Fat acceptance and the fantasy of being thin

I am in several Facebook groups for plus size women.  A couple of days ago, one of the moderators of one group posted the following question:

“Based on a few threads in here where some of us feel particularly low or unattractive I think a bit of forced positivity is in order….

So.

When was the last time you genuinely felt attractive and sexy?

Where were you?
What were you wearing?
What in particular made you feel that way?
Why did you feel that way?”

Good questions.  My reply was

“I felt absolutely fab last night. I went to the wedding evening do of a uni friend and met up with some people who I haven’t seen for years. Despite the fact I am quite a lot heavier than I was at uni, I dress better and feel better about myself. Ive let go of the angst about being fat and have decided that as I’m never going to be thin, I will dress myself nicely now rather than putting it off (forever) with the mindset that I will wait until I’m thin.

Anyway, I got loads of complements from people, including from two guys I haven’t seen for 20 years. I also got a free drink at the bar and a lot of smiles from people. I think it’s cos I felt fab and happy and that made me look great”

Capture

But some of the other replies have almost had me in tears.  People saying that they only felt great when they were a size 10 and they could feel their hipbones grinding into the mattress, or saying that they lost 4 stone and felt great, but have put weight back on and feel terrible, or even that they have NEVER felt great.

The self hate of so many people in a closed plus size, supposedly supportive community is distressing.  Having been there in the past but escaped, it makes me very, very sad. 

And then of course there are the women who are dieting and have lost weight who are showered with congratulations (this is not a diet community). I always feel terribly awkward when people are congratulated on weight loss. Like you’ve made yourself smaller to take up less space and conform to the pressures of society, where’s the good in that?

WHY?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why are women of all ages so focussed on losing weight to conform to a single societal ideal?  Why do women think that there being less of them is a good thing?

Yes, I once felt the same having drunk the diet/magazine/media Kool Aid, but now I’ve come to a place where I know that the word “Fat” is a descriptor. I am fat, I have been less fat and more fat, but I have always been fat. It was learning that the word is not an insult, but just a word (even if meant as an insult) that helped me to come to terms with the fact that I can live a perfectly OK life as a fat women, and all the mental energy I put into hating myself and wishing I was “normal” could actually be put into my relationship, my career, my crafting hobbies, my ukulele playing and my friends.

No, I don’t feel 100% all the time, BUT when I feel “fat” I now recognise that I’m feeling unhappy/nervous/upset/apprehensive/insecure about something and that my body insecurity is actually my brain playing up.

I have found that people take me more seriously now in my career because I dress better and speak out and I’m not afraid of being insulted about being fat (which I always was before). And now it never happens. I’m very short (5’4″) but people alway think I’m taller and I think it’s because I project confidence in a fat body.

I WISH I could help some of the women who are so unhappy about their bodies to let them know that it is possible to get to a place where you don’t actually mind your body. I’m not a “body love” sort of person, I think loving a body that you are constantly told is defective/non-conformist is very hard, but I am definitely a fat acceptance person. I accept my fat body, dress it nicely, feed it and exercise it and then get on with living life.

Meanwhile, here is a link to a ground breaking, mind-opening blog post by Kate Harding that started me on the road to fat acceptance back in 2007.

https://kateharding.net/2007/11/27/the-fantasy-of-being-thin/

“But then, the other day, I got to thinking about a particular kind of resistance that shows up every single time anyone dares to say that dieting doesn’t work — the kind that comes from other fat people and amounts to, “DON’T YOU TAKE MY HOPE AWAY!” Those of us in the anti-dieting camp are frequently accused of demoralizing fat people, of sending a cruelly pessimistic message. I’ve never quite gotten my head around that one, since the message we’re sending is that you’re actually allowed to love your fat body instead of hating it, and you can take steps to substantially improve your health without fighting a losing battle with your weight. I’m pretty sure that message is both compassionate and optimistic, not to mention realistic. But there will always be people who hear it as, “I, Kate Harding, am personally condemning you to a lifetime of fatness! There’s no point in trying, fatty! You’re doomed! Mwahahaha!”……..

“Overcoming The Fantasy of Being Thin might be the hardest part of making it all the way into fat acceptance-land. And that might just be why I’d pushed that part of the process out of my memory: it fucking sucked. Because I didn’t just have to accept the size of my thighs; I had to accept who I am, rather than continuing to wait until I magically became the person I’d always imagined being. Ouch.”

Day 365/366: the good. What I learnt this year whilst wearing my wardrobe

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Tweed pinafore by Tu – secondhand via Ebay

Despite the backsliding I described in yesterday’s post, I do think that this year’s exercise in looking at my clothes shopping habits has been helpful.

I went into town yesterday to have a look in the sales, but it was incredibly uninspiring; I looked through the rails and just went “meh” as nothing made me excited.  What I think I have evolved is a bit more of an original style than I had when I was thoughtlessly spending money on clothes and I just bought anything that fitted.

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Skirt is years old M+S, jumper is Oasis via a charity shop

Pretty much all of the clothes I have bought this year and have kept fit me really well.  Most of them have a slight retro feel to them, and I have definitely moved away from any bohemian, frilly, lacy or draped sort of styles.  My wardrobe seems to have refined itself into simple but strong structured garments; either nipped in waist swing dresses with cropped cardigans or straight or slightly A-line skirts with fitted jumpers.

