What a pointed and articulate response (from a size-acceptance activist) to an idiot reporter who asked for an interview/rebuttal to an openly fat-hating guest on their show: No More Media Excuses.
France, she is my heart. She is the jewel shimmering in the distance that quickens my blood; she is my mecca, the utopia that I have long aspired to visit and experience, fully. France is my true country. As an American, I know that this ruffles a few feathers, but you see, in my belief system, I was French before I was anything else. I remember some of my past lives in France. I remember living there, happily. As a result, I continually crave her. I pine for her, deeply. But, there’s one problem. I’m too fat for France.
I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, Liz, you say that you are at peace with your size and yet you are now saying that you’re too fat to visit France?” Yes. As contradictory as this is, it is how I feel and, truthfully, it breaks my heart. Stay with me.
Since childhood, I have had an obsession with France that I could never quite explain, but that made perfect sense to me. I just loved France. I begged my dad to rent the movie A Little Romance because it was all filmed in France. I began taking French as soon as I could in Junior High School and ended up taking five years of it. My room was smothered with posters of French castles nestled into the countryside, French sayings, wine labels, and even a full-size French flag. I spoke French every day. I was in love with that country (for no obvious reason), but it just felt right to me. I couldn’t wait to get old enough to go there. I comforted myself with the thought that as soon as I had enough money, I would book a flight to France and would likely never come back. These thoughts buoyed me through very tough times, of which there were many in my childhood.
The problem is that life crept in. I never had the money. I never took vacations. Hell, to this day, I have only taken one official vacation in my life (where I actually left the country) and this didn’t happen until 2010. I went to Oaxaca Mexico. Anyway, I have worked and worked and worked and worked. I have exhausted myself at various jobs and have never been able to make the break and get to my beloved France. But, I now understand why. I’m too fat for France.
While I sincerely love the way that I look and I love how healthy I am, I’m simultaneously and painfully aware of other people’s judgments. People judge me and I am not going to lie to you, it affects me. It bothers me. Because of my size, other people often see an unhealthy person. They assume that I’m pounding lard at every meal. They don’t know that my blood pressure is rarely ever higher than 110 over 60. They don’t know that I live on about 1200 calories per day. They don’t know that I work my ass off to stay this thin. They don’t know that I am in tremendous shape compared to the rest of my uber-fat family. They don’t know that this “size” of mine is not due to a sedentary lifestyle but to very wonky metabolism and a prevailing shortage of hormones. And, the fact is that I don’t eat enough calories for someone of my stature. My body thinks it’s starving, and well, it is. But, people don’t know that. And, I never get the chance to tell them that and couldn’t certainly tell them that in French, because, I’ve forgotten the language.
But, you see, the French are exceedingly health-conscious, thin, and, frankly, “sizeist”. They openly judge Americans for, among other things: our obesity, our black socks with Bermuda shorts, our rudeness, our crass, untrained palates, our unwillingness to speak their beautiful language. And, in many cases, these judgments are for very good reason. Americans are sometimes these things, but so are people from all over the world (even France).
So, I have not visited my true country, because I honestly cannot bear the thought of being judged by my countrymen. I want to love my visit. I want to walk the streets that are still there from 200 years ago, streets that I walked in my previous incarnations. I want to enjoy myself and love my true country even more than before I arrived, but I’m afraid that if the French judge me (and they will) it will crush me. I cannot bear to see the disapproval in their eyes. So, I don’t go. I keep hoping that I can lose 100 pounds first.
Sigh. Even as I type this, I hear how totally nuts it is; I know, this is crazy. But, there it is. The truth. It makes me squirm a little to let it all out, but this blog is nothing if not a place to air this kind of stuff in the hopes that I can heal it and help other people in the process. **Sigh**
I so hope that I can evolve to a place where I don’t care what other people think. If I am healthy, who cares if other people think that I am not? Who gives a rip if the French think that I’m beaucoup gras? Or, some bumbling Neanderthal American who is there to crush the tiny, but equally underfed, bodies around me. Who cares?
There I was at a friend’s house (back in 1998), pawing through her overly burdened bookshelf when I spot the spine of a book that scandalously reads “EAT FAT” and which makes me instantly suck in my breath. Of course, I yank the book off of the shelf immediately and hold it in my hands, completely intrigued. It’s a compact, unassuming, and relatively small book for such a bold, inflammatory statement. The cover, a very bright yellow with large black lettering and the author’s name, Richard Klein, contained in a small box at the bottom is pretty simple, but for that crazy-bold title, the title that compels you to crack the book open then and there, which is what I did. “What is this?” I whispered to myself right as my friend Nell was entering the room with our plate of olives, bread, hummus, and a bottle of strong red wine tucked under her arm. “Oh, that” she says in a breathy, low tone. “That is an amazing book, Elizabeth. You have to read it.” And, thus, my journey into loving, really loving fat began.
This book changed my life, literally, in just one reading. I read it in its entirety that night. Of course, I was zonked the next day at my technical writing job, but I didn’t care. I was a changed woman. The words that Klein wrote in those finely crafted, funny, and down-to-earth pages, helped me finally, finally come home to myself, fully and utterly. With delicious, relief, I finally felt what my psyche had been craving all those many years (spent loathing my fatdom); I felt the calmness of acceptance but beyond that, a true, deeply resonant respect for myself and my amazing, succulent body. I was instantly FREE!! And, in one night, I intensely LOVED MY FAT AND EVERYONE ELSE’S. No joke.
