Invasion of the Fat Police

I remember reading about this just recently, before Coffee Catholic was removed from the Fat Liberation feed.  I remember thinking at the time: it’s only a matter of time before we see them here! A) Because that’s how these things work: they start it in one area and then expand it everywhere else.  And B) because the NorthEast – where I live – is infamous for being the fattest area in England (note I said England; that’s different from saying Britain as a whole.  As a whole, Scotland is infamous for being the fattest in Britain).

The time?  Has come.

I was in the town centre today, doing my shopping.  I had to walk from one far end of the town centre to the other, and there they were, smack dab in the middle.  Big ole trailer, with huge signs saying:

WHAT’S YOUR LABEL???

Luckily for them, they didn’t approach me. (I say luckily for THEM, because if they had?  They’d be shitting out of two holes by the time I got done with them.  I’m SO not in the mood for this kind of shit today, and I’m filled with enough righteous indignation AND information to back me up that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were tears.)

But how bloody obvious?  What’s your label? Yep, that’s right, because EVERYBODY has to have a fucking label, right?  Oh no, can’t have people walking around without them!  They might think they’re…. *gasp!*… normal!!!!  Labels for this, labels for that… we’re all made to feel like we’ve got to fit perfectly into these tiny holes that the great mysterious “they” have set forth for us.  And if we don’t?  We’re WRONG.  We have to be FIXED.  CORRECTED.

It just pisses me right the fuck off.  We’re bombarded with images and information every fucking day of our lives telling us that WE’RE the abberation.  WE are what’s wrong in the world.

Wars, disease, terrorists, poverty, famine, child molesters, murderers… and WE’RE what’s wrong with the world?  All because we take up just a little bit more space than what “they” think we ought to?

Yeah.  Slapping a label on it is SO going to fix it.

Weight Loss, Denial, and Body Image

(This is an edited version of a post I put on my personal blog last week.  So some of you have already seen this.  So my apologies to those that have already seen this, but I DID warn you it was going to be showing up here!!!  🙂  )

I’ve lost weight.

I don’t know how much exactly – I haven’t weighed myself in almost a year.  I DO know that I’ve gone from a UK size 20 (US 16) to an 18 (US 14) {according to the size conversion charts on the Evans website}.  To put this into perspective for you: I haven’t been a US size 14 since I WAS 14.  I’m 32 now.

I honestly don’t know how this happened.  Not much has changed, other than the fact that the kids were home for their 6 week summer vacation, and now they’re back at school.  I haven’t drastically changed my eating habits or my activity levels.  I haven’t gone off or on medications.  My stress level is high, but to be perfectly honest, it’s ALWAYS high.  (I just don’t always TALK about it.)

And the fact is, I’ve been denying the weight loss for a while now.  People keep asking me if I’ve lost weight, and I keep deflecting the issue, saying things like “oh, you’re just not used to seeing me in clothes that actually fit, as opposed to clothes that are 4-6 sizes too big.”  Not just to deflect the issue (although since I’m finally facing the honesty in this situation, that IS part of it), but because it’s true.  In the last year (less than, actually), I have almost completely changed the way I dress.  For years – since I was a teenager – I purposely wore clothes that were too big for me.  I thought that by hiding my body, I was somehow making it more acceptable.  Like if they couldn’t see my body, they wouldn’t know just how fat I really was, and that was better than actually letting people see me.  But now I actually DO wear clothes that fit.

But the realization that I’ve lost weight hasn’t come from people commenting on it, or the sizes of the clothes I’ve been buying.  It’s come from wearing clothes that I’ve had for years — and suddenly they don’t fit like before.  My favorite jeans have suddenly become baggy.  My embellished cargo pants have suddenly become loose enough that while they’re not falling down or anything, I can pull them off without undoing the button or zipper.  My favorite sweater in the whole world has become so big on me that it’s annoying rather than comforting.  I “had” to go buy myself something else while I was in town last week because it was bothering me that badly.  (On that note, does anybody have any idea if I could alter the sweater?  Like, take it in?  I’d much rather do that – even if I had to pay the alterations place in town to do it properly – than get rid of it.  I seriously love this sweater to death.)

I’ve finally had to face up to the fact that I’ve lost weight.

But now that I have, I realized something.  I didn’t want to have lost weight.  I kept denying it because I didn’t want it to be true.

