It’s really hard for me to be a fat person sometimes. I’m the lifelong kind of fat. I was a fat baby and then I just never “thinned out” like people expected me to. I’ve been some level of fat forever. We could go over the million contributing factors, but I’m not obligated to do that. All you need to know is that I am fat, so everything I say from this point on is my actual lived experience.
My experiences have been incredible. I’ve lived a lot of beautiful life in my fat body. I have created art, and I have created life. I’ve made love, fought hard, and suffered loss. I’ve been a bitch and an ally, a fried and a foe. I have had a good life in my body, just as it is.
But I still know everything would be easier for me if I was thin. Growing up in diet culture as an always-fat person has been tough for a lot of reasons. Let’s talk about a few.
Diet culture has conditioned me to never trust my body.
Since I was a little girl, diet culture has banked on training me that my body obviously can’t be trusted to tell me when I need food. So many times, I have been told that if I listened to my “true hunger,” I’d be smaller. So much smaller.
Diet culture has been conditioning me to mistrust myself since I was a chubby six-year-old girl who asked a trusted adult for a snack and heard, “You’re not hungry. You’re bored. Go outside.”
I remember sitting on a swing in the back yard, feeling the grass under my bare, chubby toes, embarrassed for thinking I was hungry. I didn’t know I could feel “bored” in my stomach, and I didn’t realize that the sounds of an empty belly could be quieted by fresh air and sunshine. The gnawing ache in my stomach wasn’t real? I guess I couldn’t trust it to tell me it was time to eat.
Diet culture kept trying to make me doubt my own sanity when I was fifteen and a magazine told me that I should try drinking a glass of water instead of eating, in case I was confusing my thirst for hunger. I went to bed with only a glass of water in my stomach, wondering when I had stopped knowing the difference between hunger and thirst. I really thought I could feel the difference, but apparently fat bodies got it wrong. So wrong, so often that our bodies turned into…this. And this could never be good.
Not much has changed. I do better now, but there’s always a quiet voice in the bottom of my heart telling me I might be getting it all wrong.
Diet culture has made eating an emotionally fraught nightmare.
I don’t see food as “good” or “bad.” Unless I’m the one eating it.
Diet culture has made eating—something humans do, not only to survive, but also for socialization and pleasure—complicated, confusing, difficult, and fraught with emotion. Over the course of my life, I have felt guilt and pride connected to food. Sometimes, I have felt both guilt and pride connected to the same food, sometimes at the same time.
As a person who has never for a single moment of my life been thin, I have grown accustomed to having only two settings: “On a diet,” or “consumed with guilt for not being on a diet.”
I’ve worked hard over the last few years to change my mindset about body size (and I’ve been successful) but changing my feelings about food has proven to be harder.
It’s like Grand Pabbie says in Frozen: “The heart is not so easily changed, but the head can be persuaded.”
Diet culture has told me that eating food — something literally every human being needs to do in order to continue existing — is right for other people, but it’s often the wrong thing for me. When I do it anyway to avoid that whole pesky dying-of-starvation thing, I am always conflicted about which foods I’m “supposed to” choose.
A lot of people feel entitled to say vile things to fat people — especially online.
I don’t mean that people are slightly rude. I’m not talking about the stares or the snickers. This isn’t about the compliments about my “pretty face,” although those things suck, too.
I am talking about outright, intentional cruelty. One guy told me I deserve to burn alive because my fat body in a bathing suit is not sexually attractive to him. Another man told me while I was pregnant that carrying babies in my fat body was child abuse, and fat bodies should automatically miscarry. I cried that night, unable to fathom how anyone could say that to me. How did he look at my body carrying my precious baby and think she’d be better off dead than safe in my womb? As I felt her kick and flutter inside me, I thought about the two babies that I did lose to miscarriage, and I wondered if he would he still be able to say those words to my face if he knew.
Sadly, it’s not just men. A woman recently told me that breastfeeding my kids at my size is akin to letting them drink water from the bottom of a trash can. Every time my baby girl latches on to my breast, those words bounce around in my brain for a moment. Luckily, her perfect little face looks up at me, content, nourished, healthy, and I know that there is no truth in those heartless words. My body is good.
As hard as I try to avoid reading the hate, sometimes I stumble across it anyway or it makes its way to my inbox. I would be lying if I said it doesn’t get to me. It hurts, and I hate it. If I was thinner, I’d be invisible, and you have no idea what a relief that would be sometimes.
Everyone has an opinion about how I should be eating and moving, but nobody can agree on one definite right way.
Do you even know how many times someone has approached me with a new miracle cure for my “weight problem?”
Have you seen this viral post about weight loss? It’s so freaking true. Everyone has an opinion about how I should live in my body, but no matter what I do, someone thinks I’m doing it wrong. It’s head-spinning and exhausting.
The hardest thing about being fat is that people find it hard to believe that I absolutely love my life.
But I do. If nobody else cared that I’m fat, I wouldn’t care either.
My body rarely holds me back. There is nothing I want to do that I can’t do because of my size. (This is not true for all fat people. It’s still important to me to work toward making the world more equitable for people in bodies larger than mine. That’s a conversation for another day.)
It’s very hard to live with other people’s opinion of my fatness. It’s hard to retrain my inner voice to be less critical of my own fatness. And it’s hard to see my body as good in a world that consistently tells me I’m not enough.
But I can do hard things, and I’ll keep doing this. I’m worth the effort it takes to learn how to love myself.
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