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My Fat is Not Camouflage, It’s Who I Am and That’s Awesome.

January 14, 2014

Weight LossFat PoliticsFat HealthExerciseMy Boring-Ass LifeDiet Talk

Please help us welcome our newest blogging candidate, Lindsey (aka Feminist Cupcake), who will be submitting three posts before our community votes on her inclusion. If you’d like to join our blogging team, check out this page.

Trigger warning: Discussion of adolescent dieting and weight loss.

There is a picture of me. I’m six. I have on acid washed jeans and a purple sweatshirt with ruffles at the shoulder. Very 80s. I’m hanging from the middle of a tire swing, legs dangling below. My sweatshirt is caught on the rubber insides of the tire and my little girl belly, round like a beach ball, pokes out, exposed for the world to see. In this picture, I’m already fat; only, in those days the people who loved me said I was “a little chubby.” They chalked this “chubbiness” up to some made-up failure to grow into my pudge — baby fat. I’m telling you this because I can’t remember not having this “chubby.” I have always been fat.

I saw my first diet guru and began to count calories before entering puberty. I was the heaviest girl in my high school class and had not-so-endearing nicknames like “wonder blob,” a moniker that came complete with a jingle modeled after a Wonder Bread commercial. The catcall hollered my way was “heifer,” and at least one doctor has assumed that my fat body could IMG_1642be understood as proof that I must of been sexually abused as a child (thankfully, I wasn’t). Fat is/was my identity, but in those days I frantically denied it.

My fat body was easy to deny because I lived in a world where no one else was fat, but everyone complained that they were — particularly the women. In the introduction to The Fat Studies Reader, fat activist Marylin Wann explains that in a “fat-hating society everyone is fat. Fat functions as a floating signifier, attaching to individuals based on power relationship, not a physical measurement.” Therefore, “people all along the weight spectrum may experience fat oppression.”

Because of this “floating” perception of fatness, it didn’t matter if you were looking at the real people in the world around me. Whether my mother, grandmother, aunts and friends, or the women in the television shows I watched, ALL the women called themselves fat, felt fat, repelled fatness, and feared getting “fatter.” Fat was the enemy. We were all fat. Only I was fatter.

Because my cultural influences told me that “fat” was something that made you unfeminine, unwanted, unsexy and ultimately unsuccessful, I was sure that my fat was a phase. All I needed was that one moment of willpower, to truly dedicate myself to diet and exercise, and it would all change. At 17, propelled by sheer terror, I lost “the weight” for the third time. Yes, there were two previous cycles of starve and shrink (ask any fat girl; weight loss is a reoccurring phenomenon).

On this particular occasion, I starved myself down to a size 8, a coveted single-digit size. In celebration of my thinner body, my mother took me to Barney’s Department Store on Madison Avenue and bought me a white leather skirt suit. I remember standing in the dressing room looking in the mirror and thinking “There I am — the real me, the thin me.” (Please note: I was back to being fat again in less than a year.)

I’m telling you all of this because I want you to understand that I was completely disconnected with the reality of my body. In those days, it didn’t even occur to me that I REALLY was a fat girl. Instead, I pictured myself thin — a model of “feminine” perfection, gaunt and gorgeous, imprisoned in fat flesh. This self-perception and complete disregard or denial of my fat body is not even a little unusual. Lesley Kinzel, fat activist, blogger and author of Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body, notes that the thin-girl-trapped-in-a-fat-body-syndrome is a “popular lie.”

Speaking of her own struggles with accepting her fat body, Kinzel wrote, “My weight was but a casing for my real inner self, which was thin. One day I would cast off my fatness like an overcoat and become my true thin body… my size was purely temporary, an accident.” For me, for Kinzel, and for many others, a fat body was not understood as a home, self or source of empowerment; rather, it was perceived as an obstacle, which hindered us fat girls from achieving acceptance.

If I could talk to my younger self, I’d call her out on her bullshit. Today, I know I’m a Fat Girl. I’m a big, beautiful, smart woman, who has been loved and is loved. My fat body is powerful, feminine, healthy, athletic, sexy, fashionable, silly, and thriving. Everything the world told me about fat wasn’t true. My flesh is not a trap or anything to be suffered. My fat body is my home, my self and my source of empowerment. I will never deny it again. Instead, I fight everyday to help other fat people know that they have every right to be respected, accepted and loved.

I am Lindsey Averill, and it was a long journey, but I stand before you today, proud to be a Fierce Freethinking Fatty!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Leila Haddad permalink
    January 14, 2014 11:09 am

    wow! I loved this piece!

  2. vesta44 permalink
    January 14, 2014 11:32 am

    Loved this! Great post, looking forward to hearing more from you 🙂

  3. Duckie permalink
    January 14, 2014 11:50 am

    Really good writing. Empowering and inspiring! Looking forward to more from the Feminist Cupcake!

  4. Pyctsi permalink
    January 14, 2014 11:52 am

    I’m lucky that I never experienced this, I never saw myself as a thin girl hidden by the fat, which is possibly why when I tried dieting and it failed I didn’t beat my self up emotionally for it and why I was well on the way to size acceptance and HAES long before I knew about either.

    Given the shitty time I had with my weight and the way other people treated me, my heart goes out to anyone who was more vulnerable and more inclined to internalise the messages.

  5. January 14, 2014 12:13 pm

    I still struggle with disordered eating and shame, but I am uplifted by this piece. I related to your story on so many levels. Thank you for sharing.

  6. January 14, 2014 12:16 pm

    Dude, I still keep my acid wash jeans in a temperature controlled glass shrine with my army boots. Fist bump.
    Also, loved this!;)

  7. GLWERTH permalink
    January 14, 2014 5:46 pm

    Love this post!

  8. January 16, 2014 4:30 pm

    Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    Thanks to fat hate, I became bulimic when I was twelve years old. I wasn’t fat, but I desperately feared becoming fat. It wasn’t because I hated people who actually were fat, I was terrified of being treated the way they were treated. My great grandmother had been fat: five feet tall and 300 pounds. My mother always brought up this fact as if it was a horribly shameful thing.
    As I grew older I fought my body every step of the way. I yo-yo dieted, and when each diet eventually failed, I berated myself, sometimes falling back into bulimia. I hated myself. I hated what I saw in the mirror.
    When I finally discovered size acceptance, it did not magically make me love my body. I still don’t love my body. I still wish I could wave a magic wand and become a Socially Acceptable Size (TM). But now when I start calling myself things like “fat pig” and blaming my body type on my perceived failures, I put a stop to it. It doesn’t help, in fact, it makes things worse.
    The best thing that schools could do is to have a Health at Every Size approach in physical fitness and health classes, rather than the old weight loss as a measure of health approach. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

    • Feminist Cupcake permalink
      January 16, 2014 5:14 pm

      I totally think we need to teach people about “HAES” in school too.

  9. January 16, 2014 7:32 pm

    Powerful words, and a story I relate to. Thank you for sharing this. I’m excited to read more from you.

  10. January 20, 2014 5:38 pm

    Your piece resonated with me, albeit in a…different way.
    I struggled with self-esteem after I gained weight in my late teens. Really, the only reason I was so thin in the first place is because I was (still am) on medication that acts as a stimulant. After another medication balanced that out, I changed a lot.
    It wasn’t until this year that I’m realizing that the goal shouldn’t be to “get my old body back” as if somehow I’d managed to lose it. No, it’s still here, just a bit different, no less deserving of love, respect, food and movement. For me, the goal is to be happy and healthy, period.
    Like you, my body had become my identity. Before academic achievements, personality or anything else. I was complimented on how I looked more than what I did. I’m not missing that one bit.

    Not long ago I found an old picture of mini-me…and for the first time, I didn’t look at it with longing. I recoiled at crazy outfit I thought was so cool, and that was that.
    I’m still working on re-establishing a good relationship with my body. We’ve come a long way.
    People change and their bodies are no different. Instead of fighting it, we need to accept and perhaps even embrace it. The constants need to be self-love and respect, not the number on pants.

  11. fab@57 permalink
    January 31, 2014 7:34 pm

    Loved the piece! Thanks for sharing, Lindsey!

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