On Fat Acceptance

It remains a radical act to be a fat and happy woman in America. If you’re fat, you’re not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident—and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society’s disdain and your own self-hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cow-calls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self-esteem; you don’t deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery.

–Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, on Fat Hatred

I am fat.  This is not my way of fishing for a compliment.  It is just the truth.  I have had two babies in five years and the second baby was nearly more than my body could handle.  Having my baby E caused my hormones to get imbalanced, which caused my adrenals and thyroid to work overtime, which caused my weight gain and subsequent inability to shed the pounds.  I did not know the cause at the time of my pregnancy.  I was very mystified when I would eat normal portions of food and still balloon out as if eating twice as much as usual.

I am very lucky to have found out the cause of my weight gain.  With increased awareness of my body, and by taking care to rebuild my adrenal and thyroid function, I have been able to drop a few pounds in the last month.  I have found that weight loss has to do with reducing my stress, eating healthy fats, mindfulness while eating a meal, and accepting who I am.

As I stayed fat for the last 2 years or so, I started to notice that I was being treated differently.  People seemed sorry for me that I was just so fat.  People seemed angry with me that I just could not lose that weight. People seemed to think that it was such a shame that I had so severe a personal failing that I couldn’t starve myself enough to lose the baby weight within the acceptable time frame after giving birth to E.  I started to believe that something was wrong with me, that I really lacked self-control or I would be thin again.

But the bottom line is that I am still ME, fat or thin.  Realizing that I still had worth even though I am fat, has been a huge victory for me.  We are constantly bombarded with images of what is acceptable for women.  Fat men can be jolly, even sexy and desirable if they are funny and endearing.  But fat women are just gross.  They need to get their act together and start looking good again.  Fat women have no business being sexy, or wanting full relationships, or being happy.  Fat women are expected to hang their heads in shame that they dare to be fat without apologizing for it.

Being fat in society is not easy.  Thin privilege is all around us.  If you are thin, you enjoy the privilege of eating whatever you like without anyone commenting on your portions.  You can feel happy without anyone shaming you.  You can go to the doctor without being belittled for your mass.  You don’t have to brace yourself for any dirty looks or comments when you eat food in public.  You don’t have to defend your very existence in the face of outright hatred, simply because of how you look.

I hate how I am treated now that I am fat.  Remember, I have been thin before.  I know how differently I am treated now.  In my fat body is the same brain, the same personality, the same wit, the same capability that I have always had.  In fact, it is that brain and capability that has aided me in tenaciously figuring out my body in the face of so much disdain from the society around me.

In spite of being considered subhuman, I have learned to love myself now in all my fat glory. I will love myself when I am thin again too, albeit with a wiser understanding of the privilege it will bring.

Kendahl

kendahl is a queer fat left-handed INFJ synesthete mother warrior activist social worker abuse survivor unapologetically brilliant powerful witch

You may also like...

52 Responses

  1. Heidi says:

    Great post! Fatness is the health panic of our current age and the panicked element distorts all the messages we read and hear about weight. I really like the Health At Every Size message that is endorsed by the Fat Acceptance movement — we make so many assumptions based on appearance and weight that might have absolutely nothing to do with the health of a person. It was a huge paradigm shift for me to move into my body and be concerened about how I felt and my health instead of worrying about being thin.

    • Kmillecam says:

      I love this too. Any time we can treat every human as a full, whole human being I am on board. I’m glad that you had that paradigm shift too. I am still learning to accept my body at any size. Reading fat-positive articles and blogs really helps me keep my perspective in a good place.

  2. TopHat says:

    This post reminded me of another I read this week about Mindy Cohn on What Not To Wear which says, “I walked away from this episode smiling, because never once, in the whole episode, did Mindy say something negative about herself or blame herself for the way clothes fit or didn’t fit her body…. Mindy’s transformation was all about proclaiming to the world that she knows she is worthy.”

    What has helped me think about myself in a better light is looking at my 2 year old. She’s beautiful. And no matter how much she weighs at 15, 25, 35, etc, I’ll still think that. I try to remember that that’s how God sees us as well- no matter what, we are beautiful.

    Thanks for this post.

    • Kmillecam says:

      What an excellent point. I sometimes forget to “see the suffering” of other people. I judge and separate myself from them. But then I can remind myself, what if that was my child, my spouse, my self? Can I see their suffering now? Can I see them as a full human being now? Your daughter is so lucky to have you as a parent, giving her unconditional love. Thank you for this, I am smiling reading it!

  3. Corktree says:

    This is a brave and wonderful post K!

