mass media rarely shows more than two kinds of women: skinny women with big racks and skinny women with small racks. There are so many different shapes and sizes of people in the world, and anyone that looks remotely like me is excluded from mainstream representation. (Remember, even ScarJo is “fat” now!) I’d rather have Crystal Renn or Kate Dillon as a fashion icon than Nicole Richie, because they’re more exciting to me.

There’s the politics. Fat activists are trying to create a world in which thinness is not assumed to be the default goal for every woman and man. That’s a world I want to live in. I believe size negativity hurts everyone, fat and thin, in the way that patriarchy hurts both women and men. Even people who benefit from privilege are forced to live in a system that demands that they justify their privilege by conforming to the oppressive system. Fighting the regulation and circumscription of women’s bodies is crucial to my identity as a feminist. That said, I am fully aware and guiltily thankful that I don’t experience some of the discrimination or the everyday logistical difficulties that many people bigger than me do (though as I said, I haven’t always been the size I am now).

And finally, there’s the everyday angle, the way fat acceptance intersects my life experiences. Even at the size I am, I’m not thin. I can’t shop at all “normal” stores. I can’t buy bras at anywhere but specialty stores. I searched high and low for a pair of knee-high boots that would zip up over my calves, and I never found any. My thighs would catch on fire from rubbing together if I didn’t take drastic chub-rub-prevention measures. Women normally only talk about these kinds of things in a disparaging light; in a fat acceptance community, these are normal experiences. (I’m willing to bet they’re normal experiences for lots of women smaller than I am, too — but I’ve never heard any of them talk about it.) I’ve been fatter than I am now, and my experiences at different weights/sizes forms a huge part of my understanding of feminism. Finally, I can talk about my body without trying to avoid the word “fat.”

In the end, I hope that one of the goals of fat acceptance is not only for fat people to gain respect, dignity, and self-esteem, but also to make people of all sizes feel good about fat — in whatever degrees it is present or absent. The more we all get to be visible without apologizing for our bodies, the more just our culture is.

37 thoughts on “From the Archives: Fat Acceptance and the Acceptance of Fat

  1. I feel like I’m an anomaly sometimes. I am an overweight person who does have body issues, but by some freak or flaw of nature i’m a size 4/6. I know I shouldn’t be that size, but with small hips and an ever-changing fashion industry thats where I fit. I almost feel like a traitor. Anyway, I just wanted to say something because I don’t think you need to be plus sized or even borderline plus sized in order to be on this side or that side of the FA argument. Like all kinds of people, fat people come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes the number on your pants doesn’t reflect anything but a misguided fashion designer.

  2. Thank you for this! I’ve only recently discovered the fat-pos community, and while I love the idea of HAES and body acceptance, I wasn’t sure quite where I fit into the community, being of a similar clothing size to yourself.

  3. Ah, an inbetweenie. So that’s what I am.

    I think the problem I run into the most from my family and other pressures is that since I am in between, if I just *tried a little harder* I could get past inbetween and reach that coveted land of thin. I think it’s the idea that sometimes the non-plus sizes are within view. Sure, they can believe that my cousin in a size 22 isn’t going to get into a 10 or 12, but me, I’m only a 14 in some sizes! If I just exercised more and stopped eating, (like I did in high school when I was anorexic) I could fit into a size 8 for a while. That’s dangerously thin for me. My body is meant to be a size 14/16. My feet are a size 11 and my calves are just as hard to find boots for as yours it sounds like.

  4. I come here for my regular dose of sanity and I’m never disappointed.

    I’m also an “inbetweenie” and I have a love/hate relationship with my body – on the one hand I love my bigger cleavage but on the other hand my belly depresses me. This site is one of the reasons I’m making a concerted and ongoing effort to be kinder to myself.

    Re: the chafing

    I found that since I gained weight I developed dark patches of skin on my inner thighs because of (I assume) the skin stretching and my thighs chafing together. I exfoliate regularly to keep the skin soft and I use tissue oil daily to reduce chafing and (hopefully) minimise the dark patches. I think that this, more than anything else, is what depressed me about gaining so much weight. * sigh *

  5. I thought I had something to add, but now that I get here and start typing I realize I need to go lie down instead.

    I also realize that when I don’t feel good, I feel less good about how my body looks. I think that says something about how women are taught to think about themselves. Something wrong? Must be cuz yer ugleeeeeee!

