Tag Archive | "body issues"

The “fat girl’s” manifesto

The “fat girl’s” manifesto

Two events recently took place, concurrently, which begged for some personal reflection so far as it concerns this blog, my “weight loss” and this journey. One blogger (*waves hello*) called me out for dispensing advice when I have, essentially, “lost only 15 pounds in thirteen years.” Dodgy maths aside, there’s that. On the same day, a wonderful website that targets teenage girls (and boys, but primarily girls) trying to lose weight AND build positive body image, reached out to me about guest blogging. They liked the way I balance positive body talk with weight loss.

Being that both kind of touch on a similar theme and are so well-timed, I reckoned it was time for a Giant Post O’Navel Gazing Reflection.

The thing is, I didn’t always have the perspective on myself, my body and “weight loss” that I have now. It’s a perspective and self-esteem that I think is pretty healthy and positive. It was learning to love and like myself *regardless of size* that flipped the switch in my mind for lifestyle change and made true, gradual change possible. Numbers are becoming less important, as I focus less on what others tell me I should be, and more on what I want to be. I focus on how I feel — and on how fitness & muscle can transform my figure. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn if someone else thinks I haven’t lost enough weight. It’s really not about that any more.

So, yes: I failed, many times, over many years, to nip this weight thing in the bud. Like many a yo-yo dieter, I now weigh FAR more than I did when I started my weight loss efforts. I look back on my high school self and realize I wasn’t even fat! But my perception of myself — and the way others treated me — sent me another message, which I believed. That’s the delicious irony — if I had had a better self-image, and weren’t surrounded by family, peers and media that told me that I was fat — maybe I could have focused in on my behavioral & emotional issues as they related to food. Instead, embarrassment about my body coupled with a relentless guilt complex about food & “failing” lead to the same yo-yo dieting trend that most people struggle with (the success rates for “diets” = abysmal). I was so ashamed of my size, I was afraid to exercise! Talk about a negative feedback cycle.

But I forgive myself. I never saw myself as a failure, to be honest. Some would argue I need(ed) a little negative reinforcement – you’re too easy on yourself, fatty! But I think, deep down, I never hated myself fat – I was embarrassed and perhaps annoyed that I struggled where others didn’t. I never hated myself, period. But I didn’t truly love myself, either. I followed the fantasy of being thin and fabulous, convinced that I was awesome in every respect *but* my body, so I just had to fix that. Now I realize that was a damaging notion — maybe if I had accepted what I was, and WHY I was that way, I could have worked on the underlying issues a long time ago.

At the same time, however, come on! I was a KID! I had the same awkward, low-self esteem that many an early-blooming chubby girl has in this sex conscious, body-focused society. Through hormone addled middle school & high school, living abroad at 16, stressful (and buffet filled) college, post-college unemployment, first job stress + quarter life crisis, psychotic second job stress (with floor to ceiling snack closet & catered meals!), sexual assault stress (did you know that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime? Many multiple times?), becoming a self-sufficient adult stress. I don’t blame any of these things for my food addiction or yo-yoing, but do you really expect the average young person to clue out the complex emotional issues of binge eating & weight gain, by themselves? Not in this diet & media culture, thanks.

I’ve been GROWING UP this whole time, struggling with self-esteem and establishing myself as an “imperfect” woman in a world that demands a lot of women’s bodies. It wasn’t until after my 25th birthday that things slowly started to click into place. I learned to like myself – fat (OMG, can you believe it?). I started seeing through the media and its bullshit — and gradually over time let go of a lot of that pressure (David Brudnoy, may he rest in peace, thank you for your Media Criticism class; also thanks to my Women’s Studies professor).

And I finally admitted to myself that I have an eating disorder. The media only really talks about “starvation” disorders — anorexia, bulimia. I told myself I would never have to worry about those because I love food too much (and loathe vomiting). I was blind to the fact that food addiction IS an eating disorder, and just as anorexic and bulimia sufferers have a warped perception of body image & want to control their food/bodies… so do I. It was just harder to see because I was used to everyone treating fat people like Terrible, Alien People who are to blame for being fat. I only started to work on the incredibly complex, nuanced issues I have with food and my body recently. It’s a process — you think you can give up a lifetime of food guilt & assigning moral values to food, over night? I may never become a “normal” person, but I can sure as hell strive to take on more normative approaches to food, including eating in moderation… and no “bad” foods.