    Naturally, with 2 babies in the last two years, I feel so similar to you and your struggle to figure out what was going on despite healthy eating and a good relationship with food. So familiar.

    But I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to accept that I’m treated differently now than just a few years ago when I was thin. It is absolutely and painfully true…I just hate the reality that even people that knew me thin treat me differently. I’m also not very accepting of myself right now. I’m working to get there and be kinder to myself, but it is so hard to ignore when not only can I not wear any of my old clothes, but I also can’t do things physically the same as I used to. It confronts me at every turn, and I don’t know how to be happy with restrictions. Which is why I think I can understand the push for people to be happy with the bodies we have and to treat them well, but I also want to work for positive change – with the right mind set.

    Thank you for bringing up this important perspective. I hate feeling watched and judged for how I act and what I eat, and I also can’t say I’ve never ever looked at obesity completely without negativity, but maybe discussions like this will help us all to engage with other differently and to see beyond size.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Corktree, I really do know exactly what you mean. Everything you just wrote here sounds like something I could or have said at some point the last couple of years. I think you are right, discussions like this DO help us see beyond size. If we can get back to seeing people as people, then we can respect the humanity of even the fat people in our society. I love reading about fat acceptance and reading fat-positive language. It feeds my soul at this time where I need to feel whole in order to move forward and tackle my weight loss in a positive way.

  4. This is an amazing post and I LOVE it. Bravo, K, for realizing “I am still ME, fat or thin… In my fat body is the same brain, the same personality, the same wit, the same capability that I have always had.” Our women’s bodies seem to change drastically from childhood to adolescence, through the childbearing years, and then again past menopause. It’s hard not to feel betrayed by that flesh that won’t always do what we want it to–it’s hard to keep a positive self image as we see the changing picture in the mirror. Thank you for initiating this conversation.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Thank you BiV 🙂 I feel validated just reading your comment. I’m glad to know that I am accepted the way I am in our relationship. You are right too, we all change so much over the years. Why not be happy with ourselves, right?

  5. Heather says:

    Great post, Kmillecam. It made me sad, but also happy because you seem to be in a good place. I have mixed feelings. I have worked my tail off for the last 4 months and have lost almost 25 lbs. I feel good about it. I feel in control and strong (emotionally).

    Part of me likes it when people notice and say that I look nice. But then part of me thinks: “Hmm. So I guess I didn’t look nice before . . .” I think I did look nice before . . . but I think I look better now. ???

    Bottom line–I didn’t start trying to lose weight because I didn’t like the way I looked. I really didn’t. A very small part of my self-esteem is tied up with how I look. I think I have my parents (my mom especially maybe) to thank for that. I started losing weight because I wanted to be healthier. I wanted to see the scale go down, and my BMI, and my cholesterol and blood pressure. I want more distance between me and some of those high-risk categories.

    It’s tough to find a balance.

    • Kmillecam says:

      I think it is definitely hard to find a balance. I guess I accept myself as fat, and I love myself this way. But since I cannot do as many physical things as I would like, nor feel as energetic or light on my feet, I still want to lose weight. I am happy this way, but I WANT to be thinner. It’s very difficult to be fat positive and explain how I want to lose weight at the same time. I need to read more on it, and then write more.

      • Heather says:

        Yes–and the balance is even tougher when you have kids. What messages do I want to communicate to my kids–especially my girls? They know that I am trying to lose weight. They see me skipping dessert, eating more veggies and less of whatever else, exercising more, counting calories, sometimes bemoaning that I can’t eat what I want. Sometimes they ask how long I will be “doing this.” I usually tell them I hope to be “doing this” until I can lose 10-15 more lbs. and then I will do a modified version of “this.” This = making better eating choices and exercising more. I DON’T say I am “on a diet” because I don’t feel like that’s what I’m doing.

        Sometimes they make comments like: “But Mom, we liked you before” and “You don’t need to lose weight.” It’s like they don’t like to see me dissatisfied with the way I am. And I want them to see that it is not ideal to be 40 lbs. overweight . . .AND that I liked myself at my max. weight and at a lower weight.

        I’m talking in circles now. But that’s how I feel!

      • Kmillecam says:

        Well it sounds to me like you have a healthy self-esteem and you want to be healthier which happens to have turned into weight loss. That’s what I am going for too. I am eating the same way as I have for the last year (real food), but I have tweaked it enough to be lowered calories enough for me to ease the pounds off and still heal my adrenal/thyroid issues.

