16) Because I Thought I Was Fat, Even When I Wasn't
Once upon a time, I was an aerobics instructor. I exercised at least 3 hours per day because I was obsessed with my weight to a degree that was mentally unhealthy. I counted calories and burned every one. I was nearly solid muscle and convinced that I was fat, despite knowing that I was in better shape than most of the skinnier girls around me. This was me, size 8, after a series of injuries made me unable to exercise, 10 pounds heavier than I was when I was exercising 3 hours per day. At this time, I considered myself grotesquely fat, unbearably unattractive, unworthy of affection, a terrible person, and all of the other things that we insist that fat people are.
15) Because I Looked Fat, Even When I Wasn't
What you can't see in this picture is that my dress was designed to hide my tummy pooch and my date's hands are clasped on top of it to hide it further, at my request so I didn't look as fat in the pictures as I really was. What you can see in this picture is my double chin, which every woman in my family has regardless of size, which my grandmother offered to pay to have removed because a skinny girl like me shouldn't have a double chin.
14) Because I Naturally Have Curves
What you can also see in this picture is that this dress doesn't exactly fit me in the chest. It hangs too low and my boobs push out over the top more than the dress is designed for. This isn't because the dress is designed badly; this is because every woman in my family has large boobs. I have the largest. Separately, each of my grandmothers made their own bras because stores did not sell bras in their cup size. I've been laughed out of a Victoria's Secret by staffers for asking for a 32DDD. Since age 15, I have been at least one size larger on top than on bottom. This dress doesn't fit me on top because it fit me on bottom. In order for a top-heavy woman to show that she isn't fat, she has to wear clothes that are tight everywhere; fabric that hangs off of the boobs make women appear to have a large belly even if they don't. This is another way that I looked fat when I wasn't fat; I had the option of busting out of clothes on top or wearing a slightly fitted tent.
13) Because My Self-Fat-Shaming Was Used Against Me
I used to date guys who were terrified that I would leave them. In order to keep me from leaving, they encouraged my self-fat-shaming despite my skinniness. If I was convinced that I was fat and ugly, they could keep me all to themselves; they could keep me inside, away from other people who were clearly disgusted that I was so fat. They encouraged fad dieting, starvation diets, and OTC pills as diet aids, but they also discouraged me from exercising, saying that I was so fat that if I exercised, I would injure myself again. None of these methods worked, of course; the most effective tool that I had was the one denied to me: exercise. Just to make this completely clear, this is a form of emotional abuse. This is a way to control women and retain us as possessions by making us insecure. This is done by insecure men who secretly believe that we will leave them because they do not deserve us. This is a method of keeping women in abusive relationships, cutting them off from friends and family who could help them escape. This is unacceptable behavior.
12) Because People Assume That Skinny or Fit Women Are Stupid or Incompetent
People had always told me that I was stupid, that I only pretended to be smart, that females are incapable of being smart, that beauty was the only way to be a successful woman, and that any success that I had in non-beauty areas was due to the unfair advantage that people gave me because of my beauty. I was told that everything that I earned had been given to me, because as a beautiful person, I did not have the intelligence, integrity, motivation, skills, or ability to have earned anything. Beauty privilege does exist, but denying that beautiful women can have value other than beauty is just as bad as assuming that the only value that women can have is beauty. There is no winning the beauty game. The only way to win is not to play.
11) Because Fewer People Assume Stupidity and Incompetence When Beauty Is Removed
This is a lesson that I learned at size 12. Suddenly, I wasn’t skinny and fit anymore. Suddenly, my negative self-image was slightly accurate. Suddenly, people stopped assuming that I am dumb or incompetent. Suddenly, any success that I had was success that I earned. Maybe I did all of the work back when I was skinny but the success that I had while not skinny was deemed the result of my hard work, even if it was the result of my beauty when I was skinny. I learned that by refusing to fit the beauty ideal, I would be taken more seriously at work and in society, even if I was deemed "undatable" by the people doing the judging. I finally started to feel valuable and that taught me that fat is beneficial. Again, there is no winning the beauty game.
