Still working through body image and weight loss issues via the blog, and I get it if that’s not your thing, so here’s your warning that some raw feelings about this type of stuff are coming up in this post.
I’m socially anxious and self aware. I work hard on starving the first thing and nourishing the second, and while I am naturally a positive person, and I work to build that part of myself up too, it bugs me when someone tries to tear down my self awareness thinking they’re helping me. It doesn’t help me. It feeds the social anxiety monster. The one I’m TRYING to starve. And one of the most prominent places in my life that this shows up is with body image and weight loss efforts.
I’m fat. That’s a fact. I have a greater than ideal body mass index, waist size, and weight. I’ve actually never cared much about conforming to conventional beauty standards and these things don’t affect my physical health at all (at least so far, although I do have a rampant family history of Type II diabetes). But I mean…I AM fat, regardless of my health condition or what I think or anyone else thinks about how fat looks or what anyone’s subjective assumptions of character that go along with ‘fat’ are. I’m fat. And really, if it was only me and the majority of people I’m surrounded with, I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with that word. Because *I* don’t attach any additional arbitrary negative traits to it. Like, to me…fat =/= lazy. And fat =/= ugly. And fat =/= slow or stupid or gross or whatever. So when I say, “I’m fat,” I’m just stating an observable truth. But when I say it (or type it if it’s a text conversation), I’m almost without a doubt met with objections from a well-meaning listener, thinking it’s making me feel better.
“You’re not FAT!”
But I am. The only reason people say this is because they view ‘fat’ as something bad and negative, and they assume that when I call myself fat (which is a neutral, observable truth), they assume I’m putting myself down. But I’m not. And because they view fat as bad and negative, they also equate anything even a little related to perceived fatness or implications of other declarations involving fitness or weight or food choices as bad and negative, and in the name of body positivity (they claim and sometimes probably actually believe) try to refute those assertions from me too, normally by telling me not to take action I want to take for myself and feel is necessary for my healthy self image and self awareness. Again, they think they’re being supportive, but they’re really feeding social anxiety for me with benevolent excuses, denial, and dishonesty.
Me: I need to watch how much/what I’m eating…
Them: You’re not FAT!
(I didn’t say I was. And even if I did…what’s inherently ‘wrong’ with being fat?)
Me: I’m starting a weight loss plan now.
Them: You can’t start a weight loss thing right before vacation!
(Sure I can. There’s no optimum time to start a fitness/weight loss plan or any other goal like Monday or a new month or a new year or whatever. The time to start on achieving goals is always ‘when you feel ready.’ And that’s NOW. Even if it’s right before a holiday or a vacation or a normal food-heavy event.)
I told an aunt of mine a few weeks ago my measurable weight that could easily be verified on a digital scale and she insisted she didn’t believe me; that I was putting myself down; because I told her the self aware truth about my body. She’s been thin her entire life and kind of fitness and weight obsessed, herself. She’s only eaten seafood and a vegetarian, mostly low fat and low sugar/high fiber diet for my entire memory, and she’s always been so dedicated to exercise that even after being advised not to by a doctor, continues to run miles a day after *hip replacement surgery.* But she will tell me I’m not fat; I don’t need to lose weight; I look great; I’ll never believe you really weight that much…when I state facts about myself…in the supposed name of body positivity. I know that’s insincere, because she’s had a lifelong, obvious fat-phobia that manifests in her own obsessive behavior with food and exercise.
The truth for me and my body image and health is…I like myself. As much as social anxiety has tried to beat me down, I like myself, and always have, at any size, doing any type of work, no matter what style hair I have, no matter who else likes me. That’s true. My self image and body image is pretty healthy and positive. It truly is. I like myself fat. I like myself thin. I like myself all the time, regardless of my body size and shape…except…when I feel like I’m being lied to and placated by and disconnected from other people and out of control of my own autonomy. And that’s how I feel right now. I feel like other people are working against my own self awareness and sabotaging (although largely unintentionally, I know) my efforts to better myself. Which honestly? Doesn’t feel super positive to me.
The intentions behind the body positivity movements are good. And when I say what my weight or size or fitness level is, or that I want to change those things, it doesn’t mean that I’m saying those things are bad or wrong in themselves. It doesn’t mean I don’t like myself or anyone else who has a different weight, size, or fitness level than my current one or any I’ve had in the past or will have in the future. It means that to feel whole and calm and confident in myself (my mental and emotional health and self image and awareness and autonomy) that I’m taking some actions. Making my own decisions about food and exercise and asserting my boundaries when it comes to these things helps clarity in my thinking, and calms anxiety. That improves my life, not only the subjective view some people hold that it improves my body. That should still be allowed and I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty and like I’m shaming other people or have assumptions of poor self esteem or other esteem placed on me for wanting to take action to change and improve myself (again…the improvement is with my mental health and confidence…my physical health and self worth is just fine). I shouldn’t have to accept feeling out of control and sad and disconnected with myself to serve the nebulous concept of body positivity.
I believe that people should appreciate their bodies, and enjoy their lives. I don’t think a person should feel obligated to sacrifice the joy of eating pasta or wedding cake or whatever forever, or to exercise themselves for hours a day every day to sacrifice the joy of binge watching their favorite show or reading their favorite books, to fit societal beauty standards. And I believe that people should be their own judge of what their optimum health is, so if that includes a weight loss plan, it doesn’t mean they hate themselves, or are intentionally being ableist, or are shaming other people who look the same or differently from them, or that they’re serving societal beauty standards at the expense of their well-being or feminism. And if it doesn’t include a weight loss plan, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about themselves, or that they’re lazy, or endorsing an unhealthy lifestyle for other people. It just means they are making their own decisions about their own holistic health…MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH INCLUDED…for themselves.
I usually love myself. Sometimes I have to work on it, like right now. And it’s okay that that includes a weight loss strategy. I hope all of you love yourselves (at least most of the time). And that if you have to work on it, the people in your life are sincerely supportive of you, whether that includes a weight loss strategy or not.