My Fatkini and Me

So, I just got back from vacation. A beach vacation. Before I went, I bought a fatkini. On our second day, I put the fatkini on and I went down to the beach. And you know what happened? Nothing. Nobody looked at me. Nobody even seemed to notice me. I sunned and swam and talked with my friends, and nothing happened. There were so many people there, with so many different body shapes and sizes, in so many stages of dress (and undress), that I wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar.

Me in the Gulf of Mexico! Not in a fatkini. Plus some random kid's back.

Me in the Gulf of Mexico! Not in a fatkini. Plus some random kid’s back.

Which isn’t to say I was totally nonchalant and chill about the whole thing, because I definitely wasn’t. I was terrified to walk out there with my belly showing – even if it was just a sliver of belly compared to what some people show off in a swim suit. Even with the encouragement of my friends and no one looking at me funny, I was still super self-conscious and uncomfortable.

From the back. Plus my best friend's back.

From the back. Plus my best friend’s back.

I fully intended to take a picture of me in my fatkini to use here on the blog (artfully posed and with just the right lighting, of course), but I never had my friends take one. I only wore the fatkini once in our eight days at the beach; as much as I wanted to be super body positive and brave, I went straight back to my one-piece suit after that first fatkini experience.

Will I ever wear it again? Sure, given the right circumstances. And if this beach vacation taught me anything, it’s that those circumstances have be right in my head, more than they need to be right in the world.

Here are all my vacation pictures, if you’re into looking at other people’s vacation pictures!

I’ll Be Here When You Get Back

Hey, hi. How are you doing? I see you’ve been posting a lot about your body lately, and I thought we could talk about it for a minute or two.

Let's sit down here and talk!

Let’s sit down here and talk!

I saw your posts about hating your body and wanting to change it. I get that. We are told that being thin (or thinner) will make us healthier, happier, better, more lovable, more successful. We will shed our troubles with our pounds! When we’re thin (or thinner), we will get the job, the lover, the praise, the respect and admiration we deserve – because we will finally be worthy of those things.

And I get how mad you are that your body isn’t what you want it to be. The bodies we see in the media seem so perfect and flawless, it’s outrageously frustrating that our bodies can’t look like that, too. It’s just not fair!

I’m here to let you know that when you stop hating your body, I’ll be here. When you realize you take better care of the things you love than the things you hate, I’ll be here. When you realize that only a super small percentage of humans look like the people on TV and in magazines, and that the people trying to convince you otherwise – even the ones with “Dr.” in their titles – are really just interested in your money (not your health or well-being), I’ll be here.

I also saw your posts about how much weight you’ve lost, how much you’ve changed your body, and how proud you are. I get that, too. It’s really exciting to lose weight. The thinner I got, the more I liked myself. And, better still, the more people seemed to like me! I have never gotten more attention from men – or from salespeople! – than I did when I was my thinnest.

And I know you’ve worked super hard to get where you are. You changed so much (maybe everything!) about your life. You stopped eating certain things, and started eating different things. You started moving your body in new ways. You’ve made lifestyle changes, and those are hard. It has taken you monumental effort – physical, mental, and emotional – to get where you are. You have every right to be proud.

I’m here to let you know that if and when your body changes, I’ll be here. If your body goes back to what it looked like before, or even gets bigger, I’ll be here. I’ll stand beside you while you face the disappointment, anger, and fear that comes with those changes. And I’ll stand beside you while you learn to cope, to adjust, and to stand tall again.

I know that the messages I share aren’t for everybody. I know that you might like them at first, and then change your mind. You might really hate what I have to say, because it doesn’t apply to you at all, no way. That’s totally okay. Body acceptance is a personal journey for each of us. We all forge our own path. If you find that you need me during your journey, I’ll be here.

