The caveat to every fat shaming rant is they are never talking about people with legitimate health conditions. Even though they are really talking about everyone because you can never see the difference, the one saving grace is they aren’t talking about most obese people.
I, however, am their target audience. I have no withstanding medical conditions. I have no legitimate “excuses”. (There are multitudes of people in the world that have real reasons why losing weight is difficult. The struggle for them is insanely real.)
Sure, I could go on a long diatribe of reasons and set backs. It could probably be incredibly convincing by the time I’m done, but even I know better. If I would have had better discipline and habits in my early life, I would not look the way I do. And, that is what these fat shamers want to see. Yes, I take responsibility for my outward appearance.
But, does this mean I should hate myself thin?
I hit the full fat shame spiral at the end of 2013, and decided (again) to dedicate myself to counting calories and exercising every day. Myfitnesspal.com and I were inseparable. And, sure, in a couple months I lost 20 pounds. For every pound I lost, I gained more despair. I was still fat. I knew, because I have lost over 60 pounds twice in my life before, that even when I hit that big loss goal I would still look fat. Even at my healthiest, I have always been stocky.
It began to feel like I was driving my soul into a life of lifelessness.
Then, I met some women who loved themselves. Women who truly, without abandon, love who they are and how they live. There was no talk about weight loss when we sat at the table. The conversations were about hobbies, interests, all the things that fed their soul. I was watching people living the happy life I wanted.
That’s when it hit me. I was letting the world around me say what my body and soul needed. I was believing the lie that to be happy is to be healthy and to be healthy is to be thin. I was stuck in the circle of shame that says until you meet a certain standard for beauty you have no right to happiness, or love. Can you imagine what that does to a marriage, to all your relationships, when you believe you are unworthy of love?
So, I began to believe in myself. I started listening to my internal dialog, and realized I was my own toughest fat shamer. I questioned all the limits I had put on myself and all the times I said I couldn’t do something, because I was fat. I stopped exercising at home. I no longer felt the need to protect the world from the sight of a fat body sweating.
When I began to explore world, and all the active hobbies that were available to me, I realized I love to hike. Just as importantly, I learned that I could hike. I have worked my way from 1 mile loops in town to 9 mile treks in the wilderness. I found strength, and power, in the waterfalls I visited. I discovered a love, and a new goal that will probably take my whole life to accomplish. I found a hobby that feeds my soul as much as it works my body.
I learned that I love to dance. I have always liked dancing, but when your stuck in that fat shame spiral you don’t believe you should dance, or at least I didn’t anyway. I felt like no one wanted to see a fat person dancing. Once I started realizing the only opinion that really matters was my own, I woke up to the fact that dancing makes me feel alive and at the same time provides a type of moving meditation. It quiets my head, and all the voices of the world that tell me that I am unworthy. I love it so much, I spend almost an hour a day practicing at home on top of the almost 15 hours a week on the floor.
It was amazing, the transformation from focusing on how I was treating my body to how I was treating my soul. The shame began to diminish. My feelings of worthlessness began to dissipate. I suddenly felt worthy of love. It began to dawn on me that I never truly loved myself, and only when I love something do I really want to take care of it.
I don’t get on the scale anymore, because I don’t believe there is anything about that number that matters to me. I still look at the calories of meals, and am learning to make better choices. The difference is, I make this choices out of love. I don’t feel like I am denying myself. I do this because I am worthy of focus. And, honestly, am I beginning to enjoy discovering new likes and preferences. For the record, steamed broccoli is not as bad as I remember it.
And, yes, I am still losing weight. Maybe not as efficiently as others. But, I do find that every few months I am having to dig out a smaller size of pants from my stash of old clothes in the back of my closet. And, although I know it is blasphemous to my new mindset, it does make me smile. The other day, I bought shorts that were size 15-17. When I started this journey I was wearing jeans that were size 22-24. The difference is, that smile doesn’t dissipate when I have a setback. I don’t have to wait until I get to a goal weight to love who I see in a mirror.
So, yes, I am the kind of fat person that all those negative voices are yelling at. I have no legitimate “excuse” for my body composition. I feel like I tried life the “traditional” way for almost 30 years. It only brought me the weight of guilt and shame. That fear and worthlessness only fed into my negativity and created the breading ground for unhealthy habits.
More importantly, no one should have to justify their outward appearance. We, as individuals, have the right to treat our bodies as we see fit. If I chose to drive my body into an early grave, so be it. If I chose to feed my soul with food that I love, that is my call. If I chose to find the fat in my body beautiful, that is my choice. If I chose a path to healthiness that focuses on my soul instead of my waistline, it is my path to follow. No one has to explain themselves to anyone.
Maybe fat shaming works for some people in my place. I’ll admit it has motivated me to get off the couch before. But, for me (and maybe it’s just me as an “inexcusable” fat person, I can’t claim to speak for all of us) I had to lose the weight of guilt and shame before I could lose anything else. I had to gain self-love first. Only through my new journey have I begun to find sustainable, healthy, lifestyle changes that will stick. No more unhealthy crash diets and no more fear of living.
The problem with fat shaming, is it affects everyone. It is emotional terrorism on anyone with a body, whether it is the type of body they mean for it to affect or not. I accept that I may be the “hideous” and “repulsive” type of fat person that needs to be told to kill myself, according to these voices. Which doesn’t bother me, because I stop listening to them a long time ago. But they are yelling these harmful messages at everyone. And, they need to stop. Discriminating against people of different body types is the last, socially acceptable form of discrimination. It is wrong, and it is damaging our society. It contributes to eating disorders of all kind, and the destruction of the mental health of thousand (of all body types.)