Reclaiming “Fat” on Fat Tuesday

Fat Tuesday is here.

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It think it’s time to reclaim the word “fat” this Fat Tuesday.  The “fat” of Fat Tuesday is happy.  It’s a last hurrah before a long fast.  It’s the celebration of bounty.  It’s excess and indulgence.  It’s happy.  In the case of “Fat Tuesday”  we are supposed to be happy.

I’m not defending obesity.  I’m not minimizing the diseases that obesity exacerbates.  I just want to complicate “fat” a bit.  Instead of saying “She (or) he is fat,” as if it’s an existential state, inherent to the person, like character or temperament, can we be more compassionate AND clinical?  “She (or) he is experiencing obesity.”

Indeed, obesity and the struggle with it is an experience.  If you’ve ever combed through a Ross rack at midnight trying to find a decent plus size dress, you’ve had the obesity experience.  If you’ve ever watched  plus-size loved ones yo-yo diet and cycle through success and failure, you’ve had the obesity experience.  If you’ve ever been starved for something in your life (love, attention, respect) and found a short-term substitute at the bottom of a pint of ice cream in the middle of the night, you’ve had part of the obesity experience.

I’ve been every size from a 6 to a 20W, and even when I was thin, I wasn’t happy.  I was panicked about regaining the weight.  It made shopping easier, sure, and I felt noticed.  However, keeping the weight off was my entire life.  It was a full-time job on top of the job I already had.  Thinness is not happiness.  Happiness is happiness.  We all struggle with happiness, thin or fat.

The word “fat” has bedeviled me my whole life.  “Pretty for a fat girl,” “too fat”, “too fat for the role,”–just a few of the many things I’ve heard.  Behind that “f” word “fat” is another “f” word, that often follows close by and is implied, “failure”.  Being “fat”, or more compassionately, experiencing “fatness” does not mean you are a failure.  It doesn’t mean you’re weak, or lack will power. We ALL experience failure.  The pitfall is making experiences into identities.

Many of those who have been conditioned to be ashamed of their fatness have also been conditioned to hide.  How many of us retreat to the back row of a group photo because we don’t care to be seen from the neck down?  Too many.

Fat tropes have been around for centuries.  I think of Shakespeare’s Falstaff, that repulsive, yet humorous fat Flemish drunkard (who’m I’ve actually auditioned to play).  How many times have I auditioned for characters destined to be the butt of a joke, just because I wear plus size clothes?  So many.  Too many.

It’s time to get past the fat tropes and complicate “fat”.  It’s not a state of being, a character defect or a joke.  It’s a medical condition that needs attention and also compassion.  My takeaway from all of this is that “fatness” doesn’t preclude happiness.  You have a right to be happy, fat or thin.  However, we each have to claim and create space for our happiness.  Part of happiness is treating ourselves well, no matter how others speak about us.  The word “fat” needs complicating and compassion at the same time.

I wish you a fun, happy Fat Tuesday–fat with joy, fat with happiness, fat with hope that the best is yet to come.   Celebrate you, who are you are now, today.

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No Skinny Shaming. No Fat Shaming. No Shame.

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It’s very easy to cherry pick reality these days.  It’s very easy to ignore what’s inconvenient or what doesn’t matter or apply to you.  In the curvy and plus size community, we deride “thin privilege” but we have less conversations about “skinny shaming”–picking on someone because they are “too thin”.  How many times have you thought “that person should eat a cheeseburger”, not even knowing them?

lacretia lyons mrs birghtsideThere’s at least two sides to every issue and while we as plus sized people do suffer from “thin privilege” we pay very little credence to how thin shaming hurts everyone too.  I recently discussed this in depth with Lacretia Lyon on her Mrs. Brightside show.  Lacretia and I both had relatives that could not put on weight no matter what they ate and we discussed how that impacts them and our perceptions and relationships with them.

One thing we have to remember when we discuss the human body is that human bodies are human.  Picking on people hurts them.  Being picked on hurts and damages.  Unacknowledged bias hurts and impacts people.  One of my new mantras going forward is “no shame”.  No thin shaming, no fat shaming…no shaming period.  If we extend a little more love, respect and compassion for others, perhaps we’ll start to become the change in the world we want to see.

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Healthier…Not Necessarily Skinnier

Tess Holliday clapped back this week against those she called, “concern trolls“, declaring that ther health is no one’s business.  I agree with Tess.  Her health is nobody’s concern but her’s but it did cause me to look at my own health and define what I consider to be a “healthy” version of me.

body positivityIs the healthiest version of me thin?  Not necessarily.  Is the healthiest version of me a certain set of measurements.  Nope.  What is health then, in a world that fat shames, peddles diet pills, counts calories and reduces women’s value to measurements?

The healthiest version of me is doesn’t cry in fitting room because I’m not squeezing into a specific, idealized size.  The healthiest version of me does not look in a mirror and automatically think, “You’re so fat.”  The healthiest version of me does not reach for the control top shape wear every time I have to go out of the house for the most mundane errand.  The healthiest version of me doesn’t care about what the advertisers say or the celebrity gossip rags say about what parts of my body I should feel insecure about.  The healthiest version of me is the version of me that doesn’t mind the jiggles or the cellulite so much.

The healthiest version of me is the happiest version of me.  The healthiest version of me is the version of me that’s compassionate to the woman I am today, all my layers.  The healthiest version of me is the version of me that knows that I am worthy just because of who I am.  The healthiest version of me is the embodiment of self esteem, no matter what the scale says.

Health is whole body, whole mind, whole spirit experience.  It’s not set of measurements or how you look in a photo.  Embrace your whole self and whole health this week.