Sometimes I am convinced that I am way larger than I actually am: classic body dysmorphia (like anorexics). I get angry and sad about being fundamentally wrong-bodied, and maybe one day dying never having known what it feels like to be thin and classically pretty.
Then other times – maybe even most of the time? – I go along living in what I presume is a Matrix-style delusion, thinking I’m sexy, pretty, strong (not fat) and glowing. That my personal style is original and striking, but also soft. That my huge laugh might shake the ground, but it practically forces other people to laugh too.
My size almost feels like an asset to me when I’m floating around in this delusional state. It gets me attention. Gives me gravitas in a room full of floaty shifty generally-untrustworthy business people who all look the same. The whole notion of taking up more space – in a feminist way – feels about right to me. I am also de-sexualized enough that I can be heard.
I also like being seen as having a little bit of hard-won wisdom, since I’m living the actual fat life, versus the imagined and feared fat life. I think some thin women wonder what it would be like to be fat. I would. In my delusional “fat-is-beautiful” state of mind, I try to project contentment. Strength. Joy. Like a sober woman surrounded by drinkers, I don’t want to feed thin women’s fear of fat. I want to model that what they fear most is a form of freedom and insurrection.
But then the bubble bursts, of course. I see a photo or two that show me what I really look like and I quickly sink into shame. So ugly. So much like those before pictures in so many diet ads. A huge expanse of back fat with no discernible waistline. Four chins. Flat hair. Thickening ankles.
I have a pretty deep-seated New England WASP anxiety around being a “show off”. There’s nothing more shameful than being proud of yourself when you’ve got nothing to be proud of. Those people are arrogant. Snooty. Think they’re better than everyone else. And for No. Good. Reason.
So I swing from one exaggerated picture to the other, and can’t seem to settle in some neutral, reality-based notion of how much space I take up, how my clothing falls on me, what my chin does when I roll my eyes or laugh, or how the world perceives me.
Did I mention that my ass regularly knocks into people’s water and wine glasses when I’m being escorted to a table at a restaurant? I’m always shocked. Truly. Who did that? Was that really my own ass, that’s here, attached to my body?
Isabel Foxen Duke told me that seeing photos of ourselves is the most common trigger back to diet mentality. She suggested I get a lot of photos taken of me. Maybe hire a photographer. Do a boudoir shoot or something. It’s important to see yourself at all angles, all poses. To see yourself in different outfits, in different lighting. With make up, without make up. It teaches you to align your imaginary self with your real self and just move the fuck on.
I like that idea. Maybe I’ll ask my husband or a friend to take pictures of me and I’ll post them here if I feel up to it. Stay tuned on that…
6 thoughts on “My body dysmorphia pendulum.”
The camera lies, believe your mirror and your mind. Photos flatten us out and only skinniest of minis can escape the horrors they reveal. That’s why movie stars are disgustingly thin, because the camera adds weight and lacks depth. You are everything you imagine you are and all that you seek you already have.
I’d like to add that I also knock things over with my ass occasionally. People had just better watch our butts and stay out of their way!!
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When I first learned you had a blog and visited it, I thought, “Wait, why is it called Total Fatty? Did Ingrid lose a lot of weight and the blog tells her story?” I’ve seen pictures of you, and it never would have occurred to me to describe you as fat. I don’t know what you weigh or what size you wear, but I do know that almost every woman (me included) has a skewed idea of how fat she is. Like you, I spent my teens and twenties dieting. When I started having babies it was a relief, because I had an excuse to look the way I did. I no longer “diet” but I do watch portion size and avoid sugar and carbs. I think my body does have a set point (what I currently weigh) and whenever I dip below it, my weight drifts inevitably back to that point. I worry like crazy about setting the right example for my daughters (none of whom seem to have food issues yet) and try to emphasize health rather than size as the reason I eat the way I do. I think it was in another post that you talked about health-ism as just another disguise for the whole “be thin or else” societal imperative? It can be, I’ll admit. But there’s also something real there — when I eat the way I normally do, I feel good physically. When I eat sugar or a too-large portion of anything, I don’t feel good. So I can make a legitimate case for healthy eating as improving my quality of life, apart from its effect on my waistline. But I’d been a damn liar if I said I didn’t care about my figure. I grew up a woman in an appearance-obsessed culture — how could I not?
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Just to clarify: I think the diet industry has adopted healthism to continue to sell people (not just women, but mostly women) stuff or services that they can use/do in order to be thin. Health/weight-loss marketers know nothing works permanently (hence bottomless opportunity to make money), because restriction undertaken to reduce our weight below our natural set point is destined to fail, unless we want to be on the diet forever (which is nearly impossible – biologically… but people manage it rarely). Anyhoo – my point is: if you make choices that are healthier because it feels good, you sleep better, you have more energy, and it keeps your weight at a place that makes you happy – then “health” isn’t a dirty word. Neither is not eating sugar. It’s the goal that matters: is it a wasted, self-hatred-driven effort to change your body, which results in reactive eating when you do encounter a great dessert, and ultimately weight gain? Or is it an adult choice done to feel good, with exceptions made when life throws you a food curveball and you just need to eat whatever’s on offer… i.e., you’re a normal eater who trusts herself and her body to take care of things? That’s how I think about it. 🙂
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This distinction makes sense. For me, it is a choice that makes me feel better.
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You are awesome. I just listened to your podcast on The Bubble Hour. We have alot in common!
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