I used to routinely lie when I would put my weight on something official. Not by much, but I stretched it a bit.
I have recently given consideration to what this does, but more so b/c of the reaction I get when I actually confess my secret shameful truth (read sarcastically as I am trying to get on board w/ loving myself). When I tell people that I actually weigh 207 pounds, the normal response that I get is “But you don’t look that fat!” or “There is no way you weigh that much“.
I realize what people are trying to do here. I can appreciate the thought process that is behind it, b/c I too want to make people feel good about themselves. For a long time it did make me feel better to think that I was fooling someone, even if it was a polite lie.
But there was a side I had never considered until I read this post by fillyjonk at Shapely Prose.
I can’t imagine a situation in which anyone uses your weight on your license to identify you, and it’s quite possible I look more like people’s idea of 185 than their idea of 215. But this is my identification card. And I identify as a person who weighs 215 pounds, because that is what I weigh.
It’s important to me that my sense of my “real body” matches up with the body I’ve got, and putting my real weight on my license feels like a manifestation of that. Part of it is the importance of owning your weight and thus countering people’s misconceptions of what 200 pounds or 300 pounds looks like.
It’s important to note that there is probably a good portion of people who imagine 200 or 300 pounds as a helluva lot bigger that it is. I should be crystal clear that it really doesn’t fucking matter what people think of me, b/c I sit here as someone who has been told repeatedly that I am really beautiful, but still can’t find the strength to believe it when I look in the mirror or step on a scale. What matters the most is my perception of myself. Plus, using words like “you aren’t that fat” feels othering to people who are that fat. And they are people too, worthy of dignity and respect and love. There is absolutely nothing wrong w/ being that fat, so I don’t feel a need to put a wall there among people who are already shamed and othered.
But we live in a society of fat shaming. We are told that the only really good way to look is thin, and that any fat is unacceptable. In the same way that people from the South seem to be taught that snow kills, I think that some people really believe that fat kills, and they must personally save our lives. If we are going to change that then we need to change the perception over all. I think it is important that people really know what 200 or 300 pounds actually looks like. It is important to recognize what a size 12, 14, 16 and beyond looks like. When I tell my thinner friends that I don’t want to shop w/ them b/c I tend to not be able to find clothes that fit me in the same store in which they shop, I want them to believe me (FTR, you will be hard pressed to find anything beyond a size 12 in most popular stores here in Hawai’i, and 12s are slim pickings already).
In the realm of body acceptance, I think that fillyjonk’s point about identifying w/ your weight is also important. I have spent a good number of years wondering when I would get out of this body that isn’t mine. Part of me is desperate to believe that I still am that 145 pound girl from college, the one who hadn’t yet had a child, been to Navy Boot Camp, developed an as yet undetermined chronic illness (you will hear about this later, believe you me), had her activity restricted and slowed down or settled for the first time ever into a weight that hasn’t changed in about a year and a half (I have always fluctuated about 30 or so pounds a year since I was 17). I am a constant weight for the first time in almost 11 years, and I need to be able to identify w/ this body, b/c it is reasonable to expect that this is my body. This may very well be what I am supposed to look like. I need to start living in this body and stop waiting to move back into the one that was inhabited by someone who frankly doesn’t exist anymore.
My plea to all the well intentioned friends, loved ones, and others out there, that while I know that you mean well w/ these reassuring words, please stop. Instead of helping us live in the lie that is our imagined selves, help encourage us to love who we are and what we are in. Help us believe that we are valuable people in your lives just the way we are. Remember that fat people are people too.
My plea to others, who like myself, have struggled w/ their own acceptance or (like I am now this very moment) are still struggling to believe that you can love yourself, stop lying to others and yourselves. Own your weight. Own your body. Stop waiting to move back into something that isn’t there anymore. Learn how to live in the person you are now. Find a way to identify w/ the numbers.
I think we can do it together.