I Just Want to Be a Size X Again

LiesI had just finished a talk about Health at Every Size at a technology company that had requested, and received, a very data-heavy presentation.  We had spent two hours going over the research around the failure of diets and the success of healthy habits and I had spent over two hours more answering questions  – no, nobody is obligated to pursue health by any definition – no, health is not entirely within our control – no, there really isn’t a single study where a majority of participants moved into “normal” BMI and maintained it – yes, studies have claimed success when 70% of people dropped out and the rest averaged 2 pounds of weight lost over 2 years.  Finally the engineers and computer programmers were satiated and the questions ran out.

I was packing up my things when a woman came up to me and said “I loved your presentation and I totally agree with what you said about dieting not working.  I’m trying to lose weight right now but after all my dieting failures I’ve accepted that I’ll never be skinny, I just want to get back to a size 14.”

This is not the first time this has happened.  In the past I have said this exact thing.  I hear and see it all the time.  It’s a particularly heartbreaking moment I think – the person has given up on their dream of being thin and created a new dream that, sadly, is likely precisely as unattainable.

I’ve written before about how difficult it is to be called a quitter, to give up the allure of the next diet and all of it’s possibilities, I’ve even discussed how I think our belief in the possibility of being thin is hindering the fatty uprising.  

Even once we get past that, we’re still subject to this pitfall – the “I just want to be a size X” myth.  We hit this stage when we acknowledge that thin is not a possibility because diets don’t work, but then hope that maybe they’ll work well enough for a smaller body than we have now. The goals of this are completely understandable – wanting to fit into old clothes, wanting to fit into an airplane seat/movie seat/chair with arms, wanting to be able to shop in a brick and mortar store, being emotionally attached to a specific size, hoping that being thinner will help mobility, and plenty more.

The problem is that no matter how good/rational/reasonable the reason – diets still just don’t work – it’s still feeding your body less food than it needs to survive in an attempt to get it to eat itself and become smaller, and that is still a recipe for disaster.  The vast majority of these attempts will still end up in long-term weight gain, leaving the person not just with the problem they were originally trying to solve, but possibly new problems as well.

To be clear, I’m not trying to tell anybody what to do with their body, I don’t believe that I can argue for my right to practice Health at Every Size while simultaneously arguing against someone else’s right to diet.  Plus, other people’s bodies are not my business. This is just a suggestion:

I suggest that the sooner we give up the “I want to be a size x” dream, the sooner we can start working on the “I want a better size-I-am-now” reality.  Once we stop believing in the Thin Fairy – when we realize that our bodies are not the problem – we start to see all the actual problems. 

We can choose to start creating a world that works for us – asking for armless chairs, finding a way to get clothes we like, flying with fat-friendly airlines, going to movie theaters with seats that have arms that raise, get the mobility aid(s) that can help us, working on strength/stamina/flexibility/movement patterns instead of just trying to get smaller, doing activism around any of these things and anything else that is in our way. Even if we don’t choose activism, at least now we’re placing the blame where it belongs and not on our bodies.

I still remember the day I decided that instead of waiting for some other body to show up, I was going to take this body for a spin – appreciate it, defend it, make the world better for it.  I don’t want to imagine what my life would be like if instead i had decided, for the eleventy gabillionth time that it was time for the next diet so that I could just get down to a size whatever.

A little help from my friends?

I’m making plans to go to Southwest Florida to interview the amazing Lynn McAfee for the Fat History Project.  Lynn is one of my heroes and is someone who almost every single person I discussed the project with said I HAD to interview. This project is so important to me – it would be awesome if you could help me get her amazing memories and wisdom (and that of other incredibly fat activists) out on YouTube for free for everyone to see.  There are lots of ways to help, whether or not you can help financially:

Support the project – financially and/or by passing it along on social media. If you don’t like GoFundMe or are donating less than $5 (every little bit helps!)  You can totally use paypal

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can support this project and other activism that I do, keep this blog ad-free, be the first to know about, and get special deals on, all of my stuff, and get deals from cool businesses and my undying gratitude Click here

Help me find speaking gigs in Southwestern Florida –  if I can get some speaking gigs (even small ones) I can spread the HAES/SA love and it can help offset the travel costs.  If you know of a college, corporation, book store, dance studio etc. in Southwestern Florida that might like to have me as a speaker, e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Buy the Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Buy the Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

Published in: on August 3, 2013 at 9:27 am  Comments (21)  

21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The best thing about accepting my body at the size it is now is now ALL the clothes in my closet fit me!
    Thanks for all you do!

