Living Fat in a Thin World

One thing I like about my life right now is it’s setup to avoid worrying about my body.  This is radical compared to how I grew up, which contained a constant pressure to “do something about my weight”.

When I’m working, I’m focused on the work – software.  In 18 years I’ve had one, count ’em, one project related to body image or diet.

When I’m with my family and friends, we’re usually talking about work, home, books, news, garden, cooking, various projects (some are starting grad school, others are doing career development) and so on.

When I’m working out, I’m focused on what I can do.  Working out alone makes it easier to focus on what I’m doing and not on comparing myself to others.  Sometimes I find myself fretting about what I can’t do, but usually the road to getting there is called “lift more heavy things” or “walk more” so I do that. I do discuss exercise stuff with friends, and that’s okay, too.

When making love, I’m enjoying my body.  That’s even better :)

And no, of course I don’t live in a weight-free utopia.  How do I cope with the rest? Some examples that come to mind:

  • Diet ads, The Biggest Loser, fat jokes on TV. I mute or change the channel when diet ads come on, and – for some reason – I tend to not to watch many shows that HAVE diet ads these days.  I shocked my boss when I told her I’ve never watched The Biggest Loser.  For that matter, I currently am not following any network comedies or drama.  (I’d be more smug about this if I were starting my own business or fixing up the house instead of playing a computer game or reading, but it does help my sanity.  And give me time to write this blog.  :)
  • A friend joins WW. “It’s not about me” is the mantra.  Just because my mother would put me on each new diet she started when I lived at home and used each new diet she or a friend went onto as a talking point to “encourage” me to diet after I moved out does not mean that everyone else in the world is trying to do the same thing.  (In fact, none of my friends ever have – only relatives and strangers!  :)
  • Anti-Fat / Obesity Epidemic Coverage. I’m with Shapely Prose’s “Sanity Watchers” program on this one. If I starts to get to me, I stop reading.  Mostly I skim the “Health” section of The New York Times and Google’s health news.  I also sometimes need to restrict reading of fat acceptance blogs.
  • Magazines.  I don’t read any articles about diets, losing weight, and I usually skip the who’s fat/who’s not stuff too.  I’ve quit reading many “exercise” articles because they were all about calories burned.   Result?  I don’t read many “women’s” magazines.  I do occasionally read Real Simple, Working Woman, and just last month I broke down and subscribed to Oprah. (I also read trade rags, but the software tech industry isn’t much about diets/weight loss/etc.)
  • My Father. I’ve been pulling up a “weight shield” with my parents for over 15 years now.  I psych myself up before calling.  I refuse to discuss my weight and I change the subject if Dad’s discussion of his weight gets on my nerves.
  • Other Relatives. Pretty much like how I handle my father.  I don’t see them much – it’s not only views on weight where we differ – it’s interests, politics, and values.  I respond to the email chain letters with links to Snopes.com (because the cousin who forwards them can’t be bother to find anything new enough not to be on Snopes already); I send a handwritten letter in response to my aunt’s annual xmas form letter; and … that’s about it.  We just don’t have much in common.
  • Coworkers discussing how fat they are in the lunchroom. Again, “it’s not about me” is a good mantra, because usually it isn’t. (One coworker did describe his 150lb weight loss to a couple others at the table while looking at me beseechingly, as if he was sure I would stop my work discussion with the person at my end of the table at any moment and beg him for forgiveness for the sin of being fat.  Or maybe he wanted me to know it wasn’t about me. Dunno.)  If it bothers me, I excuse myself to get back to work. Or ask for help with the crossword. Or introduce a new topic.
  • Strangers. I used to be mortified when a stranger would tell me to lose weight, or suggested I might want to join her diet group. The last time it happened I laughed in the woman’s face. I think I shocked her. :)
  • Street harassment. This hadn’t happened in years…until I started doing more gardening this year.  Something about me bending or squatting with my butt to the road tends to bring out the worst in teenage boys.  They don’t confront me – in fact, they don’t even stop their car – which makes it a lot easier to laugh at them.
  • That said, the most disturbing case of street harassment I’ve had in decades involved an adult man coming onto me who would not take “no” for an answer.  “I’m meeting my husband” did not dissuade him – I felt like I was using words to keep him at bay – and I did make sure the stranger did not follow us.

Looking over this, I think the overall thread is that I have built a life I enjoy, and I choose not to dwell on the rampant societal disapproval every minute of every day.  Yes, I know it’s there.  Yes, I think it’s unjust and unfair that people are fired or mistreated for being fat.  Yes, I think the War On Obesity is a stupid waste of resources.  If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have started this blog.  But I am only willing to spend so much energy on being fat.  I feel free to opt out of things like diet ads.  I’ve been putting off dealing with a gym by buying heavier dumbbells & other home exercise gear.

It’s a bit like when I first dated a woman all those years ago. I knew we got strange looks when we held hands in public.  The possibility of anti-gay violence lurked in my thoughts.  I agonized about whether to “come out” at work.  But after a while it was just my normal life.  I didn’t decide, “Oh, no one’s attacked me and my boss is cool so I can stop contributing to Lambda or writing to my representatives about gay rights.”  The fear receded because I was too busy with deadlines and work and, you know, LIVING MY LIFE to worry about it all the damn time.   I adapted.

I’m tempted to quote George Herbert: “Living well is the best revenge”. But my life is not about vengeance. It’s about my own happiness.  Being fat doesn’t change the fact that I have a good life.

6 thoughts on “Living Fat in a Thin World

  1. It’s not revenge, but it sure does show people that being fat isn’t the death sentence (or personal prison sentence) that they are so convinced it is. And maybe it will open someone’s eyes to the fact they don’t have to put their life on hold until they get thin, that they can live a happy life at whatever size they happen to be.

  2. I think people forget that weight gain happens gradually. I didn’t just wake up fat. I’ve been fat quite a long time, and I’ve come to terms with it. So I’ve built a life I like.

    :)

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