You can call me a failure, if you want. I see my past experiences, however, as feedback. Previously, I lacked the tools — and the support — to reform my mentality, emotions & behaviors when it comes to food and my body. Now, I believe I have them. You can take what I write as advice, or bullshit, or just something funny to read. But I do hope to reach people and make connections, in the same way that reading other blogs has helped me realize I am not alone. I am not a Terrible, Alien person. Many, if not most, of my experiences as a fat person — and as a woman — are shared experiences.

I am done with misogyny. I am done with hating myself and my body. I am done with food guilt. I am DONE with diets.

I am ready for lifestyle change. I am ready for unconditional love (of myself and others). I am ready for health at any size. And I get to decide when I’m done, and what’s OK.

** yes, the title of this post is meant to be ironic XD

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Childhood, control & weight issues

Childhood, control & weight issues

This season, an episode of Addicted to Food showed the participants engaged in group therapy, to get in touch with their inner child and get to the bottom of how their childhoods correlate to their food addictions. There are some horror stories – verbally and physically abusive parents, alcoholics, suicidal parents, feeling like a mistake. The show and Shades of Hope seems to be going for the message that people with the “disease” of food addiction have dark, horrible childhoods.

I’m not quite sure where this leaves me. I had a happy childhood. I had a good mother. Really! I was never pressured, abused, or exposed to stressful or bad situations. Honestly, one of the more difficult aspects of trying to pinpoint where my disordered thinking about food comes from is that I didn’t have an unhappy childhood. That’s such an easy answer for many — compulsive eating and lack of care for one’s body as a reaction to extreme emotional stress.

Things I have come up with that might account for my issues:

  • media saturation of unrealistic body standards/bombardment of food p*rn/adverts
  • control issues manifesting themselves in eating habits
  • observing disordered eating habits in my family (primarily food guilt & binge eating)
  • lack of comfort with my maturing body at a young age (puberty onset at age eight)

Am I the only one? Those reading this blog who also struggle with food, eating and weight — did you have happy childhoods? Can you pinpoint your problems to something specific in childhood?

Re: my body. I believe unwanted sexual attention may have lead to my keeping myself fat (subconsciously). I wasn’t abused or assaulted, but from an early age faced sexual attention from men that made me incredibly uncomfortable. From the time I hit puberty when I was 8, along with hormonal weight gain came breasts, hips and a growth spurt. I looked much older than I was — at about age nine, men at a birthday party of a classmate remarked that they thought I was 13. As in — they were hitting on me because they thought I was 13. (incidentally, this same friend was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend — her family environment was a bad one, and after that, my mom didn’t let me go to her house or parties – or maybe I stopped wanting to go. I can’t remember.)

It’s theoretical and abstract — it’s a maybe. It also was hardly a defining thing in my childhood — just something that, in hindsight, may have contributed. Of course, by time I was like YAY BODY, my behavior patterns were pretty locked in, and reversing my weight became and uphill and lifelong battle.

Something more concrete that I know to be true — I’m a control freak. I think I always was — as a child, it manifested as being a bossy pants, not working well in groups/teams, and being perfectionist about my school work. It also meant that I didn’t do anything that I wasn’t sure I’d be good at — my fear of failure and need to stay in control meant I didn’t try sports or activities that were new to me. A common thread of those with eating disorders is that desperate need for control. Anorexics are well known for using food (and not eating it) as a way to exercise control over the one thing they have complete autonomy over — their body. For me, with overeating and my overweight body, it is the same thing but with a twist — I was so carefully in control of all things in my life, that eating was the one opportunity I had to let go completely. Of course, it was ultimately self-destructive.