Word of warning: If you do not want to love fat, do not read this book. If you do not mind loathing your body or others’ bodies or if you see no reason to change, do not read this book. If you use self-deprecation and do not mind feeling mostly bad about yourself and your body, do not read this book. If you do not want to challenge your long-held fat phobia, then by all means, avoid this book. But, if you want to truly understand how to love yourself, feel the pleasing shock of an abrupt, but liberating new awareness, the surge of sure-fire realization, and a deep sense of your place in this world (regardless of your size), read this book. I dare you.
This is “not a book about fat acceptance” as Klein states. It’s a book that aims to make us love fat, but only by way of understanding it and tracing its history, the etymological roots of words that mean “fat”, its cultural passage from art to politics to sex, and its place in human life from ancient times to modern. In smartly written, funny, and wildly entertaining prose, this wonderful French teacher from Cornell not only challenges fat phobia but invites us to once-again consider fat as an equal standard of beauty. And, like I stated, he does a damn good job because I went from fat phobic to fat lover in one night.
Klein eagerly awaits the day when fat is once again considered the norm. I do, too. Not just because I am fat (Richard is not, by the way), but because it will mean that human beings have finally pushed through to a new consciousness, a new way of being, a better way of being. Mankind will finally be able to drop his hands and say with a full heart “It takes all kinds to make this earth spin. I understand now.”
True Love is a whole lot better than mere acceptance and I look forward to the day when people do not just accept themselves or others but truly love themselves and others fully, “fatly”, and ravishingly. This book is my Bible. I want to be cremated with it.
I have a confession to make. Once I learned to accept my burgeoning self, my rotundness, and once I learned to really, really like my curves, I realized something shocking as I sat thinking about a friend of mine (who, by the way, is impossibly thin and beautiful). What did I realize? That I’m just as judgmental about thinness as everyone else is about fatness. I’ll explain.
I have often had the thoughts that thin people are sickly, weak, and more prone to illness. I look at them and immediately, at that split-second-brain-warp-speed, think that about them. It’s true. I’ve thought that about nearly every thin person I’ve ever seen. Even the ones who are fit and use any excuse they can to show off their ridiculously toned abdomens in half-t-shirts or stretchy, brightly colored yoga-wear. Yep, in my book, thin has almost always meant sickly.
Well, this used to be my opinion until I caught myself thinking it one day and yelled “Ah-HAA!” loudly in the quiet room. Stunned, I sat there examining the thought that had just shot up from some dark fathom inside of me to hang there in my mind like a jagged little soot-colored shard of glass. Hoh-my-God! I think that thin people are sickly just like other people think that fat people are sickly. Hoh-my-God! I am doing the exact same thing: judging other people solely by their appearance!
But, it goes deeper than just judging appearance. (Doesn’t it always?)
We hold certain beliefs about the world that are from a primal, deep, and almost reptilian place, a place that is core to us, an area that is very difficult to access, but when accessed and analyzed, can yield great personal transformation. So, my idea that thin = sick is from that place, that reptilian, dna, core-belief center inside. How do I know that it’s a core belief? Because I have thought it at least a gazillion times. Stay with me.
Most of the people in my family are fat. I grew up around fairly fat people all of my life. And, when my family members weren’t fat, they were dieting or starving themselves into a temporary thinness (myself included) that was quickly supplanted by even more fat than when they started. So, I knew fat. I understood it. I looked at it, drew some comfort from it (as a young child) and then as a teenager, secretly loathed it and vowed that I would never ever end up like them. Which, of course, I did.
Fat was the norm, even though I knew that my family members were different and laughed at and despised and judged. Continually. But, fat, for me, was familiar. Safe. So, over time, I gravitated to the idea that thin was bad and fat was good. I mean, look at it: Fat is succulent and hearty. It’s rosy-cheeked and sturdy. It can carry two pails of milk from the barn and re-roof the house before lunch. Fat is fun. It jiggles, wiggles, and makes you laugh. It’s happy. Thin just looked painful to me. Thin looked like it was going to snap in half (at any second). Thin always conjured up images of bones angrily poking from beneath papery, ashy skin.
I walked around for years thinking this about other people and in most cases, it probably wasn’t true. Sure, some of the thin people I saw were sickly, but not all. Some of the fat people were sick because of their obesity, but not all.
As we know, the thought is always about the thinker. The thought is always the mechanism that creates the thinker’s reality. Core beliefs are formed by people observing circumstance, experiencing the results of their choices, and thinking certain thoughts over and over and over. These beliefs then form the place from which we make our inner (and outer) world.
But, these beliefs should always be questioned. They should be examined and teased apart and regarded from all angles. They should be asked: “Are you true?” “Are you real?” “How do you serve me?” “From where do you come?” “Why are you here?” “What have you given me?” And, in some cases, “When are you leaving?”
Thin is sometimes sickly but not always. Fat is sometimes burdensome, but not always. Thin is normal to some and easy for some, but not all. Fat is healthy for many, many people, but not everyone. Fitness is enjoyed by the fat and thin alike. Despite media reports, not every fat person is sick and not every thin person is automatically better off than a fat person.
So, what I learned from this experience is that trying to eradicate judgement is impossible, but it’s a good idea to catch up with oneself, think about the day, ponder the kinds of thoughts you have been having about yourself and others, dig around, look at your beliefs, weigh the prejudices and judgments that you hold, seek to understand the source of these things, and see if what you are holding onto still serves you.
- How equating being fat with being out of shape hurts thin people too (fitisafeministissue.wordpress.com)
- The Burnout On Fighting Fatphobia (elizabethahawksworth.com)
- Health, fat, and privilege (thequirkydiva.wordpress.com)