Love at Too High a Cost

I'm ok you're okI often get messages from people who are looking for help because their friend or family member has done something that hurt them.  Maybe they were fat shamed at a family dinner, or a friend who they thought understood size acceptance posted a fat phobic Facebook meme.  Sometimes it’s a friend or family member who challenges them every time they post something size positive.

I think it’s important to remember that Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size are revolutionary movements.  If you espouse these things then at some point you are almost certain to meet resistance from someone in your life, maybe lots of people in your life. How you handle it is completely up to you and there are lots of options.

I have one friend who ended a friendship because the person posted a fatphobic Facebook meme again – after they had a conversation about how much those things upset her.

I have another friend whose boyfriend believes that to be healthy you have to be thin and doesn’t support her HAES practice at all.  He also tells her that he loves her for who she is “in spite of how she looks.”  I asked how she made that work and she said that they just “agree to disagree on the whole fat thing”

For me it comes down to a basic question.  One of my favorite songs is Defying Gravity from Wicked.  One of my favorite lines from that song is “Well, if that’s love it comes at much too high a cost.”   I always think of that lyric when this kind of situation comes up in my life.  I ask myself – at what cost to myself am I willing to maintain this relationship?

It may differ from relationship to relationship – for some people the concept of family is so important that they are willing to deal with poor treatment because the person is their mother – that’s totally reasonable.  I’ve never been like that – I have a threshold of respect and if people can’t meet that threshold then they don’t get to be in my life no matter who they are.  Anything else it just too high a cost for me.

In my dating days I had a number of criteria that were deal killers if they weren’t met – for example the person had to be supportive of my size acceptance practice, love me for my body and not in spite of it, and not give money to organizations (including churches) that actively tried to limit people’s civil rights legislatively.  I have friends who didn’t meet all those criteria and I was ok with that – that wasn’t too high a cost, but dating someone who didn’t meet those criteria was just too emotionally expensive.  I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I may have missed out on dating some incredible people, but for me it has all worked out in the end.

My point is that, as a revolutionary, there will be situations to negotiate with people who don’t get it, and you get to decide how to negotiate those situations and, like so many other things, it’s nobody else’s business how you do it.

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13 thoughts on “Love at Too High a Cost

  1. Well, what have we here? Another completely brilliant piece of thinking in words. Under the calmness there’s a sort of vibrating sheet of steel. Just brilliant! Again. Again and again and again.

  2. As soon as I saw the title of your post, the song started going through my head! Was so psyched to see the reference, one of my faves too. I agree completely with this post, and feel so fortunate that most of the people in my life are either willing to get on-board with HAES or at least have the respect to mind their own beeswax. I can’t imagine being with someone who loves me “in spite of” my body. That’s so sad, for so many reasons.

  3. One of the things that gets hard for me as a fat acceptance advocate is the fact that Mr. Twistie’s best friends in the world – the friends we see the most of, who are in and out of our home nearly every day – are the most fat-phobic people I know. I love them dearly, but they tell me of every tiny dip or rise in their weight, constantly inform me of why people are so damn much fatter now than they were ten years ago, urge me to drink sodas (which I’ve never been a big fan of, for the most part, anyway, in fifty years on this earth) assuring me they’re diet, try to tempt me with no-fat, lo-calorie ice cream for dessert, and shake their heads in sorrow and disdain when someone they know falls off the wagon and eats a donut.

    These people have known me for over thirty years. They know I’m a total dessert snob who mostly eats her own baking. Or at least they ought to. They ought to know that I avoid artificial sweeteners because I dislike the metallic aftertaste I detect with most of them. You’d think they would know by now that I prefer mineral water or fruit juice to soda – diet or not. One might have sussed out in all that time that even before I joined the FA revolution tales of other people’s weight struggles bored me to tears and back again.

    It grates and there are times when I just want to set my hair on fire listening to them… and yet they will be in my life as long as we’re all here. They’re good people who are there for us in every crisis, and who are happy to share any good fortune that comes their way. They may be blind to a lot of things about me concerning food, but they get my sense of humor and go out of their way to do nice things for me. They remember that I’m nuts about Oz… but only the book versions. They know how much we love cats and Star Trek and obscure old movies. We share a lot of history. If I need a ride somewhere or Mr. Twistie is depressed, these are the people we turn to first… and we rarely have to turn to anyone else. And when they need a hand, they know they have only to ask. If it lies within our power to help, we will. If it doesn’t, we’ll help them find it elsewhere.