        It also sounds like you are taking great care to give your well-thought-out reasons to your kids. I doubt they think you are caving to societal pressure, because it really sounds like you are doing this for health and because you love yourself. That message will come through to them loud and clear.

        Also, I know that what you are doing is very hard, so congratulations on all the success you have had so far 🙂

  6. CatherineWO says:

    Thank you for this post. I needed this reminder as I get old and my body not only is larger but has shifted in places that are just never going to fit into anything I wore twenty years ago. I am often taken by surprise by the way people act toward me. I want to say, “frumpy old ladies are people too.”

    One of the things that troubles me in social settings is the way group conversation so often gravitates to food and weight and appearance. I try to catch myself when I’m in this kind of situation, but it’s hard to change the subject. We have talked with our adult children about this and we try very hard to not have these kinds of conversations at family gatherings, for multiple reasons. Surely there are more interesting topics of conversation than what people are eating or how so-and-so looks today.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Oh you should definitely say “frumpy old ladies are people too”. It’s true! I love that.

      I have also noticed how often group conversations gravitate to food/weight/appearance. I try to be as positive as possible, validating wherever anyone is. But sometimes people aren’t to that place and they cannot let themselves be where they are (me too sometimes).

  7. Erin says:

    I’d agree that it’s definitely harder on the fat end of the spectrum, but it’s not necessarily a walk in the park being thin either. People still feel free to criticize you for your eating choices – only when you’re thin it’s because you aren’t eating “enough” or they feel they can scoff at you for trying to eat healthier foods because, obviously, you don’t need to. And while I imagine most tactful people would keep such criticisms to themselves if you’re fat, they feel no need to if you’re thin. (Still horrible either way.) Sometimes it feels like people are constantly shoving food in your face. It seems like whether you’re thin or fat people don’t trust you to know how much and what kind of food your body needs (there are, of course, circumstances where this lack of trust would be appropriate, but I’m not going to get into that now).

    As a thin person my valid concerns for my fitness are rarely taken seriously. The problem seems to be that far too many equate thinness to fitness. Just because I’m thin doesn’t mean I’m in physically good shape or taking care of my body. Like Heidi brought up, the important thing is being healthy at whatever size you are – not obsessing over what you or anyone else weighs.

    • Kmillecam says:

      I agree that being thin has it’s own set of challenges. But that doesn’t change the fact that being thin is a privileged status. It’s the same with male privilege. I know it’s not easy being a man, but men still have privilege that women simply do not enjoy. I want to validate your experience, but you have to realize that by saying “being thin isn’t easy either” misses the point of my essay.

      I didn’t say it was easy to be thin, or a walk in the park. I said that there is thin privilege, and there is fat hatred. I never said anything about being thin meaning that life was easy.

      My sister is very thin, and she has experienced a lot of similar things that you describe. But I do agree with you on this: it’s not easy when anyone comments on your appearance, fat or thin.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Erin,
      I hadn’t thought of it this way. A few months ago I started teaching group fitness classes and lost a size or two. Then I heard from my sister that my mom thought I was anorexic. My husband started asking about what I was eating. It was really weird and made me uncomfortable. I’m not THAT thin for heaven’s sake. But, I didn’t think it was anything unusual until I read your comment.

      But Kmillecam, you are right. There is a difference between comments to thin people and fat people. Even comments about what thin people eat are given in a compliment/envy sort of way.
      Honestly, your post was really eye opening. I don’t think I had realized how much of this I was totally unaware of, “thin privilege” and “fat hatred” were not even in my vocabulary.

      What I can’t understand is where the fat hatred comes from when such a high percentage of Americans are obese. The food that we eat as a nation is so bad for us, we’re all getting fatter (and unhealthy). It just seems like the fat hatred would be going away with more people in the obese category.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Very nice post. I think part of the problem is that people tend to assume that controlling one’s weight is a very simple calculus, and if you’re fat then clearly you have no discipline and you’re not even trying. But it’s more complicated than that; as you point out, for instance, hormonal issues, genetic factors, etc. can throw things out of whack so that the normal formulas for weight loss simply don’t work.

    I’m in great shape for my age (I’m 6’5″ 220 lbs.) and can lose weight easily. But I’m well aware that my relative thinness is largely a result of winning the genetic lottery (in my extended family there are thin genes and there are fat genes, and I just happened to get the thin ones). So I try to be very aware that there are all sorts of factors in play and that being fat is not some sort of a moral failing.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Kevin, I was so glad to read your comment. It’s wonderful when someone thin can understand where I am coming from, and we don’t have the difference in our weight between us. You are so right to say that some treat being obese or overweight as a moral failing. I am very disciplined, and yet this weight has stubbornly refused to budge for nearly two years until just recently.

