A post that never got posted, June 13, 2006: Fat

(I’ve been writing this entry, off and on, for most of a month now.)I have tried to rejoice in the body I had. I’ve tried very hard. But in the end I fell into the same trap, that of excusing my fatness by comparing it to the fatness of others. You know that one, the “I’m chubby, but I’m not as fat as/fat in the same way as so-and-so. And, you know, I exercise, and eat healthy… so…”All of which really means, “I’m fat, but I have a good attitude, and it’s not like I’m *trying* to be fat, so you should all forgive me and treat me in the privileged way you treat skinny people.”I’ve never dieted, officially. There are a lot of reasons why that’s pointless and punishing. I can honestly say that I have no real idea what I weigh right now. Something over 200 lbs, I think, but beyond that I don’t know.Of course, having said that, I’ve had days where I secretly rejoiced in the fact that I had eaten less, or nothing, or forgotten to eat until evening, as though that made me virtuous. Conversely, on days when I’ve been very snacky, I try to hide this fact from myself (and certainly from others), and felt ashamed, because if I say that I’m eating healthy I can’t possibly slip like that. Whenever I go to someone’s house with a scale, I do weigh myself, but then discount it as unimportant and pat myself on the back for not caring. The process leaves me feeling shaky and uncomfortable, but I do it anyway.

I equated “not dieting” with having a healthy attitude about my weight. I equated not obsessively weighing myself and worrying over any ounce gained or lost with having a healthy attitude about my weight. I equated being comfortable telling people my weight with having a healthy attitude about my weight.

But in revelling in the idea that I was being “good” (not dieting, not being obsessive), and of course revelling in the praise I did receive when I told people my weight (usually along the lines of “Wow! You’d never know you weight that much! You carry it so well!”) I forgot that I really was focusing a lot of energy and concern on exactly the issue I prided myself in not caring about.

And also, in so doing, I still managed to put myself in a place of judgment around other people and their fat. I was “good” because: I wasn’t as fat as they were (some kind of invisible line I always stayed just this side of); I didn’t care about being fat the way they did (not caring is “enlightened”); I wasn’t succumbing to some kind of brainwashing about needing to diet the way they were (I was smarter); etc.

Issues of weight and fat make me feel angry. There are days when I just wish that absolutely would just SHUT UP ABOUT IT ALL ALREADY. I don’t want to hear about your Atkins diet progress or the list of things you’re permitted to eat today. I don’t want to hear anyone say they just want to lose 10 pounds when they’re already beanpole skinny.

I especially don’t want you to tell me that you think I’ve lost weight, and so I look good (this happened just yesterday, actually). On the other hand, sometimes I do. And then I feel guilty for feeling good.

I moved past some of this, but some of it is still current. I’m more confident about my weight (right now probably a bit above 270, including those pounds put on for baby) , and my right to weigh what I weigh and be in the world and take up space. And I’m more and more convinced that our obsession with weight loss as a society has a lot to do with shutting women up (and down) and making sure their focus isn’t on anything important or radical. I still don’t always know how to talk to other people about weight, about their weight, about issues to do with weight, and I managed to get into a huge fight with my sister on the topic of weight over the summer – she was trying to play devil’s advocate to my HAES, who are we to judge, etc., screed. I really wanted to say, “Look, you *can’t* play devil’s advocate by parroting back everything that the mainstream says. I’m the bleedin’ devil’s advocate here!” but instead we just yelled at each other and cried a lot and I wish it hadn’t gone that way.

And I’m trying to find that balance between empathizing with folks re: their unhappiness about weight – “You’re right, it sucks when you don’t have clothes that fit. That feels very frustrating.” – so that they feel heard, and yet not compromising on the basics – “If your clothes don’t fit, it’s time to get clothes that do fit.” rather than “If your clothes don’t fit, it’s totally reasonable to try dieting until they do.” This stuff feels especially hard with family, because these are the folks who I love, and who I know love me and have actually never criticized me for being fat or encouraged me to diet except in the backhanded “You look great, have you lost weight?” way. So I can’t be quite as flippant as I am with some other folks: “I just want to lose 10 pounds.” “Really? *looks them up and down* Your leg below the knee should do it.”

