Trigger warning: Fat-shaming, body-shaming, misogynistic and sexually explicit written abuse, mention of disordered eating
December is an anxious month for me. It shouldn’t be. By rights, it should be my favourite month of the year. There’s Christmas, New Year, lots of birthdays (including my own). It should feel like one of those old BBC adaptations of classic children’s books; friends, family, excitement, adventure, laughter and fun and piles of delicious food.
It’s that last part that triggers the anxiety. In the weeks building up to Christmas and birthday season, I get more and more edgy. By the time I get home for the holidays, I feel like Scrooge must have done when he first heard Marley’s chains dragging across the floor.
I haven’t lost the weight I meant to, I think. And oh, God, I’m going to put on so much more.
I’ve written before about my PCOS, and how it causes me to gain weight as easily as most people blink. This, combined with my more sedentary holiday lifestyle and the fact that, hey, I do rather like good food, means that I have never come out of the Christmas season feeling less than terrible about my weight.
Of course, that doesn’t exactly differ much from the rest of the year. Feeling fat – with all the self-hate and unhappiness that comes with it – has been a fairly large theme in my life, no pun intended.
I say feeling fat for a reason. Being fat itself doesn’t cause those problems. But feeling that you’re fat, and all the social pressure to be thin…that’s where the problems begin.
It’s easy to understand why. Several multi-billion dollar industries, including film, TV and advertising, have devoted an awful lot of time to making us fatties feel, well, awful. And all that nonsense leaks out into the wider world. I hear fat jokes every day. I can remember every comment that has been lobbed at me over the years. Some of them have, probably, been well-meaning.
“You’re lucky you’re tall.” “You carry your weight well.” “Are you SURE you want to eat that?” “You should wear a cardigan over that dress. It looks lovely, but you need to cover your arms.”
Some of them have been decidedly not.
“Fat cow.” “Can you move to the side? I can’t see the school with you in the way.” “Shut up, you sweaty bitch, or I’ll fuck you in your fat rolls.”
I’ve been not-overweight once in my adult life. It was a hard-won non-victory. I’d skipped meals for months, skipped lectures to exercise. My grades suffered. I had nightmares about food. And the comments I got then made it feel almost worthwhile.
“Oh my God, you’ve lost a TON of weight, you look FANTASTIC!”
If you’re fat, the world tells you, you’re worth less than someone who’s thin. Think about those two words. Worth less. To quote the Fairy Godmother, put them together and what have you got?
I hear a friend or a relative judging a fat stranger, and a lifetime of identical moments comes crashing down on top of me. Maybe that’s how they really see me. As something that could be better. Something laughable. The punchline. The fat joke.
It’s been twenty-nine years. Twenty-nine years of drip, drip, drip, it’s bad to be fat, it’s bad to be fat. Twenty-nine years of feeling that the food on my plate was my enemy.
I’ve decided that twenty-nine years is enough.
That time I spent thinking about how much I hated my arms, my thighs, my stomach? I could have spent that time writing.
Those plans I made for ways to get slim? I could have been planning out novels.
That food I felt guilty for eating? That exercise I felt forced to do? I could have just enjoyed it.
So what if I’m fat? All these years I’ve been told that it’s a Very Bad Thing, and I’ve never even thought to ask why. As it turns out, there’s no real reason. Fat doesn’t equal unhealthy – there are as many unhealthy thin people in this world as unhealthy fat people. And if someone thinks I’m less attractive because there’s more of me, then that’s their problem, not mine.
I wouldn’t be worth more if I weighed less. As this blogger says, I am enough as I am. But I’d be an awful lot happier if I evicted those self-hating, self-critical feelings and gave the space over to something more useful – writing, dancing, friends, family, and everything else I love.
I make my new year’s resolutions on my birthday, and this was one of them. (It’s taken me a few days to write the post, but cut me some slack, this is very personal. I’m baring my soul here – or at least, my amply soft underbelly).
Resolving to lose weight hasn’t done me any good in the past. So, this year, I’m resolved that I’m going to change the way I think about the whole messy business. I’m going to eat food I like because I like it. I’m going to do exercise I enjoy, when I want to, because it’s fun. (Oh lindy hop, how I’ve missed you).
Instead of seeing my body as a malfunctioning machine that carries my brain around, I’m going to learn to appreciate it for all the amazing things that it can do. And if I stay fat, then I stay fat. After all, I’m not a bag of sugar. My worth isn’t calculated by what I weigh.
Alice’s books are available on Amazon and Smashwords. Her webcomic, co-created and illustrated by Emily Brady, can be found at the Footloose website. Ally rambles about writing, feminism and, yes, food, on Twitter and Facebook.