As if the world wasn’t crappy enough with Covid-19 , Tronald Rump, and TikTok, Adele and Rebel Wilson aren’t fat anymore. Jesus take the wheel! I’ve seen it happening a lot lately. My fat sisters are just getting rid of the weight. They’re doing it, for reasons that are as unique as each of them are, but they are doing it. But one thing we can count on to be the same is that a conversation about body positivity vs fat shaming/diet culture to pop up. It got me to thinking about my own journey with my body and how I’ve dabbled on each side of the spectrum.
The last time I was under two hundred pounds I was learning my multiplication tables. Yup, I was in grade school and thicker than a Snicker. I actually loved Snickers and still do, thus my almost two-hundred-pound body at the ripe old age of 10. As a pre-teen I was fully able to shop at Rainbow (y’all know about Rainbow?) and this was before they added that cute little kids’ section. I remember being quite saucy in class with stretchy leopard print pants and a shirt that teased a bit of baby cleavage. Ahh, the good old days. If I knew then that it was the last time I’d ever see a 1 in front of my weight I may have commemorated it. Possibly would have begged my mom for the thigh boots to match and marched to Social Studies in my full essence. Missed opportunities, right?
No motivation to change….wasn’t bullied and dudes loved me
But back then I didn’t commemorate it because…it wasn’t a big deal. No one ever said anything about my weight. I was allowed to just *gasp* be. I had a great group of friends, I excelled in my school work and I even had a little case of puppy love with this boy who liked me and I liked him too. It was typical elementary school stuff. I was any other kid. The bullying and teasing of fat people were things I saw only on television. It didn’t permeate my world, and this was pretty much consistent throughout my entire school experience. Also, Rainbow got a lot better with their clothing selection so I could be cute when I wanted to and truly stunt on these proverbial hoes.
Even through the positive experiences at school, home, and in my friend circles, I did always have this desire to lose a bit of weight. Earlier in my life it came from the realization, even in the absence of bullying, that I was different. That the body I inhabited was not the proportions it was supposed to be. That even if I was accepted and loved I wasn’t necessarily desired. And as a teenage girl with crushes that came more frequently than the city bus, I wanted to be desired.
I also wanted to be able to wear some of the things other girls were wearing. Glamorous things, like belts. Belts were all the rage in the 90’s. People had their names on them and such. Besides the fact that I had a stomach pooch that made tucking in my shirt a show, I seriously couldn’t wear a belt without it digging into my tummy and causing painful chaffing. My body was undermining my ability to participate in historic 90’s fashion and I was piiiissseddd. The tally against my body started then and as teenage insecurities continued to creep in the tally grew.
Hmm. You’re not so bad, body.
I managed to maintain a simmering disdain for my body into my late teens until, as the story goes, I met a boy and a fetus ended up in my womb. I was terrified. Becoming a mother before I finished college was not in the plans. On top of the anxiety that impending motherhood produced, I was also worried about the physiological aspect of things. I was fat. How did fat women do with pregnancy? Was I higher risk? Could my body even carry a baby?
And let me tell you, the internet was no help. I read all the horror stories about childbirth and I was certain that my faulty, fat body would not get through this shit unscathed. My kid would probably come out all misshapen because my it didn’t have enough space to grow in there. My assumptions were wild, all over the place, and completely in line with my pervasive thinking that my body was somehow wrong.
But every time I went to the OB for my prenatal visits…he said I was fine. When I did the diabetes tests that all pregnant women dread, it came back fine. No gestational diabetes. When I got my blood pressure taken every visit, it was always great. No high preeclampsia. When I had my ultrasounds, my baby boy measured accurately and had a strong healthy heartbeat. I was astounded. And when I gave birth to him two days before my twentieth birthday, I was in awe because he was perfect. My body did a perfect job of bringing both him and I through this journey of childbirth.
When I stood in the bathroom and removed my clothes to shower for the first time after having my son I stood there for a moment and took myself in. All of me. The boobs that sagged more than I’d like. The belly (both of them!). The jiggle, the rolls, all of it and instead of disliking what I saw, I thanked my body. It did a damn good job. It was strong. It was resilient. It was nature. Regardless of my opinion how it looked on the outside the inside was a fucking beast and I loved it. For the first time ever, I absolutely loved my body.
As I often do. I found myself on the interwebs again. Searching for those who, as fat people, also loved their body like I did. I found a whole entire community of them! Buxom beauties wearing bikinis on the beach, cellulite be damned! They took up space positively and unapologetically and looked to change the public narrative about fat people being a public problem. A stain on society. A state of being that everyone should run from at all cost. We should have clothes that fit (Yes!). Seats that hold us (Yes!). Places in general that accommodate the range of people that frequent them (Yes!). I was in y’all. Drinking the koolaid. Literally, drinking all the koolaid. Eating all the pies and the most delectable ice cream. I didn’t count nay calorie. I was free and in body loving bliss.
And then, my chest started hurting. Going up a hill was a task. I couldn’t walk up the steps without my knees aching and my heart racing. Perhaps my positive view of my body wasn’t having a positive effect on my organs? So, I went on a…
I cut out carbs and sugar and got myself a membership at the local gym and got to work. I saw results quickly. The weight slid off and in a matter of months I’d lost 60lbs. I was strict with what I ate and didn’t allow myself to indulge any cravings. My body felt amazing and I could finally wear belts. Any goddamn belt I wanted! I fit in plane seats nicely and got to resume my love of high and fast roller coasters. It was excellent. And then…the scale stopped moving.
I thought ok…I’ll just work out harder? Maybe cut back even more on the food I’m eating? I did that and after another two weeks of no budging on the scale I said F it all to hell and let the cat out of the bag. I was knee deep in pasta and pies before I knew it. I realized that I wasn’t ‘changing my lifestlye’ or ‘being healthier’. I simply traded one obsession for another. Instead of obsessing over the next tasty treat, I was obsessing over the scale going down and when that stopped happening consistently, I pinged back to the thing that never ceased to produce good feelings. Eating.
Both can exist
Where am I now you may ask? I’m somewhere on the road to learning that both can and should exist. I should love my body. Everyone of us should. We should recognize how absolutely kick ass it is. That this body gets us up daily and does its absolute best to keep us living life. We should accept that it’s not perfect and will likely never be because there is simply no perfect. Everyone’s body is different, and each person deserves respect and dignity and a society that acknowledges and makes room for them to be. In loving my body, I also realize that I have to do what’s best for it. My body does not perform well when it’s carrying around one hundred extra pounds. My digestive system does like it when I eat two Big Macs. It just gets really upset and punishes me with the trots for a day and a half. Don’t get me started on the heartburn.
I don’t want my body to be this horse that I’m pushing around the bend, asking to finish the race strong on a diet of Mozz Sticks and diet Cherry Coke’s. I want to feed my body well. I want to make sure I move it adequately each day. It’s me after all, you know? So, welcome to place where I’m building a nice sandwich of ‘my body Is none of your DAMN business’ and “I will take the salad over the fries, thank you”.
Damn, I just had to make that last metaphor about food…