      If anyone would know what that is like, it’s me. Because it happened to me! Your comment shows that you respect and believe me, which is precisely what I am hoping to achieve by bringing up the conversation. Thank you for that. 🙂

  9. EmilyCC says:

    A wonderful post, K! It’s timely for me since I’ve been a bit (hmmm, maybe that’s an understatement) obsessed with getting out of maternity clothes though I just had a baby three weeks ago.

    The pressure and judgement are so real. I’m glad you brought this up!

  10. prairiegirl says:

    As someone who has never been “thin”–who was teased, bullied, and belittled at young ages…..
    I fell lucky because I’ve never been “thin”. I’ve been smaller than I am now—sure….but I’ve been “larger” too.
    I learned lessons early on–about exercise, about eating–but also about ME.
    Who I was–who I am–and how to deal with the real enemy here….
    SATAN!!! He is the real enemy–he and his minions will take ANY weakness we have, and make it 30 thousand times worse.
    As someone who’s had my head over the toilet–in the pursuit of what Satan and the “World” tells us is “normal”—the Spirit told me what is REAL–and RIGHT.
    It does not mean my road has been easy. It does not mean there are still times I have to “control” my thoughts. And yes–I do feel that part of the reason I am single is because I am a smart, highly educated, non-skinny (and not afraid of that) LDS woman…

    But–I am grateful the Lord has taught me early on what is TRULY important. For now I have the blessing of seeing that in others.

    • Kmillecam says:

      You sound like you really do accept who you are. What a beautiful thing to see. And I agree that it is a blessing to be able to see what is truly important. That’s one of the most important things I have ever realized.

  11. LovelyLauren says:

    I love this because it’s about being yourself.

    My big problem with the whole “Operation Beautiful” thing is that it seems to be so much about how you look instead of who you are. The whole “curves are beautiful” makes me feel a little inadequate about my lack thereof. The most important thing is being healthy.

    As a person who struggles to keep her weight up, the most frustrating part about being thin is the disdain you get from other women. When people have asked me questions about my pant size or weight and I answer truthfully, I’ve gotten some downright dirty looks. If I even talk about how I try to eat healthy, I get scoffed at.

  12. Kmillecam says:

    LovelyLauren, that’s a really good point about defining what is beautiful. Beautiful isn’t only skinny, but it’s also not only fat. In the backlash against thin people, we can get caught up in “no, actually fat is good and thin is bad”. But that’s not true either, as you illustrate. It’s just whatever you might be. Fat, thin, we can find the beauty in any person.

    And thank you for sharing your experience with being thin without negating my experience being fat. We have much in common, as we both have been hurt by being treated badly. We have both felt the sting of being judged and given dirty looks. That’s not okay. It never feels good to be dismissed like that.

    • Erin says:

      See, now I’m a tad confused. You seemed to think I missed the point of your essay, which I assure you I did not. I tried to carefully word my initial response so as not to negate your experience. I apologize if what I said felt negating. It’s easy to come away from your fifth paragraph thinking that thin people never experience any of the hurt or criticisms you describe there. My experiences have been much the same as LovelyLauren’s and somehow I missed the point and she didn’t? No biggie, it just leaves me perplexed. Words have never been my strong suit I guess. I should’ve just waited until she commented and then said, “Ditto.” 🙂 I truly appreciate what you’re saying in the OP.

      • Kmillecam says:

        Erin, thank you for being so pleasant even though I am taking issue with a few things. That is a welcome attribute when trying to communicate online 🙂

        Thank you for apologizing too. It did feel like you were negating my experience with how you said you experience being thin. I knew what you were getting at, and I knew you didn’t mean to negate my experience, but it still happened because of how YOU came away from my fifth paragraph. I didn’t say that being thin was easy, and although I can see how you made that jump, I didn’t.

        I still want to point out that even though being thin has it’s own set of hardships, they aren’t the same as the hardships of fat people because of the privilege thin people enjoy in spite of their hardships. It doesn’t mean that we cannot have similar stories with being unfairly judged.

        I can relate to your experience of being thin and ridiculed. But it’s different because of the privilege involved. I only harp on the privilege aspect because it is so key to my essay.

