Maybe It’s Time To Make a New Friend

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And Fat Dudes!  Design by Kris Owen

I’ve been thinking a lot today about the ways in which we are encouraged to view our bodies as “the enemy.” There are lots of ways to think about our relationships with our bodies, and none of them are wrong. I have no interest in telling people how they have to relate to their bodies, I do want to talk about an option that has really helped me.

I used to think of my body as the enemy – I bought into all of the diet company language of  “struggling with my weight,” I was perpetually angry at my body because it resisted my attempts to manipulate its size and shape.  I lived every day in a body that I hated. And, in hindsight not surprisingly, I was miserable.

Things turned around when I realized that my body does so many things for me every day (breathing, blinking, heartbeat, smiling, waving, hugging etc.) and all I ever did was deride it for how it looked. I wondered what would happen if I treated my friends like I treated my body, and I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t have any friends.

I decided to start treating my body like a friend, like a partner, like it was worthy of my love and gratitude – because it is. This wasn’t about my concept of beauty and how I did or didn’t fit into it. This was about realizing that this is the body that I live in 100% of the time – the body that I wake up with, the body that I go to sleep with, the body that I do everything in between with.

Hating that body and treating it like an enemy unless and until it fit some height/weight ratio or stereotype of beauty was not working out for me.  Treating my body like a friend who deserves my gratitude and full-throated support did work out, and continues to work out.  Changing my relationship with my body changed everything for me.

It hasn’t always been easy, and there have definitely been rough patches in our friendship – that time a neck injury led me to not being able to use my right arm, the struggles I have with running etc.  During those times I try to think of it as me and my body against a problem, rather than me against my body.

That said, as someone who is currently able-bodied I have a lot of privilege where this is concerned and I want to acknowledge that my process around my relationship with my body includes that privilege.  I certainly can’t speak to the experience of people who have disabilities/chronic pain/mobility limitations etc.

[Edit: I didn’t do a good job of discussing all of my privileges. I wanted to come back and try to be much more clear.  I apologize for the screw up.]

I have privilege in this area as a cis-gendered person (thanks to captainglittertoes for pointing out my omission in the comments, though I’m sorry that I put it on you to do it.)  There are complications in the relationship with the body that Trans people deal with and ignoring that (as I did in this post) can serve to further marginalized trans people.  Also, in fat community I’ve seen Trans people pressured to “accept their body” including being pressured to forgo choices that would change their bodies like hormones, and surgery.  And that it super fucked up.  Trans people should be supported in Size Acceptance community – not to mention in all community – in making the choices that are right for them, and having full access to the what they need to implement those choices.  Anything less is oppression.

Among the massive amount of privilege I receive as a white person, my body isn’t stigmatized in this culture for its color, nor am I subjected to ridiculous arguments about how I “have it easy” because fat Women of Color are “more accepted.” It’s one of the reasons that fighting racism is intersectional with, and necessary to, the fight for Size Acceptance.

Again, my failure to discuss this in the original post is an excellent demonstration of my privilege (I don’t have to, and can choose not to,  think about these things because I’m not experiencing them) and in exercising that privilege I took part in marginalizing Trans people and People of Color.  I fucked up and I apologize.

I don’t think I made it clear enough that as a fat women who enjoys being involved in fitness (and yes, even taking into consideration the street harassment and hatemail that I get because I am a fat woman participating in athletics), part of the “good fatty” privilege that I have is that there are people who treat me better than they would someone my size who chooses different hobbies, and I am part of our culture’s ableist, healthist and completely erroneous reinforcement of the idea that if you participate in fitness then that somehow makes you a good/better/more moral person. My choice of hobbies is reinforced as a good and positive choice by society where other fat people’s choice of hobbies are not and that’s also totally screwed up.

I was completely in the wrong to leave this discussion out of my original discussion and I deeply apologize.

[end edit]

In fact,  I can’t speak for anyone but me – so your experience may be different, and your mileage may vary.

