Cultural Appropriations · Rants For Thought

Striving For Enough: Being Fat in a Thin World

When you’re a kid, it’s about eating enough. Your parents encourage you to eat as much as you can. I do it to kids all the time as a nanny. “Eat up your supper! Make sure you take three more bites of your vegetables! Come on, one more bite of meat!”

As an adult, it’s about regarding food and wondering how many calories it might contain, how much fat might be lurking inside, exactly what it’s going to do to your body.

It’s not about eating enough. It’s about eating at all.

In my baby and childhood pictures, I wasn’t fat. I was actually really thin. My ribs stuck out and my legs were skinny and stick-like. I was in sizes of clothes much smaller than my actual age – a 6X did me until I was 10.

I could blame it on genetics. When I turned 14, I started developing curves in my body that mirror my mother’s exactly. I started to look exactly like all the women in her family, in face and in weight.

I could blame it on my eating habits. I certainly didn’t realize that you can’t eat whatever you want when you’re an adult, because it hangs and packs differently on your body. I ate fatty and salty foods like they were going out of style, and I believe that, combined with genetics, is why I lost my gall bladder at 22. I also have a soda habit that I still haven’t broken.

I could blame it on my lack of self-worth. Because when you’re a depressed teenager, you don’t really care how you look or how much you weigh, you just want to live another day without feeling like you’re going to die, or be a burden on your friends and family.

I could blame it on all of those factors. Either way, I didn’t stay thin. I’m a fat woman and I’ve had to learn to live with it. But what I guess I didn’t realize is that the culture surrounding fat women is more different and pervasive than anything else I’ve ever experienced.

Picture if you will, an average class of women doing Weight Watchers. Many of them have anxious expressions on their faces. Nearly all of them have coiffed hair and beautiful clothes. Most of them are at least 20 lbs overweight; some are even more. And all of them are straining towards the instructor, writing down tips and tricks that they already know, believing that this time will be the time that they lose that weight for good.

Being fat isn’t about being stupid, yet most classes and programs dealing with weight loss assume that’s the case. Why else would anyone decide to eat food that’s wrong for them, or binge, or even have trouble exercising? After all, it’s easy for other people. Why can’t it be easy for fat people? It has to be because they’re just not educated.

Then there are the people that believe that most fat people just survive because they make excuses. Fat acceptance is one big excuse. After all, there’s no REASON any mammal would carry extra weight, so staying fat is all about excuses and laziness. Hence, boot camps, fat camps, and 30-day shreds are all about beating that laziness!

People sometimes find it strange when I tell them that aesthetically, I really don’t care if I’m fat. And I really don’t – it’s not something I say to make myself feel better. I focus on other aspects of my beauty. Being fat doesn’t define who I am. It’s not the sum total of who I am as a person.

But interestingly, though that is the honest truth, I find myself second-guessing that belief all the time. Like if I wear this shirt, am I going to show off extra rolls that might be unattractive? And why should I even have rolls on my body? Shouldn’t I be working on stream-lining myself? Shouldn’t I focus on how much weight I can lose, look at the numbers, make sure I weigh myself in the early morning – wait, that piece of cake last night is going to make a difference – and when’s the last time that I had a meal, because that will definitely tip the scales unfairly, for sure –

And then I stop. It’s not about the numbers. It’s not about streamlining or looking “better” to a society that hates my body type. It’s about being healthy. Looking at the health problems I have and trying to lessen them. It’s about being energetic, having stamina, and not being tired.

At least, that’s what I believe.

The women in that hypothetical Weight Watchers class know they’re fat.  They know society thinks they’re disgusting no matter how gorgeous they look. And maybe some of them outwardly don’t care. What they’re after is a lifestyle that’s going to be enough – and not just enough for their personal body and health, but enough for other people. Because when you’re stared at day after day like you’re a pig at a trough, slurping away at “decent society”, anything that proves you’re trying is a step towards acceptance.

I want to tell those women that they’re stunning – every one of them. That they are enough. Because in my heart, I think that I’m enough.

But I still pick up my running shoes, turn towards my favourite walking path, and smile at whomever I meet, secretly hoping they notice that I’m trying, just so that I can fit into a society who doesn’t agree with the way I look, just a little bit more.

Isn’t that enough?

Rubens, "Head and right hand of a woman", from
Rubens, “Head and right hand of a woman”, from

3 thoughts on “Striving For Enough: Being Fat in a Thin World

  1. I find that I tend to like myself more when I’m not worrying about how much I weigh — and that has actually been more common when I weigh more than when I weigh less. I wish society didn’t care so much about what size everyone is, and superficial things like beauty, because there’s a warped vision there. Beauty is not actually what the media tries to make us believe it is. There’s no one way to define it.

  2. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Healthy and thin are totally different things. I know thin people who aren’t healthy at all, physically or mentally. I know people who based on the BMI are overweight, but look amazing. Healthy is what is important. Healthy mind, healthy body. I’ve driven myself crazy over numbers on a scale and how I look in a picture. But at the end of the day, I want to make decent choices about food and about portion sizes and not beat myself up too much. You are beautiful!!!

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