Oddly, it’s been through getting older and growing more mellow that I’ve been able to reverse things, or start to: let go of control over things like schedules and outings and work and regain control over eating. I find following a program and having control over food mentally and emotionally fulfilling. That said, I’m highly aware of the dangerous reverse: being so rigid and in control of food that it’s an obsessive focal point (and a gateway to disordered under-eating).

Everyone has a different reason for food and weight issues. I just don’t think I can root mine in a bad childhood. It’s a process to try and figure out where I may have picked up some of my disordered thinking. This is just a start.

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Curvy Girl Dating – Online Dating, Fat Haters & my eHarmony story

Curvy Girl Dating – Online Dating, Fat Haters & my eHarmony story

Note: Half of this post was originally posted on sister blog Mavenity. I’ve taken the parts that are relevant to The Curvy Nerd and written new material around it. The original post is in the blue box!

Being a big girl dating can be frustrating for a number of reasons, many of which I’ve previously discussed. Online dating has a particular caveat in that all the lead-up to dating a person takes place from behind a computer screen, with wooing based on words and some pictures. How do you know that what you see if what you get? Will attraction online translate to attraction in person? He likes the pictures I’ve posted, but will he be disappointed if I’m bigger in real life?

Pictures can lie, or at least soften the truth. Anyone, fat or thin, pretty or plain, knows that it’s key to choose flattering photos for your online dating profile. People do care what you look like, and that grainy photo of you taken from fifty feet away isn’t doing you any justice, nor is the “My Space” style angle shot of just your head & shoulders. We choose pictures with flattering angles, hair styles, clothing. And if you’re overweight, well, come on – we post the photos we have (or have some taken) that downplay our body, and play up our favorite features (usually shoulders up).

Personally, I strive to be as honest as possible in my online dating profiles, even to my detriment in terms of responses/interest. If the site has a body type option, I say curvy or a few extra pounds. I specify that I’d like to be matched with average/stocky guys (I’m attracted to thin men, but am sick & tired of being matched with gym rats who have no interest in me). I post my favorite head shots, but I also try to have at least one full body or most-of-my-body shot that at least shows that I’m bigger than average (even if it’s not my “before” picture from this blog!). I never pretend to be thin, but I hardly announce that I’m fat, either.

However, this isn’t fool-proof, and I always stress about whether or not he has the wrong impression of me – did he see all my photos (or at all)? Was posting the most flattering angle of my full body a bad idea? Will he still like me when he meets me in person, and I’m maybe fatter than he was expecting? (I do, after all, appear pretty thin from the shoulders up XD) What happens when your worst case scenario comes true – either you open up about your size, or you share a full body photo OR you find out via other means that your potential date is, gulp, no longer interested because of your size. Or, even worse, openly hates fat people.

In February 2011, one month into this weight loss journey, exactly this happened to me. I was on eHarmony, and came face-to-face with the issue a lot of us fear – someone I was interested in, who seemed interested in me, indicated that he would not date someone who was overweight. Not only that, but additional web crawling lead me to his journal, where he posted from pretty hateful words about “fatties.” What a nice, ugly reminder that it doesn’t always matter that you have a “great personality,” are funny, smart and interesting. If you’re fat, you are not an option.

So I was on the fourth leg of “Guided Communication,” where you send another user your Must Haves/Can’t Stands. And I found myself staring at something that stopped me cold:

He listed in his “Can’t Stands” Excessive Overweight.

Ruh-roh.

Let’s talk about eHarmony’s “Excessive Overweight” category, and body size on eHarmony in general. eHarmony, it seems, wants to tip-toe about body size. Maybe it’s because THE 29 DIMENSIONS OF COMPATIBILITY RULE ALL, or because eHarmony does give a shit about physical attraction and favors the “let’s throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” approach, but for a fat kid, it’s rather disconcerting. The problem is, everyone’s idea of “fat,” “overweight,” “excessive overweight” and “obese” differs. And let’s be honest, “excessive overweight” sounds like a euphemism for “obese,” right? But then the description of this “Can’t Stand” reads: I can’t stand someone who is overweight.

