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Changing Hearts is Sometimes Easier than Changing the Patterns in Our Minds

October 7, 2014

Weight LossFat PoliticsFat HealthExerciseMy Boring-Ass LifeDiet Talk

I have recently been reminded that even when we “get” it, even when we are 100% on board with the struggle to undo our culture’s fat-hating tendencies, we can still easily slip into patterns that understand fat as negative and thin as positive.

Some of you may know me well enough to know that fighting sizeism is basically my main gig. I write about the fight for fat rights a lot and I’m making a movie about it, so as you can imagine my dinner table conversation is pretty saturated with all kinds of fat-positive chatter and discussion of why this or that is fat shaming.

A side effect of my dedication is that my husband has become ridiculously informed about the state of fat hate in our culture. He can explain to you why he feels we should reclaim the word “fat” and critically analyze scenes from any number of popular references that demean the fat body. He knows the names of people like Marilyn Wann, Virgie Tovar and Tess Munster. Honestly, he could and has handled spats with many a fat-hating and health-concern trolls. If you asked me if he was onboard with the work I do and the work other fat activists do, I would say, “Yes. Absolutely. 1,000%”

This is one of my cats who I didn't mention in this post but I didn't want her to be jealous that her brother's picture was in this post and hers wasn't.

This is one of my cats who I didn’t mention in this post but I didn’t want her to be jealous that her brother’s picture was in this post and hers wasn’t.

And yet, these two things happened recently, both in the same week — and after getting his permission — I want to share them with you.

First, me and my hubby were having dinner with a friend who we haven’t see in a while. The friend tells us that another friend is getting divorced. She left him. He’s sad. The conversation is filled with placations — “Oh, that’s sad.” “Yes, very sad.” “They seemed happy.” “Yes, they did.” It’s not so interesting. Then my husband says, “I saw him on Facebook recently. He looks great, healthy.”

“Really,” I reply genuinely. “That’s good. Has he been exercising or something?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” my husband says.

Admittedly, I’m a little slow, but it starts to dawn on me that something about this off-handed comment is suspect. “Why did you think he looked great and healthy?” I ask.

“He just did,” he shrugged. “In the picture he looked really thin.’

As expected, “OMG. Really?? Are you really standing here telling me that you think he’s healthy because he’s thin. You’re married to a fat activist. Really? Did it ever occur to you that his wife left him and maybe he’s depressed and not eating? Or something equally unhealthy.”

He rolled his eyes for a brief second but then quickly conceded that I was right.

This is me and the other cat, the fat, fuzzy, love potato.

This is me and the other cat, the fat, fuzzy, love potato.

A couple of day later there was another incident. But before I can explain what happened I have to tell you that I have a very sweet, big, fat cat who loves to cuddle. He sleeps on my head and pretty much follows me wherever I go. His name is Oliver — Ollie to those who love him. As I mentioned, he is a fatty. I often tell him that he takes after me. About a week after the thin/healthy incident, I’m in the kitchen; my husband is gathering his things to head off to work and I am cooing/mewing with this delicious cat of mine. The conversation went something like this:

“Meow.”

“Good morning to you to Ollie-bear.”

“Meow, meow.”

“That’s right you are my big, fat boy and I love you.”

Despite himself, my husband got offended. “Don’t do that,” he said.

“Do what?” I asked, confused.

“Call him fat.”

“He is fat. He’s a perfect fatty boy.”

Lightning flashed. “Sorry,” he said, and he was out the door and off to work. Later that evening when my husband returned home he brought up both incidents. I am paraphrasing — but basically what he said was that he was really sorry. He’d been thinking all day about the thin/healthy moment and the fat cat moment and how they proved that even when you want to shift your perspective and shake off the fat-hating lessons the culture has drilled into your brain, it is still easy to slip into the old familiar patterns.

And it is.

Clearing the mind of all the bullshit we’ve been taught to think about fat and fatness is a hefty endeavor. Like many well-intentioned spring cleanings, sometimes you get one closet done and save the other one for another day. It will happen though; one day you’ll clear out all the old roller skates and photo albums, wipe down the shelves and vacuum, and then there will just be this gorgeous empty space where you can house all the new amazing body positive stuff you’re acquiring.*

One day, you just break the pattern and the negative stuff you connect to fatness just doesn’t come up anymore. I guess the moral of this story is that change takes time. We have to be patient, and keep fighting the good fight.

