I’ve read a lot of very good posts very recently about what it means to be a “good fatty”; how maintaining that healthy behaviors don’t necessarily lead to weight loss but can still encourage better health might actually be alienating to anyone who DOESN’T follow all of said “Healthy” behaviors by insinuating that there is some sort of delineation between Fat and Following the Rules and Fat and Naughty. As though one camp somehow deserves accolades, understanding, respect in all the ways that FA proposes…and the other somehow just doesn’t…or at the very least gets treated like the outcast family member who ends up reading in the corner at all those happy FA parties.*
And it was by reading these posts and finally shining a bit of light on that dark little mental monster hidden deep (or not even that deep) in my own mind that I’ve pulled to light for analysis my OWN habits here while blogging: especially those of declaring, perhaps too often, that I do Everything Right Yet Remain Fat and Healthy… as though continuing to not yet lose the Health Lottery somehow makes me a poster-child for FA or something. Is this behavior of mine, of declaring loud and proud that I follow the rules, just another diet-esque trapping into which I’ve fallen?? Am I just a stage two FA troll; pushing the virtues of HAES instead of WW; disdainful somehow of any who do not follow the RIGHT set of Lifestyle Changes???
What do you do when something pulls you up mentally short and leaves you questioning what you even blog about in the first place and if it makes you any “better” than those shilling the very thing you claim to distrust (ie: diets)??? You poke it with a stick of course and analyze the hell out of it!
The first post that really helped me to poke a stick into that mental crevice and analyze my own behaviors (namely that of speaking up loudly when I behave in any way culturally seen as Good For Health; and remaining a bit more silent, head turned away, whistling, toeing the dirt when I behave in ways deemed Bad for Health) was The Good Fatty by JoGeek:
Maybe there’s a part of me that I haven’t managed to excise yet which still contains the internalized message that I have to toe a certain line in order to deserve to be accepted as a fat person. Maybe I’ve transformed that message into the idea that I would be somehow “letting down the team” if I didn’t exercise and eat a balanced diet whenever I could afford to do so; That I have some kind of responsibility to the FA movement to be as perfect a representative as possible.
Or is it simply anticipating the fat prejudice of others? It could be that I’m afraid of being diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease (I expect both will show up in my life like genetic clockwork) because if I am fat and have one of the stigmatized “fat diseases” it will somehow take away the authority of my message.
Over at Another Change the post Addicted to Life really got me thinking about this further with this quote especially:
I know intellectually how FA activists work against the symbolic opposition of the “good fattie” (someone with pristine nutritional and exercise habits who remains fat) vs. the “bad fattie” (someone with imperfect eating and exercise habits). But as I’m trying to find my own voice in FA circles, I can feel the weight of internal pressure about how I’m not being a “good example” of Fat Acceptance, and I’m not being any sort of example for the idea of Health at Every Size. Talk about cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance indeed! And boy have I been feeling similarly and struggling with this very set of confused feelings. Am I really hiding some sort of prejudice against anyone NOT being all “healthy” as defined by HAES, saying somehow that any disease or mis-health that befalls them is “their fault”??? After poking around for a while I have to say that this isn’t the main thought behind why I proclaim my adherence to behaviors more strongly allied with current thoughts on what is healthy; though I’m sure some of that lingers inside somewhere; a vestige of that dieting mentality whereby those who fall off the diet-wagontrain somehow are deserving of any ill health they may come upon. That is a bit alarming to me and is something I’m going to address, because it has no place here. Because I can’t go around claiming it is wrong to pick on fat folks and then feel, even a smidgen, that it is OK if they are picked on because they are part of the wrong group of fat people!! I don’t think that is the message I’ve pushed here and it is never a message I’ve intended; though as we all know sometimes it doesn’t matter your intentions; all that matters is others’ perceptions of your words and actions.
