Finding Inner FA Confidence in a Hateful World

Let's go somewhere and judge people

The last few days I have been in touch with a reader who needs some help.  I post here, with the reader’s permission, the questions and my responses.  I do so in the hopes that my thoughts might be of use to others and also so that others can chime in with their own suggestions and thoughts on the very “weighty” matter of finding your ability to move through a world of hatred and judgment in a body prime for being hated and judged without giving in to those pressures to change who you are. How do you find self-love and acceptance?  The reader’s questions are indented as quotes and my responses follow.

I’m in a bit of a self-acceptance melt down right now and wanted to pick your brain for some insight but I don’t really want to have a public discussion on the blog. Sounds sort of stalker-ish I know but I promise I’m not a stalker. I’m just someone struggling with issues you seem to have put to bed a long time ago and I’m desperate to understand how to do that.

I’m not sure what sort of insights you’d hope for me to share but I can certainly do my best.  I have my days that are better than others, as does everyone, but if anything I can say can bring a ray of sunshine into someone’s day then I would be remiss for not trying!

What are you trying to work through right now?

I have struggled with my weight my entire life.  It’s been that ever familiar roller coaster ride of really high highs (number on the scale that is, ha) and really low lows.  For me, I really think it started when I was very young because I was a gymnast and with that sport comes constant and continual body criticism and awareness.  Even if you aren’t being subjected to comments about your weight, you knew that your body was being evaluated as far as form and technique.  So this creates just an insane awareness of your body and a constant need to feel like it’s perfect.

Right now I’m at the lowest I’ve ever been but the absolute hell that it has taken me to get here was incredible.  The problem is that I just know at any moment I will be back on the upswing and I want to just finally get over myself and be able to love and accept myself no matter what my weight is – something you seem to have done.  I basically have two choices right now and that’s to live genuinely and happy or falsely and miserable.

If I let myself live as the person I am which is a person who just loves foods of all types I know that I will gain weight again.  At that point it is of course a tradeoff because on the one hand I’ll be relaxed and happy because I can enjoy life and the foods it has to offer but since I’ll gain weight I’ll be unhappy because of that.  If I choose to remain on this restricted way of eating I am depriving myself of one of the joys in life (food and good taste) but I’ll be happy when I put on my jeans and look in the mirror.  Which is the “happy” I can live with the easiest?  That’s the conundrum.

Either way there is an obsessive hyper-focusing on whichever compulsion I’m not satisfying.  If I’m eating like I want to, I am hyper-focused on the weight gain and how I look and how it makes me feel.  If I’m restricting, I’m hyper-focused on all of the foods I’m not allowing myself and that makes me miserable.

I guess what I wanted to try to understand from you was when did you really finally make a decision to just allow yourself to be heavier than our society accepts and truly be happy with it?  I just don’t know how to stop judging my self-worth by the number on the scale or how my pants fit or how I think I measure up physically to other people.  Where do you find the inner strength to live outside of what the world tells us is acceptable and beautiful?

I hope that last paragraph didn’t sound judgmental because I think you are an absolutely beautiful, gifted, insightful, and fabulous person.  But I know that some people would look at you and judge you because of your weight.

I know I sound a little crazy, but aren’t we all when it comes to this?

As I sit here between laundry and dance practice; watching the slushy ice-snow harden outside on the driveway lot, I am pondering your questions and how best to answer them.

I think, and this may be in part the librarian in me coming out, that you’d benefit most from having someone professional to talk to about what seems to be a very serious struggle.  But, that said, I’ll do my best to answer as well 🙂

“when did you really finally make a decision to just allow yourself to be heavier than our society accepts and truly be happy with it?”

Well I think growing up and always seeing myself as the Fat Child (something that others were also keen on imparting upon me) has made me always hyper aware of my body.  It is not an awareness that has gone away.  But it has shifted in its focus.

