Body Image, Fatphobia, and Healthy Living


Let's talk about these things for a bit. I think it's an important discussion to have. I know from experience that it's a thin line to walk between all three, but it's not impossible. It's something that I keep in mind every day.

Do you know, even though I was overweight/obese as a pre-teen, teen, and adult, I never hated my body until a few years ago? I know I'm pretty lucky in this, but nobody ever teased me about my weight growing up and it didn't stop me from doing what I wanted to do [I still played sports pretty regularly up through high school, even 50+ pounds overweight]. I never even thought about my body, truthfully, until I joined Weight Watchers when I was 20. And then, my love for my body only grew! I started working out regularly again [this was junior year of college, so it had been a couple years since high school and the cessation of sports] and I was constantly amazing myself with how much my body could do. I'd never really paid attention to how my body looked before, but now I loved that too. But the number on the scale and my body size only mattered a tiny bit; what really mattered was how far my body could run, stretch, and keep going long after I thought possible.

A year after reaching my goal weight and maintaining, I moved to Chicago. I stopped going to Weight Watchers meetings [couldn't find a meeting/leader I liked], and had to take some time off from exercise because of a back injury. A few pounds came back on, and then another few. After gaining back about 15 pounds, my insecurities grew. I felt fat and thought everyone was making fun of my weight behind my back. I'd never thought that of myself before, but there it was. [And I was only 150, at the top of my healthy weight range!] I started working out again, just a little, but I also started eating more. Food was a huge source of both comfort and celebration in Chicago.

Another problem with this was that in Chicago, my group of friends were… well, pretty radical. Actually, we were Radical Cheerleaders.

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Radical cheerleaders! I'm the one in the red hat.
I felt conflicted about trying to lose weight because I thought my friends wouldn't understand, they were very into fat acceptance and one of our cheers was even "Riot Don't Diet". [I still don't believe in dieting, I believe in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it's tiresome to explain the difference over and over and over.] I felt that I couldn't talk to them about wanting to lose weight, and my journey with Weight Watchers, because they'd condemn me for being on a "diet". [Looking back, I don't think most of them would have, but I didn't realize this at the time!]

I'm the one with the blue hair... I can't believe I was so conscious of my weight here!

Like I said, my friends were very into fat acceptance. Which is great! Fat acceptance means loving yourself, and others, no matter the size or number on a scale. I'm all for that! But I'm also all for making a choice for myself to live a healthy lifestyle. I can't make this choice for anyone else, and I won't even suggest it to other people. But I personally want to be healthy, which for me involves losing weight. My family has a laundry list of obesity-related diseases and I don't want any part of them.

It took a long time for me to get back to this mindset. I was afraid of what my friends would think so instead of opening up to them, getting myself together, and losing those few pounds, I kept gaining weight. An average of 15 pounds a year every year I was in Chicago. In that time, I went through periods of hating my body and hating what I'd done to myself. I also went through periods of hating myself for wanting to lose weight. What can I say, it was conflicting! But I wasn't successful until I went through my old weight loss journal and started remembering how amazing I'd felt, running a 5k and flying on my bike and doing challenging yoga poses. I wasn't successful until I started loving my body, and all the things it had the potential to do, once again.

Even now, I still have over 50 pounds to lose but I can honestly say that I love my body. A couple years ago [when I weighed less than I currently do], I wouldn't look in full-length mirrors and would have cringed at the thought of exposing my stomach. But this week, I've been walking around just in running shorts and a sports bra [it's too hot for more clothes than that!] and I am okay with it. I'm more than okay. I can't stop admiring myself in the mirror!

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my belly's chubby but I still love it!
A part of me is still worried that some people will accuse me of being fatphobic. It comes up a lot when someone's very public about losing weight. But I know that I've never judged a person based on their weight, and I never will. I just personally want to lose weight so I can be the healthiest version of myself.

I'd been sitting on the idea of writing this post for a while but couldn't put the words together. Then I recently found my friend Raechel's blog. Raechel was a radical cheerleader with me in Chicago and just reading her thoughts on healthy living while also keeping a "radical" mindset was very encouraging.

Conclusion? Love yourself, and fuck what other people think.