  6. Thank you, thank you thank you for this post. I’ve started reading Shapely Prose and Fatshonista a couple of weeks ago and I love it. I’m also an inbetweenie- I never knew! Just a few years ago I was much larger and then after a large weight loss was much smaller also. Now at the age of 40 I seem to have settled into the size 10-12 range. I can relate to much of what you say here. It’s so good to see that I’m not alone, and to see how I truly can benefit from fat activism. When I started reading these blogs and ogling over the OOTD’s I felt like I had found my people at last! This is my very first post on any of these blogs- I hesitated to join in the fun for the same reasons you pointed out.

    Again, thanks for this post!!

  7. As a 16/18 who mostly shops in department stores because it’s so easy to go back and forth between plus and “regular” sections, thank you. This is the heaviest I’ve ever been, but my mom is 5’11”, and has been fat most of my life, so I’ve always had a role model for being beautiful and fat at the same time. Thank you, Shapely Prose, for providing a space where we can all figure this stuff out together.

  8. Another “Inbetweenie” here, with a question – I have only recently discovered FA, and have been reading Shapely Prose and other Fat-o-sphere blogs for a couple of months. I’ve mentioned this to a few people, and perpetually get the “But YOU’re not fat!” reactions. Which is kind of true, but I’m sure not skinny. Any suggestions on how to respond?

  9. This is an awesome post!

    I’m an inbetweenie too, currently packing up a bunch of clothes to send back to online retailers because their stupid size charts have NO RELATION to reality and I never ever learn my lesson about trusting those numbers. Sigh. I am going to be really cold, really soon.

    (Incidentally, does anyone want a bunch of Avenue stuff in size 18/20? I have, like, four pairs of pants and a trenchcoat going cheap over here.)

    Fuzzyoctopus, we sound like total body twins, right down to the hobbit feet and calves. I’d like to think my feet are big so I won’t wobble, but I am always losing my balance.

  10. (Ahh! Photo! What is that doing there??? Is this a new wordpress function I ignored because I haven’t updated my blog in eons?)

  11. lucizoe, the Fatshionista community over on LiveJournal has sales post Fridays every week, where members can post clothing for sale. Maybe you could sell your stuff there.

    As a solidly plus size woman (my size is always the first one Lane Bryant sells out in), I definitely don’t know what it’s like to be an inbetweenie, but I think that in at least one regard I have it a little easier, as someone mentioned above. I don’t have that thing where I feel like if I could just lose a few pounds I’d be thin. It’s kind of freeing. Even in my pre-FA days, I never worried about getting fat, since, hey, already fat! And I’m not tempted to try and make myself look thin, since it’s not gonna happen.

  12. I love this blog. I’m not an in-betweenie myself, but it introduced me to the concept. My mom has been an in-betweenie since she hit menopause and she’s really struggled with it. We both have Racks of Doom with small-to-normal ribcages and overall bone structure, but it’s harder for her. I have a 29-inch ribcage so straight-sized tops still fit over my G-cups, but she has a few more inches in the ribs plus larger breasts so she’s right on that break between the large straight-sizes and the smallest plus-sizes. Proportionally, she also has less in the way of hips+booty than I do, so buying things like suits or dresses is more frustrating for her as she’s about two sizes smaller on the bottom. The genetics here are amazing: looking at my mom and one of her sisters from the neck down is like looking at my grandmother from the neck down. The other three sisters have more subtle versions of the same build. I remember that my grandma always wore a size 12 on the bottom and a 16W on top.

