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I've been doing some deep thinking lately about my stance on Fat Acceptance and my own body issues, and where they intersect and conflict, and I've come to a decision.

I am not dieting to lose weight ever again. No, not to lose five pounds I may pick up over the holidays, not to fit into a particular dress, and especially not to conform to a societally imposed (and internalized from a very young age) ideal. I will continue to pursue exercise options and to try to maintain my gluten free eating, but not to lose weight. Both those issues have more to do with my overall health and pain issues, not with losing weight. I will eat what I need, and what I want, and trust my body to tell me when I'm hungry, and when I'm full.

I haven't followed an actual calorie-restricted diet for a number of years now, but I still have times when I think of my self-worth as inextricably tied up with what my scale says, and I'm taking the step now to divorce myself from that kind of self-accusatory thinking. It's not healthy, it's counter-productive to my mental health, and to be brutally honest, I cannot call myself a Fat Acceptance ally when I'm still thinking of myself in terms of five less pounds.

I realize this will seem strange, as only a couple of months ago, I was agonizing over the weight I gained on Lyrica. My biggest problem with the Lyrica was that I no longer felt like my appetite was my own, and it was like being thown back to the years when I binge-ate. I have a very eating-disordered past, and I don't want to go back there.

(BTW, I am absolutely certain that the act of dieting, which was imposed on me from about the age of seven, was directly responsible for my bingeing cycles. More than one study has shown that calorie restriction inevitably sets up a cycle of overeating as the body attempts to compensate for the loss of calories. This is why people yo-yo, and it's actually beyond our physical control. The Lyrica induced that same desperate need for food that constant calorie deprivation gave me, and it was so bad I couldn't sleep, or concentrate on anything else. It was a fucking nightmare.)

On top of dealing with that, I also had to deal with the realization that I was so indoctrinated into sizeism that I would rather suffer pain than gain weight, and that was a big eye-opener for me. In the end, the Lyrica didn't work, but what if it had? I can talk about body acceptance, but what does that mean when I can't accept my own size? Diddly-squat, that's what it means. I can't preach acceptance if I can't practice it on my own body.

So I need to begin that journey. My body is a temple, yes, but a temple that needs to be lovingly cared for, not starved, pummeled, forced to try to be something it's not, and reviled when it fails to live up to an impossible ideal. All the bumps and curves and bulges are the things that make me a human, not a perfect, plastic, hairless, and lifelessly beautiful mannequin. I am not a bikini model, but so what? Am I truly defining my worth by my waist size, and rejecting all my talents, skills, and intelligence? Is my weight more important than my ability to make people laugh, or my ability to care for people? Does wearing a size 4 dress count for more than the skill to create beautiful things, or teach other people to create their own beauty? Is a flat stomach worth more than my ability to make my husband feel truly special?

Rhetorical questions all - but it's scary how often we judge worth solely on physical appearance. I've done it, we've all done it. But it is the least important part of who we are, and it's time I actually lived up to my principles in this regard. I've come a long way with that as far as other people go - and believe me, in the time after I lost weight, I was a judgemental little cuss who lacked the empathy to understand that just because I won the genetic crap shoot that allowed me to lose 70lbs and keep it off didn't mean that someone with a different body set-point was less disciplined. It's taken a lot of self-education, and a lot of admitting that I had drunk the diet industry kool-Aid to reach even the limited understanding I have now of the complex mechanism of weight gain and loss, and I've tried (and will continue to try) to pass on a lot of that information in my blog.

I truly believe that the problem is not "overweight", "obese", "morbidly obese", or "super morbidly obese" (an actual classification category - we're super!) people, the problem is with a society that demonizes fat, and paints fat people as gluttonous, lazy, dirty, evil, global warming-causing destroyers of civilization (i.e., blaming the victim) instead of acknowledging the vastly complex physiology of individual weight ranges, and a population that believes the lies the diet industry feeds (another pun, but I'm not laughing) us in the face of all the medical evidence that diets do not work except for a vanishingly small percentage of the population.

(I think this is in part the unending propaganda of the Diet Industry Machine, and in part a superstitious "othering" that attempts to convince people that it won't happen to them - either they'll never get fat, or dieting will be successful for them; in other words, The Fantasy of Being Thin. Ableist thinking - "I won't end up in a wheelchair/chronically ill/dying young because I eat right and exercise!" - is another facet of the same evil gem.)