I think two+ years ago I was directed to the Shapely Prose post: “The Fantasy of Being Thin”.  And I cried.  It was, indeed, how my life to that point had been led.  Diets, wishful thinking, self-hatred inspired by the smallest weight gains, total despair at larger gains. I made goal lists, I made reward lists, I counted points, I counted carbs, I counted calories, I counted ounces or grams or bites or anything any plan would tell me to.  And yet I was NEVER happy.  I always wanted to be “just a little bit thinner.  Just a tiny bit smaller.  Just a few sizes lower”.  It took reading that post to trigger it but really I had been wondering for some time, “Just why do I hate my body so much because it won’t be smaller?  Why can’t I JUST BE HAPPY the way I am?? Who says I have to be smaller?  WHY?!?”

My next step?  Was to literally throw out my scale.  That one little device was not only a symbol of everything I struggled with every day; it was measure of my life for so long that tossing it aside felt therapeutic, refreshing, and needed.

For me, the seed of dissent was there for a while.  After months, years, nearly decades of the rollercoaster of sizes and self-loathing and self-restriction, the seed germinated and with the extra boost I found by my intro to the Fat-o-sphere and it’s (to that point) extremely radical ideas (Love myself as is? Say “to hell with it” and live my life without constant dieting or self-hatred?) I let that seed grow.

It has been slow.  It IS slow.  There are some many messages and so many ways that we are constantly bombarded with the INSISTENT demand to be smaller or, at the VERY least, be WORKING to be smaller.  Some days it takes a LOT to push past those messages and grind my teeth and continue to say “No.  FUCK YOU.”  Some days I have to ignore such messages and take myself away from places where I see them.

And in some ways I still fight against my own hateful thoughts.  I’d love to go back to France to see the family I was so lucky to board with during my school year abroad.  But some (not so small) part of me still worries about what they’ll think/see/say when my more confident but definitely larger body goes to greet them.  Despite them being never worried about weight (although my “City Mom” certainly was, and was often on the French versions of WW and such); *I* still worry.

So perhaps that ramble was to say that it is a process.  Part of my own self-healing has been to write my blog.  To post pictures that I would have shuddered at years ago.  To reflect a lot, look back and realize, “My gods, why did I waste so much time and energy on that?  What else could I have been doing instead!?”

So you finished by asking me: “Where do you find the inner strength to live outside of what the world tells us is acceptable and beautiful?”

I find it, a lot of it, from people in the sphere, from those friends who ARE supportive, from my loving husband and also from my own writings on RoundShape and the fabulous community of commenters there.  I find strength to be myself from many external sources, much as I used to find validation in my form while dieting by measuring myself against those larger than myself years ago.  Only now I also have internal sources to consider as well. I don’t look for validation in my body as it compares to others.  I look for it in my ideas, my actions, the way that I feel every time I post a picture which gives someone strength to even THINK about looking at their body with a bit more love.

The world has always loved to tell us who counts as beautiful, who is “normal” and there have always been dissenters. Growing up I used to joke that, had I been around at the time of the Tea Party, I would have sided with Britain because it was easier.  Well, it turns out that in the past few years I’ve discovered that I am not a lazy woman and I DO hold some ideals firm.  Turns out I WOULD have been a dissenter.  I am one now, against all those who say that my health, my looks and my body are not only available for public discussion but for public judgment and resulting scorn.  I shun these ideas because I am tired of being told from all sides that no matter what “I am not enough.” I’ve looked inside myself and I feel that I AM enough.  Just as I am.

So some days it is tough.  That inner strength sometimes struggles to fight to the surface and guide me through the morass of bullshit out there; the press of the world which wants to insist that you are never what you should be.  But most days I grow a smidgen more sure, a bit more confident and always I am moving along a path that reaffirms with every step: no human deserves to be judged for their body and found wanting.  I, am a human.  So I TOO deserve to respect myself and not submit to such judgments.  It might be tough but it is a battle I find worth my mental and physical energy; so much more so than I ever did while trying in vain to make and keep my body in submission at a smaller size.

Does this in any way help?  It explains, at the least, the path I’ve been on thus far.

