Fat Acceptance & Me

There are a lot of blogs out there about ‘big women’. They come from all points of view, from the woman who is big and hates it, to the woman that is big and has accepted it, to the woman who was fat and is now an athlete, to the body activist who stands up against prejudice. Lots of points of view in the ‘fatosphere’, and for a blogger new to a particular movement or phase in their life – it is very hard to know where you fit in. Certainly some comments about style, and beauty – hair in particular, makes me feel bad for wanting the things I want for my life and for my body. Some of the rhetoric out there makes me feel ashamed for wanting to change my body at all.

Some of it makes me disgusted at how people are treated in other parts of the world. Maybe it is a US thing, but I’ve never encountered the sort of rudeness I see described by many of my fellow bloggers. I’ve never been told that I shouldn’t wear my hair short, or been called a fatass by strangers. It has often felt like any embarassment on my part has been because it was all in my own head, because people rarely said anything. My parents frustration with me was always due to other faults in my personality, and my mother was never very into clothes, hair or make up when I was growing up. I never really learned to care about my appearance until I went to university, and I never really discovered the ‘how’ until I had to dress for a work place environment. The pain for me came in slowly finding that certain shops didn’t stock anything that would fit me, and that I couldn’t afford the places that did. A teenage budget does not to Plus Sized Boutiques stretch.

In terms of acceptance, there are certain parts of my body that are more than merely accepted by me. I love my boobs. I love having big ones, partly because I’m tall and partly because I’m big, they look right on me. I like having a nicely shaped ass, even if I felt ashamed of my thighs and my spare tires, I like the height and I gradually grew to see myself as beautiful and attractive, even if I am not typically so. Yet many of the sentiments expressed by feminist-fat bloggers I find hard to swallow; it’s bad of me for wanting to feel feminine. I don’t want to ‘fit in’, I do that by virtue of being human, by virtue of empathising with people around me. I want to stand out as a person. I’m used to being looked at, I was always the tallest/biggest. I used to dye my hair bright red and wear ridiculously baggy skater jeans and hoodies. Not because I wanted to hide the flab, but because I wanted to look different to the people in Gap Jeans and pretty clothes from Top Shop.

There used to be another two paragraphs, but for reasons of …well, reading over what I read, I’ve deleted them and started again with the following.

The basics of Fat Acceptance that I am personally aware of is this post from the wonderful Shapely Prose blog. In itself it is a wonderful post. I wish I could subscribed to it wholeheartedly. I really do. Yet a part of me looks at my mother, who is 55 and has already had both her knees replaced. This could easily happen to me whether I was fat or thin, but before that happened to her she had a life time of canoing, walking, and all sorts of things that she can’t do now by virtue of not being able to walk far. I can’t do those things now, I can’t abseil, I can’t walk without feeling tired and in my every day life I am drained and lethargic. I can’t go horse riding unless I can afford to buy a weight carrying cob. I want to do all these things again, if I didn’t I would be quite happy to remain extremely sedentry and eat normally. What got me to this weight was not genetics, it was circumstances and bad habits. I don’t want to accept that those bad habits are bigger than me, and will prevent me from doing the things I love for the rest of my life.

Let me please say here that the reasons for me being ‘big’ are of course not the same as anyone elses. This is my purely individual case and I have no wish to make assumptions about anyone else. I am happier with my life now that I have worked more activity into my life. I am more able to cope with situations that last year would have had me breaking down in a panic attack. Maybe what I do with my eating is a diet, by the standards of that post, but I feel better and more energetic for eating this way. In turn I feel more attractive, and more inclined to be socialable. This lifestyle change is working for me. Hell, I may not be losing weight but I’m not fussing over what I eat and I don’t feel guilty if I go out and have a pizza or eat a chocolate bar because I’m not obsessing over junk food.

I obsess over food, but that’s because I like food. My fiance is a great cook and would be offended if I didn’t enjoy my food. I look forward to it, I don’t restrict my portions, but I do listen to my body. So to read this post by the same blogger on “Diets don’t work but,” is….incredibly disheartening in a way, and it feels like it makes generalisations about ‘healthy lifestyles’. The rhetoric is incredibly convincing and I do agree with a lot of it, although I know several women who have lost considerable amounts of weight via various methods that the author of the article would call ‘A diet by any other name’, I suppose, and have kept the weight off. And they ain’t insufferable bores about it either. I think I am at the moment as I’m trying to keep myself motivated, and a lot of the thin women I work out with will talk about an exercise class they’re going to or a their goal to run a 10km race next year. Also I have this blog specifically devoted to my 3 month old lifestyle change. Via which I have lost no inches and no weight, but I feel more confident and better about myself than wallowing in the misery of having just binged on another  5 slices on bread and butter for no other reason than I felt crappy.

‘Lifestyle change’ should be about more than just wanting to lose weight to fit in with others. It should be able treating yourself well, and breaking bad habits. It should be able enabling yourself to do what you want to do. Whether this means treating yourself to a gorgous dress even though omgitsasize22uk, and wearing it and feeling fabulous or being able to go on a theme park ride without an embarassing situation with the over the shoulder harness. I’ve spent so much of my life hating myself and for the first time in a long time…I don’t. Sure I don’t feel 100% all the time, but I feel like I could go out and by an outfit and look wonderful in it. This time last year? The thought of buying a dress would have had me reaching for the chocolate.

In conclusion I think the essential message of Fat Acceptance is wonderful. If you are what you are, there is no reason to be ashamed of yourself, but I think the message gets too strong when it makes people feel bad for making a change, or for appreciating beauty in themselves or for looking after themselves. Just as fat people should not be victimised for being what they are or maginalised as mindless, neither should the in-betweenies like myself.

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~ by Pewter on June 20, 2008.

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