Yeah, um… let me repeat that: I kept denying that I lost weight because I didn’t want it to be true.

Now HOW fucked up is THAT???

But now that I’ve admitted that to myself, I had to examine why.  Why the hell would I NOT want to lose weight?  I mean, isn’t that what I’m SUPPOSED to want?  Even the most die-hard FA’ers would admit that while they strive for fat acceptance, they’d be lying if they said they didn’t WANT to be thin. Or thinnER.  It’s pounded into our heads on a daily basis, and even if you agree with all the tenents of Fat Acceptance (and I DO), it’s almost impossible to live your life completely unaffected by societal views on body image.  You’d have to live your life in some sort of bubble, and I sure as hell haven’t been.

The one thing I worried about was gaining weight.  In my head, I know that gaining weight wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to me.  But it’s that irrational fear of taking over the whole world that a lot of us can relate to. It was only after seriously reflecting on my weight fluctuations in my adult years that I realized that it probably wouldn’t even happen.  Even with weight fluctuations, my body keeps going back to the same-ish weight.  200 lbs, give or take a few.  My weight has gone up to 230 and down to 190 (barring pregnancy weights, of which the highest was somewhere around the 270+ mark, but the majority of that was water retention from pre-eclampsia), but I always seem to go back to 200 without any real effort on my own part.  (And the weight gains, up to 230?  Have almost always been right after having a baby.  Once the baby is walking age, I always seem to go back down to 200 without doing anything.  Correlation?  Methinks so.)  I never even gave any real thought to losing weight.  I’ve never been able to lose a significant amount of weight (more than 20 lbs.) without a superhuman effort or living through an abusive relationship.  So that?  Didn’t even enter into it, as far as I was concerned.

But here I am, I’ve lost weight, and I’ve had to admit to myself that I didn’t want it to be true.

Am I afraid of weight-related craziness?  Am I afraid that, now that I’ve lost some weight, I’m going to become obsessed again?  Start dieting again, because after all, I’ve just lost weight without doing anything… just imagine how much weight I could lose if I actually tried?! (/sarcasm)

Or am I afraid of how I’m going to feel if I gain weight again?  Am I going to slip back down the oh-so-slippery slope to self-loathing again?

If I’m perfectly honest, that’s one road I really don’t want to go down again.  I am feeling good about myself for the first time in my life, and it is not because person X told me I should be, it’s because I’ve started to realize for myself that I am not the worthless, ugly freak I thought I was.  I certainly don’t think I’m all that and a bag of chips, but I realize that I just might be okay the way I am, after all.  That maybe – just maybe – the way the world sees me just might not be as important as I always thought it was.  That maybe my husband (and most, if not all, of the boyfriends/friends/family that preceded him) was (were) telling the truth when he (they) said that he (they) thought that I was beautiful and desirable and funny and and and.  To go back to hating myself?  Well, I’d rather be dead.  Seriously.

Maybe it was a combination.  I don’t know.  I just know that I honestly did not want to admit that I had lost weight.  And while I’m sure there’s a big huge revelation in there somewhere, I’m not sure exactly where it is.

Other people’s reactions to my weight loss have been… uncomfortable would be the best way to put it.  “You’re doing great!”  Um… I’m not DOING anything differently now than I was a year ago.  The big changes I’ve made in my life have been internal changes – changing my thinking, changing the way I react to certain situations.  Nothing physical.

My SIL Kirsty (who, for the record, is only 12) automatically assumed that I’d made some big diet changes.  Um… not exactly.  “You’re just like my mom,” she said to me yesterday.  “She used to drink coffee all day long, and now she only drinks one or two cups.”  I went on to explain to her that I haven’t done ANYTHING differently in the last year.  I eat the same way I always have, the only change has been how I approach food.  Food is no longer my enemy.  It is not something to be fought; it is there to fuel my body.  I eat what my body wants when my body wants it.  (To an extent; we live on a limited income and sometimes what I REALLY want, we don’t have.  So I pick what I want out of what we’ve GOT.)  I place no restrictions on food.  Food is food, period.  It’s not good or bad, it just IS.

(Having the in-laws over yesterday was a great opportunity to preach some HAES, I must say!  It was quite cool, actually.)

