A lot of people want me to like myself more. There’s some discomfort reading about my discomfort. Or hearing about it, in person.
Some people tell me I’m exaggerating my size. I’m not fat enough to see myself as anything other than acceptable and within the normal range. Other people generously heap praise and sympathy on me, trying to prop me up and make me feel better about being big in a world that prizes smallness. And I appreciate both. So far, I haven’t heard from trolls (not a big enough following).
What becomes clearer and clearer – as I work to evolve and polish my own personal self-perception lens – is that nice people want for others what they want for themselves. They project their own wishes onto other people. I do it too.
So when someone says to me: don’t worry, you look normal to me! Or, don’t worry, eventually you’ll realize that you could be smaller permanently if you get rid of gluten and sugar… what I hear is: I don’t want to believe that your size isn’t acceptable in society because you’re just a little too close to my own size. Or, I don’t want to believe that we can’t change our weight permanently beyond our 10-20 pound weight set point, so I won’t give up hope – and neither should you!
I can’t sell anyone on my own conclusions about the inevitability of gaining weight from dieting, the absurdity of trying to control my natural body size, or the reality of good/bad value judgments about women and their weight. I can try, but I know I can’t control other people’s cherished beliefs about their own bodies and their own place in the world.
So I won’t respond to the comments the way I’d like to.
I’d like to say: thank you so much for your encouragement, but I’m not on a mission to be pretty by our society’s definition. Thank you for your acceptance of my particular size, but I actually believe that our communal acceptance of size difference needs to go beyond my own particular size to all the sizes that exist in the world. I want to say that I believe you that I could be smaller if I eliminated sugar and carbohydrates and gluten, but I don’t believe it would be a permanent change, and to achieve that I would have to restrict my eating to a degree that would reintroduce self-hatred. I don’t want to bring back old self-hating thoughts. I trust my body. I am healthy as I am.
I was thinking the other day about the BMI ranges. I wondered what would the world look like, literally, if we all fit into the normal BMI range. Would we be a better, happier world if everyone were around the same size and had around the same % of body fat? Would we all be healthier? Live longer? Would we look around and just see beauty everywhere?
I read a book in college called “Faces at the Bottom of the Well” by Derrick Bell. It’s a book of allegorical tales intended to expose how deeply racism is coded in our culture and thinking – his main point is that racism is permanent. In one story, Bell imagines that aliens have come to earth and they threaten to destroy the world unless the various leaders all agree to give all of the black people to the aliens. The aliens don’t say what they want all the black people for, so it could be certain death or it could be a blissful new world somewhere out in the universe. Some black people protest, others say “maybe this is good – I’d rather go where I’m wanted”. It made me wonder at the time, as I am now about fatness, whether or not a world without black people would be a good thing or a bad thing. I concluded it would be bad, but there were some convincing arguments otherwise.
There’s a theory that the US has so far avoided class warfare and strong Labor parties (like the kind seen in the UK, France and Germany – e.g. other industrialized western countries) simply because we have our history of slavery and racism. The poorest and most beaten down white people still have something to cling to that makes them better: their whiteness.
When I think about fatness through a political lens, I wonder if it’s a form of protest. Obesity is correlated with poverty – which seems ironic on the surface, but where else can poor people in a “pull your bootstraps up” country turn to with their rage and helplessness? Maybe food is one outlet. Shitty food. “Fuck you” fast food. Of course a lot of poor people live in food deserts and have limited options for healthy food, but maybe, sometimes, they choose to give the middle finger to “the obesity epidemic” and thinness and the rich lefty elites.