We live in a world where people think personal responsibility for fat people means that we should feel personally responsible for doing what they think we should do. Eat what they think we should, weigh what they think we should, and act how they think we should, and never be happy until we achieve their goals for us, regardless of what we want. I participated in that for a long time and it never made me thinner, happier, or healthier.
When I first considered doing something other than dieting, generally hating my body, and feeling like the only success that mattered was achieving thinness, I realized that it scared me.
So I wrote out a list of what I was scared would happen if I loved myself exactly as I was and stopped trying lose weight. What I had observed was that you’re often seen as a “Good Fatty” if you are always trying to “do something” about your weight. It’s not that it’s easy to be a good fatty, you still do plenty of bullshit, but in a culture where 8 out of 10 women are dissatisfied with their bodies, at least the Good Fatty gets some support for an endless string of diets and gets some “points for trying”.
But when you choose to stop trying to lose weight and love your body as it is, you’re often seen as a Bad Fatty. You’re costing employers billions of dollars, and ruining health insurance, obviously not taking personal responsibility. Sometimes people who are in the diet cycle and frustrated with their lack of success and how much they hate their bodies are offended by the very existence of people who won’t buy into this cycle. If you’re an “out” Bad Fatty, they will lash out at you. Until you get the hang of it, you might think that this has something to do with you (when in truth of course it’s all about their issues and what you represent to them). At any rate, Bad Fatties do not fit in. (The good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy needs to die, but that’s a whole other blog post.)
Knowing this, I made my list of fears. Things like feeling uncomfortable for being so different, wasting money and time on classes and books that didn’t work, losing friends, getting talked about behind my back, feeling isolated, people not liking me because I wouldn’t play with them in the sandbox of shitty self-esteem any more, even dying an earlier death, and on and on. It was a huge list.
Then I imagined what would happen if everything on the list came true. I mean I took some time to really visualize each of them, really try to feel the pain of each thing.
Then I imagined spending the rest of my life as I had spent it so far – always unhappy with my body, trying diet after diet, feeling like a failure, feeling sick and exhausted all the time, believing what other people told me over what I knew in my mind and gut and heart to be true, trying so hard to be a self-deprecating Good Fatty who made sure everyone knew that I was trying to lose weight so that I could fit in and be accepted, living 100% of the time in a body that I hated.
I realized that the third scenario – the one where the next diet was actually the one that would work, was not scientifically sound. There isn’t a single study in the world where more than a tiny fraction of people succeed, and even those who “succeed” in studies often do so by losing only a couple pounds. There is no study anywhere of people my size becoming and remaining thin. I realized that contemplating diet success was like contemplating surviving a skydiving accident if my parachute didn’t open, some people had done it but that didn’t mean I was going to go jump out of a plane with no chute.
Once I was done contemplating both scenarios the decision was clear. I knew that no matter what it took, I was going to learn to love myself. No matter how many books I had to read, classes I had to take, no matter how weird people thought I was, how many friends I lost, or how long and difficult the road might be I was not going to stop until I got there.
That was the turning point. It wasn’t about how I was going to do it – I had no freaking clue how to get there at the time. But in the moment that I chose to remove myself from diet culture and the self-hatred that came along with it, the moment that I decided to learn to love myself no matter what the hell it took, everything changed.
Now that I’m there, I’m certain that it was worth it. Even though along the way, every single thing on my list of fears happened to me. Some have happened several times. Some happened today. But I have found that when my priority is loving myself and being sure that I am in integrity with me, instead of trying to get everyone to love you by being who they want you to be and taking on their issues as your issues, things shift dramatically.
I received an e-mail today that so inspired me that I had to share it (with the permission of the author). It read, in part:
Recently, I’ve found myself really struggling with body image and acceptance. The pressures to fit in have been mounting, and I found myself reverting back to the easy way out. But what is ‘easy’? The diet pills make me so sick that I throw up, and the over exercising 3 hrs a day leave me in bed aching. After a ridiculous amount of swallowed pills, and feeling disgusted and horrible, I decided to pop in and read a post. Which then turned into two, three, four. I just flushed down the rest of my pills, and have decided to just try my best at being healthy. Healthy thinking, healthy eating, healthy exercising.
How incredibly brave. To me that’s what it’s all about. Realizing that a way of life isn’t serving you, and choosing to start reaching from that dark place for the light. We all live in a seriously screwed up society with tremendous pressure to fit a certain mold, surrounded by people who hate themselves and want us to hate ourselves so that they don’t feel so bad, topped off by an astronomical amount of bad information being thrown at us every day by people trying to sell us stuff. But we can make a different choice. Loving being weird is far better for me than hating fitting in was. It’s a choice and it’s always in my hands (though to be clear that’s one of the privileges of my current neurotypicality). There’s a great quote by Les Brown that I think of when I think of this journey: “No matter how bad it is or how bad it gets, I’m gonna make it!”
So chins up you body-loving fatties and skinnies and in-betweenies, you non-conformists, non-dieters, Size Acceptors, and Health at Every Sizers. And be strong those of you who are on the way there. We are gonna make it.
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