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Secondhand tartan dress via Ebay, cardi from Lindy Bop

 

As a fat child and adult, I always veered towards clothes that draped, hid or disguised my body. This just made me look shapeless when actually I do have a shape, albeit a bit of a butternut squash rather than traditional hourglass shape.

What I have been learning this year during my wardrobe wearing experiment is what suits me.  I have moved out of hiding and into the light of Instagram and blogging.  I take photos of myself and I use them to give other women confidence that they can wear nice clothes too.  Life is too short not to wear pretty clothes, I don’t need to cover myself in shapeless baggy fabric. I don’t need to apologise for existing as I am.

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I do love this outfit.  Skirt is new this year from Primark, jumper is C+A from 2014

What I have also learnt is that charity shopping is thoroughly satisfying, enjoyable and productive, but internet shopping is my downfall.  It’s too easy to turn to the Facebook selling pages, the online vintage repro dress retailers and that old time and money pit, Ebay.  I turn to the internet in times of stress and look at pages and pages of clothes.  I don’t even like most of them, but feel like that old void that needs filling with stuff is still there.

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Second hand Monsoon pinafore dress

So my plan for 2017 is no internet shopping for clothes, shoes, jewellery or makeup.  If I want to buy something I have to get it from a shop.  I also have to buy it with real money, not with a credit/debit card – I have to see those notes cross the counter.  Much as I’d like to, I don’t think I can continue my shopping ban as it really hasn’t worked for the whole year. I do however think that stopping my internet shopping habit will be a helpful and more to the point an achievable goal this year.

Meanwhile, I will continue to wear the gorgeous clothes in my Wardrobe.  Bring on Wearing my Wardrobe in 2017.

 

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The Collectif Caterina – one of the only two dresses I bought in a shop this year. I love it, it has so much weight and swirl.

Day 99/366: feeling low

I’m putting on weight.  For all the body/fat acceptance work that I have done with myself, I still feel awful and ashamed about it.  I have been on a particular medication for two years and I was taken off it at the end of February, and I think this is what is causing the weight increase, as I lost weight (unexpectedly and without trying) when I started taking it, going from a solid size 20 to a 16/18.

Add to this nearly losing our dog Marley to an attack of ideopathic vestibulitis two weeks ago, grief from losing Bella and extreme work stress,  I feel terrible both mentally and physically.  Marley still isn’t quite well although he is a lot better and back on his feet.  As he’s so old, I worried that we are keeping him alive for our sake rather than his (although he is so much better now and is definitely still interested in life).  It’s a really hard call, but he didn’t tell us that he was ready to go even when at his sickest two weeks ago, unlike Bella did two months ago.

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Poor sick Marley

The question is, why is my sense of self worth so tied up with my weight?  I do wonder if the huge amount of stress and grief I’m going through at the moment is actually making my emotional reaction to my (so far very small) weight gain worse.  I have observed in the past that when I’m feeling low my attitude to my body is far more negative.  It’s that classic “I feel fat” feeling which really should be more accurately interpreted as “I’m stressed/scared/tired/anxious/upset”.

The problem with documenting my outfits on social media is that I can see the difference between me this year and me early last year.  I wore the dress in the picture below on Tuesday to a meeting and I spent the day feeling incredibly self-conscious about myself.  When I wore the same dress this time last year, I felt wonderful.  Looking at the two images, there are differences, but they are very subtle, so why do I feel them so acutely? Why do I feel ashamed of how I look on the left, but happy and confident on the right?

Kerry who blogs at Ruby Thunder blog (http://www.rubythunder.com/) posted a video on Facebook earlier today.  Its called Embrace and is a trailer for a documentary by Taryn Brumfitt of the Body Image Movement (http://bodyimagemovement.com).  I sat and watched it and cried my eyes out as it pinpoints the fact that most women feel awful about themselves and how they look and that it’s such a complete waste of energy and emotion.

The part that set me off was when the majority of women that Taryn interviewed in the street and asked to describe how they feel about themselves said negative things about themselves.  There were at least five women who called themselves disgusting.  No one should feel that their body or appearance disgusting, but we are living in a society that encourages people to pick on their flaws rather than celebrate the diversity of human appearance.

This is such a sad state of affairs for us, so much negative energy spent telling ourselves that we don’t meet arbitrary societal standards rather than putting that energy into making life better for ourselves and others, or having more fun, or volunteering or baking or doing art or making music.  We spend too much time staring in the mirror pinching our flesh and criticising the vessel that carries us around; feeling inadequate, or thinking that people are staring at us and criticising us for our appearance.

And yet, I know that I don’t go around looking at people in the streets or at meetings or in the pub and thinking critical things about their appearance.  I’m more likely to be concerned about what they do, how they act and how they treat people. So why do I think that other people are looking at me critically.

I seriously need to get myself out of this negative self talk as my work life is unlikely to get better or less stressful over the next two years and my appearance has nothing to do with how I cope with what’s going on. I have had a period of four or five years where I have felt significantly better about myself, partly down to reading wonderful fat acceptance blogs and actually meeting some of these amazing, positive women who have created this social movement for self-acceptance.  I feel like I need to go back to the beginning and start again.