And seeing my reflection has become strange.  Obviously the weight didn’t fall off overnight, but I honestly didn’t notice it until the last couple of weeks.  And suddenly I can see the change in myself and it’s just… weird.  I look at myself and it doesn’t even look like ME.

Hubby thinks it’s just me letting go of most of the negativity in my life.  And he may well have a point; I honestly just don’t know.

I just don’t know what to think about all this.  Not so much the weight loss itself (although, on that note, do y’all think it’s possible for fat to re-distrubute itself this late in my life?  Because that would make so much more sense than me spontaneously losing weight), but my reactions to it.

Morning Television: Part One

I started out with the idea of blogging about one particular thing, but when I went looking for clips of that one thing, I found something else that I hadn’t seen.  So this will be a two-part post.

Part One: Georgia Davis

From the video description: Georgia Davis weighs 33 stone [462 lbs] and is only 15.  She talks to Kate about her weight battle.  (Disclaimer: I’m not sure if everyone will be able to access the video.  I know some television websites will only allow IPs from the same country access the videos on their site, and I just don’t know whether GMTV is one of them.  So my apologies if that ends up being the case here.)

GMTV is on ITV from around 6 or so until just before 9 a.m. out here in the UK.  It’s the British equivalent of a Good Morning America, basically.  I don’t normally watch it.  For one thing, I’m too busy in the mornings to watch tv at all, but if it’s on, the kids have their cartoons and whatnot on.  So I didn’t actually see this until I went to the website looking for something else.  As soon as I saw the title, though, I knew I had to watch it.

What I saw filled me with so many mixed emotions I can’t even count them all.

First of all, it opens up with the female presenter talking about a “normal” person’s breakfast.  And then it pans to a spread of food.  6 sandwiches, 4 donuts, at least a dozen chocolate digestives, a slice of chocolate cake, a bowl of what looks like tortilla chips, and finally, a bowl of what looks like bran flakes.  The female presenter then goes on to inform you that all of this is what Miss Davis has for breakfast.

Setting the issue of Binge Eating Disorder aside for just a moment, what is the point of showing it all spread out like that?  Asking Miss Davis on camera what she normally has for breakfast would have sufficed.  The only reason I can think of that they would do it this way is to humiliate Miss Davis.  Not only is she coming on camera to talk about what is probably the foremost issue in her life at the moment, but hey, let’s humiliate her a little bit more, right?  She’s a fatty fatty two by four – she couldn’t possibly have any feelings, now could she?

Once the camera finally pans away from the food spread, the presenter continues introducing Miss Davis, saying “she admits that she uses food like a drug.”

Okay, that line bothers me.  I forget where I read this, but I admit it doesn’t come from me, originally: FOOD IS NOT A DRUG.  Equating food with drugs is like saying that food is something you need to completely cut out of your life because it’s doing you nothing but harm.

Take a closer look at those words.  Completely cut out, and it’s doing you nothing but harm.  What happens when you actually believe that food has no positive value whatsoever and you have to completely cut it out of your life?

Anyone?

Anyone?

Bueller?

You DIE, that’s what happens.

Now I’m not trying to say that nobody, nowhere, has an unhealthy relationship with food.  I’m not making a judgement on eating disorders or disordered eating at all.  It’s the language that bothers me.  To quote George Carlin: the quality of our thoughts are only as good as the quality of our language.  That’s why that line bothers me.  Not because of someone who already has an eating disorder, but for those who might be easily swayed by someone else’s language.  Like teenagers, for instance.  How many teenagers do you think would watch a video clip like this and automatically think to themselves “Must. Stop Eating. NOW.??  I honestly think the numbers would be frightening.

Then it goes on to show some photos with Miss Davis explaining what they are and how she got to this point.  She says that her father died when she was 5, and ever since then, she used food to fill the void that left her with.

I’m not going to knock the “using food” part.  Comfort eating exists, and for some people it is a problem.  That is a fact, for some people, regardless of their weight.  But what struck me was the photo of herself with her father.

She was already fat!!!!

This girl didn’t just eat herself into oblivion, she was already well on her way to being fat.  And from what I saw in that photo?  Unless they were force-feeding her pounds of lard, there’s something seriously medically wrong.  Thyroid tests, anyone?  ANY-FUCKING-ONE???

