Refusing to Feel Bad

Kelrick and I at the Seattle Marathon finish line with our hard won medals.
Kelrick and I at the Seattle Marathon finish line with our hard won medals.

One of the common tactics that people use to bully fat people – whether it’s for fun or profit – is to make sure that we never feel good about anything – not our bodies, not our achievements, nothing, ever.

One way this is done is by insisting that there is “no excuse” for not prioritizing the manipulation of our body size.  Sometimes this technique is about “aesthetics” (like the way that we choose so many of our singers, actors, dancers, administrative assistants etc. based on their ability to approximate our current stereotype of beauty first and their talent second.) Sometimes it’s used with a side of concern trolling (as in “I’m just concerned about your health so I want to make sure that you hate yourself and never have a moment’s peace, you know, for your own good.)

Another way that this is done is by trying to downplay or negate any and all of our achievements.  You see this a lot with internet trolls on any post where a fat person dares to be successful at something other than weight loss.  What made me think about this today was a series of posts from my trolls on my Facebook trying to make me feel bad about my marathon time, and a series of e-mails that were sent to me depicting pictures of people more flexible than I am, I assume trying to make me feel bad about the fact that I can do the splits and a standing heel stretch? My haters are usually pretty pathetic in their attempts, but I’ve seen it happen time and again to fat people who talk about something that they’ve achieved, that they are excited about, that they are proud of, and the onslaught of trolls insisting that fat people don’t deserve to be happy or proud of anything ends up souring the whole experience.  I’m not interested in giving those kinds of people that kind of power.

I think it’s important to remember that these are people who their bullying and stigmatizing of fat people for profit (people who hate themselves are more likely to buy things that promise they will confer self-love) or because putting other people down makes them feel better about themselves, or for some other reason – it doesn’t really matter why.

There is a solution that I’ve found to be quite effective – I just refuse to feel bad. I’m proud that I finished a marathon, I was dead last, it took me almost 13 hours, and I’m still very proud.  I’m proud of my splits and standing heel stretch and the fact that there are people who are more flexible than I am doesn’t take away from that.  I almost always round up my age, weight, and marathon time just to subvert the message that I should want all three of those numbers to be as low as possible.

Knowing that we live in a world that bullies, stigmatizes, and oppresses fat people I make the conscious choice that I don’t care how many messages I get that I shouldn’t love or take pride in my body until it looks a certain way, I love my body, I’m proud of my body and I’m never, ever going to let anyone harm that relationship, and I’m proud of my achievements.

We may not be able to stop people from trying to shame, stigmatize and bully us, but we don’t have to buy what they’re selling, and by refusing to care what they say or think we take away their power.  So the next time you find yourself in a situation where someone is trying to make you feel like crap, maybe try this little mantra “I see what you’re doing, and I refuse to feel bad.”

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14 thoughts on “Refusing to Feel Bad

    1. Exactly. Go, Ragen, Go! 😀 Finishing a marathon is finishing a marathon, regardless of who does it. So proud of you, Ragen.

  1. Y’know, my minister yesterday used a quote that’s stuck with me: “Name calling doesn’t show anything but your own prejudices and how limited your thinking is.”

    People like to put labels on things to understand the world (“that’s a tree…that’s a building…that’s a fat person who’s going to die from fatness…”). I don’t think we’ll ever get beyond that, but we can certainly not let the diminished thinking become our own.

    And BTW, anyone who finishes a marathon is fabulous in my book, whether you take 5 hours or 25 hours…whether you run, walk, roll, hop, or otherwise. It’s something I will probably never do, so I think unqualified congrats are in order.

  2. Ragen, it’s that kind of teaching that has made me who I am today – not the cowering person of two years ago, but the brash, living-out-loud, wonderful woman I’ve become. Thank you for continually dashing stereotypes and bigotry into the ground and showing us that buying into it is a choice, not an inevitability.

  3. Oh how I wish I had been at the finish to cheer you! I needed your post today. In 2 weeks I will do the Iron Girl Triathlon. I am oh so slow but I am out there. I can walk a half marathon a couple of times a year but I forget to be proud about it. I have the advantage of starting in the “over 60” wave right after the elite athletes so, even slow, I might not be the last one. A few years ago at a smaller tri I had bike problems and I did come in last but I still got a 3 place medal in my age group.

    Your writing is so important to me as I struggle to keep on keeping on.