What Doesn’t Fit

You know when you’re clothes shopping and something doesn’t fit, and that feels really crappy? Chances are, you’ve hated your body for that lack of fit, not the clothes. One of the best things you can do for your body-related mental health is to flip that right on its head. It takes patience and time; I can’t remember when I first started having those thoughts, but now I have them all the time. It’s fantastic to stand in a fitting room, not be able to zip up a dress, and not feel bad about myself. (Instead I’m disappointed in the store, the manufacturer, the designer… and society, for good measure. Try it!)

Photo by Brad Hagan.

Photo by Brad Hagan.

But—surprise!—this isn’t actually a post about clothes. It’s a post about people. Because I realized recently that the same thing applies to the people in my life: I don’t have to hate myself when there’s not a fit. Let me explain.

I’ve been single for most of my life, and not because I’ve wanted to be. Part of that is because I don’t feel that I click with many men. Why? Who knows? It could be chemistry, personality, anatomy (mine, his, ours). Every now and then, though, I do meet someone and feel a click, a spark. And when they guy doesn’t feel it back, it’s pretty crushing. For decades, I hated me for that, and only me. More specifically, I hated my body. Why would so-and-so be into me? I’m fat and fat is the worst thing you can be! Obviously I need to change my body/myself so that guys will like me!

I had my first unrequited crush in fifth grade, so it’s taken me literally 30 years to finally stop hating my body/myself if a guy and I don’t fit. I don’t hate the guy, either. What’s the point in hate just because two people don’t click? Being compatible is easy for some, and really difficult for others, and my lot in life seems to be the latter.

That’s not to say you can’t be disappointed when something doesn’t fit—clothing or otherwise. I’ve been plenty disappointed by dresses, pants, shoes, and handsome men. Disappointment is different from hating something, be that your body or your heart, yourself or someone else.

I don’t hate so-and-so for not liking me. But I also don’t hate myself, and that fits me just right.

Things I’m Over

(Skip to the end if you’re looking for a Polar Plunge update. Start here if you’d like to hear about all the things I’m totally over these days.)

Y’all, I am over so. many. things. I’ve reached a place in my body love/acceptance journey where I don’t have the patience or the energy to talk to people who are stalled at the entrance to the road, who aren’t even on the same interstate, and especially those who are throwing down those spike strips to pop my tires and send me careening off into the median of fat/body hate. (I hope you appreciate all the work that went into this driving metaphor!)

done3

As always, comment sections are THE WORST. Yet somehow I find myself peeking at them now and again. It just amazes me how many thin people are so strongly invested in hating, shaming, lecturing at, feeling superior to, and putting the verbal smackdown on fat people. Just today, I saw a silly clickbait headline about how peanut butter can help with “obesity,” (which I am also over) and the first comment said:

Stop eating fast food and sitting on your lazy rear ends. That’s how you prevent obesity.

Can you feel how over that I am? I could write sixteen posts about everything that’s wrong with that comment. Instead, let’s agree to be over it and move on.

done1

Next up are the other fat people (almost exclusively women) who assume that I dislike my body as much as they like theirs, and want to talk about it constantly. Whether that comes in the form of diet talk, body hate talk, or even being astonished when I’m physically more capable than they think I should be: Over. It.

done4

Finally, I am the most over companies not wanting my money. We have talked about this so many times, and while there has been progress, there is still this weird thing where – even though something like 60% of American women wear size 14 and above – I have super limited choices when it comes to brick and mortar shopping. And don’t even get me started on fitness apparel and gear. Shops like Lululemon to Athleta are apparently afraid they’ll catch fat from my money. The other day, Facebook showed me an add for a super neat looking belt that I could wear when I’m out walking… except they only make them up to XL (size 14-16). I emailed the company to see if they are planning on making options for bigger people, and reminded them how we have money, too, but have yet to receive a reply. Over it.

done2

If this post makes it seem like I’m super grumpy, it’s not true. I’m actually the happiest with my size and shape that I’ve been in a long, long time. I just need the rest of the world to catch up.

