Festival season!
July 27, 2011, 2:16 am
Filed under: friends | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I don’t often post photos of people on here, but just look at how cute my friends are. These are from a festival-themed party we threw last month, hence all the UV face paint. I’ve been in something of a photo lull recently, but I’m off to Gdansk this weekend so I’m sure I’ll come back with a few shots.

My two pence on being fat

Me in summer 2009

Me in summer 2011

I think I’ve mentioned before that I feel uncomfortable posting photographs of myself. I’m better at it these days, I suppose. I don’t like posting photos of myself because, since I was very little, I have always been fat and fat has always been bad and unattractive. I have always been fat and I have always felt fat. My good friend Bethany wrote a thought-provoking post over at The Arched Eyebrow last week, entitled How I Feel About Being Fat. It made me think about my own relationship with being fat. Seeing as this blog’s blurb does promise “the occasional topical ramble”, I figured I’d write you something.

I’m not physically fat anymore. Over the past year or so I’ve made a concerted effort to change my lifestyle and with that change has come substantial weight loss. I used to be a size 16-18 or an ‘XL’ and now I’m a size 12 or an ‘M’, depending on where I shop. My body continues to lose fat and I’m allowing it for now because I’m not putting it through any kind of extreme regimen. I eat healthily (with quite frequent treats, being an avowed foodie) and exercise regularly, and my body clearly has excess fat it wants to lose, so I let it.

Having always been fat, it’s a daily battle to avoid obsession with weight and size when my shape has changed so much. I’m trying to re-frame it for myself and focus on the empowerment that comes with physical strength and endurance. Often I think about when I started exercising and had to run in 2 minute intervals – now I can run for 30 minutes straight (I don’t like to, but I can). Sure, it’s no marathon but I’m a much stronger woman than I was a year ago. I run for those 30 minutes, step off the treadmill and head straight for the rowing machine, and then after that I’ll go and grab some weights. I put my body through the hard workout for which it is equipped, and when I’m in the zone I’m a (glistening, red-cheeked) force to be reckoned with. For me, fitness is strength and triumph over the lethargy that takes hold of me when I’m stationary for too long.

It’s hard not to feel like a hypocrite as someone who has lost a lot of weight. I’m a whole-hearted advocate for body positivity and sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile with myself how I can encourage all women to be content with who they are when I’ve lost over 60 lbs in the past couple of years. Why can I only begin to find that contentment for myself now that I’m thinner? Because being thinner has not changed my self-image at all. I pick up clothes that are too big and take them to the fitting room because my brain just won’t accept that the size 12s will fit. I assume that people still look at me and categorise me as fat and automatically unattractive, even though they may not. Thin-ness does not automatically bring confidence, and nor should it. At my core, I’m still a fat girl and I hope I always will be, in the sense that I hope I never forget what it’s like to live on the aesthetic fringes.

For me, body positivity stands alongside a rejection of constant consumption. Thin-ness is just another product – so much money is made from the widespread obsession with looking ‘good’ (what is this elusive ‘good’, anyway?), concealing imperfections and draping yourself in ‘flattering’ garments. I know how powerful the obsession is because I used to have an extreme shopping habit. So much of my income went on clothes, accessories and make-up. Before, I could barely leave my house without buying some superfluous item (often I wouldn’t even need to leave the house either with the wonders of internet shopping). Now, I buy a couple of items every month at most. The new lifestyle I’ve embraced has been a stripping away of unnecessary things, and a stripping away of that constant consumption. I feel less of a victim to marketing – yes, unfortunately there will always be a small part of me conditioned to be happy that I’m thinner purely because I’m thinner, but I don’t feel like I’m obsessed with getting thinner so I can do things thin people do or buy things thin people buy.

Contrarily, sometimes I feel like body positivity misses the point. It often sees the mainstream rejection of fat-ness as the root cause, rather than the symptom. While I think it’s important that fashion caters for fat women (especially as I have always had to be…creatively resourceful…in clothing my fat-ness), the root of the problem for me is the strong emphasis itself on aesthetics. Of course people will always love to wear nice things and style themselves, but the culture of excess and the neverending cycle of purchase-dispose-purchase is a real problem. I think the cycle is entrenched through a very strict set of prerequisites for attractiveness – six-packed, tanned, big-haired, high-heeled, manicured, unblemished, skinny-jeaned, smooth-legged, perfect-browed, etc. Just think how much it would cost to be all of those things, all of the time. I like to take care of myself and carry out much of the long-winded regime that women are supposed to adhere to every single day, but the real meaning of body positivity for me has come to be this: keep it simple and never punish yourself. I wouldn’t be seen dead in jeans and trainers before, but I bust out of the house in my turn-ups and high-tops almost every day now (and I rock them). I still love to dress up sometimes, but now I can leave the house without eyeliner on and I don’t feel like cowering behind a pair of sunglasses. I never want to slip back into the obsession of constant consumption, and freedom from that is the essence of body positivity for me. I am not a walking advertisement (even for the brand of ‘me’); I am a living, breathing being.

Whatever I look like and however much I weigh, I want to always look after myself. I want to eat well, exercise and sleep enough. I think I’m getting there at the moment. I couldn’t agree with Bethany more when she says that she is only blessed with one body. I only have one body and I want my primary aim to be to take very good care of it. Hating it and putting it through stress (whether through over- or under-eating, or giving it too little or too much exercise) would be submitting to the purchase-dispose-purchase cycle and, worse still, treating my body as just another commodity within that cycle. Our self, whatever shape or form it takes, is the only thing we ever own in any real sense and we should hold fast to (and never apologise for) our ownership of it.

For what it’s worth, I think I was pretty damn cute in summer 2009. I mean look at me.