When I took this pic a couple years ago, I thought I was SO fat. Impossibly fat.
This one too.
I was gaining weight again, after another long stretch of dieting and exercise that I ultimately couldn’t keep up with. I felt so out of control in the kitchen, it almost seemed like the food was shoving itself in my mouth.
And after even the first few pounds gained, I had myself convinced that I was not fit for human eyes, no longer deserved anyone’s respect or admiration, and had somehow dishonored myself past the point of acceptance by mainstream society.
Let’s take a moment to think about how silly that is…
……yeah. WTF is that about?
How many of you have felt the same way, though? Seriously, what are we doing to ourselves with this toxic thinking? So we’re going to take a moment here and talk about the F word:
FAT. Let’s get really real about this concept for a second.
How on Earth did we internalize this idea that anyone who doesn’t fit a restrictive (ok borderline unattainable for ANYONE, airbrushed, made-up, professionally-lit, narrowly-defined-by-race-class-age-ability-and-gender-norms, genetically modified and otherwise completely unicorn-made-up) standard of beauty is somehow fat? When we take a moment to think about it, how unrealistic are these cultural expectations of thinness and fatness? And how many times a day are they reinforced in movies, shows, books, commercials, songs, and industries?
How many of us have taken a step back and thought about how subjective the idea of ‘fat’ is, anyway? What is fat to one culture or era is not fat to another. Before the turn of the last century, zaftig women were en vogue, and certainly not shamed for being ‘unhealthy’ or ‘letting themselves go’ by the internet trolls of yore.
But we have made FAT mean more than just fat. It’s no longer a neutral descriptor for someone who is larger. Somewhere along the way we have hook-line-and-sinker bought this completely fabricated story (implied over and over again by advertisers and the media - to the tune of billions of dollars - and now almost universally accepted) that to not be ‘thin’ by current society’s standards means that we are also ugly, unwanted, morally weak, lazy, unattractive, prone to loserdom, and inherently-worth-less-than our thin counterparts.
We have turned fat into a bad word, into the worst thing anyone could possibly be. So who wouldn’t be upset about gaining even a pound, if the implied message is that if you are fat, you will not be loved or respected or taken seriously? Why wouldn’t we all be stressed-the-hell-out about weight? We have caught wise to the fact that thin privilege is a thing that exists, and we don’t want to see everything we want in life swirl down the drain because of our particular number on the scale.
It makes us frantic. It makes us diet in various forms (‘clean eating’, Weight Watcher’s, Paleo, strict workouts, ‘lifestyle changes for health,’ and the rest of them…they are ALL diets when approached from this mindframe). Diets eventually fail and, paradoxically, lead to binges and usually more weight gain and self-hatred. Lather, rinse, repeat.
When people say they want to lose weight, what they really mean is they want to feel confident, worthy, able to hold their head up high, self-affirmed to take up their allotted space in life. They want to be accepted by society as they are, and free to pursue their personal and professional desires. They want to be admired and revered and valued. They want to feel free and comfortable in their own skin.
These things are the birthright of every person. And so is normalized eating, free from compulsion, bingeing, or diet insanity. But we need to soften our judgments on our bodies as they are right now, and do some digging into what being ‘fat’ means to us, in order to get there, because all human behavior begins in the mind, not the body. But, alas, that’s another post for another time. Back to fat..
It’s not just the airbrushing within an inch of every magazine model’s life, the adverts to get “Beach Body Ready” (as if only a certain body type is worthy of the beach), or the Barbie dolls peddled to our young girls and boys by the boatload, insisting to us what beautiful is. That IS a problem, but there is a bigger problem.
The big problem is thinking that the way your body looks is all that you are. This conditioned notion, deeply ingrained in us, that as long as we are precariously close to anyone’s definition of FAT or otherwise unpretty (these two have become arbitrarily synonymous in our culture), we are worthless.
This is what slowly kills us and robs all of the enjoyment from our lives.
It is also bullshit.
In the first picture, I am at the Metropolitan Opera with my new beau, getting ready to see La Boheme. It was something I had wanted to do for years. But all I could think about that whole night was whether or not I looked fat and sloppy. I checked the mirror, adjusted my dress and shawl and hair all night, hoping I could pass for acceptable in the eyes of others.
The second picture was a few months before that. I had just arrived in San Remo, Italy, fulfilling a lifelong DREAM to live and work there for a summer. I spent that entire summer obsessing over what I ate, and plunging into a cycle of ferocious dieting and cardio, followed by desolate boomerang binges on things like Nutella – straight from the jar. And most of all feeling unbearably fat and uncomfortable in my skin, before and especially after I started gaining weight.
Looking at these pictures now, after all that incessant stress and self-hatred, I don’t even think I look fat. But that is not even what matters. As long as the weight continues to be the focus, we are kind of missing the POINT.
So what is the point?
The point is that we are not our appearance. That is not the whole of who we are. We cannot tie our body weight and our self-worth together in the same ball of yarn. Because soon after, those two will be knotted up with our ability to enjoy life, our ability to respect ourselves, and even our capability to connect with others.
There is so very much more to us than whether some stranger on the street, or some guy on Tinder (who didn’t even have a proper write up, just a shirtless bathroom pic) or our high school graduating class, or our relatives we haven’t seen in a couple years, think we are thin. Or think we are fat (God forbid).
We have talents and loved-ones and hobbies. Aspirations and unique laughs and perspectives on life. We have emotions and sensations and dogs and homes and individual styles. And deep, tender hearts. All of us. Oh, and we all have the unlimited potential of the human spirit. A spark of the divine, of consciousness, that never changes no matter what we do or think or look like. It’s that moment when you look up at the stars and all is right with the world, or right after you first wake up and still feel like part of your dream is with you, or that stroke of creative inspiration that sends you on a roll, or at the end of savasana in yoga class when you are connected to a knowingness that everything is wrapped in love. THAT is who we really are.
And tapping into THAT is so much more rewarding than striving and stressing for the day when someone ELSE might look at you and say, “I’d tap that.”