Confession

I’m short and fat. But I’m short enough that I fit in to straight sizes. I’m also fat enough that I fit into plus sizing but if I were any taller and my body were to stay proportionally the same, I’d be shunned out of all the straight sizes. So yeah, even if I can’t reach that shelf, I’m grateful I’m short. My fat is such that I have boobs and hips (not so much of a butt and some pretty notable thighs and a belly) but if anything it would be a slightly modified hourglass shape. That means that it is easier for me to find clothes that are flattering*. It also means I’m able to smuggle novels in my waistband if I “suck it in” a little more than I usually do. It also means that when I don’t have pockets I can carry things in my bra. There are a lot of benefits to my shape and it is one that is on the border of acceptable and shameful.

There are several things I’ve been thinking about this past week. The one that has formed the most coherency is the one one where I realised I think the Fat Acceptance movement applies to me. And there’s no argument it doesn’t. I have body image issues. I’ve had doctors have an unwarranted fixation on my weight. My BMI is “overweight”. I cannot always find clothes in my size when I walk into a store (usually, but not always). I’ve had dieting issues. And I’m listing all of this because I somehow have to prove to myself I’m worthy. So yeah, FA applies to me.

But what I found odd is how I read these blogs and they speak to me deeply. Now, in a way it isn’t odd because society likes to comment about people’s bodies. And if one’s body happens to be outside society’s norm suddenly it’s open season. But it’s odd because a lot of these blogs are written by women who are in the range a hundred pounds heavier than I am. Not weird. But I have a friend, and I’ve had this friend for years. She was one inch taller and about eight pounds lighter than I was when we last hung out a few months ago. In my mind she has always been the unreachable goal.

I knew her during high school and my mother would tell me “If you just lost ten or fifteen pounds, you could look more like [friend].” And I can’t blame it all on my mother because I would have the same thoughts. I don’t know if her clothes could have fit me because I was always under the impression I was So Much Fatter than all my friends. I always put myself in this other group because of what, eight pounds?

So what’s weird is how I think of myself Exactly Like some of the leaders of the FA movement in terms of my body and Nothing At All like my friend. When I found out the fact that she was only eight pounds lighter (and one inch taller, but I knew that) than me, I realised that this person whom I had been trying so hard to be for so many years of my life might actually have body image issues of her own that I never really heard because I was wallowing in my own bubble. And FA doesn’t just mean accepting the fat people and myself as fat but actually seeing my body for what it is and where my body is on the spectrum of bodies. So while I can certainly say the experiences and the emotions these blogs are expressing speak to me, I don’t know what it’s like to the extent they face it. On the spectrum, I’m much closer to my friend than I am or have ever been to the people I’ve been looking up to lately. And that, to me, is weird.

*Where the modern concept of flattering means “doesn’t make you look as fat or fatter than you are”. This is true. This is also unfortunate. If we could get over that, there are so many more sparkly, brightly coloured clothes that I’d jump all over because my inner six-year-old is pretty strong.

April 20, 2010. Tags: . Reflection. Leave a comment.

Run, Fatty, Run.

It’s been said before but it needs repeating until it hits home. Fat shaming does not help the problem. There’s the problem of feeling bad and maybe emotionally eating to the reaction. But there’s also the fact that being fat in public is a shameful thing.

I’m a fairly active person when I’m emotionally healthy (or else I run the risk of not leaving my room/home except for the absolutely needed). I fence, when I’m not fencing, I run. I play DDR. I walk places. I don’t go to gyms. Gyms are scary, scary places. Playing Fattest Person in the Room is hopeless because if I am, oh shit. If I’m not, it doesn’t matter, because I’m sure not the skinniest. I’m in a public space and people judge. The last time I went to a gym, I made a beeline for the elliptical, spent a few minutes trying to figure it out, and then I felt shame. Every time another person got on one of the ellipticals near me I’d try and match their speed if not go faster even though none were on the machine as long as I was, but I had to prove I was better. I had to prove I wasn’t just that pathetic fatty at the gym. In shorts and an oversized t-shirt I was probably the most clothed woman there*, and that was shameful. I felt shame about sweating; I felt shame about being out of breath when I finally stepped off the elliptical one hour and a little over five miles later. I felt shame about never going back, like somehow the people there were going to remember me and think that they never saw me again because I was fat and couldn’t handle it.

I don’t own an elliptical, a treadmill or a stationary bike. So when I want to do cardio I can either DDR or run. Since DDR requires a TV and volume, when someone else might be disturbed by the noise or presence of me flailing in the space with the TV. So, that means running outside. I only run outside in the summer in my neighbourhood and even then I try and do it in the morning, when it’s raining or at night. Obviously there are practical reasons for this like heat. But it’s also because I see fewer people and therefore fewer people see me. I jog at a pretty slow pace. I tend to do about three miles in a half hour, which is about the pace of a powerwalk. To me this is laughably slow and my neighbours are going to look out their windows or pass me while walking their dogs and see me and thing “Run, fatty, run.” And this has stopped me from running (by myself) on my campus because the people who see me might actually interact with me beyond waving and asking how my mother is doing. I might see friends, classmates, TAs, professors and this scares me.

I like swimming too, but hello swimsuit. Enough said there.

This idea of being even more ashamed while exercising probably has something to do with the fact that exercise tends to involve clothes that aren’t always good at covering or flattering. But I think a big part has more to do with the fact that there’s so much pressure. In a public space, if I can’t run as fast or as far as another person, I feel like I just let down all the fit fat people by reaffirming someone else’s expectations. I also feel like people are judging me more. This might be because I’m already uncomfortable or the fact that I don’t make sense. I’m in “deceptively good shape” in that my shape is deceptive, in that I’m more fit than one would guess by looking. And maybe that unsettles people by bucking at things they thought they knew. I don’t know.

I do know that when I’m confident, I don’t mind the stares as much. When I fence and I beat someone and they’re surprised, I feel more triumphant. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m confident in fencing that I’m able to do it so boldly in public. I have had this body since I’ve started fencing (give or take) and I wasn’t always confident. I think part of it has to do with the fact that to me it’s not exercise. It’s not something I do because I feel like I have to. It’s something I want to do. I have to think on this more.

*There was a girl who later came in wearing a t-shirt and capri-cut yoga pants. She was heavier than me.

April 6, 2010. Tags: , , . Reflection. Leave a comment.