Most days, I look in the mirror and am vaguely pleased by what I see.
I’m going to say something that no self-respecting member of the fat acceptance community should ever think, let alone utter: Sometimes, skinny women who can eat more than me and still be skinny make me angry. There, I said it.
I’m naturally fat (yes, that’s a thing) and I work hard to be healthy. I know that even though I sweat it out at the gym almost daily, avoid carbs and meticulously monitor not just calories and fat, but saturated fat, salt and sugar, I’ll probably never be thin. I’m not perfect with my diet, but I’m more perfect than most other people I know. Yet, I’m still fatter than most people I know. And sometimes, occasionally, every now-and-then, through my body positive, fat acceptance, self-motivating haze, I feel slivers of jealousy.
The thing is, I don’t even want to be skinny, most days. I love the way fat bodies look. Like, legitimately love the roll of bellies and the fullness of big thighs. I don’t think cellulite looks bad. Chubby cheeks are totes adorable to me. I look at myself in the mirror, most days, and can find a lot of value in how I look. I see fat women on the train, walking down the street, showing off their ta-tas on Tumblr, and I see beauty.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m not aware of how other people see us, what other people say about us. I read the fat jokes that came out in response to Ciara’s “Body Party” song. I see the Instagram memes comparing fat women to hippos. I remember how everyone just kept saying Rachel Jeantel looked hungry during the George Zimmerman trial. That shit hurts. Not all the time, but sometimes. And I wonder if life wouldn’t just be a bit easier if I were thin. And I think of how I wouldn’t have to put on so much armour to face the world if I didn’t have so many stretch marks. And I wonder why skinny girls stuff their faces at Chipotle and still get to be skinny (yes, “get to be,” because skinny equals privilege in our world) and I count my 1,500 cals every day while being denied that privilege that the weight loss industry says should come from doing so.
I know how ridiculous that sounds. I blog about fat acceptance and actively engage in that community, online and IRL, so I’ve come to intimately understand, both on an academic level and a personal level, how thin privilege and fatphobia color our nation’s understanding of health and beauty. Thinness isn’t a prize bestowed on those who work the hardest and fatness isn’t a punishment for the folks who are too lazy to do so. I get that. I understand that. I feel that. I live that.
Except for the days when I don’t.
A bit of a rewind—I used to be fatter. I was one of those fat people who unapologetically ate cake and drank soda, who didn’t have a gym membership and had kind of said “fuck it” to dieting because I’d done that my whole life. I hit puberty earlier than any person ever should and I grew breasts and a butt and a more womanly body that I equated to being fat. Fat-shaming from family and teachers didn’t help my perception of myself, either. I began to diet and do Denise Austin workout videos. I kept food journals and secretly made weight loss goals. I’d started and failed dozens of diets before I entered fourth grade.
This is 11-year-old me when I thought I was sooooo fat and had already been dieting for two years.
So, by the time I was in my early 20s, I was so incredibly done with hating my body. I didn’t know what fat acceptance was at the time, but I’d achieved it. Not on some enlightened, social justice shit, either. Just on some, I’m so tired of this emotional and physical merry go-round that is being a fat person who is trying to de-fat. I ate whatever I wanted to and was happy to just not think about the fact that I was so fat.
I discovered fat acceptance around the same time that my gynecologist told me I had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a freakishly common hormonal imbalance that’s a leading cause of infertility in young women. I was 25 and not trying to have a baby, but I was trying to have less pimples and get rid of the annoying hairs that had started to grow on my chin—both symptoms of the illness. A velvety rash had developed through the trunk of my body in response to an overproduction of the hormone insulin, also associated with PCOS. My doctor said I was more at-risk for developing diabetes because of my PCOS, which is linked to/may be the cause of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance in some people.
My grandmother had been a diabetic and only lived to be 65, at which time she was almost blind because of the disease. My extended family has been plagued with a myriad of other diseases, too—heart attack, stroke, hypertension, kidney failure and probably some that I don’t even know about or don’t remember.
So, when my doctor mentioned diabetes, I was freaked the fuck out.
I wanted to cut carbs to control my blood sugar and see if I couldn’t protect myself from future diseases. Fat acceptance isn’t anti-losing weight, though. It’s anti-thinking that losing weight is key to all future health and happiness/anti-fat people are so fat and that’s why everyone should be mean to them because they’re fat. At least, that’s my interpretation.
As cheesy as it sounds, if I hadn’t started to accept that my body was fat—not that there was “a thin person underneath all of the fat” or that I could start living once I was thin or any of that weight loss industry nonsense—I wouldn’t have valued myself enough to start to change my diet.
I very, very slowly lost about 40 pounds, mainly eating foods that were low or medium on the glycemic index. My rash went away. My sort of skin cleared up and the amount of annoying facial hairs decreased. My body looked a little smaller.
It’s not so much about having a problem with how I see myself, it’s having a problem with the huge, ginormous societal weight of being a fat person.
I’m still fat, though, don’t get me wrong. And I’ll probably always be fat. And I’m usually OK with this knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with being fat. I feel great fat. I’m a fucking boss on the treadmill, while fat. I’ve got a good set of lungs while swimming, while fat. I get compliments on how healthy my groceries are by other customers (seriously, that’s happened more than once), while fat. In the words of my doctor, I have the cholesterol levels of a 12-year-old, while fat.
I’m not perfect, of course, but I try really, really, really hard to be extra-careful with my food choices because of PCOS and a family history of basically everything terrible. Having to avoid delicious fried foods is my cross, I guess, and everyone has one, I guess, but fuck if it doesn’t hurt sometimes to see thin (or even thinner) people around me eating amazing-tasting foods all the time that I can’t eat or can only occasionally indulge.
I practice what I preach most of the time. It’s just that sometimes the burden of having to know that I’m fine when the world tells me, constantly, in a variety of ways, that there’s something wrong with me is incredibly great. It’s heavy and it’s unfair. And sometimes I just wish I didn’t have to deal with it and could focus on other things, like skinny people get to do. And I get a little jealous, for a little while.