Sunday, March 21, 2010

Can we talk about fat?

I know, I know.  Tsk-tsk-tsk and a big "no-no", right?  I'm with you - I hate the "F" word.  It's just horrible - dismissive and demeaning, literally and figuratively weighted down with the worst of the worst negative assumptions and connotations.  I know we're not supposed to say some of the things you're going to read here, but I want to be honest and I figure that sometimes even the right words need to sound wrong.

"She really doesn't need that dessert." ... "How did she let herself get that big?" ... "She shouldn't be wearing that dress." ... "Well at least I'm smaller than her." ... 

Sucks doesn't it?  If we're not thinking it about ourselves, we're thinking it about each other.  Not all of us, and not all the time, but every so often, perhaps when we've had a particularly stressful day or are lacking that sense of emotional security in our own lives, we lash out and turn a harsh and judgmental eye on our fellow woman, then seeing our own reflection we rip ourselves to shreds.

I'm guilty.  I saw a picture of the actress Mischa Barton the other day, looking fuller in the hips, thighs, and face than she did back in the days of "The O.C.", and I think I actually mouthed "wow" as I was standing there in the check-out line.  I looked down at my own thighs (because we all know the absolute best way to appraise the relative size of one's thighs is to look at them from the top down) and raised my eyebrows a bit as I thought, "Well, if Mischa's my size now then I guess it's ok to be me."

Yeah.  It was beyond flame-worthy.  I should have had my rights to womanhood yanked right then and there.  How absurd and out of my mind was I to a) have even the slightest disparaging thought about an actress who used to be pin-thin and now actually has a soft, feminine, womanly figure, b) compare my own size and shape, from a distorted point of view I might add, to hers, and c) to actual use another woman's figure as a barometer for my own acceptance of myself??  It's insane.  And unacceptable.  I feel sick even retelling it to you.

Don't we all wish the body image struggle would just go away?  But it doesn't!  It never even wanes - and why is that?  We hate it so much, yet we keep the devil around?  Seriously readers - what's the breaking point on that glass ceiling?

And then there's the conversation about personal standards.  I can only speak to mine, so here we go... Right now, I am about as unsatisfied with my body as I've ever been.  And yes, I feel fat.  I'm carrying extra weight thanks to my own self-destructive, primarily impulsive decision to give up on my gluten-free diet which has wrought havoc on my digestive, nervous, muscular, and reproductive systems.  Gobbling up gluten proteins that my body cannot digest has lead to a back up in digestion of other key nutrients, resulting in a damn near-constant feeling of hunger and inability to feel full.  Muscle fatigue is becoming more common and longer lasting, and is also occasionally accompanied by muscle spasms.  I had been migraine-free for several months and in the past few weeks I've had two that put me out for the night and most of the following day.  And not that you want to know, but my friendly lady cycle has gone and lost its damn mind.

The key thing, however, is the weight gain - and I'm sorry for checking off all my celiac symptoms for you, it's just that one does not seem to come without the other - I've gained weight without even remotely consistent exercise, so it's all just sort of settled around my mid section in the most unflattering, bulgy paunch since Winnie dipped into the honey pot.  My backside, though not entirely hopeless, has lost some shape (or gained some shape, depending), and no matter how much I yanked my jeans up by the belt loops, I could not avoid a muffin-top while getting dressed this morning.

Luckily for me (more sarcasm) I've been heavy before, so I know how to dress around this.  But that's hardly the point.  Because I started the morning a bit disgusted and wholly frustrated with what my body has become, I spent the rest of the day looking for reassurance in others, and some might argue, also at their expense.  Maybe at my expense too.  I know what my body could, and would be if I followed the diet that I know is best for my health, and that's what makes me look at myself in the mirror and say, "Unacceptable." If I was eating properly I would be better able to manager both my hunger and my portions, would subsequently not be experiencing this draining fatigue or migraines, and would be back in the gym like I used to be, pissing people off camping on a treadmill for 45 minutes, working the circuit, and punching the nuggets out of a standing bag in kick boxing.

There are some women my size and larger who I consider to have flawless figures; whose weight appears natural, healthy, and intended.  I don't know what was going through my mind that made me judge so harshly, and instantly.  As wrong as it is, both to think and to admit, knowing that I could look better gives way to the preposterous notion that I also know the anatomy and physiology of every other woman and I think to myself, they could look better too.   I found that picture of Mischa Barton again this evening and looking at her now, at the end of my night, when I'm in my forgiving yoga pants and husband's Navy t-shirt, I think she looks lovely.  Comfortable and more grown up even - ironic, considering that's also how I feel right now, as opposed to the mental case I was this morning.  But I definitely judged her first and I hate that.  It's as though Hollywood presented her as our standard of what a skinny girl should be - she went from actress to accuracy test and seeing her today, however many pounds heavier, broke my mental odometer.