      • Erin says:

        You’re right, you didn’t say it was easy. Thanks for calling me on that. What you did say was a very black and white, “Thin people don’t experience…”. What I was originally aiming at was to make sure we don’t turn around and pass on false misconceptions about the other end of the spectrum. Because the privilege isn’t in not having those experiences. As I’ve been thinking about this I think the privilege kicks in in the mind of the person making the hurtful comments (and then gives privilege in other aspects of life from there). As a thin person I can look back at the end of the day and figure that their comments came from a place of envy or jealousy, which reflects more on them than on me. For the fat person you see that the hurtful comment came from what Kevin talked about – the person thinking you are somehow morally weak. For the thin person the source of the hurt doesn’t reflect on your personhood quite as much I guess. At least in imagining the scenario I feel worse about myself imagining that I’m in the fat person’s shoes.

        But as I’m thinking about this I’m having difficulty imagining the person who feels it’s okay to judge someone as morally weak for being fat. Several of my mom’s aunts and cousins struggle with thyroid problems which affect their weight. I know countless people who have needed medications which have caused permanent changes to their metabolism and other aspects of their bodies, many others who are “fat” according to society but who in reality are in far better shape and much healthier than I am, and so on. But I can’t think of one person I know who just doesn’t care about their health at all. I’d assume most adults know others in similar situations as my friends and family. So how does anyone come away from knowing that many people and still think being fat is a moral failing?

        Oh, and I agree with the many people who have said that we need to be focused on being healthy, whatever that is for us, and not on the number on the scale.

      • Kmillecam says:

        You said “What you did say was a very black and white, “Thin people don’t experience…”. ”

        But I didn’t. I did not say “Thin people don’t experience” _____. You’re making a jump again as to what I mean. What I meant was what I said in the OP. Read my 5th paragraph again; I said that if you are thin then you experience certain privileges. I chose my words carefully, so that I did not say things like “the ONLY thing thin people experience is this”, or “thin people don’t experience anything like what fat people do”, because I don’t believe that.

      • Erin says:

        Gah! I really didn’t mean to flip it that time. Too much scrolling up and down. I still see your comments in paragraph five as misleading. The privilege isn’t that I can eat whatever I want without anyone commenting on portions because I can’t. I just don’t think the privileges are what you describe them to be in that paragraph. But I’m going to assume that you read the rest of my previous comment and not re-type it.

      • Kmillecam says:

        Ha! Okay good, I’m glad you didn’t mean to flip it that time. I still believe that my 5th paragraph isn’t misleading, but is simply distinguishing between privilege and experiences. But I can see what you’re saying. I think that’s as good as we’re gonna get 🙂

  13. s-lpz says:

    Excellent post and topic, Kmillecam. It’s great to hear that you are loving yourself just the way you are, regardless of your weight. It is easier to manage our weight when we feel good about ourselves, so I am thrilled to hear that you are focused on that goal. Ever since I taught the Mia Maids (in the early 90s) I’ve maintained that when people feel good about themselves, they make good choices. And, yes, I think it’s possible (and desirable) to love ourselves the way we are and want to be a healthier weight at the same time.

    We all wish it was simple to lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight, but it is actually quite challenging for many of us. As a medical obesity specialist I blend cutting edge medicine with life coaching and counseling. I’ve learned that all the good advice in the world about eating, exercising, etc. isn’t enough. People also need support and compassion and help with the underlying issues that contribute to weight and health issues. True self-care is a challenging pursuit.

    Losing weight and maintaining the loss are very challenging and there are a number of complex factors that are involved. In the process we can become obsessed with the number on the scale and can easily become demoralized. I try to steer my patients in the direction of focusing on how they want to feel–energetic, emotionally stable, healthy, empowered. When they do that, it is easier for them to manage their weight.

    Also, it is much more complicated than calories in, calories out. There are complex metabolic processes that affect weight and are influenced by the types and amounts of specific macro-nutrients that we consume. Obviously I can’t get into all that here, so I will highlight what I think is important for this discussion. Many studies of overweight and obese people show that they actually consume less calories than those who are a healthy weight. So the whole “eat less, move more” advice isn’t that helpful. It also debunks the whole “lack of discipline” myth. All of my patients are industrious, accomplished people who are anxiously engaged in doing much good in the world. Often they are so focused on these goals, that they forget to tune into their own bodies and inner world. My goal is to help them slow down, live more mindfully, and be gentler and more compassionate with themselves.

    I will also add that I am troubled by the societal obsession with women’s bodies. On top of that, there is some ideal that we should all be striving for. There is way too much focus on the external. I think that what you (and others) describe in terms of the way you are treated and spoken to in regards to your weight qualify as objectification of women’s bodies. The message is that you are a *body* that should look a certain way so that others can be comfortable and have pleasure rather than a *person* who is simply living her life.

