The first stop on the Dances with Fat World Tour was wonderful! I’ll have a full post once I have all the pictures and videos back. I will say that in the last 72 hours I’ve crossed the country two and a half times, slept more hours on planes than in beds, been part of movie premieres on both coasts, saw my Best Friend get married and performed at the Austin NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body Day.
And there I saw Ani, an awesome woman who I had met on a couple of previous occasions. She shared with me that she has been struggling with a health condition. Of course, it took several tries to get properly diagnosed because the first few doctors gave her a diagnosis of fat and a prescription of weight loss.
Now there are restrictions on her movement that she never had to deal with before. In the past she was an athlete and now she’s exploring movement again but with less options. She mentioned that in my blog I talk about being fat and being able to be athletic and that she was interested in a discussion of what happens when you’re fat and can’t buck all the stereotypes. It’s something I’ve been meaning to talk more about and she said it was cool if I use her story to frame the discussion.
I talk about the ways that I, as a healthy athlete, do not fit the stereotypes that our society has for fat people. As we have talked about before, that opens me up to the Role Model Problem. It also creates the possibility that people will misunderstand and think that I’m trying to say that I think it’s ok to judge people for their health, physical fitness and/or mobility. Of course that’s absolutely not true.
First, I do not believe that health is a personal, social, or moral obligation. People don’t have to prioritize their lives the way that we think they should. It’s not our business. Just like we get to prioritize our lives as we see fit and it’s not other people’s business. I also think we forget that the current state of our bodies is not entirely under our control. In some cases it’s almost entirely out of our control. Our health, physical fitness, and mobility are the result of our genetics, environment, stress, access (to everything from healthy food to healthcare), past behaviors and current behaviors. It’s ridiculous to pretend that our health is entirely under our control.
Dealing with a physical limitation of any kind can be really difficult, and those difficulties can be compounded when you are a fatty. The messages that get put out there in our culture could make someone think that there is a magical body weight that assures health and immortality. And that is a lie. There are people of all sizes who have health, physical fitness and mobility limitations. But if you’re fat with a limitation then you know that people are going to blame it on your weight and judge you. The stereotype telling you that you made yourself a fatty and that caused the mobility problem or health issue - one or both of which can easily be untrue.
Then there are the internal emotional issues that you have to deal with…It can damage your relationship with your body, make you angry with it, feel betrayed. Create all kinds of stuff that you have to work through. Sometimes you have to make a change from what you enjoyed before, sometimes it means that you can’t try something that you want to try, and if you’re fat it can mean that you feel like you’re living down to the stereotype – you become the fat girl who can’t move. This has happened to me when I’ve been injured. Dancers get injured all the time but every time I’ve had an injury I have to work through the feelings of being betrayed by my body, and deal with being a fatty with a limp with all of the stereotypical cultural bullshit attached to that.
I think that in the end, it’s about realizing that our bodies are amazing and that they will change over time. They are simply not comparable to other bodies or to themselves over time. There’s no point in looking for ways that your body is better or worse than other bodies, or that it can do more or less than other bodies, or than it could at some other time in your life. There are lots of ways to have a body and, as Hanne Blank said so beautifully, there is no wrong way to have a body.
Consider the possibility that your body is amazing just as it is, and that as it changes it will continue to be amazing in different ways. You are incomparable!
No matter what, remember that you can’t control how other people feel, but you are the only person in charge of how you feel about yourself and your body- you can choose to give that power away, but it’s always your body and your choice. I have found that shutting out the constant message that we get (mostly from people who want to sell us something) that our bodies are flawed is not easy – though it gets easier over time. But having a healthy, happy relationship with my body is definitely worth the effort. I don’t know how my body will change over time but I believe that starting with a base of love and appreciation for what my body does for me will help work through it.