Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Coping with seasonal body-shaming

Greetings, humans, and apologies for this unscheduled hiatus - as is somewhat to be expected, the season has been taking its toll on me a little.

I really wanted there to be a post on navigating the fat hatred that tends to rear its ugly head around this time of year, mostly from "well-meaning" relatives, but I'm not really in a position to write that post, so the lovely Hazel Hare (Tumblr | Twitter ) has kindly stepped in. Enjoy, and show them some love if you like the post. :)


I am fat. I am a fat person. I have very small sections of normal clothing shops dedicated to my size. I am the image of a person walking down the street that news reports use to talk in Very Stern Tones about obesity. The reasons for my fatness are complex and interlinked with mental health, early trauma, and an upbringing where I was constantly berated for any food or exercise choices I made.

As I approach thirty years old I am, finally, feeling positive about my beautiful fat body. (Needless to say, opinions to the contrary will be - aha - roundly ignored.) I am fat, I am beautiful, and I hold onto that feeling as much as possible. Unfortunately, it's not always possible in the midst of winter celebrations.

Winter holidays are a time of year when we are socially allowed and encouraged to eat heartily and often; to eat rich, sugary and fatty foods; to drink and be merry. Unfortunately, it's also the time of year when we typically spend time with our [toxic] relatives. They are the people who remember us when we were much smaller, when we were babies and toddlers and teens, who are often unfamiliar with our adult selves.

Yes, I am bigger than I was when I was seven. You're quite right.

"And weren't you supposed to have a career by now? And why are you still renting?" (Assuming we have made it out of their house in the first place.) "And what's with the clothes and the hair and the partner(s)? Didn't we assign you a different gender at birth? Couldn't you just get more fresh air and cure your various mental and physical illnesses?"

There's a whole plethora of ways they can criticise our lives, our behaviours and our choices. I could probably write a lot about all of the above, but this is about my body and my eating.

Eating is usually a social event around the holidays, with family meals and buffets and leftovers, so eating in front of others ends up being the norm. And while your toxic family members can't change your job, house or partner(s) just by complaining at you at the dinner table, they can express their general disapproval by changing what and how you eat.

I usually have quite a hefty "fuck you!" attitude when it comes to people verbally criticising my food choices, ("Ooh, a moment on the lips-" "Fuck off."), but I am reluctant to swear at my relatives. I can't so easily respond to the patronising or sad looks that people give me as I eat food. I even found myself tempted to defend my eating, to invent gym memberships, to highlight the physical aspects of my job, to fabricate recent weight loss which 'allows' me to now eat the food. Sometimes that's what it takes to deflect them, and that's okay.

I am allowed to eat this food, toxic family member, because I feel suitably embarrassed and ashamed about existing as a fat human being. I have paid my penance.

Fat people, and fat women especially, are supposed to be fighting the fat, beating the bulge, and constantly enacting emotional and physical violence against our bodies until we are not fat any more. We are supposed to be unhappy, restless and filled with a desire to shrink ourselves at all costs. I am supposed to 'be good' by restricting my food and my food choices.

Well. Fuck that.

I exist. I exist as a fat person, as a fat woman, and I am enough. I eat. During the winter holidays I clutch my partner's hand for support, take a few minutes' fresh air, post a snarky tweet or five, and express sympathy with my fat friends when their families treat them the same way mine treat me.

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