After the election, I found myself with an extra 3000 friends on Facebook. While I’ve never met any of them in person, our shared beliefs have brightened my newsfeed exponentially. And then every so often, I see a side of a new friend that makes me shudder (and ultimately remove that person from my friend list). Last night someone posted a picture of a couple on an airplane, showing that they were larger than their seats and a caption about how glad she is that she works out, with the implication that the couple seated in front of her obviously did not.
Most of us wouldn’t even consider a Facebook post that makes fun of other religions or ethnicities. We wouldn’t write a post to make fun of a blind person or a person in a wheelchair. But too many people don’t think twice about commenting on body size. Body-shaming, and fat-shaming in particular, is alive and well. Ironically, studies have shown that fat-shaming not only doesn’t help people lose weight, but often has the opposite effect, despite the fact that fat-shaming is often disguised as “health concerns.”
My body has seen both sides of the scale over the course of my life. Growing up, I was that girl who could eat anything and remain thin. A doctor I worked with once told me I actually looked too thin in the pictures I showed her from college. Back then, my body didn’t show the struggles I already had with food. My episodes of alternately binging and starving myself in 8th grade went unnoticed. My lack of control around food wasn’t manifested on the outside, so it was never a “problem.”
My weight ballooned after I was raped in college. Over the course of the next year and a half, I gained 60 pounds. This marked the beginning of my new identity- “fat person.” The first time I dieted, I managed to lose about 40 pounds, and it took about 5 or 6 years for it to all creep back on my body (with an extra 10 pounds for good measure). My next attempt at weight loss resulted in 30 pounds dropped, but replaced within the year. And so it continued, each diet a little less successful, each rebound a little worse. But this was who I was now- I was “fat person” trying to lose weight.
It’s hard to love a fat body in this day and age. There are very few escapes from your body. For a long time, karaoke was one of those escapes. When I started to sing, I was just the girl with the really good voice, not just “fat person.” There were even times when I felt proud of my body, not for how it looked, but for what it could do. I weighed well over 200 pounds when I earned my black belt. I knew I was physically in the best shape of my life, despite the scale. But that pride was short-lived, especially once martial arts got derailed due to multiple back surgeries.
I’m lucky in the sense that my body distributes my extra weight fairly evenly. It helps to camouflage the “fat person.” I’ve become a master of camera angles and lighting, learning how to not actually show the parts of my body I don’t like. I wear my tops a little low cut, in the hopes of drawing attention to my ample cleavage rather than my ample hips. I cringe at having my picture taken by others, even my boyfriend, because I know that no one else will make the same effort to hide my body. More often than not, I hate looking in the mirror. I hate shopping for clothing. I hate being out in public, because I wonder if this is the day that some stranger will post a picture of me on Facebook to comment on my weight.
I recently made the decision to stop dieting. My relationship with food has become unhealthy. My relationship with my body is broken. I’m at my heaviest weight ever, but I decided that maybe, just maybe, I need to learn to love myself again. I don’t ask that people find me attractive or beautiful. I simply ask to be left alone and allowed to make peace with my body.