I saw a t-shirt growing up that has always stuck with me, “Inside every mean skinny person is a happy fat girl just waiting to get out!”  It says so much in so few words about the struggle for identity.  I can identify with the ‘mean skinny part’ from the perspective that when I am smaller (and therefore judged to be more acceptable by society), although I’m happy about how I look and feel more acceptable, I’m not necessarily content because if I’m skinny – I’m restricting and that just sucks.  It sucks because it means not embracing who I am and fully enjoying one of the biggest joys in life which is indulging our sense of taste.  But the ‘happy fat girl’ also comes with a bit of reticence because although I’d be happier because I’m not constantly restricting and depriving myself of such a carnal pleasure, I won’t be content because I would be heavier and would again be judging myself and feeling judged by others.  I have always tried to find the balance in life that would take me to a true sense of contentedness, not just happiness.  Happy is a more temporary state and may only relate to a certain circumstance.  Content to me says that you are generally in a good place in your life and feel pretty fulfilled.

I remember one time when I was on one of the thousand diets of my life and it wasn’t going well.  I was talking to a friend about how hard it was and that it wasn’t really working (this friend is one of the genetic freaks of nature who is naturally thin no matter what she eats) and that I was frustrated.  She said to me, “well you just must not want it badly enough because if you did, you’d just do it.”  Instead of immediately retaliating and defending myself, I took it as an arrow to my character.  I figured she was right, if I really wanted it enough and worked hard enough, it would be effective.  But since it wasn’t working, I must be doing something wrong and that means I’m less of a person.

I guess ultimately it all comes down to self esteem and where that comes from.  If you let it come from outside of your own head where there are variables you can’t control and situations and standards that always changing and evolving, you’ll never really get there.  But if you let it come from within, from your own soul where you can create your own sense of self, it would be easier to hang onto during those moments of assault

It sounds like you really do have a good feeling in yourself of what it would take to make you happy versus content and balanced.  Sometimes the largest mental hurdles I find are the fights between what you know will make you content versus what you know will make the world in general look at you with, if not approval, at least sympathy (ie: being ON a diet which is seen as at least an EFFORT towards meeting unapproachable standards).

It is sad that your friend was so uncompromising in her belief that “I am thin therefore anyone larger must just be Eating Too Much and Not Moving Enough.” I’d have to say that this is the one mind-set that I strive hardest to push against.  No one’s experience is universal and yet that remains so difficult for people to understand.

Having a bit of self-esteem come from inside does help on those dark days when the assault seems heaviest. I liken it to having a self-love powered mental engine.  Some days I’ve soaked up enough to coast through the roughest of patches.  On others, like a solar-powered calculator left to languish in a dim cave, I’ve got just enough to power through a day if I avoid the internet and television and concentrate on being okay.  It is a delicate dance for which I (after probably 3 years?  2 years?) am still learning the moves myself.  And the dance will look different for everyone.  Some people have a tougher “skin” so to speak and can field all sorts of 101 FA battles on blogs and in real life.  Others are content just knowing what works for themselves with no need to proselytize the wonders of HAES or IE or what-have-you. There is no wrong answer; just what works for each of us as individuals.  And frankly just the ability to look at yourself and say, “You know what?  I’m OK.  Just as I am” is huge in this world of constant self-minimizing messages.

I will post this at the start of the week on the blog and see what other responses we get as well as folks from other vantage-points and other intersections of body-hatred and judgments may just have answers that I don’t at this point.

So what do you think folks?  This may describe (in a round-about way) the path my own journey has and is taking.  What hurdles have you found more (or less) daunting?  What moments of triumph stand out for you?  What gives you confidence in the darkest days of hateful messages?


14 thoughts on “Finding Inner FA Confidence in a Hateful World

  1. I think that I feel very sorry for this woman & all the many millions of others in this world who hang their self-esteem & their happiness on a number on a scale. I wish her well & send her healing vibes & the reminder that people naturally, genetically come in all different sizes & shapes, that aging is normal, that MOST of us will be larger & heavier as adults & moreso with aging than we were as kids or adolescents, certainly moreso than a gymnast of twelve or so. It is difficult to ignore the messages of the culture & to unlearn the cultural lessons which tell us appearance is all, especially for women, & that only people of a certain size & shape matter, but it can be done. NO ONE is ever ‘good enough’ in our culture is an important truth to remember, & NO ONE will ever be allowed to be ‘good enough’, not as long as there is profit to be made on selling self-hatred, not as long as there is so much insecurity, so much need to feel ‘superior to’ someone else.

