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.
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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