  4. I really related a lot to your linked article about “excuses” and putting weight loss as the top achievement ever. I feel this a lot as a fat doctoral student who is not trying to lose weight. Right now… well especially during the academic year, I’ve slacked on school work a lot this summer, my program really just consumes my life. Everything is eaten up by demands of school and trying to carve out enough to time to take care of my own physical health (which doesn’t go well, I started the summer with several hospitalizations due largely to me not taking enough for my own health due to school.) And yet from certain folks there is always this message that you just have to make it a priority. Well losing weight is not my priority! My top priority is school and getting through this program and coming out the other end of it with what I need to find a job. Somewhere lower on my list of priorities fitness comes in, but weight loss doesn’t. “But you can do both”, well first off maybe I know my own limitation better than you? But even more so is the point that I don’t have to. I don’t have to try to lose weight if I don’t want to make that a focus of my life right now. And the rest of my life isn’t an excuse for not losing weight, it’s my life. Because I don’t need an “excuse”. Because me having different goals or achievements I’m aiming for other than weight loss isn’t something that needs excusing. But it’s just so true that to a certain crowd everything comes back to weight loss. You are doing x, y, and z- but why aren’t you losing weight?

  5. One of the ways that our minds make us feel bad when we heard shit comments like that is by digging into our subconscious and finding that we secretly still believe what they are saying. It’s been reading your blog and Marilyn Wann’s posts on FB that have helped me to get rid of most of those hidden voices with facts about how it all really works.

    If someone asks or implies that I should diet or participate in diet talk, I let them know right up front that I don’t diet because I don’t want to gain anymore weight. And then I let them know how that works… sometimes it gets them all talking about their own yoyo dieting and I can throw a few more facts in there too, about how bad that is for their heart. In fact, it was one of the two of you who posted a comprehensive paper about how bad dieting is for ones body and mind and that lead me to print out all 19 pages twice to send to my NP and the doctor in her office. They run a Center for Medical Weight Loss and have for many years. If they read it, it may help them understand why their patients drop out, why the pain doesn’t generally go away once the weight is gone and why most of them gain the weight back. I pray that it helps them make the first moves to closing that racket they call a business.

    Nevertheless, thanks for helping me shut the shaming voices up. I appreciate it.


  6. This might be a petty way to think about it, but whenever I encounter people who have the time and energy to heap negative criticisms on other people’s interests, goals and accomplishments online, I always end up thinking, “That’s nice, what have you achieved exactly?” Nine chances out of ten the people crapping on other people’s achievements have achieved even less themselves. It’s so pathetic. They’re playing the “anything you can do someone else can do better” game which is true of pretty much anything and therefore meaningless.
    People who have the time and energy to get shit done generally don’t have time and energy or the desire to berate others for not getting enough done. The people who do that are the ones who are able to list everything not to do in a given situation, but if you ask them what they think should be done, or what they do, that’s when they stop talking. I.e. “We shouldn’t worry about women’s rights in North America because in the Middle East, girls get killed for going to school.”
    Oh yes? And what are you doing to alleviate that problem, exactly? Oh, nothing? Well then maybe you should shut up and stop trying to belittle the work others are doing just because it doesn’t meet your armchair idealist standards.
    Seriously, most of these fat-phobic trolls are not running marathons or pumping iron at the gym. They’re sitting at home on the internet, going, “ewww fat people.” Just stop and think for a second how sad and pathetic that is. They could be trying to better themselves, could be taking up new hobbies, volunteering for good causes, reading some good books, and instead they’re taking the time to try to shame individuals of a certain body size by expressing their hatred and prejudice through various mediums (it’s not enough to just tell you you haven’t achieved enough, they’re going to include pictures to prove it!)

    1. Love “armchair idealist”! Those folks are never doing anything to help anyone– they are only denigrating what other people are doing to make themselves feel better about contributing nothing.

  7. I love this post, Ragen! Many in my life, all my life, have tried to make me feel bad for not pursuing what they think I should be pursuing (weight loss). From grandparents, to friends, to step sister, to 2 different step dads, to brother, and most of all, many many strangers both online and in my daily life. The complete strangers happens a lot – the grocery store, out walking, out shopping, out at restaurants, in the mall, the movie theater, you name it. When you are a very visible OMGDEATHFAT everyone and their brother thinks it’s their right and DUTY to tell you that you’re fat and that you need to lose weight. Or just to try and make you feel like shit just for existing where they can see you, for daring to be fat in their line of sight.

    It’s posts like this though that remind me that I don’t have to buy into their bullshit. When you are bombarded by nearly daily messages that you shouldn’t look the way you do and that the world hates you because of it, it’s hard not to let that effect the way you feel about yourself. Thank you for the reminder that we don’t have to buy into it! This is why your blog is so important, it helps to give back some of those sanity points that our diet culture tries to rob us of on a daily basis.

    Your blog and activism is very important to so many people. Thank you for the work you do!

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