Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Coming to Terms with Your Fat

I had a conversation with my 7 year old last night. In the course of it, I told him that mommy was fat. He shrugged his shoulders and said so what. I explained to him that some people think fat people are ugly. He replied that those people were crazy and need to go back to kindergarten, it’s what is inside that counts. I bought him a puppy…okay, I didn’t buy him a puppy, we already have a St. Bernard, but I beamed inside, kissed him and told him that I thought he was a kind and wonderful little boy.
I’m a 34 year old mom of three boys, 5’5 and 200lbs. I identify as fat to my kids because I want them to see a face with the word fat and that face is going to be of the person who loves them dearly. Every time they’re directed to see fat as something awful, they’re going to see dear old mom, who as moms go, is a pretty cool person, or at least so I think.
As most women I struggle with body image issues, but more and more, I find myself accepting of my body. It’s strong, it’s healthy, it’s given me three beautiful children, it keeps a licking and keeps on ticking and I’m sometimes convinced I have Wolverine type healing powers.
I think it’s important to come to terms with my own body issues in order for my kids not to have them, but also to think twice before buying into fat shaming or a societal ideal of beauty. While they may not face the level of scrutiny of weight management that girls and women face-though the pressure is mounting for men, if many years from now they decide that girls don’t have cooties, it’s important for them to not only tolerate body diversity, but to accept and value it.
So I’ve made a list for myself to come to terms with my weight, which works more than not, hopefully some will see some wisdom in this list or be inspired to make an even better one.
1.       Find stuff you are good at.
I was in my class with my fellow students and we were discussing something which prompted some pretty nasty comments about fat girls and sexuality and apparently we have a hard time getting laid. It initially hurt my feelings, but after having my two cents and essentially putting those making fun of weight in their place, I remembered that I was one of the top students in that class. I’m damn good at school. I’m also good at writing, raising kids, doing my job, cooking, dog training, swimming and bouncing back from shitty situations.
2.       Find something physical you are good at.
This isn’t so much for exercise-though I will attest to it being a great anxiety killer, but to be connected with your body. Knowing what your body can do and working on building that skill set reminds you that there are reasons to love your body, it gives you confidence in it. Whether you go it alone, or take classes, try to find something you can do. Also, by all means, find size positive classes, trainers, teachers, role models etc.
3.       Find size positive friends.
No, the friendship doesn’t have to be focused strictly on being size positive, but don’t spend all your time with people who body hate their own or others bodies. I have friends who are great, but at least once a week the conversation turns to body hating and I tune out, walk away, find something else to do. I’m heavier than all of them and to hear them complain about how fat they are, doesn’t exactly put me in the right frame of mind for feeling confident in my body, because that kind of nonsense is as contagious as ebola. In another group of friends, we get together regularly and snack on all sorts of goodies, we rarely talk about weight loss and/or working out for the sake of getting thinner, it’s a safe place to just chill and enjoy company and something yummy.
4.       Same goes for your partner.
My previous partner always told me I was beautiful, but it was hard to believe when his head was turning at petite women and physical activity between us was minimal. My current partner says it and backs it up.  His actions towards me reinforces that he finds me very attractive physically and mentally. He never misses a moment to tell me that I’m beautiful or smart or funny or a pain in the ass. (I admit, that’s often, but it’s just me being cute).
5.       Find size positive media.
I’m not talking about finding a group of people who revere fat, and certainly not those people who fetishize it, but in terms of media, images we take in, messages we internalize. Reading Cosmo not only will kill your brain cells as fast as aspartame (get rid of that shit too, it’s really bad for you), but it doesn’t send the message that body diversity is normal. Nor is listening to female musicians who gripe about their size 2 body. My favourite musician is ripped, with what I noticed a mommy pouch we all seem to inherit after having kids. She makes no apologies for not buying into the traditional norm of what is being a woman and encourages others through her songs to look outside the box. Bonus points for swearing a lot too. But there is media out there, more and more size positive blogs, celebrities, models, clothing companies. Support them, write in, buy, tell them to keep it up, because lets be real, media affects us all, and we need to find stuff that represents us in all our glory.
6.       Find something you like about your body and play it up.
I’ll tell you one thing, I might be one of the heavier gals in my various groups, but I am the one with the best goddamned hair this side of Canada!  I can also wield these big brown eyes as well as any sweet puppy, kitten or whatever cute thing that makes your heart turn to mush and fall under my control.  It is important to like parts of your body until you love all of it. Find those parts, spoil them rotten, play them up and don’t you dare feel guilty about it.
7.       Focusing on the outward still, find the right clothes, shoes, purses.
With more and more stores catering to plus sized women, it’s getting easy to find some awesome clothes instead of wearing shapeless things or something matronly. Find the right dress, the right fit (something you feel comfortable in!), the right lingerie, the right shoes and a killer purse doesn’t hurt. Can you tell I’m a girly girl? If you’re not into that stuff, find something that makes you look good. Hell if it’s a Harley, more power to you.
8.       Back to the inside, do not tie negative baggage to your weight.
Have an ex that left you for a model? It would be pretty easy to tie that to you being too fat, instead of examining the deeper roots of your relationship breakdown, or that your ex is just a jerk. Have parents who would constantly harp on your weight? Fuck ‘em and their parenting fail. You are right here, right now. You need to find a way to let that shit go because more than cellulite and extra fat, that weighs you down. The key here is to feel good about yourself right? I’m not saying it’s easy, but find things to reinforce your awesomeness. Positive friends, doing a job well done, a good therapist, hobbies, whatever works for you, I’m not going to say yolo because that’s stupid, but we only have a limited time on this mortal coil, making a decision that you’re going to fight for yourself to be happy, is probably one of the best ones you will make.
9.       Accept compliments.
For some dumb reason women have been conditioned to downplay ourselves. If someone tells you, you did a good job on something, say thank you and internalize THAT. If someone says you look beautiful, say thank you. I can see my partner rolling his eyes at this one because I seriously need to work on that. Chances are, if enough people are saying it, it’s true, so quit second guessing. I promise, I’ll try to take me own advice on this one.
10.   Enjoy.
Think you’re too fat to go out dancing with your friends, flirting with people, having sexy time with your partner (or some random stranger if that floats your boat) or enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant or go to the gym, the park, a fall fair? WRONG! If your body can do it and you look at it objectively and think once you put away all that negative shit about your size, you’ll have a good time, then go for it. I went to a concert earlier this year wearing a cute pink dress that was sleeveless and came up just above the knee. I was with friends, at an awesome concert, having the time of my life, you better believe I was up dancing. And you know what? Nobody cared that the fat chick was dancing and singing. Everyone in that stadium was having a great time. And if anyone did care, sucks to be them wasting a great concert worrying about the fat chick dancing.
From early on in life, we are fed a very strict diet of what constitutes beauty, but with more and more people connecting via social media and the internet, we also live in an exciting time where people are challenging that. There is backlash to be sure, but it’s also empowering to read and write and hear and see fat positive people who aren’t apologetic for existing. Explore that, enjoy it, learn from it and let it bring out the strength in you.