Sunday, 5 May 2013

Day 5: Fit, healthy... and fat

Today's Blog Every Day In May topic was Fit & Healthy, which sort of ties in with a topic I've wanted to write about for a while: a follow-up to last year's post about the politics of fat

I enjoy quite a bit of thin privilege within the fat acceptance movement; wavering between a size 14 and an 18, I am able to fit into most straight-size ranges and have a whole host of fashion choices that women size 20+ don't.  However, relative thin privilige is all very well but there's no denying that, in the eyes of a society which values and promotes an extreme, size 0 version of skinny, I'm fat and, for the most part, that has been fine with me. 

I don't recall a time when I ever felt thin.  But I've worked hard to resist external messages about bodies, so I also find it hard to recall a time when not feeling or being thin has seemed like a big problem.  I have never dieted.  I have never limited my consumption of food.  I have never tried to exercise my way to thinness (which is not to say I don't exercise; I do and always have, because it feels good.  I just don't do it to lose weight). 

I've always considered my fat acceptance to be political; feminist in fact.  Have I always loved my body?  Hell no, but I've always felt that to diet, when I'm perfectly healthy, would be to fall for a lie which is, at its root, deeply misogynistic.  The lie that, if only you can attain the 'perfect body', all will be well.  The lie that encourages women to take up as little space as possible; to devote their time and energy to becoming thinner instead of, I dunno, doing something of actual value instead.  I've always maintained that if my body can do what I need it to do - if it is fit and healthy - then why deny myself?  A body can be unhealthy at any size.  Mine - with every part functioning well; with a recent full physical exam proving that I'm as healthy as can be; with its ability to work out in the gym or climb a mountain - is demonstrably healthy*. I thought I had this body positive, self-love thing down pat.

But just recently I look in the mirror at my body and I am sure it is bigger than before.  It wobbles.  It doesn't make me feel good to see it.  When I'm lying naked in bed with my boyfriend and he tells me I have a beautiful body, I can't help but give him the side-eye.  Can't he feel my belly, squashed up against his taut, muscular stomach?  How can he think that my hips, my back, my arms, with their excess flesh, are "beautiful"?

The always-wonderful Bethany at Arched Eyebrow wrote a fabulous post about fatphobia recently and included in it this great line: " it doesn’t matter how much work we do on ourselves, how high we drag ourselves up the ladder of self-love and confidence, we will always exist in this environment that hates our bodies."  When you live in a society that is constantly sending out messages about how the 'ideal' body looks, it's easy to internalise those messages without realising it.  I think I have briefly succumbed to society's fatphobia.  I need to start dragging myself back up that ladder of self-love again.

* Although I often wonder: if I was thin, would I feel the need to write that list. Would I need to 'prove' my health?

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