    You have done a remarkable job in two or three years, April. You answered this person beautifully & expressed yourself so well. I think that you have made as much progress on your journey in two or three years as I have in over thirty years of non-dieting & working as a fat activist, more progress in some ways. I still hate to have my picture taken & don’t think I could ever post a picture of myself on the internet. I admire you so much, as well as the many other fat bloggers who do so.

    Thank you for your wise words. I hope this person can learn to love & accept herself & I also hope that perhaps she will reach for more help in doing so. I will also point out that there is ‘help’ & then there is ‘help’. I would not wish my first therapist on anyone. This man told me, at age 25 & 143 pounds at nearly 5’6″, that the secret to self-confidence & feeling at home in my body was going on a diet & losing another 20 pounds, which I spent the next two years doing, along with compulsive exercise, nearly killing myself in the process, after which I became actually fat for the first time in my life & have been fat ever since. I stopped dieting, became interested in fat acceptance, but still, over those years, went through several more 3-4 year periods of increasing my regular exercise to 3-4 hours daily. I told myself that I was still being fat-positive, because I did not own a scale & “I am not dieting.” I am now 61, finally finished menopause about 4 years ago, came off my last bout of compulsive exercise over 7 years ago, & with the menopause, aging, & cutting back to sane levels of activity (I have cerebral palsy & arthritis, I have stressed my joints, & I CANNOT exercise 4 hours daily anymore), I am the fattest I have ever been. I am somewhere that I, in my “I believe in fat acceptance but more for others than for myself” days could not have conceived of being, over 200 pounds, & the world has not ended. I am still in good health, still active, still living my life. If I still have moments when I wish my body were like it was 8 years ago with 4 hours of exercise every day (still 170 pounds, btw, after doing this for nearly 4 years & my starting weight was 185), they are fewer & briefer all the time. I am good enough as I am, I am special, unique, beautiful in my own way. And the numbers on a scale or the numbers on my clothes (though I do wish the sizing were more consistent) do not define my worth.

    I wish peace, acceptance, & self-love to us all & thank all of you who help me on my own journey. We can all learn from each other & I often learn a lot from people who are half my age.

  2. Here are my thoughts: It’s not all or nothing.
    It’s not thin vs. eating everything you want
    It’s not societal approval vs. societal rejection

    I would say, if the goal is happiness, then cultivating deeper awareness of happiness is a good direction to go in. I hear frustration in the letter, and longing, but I also hear hope. So, staying in the moment, and asking — what is going to bring me greater happiness?
    After feeling deprived, it’s hard to tune into that because for a while, the answer will probably always be “eating” to the question of “what will bring me happiness?” But if you truly tell yourself this isn’t just a break between diets but a new way of being, eventually, there will be times when the question of “what will bring me happiness” will be answered by something else.
    I highly recommend “The Diet Survivor’s Handbook” to someone in this situation. “Lessons from the Fatosphere” may also be helpful. Reading Kate Harding’s archives. Hanging out around the Fatosphere. Having a really good friend who loves you no matter what to be able to go to and say “I’m having a really doubtful day” and that friend can hug you and remind you that you are lovable no matter how big or small your body is at any given time.

  3. So much good advice!

    Another thing to think about is how you approach other goals in your life. What do you do when you want to get over some other negative thought pattern? Do you use affirmations? Throw yourself into uncomfortable situations to sink or swim as you will?

    For instance, three years ago, I had a severe terror of dogs. All dogs. It didn’t matter if the dog in question was a spoiled tiny lap dog or a trained guard dog. If I saw a dog, or heard a dog in the offing I turned on my path and went another way, my heart beating crazily. That’s the level I’m talking about.

    But one day I decided I couldn’t let my fear continue to dominate my life. Plenty of other people love dogs and enjoy being around them. I decided I could do it, too.

    I started small. If I saw a person with a working helper dog, I asked if it would be okay if I said hello to it. A few times I was told no, but more often, people took a moment, especially if I explained why I wanted to talk to their dogs. Then I branched out to asking people if it was okay if I talked to their obviously well-behaved small dogs.