  2. Where in SW Florida are you going? I am in Ft Myers and would love to meet you while you are here. I have been reading your blog for sometime and love the wisdom that you share. I would love to talk with you about becoming more active in the community.

    • im in orlando…./high five florida love

  3. It’s tough giving up the fantasy of being thin. We’re taught so long and so hard and so adamantly that thin is the answer to all problems that it takes a hell of a lot of work to deprogram ourselves from it. Even the most intelligent and logical of us have difficulty with it.

    But man, the best day of my last decade was the one when I gave up and started truly loving my body exactly the way it is right here and right now. I’m back to doing charity walk-a-thins, I own a swimsuit again, I ignore calorie counts and just eat what sounds good at the moment, I go more places, have more sex, and I danced in public with a parrot on my shoulder!

    I wouldn’t have done ANY of these things if I hadn’t let go of the dream of living my life fully… but only on certain conditions.

  4. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    Admissibly, I go through this. “Oh, if only I could be a size 12 again!” Well, then what? I wasn’t happy then. Being a certain size is not going to have the Happy Fairy wave their wand over me. “Congratulations, you’re now a size 12!”
    I try not to fall into this trap too much.

  5. OK. going out on a limb here– Do you want to be a size 14 (or 12, or whatever) AGAIN? Again is the key here. Because it all seems to be a longing for the past through rose colored rear view mirrors. Do you want to be a size XXX or do you want to FEEL like you did when you were a size XXX? Though plenty of people develop healthy habits later in life, often the longing for the size is a longing for the feeling of youth. I would love to feel like I did at 22, I don’t care what size that means. But 22 was 20 years ago and it ain’t coming back, size or not.

    • Precisely this. When I was 19, I was relatively thin. I felt awesome, but part of that was the exercise (which I am reincorporating) and the other part was the youth. None of it was the thin.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and this was just the kick in the ass I needed to spend some time going through my closet and tossing out the things that don’t fit me but I was holding on to “just in case I get back to where they fit me again”. I’ve already given up on the 14s and got rid of those. Now it’s time to clear out the 16s. I have stabilized at an 18/20 and as I’ve been told before “Health is a function of participation. Happiness is a function of accepting what is.” Thin is so deeply entrenched in everyone but it feels especially deep in those of us who were chubby kids (we’ve been fed this propaganda from a much earlier time before our critical thinking was fully developed). I managed to quit smoking but giving up “thin” feels so much harder. Thanks for being a voice of reason in all of the madness.

  7. I love this! I always feel sad when friends chase size whatever. I long ago gave up the idea that I could manipulate my body into being a certain size. My body doesn’t know about numbers. It knows about hunger, satiety, the drive to exercise, feeling good, feeling pain, etc. Those are things I can honor. Once upon a time, I had a therapist tell me that I would never treat a friend, student or child the way that I treat myself. At that point, I consciously put on my friend/parent/teacher hat to parent myself into good self-esteem and learned to love myself just as I was.

    As a side note, I don’t think the size issue would be such a big deal if we could get more plus-size companies to carry a greater range of sizes. I think women start getting nervous about having no cute clothes when they start hitting the size 22/24 range. You know what I mean, the thinking that says — oh dear, if I get to be even one size bigger I won’t be able to shop at this store/wear these clothes, etc. The tendency is to see the body as the problem instead of seeing the clothing designers as the problem. Crying shame!

  8. I’m feeling this in spades right now, now that I suddenly have to go get new professional clothing for a new job. It wouldn’t even be a big deal except twenty pounds ago everything was *much* more convenient – far more clothing available to me, at a better quality, better style, and better price. You really do get ghettoized above a certain weight. I just keep trying to remind myself that society, the clothing industry, etc., has the problem… not me! But when you’re the one suffering from it, it sure feels like your problem.