But oh no, this is all HER fault, right?  Her life went down the shithole at five years old, and it’s all her own fault that she’s fat now.  It couldn’t possibly be something that is totally beyond her control, simply exacerbated by an eating disorder?  Could it?

But they never even talk about that part.  The way they talk about this, it’s as if she was thin as a rail until she started doing this to herself.  To be fair, they never used the words “doing this to herself,” but that’s the meaning behind the language they DO use.  But they never even bring up the fact that in some of these photos, she’s obviously younger than 5 years old, and yet she’s already fat.  They never talk about her medical history whatsoever, other than the fact that her doctor told her she had to lose at least 20 stone (140 lbs.).

Oh, and another thing: her father?  Fat.

She goes on to talk in a pre-recorded segment about her eating patterns, and another woman appears on camera – they never explicitly say who she is, but I would guess that it’s her grandmother.  She talks about how they used to go on walks together but they can’t anymore, as Miss Davis can only walk a few feet before she’s out of breath.  But guess what: Grandma?  Is fat, too!

Then they show Miss Davis in front of her school, and she tells the camera that she was BANNED from the canteen at school because she was “eating the wrong things.”  I can just see the conversation now.

Head Teacher: Mrs. Davis, your daughter is too fat for our liking, and we’ve noticed she eats the “wrong” things, so we’ve decided she’s not allowed to eat at school at all.

Now, assuming that this is all 100% accurate and not this young girl’s self-hate blowing her eating habits all out of proportion (because that does happen), is going all the way to the other extreme really the way to go here?  Is this really the solution?  To completely deprive her of ALL food at school?

Then they finally go back to the studio, and they give you your first good glimpse of the girl and her mother.  And hey – wouldn’t you know it?  Mom’s fat, too!

So, let’s see…. Dad was fat… Grandma is fat… Mom’s fat… and yet we are still told that Miss Davis has done this all to herself?  We’re still meant to believe that her “misuse” of food is the ONLY reason she’s gotten to this point?  Seriously?

Am I the only person with eyes?  Are my glasses REALLY that good?

Oh but then it gets really good.  Now it’s the mother’s fault!  “Why didn’t you do anything to stop it?” the presenter asks her.

The mother goes on to explain that after her husband died, they were on a limited income, so their food choices were limited to bread and potatoes and the like.

So EVERY PERSON who eats bread and potatoes gets to be 460+ pounds?  Really?  Wow.  I guess the whole world is hallucinating my underweight husband whose favorite foods happen to be bread and potatoes.

“Was there a point where you said ‘okay, she’s TOO overweight now,’ and tried to make some changes in her diet?”

Like any mother who watches her child gain THIS much weight would just sit back and do nothing.  I mean seriously, folks, regardless of the outcome of the situation, it’s safe to assume that the mother did try.  But, contrary to popular brainwashing, weight is NOT a simple calories in/calories out equation.  If I were the one asking the questions?  It would be something along the lines of:

What did you do when you realized how far this was going?  And what was the outcome of that?

Apparently the girl is traveling to the U.S. to enroll in some sort of fat camp-cum-boarding school.  In theory, this sounds great.  She’ll be able to keep up with her schoolwork, she’ll get counseling (and if the death of her father seriously brought on B.E.D?  Counseling can’t be anything BUT a good thing), and she’ll learn about “healthy” eating and exercise.

I just wonder what it’s going to be like in reality.  I’ve seen some American “fat camps” on television, and they’re far from ideal.  The kids end up coming out of there worse off psychologically than they were when they went in.  They are beaten down in an effort to “help” them.  You know the kind of thing I’m talking about – telling these kids that their entire lives are already ruined simply because they happen to be fat.  That excess adipose tissue is the worst thing that could ever happen to them.  That they are worthless, unworthy of anything or anyone simply because of the number on the scale.

I really hope that doesn’t happen to her.

Here is a girl who needs medical attention – because she couldn’t have gotten that fat at 3, 4, and 5 years of age without there being something medically wrong as well.  But all anybody has said is that it is her own fault for “using food as a drug” and her mother’s fault for “not stopping it.”  Nobody nowhere has even brought up the possibility of there being a medical issue ON TOP OF her probable Binge Eating Disorder.

Oh yeah, but shaming fatties into thinness has had SUCH a positive effect so far, hasn’t it?