    It took a long time, and I still have times when seeing a strange dog will make my heart skip a couple beats and my fight or flight reflexes start kicking in. But more and more often, I’m okay. I knew I had licked my problem when I spent the weekend with some friends who raise rottweilers and I was happy to have one of the dogs spend the night in the same bed with me.

    Sometimes the best thing you can do is take tiny steps while educating yourself. This, like my getting over my phobia, is not like a light switch. There will be days when accepting your body is easier than others. There are days when I have to turn off the TV and completely avoid weight loss ads, and others when I can just mute them… and yet other days when I can just laugh at what they promise.

    Think back to those gymnastic days. When you learned a new move, it might take hours, days, even weeks of effort to get it right. Self-acceptance is the same way. And there’s no one day when you suddenly get it right for all time.

    Patience and persistence do, however, pay off.

  4. This poster could have been me several months ago. After living as a fat woman for so long, I lost a dramatic amount of weight in a short time because of illness. I went through a stage of thinking about nothing but my new weight and how I could keep it. Seriously, I talked about nothing else except food and calories and wrote down every bite I ate and weighed food and did the whole bit. I even emailed obesity researchers asking whether weight regain was inevitable. From never having had an eating disorder or even having been a person who dieted, I suddenly developed an intense fixation on food and weight.

    But I learned some interesting things. Surprisingly little is known about the human metabolism. This is one of the worst aspects of the obesity moral panic – some of the questions that should be asked about why the body does what it does aren’t being asked, because everything is directed towards weight loss.

    As a result, we say all sorts of things about weight and food as certainties, when often they’re not. If you relax your grip, you might put weight on. Or you might not. Nothing is set in stone.

    One thing IS certain: the body will not be denied. You talk about food as a carnal pleasure. It is! And like all carnal pleasures, it will turn and bite you if you try and deny it. So why not explore it and experiment with it? Cook up a storm, invite your friends around. The more you give in to your love and allow that passion into your life, the less fear you’ll have about it because you’re the one in charge. We love things for a reason. It often means there’s a talent there, waiting to be explored.

    In retrospect, the most important thing I realised is that my intense anxiety wasn’t really a response to my weight loss/new weight. It was actually displaced anxiety about being very ill. I don’t know you, but if you are wound up incredibly tightly about this issue, then maybe it is worth speaking to a professional, as the poster above suggested, about dealing with anxiety.

    FA has been wonderful for me because it made me realise that, if I do become fat again, it will be OK. My body has carried me through serious illness and come out the other side. It’s done a great job. If you’ve been a gymnast, then you’ve got an amazing body that knows what it’s about and what it wants and needs to do.

    Trust your instincts.

  5. The big step up to self esteem for me was when I realized that we’ve been lied to by *everyone* who says it’s possible for everyone to lose weight and keep it off. Sure, you can lose weight for a short period of time, but your body will make you gain it back and then some.

    It’s like any other bodily function, you can have all the willpower in the world but you can’t stop what your body wants. Do you think you could stop visiting the bathroom forever if you wanted to? Why do you think that is? Your body will always reach the weight IT wants, and it has nothing to do with being a “good person”. All you can do is eat healthy food and move in ways that are fun.

  6. I’m the author of the correspondence with April and I wanted to say what a wonderful group of people you are and how incredibly insightful your comments are.

    Sometimes I do feel like I’m crazy for the insane fixation I have on food and my weight. I go to sleep every night hoping and praying that when I open my eyes in the morning, my first thoughts won’t be of weight and food. I swear I have OCD or something because it’s just a loop of thoughts that constantly plays over and over in my head. Even when I’m actively engaged in an activity, the thoughts are there in the background.

    As Alexie said, the fear for me is that weight control really does seem to be a crapshoot. If doctors or scientists really had figured it out, we’d all be walking super models by now but obviously they haven’t. Everytime I hear of a new diet or miracle obesity cure that has come on the market, I say to myself, well maybe finally this really is the “cure.” But then my logical side says that it won’t be any better or worse than all of the “cures” that have come before it because if it was, it would have been heralded from the rooftops of reputable medical institutions and then there would be no need for any other research to be done. But as we all know, as soon as one solution comes on the market, another one will be right behind it.