Hold on. Just “overweight”? What the HELL does that mean? I’m overweight. But I’m not obese, and wouldn’t class myself as “excessive” anything. But a fatty hater might think being above a size ten IS excessive, and obese (CRAZYTOWN). So when Lawyer #2 (as I nicknamed him) listed that as a can’t stand, I became concerned. Is he a fatty hater who will think I’m slob and dismiss me out of hand? Or does he not want to date someone who is obese, and 100, 150, 200 pounds overweight? That is certainly understandable. Thinking I’M obese is not.

I put my Googling skills to good use, and using the email he gave me and his first name tracked down his Twitter and LJ. I won’t post the exact quote here because it’s Googleable and would compromise his identity, but let’s just say I found a recent post on his LJ about how he hates how “obese” women “pretend to be thin” by posting “manipulated” and cropped photos of themselves so men won’t see they are fat. They should “lose wait” (sic) before they go on these sites. He also called fat people slobs.

THOSE WACKY FAT CHICKS, TRYING TO DATE LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE! DON’T THEY KNOW THEY ARE FAT AND UNLOVEABLE? </sarcasm>

Funnily enough, I am, in a way, taking his advice. I kick-started my diet and lost a few pounds before I joined eHarmony and started using it in earnest, because I wanted to make sure my health and weight-loss journey were underway. Am I hoping before I meet someone in person that I can shave off a few more pounds? Yes. But I’m not manipulatively cropping photos, and in fact posted a full body shot, though I do have to admit it is a generous one. I weigh a few pounds more now (no more than 15) and I was wearing a flattering and slimming dress (Calvin Klein, shockingly, makes a size 14 dress that FITS me and looks AWESOME), but I posted it purely so any interested matches could see that I’m not a skinny chick.

Still, it grates. Could I ever date a person who hates fat people? Would I ever feel comfortable introducing him to my friends (some of whom are heavier than I am), knowing he thinks they are obese, lazy slobs? Well, no. People who hate fat people often have a different concept of “obese,” and lower tolerance level for it, as actual fat people. (and to boot, he’s a rabid Tea Partyier. Eek).

Further pondering of the situation got me to the bottom of it: as a free preview user, *he couldn’t see my photos*. So even though I posted honest photos, this person in particularly couldn’t see them. You’d think this would make me feel better. It didn’t. Because it means that he was interested in me as a person – background, interests, values, etc. – but not if physically I didn’t fit some idealized package.

Doesn’t that just make you feel like crap, fat ladies? You get the validation of knowing that you’re smart/funny/interesting/whatever, but at the same time are told that your outside package is too abhorrent to date/love? And we wonder why so many fat people hate themselves, and masochistically diet with the belief that there’s a “thin person” inside them dying to get out?

Plenty of people out there think like Lawyer #2, and they’re the types that give people like me complexes about our bodies and dating. It’s also jerk-faces like him that kept me fat for so many years, while I waited in vain for someone to “love me as I am,” and validate in my mind both my personality AND my outer package. A part of me hates giving people like him the satisfaction of slimming down, but on the other hand, I’m doing this for ME… and I’m sure someday I’ll be happy and loved for exactly who I am (and what my fat past has made me), and Lawyer #2 will still be a judgey/preachy asshole who likes to put women into perfect, little boxes. So I win!

[[fun fact: if you go to the original post, you can see eHarmony's "response" to my issues with their body type rubric. I LOLed.]]

Posted in Dating, Fat Identity, FeaturedComments (15)

Not all Weight Watchers meetings are created equal (aka, wtf skinny bitches)

You two on the left? GTFO of my WW meeting

So I’ve not really been blogging about my weight issues because, well, there wasn’t much to *say*. I’ve been attending my Weight Watchers meetings as usual, but in addition to putting ON 20-ish pounds (as detailed in posts last fall), since then I’ve either not lost a single pound, or dropped a few and then just put them on a few weeks later. WTF. Then, about two months ago, rushed for time as work got busy, I went to my WW at Work meeting, and merely weighed in and didn’t stay for the meeting. Ok, I’ll be honest, I also couldn’t bear the emotional ups and downs of sitting in a meeting, surrounded by FUCKING THIN PEOPLE on a week where I was the same old fatty as always.