    Mom and I went shopping a few weeks ago, and she was getting really upset while trying on the largest sized tops at her favorite store. All of them fit in the back and shoulders but gaped over the chest. So we went across the walkway to the plus-size sister store, where the smallest sizes fit the chest but were way too big in the shoulders. I could actually see the relief on her face when I told her that I’d heard other women complain that there’s a big gap in sizing between straight and plus sizes. It was like she received validation that she wasn’t crazy. Then she found a cute and stylish sweater in the plus-size store that fit perfectly so she bought it in both colors and was happy. :)

    Hmm. If this science PhD thing doesn’t work out, maybe I’ll keep up with the sewing and start an in-betweenie line. Hmm…

  13. Whoops: “small-to-normal” in the above post should read “small-to-average”. Ah, societal brainwashing at its best. Sorry about that.

  14. I think the problem I run into the most from my family and other pressures is that since I am in between, if I just *tried a little harder* I could get past inbetween and reach that coveted land of thin. I think it’s the idea that sometimes the non-plus sizes are within view.

    Of course, that’s what my family did when I was a size 10, and 8, and 6… and now I’m a size 18 because that’s what dieting does. My mother actually said I should “never give up” only two weeks ago.

    I have sooooo given up.

  15. Another inbetweenie here (longtime lurker, maybe have commented once or twice before – hi everyone!)… I’m a 14, sometimes 16 for my lower half, and a med/large up top. I was at Avenue last week for their pants sale, and there were a few women there who started chatting with me and then said, “but you’re too thin to be shopping here!” Clearly they didn’t notice my hips! In any case, I am sure that they meant it as a compliment, but I was really not sure how to respond because I didn’t want to reinforce the “thin is good” thing by thanking them for saying I was thin – I said something about “well, I shop here because the clothes fit me…” but wasn’t really sure what else to say. It may have come off as defensive, and that wasn’t right either. Anyone have anything better to say in a situation like that?

    And on a positive note, for those of you who have trouble finding boots, I hear you – but that’s another reason I’d go to Avenue. I tried on several pairs of knee-high boots that all had no trouble with my calves, and most had plenty of room to spare for people with even larger calves than mine. They’re only size 8 & up, so those with smaller feet may have to look elsewhere, but for big & wide feet, it’s definitely worth checking out. They sell online, too.

  16. *tries to unscramble brain*

    There are two reasons I don’t comment on this blog a whole lot, even though it is by far one of my favorites, and is the one I consistently get the most reality/comfort from –

    The first is that I don’t want to, uh, take up a lot of space (hmm) because I’m small. Ish. Right now and for the last few years. Depending on context and who you ask .

    The second is just because I always follow the links to other/older SP posts, read them all, and then my head is so full I have no idea what it was I wanted to say or ask or note.

    So – this one, Sweet Machine, and Kate’s linked ‘You’re Not Fat,’ meant a lot to me today. Thank you both. I’m so glad to be seeing these older posts, many of which I missed before I was an SP junkie.

    These two posts were super-timely for me today, too. I just went shopping yesterday (which always is a borderline traumatizing thing for any number of possible reasons, and usually several), and got the thing I always get from the outside, and the things I always get from the inside – and it got me all psycho. I think I’ll write something about this inside/outside/language and perception thing soon (election permitting).

    Thanks again, SP writers & commenters. You maketh me saner.

  17. Thanks for reposting this, Kate, and thanks to SweetMachine for writing it in the first place. I just wanted to add/echo what FA has meant for me, as a thin person.

    I was introduced to Shapely Prose by a friend, and it spoke to the dissonance I felt (but couldn’t articulate) between how our culture talks about size and my own experience. Although I think I *knew* that there wasn’t much difference between my “lifestyle” and that of my fat friends, I’d never thought critically about why they were fat and I was thin, if we pretty much ate the same and got the same amount of exercise.

    So, SP and FA helped me re-examine my assumptions about diet, exercise and fat. It also introduced me to the idea of being an “ally,” and has helped me take baby steps towards acting as an ally – on a number of fronts, including FA.

  18. The more we all get to be visible without apologizing for our bodies, the more just our culture is.

    Now that right there is a bit of right on truthfulness.

  19. “Fat activists are trying to create a world in which thinness is not assumed to be the default goal for every woman and man. That’s a world I want to live in.”

    Me too, me too!!