And pregnancy, by heck, is a full-on adventure in body acceptance every day. As a pregnant fat person I’ve been struggling with finding comfortable clothes that fit, struggling with finding representations of my body in pregnancy illustrations (all pregnant women apparently start out slightly underweight and have no discernible fat layer, aside from breasts), and struggling with my own body image not quite being what my current reality is.

And every pregnancy site on the web is full of exhortations not to gain too much weight or it’ll be hard to drop those pounds later. I find myself completely unworried on the topic of the weight I’m gaining (it’s clearly going to a good purpose), almost completely unworried on the topic of my exciting new collection of stretch marks (a good purpose, again, has clearly been served, despite the actual physical discomfort of popping new stretch marks), and yet strangely weirded out and uncomfortable with my entirely benign and non-painful little wobbly belly underneath my firm pregnancy belly. It’s the same old wobbly belly pooch I had when I was just a non-pregnant fatty, and I was fine with it then, but somehow it’s different in its current position, and I’m not sure I could explain why. Ah well.

This post = much rambling, and I’m not sure if there’s a point. But does there really need to be?


  1. amanda and emilie said,

    November 15, 2008 @ 11:23 am

    that was a fantastic speech about pregnancy

  2. Mary Noll said,

    January 7, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

    Regarding the problems everyone seems to have with weight, regardless if you are pre pregnant, pregnant or post pregnant, a great book to read on why people try to diet and can’t lose weight is “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon and Mary Eng. I got the book and I tell you the truth, it saved my health! I had been in the beginning stages of rheumatoid arthritis, my one tooth had abscessed and I had cavities in many of my back teeth. I am so glad I found this book, it really helped me and my husband as well. He has food sensitivities and this book has helped us realize what is wrong with the food today, as well how unhealthy the food supply is. I didn’t know that MSG’s were actually a neurotoxin!

    Just an incredible resource for anyone who wants to live healthy and doesn’t mind eating ‘good’ fat! :) I’m not selling anything, just wanted people to know about this book. It’s in my top 10 books of all time, and I’ve read a LOT of books.

  3. Angela said,

    September 19, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

    I am 15+2 weeks pregnant with my second child and really wanted a midwife to attend my birth. I had a midwife attend my first child’s birth in a birth center setting. It was a very positive experience and I wanted a similar experience for my second child. I found out I was pregnant when I was already 10 weeks along so most of the midwives in my area were booked so my only option was a waiting list of which I would be number 27 or wait and see if anyone would call back. My husband and I prefer to birth in a “birthing center” which there are not really any in our area. I had communicated this with a midwife who finally called and made an appointment with me.The day we met she took my blood pressure and then asked me what my BMI is. My BMI is somewhere around 42. She then told me that the center I would like to birth in is no longer taking maternity patients with a BMI over 35. However, she said because I had delivered there previously she would look into my file and get back to me. I then told her that I would like her to talk to me and not take me off of their list if the hospital said no and I would consider a home birth. She left a lengthy message on my phone with all my options and then said sorry we won’t be able to care for you and that was it. So I had to quickly book an appointment with my GP and he referred my to and OB and that is where I am sitting now. I am worried about being pressured into a birth that I have no control over. I have a doula now which eses some of my fears. I am so upset that the only consideration that disallows me from birthing where I want is my BMI…the stupid person who “invented” BMI was and idiot as BMI only considers your hieght and weight nothing else not bone density or muscle mass…I am a big girl and have always been a big girl nothing like pushing you to the floor and I thought I was doing well because I had lost 20 lbs just when I first got pregnant (no refined sugar). If I had a BMI of 35I would have to lose 74 pounds…and to be a “perfect” specimen I would have to be under 140lbs…I think I would look ill and my friends would be worried!

    Thank You for this great article…

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