Saturday, April 23, 2011

How I Got Here

 I was having a conversation with a friend about some of the people in her life that just couldn't seem to get it - the 'it' having to do with harnessing one's own power via self-acceptance.  A man that she likes very much and is attracted to simply doesn't understand her attraction to him.  As it happens, he is chubby, and this makes him feel that he does not deserve her, no matter how much she tells him that she adores his body type.  He doesn't get it, and it's ruining things for them.  As you can imagine, this feeling affects other areas of his life, and it is difficult for my friend to watch this happening.

We continued to talk about it for some time, and I said that what he hasn't figured out yet is that haters gonna hate.  She quickly said that no one hates him - he's a great guy,  and she wished he'd stop assuming that people are judging him for his weight.  I explained that, even when surrounded by non-judgmental people that love and support you, there's no getting around the judgment that society heaps on fat people.  So yes, there are haters out there.  And they gotta job to do.

That, however, does not mean that he or anyone else has to accept that hatred as any kind of real assessment of one's own personal value.  I love this internet meme because it reminds me that, no matter what I do to conform to the will and wishes of others, people are still gonna hate, so I might as well be me.  Even if I did manage some kind of conformity, it would be a poor substitute for someone who is naturally the ideal. And those haters would still hate.

Having dealt with her share of dieting boyfriends, my friend wondered aloud if those guys would ever pick up on the fact that they kept coming back to the same weight.  I admitted that it took me a full 10 years to get to that point, and that it involved more than one rock bottom. She wanted to know how I'd come to be this way - what led me down this path towards accepting myself in the face of, well, society at large.

I had to be honest, it all started with a diet plan.  Mind you, I didn't call it a diet plan, it was a 'lifestyle change' (the last of dozens I'd attempted).  Of course, the goal of my lifestyle change was to lose weight, so really, it was just another diet with more syllables.  Nevermind the noise I made about wanting to be healthier - I wanted to be thinner, more acceptable, less shameful in my existence.  And yet, as I embarked once more with my food journals and weigh-ins, I felt deep down that I would not be able to sustain any weight loss. I was honestly trying to be positive, but something in me kept pinging, saying that this, too, wouldn't keep.  This made me feel that I was deeply broken, piling on layers of fat to combat my childhood, for surely that was the reason.

So I stopped looking for diets, and started reading about eating disorders, attempting to pathologize my size.  After reading a number of books that just didn't resonate, I came across When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies (WWSHTB) on the $2 rack in Half Priced Books.  The information those $2 gave me proved to be more valuable than anything I'd read before.  It was all revolutionary, a full-on rebel assault against everything I'd learned up to that point - legalizing all food, noticing the size and shape of one's body (neutrally, rather than judging it), and finding / honoring one's hunger and need for comfort - it was a brainshock to read these words.  Normalizing my relationship with food didn't result in weight loss, but I didn't care because I was finally free of the diet / binge cycle that had been wearing me down.

Secondly, I read The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos. If WWSHTB freed me, this book found my rage. Seeing fully for the first time how weight-bias is woven into the fabric of this society made me want to throw things. Sharp things, at people's heads.  It turns out, human physiology and DNA win out over external forces almost. every. damn. time.  Oddly enough, it's not as if the weight-loss industries don't know this, quite the opposite in fact - they depend on it (along with human psychology, which makes people think that 'results not typical' excludes them).  Repeat customers, as any 3 year old can tell you, are good for business.  Listening to diet talk after reading that book was like nails on chalkboard.  I felt like Keanu Reeves waking up with a shaven head in a goo-filled pod, Dorothy as she pulled back the curtain. 

I'd finally grown enough as a person to realize that having someone else attempt to dictate how I should live, what I should look like and how I should eatmovebreathefuck just wasn't working any more.  I felt weak in the knees with these revelations, like a newborn calf, still wet with afterbirth, on knees too wobbly to move.  So I read.  And I read some more.  And I found online forums and blogs and books and scientific studies that had me shouting at the computer screen, so angry at the line of carefully packaged bullshit I'd been fed all my life.  And with the anger, I began to stand my ground.

Being fat, at first I didn't want people to think that I was ridiculous for accepting myself, or that perhaps I was using self-acceptance as an excuse to be lazy, so I didn't say much, not knowing if I could handle a confrontation about my weight. Soon I accepted that working hard against myself isn't the same as work ethic or self-discipline, and slowly I gave up feeling ridiculous.  I am not immune to doubts, or wanting to fit into the societal standard (if only to make business travel more comfortable), but my belief in myself is stronger than my doubts, and you can bet that took hard work.

So that's it, really.  I came to self-acceptance through the door of size acceptance, and everything cracked open from there.  I would hope that everyone can find their way to self-acceptance -as I told my friend, it has freed up precious mental energy and allowed me to steer my life in ways I never thought imaginable. 

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