One of the most common e-mails that I get is from blog fans who say that, while they completely understand size acceptance for everyone else, and they find bodies of all sizes beautiful and valuable and awesome, they just can’t get there for their own bodies. I got an e-mail like that today and it really struck me because I’m preparing to be an Adiposer tomorrow. If you don’t know about the [NSFW] adipositivity project, you are absolutely missing out. It’s a project that “aims to promote size acceptance, not by listing the merits of big people, or detailing examples of excellence (these things are easily seen all around us), but rather, through a visual display of fat physicality.” There are stunning pictures of fat people in various stages of dress and undress. It’s amazing, I’ve loved it forever and tomorrow I get to pose for the project and meet its amazing creator, Substantia Jones, which in some ways is a culmination of all the self work I’ve done about this, and wow am I rambling off topic right now.
For me, the thing that triggered the idea that I could ever be happy with my fat body was the realization that I didn’t feel about other fat bodies the way that I felt about my body at the time. I was trying to quit a diet program that had me eating less than I had with an eating disorder and wouldn’t allow me to exercise, and I was gaining weight. When I told them I was quitting, they made me go into a little room with a little poster about not quitting and a woman brought in a binder with pictures of fat women, and she started flipping through it silently. She said “You might not know it, but this is what you look like and these women will die alone eating bon bons in front of the television and is that what you want for yourself?”
What I realized in that moment was that I didn’t find anything wrong with those women’s bodies, in fact I thought that they were beautiful. I didn’t expect that they would never find love (and I didn’t know what bon bons were but that’s another thing.) So it occurred to me in a rush: if I thought that their bodies were beautiful… and if I looked like them…then maybe it was possible to think that my body was beautiful.
Of course that was the beginning of a long process. I started that process by focusing on what my body does instead of how it looks. I made a massive list of all the things that I appreciate about my body – I included things like blinking and breathing, I included standing, walking, reaching, hugging and any other action I could think of. I included that I love my curly hair and my eyes that change color. I wrote down anything that I could think of that I liked about my body, or that my body did.
Then I committed to really paying attention to my thoughts and every time I had a negative thought about my body I would replace it with a positive thought from the list. Every time it crossed my mind I would thank my body for doing anything that I could think of – hey, thanks for breathing! I appreciate you reaching for that! Way to climb the stairs! Whatever I could think of.
More than any work that I have done, this started to shift the way that I felt about my body.
At the same time I made a point of noticing something beautiful about every body that I saw. When something about someone caught my eye because it was outside the stereotype of beauty, I focused on what was amazing about it. When I had negative thoughts I reminded myself that I had been spoon-fed these ideas by industries that profit from my thinking them; and that if they didn’t serve me or didn’t feel authentic, then I was free to replace those thoughts with thoughts that I came up with on my own that did serve me and felt authentic.
I stopped engaging in body snarking altogether and I started to interrupt it when other people did it.
I actively sought out pictures of people who were outside of the stereotype of beauty. Some places I can recommend for this are:
I looked for similarities between the people I thought were beautiful and pictures of my own body, and I reminded myself that other people were looking at me and seeing the same beauty that I saw in those women.
And I had a lot of compassion for myself. Changing thoughts and patterns that are ingrained, and sometimes reinforced by the culture around us is really hard work. It takes time, there will often be backslides and mistakes, and the best ways to NOT succeed are not having compassion for the learning process, not having patience, and trying to rush it along. I know for me I decided that I was going to get there, and then I held that thought all the way through. Patience, persistence, and belief that I would get there were the keys to my success.
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