The fact that I am part of that vanishingly small statistic is not an indicator that diets work - in fact, since I am still classified as "overweight" according to the BMI scale (that was revised downwards in the 1990s, making 30% of the US "overweight" overnight), this should be proof that diets don't make you thin, because thin is a constantly moving goalpost. It has to be - how else to keep raking in the profits?  

It is worth noting, I think, that the diet industry has been in full manic swing since the 1950s, yet we are a fat nation, not a thin one.  Surely, considering how reviled (and blamed for all society's ills) fat people are, only a few very contrarian people would choose to be fat if diets worked, right?  Gluttony just isn't so much madcap fun that it's worth the daily abuse and humiliation we heap upon the larger members of our society. 

I understand that not all of my readers will be with me on this, and that's okay. I'll throw a "fat acceptance" tag on all future posts so you can skip them. I'm doing this as much for my own benefit as anything else - the road to self acceptance has potholes, and the more I write about them, the stronger I'll be.

But I cannot continue to support an industry that has a vested interest in keeping me fat (Jenny Craig sold me a lifetime membership, for God's sake - that should be all the proof anyone needs that diet companies count on you gaining all the weight back) and miserable (that being the important thing, not the fat) so I keep buying their product. I cannot support hatred of any segment of our population for simply existing. And I cannot, in good conscience, be for Fat Acceptance and Health At Every Size while telling myself that I really need to lose that last five pounds.

My fortieth birthday present to myself is to love myself at every size. And to love my body enough to listen to it. It works, it's beautiful, and I know every inch of it. I have spent too much of my life believing that because it did not fit beauty and size norms, that it was somehow worth less than anyone else's. My darling Bob doesn't feel that way, and he's one of the smartest people I know - why do I keep disbelieving him? My worth is in what I do, not what I look like - our society wants to keep persuading women that their greatest worth is in their value as decorative objects, and I am officially opting out. I want to explore a much wider and more meaningful definition of value.

I will always struggle with these kinds of issues - my early training has been so comprehensive, and it's been reinforced by daily messages about how evil fat is for so long, that I must consciously choose to reject that inner voice. My blogs show my progression from buying completely into the societal attitudes towards body shape, and I refuse to delete and rewrite that journey, because part of self-acceptance is being true to what I have been, as well as what I am now.

My relationship with my body has been long and complicated, and fraught with misunderstanding. Throughout it all, my body has continued to carry me, help me create the beautiful things I see in my mind, and be there for me. My body has never betrayed me, but I have betrayed it, by telling it it was never good enough, never thin enough, never shaped right.

No more.

I am my body, and my body is good.

Happy (early - my birthday's in December, but why wait?) to me.

*Walt Whitman

Comments

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mmcnealy
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on coming to this revelation! I hope you can continue to accept your body the way it was made and keep getting healthier.


thornbury
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC)
As you seem to say, it's a balance. For my part, I don't dislike my body because it's not suitable for TV (neither as a sex object, nor egregious enough for Biggest Loser - though I'm not angling for a spot). I dislike my body because the health issues I have can all be traced to my weight - and I've a good view on the issues that await me in the future if I don't do something. I don't know that I'll ever get out of the 300's, but I'm six-and-a-half feet tall.

Of course, it's easy for me to focus on health with regard to weight; I don't have social pressure to be a supermodel like women do.

(There are no 'action items' in this comment, just me thinking out loud.)
theodorad
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC)
I think that being healthier (eating good things and exercise) is a lifestyle change. People can call it dieting, but I think the good 'diet' plans try to emphasis you-are-choosing-to-change-how-you-live.

I'm dieting now because I want to be healthier, to have more energy to do things. I think you fail when you make it about checking off the pounds. Will I worry about reaching a perfect goal weight? No. I will worry about having my knees complain less, avoiding adult onset diabetes, being bouncier because then I can do more things - and if I happen to end up looking slender in a pair of jeans I'll enjoy that too.

mistressrhi
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear!
_medb_
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
More than one study has shown that calorie restriction inevitably sets up a cycle of overeating as the body attempts to compensate for the loss of calories

I agree- although I'm overweight, I figure it's probably a heck of a lot easier on my body than yo-yo-ing up and down like so many others do. (I'm still trying to do things like incorporate better foods into my diet and I've been doing yoga for over a year now, but that's for general health improvement rather than attempting to fit into a certain size!)
raventhourne
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC)
Diet - is a dirty word. It just means originally "manner of living" So to Diet means to Live. Ironic isn't it...its a four letter word to most of us...when it really shouldn't be.

