Allowing my body to become and stay fat over a long period of time has been deeply healing for me on many levels.
It’s, of course, very painful to receive judgement from people that see being overweight as a sign of poor health, laziness, lack of strength or willpower, or gluttony. This can be traumatic receiving the projections often made on to larger bodies.
I don’t think shaming or judging people (or ourselves) is a helpful or effective way to inspire us to become healthier. I’ve felt shamed by doctors, coaches, teachers, family, friends and lovers. In the past, it inspired me to take any means necessary to become thin with very little regard to my health, physical comfort or happiness.
I was incredibly young when I started judging my body, comparing myself to others and controlling my weight and appearance out of fear of rejection or ridicule. I did so much harm to myself and my body on physical, emotional and spiritual levels by trying to whittle my short, stocky body into a thin, “normal” or even athletic frame. If I hadn’t found the courage to try to stop that behavior, I very possibly could have killed myself with it. Being thin at that cost just isn’t worth it to me anymore.
My experience may be more towards the extreme end of the spectrum, but I know so many others (of all genders) that have had similar, or much worse, struggles and rarely talk about it perhaps due to social stigma. I was able to hide my struggles from even close friends for years. I looked healthy on the outside, so most people had no idea.
Holding a sincere intention to be kind to myself and my body no matter what led me to stop all restricting, punishing and controlling. In response, my body gained a lot of weight. I have stayed like this for almost a decade while undoing the majority of the damage from the first 25-30 years of my life. Fully recovering from disordered eating is incredibly challenging and something that a lot of therapists (and most doctors) are not at all well-equipped to handle – at least in the past it has felt that way to me.
My fat is a padding to help me stay away from those who would judge me or make me feel badly for being fat because I’ve had enough of that from myself to last my lifetime. I’ve had well-meaning loved ones let me know how pretty I would be or how much easier it would be for me to find a partner if I just lost weight. Huge numbers of men and women may look down on me, judge me or just not even see me at all, but when I create a true friendship or connection, I know it’s not based on my appearance or a need for me to be thin in order to be liked or loved. That’s important to me.
For me, this padding has also been a way to help myself heal. I can’t claim to be extremely confident about my body, but I am almost 20 years down a path of making every possible effort to be comfortable in my own skin, have compassion for myself and appreciate the shape I have when I don’t try to control or restrict myself in dangerous ways.
For myself, I’m firmly against diet culture and a lot of the “healthy” ways that are recommended to lose weight.
What has been helpful for me is being mindful and slow in my thoughts about my body, exercise and food, creating good feelings and happy memories around cooking and sharing nourishing meals, eating what I want to when I’m hungry, being generous with myself and others, moving in ways that feel kind and respectful to my body and doing my best to love myself as I am and cherish the people in my life who do the same.
It’s still hard for me to look at myself in a full length mirror, to see unflattering pictures of myself, to be naked in front of others, and I still refuse to step on a scale – I turn around the other way at the dr’s office and don’t let them tell me my weight. Clothes shopping can lead to emotional meltdowns and sometimes exercising leads to extreme anxiety. I may be in some stage of recovery for a long time, or not, I can’t say what the future holds.
I can never truly know the pathway a person has taken to come to live in a body cushioned by any amount fat. I am no longer afraid of fat as a food element or a concept. Fat phobia wreaked havoc on my life for a very long time. The compassion I’ve developed for myself over the years has helped to see that so clearly. I make no assumptions about what a little or a lot of body fat means about someone’s health.
I try daily to find some big or little part of my body to love and appreciate. I think that’s what bodies really need most: love and appreciation.