What *I* want for Fat Acceptance.

Quite a few blog posts have had me thinking about this.  One of which I have to admit, I sparked And because we’re not a monolithic group, because we’re made up of many different people from many different walks of life who have many different personal goals regarding FA, I decided I needed to be completely clear about my wishes for FA.  These are my opinions only and do no reflect on FA as a whole.  Please do not read this as me speaking for the whole group.  This is just me, one person in that group, saying what I want to happen.

I want Fat Persons to be given the basic human rights they deserve. No one should have to worry about discrimination or harassment.  No one should have to be fed fatphobia in such quantities that it makes their lives miserable.  The bullying, emotional torture, and harassment needs to stop.

I want this for every fat person alive. Able-bodied and not.  Black, white, and every color and shade of color in between.  Neurologically normal or not.  Whether you exercise every day or prefer to spend your days reading (as an example).  Whether you eat a “good, balanced” diet or you eat junk food.  Whether or not you have an ED of any kind.  There is no reason on earth that you should be subjected to having your basic human rights taken away from you just because you happen to be fat.

I want to dispel the misconceptions and unfair stereotypes of fat people. That doesn’t mean that if you are lazy and do over eat that you don’t have a place in “my” movement.  Not at all.  But just because _______ fat person overeats and doesn’t exercise doesn’t mean it’s true for all fat people.  But those of you that do overeat? Don’t exercise? Are lazy?  You all deserve respect, too.

I want the world to wake up to the realization that thin =/= healthy and fat =/= unhealthy. Being fat in and of itself does not make one unhealthy.  There is a wide spectrum of fat and health, just as there is with thin and health.  But being healthy is not a moral obligation.  Whether you are fat and healthy or fat and unhealthy, it is no reason for you not to be treated like a human being.  It simply does not matter.

I also want the world to wake up to the realization that diets do not work. Even when you don’t call them “diets.”  Telling me to call Jenny Craig is not going to magically make me thin.  Assuming I eat like a glutton all day and telling me “just try eating less, fatty” isn’t going to work either.  There is absolutely nothing on this earth that is guaranteed to work in making a fat person permanently thin.  The key word here is permanently.  Sure, some diets work in the short-term.  I personally have known quite a few people that went from VERY fat to thin on a diet – I’ll use my Aunt D’s best friend K as an example.  Guess where her body size is now?  Yep, you guessed it – even fatter than before.  I honestly believe, had this woman never dieted in the first place, she’d probably be fat, but she’d probably be around the size I am now (which I admit is on the smaller end of the fat scale).  As it is now, the last time I saw her she was somewhere near the vicinity of 500 lbs.  I truly believe all the dieting she’s done is what has brought her to this point.  I’ve known her all of my life and have seen her go up and down and up and down.  Diets don’t work.  And she’s a great example of that.

Saying that I want all fat people to be accepted as human beings is not the same thing as saying I want the rest of the world to find us all attractive. You don’t have to be attracted to me, or any other fat person.  A person’s level of attractiveness should not factor in to whether or not you treat them with basic dignity and respect.  You don’t have to like me to be respectful to me.  Shit, I can’t stand my mother-in-law, and yet I still treat her with respect and courtesy.  Why?  Because she’s a person.  I don’t have to like her to be polite to her.

However, beauty and attractiveness are two different things. You can find the beauty in a person without wanting to jump their bones.  It might not even be physical beauty.  And you know what?  That’s okay!  It’s okay to say that you can find a person beautiful for one reason or another and not find them attractive.  It’s a good thing, even.

I want the world’s governments to stop trying to “regulate” our bodies. People are designed to come in all shapes and sizes.  And if you bureaucratic anal-retentives would get your collective cranium removed from your collective colon, you’d realize that what you’re being spoon-fed by the mainstream media is being dispelled left and right.  It’s just not being advertised as much as the bullshit you’re swallowing.  Obesity is not a disease, and there is no epidemic.  You can’t catch it, and you can’t “cure” it.  It doesn’t need to be cured.  All the regulations you could come up with are not going to get you the results you want.  It’s just not going to happen.

I want BMI thrown out with the bath water. BMI is an antiquated, arbitrary, ridiculous standard to which no one should be accountable.  It simply doesn’t measure anything except for height and weight.  Human bodies are much more complicated than that.