That's me!

That’s me!

As for the Polar Plunge: I did not wear a swimsuit in public. I was ready, mentally, but the air temperature was 3, and the water was 39. I may have only gone in up to my knees, but hey: I raised almost $1500 for Special Olympics. Huge thanks to those of you who donated!

 

Taking the Plunge

We’re almost a full month into 2016, so I’m gonna call it: This it The Year of Doing Things That Scare You. Are you in?

First up: I’ve been asked to participate in a polar plunge, one of those fundraising events where you jump into a lake in the middle of winter. This one’s for the Special Olympics of New York, so how could I say no? (Click here if you are feeling charitable and want to donate!) Let’s break down why this is my first scary endeavor of the year.

Not this lake, but one just as cold!

Not this lake, but one just as cold!

1) It’s gonna be really cold. I don’t know how cold. Very? Extremely? Ridiculously? Let’s go with that. So, yeah, the idea of a freezing plunge is a little… chilling. See what I did there? Yes, you do.

2) GUSCes. That’s a term I made up right now. It stands for Giant Underwater Sea Creatures, and they rank right up there on the list of Things That Really Scare Me (just behind massive spiders and just ahead of Michael Myers). I know it’s just Lake Ontario, and that I’ll only be running in and back out again, but you never know when a kraken’s going to slither to the surface and grab ya by the ankle, am I right?

3) I’m going to be running around in a bathing suit in a public setting where cameras will be present. Now, normally I am pretty darn comfortable in a bathing suit, no matter who’s looking. Heck, I’ve posted pictures of myself in a suit here on this blog! But those were pictures I had complete control over. I won’t know what I look like in these photos until they are out in the world for everyone to see.

And that, my friends, is the real reason I signed up to take this plunge: Because #3 truly scares the heck out me. The chances are high that I’ll think the pictures are unflattering. What if my Future Husband sees them, and changes his mind about me?! Seriously, though, it’s another step on my body acceptance journey, and I’m nervous and excited about it in equal measure.

Want to join me in The Year of Doing Things That Scare You? Dive right in!

Where Do We Go From Here?

As the calendar rolls over to another year, it’s a great time to reflect on where we were, where we are, and where we want to go. Here are mine:

Where I Was

Me in 2006. Not quite my smallest, but close.

Me in 2006. Not quite my smallest, but close.

I used to be a person who was consumed by the idea of becoming smaller. I obsessively counted carbs, calories, points. I weighed myself every day. I fell in love with The Biggest Loser. I consumed weight-loss news, bought the latest gadgets, and took heart in the stories of others’ successes. People were kinder, more attentive, and more loving toward me the smaller I got. And even more: I loved myself more with every pound lost.When the weight I’d lost began to creep back on (despite my “lifestyle change”), I blamed, shamed, and hated myself. I desperately wanted to shrink myself so I took up less space.

Where I Am

A more recent body shot, taken in September 2015.

A more recent body shot, taken in September 2015.

I am a person who believes in the body positivity and acceptance movements. I subscribe to the Health at Every Size model. I no longer believe in restricting food. I engage in physical activity because I love it, not in the hopes that it will make me smaller. I speak to anyone who will listen about their bodies and how to accept them. I encourage others to open their eyes to money-making madness that fuels obesity research and lines the pockets of those connected to the diet industry. I refuse to engage in diet talk, self-loathing, and food moralizing. I know that it’s isn’t my body that doesn’t fit, it’s the clothes. I take up as much space as I need in the world, without shame. I’m better at all this some days than others, of course.

Where I Want to Go

I want to live in a world where The Biggest Loser is off the air. I want non-fat people to stop telling me that my experience as a fat person is invalid, and that their advice about how not to be a fat person is completely accurate and should be followed (this applies to people in my life, on the street and the internet, as well as famous folks like Dr. Oz and Jillian Michaels). I want people, including those local chiropractors, to be forbidden from advertising that their diet and/or exercise plan results in “permanent weight loss.” I want each of us to talk about our bodies like we would talk about the body of someone we love and respect. I want everyone to realize that shame is not motivating, and that we don’t take care of the things we hate.