*Metaphors aside, if you’re just starting your collection, I recommend Fat! So? by Marilyn Wann and if you’ve been around a while, did you read What’s Wrong With Fat? by Abgail Seguy?

Feminist Cupcake

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    October 7, 2014 10:43 am

    It’s so true that we all have lots to unlearn. Your hubby seems willing to try, and your fat fuzzy love potato is just gorgeous. When we took our fat fuzzy calico girl to the vet, he told us that, “I’d rather see them looking like this than skinny and malnourished.” I really thought I was going to get the fat cat lecture. It seems like the fat hate drumbeat is everywhere, but fortunately, not everyone listens to it!

    • October 9, 2014 11:26 am

      Last year, I brought our two cats to the vets for their annual vaccination and health check, and the vet commented that the first cat looked in a very good condition, and yes, he’s a slim cat. “You should see the other one!” I said with a giggle. When we got him out, the vet said “Yes, I see what you mean!” She just said that in multi-cat households, there will always be one who is a bit bigger/eats a bit more than the others, and she wasn’t concerned about him at all, even though I fully expected to get some kind of “your cat needs to lose weight” speech.

      • Laura permalink
        October 10, 2014 8:35 pm

        Unfortunately, our vet sees a lot of deliberately underfed (dieted?) cats. Many people in our very rural area keep cats for rodent control, and they believe, wrongly, that well fed cats don’t catch mice. Poor things have to be healthy to hunt! My very well fed bunch brings me mousy “presents,” so I know they’re earning their food!

  2. October 7, 2014 5:47 pm

    My hubby has had to sit through so many discussions (and rants) about weight stigma, size acceptance, and HAES, he can finish my sentences and provide me with names when I forget them lol. But yes, it is a battle not to get sucked back in. It’s so ubiquitous.

  3. Dizzyd permalink
    October 7, 2014 9:42 pm

    Sometimes it’s easy to get sucked in to the negativity. I still battle it from time to time. The trick, I think, is to not let it stick.

  4. Dizzyd permalink
    October 7, 2014 9:43 pm

    Cute kitties, BTW!

  5. Stacy permalink
    October 8, 2014 2:17 am

    My husband and I have been together for 6 years. The whole time I’ve been a Fat Acceptance advocate. He’s been around me enough, and have had enough conversations with me over the past six years, to know the way I believe and I really thought he believed the same. At least, in our conversations, it sounds like he believes the same. But, as with the incidences with your husband, old ways of thinking creep in.

    Two incidences recently really make me wonder though, if he has really understood what Fat Acceptance is, or if he really believes the way I do. The first happened when we were driving through a parking lot, passing a gym. We saw a woman in spandex pass in front of our car and started walking toward the gym. After seeing where she was headed he said “Why is she going there? She’s already thin”. …That floored me. And I was like “ummm.. What? Why would you assume that just because she’s thin she doesn’t want to work out?” That makes the assumption that A) Thin = physically fit and/or B) that people only work out to get thin. Both assumptions are idiotic and it just made me sad he made that comment. BUT not as sad as a more recent comment he made:

    He got home from work and as soon as he walked in the door he said “You’ll never guess what I just saw”. I smiled and was ready to hear one of his amusing stories. But what came out of his mouth was far from amusing, it was disgusting and infuriating. He said “I just saw a fat guy walking down the road. He was So Fat! He was HUGE!” …I just stared at him blankly. He then said, “You wouldn’t believe it. He had these …like …bags, of fat, hanging off his legs”. ….I never wanted to slap my husband before or since, but I had to clench my fist and my teeth to keep from doing and saying something I’d regret. All I could do was leave the room, I was so upset I knew I wouldn’t be able to articulate why what he said was so wrong. I could only think of “What the hell? Who was that …because that obviously was NOT the man I’ve been with for the past six years”.

    My husband is thin. And despite years of Fat Acceptance being a part of his life *because it’s a huge part of my life*, I’m still not sure he “gets it”. Nor do I know how to help him to “get it” if he hasn’t already. It more hopeful after reading this post though. Hopefully that maybe, just maybe, he DOES get it and just has moments when he slips into old ways of thinking. *sigh*

  6. October 8, 2014 9:07 am

    > maybe he’s depressed and not eating? Or something equally unhealthy.

    Maybe you shouldn’t speculate about somebody’s health based on a picture, positive OR negative.

  7. October 9, 2014 10:23 am

    I can remember one day noticing that the “pattern” had been broken and I just didn’t automatically associate negative things with fatness. It was a liberating moment for sure.

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