am i fat?
March 4, 2004 01:11 PM

This is why I don't feel fat: fat people cannot love themselves, so we are told; fat people cannot love their bodies. But I do.
(Genius Toiling In Obscurity on her image of her body)

Someone told me that this is supposed to be healthy for fat people, to see themselves in their minds as less fat than they are. Because fat is so evil? It is, we seem to think. Fat is all these other things, this judgement on a person. I don't even mean just the weight the word carries - the very act of carrying so-called extra fat on your body is evil, whether you call it fat, curvy, of size, whatever. You can't euphemize away the existence of fat and the badness it implies.

So, yeah. I can see why, knowing that you're not all the baaaaaaad things that fat is supposed to be, it would make sense to think you were physically smaller. It would, really, be a quite sane thing to do on the way from fat-hate to self-love.

When I think about it that way, it disturbs me less that I have this several-years-old idea of the size of my body. See, despite eating more and more healthily (though exercising inconsistently), over the past five? eight? years, I've just gotten steadily larger. My picture of myself in my mind hasn't grown at the same rate, so I'm surprised by photos and mirrors sometimes. Frequently. For a long time, years ago when I first started getting fat, I bought clothes I thought fit but were really too small. That, fortunately, stopped. Everyone should have clothes that fit them. [Could this shallow belief be the cornerstone of my politics? I mean, if you add up gender politics, fat politics, defense of workers and such, ultimately you could be talking about everyone having cute clothes that fit. Hee hee.]

Until recently, I still found my image surprising (and yes, sometimes unattractive, I'm sad to say). In photos more than mirrors. I think photos are more relatable to the bidimensional figures we see in various media.

I tend to think of it as unhealthy and dysmorphic, a sign that I didn't really own my body or something, but maybe it's not entirely. Maybe it's also the healthy view to take in a world suffering from a sort of mass body dysmorphia. I know I had more moments of thinking I was hot when I had less of a grasp on my size.

Since I launched the effort to change the way I eat and move (eating a bit less of better food, and making exercise a truly regular habit), I've come to have a different picture of my body. I'm a lot fatter than I thought. Now my mental picture and the mirror/photo are more in line. Well, huh.

Which makes me wonder - while I don't think I place any more or less negative judgement on my fatness than I did before, does everyone who shifts to a healthier lifestyle or (ick) goes on a diet start to see themselves as fatter than before? Or does exercise and treating yourself a bit better just resolve your mental picture to the one others see? If the former were true, it's no wonder people treat exercise as punishment and talk about themselves in terms of goodness and badness; the whole process of exercising might be bad for your self image, even if you approached it healthily & not from a "must lose 20 pounds" standpoint.

In any case, the trouble I find with seeing a fatter me is that sometimes I also feel "fatter" - that is, more of all the things we associate negatively with fat. While I feel better in every other way from the changes I've made (and I did make choices oriented around health, not weightloss), it's as if the improved health has opened up a little vein of self-directed fat-hate in me. Which in turn makes me feel and act a bit self-absorbed at times.

It's unsettling. I'm not even positive this causal relationship exists between the positive attention I've been giving my body and the negative attention that followed it, but I'm bothered by it.

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your wicked thoughts

Iím reacting to things from the Livejournal post and this one. I think that there is a way that we are all being trained into a kind of healthy body is moral panic. I really think thatís true for fat and thin people. I think there were three things that gave me some ambivalence about the body. One was being fat and having my body problematized from an early age. Another was having a spiritual life and centering myself in a notion of the body as part of a spiritual path. (And that is oblique and would take pages to even begin to explain and even I wouldnít know what I mean by it all.) And one was wanting to be Janis Joplin. Hard drinking. Drugs and sex. Live fast and leave a beautiful corpse. And one more thing, having some sexual abuse history.
Now Iím older. And I donít have health insurance. I use alternative stuff like duct tape. Always trying to keep myself together.
People who are athletes, or body builders and even dancers have a project. And their bodies are in service to that project. I think thatís all pretty interesting. Thereís a way in which what they eat and how much they exercise is about their project.
For me every day has been about looking for an authentic relationship with my body. Because thereís nothing in my family, or the culture at large that supports me finding an authentic relationship with my body. I have to make it up from the inside out. And being fat is about identity for me. Itís part of social justice in a very particular way.
Physical self-care is an effort for me. And part of the reason for that is because I was (am) told my body was wrong. Iím all over the map here. But between the two posts and my own blog world this issue is really up for me.

these are the thoughts of Tish on March 6, 2004 02:15 AM

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