    Sometimes human relationships just aren’t as cut and dried as we might like them to be. And, as Regan points out, we’re the odd ones out. We’re the revolutionaries. We’re the only ones who can decide which relationships cost too much, and which we can still afford.

    I have a brother I’ve cut entirely out of my life for a variety of reasons. I can’t afford him.

    These people… the cost is sometimes high, but they’re staying.

    1. I like that last line. I’m in very minimal contact with my own brother because I realised his presence in my life was extremely stressful, and that he considered me the Fat Failure of a Sister Who Never Grew Up.

      Revolutionaries don’t always have to shout and wave swords, though. Sometimes merely holding your ground is an act of rebellion and strength. I spent the last week in the company of a totally awesome woman who is possibly the strongest person I’ve ever known, and she made a remark about “No matter how much I eat or exercise, I stay the same size–heavy”, and I simply said, “I dunno…I love my body. I think people with big personalities like us need a big body to house them in. I wouldn’t dream of changing it!”

      Simply saying, “Nope, I refuse to be ashamed of my body…” in the face of the Thin Mindset of the nation can scramble circuits pretty fast! Not always, but it certainly derails the hate train. “Wait, what? You’re FAT! You’re SUPPOSED to agree with me when I tell you your body is unacceptable to everyone! How on earth can you love your body?? AUUUUGH!! *fizzz* *pop*”

      Then again, I’ve lived my life doing what I wasn’t supposed to and succeeding anyway…!

      1. I tend to see the disproportionate targeting of women for fat-shaming as a demand that women not take up space. Particularly in public. It’s the same mentality that won’t let me be assertive without being a b**** (and then blames me for not being assertive too).

        1. I, too, see a disproportionate targeting of women for fat-shaming. More women are abused in this way than men. I think there’s no question about that. But I will always remember the fat boy in my grade in elementary school who was taunted and humiliated and shamed and physically attacked by other boys in our grade. Howard was a sweet, smart, shy boy with a dear dear face and a big blocky body that always looked huggable and wonderful to me. I can’t figure out if I was a fat kid. It seems that sometimes I was and sometimes I wasn’t. But finally I couldn’t stand seeing Howard being bullied like that any more and I got mad and I got physical. I literally threw three of the bullying boys into the thorn bushes that were all over the place. They were shocked that a GIRL would do that, they were shocked that I would do that, they were hurt. Badly. Not the kind that cripples you or lasts, but damned! those thorns hurt. And while they tried to disentangle themselves I ranted about what creeps they were. “Creeps” was the word in my girlhood that people use “asshole” today to refer to the same certain undesirable characteristics.

          1. But — in terms of fat shaming being %-wise more targeted at women that is true. It is one of the weapons of violence against women. I deal with fat shaming as wife abuse, domestic violence, in two of my books. One is The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe: And Other Stories of Women and Fatness (The Women’s Stories Project) by Susan Koppelman and the other is
            Women in the Trees: U.S. Women’s Short Stories About Battering and Resistance, 1839-2000 (American Women’s Stories Project) (Bargain Price)
            by Susan Koppelman (Editor) , Alix Kates Shulman (Foreword)

            And fat shaming is, at least in part, a continuation of the traditional patriarchal practice of men being in charge of how much nutrition the women who “belong” to him get. Women have been and are now being starved, in some parts of the world being fattened, but wherever we are most of us learn to expect our bodies to become the source of humiliation, shame, dissatisfaction. Foot binding, clitoral excision, starving of women, beating of women, it’s all the same old story, no love or glory, just pain and shame and misery as time goes by.

  4. Hi Regan, I get a ‘message from God’ every day and I think this one is especially apropos to your wonderfully written blog today.

    Today, Carol, we believe God wants you to know … that you are beautiful. Even when you feel ugly or depressed or guilty or ashamed, there is an inner spark in you which is light. This light is your beauty. This light is your reflection of God. You are a child of God, thus you are beautiful.