So why does this message of fighting against showing off as an FA poster child strike so close to home for me? For one thing; I’ve been struggling with feeling as though any week when I don’t get out to swim or when I have Non-Healthy meals more than once that I have somehow gone over and fallen off some non-existent HAES wagon or something… as though for some reason my only and best purpose in blogging is in holding myself out as an example of How FA could be Using HAES! I’ve been feeling pinned in by thoughts like “Well, I shouldn’t put anything up because I haven’t gone swimming all week, or I ate something greasy that upset my stomach last night so I’m not as “enlightened” in the ways of FA as I keep proclaiming, someone might just call me a LIAR! (Which, come on, I already have been so I don’t know what I’m really afraid of there!) But this is so fundamentally flawed! How is it any less FA to talk about the awesome chocolate chip cookies I baked than it is to discuss the beauty of fresh blueberries? It shouldn’t be. And I need to shift my way of writing if that has truly become such a concern of mine. There is no need for my own mind to supply the sorts of obstacles to my speaking out that the rest of society is already so willing to eagerly provide me.
So, I’m not here to be all, “Nah, nah! I’m not “dieting” I’m just changing my LIFESTYLE! I’ve moved my desired focus from Being Thin(ner) to Being Healthy(er) and that makes the way I’m acting somehow magically All OK! Whee!” At least, after a bit of introspection that is what I’ve decided is NOT why I’m here; which might mean my posts do alter slightly in tone now. But, that’s what blogging is about, no? Putting down in electronic permanence the path your thoughts have taken over time. I’m here to explore the life I have While Fat. Some of my behaviors might mesh with what is currently accepted as being Inherently Healthy. Some may NOT. I need to stop being entirely vocal about only the Healthy behaviors and so silent about the rest because you know what, I am NOT trying to be a poster child for FA. The true “poster” image of FA is a conglomeration of thoughts, beliefs, sizes, shapes, eating habits, activity levels… there IS no One Way of behaving that means you are Doing FA Right. Just by refusing to be silenced and existing in the body I have is a way of being an example of FA.
Just as any person can boast a shirt saying “THIS is what a feminist looks like”; perhaps what I’ve gained today is a feeling that I need to shift my own mental focus and really understand (more than just “For Others”); that Anyone With ANY food/exercise behaviors IS a poster-child for FA; even me, but even not me. Perhaps we need a shirt which boasts “THIS is what a Fat Acceptance Activist looks AND ACTS like”.
The point that the above posts have helped me clarify, for myself at least, is that: eating and exercising behaviors do not have moral ramifications which are manifested by means of outward looks OR EVEN health and no one has the right to judge the choices or lifestyle of another person. Yes, that even means dieters. If you don’t push your habits on me, I won’t push my habits on you because neither of us has any sort of Inherent Right to judge the other.
Whether a person never touches something considered “naughty food”, eats it only once in a while or thrills to its taste every day; we are all deserving of existence and the rights to it. If I have in any way alienated anyone with previous posts by singing the “I’m Healthy but Fat” mantra; I apologize here in earnest. Because, frankly, my own (or your own) personal current stake-hold in the lottery of Healthy! Personhood!, is no one else’s business. No matter a person’s size or shape, no matter their Actual Eating Behaviors and/or Activity Levels: we are each granted the right to exist in peace. I am just as much a FA and Fat Rights activist on days that I choose to swim laps as I am on those I choose to go home early instead. I don’t have to fit some sort of mandatory level of Healthy Hat-tipping first in order to deserve the right to FIGHT for equal treatment of all body sizes/shapes/behaviors.
So, I’m not going swimming today. I’ve had to backspace through a LOT of rational and reasoning why that I keep trying to put here but the point after all of this reading, thinking and now posting is this: I don’t HAVE to have an excuse. What I do with my food intake and my body’s movements or lack-thereof do not need to be excused in order to make me an acceptable human being. I am not beholden to HAES or WW or any other regime of living in order to prove my worth as a living, breathing, body filled with the spirit of life (in whatever form you take that to be). The same goes for you and every other body out there. I guess sometimes it is just good to be reminded of that, even it if means poking your (albiet now FA tinted) assumptions with a big old stick of introspection.
*I WAS this child during family gatherings all growing up. Usually because I found family “parties” to be insufferably boring once talk got onto relatives I didn’t know or care about and I didn’t want to hear about how if I ever got outside instead of staying in and reading then I might be a thinner kid…