    Oh, SM, this whole post is so articulate and clear and smart and heartfelt..you just said it all SO WELL. Thank you for reposting this. I haven’t been here very long at all and I had never seen it before. It’s as brilliant and resonant a summing up of fat acceptance as any I have read.

    I’m an in-betweenie, too. I am traditionally a size 14, but just lately I’ve realized that 16 is a very lovely size too, and doesn’t feel tight or uncomfortable, and, actually, maybe I will start permanently identifying with that size now. Five months ago, I barely knew it existed, which seems.. insane.

    Okay, but. I have a question. And I feel like apologizing, as always, and saying that, well, I am NEW to all this, and it has literally blown my mind..

    Okay, so, I was walking the dog just now, and letting my mind wander, and doing random thought association, and this is what I ended up with:

    If someone could give me a magic pill with no side effects, or maybe wave a magic wand over me, and suddenly make me 125 pounds again, with NO health repurcussions… I would say no. Thank you, but no. I think that’s the real, honest truth, and with a full awareness of how much ‘hotter’ that would make me in society’s eyes.. but, no, my answer would really, truly, honestly be “no”. And the reason… well, I just wouldn’t look like ME anymore. It would change me too much. My beauteous clothes would no longer fit. And.. for ME, just for me and how I feel… that’s just too damn small. I’ve been that weight. That was when I was eating one or two meals a day, and walking obsessively for hours every day, and, plus, although society was constantly patting me on the back for how good I looked (I had small hips, a flat stomach and big boobs) .. I just know, for me, it was just too damn small. For others, it might not be.. but I just wouldn’t feel like ‘me’ anymore, you know?

    Okay, but THEN.. just as I was patting myself on the back for how evolved I’ve become .. I happened to think, okay, what if the same magic wand wafted over me could make me, say, 150 pounds? (Just for reference, I’m about 175 now, maybe a bit more). Okay, and I am VERY clear that I would not be willing to be ill or to suffer in any way to be 150 lbs… but if it could be done painlessly and safely, with a nice little magic wand waft, would I say yes?

    Yes, I am deeply afraid that I would. That surprised me. My reasoning, I think, is that .. well, I would still look like ME at that weight. I wouldn’t look all THAT different… and my clothes might still fit… at least I hope they would… they would just be all drapey and non-pully and easy to put on…

    I would look like ME, but … better? A little photoshopped? A little more streamlined?

    Okay, but then… before I had a chance to beat myself up about that, I thought… okay, but would I put any energy into finding that magic wand? Would I spend money on it… expend physical effort… suffer?

    Nope. No, no, no, I would not. And, actually, even if it was just offered to me freely… well, I might end up saying yes, but I would have a few misgivings. And actually, the closer the magic wand amount would get to my real, actual weight, the more comfortable I would be. Like, if I could choose between a magic wand that would make me 150 lbs, and one that would make me 160, hmm, I think I would probably choose the 160. But then, I would still say ‘yes’ to the 160.

    Maybe I just want to have my cake and eat it too. Lol.

    Okay, what about you all? If you had the magic wand, and could choose a socially ‘ideal’ weight, or one closer to your real weight but just a bit lower, or decline the magic wand option altogether, what would you do?

    Oh, but sorry, I don’t mean to hijack the thread… so please disregard if this is a stupid question or if it’s not kosher to pose one.

    And, I apologize about my seeming inability to write a short post!

  20. @sniper re: I have sooooo given up.

    You haven’t given up, you’ve quit giving in.
    Completely different. Ones a failure, the other’s a triumph.

  21. I have been an in-betweenie and I know it sucks. I think I felt worse about myself then than I did when I became a size 22/24 and hadn’t yet adopted size acceptance.

    I also “gave up” and feel great and have never looked back. It was sooo freeing to leave all the dieting and exercising for the sake of weight loss behind. I now strive to eat for health and the betterment of the planet which I feel way better about than focusing on my size, which now seems kind of selfish and narcissistic.

    I like the magic wand question, actually. It’s so tempting to go there, if only for the acceptance of society at large. Way easier than changing society at large, certainly. But what’s easy isn’t what’s needed, so, I’d have to forgo waving that little wand.

