Hold onto your hats folks, it’s about to get real deep up in here. You know, because we haven’t already had enough heavy this week, hahaha. Let’s just call today… Thoughtful Thursday, shall we? After all, we already know how much I love alliteration.
Yesterday I came across a Facebook post that a few of my friends had shared. You can click through to see the original image included in the post, but since it’s potentially NSFW, I won’t re-post it here. It’s a picture of plus-sized model Tara Lynn, nude (though with all her ladybits covered, of course), and the text below was this:
A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”
The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:
“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on CDs. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.
Mermaids do not exist.
But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?
Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.
At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.
We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: “How amazing am I?!”
I found myself in a bit of an internal debate after reading through all of that. As someone who has been overweight for the entirety of her adult life, I can sympathize with the thought that you shouldn’t have to be pressured into losing weight solely for the sake of being “thin.” After all, it’s that exact motivator that drove me into disordered eating and depression, and contributed to my obesity far more than it helped. There are so many pressures out there, inadvertent or not, that point us to the conclusion that success is marked by being model-sized: actresses, advertisements, and, of course, actual models. We all feel the pressure to be thin.
Naturally, out of any sort of oppression, even the emotional kind, rebellion is born. Enter the fat acceptance movement. It’s an effort to stop discrimination against and increase acceptance of, well, “fat people.” I am obviously, 100% in favor of stopping any kind of discriminatory practices that occur simply because of one’s pants size (which can include anything from bullying to actual job discrimination), but I find myself torn overall. I may get a lot of hate for even bringing this topic up, but I have to admit that I worry about the potential for people to use terms like “fat power” as a means of justifying an unhealthy lifestyle. I know that there are legitimate activists fighting for equality, which is awesome. But there will always be someone looking for a way to tie it into their own agenda, too.
Even within this movement, it seems there is dissension as to what is really being fought for. Some people really do honestly just seem to be fighting against discrimination. Some people are trying to find a way to see past the “versus” mentality of body size (fat vs. skinny, big vs. large, etc.) and both of those goals are fantastic. But some people use the excuse of “fat liberation” as a platform for supporting their poor habits. They make it seem mutually exclusive: if you accept yourself as the “whale” you are, you’ll be happy but you have to stay that way! Strive to be a “mermaid” and you’ll be miserable (and smell like fish! Hahaha.)
You don’t need to sacrifice a high quality of life in order to lose weight. I think that I’m living proof of that! No one should be able to use their life (“I have kids!” “I have a job!” “I volunteer!” “I commute 2 hours!”) as an excuse to stay, well, fat. Theodora and Katy have recently written posts that touch on that very point, in fact.
There’s not much of a debate anymore over the fact that obesity does put you at a higher risk for health complications. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule: skinny people can get diabetes just like non-smokers can get lung cancer and people with a BMI over 30 can live to be 100. But them’s the facts. And while I can accept arguments questioning the validity of things like the BMI system as a way to determine whether someone is at an “appropriate” weight, I’ve been on the larger side of the spectrum and I simply can’t accept the idea that if you’re truly obese, you can still be healthy. Happy, maybe (I wasn’t), but not healthy.
Source: 1, 2
It’s a hard line to tow. Of course I want society to continue working on embracing the concept that beauty is not one-size-fits-all (and especially not a size 2!) and I think that models like Crystal Renn, and actresses like Christina Hendricks are helping dispel that myth (obviously, neither of these women are what I would consider “fat” in the slightest, but they aren’t stick figures either and that’s my point.) Magazines like Glamour have started featuring full-figured models on a more regular basis (though infrequently enough that they’re still somewhat of a novelty at this point in time) and shows like Drop Dead Diva and Mike & Molly even have plus-sized stars. But for me, having “seen the light” in terms of my overall health and happiness now versus when I was obese myself, I also don’t want people to become complacent just because they have an excuse to. I absolutely believe that everyone should accept themselves and love their body no matter what they weigh. But that being said, I don’t want anyone to think that self-acceptance means having to stay unhealthy. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you can’t still want to better yourself.
The passage I quoted above bothers me because it glorifies being overweight. I know that at this point it probably seems like I’m waffling, and it’s true. I do keep going back and forth. I don’t want people to disregard their health in the name of “self-acceptance”, but I don’t want anyone to feel the infinite self-loathing that I did just because of how they look or how much they weigh. For being “fat”. We can call it any number of things — curvy, voluptuous, zaftig, rubenesque — but after a certain point, it’s tiring to come up with new synonyms. I’m starting to finally make peace with the word: fat. I was fat. And then I took steps to try to change that, not for the sole sake of being thin, but to embrace health. And I’ve also made peace with the fact that “healthy” for me will probably never include being a size 4. But that doesn’t mean that it has to include being a size 20, either.
I know that fat acceptance and fat glorification really are two different things. But not everyone is always going to think of them differently. For some people, the lines will blur. And it’s at the point when we think there is justification for our actions that we stop trying to change.
I don’t ever want to stop trying.
What are your thoughts on the ideas of fat acceptance and (versus?) fat glorification?
Please do let me know, by the way, if any of the thoughts I put forth in this post are worded in a way that is either offensive or unclear. If it’s the former, know that is absolutely not my intention, and if it’s the latter, well, it is ME after all. We can only expect so much. 😉