    • Kmillecam says:

      So many good things in here. What struck me as I reread your comment just now was the last paragraph. We definitely focus too much on the external, so much so that we really do value it more than the other parts of ourselves. There is so much more to me than the “meat machine”/body (I love that term, my old psychology professor used it all the time). I’m also a spark of intelligence, I am a soul, I am potential.

      And even if we do focus on our bodies, they are much more complex and miraculous than we treat them sometimes. My body deserves to be loved, treated with the proper respect for how truly amazing it is.

  14. Jesse says:

    I’ve had the opposite experience. I’ve never felt more sexy than right after giving birth–by C-section nonetheless–when I was 20+ pounds up, flabby, lumpy and out of shape from having been on complete, in-hospital bed rest for 40 days. Somehow, I loved how I looked. I felt voluptuous and gorgeous–not that I have ever lacked curves, I’m no skinny little thing…just at that time, I felt like all eyes should be on me.

    At the time, I was surprised…because what you say about the social stigma associated with weight is very true. For many years, I chose to not have a scale in my house because my mother and grandmother obsess about weight (one or the other has told me my thighs look like whales,wondered at how much weight I have gained during pregnancy, and told my husband he looks like an escapee from a concentration camp — he is congenitally and unescapably thin). I wanted to break that chain of obsession–not pass it on to my daughter. I wanted (and want) her to see herself as beautiful without any consideration of weight.

    Of course, even though I felt so comfortable in my post-birth body, I started working to regain my fitness because, in addition to being heavier than usual, I also had absolutely no endurance and very limited strength. Two years later, I can run further than ever before…and I feel great–while still carrying that “extra” weight. My husband says I just look more like a woman–and honestly our two opinions are the only ones that matter (Disdain is one of my favorite tools to wield against those who would make me feel bad about myself for any reason–not so mature perhaps, but, for me, very effective).

    • Kmillecam says:

      I love that you had this experience after giving birth. It seems like your conscious decision to break from the negative self-images of your mother and grandmother really ended up paying off.

      I also really relate to your final paragraph. That is what I was getting at in my earlier comment to Heather. I am comfortable accepting where I am at right now. I work out because I want to and it feels good to my body. When I go to pilates or yoga it feels nourishing to me, not like a punishment for being fat. And my goal IS to lose weight, so that I can be energetic and quick and able to run. I’m so glad that you are feeling good. I find it inspiring.

  15. Caroline says:

    K, this is an amazing post. I love that you are embracing yourself and encouraging all of us to do the same.

    I struggle with my weight, and it’s been hard to accept my new post-two babies body. But your essay has given me motivation to try to change my negative attitudes toward my body.

    I also love hearing the perspective of LovelyLauren and Erin. Their stories make me realize that I sometimes mentally project negative judgments on the skinny people around me. I need to work on that.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Oh yes, please do feel more kindly to your body. I have been with you IRL, and you are beautiful 🙂

      I have also caught myself feeling negatively towards skinny women in my life. But one of my good friends, who shares my love of real food, is very thin and candidly talks about her struggles with maintaining her weight and keeping it up. It has changed me to always think of her if I start to judge any thin women around me.

  16. Hydrangea says:

    Thanks for posting. It is a subject most women confront daily, in some form. My degree is in Kinesiology and have worked the last 6 years as a personal trainer. I have had countless women clients that have come to me hoping that I can seemingly solve all their problems if I could only make them small and sexy. Many women, of all ages, are misguided to believe that if they are skinny, tan and busty they will inevitably be happy. It is as if they erroneously believe that if they are attractive enough they can inveigle out of men the happiness they want from life. It’s sick.

    “Skinny” does not hold the monopoly on success, attractiveness, or fulfillment. It is disgusting the assumptions we make about people, particularly women, as we size them up by weight.

    It seems that many times the fat we carry around has much less to do with how ‘lazy’ or ‘motivated’ we are and much more with the emotional and physical stressors that we encounter (having children, emotional eating to cope with life, illness…). Our escalated weight is often a reflection of our priorities being transferred from own selves to other competing interests family, work, school. . .none of which we should be ashamed of.

    The world would be a better place if people felt comfortable in their own skin and people gave others that same privileged.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Very interesting. I recently read a blog post in the real food arena where the author referred to obesity as a sign of malnutrition. That really struck me. I like how you put it too, that obesity or extra weight can be a sign of our priorities and where we have had to put our attention.

