Musings on body image and excuses

6 Jan

For as long as I can remember I have considered myself “fat.”

Even when I didn’t know exactly what it meant to be “fat” I was certain that I was. I was told not to eat cookies because I “didn’t need them” and that I needed to not eat so much because I didn’t want to get any bigger. I even had a boyfriend in high school who once glared at me for pouring a second bowl of cereal and said “why do you eat so much?” I am not quite sure how I responded to his inquiry but I know that for as far back as I can remember I have always been ashamed of what I ate and how I looked.

As I grew up I started to read and hear that not everyone was destined to be skinny and that some people were just genetically made to be heavier. Even though I wasn’t overweight as a teen, in fact I never was overweight until I was around 19 or 20, I knew that I wasn’t petite and that “thin” for me was a size 10. I assumed that this meant I should accept my size and own it, so I did.

For many years this worked. I started to associate the very thin or slender women I knew with vanity and weakness. I prided myself on being more muscular and on be sturdy and strong, and in some ways I still feel this way. However, I think at some point I went from accepting my more muscular and strong lady self to making excuses on why it was “ok” that I continued to put on weight. To take a cue from Cartman, I wasn’t fat, I was big boned.

Truth be told, I didn’t always notice the weight was coming on. It tends to creep up on you in between bites of pasta. After an initial gain of about 25 pounds when I went vegan, the weight crept on slowly. Before I knew it, I was over 200 pounds…and growing. But even still, that voice in my head kept saying, “You aren’t meant to be thin, you are just meant to be bigger.” Whenever I compared myself to other women and felt sad about my size, that little voice, the one that seemed to try and soothe me, said, “Don’t worry, people come in all shapes and sizes, it’s ok.”

In some ways this is true. Some women are 4’10” and some are 6’1″. Some women are naturally bigger boned and some are very tiny and petite. Some women are sturdy and strong and others are more delicate. Some women have wide hips and narrow waists and some have narrow hips and flat chests. However, there is really no natural human state that involves a healthy young women to carry an excess of 60-70 pounds of fat. The “I am just accepting my size and this is how I was made” excuse just isn’t working anymore.

I accept the way I look. I know that I have stretch marks, short legs, and thin hair. I’ve got irreversible body imperfections that I can’t fix and shouldn’t stress over. But this whole size acceptance stuff, it hasn’t done me much good. Telling myself that I needed to accept my size and accept that I wasn’t made to be a leaner person is bullshit. I am not meant to be overweight and I am not even meant to be a large person. For fucks sake, I am 5’5″, not 6′. It is one thing to be obsessed with a low weight and impossible body ideals, but looking at myself in the mirror and saying, “I must lose 60 lbs of fat because the quality of my life depends on it” is really the best kind of self acceptance there is. I’ve accepted that life at this weight is not full and I have decided to change that.

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