Well, you know what? Since I stopped staying for meetings, I’ve dropped about eight pounds. Seriously. Eight pounds that I struggled to get off all fall and winter, have been falling off. I am a firm believer that the program works better if you stay for meetings… but not my meetings.

Here’s the thing: my company is really, really, ridiculously good looking. The average employee is 23, female, a size 2/4 and unnaturally perky and pretty. And those who aren’t the prettiest dress and act like they are. I can describe pretty accurately my fellow “normals” who work in the building, because when I see anyone over a size 12, I rejoice, silently, OMG MY PEOPLE!!!! There aren’t very many, hence the few are memorable. So you’d think that my Weight Watchers at Work meeting would be made up primarily of these individuals. Um, no. It’s 4-5 women who, like me, have struggled with their weight either all theirs lives or consistently since high school/college. They struggle, have ups and downs, and are fighting the good, long fight. The rest, 10-15 per session, though their faces constantly change, are super pretty, super skinny girls who have put on 5-10 pounds of pudge recently. Weight Watchers teaches them that OMG beer/cocktails have calories! and how many points/calories are in chicken wings/salad dressing/whatever, they do the program for 3-6 months, wherein they lose all their weight (nevermind that I can lose 5 pounds in a week, if I really try), and become Lifetime members! But we never see them again, of course, because THEY WERE FUCKING THIN TO BEGIN WITH, AND NOW THEY’RE JUST THINNER.

Now, like a good little Weight Watcher, I will acknowledge that everyone’s weight struggles are personal, and that one should not place a higher value on one person’s struggle over another’s. Weight Watchers is just as much about learning to eat healthier as it is about losing a ton of weight. Yes, yes, yes… but FUCKING HELL, I CANNOT RELATE TO SKINNY BITCHES. It is embarrassing sitting in a meeting wherein girls who wear a size 6-8 eat yogurt and talk about their “struggles,” when you are over 200 pounds, have been overweight since you were 8, have serious food issues, and JUST CAN’T SEEM TO LOSE ANY DAMN WEIGHT. I think my leader is secretly ashamed of me — I weigh MORE than when I started her session. Yeah.

I can’t be the only one in this boat. We’re all supposed to be nice and supportive, but let’s be honest: some people have it WAY harder than others. Someone who weighs 100 lbs more than me has it harder than I do, and I should STFU and stop complaining. Well, equally I think I can be a bit miffed and discouraged by pretty, thin girls clogging my meeting and making me feel like a big, fat, ugly failure. I miss my old meeting, which was full of “normal people,” with life-long weight struggles, and long journeys. But my work meeting is just so damn convenient. For now, I’m going to continue just weighing in and skipping my meeting. Yes, this makes me a bad Weight Watcher, but I’m losing weight, and isn’t that the point?

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I’m Not the New Me, and other Fat Kid dilemmas

new meWhile inspired by the book at hand, this is more a personal post with some cultural commentary. I’m Not the New Me is a now-out-of-print book by Wendy McClure, gifted to me several years ago by a lovely friend (madgirl.org — she is my partner-in-blogging-novel-writing-and-general-geekage!), lost in the wake of a move or three, and finally remembered and reclaimed on my last trip home. The title has stuck with me over the few years despite my not having read the book, because I think it aptly describes my own personal weight loss journey: Ten years of on-and-off Weight Watchers, growing out of my teen years and into my twenties, and 30-45 pounds coming on and off and on and off, God dammit, I AM NOT THE NEW ME. WTF.

It’s the most common weight loss mantra: when I lose the weight, I’m going to be a different person. A better person. A prettier person. I’ll gain self-confidence and DATES! and be fabulous — the star of my own personal movie. I could write a movie! And be the star! Or something.

