I have been at least lurking if not participating in the fat acceptance community for so long that I can forget how un-mainstream the idea of not wanting to lose weight can be. I received a lovely email from a reader the other day cheering me on and wishing me happiness and success, including in losing weight. I was so pleased at her kindness that I had to do a double take and realized, wow, I’m not communicating myself very well if it sounds like I’m unhappy being the size I am.
So for spelling it out loud, my name is Claudia, I’m fat, I don’t diet, and I don’t hate myself for being fat.
As difficult as it was growing up with the stigmatizing messages I got from my family and those around me, I’m grateful that my voyage to fat acceptance has been pretty smooth sailing, all things considered.
After all of the diets I’d been put on as a kid, I picked up the mantle myself my senior year of high school, and went on the most restrictive diet I’ve ever been on. I was eating far under 1000 calories a day, weighing myself three times a day, and exercising at top speed at least an hour a day, if not more. Such drastic behavior would better be described as disordered eating, but as the weight came off, I got accolades instead of concern. I was a straight-A student at the top of my class, but everyone looked at me as if dropping those dress sizes was somehow my greatest achievement.
(I remember two lone voices of dissent at the time. We had to keep a food journal for a short time in biology class and my teacher told me that I needed to be eating more – not something I wanted to hear at the time. My brother also told me that counting fat grams was going to make me boring, which now makes me laugh with its truth.)
Of course, you all know how the story ends. The work it took to maintain the loss and try for more became untenable. I was buzzing on the adrenaline of righteous hunger and the banishment of my old self, and couldn’t bear a single break in the wall I’d built up to protect myself from being who I used to be. I remember my father bringing home sandwiches for dinner, and my plain veggie sub had oil and mayonnaise against my strict instructions for bare bread. I remember sobbing and screaming that he was trying to sabotage me – clearly, I wasn’t in any kind of sustainable state.
So when I couldn’t do it anymore, the weight came back. Again, not an unusual story, but I was lucky in that I only had a few more minor dieting attempts before I realized that this just wasn’t any way to live my life. Now I’ve been about the same size for about 15 years, and I feel as if I’ve reached a state of true acceptance around my body. My body is me, I am my body – I live in it every day, and I try to live the best life I can, just like everyone else. Giving up the Sisyphean task of dieting and self-hatred feels great, even if it means that my body doesn’t look the way I used to think it had to in order to be happy.
What occurs to me now, though, is how much trouble I have with acceptance in just about every other aspect of my life. I am impatient at small inconveniences, rage against my life not being exactly the way I think it should be, think that if I just protest enough, life won’t be what it is. I may not feel inferior for being fat, but I’ll feel inferior for being over-educated and under-employed, for being raised in a blue-collar town in a family without much money, for being in my mid-30s without owning a house or having the picture-perfect marriage, for having recurring depression, for being somewhat unfocused and unclear about what to do with my life.
So now that I’ve accepted being fat, maybe it’s time to start accepting the rest of me.