I am tired to death of the idea that I am not a fat person, but a perpetual potential future thin person. A walking, talking “before” picture encouraged to put everything in the world on hold until I reach my “after” picture potential.
I remember when I believed this – when time slipped by as, diet by diet, I got closer, then farther, then less close, then more far, from the “after” version I was supposed to want to be. All the while adding to my mile-long list of things I was going to do when I was thin and my life could officially start, and destroying my relationship with my body as we went from friends to barely acquaintances, to bitter enemies.
People told me “don’t think of yourself as fat, think of yourself as having fat.” The idea being that I was supposed to look at part of my body as temporary and, while I was at it, I should hate the fat, blame the fat for anything that went wrong in my life, and remember that until I lost the fat the only appropriate thing for me to spend my time, energy, and money on was getting rid of that fat.
Don’t worry, they told me, there will be plenty of time to do everything once you’re thin. But they had lied and the days, weeks, and months slipped by in a fog while I fed my body less than it needed to survive in the hopes that it would eat itself into a thin body, leaving fat in socially appropriate places and I could post my “after” picture and show everyone how big my old pants were on me now, and my body would finally deserve my appreciation.
That, for me, turned out to be no way to live. It was hard on me and the people who loved me. In fact the only people it was good for were those who run the diet industry, because if you can find something at which almost nobody can succeed, but at which almost everyone is willing to spend a ton of money trying then you can make quite a profit. If you can find something that almost everyone succeeds at in the short term but almost everyone fails at in the long term, and if you can find a way to live with yourself while you take credit for the first part and blame them for the second part so that they come back to you again and again in a vicious cycle of failure and blame, then you, too, can earn over sixty billion dollars a year and stunt the life progress of millions of people as the diet industry does.
To this day many people perceive me as a “before” – if I’m at the gym people assume that I’m not accomplishing fitness goals, I’m trying to reach body size goals – as a fat woman I’m told that there is no reason to move my body other than to change it’s size and shape. If I eat a salad then they think I’m “being good” in the quest to change the size and shape of my body. If I eat a burger and fries then they think I’ve “lost focus” and should try to “get back on track” as soon as possible. Every action is viewed as taking me closer to, or farther from, my ultimate goal of being thin.
Except that I have no such goal. I am no longer waiting for my thin life to start, my body has graciously forgiven me and I’m living a fat life that, even with all the shame, stigma, bullying, prejudice, and oppression I face, even with all the ridiculous hate mail I get, makes me infinitely happier than I was during my “waiting to be thin” phase. I’m no longer sitting around waiting for another body to show up, I’m taking the body I have -potential, limitations and all, out for a spin. I no longer try to solve social stigma by changing myself – I now know that the solution to social stigma is ending social stigma and, unlike weight loss, that’s a worthy use of my time.
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