      It might be best for everyone’s health to figure out their specific nutritional needs, but we still have to take care of our children and lives and jobs. Baby steps, baby steps are always a good reminder…

  17. ECS says:

    One thing that fascinates and saddens me in the Mormon feminist community is that so many of us are quick to roll our eyes at and to throw out the unattainable ideals thrown at us by the Church’s patriarchal culture, but that we’re still seduced by the unattainable (or very difficult to attain) ideals thrown at us by society about the way women should look.

    I’ve wanted to address the point about the privileges thin people enjoy in our society, but I’m not sure how to do that without sounding dismissive of either the “thin” or the “fat” experience. Since most of our unhealthy eating habits and body image issues are caused by negative messages we’ve internalized into our heads and thought processes, it’s not quite fair to say that, as a whole, one person (the fat person) is more miserable or persecuted than the other person (the thin person). Maybe I’ll come back and add some nuance to this, but my three year old is tugging on my arm for dinner.

    Great post, K.

    • Kmillecam says:

      ECS, I know how that arm-tugging thing goes.

      I’m not saying (nor did I say) that the fat person is “more miserable”. I’m saying that thin privilege is that thin people are more valued in general in our society. And ultimately, fat people are hated and treated as subhuman in a way that thin people aren’t. This doesn’t mean than thin people don’t have problems. It also doesn’t mean that thin people can’t be more unhappy than fat people.

    • Kmillecam says:

      But again, we are ending up talking about thin people more than fat people. The point of raising awareness of fat acceptance is to actually talk about it. It’s bothering me in the same way it bothers me when we try to talk about feminism, but we end up talking about how it makes men feel. Men have their privilege, I want to talk about being a woman! Thin people have their privilege, I want to talk about being a fat person!

  18. LovelyLauren says:

    I think you make a good point, ECS. Comparing persecutions is a bit silly when the source of the issue is a misguided perspective on what it is to be beautiful and our relationships with our bodies.

    To me it is fascinating that the fitness and health food industries are some of the most lucrative in the United States right now, we rail against obesity, and fashion models are stick figures. What does this say about how we feel about our bodies and the pressure to keep them a certain way?

    • Kmillecam says:

      Oh this is biggie for me. I could rail all day and night about the monetary interest involved with fitness and health food in America. I think what that says is that we don’t really value our health.

      We want to look thin, tan, and energetic, but we want to do it with starving ourselves, tanning booths and energy drinks. I would much rather do it my way: reducing stress via yoga/pilates/meditation/therapy and lose weight as my body heals, sitting out in the sun to soak up my vitamin D/get tan, and gain energy by eating real, whole, traditional foods. Oh yeah!

  19. Starfoxy says:

    Great post. The thing that I first noticed in this vein was that in the singles wards people would get all bent out of shape about the overweight women, and then claim that it’s because they’re concerned about their health. What? Fat is only unhealthy when it’s on a woman? Riiiiight.
    I also think about Sister B. I was friends with her daughter and when I was a kid she was slightly overweight. Certainly not obese. She took Fen-phen and it ultimately killed her. The last time I saw her it was horrific- because she actually was unhealthy- you could tell just looking at her, she was dying. I think of her every time lessons on the Word of Wisdom devolve into tips on weight loss. When that does happen I share this with the class, and remind them that weight loss is not the same thing as health.
    Sometimes people lose weight as their health improves. Sometimes people gain weight as their health improves. But you know what always happens when your health improves? You get healthier and that should always be the goal, because unlike weight health is something you actually do have some control over.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Great comment Starfoxy. I have noticed the same “concern” people have for the health of obese people. I can tell when someone truly cares about me and how I am doing. And I can tell when someone is using that as a smokescreen for belittling or demanding or shaming me about being fat.

      Health is a much better goal rather than weight loss or physical appearance. I have gotten healthier this year, steadily. It was only recently I dropped any pounds, but I was improving all year when it didn’t look like I was. That will always buoy me up to know that.

  20. ECS says:

    K, I apologize for my inartful comment above, and wanted to tell you I really enjoyed this post and hearing your perspective. I’m trying to be better at learning about and appreciating the experiences of others instead of jumping in with my own issues. It’s a work in progress. 🙂

    • Kmillecam says:

      No apology necessary 🙂 I just hope you don’t mind that I kept commenting and getting into the specifics of everything. I enjoy it, but I also know that I can’t always commit to this kind of conversation. I’m sorry if I jumped in too intensely when you had already said that you needed to think on it more, AND that you had a little person tugging on you. I have been there too!

  21. Alisa says:

    K, we as Mormon feminists need to have more discussions like this. Like ECS said, we can easily throw off some elements of patriarchy, while we also adhere to others. I know I’m not the only Mormon feminist who struggles with body image despite many of the other negative messages I’m overcoming.