 

The fat-hating world we live in makes me sad, angry, and bored – often at the same time. Sometimes I lose patience with people who still believe in the myths of fat = unhealthy and thin = healthy, and I don’t have the energy or patience to try to open their eyes. But then I try to remember that I was like that once. Now that my eyes are open to how wonderful life can be when you stop hating and judging yourself and your body, I want everyone to experience that joy. There’s no reason you can’t! It takes work, but you can get there. I take heart in knowing that more and more people are realizing the truths of health and wellness every day, and that this can only lead to a kinder, happier world for people of all shapes and sizes.

So what about you? Where were you? Where are you? And where do you want to go?

Oh, one final note. I accidentally caught just a few minutes of the current “temptation nation” season premiere of The Biggest Loser last night, and that was plenty long enough to remind me that I wish this show would go away forever. Although first I’d like to be a contestant this season, so when Bob Harper offers me the choice of losing 40 pounds or taking $40,000 cash, I can skip off to the bank and start looking at airfare for my next Caribbean vacation. Meet me at the beach!

Sorry Not Sorry

Y’all, I have noticed lately that a lot of people are sorry for a lot of things. If you’ve done something to hurt someone, then sure, sorry can be a good and necessary thing. But I feel like we’re apologizing for things that we don’t need to apologize for.

sorry

You.

 

sorry count

Me.

Here are some things that you don’t need to be sorry for:

  • What you like to wear.
  • What you like to eat.
  • What you ate – or didn’t eat.
  • What you like to do – or not do – for exercise.
  • Taking the time to care for yourself.
  • Not feeling up to making plans.
  • Being mad.
  • Being glad.
  • Not caring.
  • Having a hard day.
  • Having a good day.
  • Struggling with liking yourself.
  • Totally liking yourself.
  • Being proud of yourself.
  • The state of your hair, your skin, your body.
  • Not meeting the expectations of society, media, your mother, your partner, yourself.

Did you notice that my list is full of both positive and negative things? That’s because I’ve noticed that people not only apologize for what they feel are their failures, mistakes, and inadequacies, but also for their successes and happiness. Why did we start doing that?! If you’re having a good day, if you did something awesome and want to brag about, if you look smashing and took an amazing selfie and want to post it online, go right ahead! I’ll be standing behind you, waving my pom-poms. Celebrating your successes and happiness is nothing to be sorry for. And having a down day, being blue, or failing to accomplish something are not things to be sorry for, either. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has a tough go now and then. That’s part of being human.

sorry Joey

This can be all of us.

Also part of being human? Having a body that doesn’t look anything at all like the bodies you see on TV and in magazines – or even like the bodies of the people in your life. Having a body that doesn’t respond to food and exercise the way it “should.” Having a body that sometimes wants to run three miles and sometimes wants to eat cookie dough ice cream straight from the container – on the same day, even! You do not have to apologize for not looking like Beyonce, or Matt Bomer, or Adele, or Idris Elba. Because the only people who do are Beyonce, Matt Bomer, Adele, and Idris Elba. You get to have a flat stomach or a double belly. You get to have no hair, frizzy hair, blue hair. You get to be – and look – like you, without having to say you’re sorry.

You are more than the sum of your parts. You are every good day, every bad day, every muscle, every stretch mark. You are your highest moments, and your lowest. You are every drop of sweat, every lazy Sunday afternoon, every frustration, every triumph. And you have nothing to be sorry about.

Great Power, Great Responsibility

I’m a big fan of superheroes. I watch Arrow, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I love all of the Avengers. When I was little, I had an obsession with Spider-Man. So I was very excited to watch the new Netflix series Jessica Jones. I’m three episodes in so far, and it hasn’t disappointed.