10) Because I Have More Important Things to Deal With Than My Weight
I have to stay employed in a male-dominated field in which I am routinely discriminated against. This discrimination would be worse if I fit the beauty ideal, because I would be assumed to have slept my way to the top, because the jobs that I am qualified for require intelligence and skill, things that people would deny that I have if I were skinny. Being taken seriously in my field is more significant to my life than being beautiful is. I have numerous health conditions that contribute to inability to eat a healthy diet and inability to exercise. I have two forms of asthma, only one of which is complicated by weight, neither of which is controlled. I am allergic to tons of foods and that makes eating a healthy diet extremely complicated. This also makes my diet boring at times, during which it's a chore to eat a single meal; this causes me to store extra calories on days that I eat more than one meal, since my body thinks I'm starving. I am allergic to my own sweat and to being hot. I have gigantic boobs, which makes low-impact exercise like yoga nearly impossible and makes most aerobic exercises painful. I am also prone to pulling my diaphragm, since I pulled it once and it's not a muscle that rests, so it has never fully healed. I also go through periods of poverty, during which food is scarce. If I have an extra 2 hours to spend in a day, I might spend it preparing a balanced meal or relaxing after a hard day or teaching myself a new skill or researching something or helping a friend or teaching someone a new skill or making a present for someone. I got shit to deal with and my weight is rarely my top priority.
9) Because It Is Ridiculous to Require That People Justify Their Lives
And it is completely fine that I prioritize my own issues and deal with them in the best way that is possible for me, under the circumstances that I am in. If I am afraid that a friend might harm herself and I talk to her for a while to make sure that she doesn't, that's no one else's business. If I had a really stressful day at work and I just want to curl up on the couch with my boyfriend and watch some TV, that's between me and him and ideally, my employer. If I don't exercise because I am having an allergy attack that is causing my asthma to flare up, gives me hives all over my body, and makes me feel exhausted, that’s between me and my doctors, not between me and my doctors and 1800 random strangers on the Internet.
8) Because I’m Familiar With the Dunning-Kruger Effect
Speaking of random strangers on the Internet, no, you do not know why I'm fat just because you looked at me, saw that I am fat, and have been told that "most fat people are fat because they are lazy or make bad choices." There are many reasons that people are fat, some of which I have just talked about. People like to tell me that there is no way that my health condition could contribute to my weight because "not every obese person in the US has a thyroid problem, the only health problem that causes weight gain." There are literally hundreds of conditions that contribute to weight gain, especially by making diet or exercise unmanageably difficult. I've discussed my case already. Other people have degenerative joint conditions or chronic pain or hormonal imbalances. Other people may be working 80-100 hours per week. Others may only be able to afford 70% lean hamburger with a side of fatback and government cheese. You don't know why someone is fat by looking at them. You literally know far less about why the target of your fat-shaming is fat than the target does.
I promise you that I am much better versed in what I should be eating than you are; chances are if you prepared a meal for me without my input, you would put me in the ER. I promise that the person working 80-100 hours per week knows that spending another 15 hours per week on food prep could help him lose weight. I guarantee you that that person buying 70% lean hamburger with a side of fatback would prefer their government cheese on 90% lean hamburger with slices of fresh tomato and a side of fresh vegetables. I assure you that the woman taking life-saving medication that has "weight gain" as a side-effect is aware that she's fat, thanks for reminding her. I am thoroughly convinced that the depressed person who is binge eating knows that binge-eating is bad; they are binge-eating because they feel bad about binge-eating. Skinny people might be skinny because depression is causing them to not eat at all, because they have cancer, because they have an eating disorder that is slowly killing them, or because through genetics they have a high metabolism that keeps them from gaining weight even if they try. You cannot tell by looking at someone what the cause of their weight is—fat or skinny. Insisting otherwise is proof that you do not know what you are talking about. That you are so certain of the cause in every case is proof that you don't even know what the causes are, unlike the people living those actual lives.