    Too ALL of us AND all of ‘them’, we are all beautiful because we have that ‘God light’ in us, however we chose to interpret that.

    Just wanted to share! Carol

  5. I’ve said often that as a bisexual, anti-dieting, Libertarian atheist if I couldn’t “agree to disagree” I’d have about 3 people to talk to in this world. I absolutely understand that paradigm shifts are HUGE. In fact, I studied this entire concept at length in one of my undergrad anthropology courses, so I already knew, before I adopted the HAES/Intuitive Eating approach that any sort of “outside the box” thinking could create some very serious controversy.

    To be honest, I think I’ve taken more shit for saying “I will not diet. Diets don’t work and it’s tremendously damaging to me to diet” than I have for saying “I don’t believe in god.” Which is really telling to me, about just how deeply entrenched in our culture and minds this dieting nonsense has become. It’s also pretty damn sad. I may no longer understand belief in a deity, but it’s at least something with meaning.

    I respect a person’s right to believe. Whether that’s in diets or gods is irrelevant. I can absolutely be friends with believers.

    Here’s where it gets tricky. Belief in god is about faith. Faith doesn’t require “proof,” and in fact it’s pretty much irrelevant if there IS proof. There’s plenty of proof that diets simply do not work, but so many of the fat phobes I’ve met refuse to see that proof. When someone chooses to remain ignorant, or entrenched in bigotry, that becomes problematic for me. If you want to diet in spite of the science, that’s fine. You have that right to try to be part of the 5% it works for… but if you insist “eating in moderation” and “exercising regularly” will make anyone who wants it – and doesn’t have some rare, serious medical issue – thin… that’s a problem for me.

    Recently my dear friend said on a social network that she’s sick of people assuming fat = unhealthy and thin = healthy. She’s “overweight” and eats a very healthy, balanced diet. She, like so many of us, resent people making assumptions about us based on sight alone. Someone had the gall to say “you can find a health smoker, too… doesn’t mean it’s healthy to smoke.” That escalated into a conversation that basically went like this, “but smoking is a choice…” and then “so is body size.” Uhm. No.

    That person already had annoyed me on thread I’d created of my own about my size acceptance journey and I linked to articles in respectable journals, but the person insisted the evidence was flawed. There was no reasoning with her, and so after considering it for several days I simply decided to delete her. We weren’t especially close, and I just don’t need people who are that judgmental in my life.

    It’s a case-by-case basis, but my threshold for deliberate ignorance and bigotry is pretty damn low… and lowering all the time.

    1. People love the simplicity of calories in – calories out. I hope one day we see that as being about as absurd as a geocentric universe. And do studies to understand what drives metabolism changes.

      If anything, I think that dieting practices (going hungry, fake sugars) may push our bodies to gain weight; in nature the long term process is optimized for survival in a world where people who didn’t eat when hungry were unable to access enough food. But that’s just my faith talking, not proof.

      (I’d also love to see study results that could isolate the parenting attitudes about cleaning your plate. But that seems hard to set up. Well, at least if you want an ethical board to okay it.)

      In general I don’t talk much about believing that dieting practices cause long-term gain, because it’s hard to do without potentially sounding like the skinny friend saying ‘well if you just did this’ when I mean ‘I think our entire model for this is jacked up and if diets were a drug they’d have been pulled from the market’.

      You did the fact-checking though.

      At the point where you are posting peer-reviewed research and someone is saying it’s wrong without explaining what the flaw is? They have about as much credibility as the guy I eventually blocked because I was tired of seeing posts about how the govt is using chemtrails to drug everyone into being sheeple and wake up.

  6. Yeah… My grandmother asked me not two hours after my sister’s funeral last year if I was pregnant because I “Look[ed] five months pregnant.” She then turned to the rest of my family for confirmation. My mother in law was less than pleased.

  7. it’s annoying when you see relatives you haven’t spoken to or seen in quite a while; and when you finally do they immediately take on a patronising attitude telling you what you should and should not eat or what you need to do. I remember during a family get together, during lunch, i was approached by my aunt and she announced: “this, is the last time your eating that..”…..i was like 24…it really ticked me off.

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