What I’m suggesting is that if you’re tired of being your body’s biggest enemy, maybe it’s time to make a new friend.

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Published in: on January 16, 2015 at 2:09 pm  Comments (26)  

26 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As far as I can tell, it never hurts to cut your body some mental slack, but treating yourself as worthy of kindness does a world of good.

  2. I don’t know that I ever make an effort to see my body in that way, but I know working out makes me feel like that. Well… actually not so much like my body is a partner or anything but just an appreciate for what it does and feeling really connected with my body. Which is very counter to how I’d come to think of my body, the way I think our society tells women to see our bodies, as something separate from us, something we are trapped in, something we should dissec pieces here and there- not seeing your body as a whole but as parts- “I like my butt, but if only I could swap our my boobs for one’s like hers….” that kind of thinking.
    But working out really helps me feel deeply connected to my body in a way that that kind of thinking just makes no sense in that moment. How could I wish I had some other set of legs, when these are mine, these are me, this is the one and only body I have or could have. It’s a pretty great feeling compared to the usual body hatred bullshit pushed on us!

    That said, dealing with chronic illnesses/invisible disabilities, I definitely feel often like I am at odds with my body on that front🙂

    • Yes–I find it really, really hard to “love” my body when I’m dealing with chronic and just-about-constant pain. In my situation, my body really *isn’t* my “friend”. I appreciate Ragen’s realization that this can play out differently for people with disabilities/chronic pain/mobility issues, etc.

  3. For a long time, I felt like ‘me’ was in my brain-parts, and my body was the walking, talking brain holder.

    But I am this body. It’s me as much as my mind is. How it’s working and the things I do to it influence my emotional health. When people meet me, they meet this body and the personality that inhabits it.

    How did we ever get talked into breaking ourselves in half?

    • Mind-body (and especially spirit/soul-body dualism) goes back to ancient Greece.

      • Yes.

        I like your horse picture.

    • Thanks for the comment. I think it’s great that you’ve found a way to conceptualize your body that works for you. As i said in the post it’s completely cool if the dualism concept doesn’t work for you, but please refrain from making statements that suggest that those who do choose to think of ourselves in that way somehow got “talked into it” simply because our experience/conceptualization is different from yours.

      Thanks!

      ~Ragen

      • True, sorry I came off that way! I found empowerment in feeling fully embodied, but that doesn’t work for everyone.

  4. I have trouble with the way a lot of the body positivity movement ignores trans experiences and narratives. The body I live in is very much not even mine some days. At the same time, I like the potential that Ragen’s framing has for coexisting. Given the level of dysphoria, this is only sometimes possible for me. But it’s still useful!

    • Hi captainglittertoes,

      I totally screwed up in not discussing this in the original post. I’ve gone back and edited the post, and I’m really sorry.

      ~Ragen

      • Thanks Ragen! I know it was part of your original intent to talk about something that works *for you,* so it didn’t feel as erasing as a lot of these conversations do. Thanks for going back and rethinking it.

  5. The first thing that popped into my head when I read this post is Ragen and a whole host of other people showing off their bodies of all sizes and yelling Say Hello To My Leetle Friend! ala Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface!:/😀 Not that all the bodies would need to be described as “leetle” of course. People would insert whatever descriptor they want about their Body Friend!🙂

  6. I have “a few” conditions that have lead to chronic pain & mobility impairment. This week I was diagnosed with gout to add to the collection & am not loving it. However, my body and I are still in this together. The conscious part of my body needs to be better about making decisions that are friendly to the rest of my little (or not so little) collective. I’ve learned that high fructose corn syrup can be a gout trigger. Since my diet is free of the other triggers, it seems my life-long love affair with Pepsi is over. For good this time. It goes both ways–if depression rears it’s head, body can help me exercise or engage in enjoyable activity to boost my mood. We’ll work it out together🙂

  7. Pepsi has a product made with sugar and not high fructose corn syrup.

    • Rabidewock1284- I know they do, but I’m an addict. I don’t trust myself to only drink it at home & I’ve never seen Pepsi Throwback in a fountain. So It’s easier to just say no… For a while I’m checking ingredients on EVERYTHING!