    I find it interesting that Utah is the only state where men are more often obese than women. “Significantly more men (68.0%) were overweight or obese in Utah than women (50.8%, Utah BRFSS 2007)” (http://health.utah.gov/obesity/pages/News/FAQ.php).

  22. Jacque says:

    I think the mind is a powerful tool in shaping our self-image. I learned the power of mantras in childbirth and recently re-discovered that power with my own desire to be healthier. Instead of repeating the same negative thoughts over and over, I gave myself four positive sentences right before falling asleep at night about how amazing my body is, how much I do to feed it right, and ultimately that I’m beautiful! I immediately noticed a difference in my mood/energy/motivation the next day, was led to new sources for my journey, and saw a few pounds come off. It’s amazing that a few phrases could make childbirth more bearable, and in turn can help me become healthier post-baby and I love that the mind-body connection of becoming empowered and trusting my body can lead me to where I want to be. I also know that part of my journey has opened my eyes and made me more compassionate for so many other people out there. Just thought I’d share. =)

  23. Stephanie2 says:

    I totally know what you are talking about! I am experiencing the same thing! I think my thyroid starting go out after my third pregnancy, but it went completely berserk after my fourth. I actually was able to lose all that baby weight, but after my doctor lowered my dose of levothyroxin, I gained 5 pounds I never could quite shake. Then with my fifth pregnancy I gained 20 more pounds than I had gained with any of the others. And I have been working HARD to lose it all. I’ve actually lost it at this point, but am working on the 5 lbs from the 4th pregnancy. But my body feels fundamentally different. My hormones are still out of whack. My stomach has so much more fat on it than the rest of my body. Even as I am working to lose it, I am accepting that my body is just not the same anymore. If it takes this much work to lose the weight, I am not sure I want to do it. Once I lose it, will it stay off? My wrists are still swollen. I feel like my whole body is still swollen a bit. It’s weird.

    Anyways, I am glad to hear I am not the only one who has had this experience. I watch other people around me having more babies and bouncing back, and I feel like this last pregnancy was such a shock to my body that I don’t think I can do it again. These hormone problems are not merely an inconvenience – they are life-altering.

    I also experienced a pretty severe depression. This year I switched to name-brand Synthroid and it stopped. I feel more normal on the name-brand, but not completely. And, like you, I’ve learned that I have to manage my stress. I think my thyroid went berserk for two reasons: 1. Bad genes (my mom has adrenal problems, and all the women in my family have thyroid problems, although noone really knew until I sounded the warning call about mine, and all the women got checked). 2. Too much stress. I took on too much all at once and bottled all the stress up inside. My body literally attacked itself. Managing my stress is key to survival. I’m saying no to a lot of things. My health used to be my last consideration – now it is one of my first considerations. I care enough about me to take care of me.

    I am hoping that I will be more “normal” in about 5 years. Slow and steady health habits are the key, I think. Good luck to you, Kmillecam. We need to support each other and other women who struggle with these things. And warn other women, too. When newlywed women ask me for advice, I always say to manage your stress and take care of your body. They always look at me like they are sorry they asked. (Much the same way I would have looked at someone when I thought I was Superwoman). But, that really is some of my best advice.

  24. Diane says:

    I love this post.

    I have not had any babies, however, I’ve had on ongoing health crisis which necessitated me being on high doses of steroids. Steroids, as told to me by my endocrinologist, yesterday morning, are a great medication, but, they can totally mess up your metabolism and thyroid and messes with your emotional stability. I use to weigh 120 lbs, now because of the constant use of periodic steroids I’ve ballooned up to 210 lbs.

    I hate it. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and look at a picture of myself the way I use to look and I don’t even recognize myself. But, On the flip side, I don’t buy into the notion that fat people can’t be healthy. In fact, I know my numbers, BP103/78, blood sugar is 66(excellent) and because my recent bout of steroids my cholesterol is on the high side of 144.

    And yet, I know that even though my numbers are normal, people will look at me and say that I’m unacceptable. And they will look at an Olympic Athlete like Michael Phelps and say,”doesn’t he look great” have you seen what this guy eats. The cameras followed him around one day and let me tell you it wasn’t pretty, yet everyone acted like it was perfectly okay and acceptable,and I bet if the camera followed a fat person around and ate what he ate people would be outraged.

    At this point, I don’t care don’t judge me because of how I look, or what I eat, or don’t eat. How about you judge me by my actions and how I treat people. And yes, stay out of my mouth and I’ll stay out of yours

Leave a Reply