    This hard for me to admit, but I think the reason I’m so miserable when I’m heavy is because I know how mean I am in my own head in my judgement when I see a heavy person. I immediately judge them to be unhappy, lazy, undisciplined, and unloved. I know I make these judgements about heavy people and so I’m convinced that when I’m heavy (which I have been multiple times in my life), other people are having those thoughts about me and it makes me so self conscious it’s to the point of distraction from living. I know those judgements are horrible and hurtful but most of all, they are just wrong. I know this because I am none of those things when I’m heavy and neither is the person I’m judging. So why do I do it? Where does that come from?

    I really feel like at this point it has come to a life or death choice for me. I simply cannot go on with this constant scrutiny and criticism of myself and really live a happy life. Some part of me has to die – either the relentlessly critical side of me that feels like I’m not good enough if I’m heavy or the side of me that is passionate about food and indulges with the consequences being damned.

    I saw a movie the other day and there was a line that struck me in the heart like a lead bullet. The character said, “Are you living life, or just existing?” I want to start living and stop just existing.

    Sorry for the downer post, but this is tough stuff.

    • It is tough stuff, Michelle. And just trying to find an answer is actually a brave step. It also shows that you are ready to make the decision.

      You ask where the idea that fat people are lazy, undisciplined, unhappy and unloved comes from. It comes from everything around us. There’s a ‘war on obesity.’ You can’t turn on your television or radio without being bombarded with ads for diets, weight loss surgery, or a gym that promises that if you just try hard enough, you, too, can be thin, productive, and worthy of love. Any television show that actually dares to feature a character who (GASP!) isn’t thin, portrays that person as either the hapless, sexless funny sidekick or the miserable person who will eventually become thin and worthy. Conversations around the water cooler are fraught with thoughtless comments about how people are ‘letting themselves go’ or ‘need to get ahold of themselves and lose that excess weight.’ You spent a long time doing gymnastics where every new ounce of flesh is viewed as an enemy. Every day when I turn on my computer, there are ads about ‘getting into shape for bikini season’ and headlines on Yahoo telling me that if I eat a single fast food burger, nobody will ever want to know me again.

      But you already know none of that is true. You know the diets don’t work. You know that there are fat people with fulfilling careers, thriving relationships, and joyful lives.

      What’s driving you batty is the cognitive dissonance, and it burns.

      I think you may also fear losing control and eating the world. It’s a common fear. We’ve been trained to think that the opposite of being on a diet is gorging ourselves uncontrollably. But unless you have actual binge eating disorder, that’s not going to happen.

      You know that you’re more than your waistline. You know that you deserve to be treated well. And you know what? I know that we all learn somewhere along the line that we have behaved badly toward others. It’s a nasty and humbling thing to learn. But it’s also a hopeful moment, because once we figure out how wrong we were, THAT’S when we can learn to do better for ourselves and for others.

      Guilt can keep us mired in negative spirals. It’s time to let go of guilt, but keep the lesson it taught you.

      Even if you said or thought bad things about fat people in the past, you STILL deserve to be happy and to take good care of yourself, no matter what size your body winds up being. You deserve good food. You deserve a joyful life. Make the decision that brings you the joy you want and deserve.

  7. For me, I don’t think it was so much deciding to allow myself to be heavier than currrently deemed socially acceptable as getting really sick and tired of fighting what was proving to be a Sisyphean task. I’m sure a part of that is getting older and realizing that while yes, I still have lots and lots of time left (statistically speaking), it’s not infinite, and I don’t want to spend it hating my body and trying to force it into something it’s not. I realized I have a huge list of things I want to do, and I want to spend my time and resources doing them. Well, some of them anyway :).

    Besides, it’s really hard to do something nice for someone or something if you hate them/it. And my body deserves to be treated nicely.

  8. Yeah, I totally forgot to mention all the years of therapy I’ve had.
    It wasn’t torture for me, I like self-exploration and I didn’t ever get tired of talking about myself, but really working with someone who I could be completely honest with was helpful. I still see a therapist, but it’s more “maintenance” at this point than “cure.”