Except for one small thing.

jessicajones

Not ten minutes into the first episode, we’re treated to a scene of Jessica, a private investigator, perched on a fire escape and watching a building across the street. Because no one does anything with their curtains closed, Jessica spies a woman working out. A fat woman. Cue Jessica’s voice over:

“Two minutes on a treadmill, twenty minutes on a quarter-pounder.”

And sure enough, we cut back to see the fat woman literally stopping to eat a cheeseburger in the middle of her workout. For added laughs, she even gets back on the treadmill and eats while she’s moving.

I almost turned the show off right then. Truthfully, though, I wanted to keep watching. And that’s the dilemma I face so much of the time: Not wanting to support shows and people that fat shame, but also wanting to watch them because they entertain me (in non-fat-shaming ways, of course). I decided to compromise by continuing to watch the show, but also being vocal in my disappointment. (I actually struggle to think of a show I watch that hasn’t fat shamed in some way. Lovely.)

Just like Peter Parker learned, with great power comes great responsibility. The media and the entertainment industry are pretty pervasive in our lives. There’s the great power. I would like to hold them to task to take on the great responsibility. To stop using fat bodies and fat stereotypes for cheap, easy laughs. To stop perpetuating the idea that all fat people are lazy, gluttonous, stupid, to be made fun of. There’s absolutely nothing creative or clever about that scene. It’s offensive, plain and simple. If you saw it and laughed at it, I hope you’ll take a moment to think of the fat people in your life, and how they would react to seeing it.

There are two other Jessica Jones things to talk about that relate to BFD – two things that the show does right. First up, Carrie-Anne Moss. You probably best remember her as Trinity from the Matrix movies. Now, take a moment to realize the first of those flicks came out sixteen years ago (I know, right?!). Carrie-Anne Moss is now 48 years old. And while it’s unfair (and untrue) to say there is a “typical” way that a 48-year-old woman’s body should look, I was pleasantly surprised to see that hers more closely resembles a real-life (that is, not Hollywood) middle-aged body. Don’t get me wrong, I think she looks stunning. I just can’t get over that she is actually allowed to look her age!

CAM

Second, meet Luke Cage. He’s handsome. He’s tough. He’s very muscular. And if you look closely in the scenes where he has his shirt off? He has stretch marks on his shoulder. A lot of viewers probably didn’t notice this, but I did – immediately. How often are we ever allowed to see a body with a “flaw” like a stretch mark, much less on a man? (Answer: Pretty much never.) We are told (by people who desperately want our money) that things like stretch marks and cellulite are not natural, and should be eliminated at any cost (even though they can’t actually, you know, be eliminated), and most certainly should not be seen. I don’t think the show intentionally showed us Mike Colter’s stretch marks, but I’m glad they did, and I hope they made other people feel better about their own stretch marks.

I couldn't find a shirtless pic, so here's Mike Colter in a cardigan!

I couldn’t find a shirtless pic, so here’s Mike Colter in a cardigan!

We can’t all be superheroes, but we all have the power to make the world a safer, kinder, better place for people of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors – “flaws” and all. And, I would argue, with that power comes the responsibility to do so. Speak your mind to @JessicaJones and @netflix.

One-Up

Want to know something I’m completely done with? People who feel the need to one-up each other about how much they don’t like their bodies. Here’s an example. The other day, I overheard a conversation in which three women with thin, socially-acceptable bodies took turns trying to convince each other that no, their body was the worst. One woman would say something negative about her belly, and the others would say, “I wish I looked like you!” and then name parts they hated on their own bodies. I’m sure you’ve overheard or been a part of conversations just like this.

Not that kind of 1-Up, Mario!

Not that kind of 1-Up, Mario!

