Out in the real world, I continue to have long, impassioned discussions about this post and so, even though this is on my list of least fun things for me to talk about, I’m dredging it up again. I just have some random things I want to say about it.
1. I am rejecting the notion that my weight is an indication of my worth as a human being. This is in part due to the fact that I have been shamed and ridiculed about being fat my whole life and I look back at the miserable starving girl I was for most of my life and, guess what? Sometimes I was really fat and sometimes I was just fat. The only time I was “thin” in my life, I was riding a bike four hours or more a day and eating only dinner, because I didn’t want my parents to catch on that I wasn’t eating. And they still put me on a scale at home and encouraged me to lose weight. And my doctor still put me on a scale at his office and encouraged me to lose weight.
There is no way to win the fight. You can say all you want that you eat well and exercise and, if you’re fat, people assume that you’re lying or lazy or both, that there’s always more you can do, and, if you’re not doing it, then you deserve what happens to you.
Well, it pisses me off when strangers assume I’m lying or lazy (well, I tend to be lazy, let’s call it slothful) and it deeply hurts my feelings when my friends assume that.
2. Food is a powerful cultural symbol and sharing food is an act of intimacy and good-will. When you want to talk about what I eat and how I eat it, I feel like you’re questioning my value as a human being, that you’re questioning whether I have a right to participate in rituals of sharing and intimacy and good-will. That also pisses me off and hurts my feelings, especially when you are a friend or family member.
3. To me, this feels very superstitious, like we’ve taken guidelines that we know will help people have healthy lives (eat well, exercise well, etc.) and pumped them full of almost religious meaning. I am, of course, not the first person to notice this (Naomi Wolf is where I read it), but it strikes me every time we have these discussions–we being human beings in general–how quickly it turns into a discussion of whether one is behaving properly, if one has been bad or cheated at one’s diet, whether one has been strong or weak, whether one has the will-power to resist temptation, whether one has brought this on him or herself, whether one is one of the lucky ones who has done everything right and achieved salvation, whether one is denying him or herself a proper amount, whether one is disciplined. All of the language with which we talk about trying to lose weight comes out of the Church.
I reject the notion that my soul is so corrupt that I have to beg a god to give me a second look and have mercy on me.
I surely reject the notion that my body is so corrupt that I have to beg a person to give me a second look and have mercy on me.
4. A lot of fat folks talk about the importance of coming to terms with who you are right now instead of holding in your head some ideal you by which you judge your self. I honestly think that’s important for the friends and families of fat people. This is who I am. I’m not going to be the girl in your head who is thin and pretty and whatever.
You need to look at me and like what you see, as I am, before you because that’s who I am.
5. So, it turns out that even fat girls are starving themselves and it doesn’t do any good. (H/t kateharding) And that teasing your kids about being fat is a shitty thing to do.
A history of teasing about being fat was one of the strongest predictors of risk for being overweight and extreme dieting— and taunts from family seemed to be worse than teasing by peers. When family members teased teens about weight, it doubled their risk of being overweight at the second survey. Although this kind of study cannot prove that the link is causal, it suggests that even light-hearted joking about weight at home could be problematic.
I would guess that part of this has to do with exactly what I talked about in point two. Food and the sharing of food are powerful ways we bond as human beings. For family members to tease kids about their relationship to food doesn’t feel like only being teased about a relationship to food, it feels like being judged as being unworthy to participate in our food rituals and the sharing of food, indeed in the central rituals of family life. Little wonder that it fucks kids up. Who wants to be constantly reminded that they aren’t welcome without judgment or scrutiny to participate in their family?