7) Because It Is Ridiculous to Require That People Justify Their Happiness
If any of those people that I just talked about has a moment of happiness while fat and you try to ruin that for them as "motivation" for them to lose weight, you're just mean. Life is hard and no one is required to tell you their medical history, financial situation, time-availability, or priorities to be entitled to have you stop being mean to them. You aren't entitled to randomly be mean to people because you dislike the way that they look and have them celebrate you for that. You aren't entitled to insist that they be unhappy if they don't live up to an ideal that a third party set for them in a vacuum, not knowing anything about their lives. People are entitled for you to treat them with respect until they have proved that they don't deserve it; when you assume that they don't deserve it because of their looks, you only prove that you do not deserve it. If they have a moment of happiness, let them have it! Happiness is healthy! Trying to ruin their happiness is trying to destroy their mental health.
Are you skinny or fit? Is fitness your priority for yourself, a priority that you are upholding in your own life because you value it? Wonderful! You are the one who gets to decide what your priorities are, so I’ll make you a deal: stop telling me that my number 1 priority is my weight and I will continue to not tell you that your weight obsession is unhealthy, that you clearly have self-esteem issues that require mental health services, and that if you had your priorities straight, you wouldn’t care so much about your weight. Any of those things may or may not be true of you. I'm not making those assumptions about you now; why should you be making the opposite ones about me?
6) Because I Will Never Apologize for Loving Myself
I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And gosh darn it, people like me. If you don't like me, that's fine, but I highly recommend that if you dislike me, you do so for a valid reason. My size isn't a personality trait, no matter how many times you claim that it is. I am ethical. I have sympathy for the people around me. I try to understand people before I judge them. I try to be nice to people. Some people think I’m funny. When I appreciate people, I make sure that they know it. I'm honest, sometimes to a fault. I can be a bit boneheaded sometimes, but I realize that and take criticism well. But the things that I value in other people are things that I value in myself. If I love smart, silly, ethical, honest, kind people and I fit that description, why am I not allowed to love myself? I love myself and you can’t stop me; trying to will only prove that you are not the kind of person that I find valuable.
5) Because I Should Not Have to Apologize for People Loving Me
Likewise, if someone values smart, silly, ethical, honest, kind people and I fit that description, they are allowed to love me. Their love for me is not up to you. You are not required to love me. People who love me are not required to justify that to you and if you wish they loved you instead? Well, try being a better person instead of focusing on my weight and maybe they'll learn to love you too.
4) Because No, You Are Not "Just Worried About My Health"
If you were, you would ask me if there was anything that you could do to help me. You would offer to include me in your healthy meals. You would discover how hard it is for me to eat a healthy balanced diet if you invited me over for dinner; ask me over for dinner. You would tell me that you are going out for a walk and you would love some company if I have the energy. The fact is that yes, there are many things that the people around me can do to help me out with my health. Telling me that I am a bad person if I'm not skinny or fit is on the list of things that make my health worse.
3) Because No, You Aren't Just as Worried About Men's Health
Men have to be twice my size before people start insulting them as fat. Men aren't deemed stupid or incompetent because they are skinny or fit. Men tend to be judged for their accomplishments, based on the merits of those accomplishments while women are being judged on our looks. Fat-shaming is a way to keep women in line, to make us so concerned with random strangers' opinions of our looks that we don't compete with those strangers in the marketplace. Or if we do compete with them in the marketplace, we can immediately be devalued for our looks regardless of what those looks are. Is a woman beautiful? She is dumb, is incompetent, and slept her way to the top. Is a man handsome? Investors will like him! Is a woman fat? She's probably lazy and won't put in the necessary hours. Is a man fat? Aren't they all? That's just a sign that he is so entrenched in his work that he doesn't have time for fitness.
2) Because I Belong to Me
I answer to me. I am the subject-matter expert on my life. I am the arbiter of my own values. When it comes to me, I am the decider. I have my priorities and I have them for a reason, for my reasons, for reasons that matter to me, the person who knows the most about my life. Denying me that autonomy is attempting to own me. Good luck with that. Better than you have tried and failed.
1) Because People Still Insist That This a Valid Issue
And it's not. It's a way to keep people, especially women, from being healthy and successful. It's a distraction from the significant issues around us. It's a way to keep us in the dark and under control.
I refuse to be controlled and I refuse to live in the dark.