I have been thinking about this post since the afternoon and my thoughts have gone in a dozen different directions.  I don't have any grand, concluding ideas, but I would like to hear what you have to say - and feel free to say it all.  Where are you with the weight issue?  How do you check your judgment and cultivate acceptance, tolerance, open-mindedness, and respect?  I admittedly need your help on this one.  I suppose it stands to reason that seeking to improve myself will also improve my outlook on the world and thus lessen my contribution to the woman-on-woman hate crime, but that seems so self-serving and I'm looking for more than that.


  1. I am guilty of this as well. Even down to seeing the same actress and going "holy hell, what happened to her?" and then realizing that Mischa at her heaviest is probably wearing the same size I wear now, at my could-be-worse, should-be-better weight.

    The other day I was talking about pregnancy with a few friends. One said "don't worry, you'll get a rounder ass when you get pregnant" and I thought, that's easy for her to say - she's 5'10" and naturally thin! The immediate follow-up to that thought was, "at least I'll probably look better pregnant than [overweight acquaintance]." I hated myself for thinking it, and yet clearly we all do it sometimes.

    Ugh. I guess I don't have a point beyond, I feel you. Big time.

    Also - gluten free eating - how big of an adjustment is that? I've considered it because recently several friends tried it and discovered that they felt exponentially better. I'm almost afraid to try and find out that I need to modify my diet for good!

  2. I've been trying really hard not to judge other people, because I was just recently judged and it rocked my world. I gained a lot of weight in the past three years (40 some pounds). I ballooned from a size 2/4 to a 12/14.

    I'm not proud of this by any means, but I did it to myself. I know that I am "fat" and while I could sit around and blame it on a whole plethora of reasons, I'm the one that let me get to this point. No one forced me to start eating the way that I have, no one forced me to become lazy.

    Yet at the same time hearing someone say that I am fat, behind my back mind you, is totally devastating. What makes it even worse is that they were making these judgments based on pictures they had seen of me. They never met me when I was thinner and yet this group of women felt that it was fine to judge me.

    I will get back to where I want to be, but it will be on my own terms. I know I am a harsh judge of myself so I can't even begin to want to inflict that judgment on someone else.

  3. I hear you on this! I have been working on a blog post about this myself, I have been on a 70-lb weight roller coaster since I became pregnant first in 2006.

    I really feel so much better about myself when I am at a good and healthy weight, and this is not it for me. I like the discipline and presence of mind associated with a 'strict' diet. this free for all stuff does not work for me! LOL.

    Awesome post.

  4. Great post. You said things we all think but often don't vocalize. It's hard to admit that the way we think is "wrong", but really it is. I am definitely guilty too.

  5. Very well said! I don't like to admit it, but I'm definitely one who compares my body to others. And when I'm feeling fat, I look at overweight people and say to myself, "they seem happy, so I'll be happy too if I gain weight by eating this second dessert." Shameful, I know.

  6. I think you've ticked all the boxes when it that subject comes up. Either your critical of yourself or critical of others. Great post, hoping to read more of your upcoming entries :)

  7. I feel ya on this one. The date for my 10 year reunion was just set and my first thought was "I better lose some weight or I won't be going." How sad is that? I'm terrified of the judgment of a bunch of people that really mean nothing to me, or they would already be a part of my life. So instead of being willing to own up and deal I defaulted to just not going! I would rather not go then tarnish the memory of the skinny girl with the big boobs who is now the hefty girl with the even bigger boobs! Like how insane and silly is that? But we know we all do, wish we could reach that high school or college weight when we felt like we owned the world. So for me this is a very relevant topic.
    Overall I would really benefit health wise and appearance wise if i was able to lose 25-30+ pounds. I am really trying to own the fact that I am doing this for myself so i feel healthy and good and not because society tells me to. I am trying to count calories and started using, so thus the battle of the bulge begins. I am also going to start jogging... we'll see how that goes.

  8. Jaclyn - I'll do a whole post on the gluten thing, but it was, and continues to be, a huge adjustment that will be with me on my mind for the rest of my life. When I'm on it, it's all good, when I'm off it though... things go to hell quickly.

    Ashley - Thank you for sharing that. I actually feel a little kinship with you on the whole weight gain thing. I was teeny tiny for most of my life and then slowly but surely packed on 30 pounds in the mid-twenties years. Where the line is between healthy self-criticism and destructive self-deprecation I have no idea, but I know when I'm crossing it because I turn on others. Where is the balance, especially when I know I've put myself in this predicament?

    Andi - I'll be seeking you out when I'm pregnant. I'm both deliriously excited about the prospect and terrified at the changes in store for my body. I know how wrapped up in body image I really am when it's not finances I'm worried about, but making sure my body is in top shape before we start trying to conceive. Ridiculous.

    Thank you Kelsey, Amanda, and Pretty in Punk - I'm so glad you stopped by and cared enough to comment. Means a lot :)

    Redhead - I think you summed it up pretty nicely there with "I would rather not go then tarnish the memory of the skinny girl..." Seriously. Truth Dagger straight through the heart.

    P.S. I'm always available for a jog/no-judgement fest around the lake.

  9. You hit the nail on the head. I think everyone is guilty of this; whether we admit it or not. Great blog.