I've made changes to how I live and I've only lost about 25 pounds over a few years...the last 5 pounds has been over 6 mos time but what I haven't lost in weight (weight loss wasn't my goal, just be better and not hurt in the joints) I've lost in size. Everyone thinks I've lots way more than I have especially the last 6 mos since I looks smaller. I'm still a big girl but I'm happier in my skin. I'm never gonna be a size 4 but I'm happy where I'm at.

And being happy is the hardest part. I don't think the meds (lyrica) and other issues you have with the pain are helping you in the "being happy" part. I think of you every time I see a lyrica commercial on the telly and I realize that they like to lie on the tv...just so people can think they can be happy.

You do what you want...we'll still accept you and luv you and amaze at the awesome sauce work you do and that is what we care about it...not how fat or small you are. We'll support you as friends and that should make you happy.
wulfsdottir
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
{hugs} if you want them.

Here's hoping the potholes are few and small from here to the end of the road.
chargirlgenius
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
I gave up "dieting" for the new year. Congrats! I agree with you - diets are designed to fail. It's interesting to realize that the diet industry counts on people remaining fat. It's also interesting to realize that there's not one single industry with a vested interest in healthy Americans. They all want to sell us stuff to get us that way, but they have a vested interest in us starting out heavier than we want to be.

This gets a bit political, but it points out that if insurers are forced to cover everybody, there may be more lobbying against big food (Yay!):
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/opinion/10pollan.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3

Interesting thoughts.

I hope that it shifts the onus of weight from the individual to the society, where much of the "blame" clearly rests. (I realize that the way I speak assumes that there *is* an obesity problem, which I know that many do not agree with, but I place it firmly at the feet of government and society.)

Instead of hammering on individuals to be thin, which clearly does not work, the insurance lobby can be a voice to counteract the corn lobby, the sugar lobby, the grocers lobby, the restaurant lobby, the trans-fat lobby*, etc.

Anyway, in my journey of being diet-free, I've also come to realize that it's still not enough. It's a good start. Unfortunately, our environment makes it really tough to be diet-free and still have a naturally healthy lifestyle. So, I'm going to stay diet free for my year, but after that, I'm still not sure what I'm going to do.

I've also come to the conclusion that the diet industry, and just about everything else in the media, strongly suggests that if you lose weight, it'll fix everything else in your life. I'm starting to look at it in another way. If I work to fix everything else in my life, I will be more likely to lose weight (naturally and happily).

Anyway, sorry that this was more of a ramble than a coherent comment. Mostly, I just wanted to say that I've been diet-free, and wanted to welcome you to the fold. :-D

*Yep, I'm makin' them (some) up as I go along...
attack_laurel
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC)
Like I said, I haven't actually been on a diet for several years, but it's the thinking I need to drop. Like the last vestige of active practising Catholicism I hung on to was observing Lent. :)
(no subject) - chargirlgenius - Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
reasie
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
I feel so good, and my weight does not fluctuate all that much, since I quit caring about my weight, oh, twelve years ago or so.

I weigh a lot more than I did back when I thought I was fat and losing another five pounds was the only road to happiness. And I FEEL thin. Y'know? Because all that matters is that I'm pretty!!

*is vain*
attack_laurel
Sep. 23rd, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
It's not vain to speak the truth. :)
(no subject) - gwacie - Sep. 23rd, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
thedreya
Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
Bravo. If more people would just wake up every morning saying "I am my body, and my body is good," I can only imagine the sort of changes that might be engendered.
elizabethnmafia
Sep. 23rd, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
This is excellent! I really think if we could all accept ourselves and each other for who we are we could fix so much that is wrong in the world. It's something I'm still working on myself. The article on the starvation study was particularly interesting. I'm going to see if I can't find a copy of their orginal journal article to read for myself.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately about the health at any size movement. I've noticed that although I'm a lot healthier than I was a few months ago I haven't really lost much weight. I'm stronger, I feel great, clothes I couldn't wear before fit again, and I have a lot more endurance and stanima than I used to, but the scale doesn't move. It's really made me reconsider the importance of that number.

wortschmiedin
Sep. 23rd, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
ok, starting with that fact that I wouldn't have pictured you for a person at odds with her body: I am.
NOt so much because I am *fat*. I am not. I weight actually over 100 kilos but everybody whom I tell is going: you are shitting me right? I am an overall Biggish bodytype so while nobody considers my slender a surprisingly large majority agrees that overall my appearance is pleasant. Yet I was having issues. So I decdid to eat a bit less and focuss on some other things in life.