Well, I’m a different person alright, but not the super thin, ridiculously fabulous version I’ve envisioned through my weight loss journey. Heck, I STILL picture “thin me” in my mind when planning out my fantasy dating life. But I’m not thin me. I’m still pretty awesome, but, come on, I’m fat.

I’ve been a fat kid my whole life. A funny thing happens when a girl hits puberty: she packs on the pounds. Thanks, estrogen! I really enjoyed porking up to a glorious 125 pounds by third grade. FYI: the average 9-year-old is supposed to weight about 75-80 pounds. Again: I WAS 125 POUNDS AT AGE 9. When I moved to Atlanta when I was 12, I went up to the 140s. Three years later, when I ventured on my first Weight Watcher’s quest, I was in the 180s (or low 190s? I DON’T EVEN KNOW ANYMORE). Granted, I also shot up to 5 foot 9 around age 12/13, and grew a bizarre but lovely inch around 17/18, so the pounds were distributed across a large frame. And, thank you estrogen (genuinely this time), I settled into curves in my late teens and early twenties that hid the fat more proportionately. But still, I am a lifelong fat kid.

Now I’m a fat adult. Yay. Without getting too gory, let’s just say that I weigh over 200 pounds now. Bizarrely, with a few annoying exceptions, I still fit into a size 14/16, which I have for the last fluctuating 20 pounds. Every time I join Weight Watchers/get back on the wagon (after all, I’ve not quit Weight Watchers for the last year and ten months, I’ve just failed monumentally, all the while attending my meetings), I repeat the mantra: I’m going to be a different person. Someday. Maybe. Hopefully.

weightwatchersWeight is intrinsically tied to personal identity, and can most commonly boiled down to two things: I’m a fat person or I’m a thin person. Is it really so different to be one or the other? Well, come on, YES, of course. To be fat is to be other, even in a society like America’s where the average woman is a size 14 and obesity is a way of life in many parts of the country. Regardless, it is Not Okay to be Fat. We see it on TV, in the movies, in magazines, advertisements and even in books (I can count on one hand the mainstream books that have fat heroines. Most are written by Jennifer Weiner.).

The Biggest Loser is the most glaringly obvious example, being the quintessential fat makeover show — it’s uplifting and heartwarming, and people get the CHANGE! and be BETTER PEOPLE! But, um, it’s also a show that centers around the idea that fat people are horrible and miserable and should engage in a competition where they must change. And if you don’t lose enough weight, you’re a failure. Um. Ok. And let’s also think back to Shallow Hal. Remember that movie? The one that offensively lambasted fat people and featured Gwenyth Paltrow in a fat suit breaking benches. Nice.

Then there’s the more subtle, subversive anti-fat message: how many shows or movies can you think of with viable main characters who are fat? I’ve blogged about Drop Dead Diva and how surprising I find it, and other than Kathy Najimy on Veronica’s Closet in the 90s, Kirstie Alley on Fat Actress on Showtime, and a few other shows with token fatties (Rosanne, other situation comedies with husbands with beer guts), there are very few, and those that do exist rarely portray fat characters positively.

This is a far bigger issue than I can cover in one post, but it’s true: fat is an identity. Thin is a (very subconscious) identity. I highly doubt normal-sized people sit around thinking about their not-fat identity. But if you’ve been a fat person, do you really fundamentally change and become a “new person” when you are no longer fat? I’m only 25, but I’ve spent more than half my life being fat, and I don’t know if the hang-ups, self-esteem issues, defensiveness, etc. of being fat will ever go away. I’m Not the New Me, and can I ever be the New Me? Or will I just be Me only less fat?

Will my life magically change because I’ve lost weight? I’d kind of like if people liked me for me (omgcliche), and can I really trust people who come on to me just because I’m thin? Then again, I find it patently annoying as hell when people come on to me just because I’m fat (newsflash: fat girls aren’t always easy). My self-esteem isn’t that low, bub. Or is it? I DON’T KNOW.

Watch me, as I journey. I’m not the new me, I’m frustrated, but ever-delusionally hopeful. And mostly I like the title.

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Before & During

Weight & Inches