    For whatever good or ill it does, I’ll remain fat and unapologetic.

  22. Oh, but sorry, I don’t mean to hijack the thread… so please disregard if this is a stupid question or if it’s not kosher to pose one.

    No, Mara, it’s a great question! In fact, it’s about to become a post.

  23. I enjoy your blog and have added you to my blog roll. I especially enjoyed this post about how society perceives fat people. I agree with you 100% . Keep up the good work.

    Rahat

  24. another inbetweenie here, wears a size 12-14, used to be a size 10-12 until had a baby and turned 40.

    i appreciate shapely prose so much because it gave me a completely different way of looking at myself and my body, and our society.

  25. Thank you for linking that, SM! That was another brilliantly articulate post.

    I know this is far from being an original thought, but I do think it’s very distressing how often the fantasies of women in our society do revolve around what they would like to look like. Or, no, wait. I shouldn’t assume all or even most women do that. But I know there was a time, when I was just a bit younger, that pretty much all my fantasies revolved around that. Now, interestingly, none of them do. I just realized that. Nowadays, I fantasize about: Things I would like to buy, places I would like to go, and people who live far away from me (but whom I love dearly) whom I would like to see.

    “No, Mara, it’s a great question! In fact, it’s about to become a post.”

    Well, I would be very honored if that were to happen!

  26. But I know there was a time, when I was just a bit younger, that pretty much all my fantasies revolved around that. Now, interestingly, none of them do. I just realized that. Nowadays, I fantasize about: Things I would like to buy, places I would like to go, and people who live far away from me (but whom I love dearly) whom I would like to see.

    I think perhaps younger girls and women tend to fantasize about looking different because our worlds are rather limited. We experience life through our classmates (usually aka hell on earth) and through popular media. That’s definitely going to skew a girl’s perception of how she looks and how she thinks she should look. It doesn’t help that boys at that age are often such cowards that they are afraid to admit they might like girls who don’t look like the latest Hollywood starlet. Once you’re an adult and you can move behind the restrictive high school life, the world opens up and you see that not everything fits into that narrow range of high school-approved appearance and behavior.

    When I was a teen, I wanted nothing more than to be six inches taller, with smaller breasts, a smaller nose, naturally blond hair and blue eyes, and to be one of those personalities who instantly knows how to be the popular queen bee. I’m 30 now and so glad I’ve moved beyond that. I wouldn’t mind the smaller breasts because bra shopping would be SO much easier, but beyond that- I’d love to travel Europe, devote more time to singing in chamber choirs, learn to cook like a gourmet chef, make most of my own clothing, etc. Hopefully I’ll have time to do that when I’ve finished this PhD (yet another dream I’m working on fulfilling).

  27. this was fascinating to read, especially since i missed it the first time around. I once had a fat-acceptance chica say to me in a very patronizing tone “what are you, a size 14?” There was unmistakable vitriol in that question and i remember it to this day. I’ve been 140lbs, and 255lbs, currently residing on the higher end of in between those two. I hugely relate to where sweet machine talks about being ostracized for my size at times and being given a free pass at other times. Its offending both ways. And it’s confusing. It’s like the child with the emotionally volatile, inconsistent parent from whom you never know what to expect: so you avoid, or wallow in fear or hostility regardless of wether it’s kindness or abuse being heaped upon you. That’s what current society feels like to me and the reactions it illicits are identical. One second I’m being praised for my tiny waist and ‘hourglass figure’ (whoever decided that was better than other body shapes forgot to send the memo to me) and at other times being told I’m a damn cow or being harassed on the street.
    I often feel like an outsider with my body status when I’m at lane bryant and none of their clothes are proportioned to fit me (torrid does though, so huzzah) and whoever working at the store rolls their eyes at me when i ask if they happen to have a size 12 in stock…..i feel equally shitty at trash and vaudeville, finding the sickest black courdroy leopard print pants and then being told they only go upto a juniors size 13, but i could try my luck at the mens section..
    It’s all just frustrating sometimes. I’ve learnt to have a ‘ftw, i’m happy with what i look like’ attitude but really, honestly, always anticipating hostility keeps me from accepting any EXTERNAL positive feedback about my body. It’s hard to do that/ actually believe it when there’s so much contradiction going on. In harlem I’m the hottest shit to walk the earth, in a lower east-side hipster bar I’m atrociously big. How can I accept the compliments when i just as easily get negative feedback? I understand it’s all subjective, but polarizing people/views seem to come with being an ‘in betweenie’ and it kind of sucks a lot of the time.

  28. HOKAY. Now posting this in the correct post (yay multi-tab web reading!)

    Mara, whoa, the thinking you’ve made me do.

    Despite the hugenormous strides I’ve made thanks to all of you wonderful people, if I had the choice, and someone offered me that wand and said, “we can make you 110, heck, 120, with zero negative side effects, also, you won’t have to starve yourself to maintain it the way you used to have to,” I’d take it. I’d give them an entire paycheck for it. Even if they left the slight chubbiness in my face and thighs and upper arms and would only take away my not-at-all-slightly chubby stomach, I would do it. I don’t even know if I’d hesitate.

    That was an embarrassing realization for me to come to. I still have such a long way to go. But at least I’m getting somewhere! YAY! Six months ago I’d be talking about how disgusting I am. Am I still disgusted? Yes, more often than I care to admit. But now I finally am able to understand that that is the result of social training. I as a physical being am NOT inherently disgusting.

    And now sometimes I can look in the mirror and preen, and like what I see, and tell people without irony or shame that I am pretty. I could not do that when I was socially-acceptably thin and convinced I was horribly fat, and not only that but fat was the worst thing I could be looks-wise. But I can do it now.

    To all the people who say “size 14 is average and if you’re a 14 you’re not fat (implication: you’re faking it you whiner),” I want to scream and hit my head against the wall in their general direction, and then show them a picture of me and let them decide how “NOT fat” I am. The people at work who tell me how I’m not fat when I say I am? Drives me nuts. I’m not putting myself down, I’m stating a fact. Don’t tell me you got sudden onset blindness just because I’m in this dumpy apron. My gut is completely unmistakable.

    I want to show them a full-on side-view in my undies pic, maybe even seated. My stomach, compared to the rest of me, looks like one of those Highlights “what does not belong in this picture?” puzzles. I’m five feet and an inch or two (depending on which doctor’s office measures me) and not built particularly heavy. Yeah, a size 14 that sits mostly on one’s tummy is pretty freaking fat at that height and build. My body is not put together in a shape that warrants accolades or hell, even an acceptance pass, let alone clothes that fit.

    But I want to yell at the whole world (including me) to GET OVER IT. It’s harder when people keep denying it to me like that, as if my experience as a fat person is invalid. Or, like some of the people in my family, who act like it’s such a huge deal and something bad that I MUST FIX AS I AM BROKEN. Either way, it treats my fat like something of great shame. I wish it could just be something that IS, with no qualifiers. Not “you’re fat BUT,” or “you’re fat AND,” just, “you’re fat.” No. Big. Deal.

    Maybe someday we’ll get there. Maybe someday.

    In the meantime, this pretty much seems to be the ONLY place I can go where anyone but me wants that or even remotely understands that.

  29. Oh, SugarLeigh. You’re giving me lots of food for thought, too. I can certainly relate to this:

    “And now sometimes I can look in the mirror and preen, and like what I see, and tell people without irony or shame that I am pretty. I could not do that when I was socially-acceptably thin and convinced I was horribly fat, and not only that but fat was the worst thing I could be looks-wise. But I can do it now.”

    For much of the time that I was socially-acceptable thin- for me, that was at about 120 to 125 pounds, and I was that weight, give or take, for about ten years – 15 – 25 – for much of that time, my weight was, in my mind, a horrible problem to be solved. My mother reinforced that. I think she has/had eating issues of her own. One thing that blows my mind is that, when I was about the age my daughter is now (16), my mother suggested that she and I should go on the cabbage soup diet together – a diet which promised that we would lose 17 pounds in 10 days.. or maybe it was a week .. I do remember the 17 pound promise, though. A 17 pound weight loss would have put me at a little over 100 pounds. I would have been .. well, scarily emaciated at that weight. And yet, this is what my MOTHER was suggesting, as a drastic solution to the ‘problem’ of my weight.

    Maybe being closer to a social ideal actually makes it harder, increases pressure?

    I think at some point… and it took me a very long time, but at some point… I stopped looking outward for external cues as to what I ‘should’ look like, and started looking inward to what I wanted.. what I wanted it to feel like. Here’s what I know:

    I want to wear clothes that are comfortable and fit right and that are an expression of my style. When I was conventionally thin, ironically enough, I spent a lot of time in ill-fitting clothes. I think I was always trying to squeeze into a size smaller than I really needed. Or maybe it was a form of self-punishment. Who knows. Now, thanks largely to what I’ve seen on fatshionista, and to the fact that I have let sizes larger than 14 into my world, that ‘wish’ has been granted. Yes, I know the fact that I can find clothes that fit me makes me .. priveleged. I know that’s not the case for everyone. It’s a random blessing from the universe, and one that I’m happy to have. When I was 125 pounds, I thought I ‘couldn’t’ wear jeans.. that they just weren’t made to fit my body. Even as recently as last year, I thought I ‘couldn’t’ wear leggings. I’m just thankful that I realized I was wrong on both counts.

    I want the ‘right’ to have three decent-sized, good tasting meals a day without feeling that some of the foods are ‘bad’ and that, in any case, I should eat as little of them, or of anything, as possible. This is a big deal for me. My mother… whom I don’t blame, because I know she had issues of her own… was constantly limiting my eating, from the earliest age. Like, seriously, from the age of about 2. The ‘three square meals’ concept is one that .. well, that I didn’t really have, growing up. I knew that others did… and that they could eat without the ideal being eating LESS.. and I wanted what those others had. And now.. well, it took me a LONG time, and there is still part of me that feels I’m being ‘good’ if I skip a meal.. but now, for the most part, I can have my regular meals. No restriction, no guilt.

    I want not to feel that I’m endangering my health. That was the last missing puzzle piece for me. Even after I accepted what I looked like, I still had that little niggling feeling that it just isn’t ‘healthy’ to be fat. Kate’s post on that topic was very, very illuminating. It’s wonderful to have worry removed.

    And, finally, I want all those other things that pretty much everyone wants – love, friendship, rewarding work, fun times, self-expression. These things are NOT about weight.. none of them… but I think I used to think that they were, once upon a time. I think, for example, when I was afraid of being fat… it wasn’t that I was afraid of the actual amount of flesh on my bones. I think I was afraid that I wouldn’t be loved, because of it…or that I wouldn’t ever be beautiful to anyone, or that I wouldn’t get to do the things I wanted to do, because I was just too damn fat (at 125 pounds). I am older and wiser now, and take it from me, NONE of those things are about weight. Sexiness isn’t about weight, either.

    So, where that leaves me is… if I can have all those things I wanted anyway, and if I can have them without losing a single pound, because it was NEVER ABOUT THAT.. well, then the motivation to be thin, magic-wand-induced or not, sort of disappears. I just think… well, if I was thin, I wouldn’t look like ME, I’d have to buy new clothes, I’d get all kinds of attention I don’t want, because that’s what society is like.. nah, I just don’t want that.

    Okay, you know what I really think? I think we women have been sold a bill of goods. I think we have been told over and over that, yes, we can be out in the world and achieve things, BUT, what still matters most of all, what we will be judged on the basis of, is what we look like. And I think that as long as we’re influenced by that, weight, and weight acceptance, will be a struggle. We may win or we may lose, but we will struggle.

    Maybe we need to…get selfish. Look inward… what do WE want, rather than what does society want us to be?

    And then, do those things we want really have anything to do with weight? I mean, maybe in some cases they do. If I aspired to be a ballerina, or a jockey, I guess I’d have to lose a bit of weight. But I don’t really aspire to those things. As it turns out, weight actually has very little to do with any of the things I actually want.

