Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Debating Society Inside my Head

I am trying to figure out how much of the judgement and fat hating is coming at me from the world at large and how much of it is coming from inside me.

For most of my life being fat was unacceptable. I was always in a state of wrongness. I was constantly assaulted with messages of why I was not enough and why I was not doing enough to correct my wrongness. I went to therapists, commercial weight loss programs, fat camp, 12 step programs all in pursuit of finding a way to be an acceptable person, which, by all accounts around me, I was not because I was fat.

Now I find myself as an adult navigating my way through the fat acceptance community. Taking on my own internalized beliefs about myself not being enough is revolutionary to me and everyone in my life.

Could I really be fat and acceptable?

The complexity of that question has been overwhelming. I have been examining my ass off looking at all sides of the argument for and against accepting myself fat.

I have been told by my nearest and dearest people in my life that I don't have the right to accept myself. I MUST do something about my weight. They plead with me to stop killing myself. The fact that there is a possibility that I am not going to die from my fatness is one that they refuse to acknowledge. In fact, because I am fat, some of the medical data, as best as I can decipher, indicates that I may actually live longer in the face of some of the possible health issues I may face as I age.

Medical data aside for a moment. When I consider my own personal history it is clear to me that maintaining any loss of weight is something that I am unable to do. Even with this fact, I still struggle with the thought that I should at least try. Some of the smart folks in the Fat Acceptance community say things to the effect of losing and gaining back the weight in and of itself has a negative impact on my health.

I have been making myself crazy trying to understand all the different positions, arguments, and issues related to fat acceptance.

The most challenging and emotionally charged interactions are with family and my best friend. My family is angry at me for choosing to accept my fatness. With my parents, I have set a boundary of no discussion about my health, weight, food, or exercise. This course of action with them allows for us to have a relationship as I have made it clear I will not be around them when they attempt to discuss these things with me. My sister recently told me to not come to her house if I am going to pig out like I did the last time she invited me over. That one is simple, I will just not be accepting any invitations to her house anymore. In no uncertain terms she has made it clear to me that she thinks my association with the FA community is toxic for me. I got a "concerned" email from my best friend last week explaining to me why being fat is okay but being super fat like me is not. WTF?

Ya know, I am not sure where I am going with all of this. I think what I am trying to get to is a place where I just stop letting what other's think of me affect me so much. For a guy like me, that seems like asking me to give up an arm. I can get by with one arm, but it will be very uncomfortable. I work very hard at creating situations and exposing myself to folks who think highly of me. Maybe because in my heart of hearts, I believe that living a fat life is in fact a tragedy. What could be more tragic than believing I am living a tragic life when in fact I can live a wonderful life?… a wonderful fat life. I guess the question to myself is, do I belive I can have a wonderful life, fat.

Today I met friends for lunch. The waiter asked if i wanted chips or carrots with my meal, I said out loud to my eating companions, I'll be good and have the carrots…. WTF Ivan?

Maybe being gentle with myself is called for here. I just want to be happy. Constantly trying to figure out how I can explain to others why the FA path is right for me doesn't feel good.

Do you think you are somehow living less of a life because your life is a fat life?

What does it say about my beliefs about myself if this is a question that is on my mind?

Not sure where the next step is for me, however, I do know that it is a step within the FA community.



  1. I have in the past thought I had less of a life. Now, not really. I think it's partly about growing in my profession, having good friends, having had good and bad relationships, and having a good relationship now. It may also be partly that I'm over 40 ;)

  2. Good post Ivan! I definitely understand where you are coming from in terms of family and friends. It's really difficult to have a healthy relationship with them when they are constantly pushing their anti-fat ideas on you. I don't discuss weight/size with my family either and even thought its not the ideal situation it will do for now. Hopefully one day they'll come around, but if they don't I'm prepared to accept that too.

  3. living400lbs- Ya, I think breaking that 40 number helps with letting go of a lot of family stuff that used to lord over me.. desds-Agreed, that the family no talk boundaries aren't ideal, but at least they facilitate a space for us to spend time together.

  4. I never resolved the "weight" issue with my father. He died from cancer 10 years ago and spent the last 2 weeks of life berating me about over-eating. For the record, I was breast-feeding my 1st child at the time and my "over-eating" was eating one-and-a-half small toasted cheese and ham sandwiches.

    2 years earlier before that I remember crying, trying to get him to understand that he was the only one who had a problem with my enormousness (I was 200 pounds and a size 14 at the time).

    I then yelled at him "so ... you want two children with eating disorders then?" as my younger sister was anorexic and taking drugs to kill her appetite.