Are you familiar with the term “social currency”? It’s the idea of sharing things socially in order to bond or get people to like us. Here’s part of the definition from Wikipedia: “Social currency […] is about increasing one’s sense of community, granting access to information and knowledge, helping to form one’s identity, and providing status and recognition.” Sounds okay, right? Well, consider that disparaging our bodies is a major way that we spend our social currency. Talking about how much you hate your body is a way of helping to form your identity, a way of increasing your sense of community, a way of gaining status and recognition. How sad it that? And yet so many of us do it, so much of the time.

Engaging in negative body talk with others is so pervasive – so accepted – that we actually look askance at people who don’t do it. Read any article online about a fat person who likes themselves, who isn’t actively (and constantly) trying to change the shape of their body, and the comments will be full of infuriated folks ready to put that person in their place, reminding that person that they aren’t allowed to like their body until it is the size and shape it “should” be.

Here’s what you can do to help put an end to this ridiculousness. First, you can personally stop talking negatively about your body to others. You can refuse to play the one-up game. If you don’t have the spoons to talk to people about how unnecessary and damaging this kind of talk is, just walk away. I didn’t engage in the conversation I overheard. I wanted to, but I was too tired and too frustrated, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to say what I needed to without getting angry. So instead, I wrote this note to y’all.

If you’re with me, spread the word. If you need to one-up someone, one-up them about the good things you’ve done today, the people you’ve helped, the love you’ve spread. That’s social currency we can all get rich from.

 

Know When to Walk Away

Sing it with me:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
know when to fold ’em,
know when to walk away,
and know when to run.

I’ve spent the better part of the last six months trying to make a frustrating situation better, but nothing’s worked. So I’m taking Kenny’s advice (or, rather, that gambler he met on the train bound for nowhere) and walking away.

This guy knows what I'm talking about.

This guy knows what I’m talking about.

No, not from Big Fit Deal! (I know I’ve been pretty quiet of late, but for good reason: I’ve been working on my first collection of short fiction, which is now available in print and electronic versions – with an audio book coming soon! While things are slow over here on the blog, you can always follow BFD on Facebook for more frequent conversations.)

I’m walking away from my gym. If you’ve been keeping track at home, I joined LA Fitness in August of 2013, when I was hoping to do some cross-training that wouldn’t affect my injured leg/foot. In October of that year, I severely sprained my ankle, and the pool at LAF became my favorite place to work out. I started swimming laps three times a week, and loved taking aqua fit classes three times a week. The instructors (especially Keshia!) were great, and I made fantastic friends. The classes were tough, and I was making consistent gains in my endurance and strength. Wonderful!

Us, basically.

Us, basically.

In April, Keshia left for greener pastures, and a new instructor took over her Monday and Wednesday night classes. To make a long (and super frustrating) story short: class became boring, unchallenging, and repetitive. My classmates and I tried to work with the instructor to get the classes back on track, but that went nowhere. I spoke to the club manager, his manager, corporate people, and anyone who would listen. I wrote emails and posted on social media. Meanwhile, class attendance dwindled. Some people quit the gym altogether. Eventually, the class filled up with new people who were not interested in a high-level, challenging water workout.

Pretty much.

Pretty much.

For a long time, I was stubborn about it. I wanted to emerge victorious – to either outlast the instructor, or prevail in having her trained in a way that made the class challenging and satisfying for those of us at the advanced level. But I’m done. The time has come to walk away. The local branch and the corporate headquarters are standing firmly behind this instructor. I admit defeat.

thumbsdown

As I walk away from this experience, I consider: What am I walking to? I want to keep swimming, that’s for sure. It’s great for my heart and lungs, and I love being in the water. But I’m ready for new fitness adventures, too. My leg and foot continue to vex me, so I do have some limitations, but I’ve started to walk short distances a few days a week, so that’s encouraging (although, as the Starks know, winter is coming).

What do you do for fitness? Where do you work out? What gets your blood pumping? Inspire me with your comments and suggestions, friends. And tell me: Have you had to walk away?

%d bloggers like this: