Used To Be Thin
It does seem sometimes as though only fat people have caught on to the idea that there is not a size prerequisite for health. This isn’t actually the case — prominent HAES proponent Linda Bacon is quite thin, for instance — but Aunt Fattie can forgive you for thinking that you must perhaps be THIS FAT to ride the HAES bandwagon. As effective as it’s been shown to be, sometimes it feels like we’re the only people who’ve noticed.
But that doesn’t mean we’re the only people who can practice it. Health at Every Size means health at every size; HAES is, quite simply, the idea that there is no weight limit on living as healthfully as you are able. Lose the acronym, and the question about qualifying becomes absurdly simple: Is there a set of things that are salutary for your body? Are you a size? All right, you’re in.
But you, Used to Be Thin, you aren’t really asking for permission to practice Health at Every Size. You’re asking for permission to diet. You are hoping that Aunt Fattie will applaud your “meal plan” and say that of course you should continue and intensify it until you’re the weight you’ve decided must be natural for you. You’re hoping Aunt Fattie will give you dispensation to second-guess and deprive your body. And Aunt Fattie is hoping that on some level you know perfectly well that she is going to say no such thing, and are really secretly hoping to be told to cut it out. Because that is what she is going to tell you.
Your current weight (16 pounds heavier than your highest “before” weight, I might add, not 30) may indeed be a natural weight for you, no matter what you’d like to believe; if the caution that you threw to the winds includes that calorie restriction you’re so keen to get back to, you may have been well below your set range before. You’re also not 20 anymore, and our bodies tend to change as we grow older. The important thing is this: you don’t get to decide that your weight surely cannot be right or natural. That’s something your body will decide — your choice is only whether to spend your life fighting its decision.
The healthy weight for your body is the weight it becomes when you treat it healthily, and that six months when you were eating whatever you wanted may be the closest you’ve ever come to that. (Assuming that you were also reasonably active, not binge drinking, etc.) Certainly, your current “very strict” plan does not qualify. Consider your wording: with whom is one “very strict”? With someone one wishes to control, subdue, and punish. You’re never going to stop hating your body that way, even if you did get back down to 120 pounds. When you can let go of the idea that you know better than your body what it needs and what it should look like, you can start treating it in a way that is nourishing and caring rather than “strict” and “restricting.” And perhaps you can even stop thinking of your body as a thing that is separate from you and realize instead that it is you; that’s not a stranger in the mirror.
As for getting used to the way you look — which, yes, might be the way you’re meant to look, the way you’ll continue to look — Shapelings are sure to have suggestions. Here are some tried and true ideas:
- Take lots of pictures of yourself. Better yet, have someone else take them. Throw out all the ones you don’t like, or trust a friend to cull them before you even have to look at them. Look at the ones you do like, a lot.
- Practice seeing the beauty in women of all sizes, even when you can’t see it in yourself.
- Buy (or keep buying) beautiful clothes that fit, and get rid of clothes that don’t fit. Dressing for the body you have will make you feel more at home in it, rather than feeling like you’re waiting to move into a better place.
You qualify for HAES — everyone does. But only if you can call a ceasefire on fighting yourself.
If you’ve got your own questions on fat, fatshion, fatiquette, self-esteem, or body image, send them to email@example.com.