It did work very well for about 3 months. So well that I even lost a pair of pants that had fitted just those 3 months ago while working (I was alone so the humilitation was not to bad). then I was at my doctor's and she suggested even though we both agreed that I had lost tremendous amounts of weight to check the scale. I am stoopid. I let her talk me into it. I don't own a scale. I don't think a scale tells you anything you need to know (just MHO) so I weighted myself: and there it was I had teh same weight that I had the last time I HAD to be weighted (just before giving birth 3 years ago)

That was very frustrating. And I have realized that since then I have been eating more.
I also realized that since I am not yet in teh range of sizes they manufacture and sell in stores, I have simply very little in my life to treat myself to. Food was a way of giving me easy satisfaction which I am now forgoing even though I have suffered from Depression last year.

Maybe the *real* fat lose factor would simply be:
Be nice to each other and most importantly be nice to yourselves, regardless of weight issues.

I realized that I needed to overcome this *imprinting* when my mother pointed out to me that if I called myself a fat lazy cow in front of my daughters: IT WAS ALL MY FAULT
and she is right. (not that our schools over here didn't do enough damage as it is but I reinforced it) Thanx for posting this, you brilliant beautiful woman.
Elisande (who is moving to Atlantia. YAY!)
betsyhoneyvenom
Sep. 23rd, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
Bravo!
I've been looking at some interesting recent science about what really causes fatness, and more importantly, the diseases that are commonly linked to fatness, and it's clearly not "gluttony,laziness",etc.
but more likely parental exposure to toxins and stressors, exposure to toxins or stressors in utero and a highly stressful, low-ranking position in one's social pecking order(which includes being female in our society, almost by default,doesn't it?)
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/genes/expert.html
http://www.pbs.org/stress/
I've been fat my whole life, and I used to believe the garbage about how, if I were only thin, I'd be pretty and happy. But it's not true. The most miserable girls I ever knew were the thinnest ones, taking out their self-loathing on their bodies just as surely by starving themselves, abusing stimulants, and over-exercising as other girls did by binging. I've gone through the hell of yo-yo diets and found myself unhealthier than ever. And I haven't really eaten to lose weight since my autoimmune disease took over my life. But I have eaten to reduce substances that trigger my symptoms, and you know what, I lost two waist sizes doing that, and I don't binge eat anymore, I don't have that appetite anymore. My body certainly isn't anything anyone who's ableist or anti-fat wants to see, but it's the one I have, and I do a lot of cool things with it anyway because I am uniquely amazing and talented and so are we all, and it's about time we stopped automatically downgrading people's worth as human beings based on how fat they are, since that seems to be really no more under their control than their hair or eye color.( I.e, you can fake a change in it, but it's not natural and requires a lot of extra work and expense.)
maricelt
Sep. 23rd, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
::Applause::
I am very happy/proud/"right there with" you.
My body is a tool, for creativity, for pleasure, for taking me to new experiences. As such I keep my body in good working order. Anything that interferes with my bodies ability to serve my purposes is "outta here". Whether that be too much alcohol, irresponsible eating (in either direction too much or too little), or any other thing or thought that takes me from caring for my self.
Welcome to acceptance. Feels good doesn't it?
weaverrhi
Sep. 23rd, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
Only a few comments
1. About the diets advertised on tv.. I have one sentence "Results not typical" that sums it all up. They know the diet will fail. Even if they put model-thin people in the ads, they KNOW most people won't make it. They COUNT on it.

2. I am somewhat proof that it's not all about the food you eat. I am obese (over 300#) and in all honesty, I could put away some food at one time. Now, however, I eat about half or less of what I used to and still the weight stays. I would think that if I'm eating less (and better) I would lose.. but I'm not.

As for fat acceptance, I'm not there yet, but I'm trying. My endocrinologist isn't really helping. I'm incredibly focused on weight, food and blood sugar to the point I want to cry about every two hours.
ravena_kade
Sep. 23rd, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Only a few comments
HUGS
Re: Only a few comments - fallconsmate - Sep. 24th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Only a few comments - attack_laurel - Sep. 24th, 2009 09:45 am (UTC) - Expand
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