    I still cannot see that eating 1 1/2 sandwiches when you're breastfeeding is "overeating" and it goes to show that other people's perspectives of you aren't always accurate.

    That your sister said what she did is very manipulative and cruel. She might be operating from a mindset that she has bought into the weight-loss=health argument and she is frightened for you, but to behave in the way that she has does not suggest that to be the case.

    Having said all that, I am a death-fattie myself who worries about eating "healthily" and still freaks out about not getting to the gym. But I really do enjoy the endorphin rush.

    Find yourself a fat-friendly gym that doesn't push the weight-loss agenda and you will find that the exercise is amazing for your mental strength and emotional stability (better than any anti-depressant I've tried).

    It's useless for weight loss (how ironic that I've gained 14 kilos since joining the gym!) but it not about weight loss, it allows me to work out all my frustration with the non-FA people in my life.

    As for your family, if they don't come around then make yourself a new family with people who love and accept the wonderfulness of you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE RIGHT NOW!

    All the best

    Kate F

  5. P.S. I know that some people in the FA Sphere might have a problem with me suggesting exercise here so let me just add that I don't see the exercise should be the domain of the skinny weight loss enthusiasts.

    I know a lot of people suffering with depression who have had amazing results through yoga and gym workouts. I know that I always feel better able to confront the fat-haterz once I've left the gym.

    My 2 cents worth.

    Kate F

  6. Kate - One of the reasons I exercise is to alleviate depression. (It's also a major reason why I make sure I generally get enough sleep.)

  7. Thanks living400lbs for that comment. I'm also nervous to address issues like "healthy" eating and exercise in the Fat-o-sphere because we've all had the concepts shoved down our throats for years. And frankly, most of what we were "informed" of was incorrect.

    Remember Pritikin? I have 3 friends who did Pritikin in the 80s and now don't have gallbladders. The doctors explained that because they'd removed fat completely from their diets their gallbladders ceased working properly. So much for the "healthy" lifestyle.

    I became a convert to exercise after the University of Qld trialled Yoga on Vietnam Veterans. The results were outstanding and the boys were off all medications within 2 months.

    We're big people, we need to strengthen our muscles to support our weight. No judgment, just a fact. And plus, nothing looks sexier than a curvy plus-sized body moving to Yoga ;-)

  8. Kate,,, hallelujah!!! sane, non threatening, sober talk about exercise.!!!! yay. I have been toying with the idea of the pool, getting a waterproof ipod and walking. I found some movement that I love... see this post and I agree about building muscle. Unfortunately finding the motivation to exercise has not happened for me yet, however, I still welcome respectful good intentioned discussion about it. cheers!!!

  9. Kate: It sounds like you are advocating a Health At Every Size approach (HAES) which is fine to talk about in the Fatosphere even though not everyone is going to agree with you ; ) HAES is not focused on weight loss so it is an 'approved' topic.

    Ivan: Personally I know I am living the life I want to live. There is nothing I want to do that I can't do right now with the body I have right now. It is not my body stopping me doing things, money maybe, time maybe, family responsibilities maybe but not my body. If I wanted to climb mountains or whatever, then maybe I would feel differently but I am not that sort of person. Maybe I became a 'not particularly physical' kid of person because I was a fat child. Maybe it was because I was teased for being fat as a little girl even though in reality I was just taller than the other waif like girls in my class and so I didnt join in with their games and so ended up liking reading etc more than sports. But either way, it is irrelevant now. I am me, I enjoy photography, reading, writing etc and my weight has no bearing on those things.

  10. I struggle with this as well. I am reaching out for self acceptance but I am not sure if my family will willingly accept the idea that my happiness is more important than a weight loss obsession.

    The way I see it is the idea of WELLNESS that was preached at me in health classes. Wellness is not just about eating carrots and hitting the pavement. It's social, environmental, spiritual, emotional, and mental. How can you be happy if you're constantly thinking about what you CAN'T do, what you HAVE to do just to be thin? If you are one of those people who have an emotional connection to food, then stressing out over food isn't going to get any better.
    I want to be well. I want to be healthy, and so I try to exercise when I can and when I feel like movement, but I do not beat myself up if I can't.
    I try to eat more vegetables and fruit because I know it's something that my body needs, but I don't say no to the cheese and potatoes that I CRAVE.
    I give myself what I want and what my body needs but I never stress about it.
    If weight loss happens to come a long because I am living a happy, healthy life than so be it.
    I personally WOULD like to lose some of my weight and at times actively work towards it, but I see it as a personal choice because I don't feel comfortable at the size I am.