That’s all I can think of right now.  This is, by no means, a complete list.  This is just what I’ve come up with in one sitting.  I may decide to edit this later on, I don’t know.

Mother, you’re breaking your Daughter’s heart.

nuff said.

'nuff said.

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to write this.  I knew I wanted to write about it, from the moment I had this conversation with her, but I just didn’t know how to approach it.  I’ve decided to make it an open letter to my mother.

Mother,

My heart is breaking for you.  This year has been terrible – first the thing with Baby Sister and Nephew, and then Stepfather died in the Spring.   I’ve been amazed at how strong you sound every time we talk on the phone.  I wouldn’t blame you if you just broke down, but you just keep going, no matter how hard things get for you.  You truly are an inspiration.

But then you talk about having lap-band surgery.  And my heart breaks even more.

You say that you “need” it.  That your health is just “so terrible,” and it’s the only thing that’s going to save you.

But Mommy, you’re going to do yourself more harm than good.

You say that it’s going to cure your diabetes, high blood pressure, and back problems.  All of which you know are inherited.  Grandmother had every single one of those problems, and Grandfather has at least two of them that I remember.  You say Grandmother was once as big as you are now – and honestly, I haven’t seen you in 5 years, so I don’t know how much you’ve gained – and you use that as an excuse to prove to me that you have to have this surgery.

But Grandmother wasn’t always very heavy.  I remember her being roughly the size I am now.  And I know that when she died, she was pretty small.  Just because she was heavy at one time in her life does not mean that one time caused all those health problems.

Having the doctor close off part of your stomach is not going to do you any good.  You’re going to become malnourished.  Sure, your diabetes might get better.  Because you’ll be starving yourself. Your body needs more than just a few ounces of food a day.  And it would even if you were thin.

I know it’s hard to fight the fatphobia that you see every day.  Even people who are well meaning are a lot of the times, unknowing fatphobes.  It’s institutionalized and it’s almost impossible to get away from.  I understand that, I really do.

But I hate to see you taking all of that fat hatred in and turning it on yourself.  Don’t you get enough hatred pointed your way from others?  Do you really have to hate yourself, too?

Part of my reaction is our relationship.  Since finding each other again six years ago, we have developed the kind of relatioship I only thought we could have in my dreams.  I have been able to turn to you when things got bad, and you supported and encouraged me.  I never thought I’d have that.

Part of it is my own rising self-esteem.  I can hear the self-loathing in your voice even when you don’t outwardly express it – because I’ve been there.  And I know how good it feels now to be able to say I like myself just the way I am.  I want you to know that feeling, too.

And part of it is that I’ve learned so much in the last few months, and hearing that you’re seriously contemplating surgery – to fix one thing that’s not broken, and to fix others that it simply won’t work for – seriously terrifies me.  You just don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.  And while I know that there are serious statistics – X amount of people have serious health problems, X amount of people actually die as a result of the surgery, X amount of people will actually end up gaining all their weight back – I never thought to save the URLs of the blog posts/studies/news articles I read, so I can’t “prove” it to you.  I know what I know, but without that “proof” I know you’ll just dismiss me as being a worried daughter.

And I am a worried daughter, no question.  But I also know that what you’re contemplating doing is going to be so much worse for your health than doing nothing at all.

And it makes me want to cry.

Some wishes DO come true!

Somewhere, over the rainbow....

Somewhere, over the rainbow....

When I first found the Fatosphere back in October of last year, I wasn’t looking for a place full of righteous indignation.  I wasn’t looking to become an activist.  No, my initial reaction was much more self-centered than that.

I just wanted to like myself.

I had spent so long absolutely abhorring myself that I was exhausted with it.  I was just so tired of looking in the mirror and saying those hateful things to myself.  Some part of my brain knew that this wasn’t a healthy way of thinking, but the rest of my brain said “but we don’t know any other way to think!” When I found the Fatosphere, and saw that it was filled with people of all shapes and sizes saying that being fat was actually okay, and that liking myself as I was wasn’t a crazy thought, I seriously thought I’d found my lifeline.

