I was getting dinner out with my husband at a local hamburger joint, which has two sizes of burgers – the “Little”, which is a single patty, and the regular, which is a double. I ordered the regular. The lady at the register looked at me and asked if I knew how big the regular was. I replied that I was really hungry, and we continued with the transaction. I was completely humiliated, especially when, while waiting for our order to come up, I was close enough to overhear other transactions with customers and she asked no one else that question.
In writing, it doesn’t seem like much, but that small 30 second exchange has really devastated me. I fight with depression in the best of times, and now I feel as if I cannot get over that. Every time I try to eat I get upset because I keep hearing that evil voice in my head that tells me I’m worthless and shouldn’t be eating like this, even if it is a normal meal/ portion size / whatever. I hate feeling like this. What can I do to get back to the mostly confident woman who understands that there is nothing wrong with me, and that it is the haters that are in the wrong?
In addition to the stigma and oppression that we face on a societal level (war on obesity much?), as fat people who are involved in public displays of fatness, we can also face a lot of shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression that comes in small bits every day – negative comments about our bodies and food choices, dirty looks, spaces that don’t accommodate us, seeing ourselves constantly represented negatively in the media. Then there is another layer that happens when we talk about it and are told that either it’s all in our heads and/or it’s “for our own good” so we should accept and even be grateful for this treatment, and other truly troubling responses. Finally are the well meaning people who tell us not to talk about it because they still believe that ignoring bullies makes them go away, or who don’t want to hear about it.
It happens so often that it becomes part of our reality and sometimes it can build up, and then suddenly something that seems small can just be devastating. Some things that I have found that help are:
Putting the problem where it belongs
Remember that the world is messed up, you are fine. The problem isn’t that we, as fat people, exist. The problem is the bullying, shaming, stigmatizing and oppression that we have to deal with, and the people who are perpetuating it. We are not obligated to try to change our body size to end our oppression – we have every right to demand our right to exist and not be oppressed in the bodies that we have.
When you feel shame because of stigma that is directed at you, one option is to redirect that shame into embarrassment/anger/frustration with the person who is stigmatizing you. You can do this in your head, or you can do it out loud. You can write a letter or e-mail and send it, or burn it, or whatever.
Create a Mantra
Just something quick you can say in your head when, as many times throughout the day it happens, you are faced with size-based prejudice. Mine is “Hey, that’s bullshit!” but you can of course do what works for you.
Create a Supportive Community
Subscribe to body positive blogs so that you get them in your inbox, join Size Acceptance Facebook communities, join (or create!) Size Acceptance meet-ups in your area, tell the people that you spend time with that you are practicing SA/HAES and that you want them to support you but not engaging in negative body talk/weight loss talk etc. around you.
Engage in Activism
Size-based oppression is rampant right now and it’s going to take time, and a lot of activism to fix it. But this isn’t about that. Nobody is obligated to engage in activism of any kind for any reason, but activism doesn’t just have to be about changing the whole world, it can also be about changing our world. It can be about standing up for ourselves, a way to maintain our good self-esteem, and give our full-throated support to our amazing fat bodies.
Regardless of how you deal with it, please know that you shouldn’t have to – even though this becomes our problem it is not our fault.
Bring Me To You!
I’m booking talks for Spring and Fall of this year. If you want me to come to your school, business, or organization (even if you’re not sure how to get it done), just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options. If you want to bring me to your community but don’t have funding or an organizational affiliation, I can help you with that too – e-mail me and we can talk about the possibilities. See you soon!
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Book Me! I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!
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I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com
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