    I just wish I had known that when I was 20, you know?

  30. “In harlem I’m the hottest shit to walk the earth, in a lower east-side hipster bar I’m atrociously big. How can I accept the compliments when i just as easily get negative feedback? ”

    bolod, what that tells me is.. it’s ALL bullshit. Or, well, it’s all relative. There IS no reliable appearance-based feedback system. I think that can be potentially empowering as well as frustrating. It’s like… the mirror’s broken, anyway. So we might as well stop looking in it, and look to other things which ARE reliable.

    When I’m feeling anxious about money, I just remind myself that money is all relative, too, as anyone who has traveled will know. There’s just no consistency at all between what your money will buy in one country v. another. I don’t quite know why, but somehow that can be a comforting thought. I guess because it means.. well, it’s not that I’M crazy and dysfunctional.. the whole system is. We just cannot look for all our cues outside of ourselves. ‘Outside’ is just not reliable, and I don’t think it ever has been or ever will be.

  31. Let’s get the stats out of the way. I’m a size 2-4*, 110lbs. And every day all I want to do is get smaller, and bonier, and erase every curve and squishy bit. Every day I chastise myself for being thin but not having huge cleavage. FA and HAES is invaluable for those of us with eating disorders.

    *Clothing sizess aren’t standardised. Problem!

  32. As a solidly plus size woman (my size is always the first one Lane Bryant sells out in), I definitely don’t know what it’s like to be an inbetweenie, but I think that in at least one regard I have it a little easier, as someone mentioned above. I don’t have that thing where I feel like if I could just lose a few pounds I’d be thin. It’s kind of freeing. Even in my pre-FA days, I never worried about getting fat, since, hey, already fat! And I’m not tempted to try and make myself look thin, since it’s not gonna happen.

    This is basically me too. You look at me, and you know I’m fat. There’s no denying it. I do feel that being a size 26/28 (who has no qualms going up to a 30/32 if I know I’ll have more wiggle room) but can also fit into 22/24 in some things, I don’t feel pressure to get thinner, because in a lot of people’s eyes, I’m already too heavy to be dealt with, that I’m “beyond help.” Where if I were a 14/16/18, I might have people tell me I would look even better if I was smaller than that. Even if I lost 100 lbs, I’d still be fat and considered obese by the medical community. So I try and be positive and work with the body I’ve got, rather than the body that the majority (especially men looking for more jerk-off fodder) want me to be. Of course, for my health don’t you know.

  33. I don’t even have words!

    Well, I do, I’m a liar. I live in Australia, and I’m not sure exactly how the sizes correspond, but basically our smallest size is a 6, and then sizes go up in twos – 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26… etc.

    Sizes 8-16 seem to be considered “normal”, but it really does depend on the shop. A lot of shops like Valley Girl, Ice, Temt, Dotti, etc, cater for a 6-14, and larger stores such as City Chic (pretty much the only larger store I’ve heard of for women that consistently caters to those under the age of 50. Autograph exists, but it is very hit and miss) claim to go from 14 up, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything smaller than an 18 in pants – and their shirts are all Xs-XXXXL or something, which makes comparision REALLY hard.

    Having said that: I seem to normally be an 18 in pants (going up to a 20, 22, and in one case a 24, which terrifies me, which I am ashamed of), and a 14-16 in tops. It can be really hard to shop for clothes – I’m 20 years old – that are right for my shape, my size, and my age, especially because most “normal” stores stop before I can buy pants, and I have trouble finding plus sized places to buy pants that are actually stylish.

    I feel whiny saying this… But I /do/ feel the pressure to lose weight, especially from my mother. She was diagnosed with diabetes last year, and she gets on all our backs to lose weight. She makes me feel uncomfortable and just.. well, fat.

    I have never been skinny, and I struggle all the time with the concept of HAES and FA, especially while my mother and my government are ramming the message down my throat that fat is unhealthy and unattractive.

    Anyway: Thank you, Kate and Sweet Machine, for being awesomepants.

Comments are closed.