  9. Hang in there, Michelle. I know exactly what you are going through…I empathize. I restricted for years, and I know well what total obsession with food feels like. I yo-yoed many times, and I truly believe that starving myself into thinness messed with my body in ways that might never be fixed. I *always* gained the weight back. And I always gained back extra, too. I think the part that messed with my mind so much was that I *knew* I could get myself to thinness (with a whole lot of agony and unhappiness on the way), but I just couldn’t stay there. I remember going on a trip with my mom once (I learned a lot of body hatred and fat hatred from her)…we were both on WW at the time, after she had strongly suggested that I needed to lose weight, and on vacation we both decided not to count what we were eating. One thing my mom said, after we had gorged ourselves on pizza, was something that has stayed with me to this day: she said, “I feel like I’ve been let out of prison.” !!!!!!!! I mean, seriously. Who wants to live their life that way? Eating should not be that difficult or painful!

    I came to FA about a year ago, and it has changed my life. Truly. I have about 14 years of disordered eating to jettison, but it gets easier every day to listen to my body tell me what it needs. I no longer obsess about food, and trust me, there was a time when I couldn’t conceive of being able to just *eat* with no guilt, shame, dismay, or resentment tied to it. I can look forward to, and enjoy, a great dinner, and then I’m done thinking about it. I don’t go to bed hating myself for daring to eat more than salad, or promising that I’ll eat only nonfat yogurt and carrot sticks the next day to atone, or any of the other awful, almost unimaginable to me now things that I used to do. I just enjoy my food, stop eating when I want to, and go on about my day. The constant obsessive thoughts of food are gone, and I can truly *enjoy* food now without being afraid that I’ll never stop eating or that I’ll only ever want to eat OMGPIZZA. Which I still dearly love, pizza 4eva! But I also love baked kale and black bean burritos and salads and fruit and all sorts of other things that I no longer eat as punishment.

    I guess for me, I was at a point where I was just so finished with hating myself. Or at least, I was ready to try and learn how to accept and love and nourish myself, which were fairly foreign concepts. I read and lurk on FA blogs like my life depends on it. I lurk on fat fashion blogs, so I can see pictures of fat, fabulous people who aren’t trying to hide their bodies. And on the days when I’m feeling ugly and worthless and gross, I just try and muddle through because I know that for me, for now, that will be the fleeting feeling. That I can get home and come back to this community where I feel lifted up instead of torn down.

    I don’t know if you are ready to let go of The Fantasy of Being Thin, but I hope you are. I hope you are at that jumping off place, where you cannot go on like you have been. It’s scary, because it’s a whole new way of being in the world, of viewing the world, and you will change, and that’s big and unknown. But speaking as someone who has made it (mostly) to the other side….oh honey, it is so worth it. It really, really is.

  10. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for writing back to us!

    I am very concerned about what you are saying about going to sleep and waking up thinking about food and weight. There is a possibility that your fixation isn’t totally about weight at all, but about something else. The level of anxiety you are describing is worrying.

    One of the crappiest things about the whole weight thing is that it’s an attempt to control. It’s an attempt to control and diminish women in particular. Women who ruthlessly diet are often on a mission to control themselves, when other things in their life seem out of control.

    Please, if it’s possible for you to go and talk to someone about all of this, please do. It may be that it’s the weight and the weight only that’s bugging you, but it’s still not good to be so fixated. The last thing you want is a full blown eating disorder.

    Or if you can’t do that, keep coming back! (Even though it’s not my blog and it’s cheeky of me to say that… but you’re right, everyone here does seem amazing.)


    • For the most part I’ve been hanging back here because everyone has put forth some really amazing stories and suggestions and I’m just constantly floored and how wonderful this crowd is! 😀 Y’all rock!

      But I will second Alexie in saying that you and everyone (even those still just lurking as I used to for so long at Shapely Prose!) are very welcome here to read and take from our discussions what you will. Keep coming back because these folks ARE amazing!! And every day I learn something new. (Another wrinkle in the brain matter!)

      Professional folks are definitely something to consider whenever an aspect of life gets so incredibly pressing. But I totally know about the difficulties in getting that to happen when funds or time or what-have-you do not align to make it so.