Here were people that were saying that I didn’t have to lose weight to become an acceptable human being – even to myself.  I didn’t have to hate everything about myself simply because I didn’t fit some unrealistic, unattainable (for 99.999999% of the world’s population) “ideal.”  I had the right to expect to be treated with respect and dignity just because I exist.  Because I am a human being.  I am a whole person, with strengths and weakness, with thoughts and feelings.  I just happen to also be fat.  That fatness is only a physical characteristic – it is not now, never has been nor ever will be the sum total of what it is that is “me.”

But all I wanted was to be able to say “I like myself.”  And mean it.

Very slowly at first, I started to feel better about myself.  But choosing to immerse myself in the on-line presence of people like me was bound to do that.

Then the rollercoaster that is my life took a downward spiral for a little while, and I didn’t even touch my computer for 4 months.  Not even to check my email.

Then in the spring, something in my head just snapped and part of my brain said to me: “you KNOW what you need to do.  You need to get back in the Fatosphere and back into blogging.  You’ll feel so much better about yourself if you do.”

And I did.  Part of me felt apprehensive – I’d suddenly dropped off the face of the Fatosphere for months and here I was, about to jump right back in with both feet.  How was I going to face the inevitable questions* about why I just disappeared like that?  But I knew that I had to just let come what may, because for my own mental health, I needed to get back into it.

Around the same time, I joined the Fatshionista community on LiveJournal.  Posting pictures of myself took a lot of courage, but it was so good for me.  Again with the mental health.  Seeing all these women – of all ranges of fat; from what I would think of as “totally NOT fat” to the higher end of the fat spectrum – and realizing that they were ALL beautiful, all in their own way, went a long way in re-programming my brain to think “well, if they’re all beautiful, why can’t I be, too?”

And there’s the crux of the matter.  “Why can’t I be beautiful, too?” Short answer: I can be.  And so can you, and you, and you.

Long answer: beauty, in the sense that I’m talking about it, is an intangible thing.  There is no set formula for what is beautiful and what isn’t.  As opposed to physical attractiveness, most people can’t pinpoint down to the slightest detail what beauty means to them.  One person might find nature beautiful, while another might find something like architecture beautiful.  Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder – because each person’s particular likes and dislikes are all different.

People are supposed to be different.  Different colors, different heights, and yes, different weights. The mere fact that I happen to weigh more than what society tries to force me to think is “acceptable” does not negate the fact that I have my own unique beauty.  And again, so do you and you and you.  You over there?  Yeah, you too.

In the last few months, since I jumped back into the Fatosphere with both feet, I have come a longer way in accepting and liking myself than I had in the 32 years before that.  Let me repeat that:

I have learned more about accepting and liking myself in less than five months than in thirty-two years of existence on this planet. (Nearly half of which have been spent in some sort of counseling.)

I have finally gotten to the point where I like myself the majority of the time.  No, I haven’t found self-esteem nirvana, but I have come so far in such a short time that I’m still finding it odd.  I find it odd when I look in the mirror and I don’t immediately put myself down for some flaw or another.  (I still have flaws, of course, I just don’t feel the need to put myself down because of them.)  I look in the mirror and I finally see me – not some warped, hate-filled version of me that has never been accurate.  And me?  Isn’t so bad, really.

Other people have noticed it, too.  My rise in self-esteem has been one of the major factors of my marriage becoming what my husband and I both want it to be.  I finally started to see myself the way my husband always has, and it has brought us closer in ways counseling (which we tried once) never did.  Nothing has ever worked like my learning to like myself.

Friends have noticed it.  I’m so much happier now than I ever was before.  In my life.

Even strangers notice it.  How else would you explain the fact that I’m suddenly getting hit on left and right?  I can’t remember the last time somebody hit on me before I started feeling better about myself.  Now, it’s every time I go out.  It’s surreal.  I almost feel like I must be in someone else’s body, because these things just don’t happen to me.  So I just take it as a tangible sign that this internal change must be visible externally, in some way or another.

I started out this journey just searching for a way to like myself.  What I found was so much more than that.  But that one wish, that I wished so very hard and very long for?

It came true.

Well how do you like them apples?

* – I don’t want it to sound like I’ve got some huge massive ego and the whole Fatosphere was going to be sitting around wondering “where did nuckingfutz go?”  However, I had been so active – commenting on pretty much everybody’s blogs, practically every post – that I was sure somebody would have noticed my absence and would ask about it.