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.
I am my body, and my body is good.
Happy (early - my birthday's in December, but why wait?) to me.