Oprah gives me hope for once

Or, rather, a pair of mother/daughter articles in her most recent mag (and now online) gives me hope for the possibility of redefining the weight narrative.

“There’s nothing healthy about fearing food and using exercise as a whip. A better goal is to exercise for fun and truly eat well—not less, not using different rules, but in a way that’s more nourishing and more conscious.”

Something that really hit home for me was this bit from the daughter: “But the ending [my mother] envisioned was the same one that played out in every kid’s book with a fat character I had ever read: the one where the troubled chubster solves her inner turmoil and ends up svelte. Mom never envisioned an ending where the fat kid discovers that there was nothing wrong with her in the first place. Why would she? Nobody ever wrote that story.”

How often did I read those same books?  The ones with the fattie who learns her self worth woes are only “in her head” and THAT is what makes her simply “eat too much” and *poof*! once learning said truth she does the 80’s montage into svelte acceptance and then Yay!  Rudolph gets to play with all the normal sized reindeer now. Celebration ensues.

Only, for anyone wishing for that same fantastical ending, it never does happen, does it?  Now matter how many times you have your own personal “epiphany” about the reality that you’re *gasp* Fat!  and perhaps even Sad About It!; there IS no happy celebratory end to your sweaty calorie restriction filled montage scene. Instead you end up cruising past that “happy ending” and right back to where you started, or even worse: fatter.  And those fictional former fatties mock you from their safe thin haven and you’re sure that somehow you’ve done something wrong in order to fail.  Again. And so you read those “inspirational” fictional stories about people shedding their fat selves (which are of course always the more clumsy, awkward, bashful and ugly sides of their personalities) leaving only worthy and wonderful people of skinny happiness behind.

“The weight she loses is used as a narrative tool to epitomize these emotional changes. Why is fatness allowed to be this tool, though? What other types of physical attributes would we allow to exist purely as symbolic of an inner flaw?…. With so many examples of fatness equaling flawedness, fatness slips easily into shorthand for anything negative. Skinny characters are sometimes bad or weak, but they are surrounded by other skinny characters who are good or strong or understandable; fat characters epitomized by flaws have few counter-examples. Some are Santa-jolly, but these are often stock characters, unreliable or entertaining, rarely heroes. Fatness is enough reason to be the subject of mocking laughter, the only comic relief in a somber book…” – Fat characters in recent young adult fiction

Even the one book I had sworn had been counter to this common narrative of the Fat Girl saved by Not Eating and “Finding Self Worth (though only once thin, natch) is really, upon recent inspection, exactly the same: “Ignore the taunts and show those bullies what’s what by proving you can be skinny with enough exercise and fewer ice cream cones!  Yeah!”  Bull. We need MANY more stories like these to replace this fatphobic wonderland of wishful thinking.

But anyways the point is to say that having anything akin to an “open” discussion available on a major woman’s magazine/site is a hopeful bit of progress in my view.  I’ve not viewed the comments online because I’m not a glutton for punishment today but I’m really hoping that even if they are spottled with nasty that this concept written down trickles into more and more lives….this narrative that the fat girl at the start of the story really IS fine As Is and doesn’t NEED any sort of Physical Change Montage to improve herself to within acceptable standards.

Even more amazing on a personal note is that I was able to send this to my mother who agreed it was an interesting read and reminded me that she has found me “beautiful inside and out for a long time now”.  I had to respond that I know the same about her.  It was kinda a huge moment for me anyways and is making me kinda weepy in a happy way that we can even lightly touch on the subject without the worried tummy butterflies of “what will happen now” going on. Now THAT’S what I call hope.

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6 thoughts on “Oprah gives me hope for once

  1. I read those stories in Oprah magazine.

    So sad that the mother couldn’t just accept her daughter… in the name of “saving” her made things oh so much more difficult.

    My sis has a daughter AND a wildly dismorphic self image.

    I handled it by telling my niece from a VERY young age that her mom has massive self image problems and she should never take to heart the comments her mom makes about being fat.

    I also made sure she understood that even though I was bigger than her mom, I didn’t have any problem with my size, or whatever size she was.

    It worked. She’s got about as healthy a body image as any teenage girl exposed to the US media can have… and she knows that she just has to roll her eyes with the rest of us when her size 4 mother says she’s “fat”

    It helps, I think, that my sis knows she has issues and doesn’t REALLY want the kid to inherit them.

    • nocelery I love that your niece has a strong self image and how you calmly handled talking about bodies around her. Very refreshing to think of weight as NOT a battlefield between child/parent (or aunt)!

  2. Wonderful observations. You hit those nails firmly on their various and sundry heads.

    Oh, and BTW, I’m totally snagging ‘spottled with nasty’ and incorporating it into my lexicon. It’s a phrase that’s needed to exist for a long time.

    • Hah. Glad to contribute more fodder for the lexicons Twisite 😉 I have tended to insinuate the word “spottled” into everything since I mis-spoke last winter in trying to describe a spotted/mottled bird outside and in frustration just sputtered to my hubby “You know, the spottled one!” I love making up words…

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