I was wandering around blog land today, catching up on things, and followed a link from Bitch. Ph.D, to a fantastic rant on Nyarlathotep's Miscellany about a recent Salon article about the plus-sized teen store Torrid:
You know what it took for me to start exercising? Let me tell you: a burning desire to have a functioning heart, and -- this is important -- complete acceptance of my fat body just as it is. Because it's hard to work out if your motivation is self-hate -- what you're consigning yourself to then is thirty minutes a day of concentrated, undistracted self-hatred (along with sweating, puffing, and sore muscles) that could be easily avoided by eating a chocolate bar and reading an absorbing novel.
I had read the Salon article a couple of days ago and was prepared to hate it based on the headline and the little promo blurb, but the article itself was good and pretty much agreed with what I think, which is that feeling miserable and humiliated about being fat is not a good way to motivate young women towards health and well-being.
Which kind of seems obvious to me, but when it comes to fat, most people's minds appear to undergo a stunning breakdown into rabidity. If it wasn't usually so scary and so hurtful it would be fascinating to observe.
Looking back at photos of myself as a teen, I feel like Alice falling through the Looking Glass; surely that's not ME? I had a mental image of such a huge and disgusting body in those days. I'm going to post a photo of myself at the age of 16 so you can join me in my reality check. I'm the one in the middle.
Now, what's obvious enough is that I have TITS. In the 70s, you weren't supposed to have tits. But that dress, which I remember with great fondness, was a size 10. I'm 5 foot 10. What was wrong with my brain, that I couldn't see what's perfectly obvious to me now at the age of 46, that I was well... actually really beautiful? Sorry for being a vain bitch, but there ya go. I was a knockout at 16. Too bad I had no clue on this earth.
So, what did having a nightmare case of self-hatred do for me as a teen? Gave me a life-threatening case of bulimia. And every year of my life, I got heavier and heavier, instead of the opposite. Yeah, that shame thing, that hard-to-buy-clothes thing, all that guilt and self-disgust, worked really well, didn't it?
Going back to Nyarly's rant:
Anyway, thank heavens for Torrid, which has the cutest shoes on earth and a wonderful wardrobe of totally work-inappropriate attire, and for Lane Bryant, and Junonia, and every other place that's made being a fat girl something a little more like a regular life and a little less like a purgatory populated entirely with wind pants, mumuus, and sackcloth. And as for people who wring their hands over the whole penomenon, may they spend an afternoon in a mall where nothing fits them and see what shame motivates them to do. Ten dollars says you won't find them on a Stairmaster.
I happily admit I didn't spend the last 20+ years of my life trying to lose weight or agonizing over it. I did my best to drain the abscess of self-loathing and just live my life. And as I've recounted elsewhere, I finally decided that I did want to lose weight, and since that day in May of 2003, I've lost 120 pounds. But the real point about life is not to meet some standard of a "healthy weight," but to BE healthy, emotionally, physically, and mentally, to find a way of eating and moving that feels healthy to you at whatever weight you are. And it would be best if we didn't have to spend two decades clawing through a legacy of self-loathing and shame before we could get on with all that.
Oh, and I want to go on record here that we should get to wear cute clothes while we do.