If Our Fat is Our Fault

Ragen Chastain 5’4, 280lbs Photo by Substantia Jones of adipositivity.com

Recently I’ve seen a lot of discussion around the idea of fat and fault so it seems like a good time to repost this. One of the comments on my blog asked:

Basically, even though I may be genetically predisposed to it based on my family’s size and the fact that I have PCOS, I feel that I am overweight because I spent 15+ years eating crap and not exercising. This leaves me vulnerable to the blame/shame messages that society sends me about my weight – I feel like I can’t defend myself because I did it to myself.

I understand the FA movement is in part a push back against mistreatment and oppression, but is there a difference between being fat-accepting and being pro-fat?… I don’t see my fat as a natural part of me, I see it as the consequences of mistakes that I am now stuck with.

We know that different bodies react to things in different ways.  Someone else could have engaged in the same behaviors and ended up thin while this person ended up fat, this person could have engaged in different behaviors but still ended up the same size, the truth is that we’ll never know.

Although I knew that, I’ve still been in that cycle of blame and shame.  When I learned that dieting causes weight gain I went through a period of “blaming myself” for my body size because of all the dieting that I had engaged in. I went through a time of alternating between feeling bad about myself, feeling sorry for myself, being mad at myself, and being mad at the people who encouraged me to diet.

The first conclusion that I came to was that even if I could have been thin, even if being fat was my fault, wondering how I got to be fat and who I should blame for it does not serve me in any way. This is the body that I have.  It is fat.  It is also scarred because of death-defying bike tricks as a kid and working with aggressive dogs as an adult.  I don’t begrudge my body those scars, why would I begrudge my body its size.  What difference does it make if things could have been different?  This is what’s happening.  I have a fat body and my choices at this moment are to love that body, or hate it.  I choose to love my body.  At the time I didn’t know how I was going to do it, the important thing was making the choice that I was going to figure out how to love my body no matter how long it takes.

It took a lot of work, and it took fighting to keep my focus on the goal.  This exercise did more to shift the way that I feel about my body than anything else.  I had to fight through a time when I could appreciate the beauty in every body but mine.

After time I realized something deeper – all of this angst about my body size is based on a social construct that a fat body is a bad body.  That’s just not true.  Every body is beautiful as it is right now, at every size.  I sometimes get stuck around the idea of “size acceptance” because I want better than just to “accept” my body, which often comes with a connotation of resignation.  I love my body, I appreciate my body.  I have a fat body and that body is what does everything for me – from breathing and blinking to dancing and hugging.  That body deserves to be nurtured, loved, and defended from anyone who dares to say a negative word about it.

I owe this body my unconditional love, devotion, and full-throated support. So I’m not just fat accepting, I’m a pro-fat fat-loving fat activist fatty. More importantly,  (thanks in part to the privilege of neuro-typicality) I am the only person who can decide how I feel about my body.  I can choose to accept other people’s opinions, I can choose not to do the work to make shifts if my current feelings aren’t the way I want to feel; but at the end of the day I have no idea why my body is the size it is, but I do know that the way I feel about my body is on me. I’m the only person in the world who can choose how I feel about my body.  As long as it’s my choice, I choose love.

It’s almost here!  There’s still time to register for the  Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can access the workshops on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can access the workshops live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

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11 thoughts on “If Our Fat is Our Fault

  1. I know exactly how I got fat: instinctive attempts to self-medicate undiagnosed depression and PTSD combined with PTSD-caused inability to even tell when I was actually hungry. I am, however, done apologizing for it or letting what other people think about it define my life. I have too much stuff to do to waste time attempting to become one of the 5% or less for whom diets sort of work.

    Speaking of which, my breaktime is over in 18 minutes, so I’d better finish lunch. Thai spicy duck noodles with egg cooked on top.

  2. “but is there a difference between being fat-accepting and being pro-fat?…”

    This caught my attention. I suppose being pro-fat would be demanding that everyone achieve a certain amount of fat on their bodies, which is just as silly as demanding everyone remove a certain amount of fat from their bodies, or that all men grow thick beards.

    My understanding of fat-acceptance is that it is part of general acceptance. Accepting your own body and personality, despite others who might tell you to be different. Accepting other people for who they are and not trying to change them. (Leaving out people who are destructive, of course, that isn’t healthy for anyone.)

    I’ve noticed a lot of people in the world still react badly to what they consider different. As Ragen points out, all you can control is your own behavior. How you feel about yourself and how you treat others. I work hard to understand other people.

    Accepting myself is still a work in progress. At least I know that when I was a 140 teenager, I was considered fat by some people. My shoulders were still broad for most women’s clothes and I had no waist then either. My body never fit the stereotype. In some ways this makes me less upset about the weight I am now, in other ways, I am frustrated because I feel like I’ve always been the outsider to the world of looking pretty.

    On the other hand, I’ve also become aware of the current attitude that women don’t really have any role other than to look pretty. Win at Wimbledon, someone criticizes your looks. Have a major role in politics, the news will report on your hairstyle. Want to be in a STEM field, you will be considered less able than your male counterparts.

    For me, accepting that I am not conventionally pretty has also become about acknowledging my other strengths. This is extra hard because society sure as hell doesn’t value them.

    I seem to be rambling again. I should probably have more tea.

    1. I think we can be pro-fat without demanding that everyone has a specific amount of fat. Every living human has fat in their nervous system, and all but a few have body fat as well. So being pro-fat could mean appreciating whatever amount of fat we have, because it is an amazing substance that we can’t live without.

  3. The things that deeply, deeply bothers me about the Fat Acceptance path (or more accurately for me, the Body Acceptance path), are the low spots.

    A week ago, I felt like a completely sexy, amazing woman, capable of anything. Hubby couldn’t keep his hands off me. I didn’t care what anyone thought about me; the only people whose opinions mattered were hubby’s, my son’s, and my daughter’s…and the ‘framily’ I’ve created over the years.

    Two days ago I woke up, looked in the mirror, and out of the clear blue sky, the first thought was, “God, you’re ugly.” Just…BAM. And you know that one bad thought leads to another, and soon, I was trying to find reasons not to leave the house because I was just too disgusting to exist.

    I hate the bad days because sometimes they go so deep they crack the foundations, and nothing fights them. And worse? I can hide it all, and no one suspects a thing. For me, they are completely hormonally related (and I’m getting it checked out because it’s gradually gotten worse) but during these days I can’t see beyond anything but my own imperfections.

    I might make 5 steps forward in self-acceptance, but the bad days slam me back a good 30.

    1. *additional hugs*

      Definitely see a doctor if you notice a pattern relating to hormones. Hormones/chemistry can change one’s entire outlook on life.

  4. Couldn’t agree with you more! We should love our body and be proud of it because it is part of our self. I hate it when many people started acknowledging you because your thin, or that your good looking. It’s just shows discrimination and I don’t want them to be around me. I’d rather be with a few people who will accept me of who I am rather than what I am. Yes, your body, face and other features are a part of you but it doesn’t define you. You should be proud of yourself, you are beautiful because God crafted you in the way you should be.

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