      • As a fellow gout sufferer (in my case one of my heart medications raises my uric acid levels), I sympathize deeply. If you haven’t already talked to your doctor about medications to lower uric acid, be sure to do so. It’s just about impossible to control gout by diet alone, but there are a couple of very effective medications available that should mean you will seldom if ever have another gout flare. Given how incredibly painful a gout flare is, it’s well worth looking into medication (and your body will thank you, to bring this back around to topic …)

      • No, I have never seen fountain Pepsi with sugar in it. At least not since the drink companies switched from sugar to the high fructose corn syrup. Every place had the sugar sweetened fountain drinks back in the day. Like when I was a kid in the 1970’s. But not since the late 80’s or early 90’s when the switch was made. I have occasionally seen the 20oz bottles of sugar Pepsi in stores. Coke does a product with sugar and stevia because we sell in the store I work in. Good luck to you!

        • I checked the A&W root beer that I drink (in Canada) and it contains sugar, no corn syrup.

          • It’s only in the USA they use High Fructose Corn Syrup. I used to bring Canadian Coca Cola home for my brother and his wife when I would go to Canada. Then one of the grocery chains in my state started carrying it due to demand.

            • If there’s a Mexican bodega or takeout restaurant near you, ask them if they have Mexican Coca-Cola. That always has real sugar in it, too. Also, don’t be afraid to try the real sugar sodas like Penafiel or Jarritos. They’re wonderful.

              • Good to know. At Superstore (Canadian grocery store chain) they have a classic root beer, in real glass bottles, that I was thinking of trying. I think the original soft drinks back in the 1800s were made with sugar, corn syrup was not yet big.

                • I’m not sure if it’s available in your area, but if it is I highly recommend “Hansen’s” Natural Cane Soda. It’s made with cane sugar and natural flavoring. They have some yummy varieties including ginger ale, root beer, and cherry vanilla, just to name a few.

  8. Personally, I found myself starting to feel unhappy with myself when other people told me I should look a certain way, and I just couldn’t. There were lots of other things about me that I was told should not be, but that’s not about my body.

    I think that is true for many people, only it is so saturated in the culture, it is hard to see it in oneself.

    Like Ragen, I can only speak for myself, but I do wish we could get rid of the cultural dislike of all bodies except for a certain subset. And it may be that members of the subset have problems too.

  9. This was an excellent article and I agree whole heartedly. I love Louise Hay and affirmations and I had the opportunity to take a workshop about looking at the positive side of life. It included not being at war with your body, accepting all of you. I am so grateful to my body for all of the things you said in your post. I so have a disability concerning my legs, and have always had knee problems, they lie to go out without me, and have dislocated, one knee or the other on and off since I was a child. After numerous operations, they still do. But I am able to walk. I have always had the use of my legs. I can’t roller skate, ice skate, run, but I can walk. I am not looking for sympathy here, I am quite a happy being. My point is, this body that each of us have, is a gift. At least I think so. Yes, I am fat, yes I am slow moving but I am happy, alive, a writer and am so very grateful to this wonderful body I have. So thank you Ragen for the timely reminder!

  10. typo I meant to say I also have a disability.. sorry I am a terrible typist.

  11. I just wanted to add that I am very lucky to belong to a strong spiritual community in my area, that welcomes all faiths, from Buddhist to Wiccan, from Christian to Atheist. It is a community that promotes tolerance, gratitude and love. One of the songs that we sing has these lyrics:” I am so blessed, I am so blessed I am so grateful for all that I have, I am so blessed, I am so blessed I am so grateful, I am so blessed.”
    I am a very lucky woman to have found such a beautiful community in my area. And I really feel that this online community, “Dances With Fat” has what I perceive as, the same strong commitment to each other and to tolerance and gratitude. I love being a part of this “Dances With Fat” community. Thank you Ragen, for all for your support, great advice and wonderful Posts.


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