In the last year, or so, i have gained over fifty pounds.
I could list my excuses: i drive more than i walk, which has never before in my life been my primary mode of transport; i’m married and fat and happy; i’m in grad school and stressed and struggle for a good night’s sleep; i have a thyroid condition that makes me gain weight without changing my diet and i have severe enough asthma that sometimes, even at my fittest, i get winded going up stairs.
I have spent my whole life – at every weight since i was old enough to understand – thinking i was too fat and therefore, not good or pretty or attractive enough.
But the thing i need you to know most of all is that while my weight gain has caused me considerable anxiety and body-shame, i’m tired of excuses.
That’s a line i hear and see a lot around diet and fitness culture; there’s an ad for an at-home workout video service that’s always airing on Hulu with a muscly man pointing at the camera and challening: “you’re out of excuses.”
Yeah, i am out of excuses.
I am also out of everyone else’s excuses for me.
I’m weary of people assuring me i’m still beautiful even if i’m a size 16 or worriedly acting like they hadn’t noticed the difference. I’m tired of people expressing concern for my health as thinly veiled fat-shaming. I’m tired of walking into stores i used to frequent and struggling to find something that fits. I’m tired of rubbing stretch-mark lotion over my thighs and i’m tired of wishing i had a different body than this one. I’m tired of saying i’m fat and watching people sort of tense up around me, or rush to say but you’re not fat like i just said i’m a bully or a Trump voter.
The hardest thing to admit, though, is this: the biggest participant in my body-shaming has been myself.
Diet culture, fitness culture, body-is-a-temple culture – hell – even these paleo-toxin-cleanse-yogi-white-liberal cultures – all of these are deeply and problematically embedded in everything from advertising to clothing size to preaching from the pulpit. Our obsession with being thin, being less there, is an obsession that is deeply harmful and ostracizing to anyone who cannot afford to “eat well,” to anyone who does not adhere to a certain aesthetic, to anyone who chooses to love themselves at any size.
I also deeply affirm the efforts of people in my life to change self-identified destructive lifestyle patterns related to food. It’s easy, too, when being a body-positive crusader, to make those who need to change eating patterns or fitness patterns feel like their body-love-struggle is not welcome. So i want to tread carefully.
I just wish i saw more of these conversations – ones about food justice – that also recognized disordered eating and a misogynistic culture that villainizes fat people.
We must agonizingly be critical of the way we value womyn’s bodies as transitive property. We must be vigilant in how we squirm at non-binary and genderqueer and trans people who refuse to adhere to our cisheteropatriarchal systems of beauty-mongering.
I am very good at this vigilance. (I was not always). But now i am quick to celebrate fat actresses and poets and singers, quick to say fat is not an insult, quick to celebrate and purchase feminist and queer art that lifts up all bodies. When my anxiety gets real bad, i listen to these recorded affirmations that have become my rhythm. I will cherish my body as my oldest friend, one of them coos. I repeat. I repeat. I repeat.
But what i have not been good at is looking in the mirror, at my sagging stomach and blossoming thighs, and saying: even here.
Even here, when my knees fold like dough — even here, when i do yoga and i’m trying not to see this as burning fat but as breathing in love but my legs shake in a way they never did a year ago and it’s hard to keep focus — even here, when i tuck another box on the shelf because the clothes inside are too small but i am too attached to a thinner, less-here version of myself —
even here, i deserve love. And i deserve that love first from myself.
Artwork depicted above will soon be available here, on the #DoodlesBylizzie etsy shop.