  9. I gave up on sizes in middle school when I figured out how arbitrary they are in women’s clothes. This brands fits me in a size 16/18 except in these styles which are smaller 18s or this other style where the 18 is the same size as the 16s. And this other brand I am a 20 except these other styles where I am suddenly a 14.

    Now I am just like fuck it and try on a range until something fits and barely look at the numbers anymore.

  10. I had a glorious moment this past Friday. It was such a simple thing: I went to the mall with my honey, we took in a movie, and just wandered around. Yet it was a big deal, because I haven’t had a day like that, pain free, in over 10 years.

    What made the difference was that I’d finally – finally! – accepted that the back/knee/foot problems that had made an afternoon like that impossible were not some sort of punishment for being fat, a punishment I had to accept. Instead, I got on my new scooter and rode around happily, feeling like a normal person again.

    To my surprise, no one pointed a finger at me and yelled “Lazy Fattie!” or some such. We just went about our business.

    I have spent so much of my time in the last 10 years exhausted and half crazed with pain that I’d forgotten what it was like to go out and have a nice time.

    To get to this point, I had to accept that this is the size I am, and it does not have moral import one way or the other. Such a simple thing. Thank you for getting it through my head!

    • Good for you! Do it more!!!

    • Super to hear that you were able to have a good time pain-free!

    • That’s great! Now are you going to pimp your scooter? If so, please share pics.

  11. The period I was thinnest was also the worst period of my life, because I had lost appetite after a difficult separation. So I was quite thin but completely miserable. It helps to remember that at times when I tend to “romanticize” thinness.

    • Possible trigger warning here with ED talk — I share that experience. The only time post-college that I was near my “ideal weight” was when I was borderline orthorexic and taking the Shitty Divorce appetite suppressant. I was never diagnosed with orthorexia, but looking back … I had a list of only about 20 foods I allowed myself to eat. And of course, I was being congratulated on my weight loss. Except for my ex, who told me I could stand to lose another 10 pounds.

  12. I am trying to give up that idea of “just a little thinner.” It’s hard. What I am doing is looking at myself in the morning, semi-clad and saying “Love THIS body.” Not the idea of a body I had when I was in my 20s and skiing 5 days a week. THIS body, the one I live in now. I’m hoping the affirmation sinks in over time.

    • Me too, although I never skied five days a week. When I catch myself thinking I’d like to lose a few pounds, I point out that what I really should do is move a little more.

      Of course, then one of my cats demands that I sit down and pet him and like a good cat servant I do just that.

  13. I’m still struggling with HAES. For a 6 month period I did treat my body well and I exercised and meditated and did all these great things!! I felt so healthy and yes my weight dropped but I only weighed once a month and so I don’t actually know how much I lost. But it didn’t matter because my blood pressure was down and my cholesterol was down and my energy was sky high and my peace about myself was wonderful.

    Now, I am still trying to tell myself that the healthy habits are what matters but I’m not doing those things–I think because I’m very stressed in my life.

    Instead of going for a walk I am obsessing about my weight. Instead of meditating I’m considering going back on a diet for the first time in 3 years. I’m just stuck, and this blog is a lifesaver. It reels me back from the edge of a diet every time I read it. This diet mentality is so hard to shake.

    I guess this is a bit off topic, but thank you thank you for this blog.

    • Diet stuff is thrown in our face everywhere we go. It’s all over tv and radio. I have several friends dieting to ‘lose weight and get healthy’. I was out with another friend this weekend and she talked about the clothes she would get when she was thinner. It was a corset-maker I mentioned and added that the price would be a couple hundred dollars. I pointed out that this woman had been making corsets for all shapes and sizes for decades but friend just kind of shrugged. Whenever I say I can’t get clothes, it’s because it is something completely outside my price range. Although if I had a few hundred dollars to blow on clothes, I’d go on a trip instead, but that’s just me.

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