On Fat Positivity

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2011 at 2:52 AM

Fat positivity is something I’ve struggled to understand and accept. I’ve read some really compelling stuff about why fat positivity is important and I understand, for example, everything listed here. You don’t have to look very hard to see evidence of fat-shaming and hatred. The attitude that you have to be superskinny to be beautiful hurts us all. But beyond all this, the question has lingered at the back of my mind, a question used to hurt and shame and disregard fat people: why wouldn’t you want a healthier body?

Before I continue, let’s put this in the context of my relationship to my own body. I’ve always been a fairly skinny girl. My mom’s a bit of a health nut, so she always cooked good food full of whole grains and vegetables and lean meats. Though I hated sports, I spent most of my childhood climbing trees and riding my bike. As a teenager, my friends and I would spend hours walking around, getting up to an incredibly innocent version of ‘no good’. When I started university, my weight slowly climbed and peaked last winter at about 35 pounds more than my high school weight. I was barely exercising and I was eating a smorgasbord of crap food.

In the spring, I got sick 3 times in a 2 month period. I was finishing up an honours thesis at the time, so stress was obviously a contributing factor. But I knew I could be taking better care of myself, so I decided to change my diet to prevent futher illness. This basically meant I tried to eat as many vegetables as possible and started switching junk food snacks for fruit or juice. Meanwhile, the weather improved and all I wanted to do was go outside in it. My partner and I started going for long walks almost every day, plus occasional hiking or jogging.

As I started to feel the effects of my lifestyle changes, I began to realize a lot of problems with the way we think about weight and health. I’m really happy about the changes to my body because I feel stronger. I’m more energetic. With a little bit of posture work, my life-long back and neck problems are going away. The pain in my left knee, which made everything from tying my shoes to getting out of a chair an excruciating process, is gone. But we don’t have a framework for talking about our health aside from weight loss. In the framework of weight loss, what I’ve accomplished sounds much less impressive. I’ve only lost about 10 pounds of the 35 I gained. I don’t look as skinny as I did at 17, but I feel just as healthy.

I often see friends on Facebook (and I’m sure this happens on other social networking sites that I’m not a part of) excitedly sharing their weight loss milestones. Trust me, I understand first hand the excitement of your body feeling better. And I can imagine the reassurance of looking at a scale and seeing tangible proof of your accomplishments. But this behaviour is really insensitive to fat and fabulous people who are trying very hard to embrace their bodies the way they are. And it’s exclusionary to fat and fabulous people who work hard to keep their bodies strong and healthy, but happen to not lose weight. This habit of equating health with weight is so pervasive it’s frightening. If you don’t believe me, check out ads for weight loss aids. More energy, higher stamina, better sleep, lower stress levels, more satisfying sex, boosts in self-confidence and fewer overall health problems are framed as side effects of weight loss. Seriously, how fucked up is that?

Earlier this summer, I ran into a woman who had lived in my residence in my first year of university. I’d never been particularly close to her, but I remember her as constantly anxious. I remember her asking if certain activities were relaxing, guilting herself about eating too much candy and saying she was ‘too fat’ to wear her hair short like mine. I saw her working at an organic/whole foods grocery store and she looked fantastic: gorgeous, relaxed, and with a huge smile. I asked her if she had lost weight and she shrugged off the question, saying “People should just be happy with themselves.” Her response caught me off guard, but in retrospect, it’s the best answer to that question.

I’m not fat, but I can be a fat positive ally. So I’m not going to brag about my weight loss. I’m not going ask other people about their weight loss. I’m definitely not going to suggest to other people ways they can lose weight. It’s easier said than done, but I’m going to try not to think of my high school weight as some sort of goal. I’m going to think about my health in terms of how far I can run, how winded I am after walking up a hill, how often I get sick and how much energy I have. Most of all, I’m going to love my body because it’s healthy and strong and I can do amazing things with it, regardless of how it looks.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: