I’m toying with the idea of making a new post category. I’ve been soaking myself in body positivity lately, so a lot of my thoughts are going that direction. However, I don’t think that Books I Read is the right venue for them. So I’m trying this out. Here goez.
Body Psych Podcast:
“I don’t have room in my life for shame anymore.”
“The best way to gain weight is to go on a diet.”
“People who have never restricted do not reward themselves with food.”
“Running a marathon and having a Netflix marathon are two morally equivalent tasks.”
“The term ‘holistic health’ these days really just means physical health.”
“Less than 25% of our health is affected by what we eat and how we exercise. The rest are factors out of our control.”
“How you eat, your social engagement and enjoyment, turns out to be more important than what you eat. What you eat doesn’t really matter.”
“If you are eating healthy at the expense of your mental, social, and/or emotional health, you are not helping yourself.”
Episode 121 is an excellent look at the history of dieting with a gender lens. FASCINATING. Hearing about the context of American dieting is a little mind blowing.
Thoughts: Weighting and Waiting
In one of the podcast episodes I listened to, someone mentioned that clothing stores might not focus on larger sizes because being larger is a state of impermanence, whereas the normal, straight sizes are not only aspirational, but the real, permanent state that your body “supposed” to be.
Straight sizes are our “real” bodies. They are summation of your bones, organs, muscles, skin and that small (completely arbitrary) window of “healthy” body fat allowed on your frame.
The more fat on your body, the more your sizes go up, so it is only a small jump to say that there is a “real” size of your body, and the more weight you gain, the more you move away from it.
How fucked up is that? It’s almost a dissociative state. It’s that “skinny girl trapped in a fat girl’s body” trope.
Fat is part of your body. It is not a weird addition.
It is not:
(summation of body parts) + fat = where you are now.
Sorry, Plato. There is no Perfect Form of Body.
This speaks to me because there have been many times in my life where I have put things on hold, put life on hold, in order to pursue this “real” me.
I’ve worked through a lot of it. I’ve stubbornly refused to put my life on hold, no matter what my head says. It’s so pervasive, though. All it can take is one trip to the gym, and I can convince myself that I will wake up size 12 again tomorrow. Then, I’ll start making lists of what I will do when I am that size…
The lightest I have been is 165 lbs, and I have been that twice in my adult life. Once at the age of sixteen while I was dropping weight like crazy from having hyperthyroidism, and once when I was 24 and had given up all forms of sugar. I would say, that’s about 2 years of living at my goal weight.
So, two out of sixteen years have been me in my “real” body.
The rest have been waiting.
The oddest thing was, at those weights, I was still waiting.
When I 16, I was 16, and waiting for my life to start. Not to mention, waiting for my thyroid issues to level out, waiting to graduate and get out of my small town, etc.
When I was 24, I had lost 100 lbs, and I had also lost my identity. I had started dating for the first time in my life, I had started buying straight sizes, buying LOTS of clothing. I had started moving up in my career. But I was still waiting.
I was waiting for the time to feel “all right,” to feel normal, and straight sized. I wanted to stop people on the street and tell them that they don’t understand: I wasn’t like them. I wasn’t normal sized. I was a fat girl in a newly minted skinny body. I was no longer the fat girl, and I didn’t know what to do with that.
I remember asking my doctor, “do I need to lose more weight?” and almost being sad when she said no. What was my goal, now, then?
I couldn’t believe that after so much hard, grueling, expensive work, I was still waiting.
It has occurred to me over the years that the idea of this “real” body is incorrect, but I couldn’t get myself to believe it. I finally just started acting like I believed it and moved on from there.
It has never occurred to me, however, that other people might look at my size and think that it is temporary.
Episode 119 makes a great point in how the whole world thinks you’re going through a phase. Fat people exist. Why don’t medical facilities have larger beds and tools? Why don’t airplanes have larger seats? Why have department stores that carry plus sizes (such as Macy’s or Target) only recently start carrying workout clothes?
We have Twin XL dorm room beds for tall people. My five foot tall frame slept on one for two years. Why don’t straight sized people encourage wider chairs, wider beds, etc? Who would turn away more room?
The visual narrative of some department stores towards plus-sized wearing customers usually is, “please walk through rooms and rooms of vibrant, diverse versions of clothing, anywhere from chic to casual in all colors of the rainbow, and head to our dark, back corner, where you can slap on a black shroud and slink out of here.”