      But as already the wonderful readers here can show: we are all on a spectrum of FA, it’s a path/journey and you never really “get there”; but you do progress in amazing ways along the way and I can not be more fully supportive of that; it’s incredible, it’s tough, it’s awe-inspiring at times but at its core: it’s worth it to me. That is what I think each of us needs to figure out for ourselves (since no person is a universal descriptor for the lives of others) as we determine our position on that spectrum of acceptance: what means more? Some find themselves needing to be more towards the dieting end of life, keeping hold of some habits they are just not willing to shake for their own sake and, while it is not something I promote, I can understand it and appreciate that this is still a choice that we, as human beings, are able to make for ourselves. Others find themselves eschewing anything which feels remotely like the controlled management of food and movement that plagued their dieting years (decades, etc). Most of us fall somewhere in between. But none of it, in my mind, is “wrong”. That is, I think, the hardest part in giving up some (or all) of that dieting mentality: the fact that there IS no plan to follow, no “right” way to be told how HAES or IE or individual methods of just eating and moving to guide you along. It is very much jumping in with no assurances; and that’s what can scare the hell out of us. There is no regimen, no plan, no points or calorie-counters or controlled metrics to measure every moment…and that takes a lot of getting used to. It can be extremely frightening. But for me, at least, it was also incredibly freeing. And worth it.

  11. As much as I hate to admit it, I think Alexie really nailed it with the need to control – something I’ve long suspected was at the root of my issues but just never wanted to actually admit. I don’t want to admit it because then I have to delve into the deeper issues of why having that control is so important to me.

    It breaks my heart to admit but my life, from a very young age, has never really been what I wanted it to be. Choices were made for me that I didn’t necessarily like but had to submit to nonetheless. I was raised by a very emotionally unavailable mother who was more focused on her shitty marriage then her kids and all I ever wanted was for her to just pay attention to me. I got into gymnastics in the first place because she wanted me to do it and I wanted to please her. It just so happened that I actually ended up just having a natural talent for it and turned out to be quite accomplished. But the funny thing is, that whenever I look back to those years of torturous two-a-day practices and the constant barage of mental and emotional abuse by my coaches, all I remember is wanting to just make my mom happy. But on the day that should have been the highlight of my competitive career, when I looked to my mother for affirmation of what I had just accomplished, she knocked it down and made me feel like shit. I scored a perfect 10 on a bar routine during a national competition when I was 15 – I was the first to do that in over 5 years of competition and it took another 7 years before anyone ever did it again. When I ran off the mat after seeing my score and went to my mom, her comment was that it shouldn’t have been scored a 10 because she noticed several points where my arm placement was a little off! What a bitch. I was devastated.

    I feel like my entire life has been a constant search for something better and I don’t know why. I didn’t do what I wanted professionally because I didn’t feel like I was smart enough so I settled. I wanted to be a nurse but didn’t have the confidence I could make it through nursing school so I settled on a business degree. I hate that I didn’t push myself in school so I could have followed my passion but I guess it was a confidence thing and I just didn’t have it. I remember seeing the people going into the nursing school buildings and just objectifying them in a way that was ridiculous. I put them on pedestals because they were smart enough to be going to those classes. They were pretty, skinny, and smart and I was just this fat dumpy stupid girl who copped out on life and settled.

    There are a lot of aspects of my life that I feel like I settled on for one reason or another and maybe that’s why I have issues with food and body image. I wasn’t strong enough to stand up to my mom or to make myself go to nursing school, but I can be strong enough to control what goes in my mouth – sometimes. And it’s in those time when I’m not restricting (and therefore behaving in an out of control way) when I feel the worst because now, not only do I feel like I’ve settled for a life I never intended, but now I’m fat and look awful on top of it. So then I start restricting, get back down to a weight society says is acceptable, but then the sucky life is still there and the cycle begins again.

    I so admire all of you for the strength that you have and the fortitude to push through and say a big “fuck you” to society. Maybe some day I’ll get there.

  12. Pingback: Ages 4-8? Sure, heap on the fat hate. Never too young! « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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