Why bother adding more? They are working on losing weight anyway, so they will fluctuate in size, and hide their body. They will just try to get by on that black, flowy clothing while they hide skinny jeans in their closet for thinspiration. Then someday, with the right amount of celery (the 7,439,108th?) and crossfit (at the low price of $349/month), they will slide into those skinny jeans like butter, and go on a shopping spree.
It’s an objectification that I didn’t see coming, this idea of fatness being transitory. How dare someone look at my body and subtract fat from it as if it is something else entirely? Would you look at someone and say,
“Oh, you would be so pretty if you didn’t have lungs”?
Society teaches us to dissociate our fat from our bodies, to hold this Perfect Form of Body in our heads until that fateful day when we finally earn the right to live inside them.
The problem is, we have terrible imaginations.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and tried to imagine what you would look like with the ideal amount of fat?
I have. Let me tell you, it is damn hard.
In the first place, the “ideal amount of fat” is arbitrary, and completely dependent on whatever preconceived notions you have in your head.
In the second place, fat is not a body part you can lop off easily, since it is everywhere on your body, in larger or smaller quantities, but still there, protecting you from the outside world. In order to create an mental image, you almost have to start with your skeleton and work out.
Raise your hand if you have an accurate account of your particular skeletal frame, as well as the biological knowledge of all the organs and muscles that go into it.
That’s what I thought.
Most importantly, comparing yourself to a mental image is ripe for disappointment. Our minds can never live up to reality that is the real world.
Close your eyes and try to conjure up the most detailed, accurate image of a human being. Or, you know what? Start small. Lets start with a hand.
Hold tight to your mental image of your hand. Does your hand have wrinkles? Hair? Pores? Scars? Dead skin? Does any of it jiggle or bounce back when you touch it? How many hang nails did you draw in your mind’s eye?
I’m guessing none.
One of the reasons why I love to draw people so much is that I am consistently amazed at the real shape of human beings. I’ve been drawing since I was very young, and if you asked me to draw from memory, I would still draw the waist too small, the eyes too big, the forehead too short, etc. Drawing from life challenges the left part of my brain that says “this is what all eyes look like, this is what all mouths look like…”
You don’t know how much you gloss over things, make huge swaths of generalizations to the point of completely obscuring the truth, until you challenge your preconceived notions.
So you are looking in the mirror, and you are comparing a real, live, in the flesh, weighted, breathing, wrinkled, porous, imperfect, endlessly complicated body to what amounts to a cardboard cutout of a stick figure with your head pasted on the top.
You find yourself lacking.
Big fucking surprise.
But what is that cardboard cutout missing?
You are alive. Your body can heal itself when it is a broken or sick. Your skin is soft. You have a unique smell that is oddly comforting. You can feel yourself breathe, you can feel your muscles ache when you push them. You can exert power to pick up things, walk, bend over, grab. You can have sex and enjoy sex with others. You can feel your working organs all the way through, from the delightful fullness of your stomach to the curling of your toes. You can touch other people, feel warmth and softness. You can hug a friend or pet a dog.
If you really were what you saw in your mind you would not only be outrageously anatomically inaccurate, but you would miss out of many of the beautiful things that life has to offer.
I’d rather not live my life as someone trapped anywhere, never mind a skinny girl trapped in a fat girl’s body. I’m done with waiting, thanks. 32 years of trained dissociation from my body is hard to combat, but I’m willing to try to put it back together.
THEREFORE, no more waiting.
Let it be said, here and now, that there will not be anymore waiting on weight in my life. That means:
- No more holding onto smaller clothes
- No more squishing myself into just-too-small clothes
- No more holding onto a certain size as “the largest I will go,” as if chaos lurks just past that number
- No more wearing or buying sizes that are uncomfortable just because they are a particular size
- No more being uncomfortable
- No more pretending that all “one size fits all” sizes accommodate me
- No more pretending I can fit my butt into any chair
- No more holding back requests for different accommodations because of my weight
- If I can’t fits, I can’t fits.
- No more using weight as a reason to hide from a social engagement
- No more hiding parts of my body that are unacceptable because of their weight
- No more pretending that world will wake up and start accommodating me
- No more disregarding weight limits on things and just hoping I won’t break them
- No more waiting for my friends or family to advocate for me
- No more feeling bad if stores, companies, organizations, or people do not accept my size or weight
- No more feeling bad for being fat while on an airplane
My weight and size is not socially accepted, but that is nothing new. There so many more marginalized communities out there that the world is also not built for.
In a small way, I am taking a step toward this. I bought myself my own camping chair that fits my weight limit. No more hoping that there is seat that will fit me. It will live in my car so if the occasion arises, there will be a seat for me.
That should help a bit.