The Shape of Things

A Guest Post from Tanya Schofield

I need to say these things, because they are important.

I inhabit a larger body, and I am okay with that.

I am unconcerned with my relationship to gravity, because the shape of me is in no way related to the worth of me. I am words and laughter and gifs and memories and stories and scars and survival, and my worth is intrinsic in my existenceif I was precious and worthy of love as an infant, I am just as much so now; the only thing different is time and the number of neural pathways.

My value as a friend or employee or customer or parent or artist is in no way relative to how much space I inhabit.

Neither is yours.

So when you tell me (or Facebook) how bad you feel about your relationship to gravity, when you tell me you are somehow less than desirable or interesting or worth the time and energy of other people based solely on your size or shape, you are also telling me the same thing, about me.

You don’t mean to. 

You mean to say that YOU need to lose weight to feel better about yourself, you’re not judging anyone else, it’s only about YOU. 

But it isn’t. 

If you believe that you are in any way inferior or unworthy based on your weight or shape, then you absolutely (perhaps subconsciously) believe that anyone of an equal or greater size or shape is also inferior/unworthy. 

If you profess that you are unfit to be seen in public because you are too heavy, then you are telling anyone of equal or greater size that they should also stay out of sight.

That is exactly what you’re saying. And it hurts. 

Anything you say to yourself about your body: “too fat, too flabby, looks gross, no one will want to be intimate with me…”imagine saying that to your fat friend. Imagine saying it to me. Put my name in front of it. Tanya, you’re so fat, it’s disgusting, you have no willpower, you’re lazy and unmotivated and you don’t deserve to eat food you enjoy, in fact, you shouldn’t even go out in public.

If you can’t comfortably use your “meanspiration” on someone you care about, you maybe shouldn’t use it on yourself. Hating your way to self-love is historically unsuccessful.

Now, if you can say those things to my face without feeling bad, then a) we are no longer friends and 2) your fatphobia is beyond the point of being reasonable, and you should maybe get that checked. Really. I’m only concerned about your health.

Speaking of which, 100% of you are not my doctor. That means you don’t get to speculate on my health or my impact on the health care system. Ever. 

If you are making lifestyle choices based on your own health requirementsfor instance, if you avoid acidic foods because it alleviates your acid reflux symptomsgood for you. That doesn’t mean everyone else has to do the same thingeven if they suffer from acid reflux. If YOU have demonized [insert food category here], that doesn’t require you to play preacher and tell everyone else about its evils, and frankly, I’d rather you didn’t.

The research that brought you to your choice is very interesting, thank you, but I don’t care about it any more than I care about the research that led you to buy a salt pool instead of a chlorine pool. You are who you are, and you are in my life for so many reasons that AREN’T what you eat and why. Can we skip to the stuff that matters?

Your body is not my body. 

My body is not your body. 

Bodies are different, and that’s really, honestly okay. If we both bring Macaroni and Cheese to the potluck, what matters is NOT the dimensions of the container it’s in. No, we ask, what kind of cheese did you use? heavy cream or milk? bacon or ham or nothing? Did you put stewed tomatoes in there (because we are DONE if you did).

Look. I get it. Fat people are easy scapegoats. We have to put SOMEONE down in order to build ourselves up. All KINDS of humans are insisting on being treated equally regardless of their ethnicity, orientation, genderI would put forth at this point that most people would rather have a flat-earther at their gathering than a fat person. But fat… well, fat is fair game.

Once upon a time I used to watch How Clean Is Your Housebecause seeing a worst-case example made me feel better about not bleaching every surface in my home twice a day. One of my friends watches COPS to feel better about their own life choices as they watch addicts or drunks stumbling through a traffic stop. Making fun of fat people is that same mechanic at work“I may have skipped the gym yesterday, but at least I don’t look like THAT.”

I am not a cautionary tale.

I am more than the picture you put on the fridge as inspiration to not eat.

Please stop and think. 

When you tell me a story about that woman at the beach who was “much too large to be wearing that bathing suit,” you tell me (and the larger body I inhabit) that only people in smaller bodies have a right to wear seasonally-appropriate clothing. When you tell me you were so “bad” for eating something decadent, you are telling me that my worth is dependent on an arbitrary morality attached to calorie sourcesand YOU are robbing yourself of the pleasurable experience of eating it in the first place.

I’m asking you, as humans, to value humans for their humanity, and end the conversation there.

If you won’t befriend a fat stranger, if you won’t invite your fat friend to certain places, if you won’t date someone because they inhabit a larger body, if “fat” is an insult from you instead of an objective descriptorYOU are the problem here.

My comfort level with the size of my body is not an attack on your way of life. My being content/happy as a larger person is not an attack on your need to reshape yourself before you allow yourself to be happy. (Spoiler: You won’t be any happier, just smaller.) 

Conversely, your choice to eat a salad for lunch is not a personal attack on my cheeseburger, and I will not take it as suchright up until you say “I want a cheeseburger, but I was so badI ate dessert last night AND had a muffin this morning, I can’t afford another slip.”

I won’t participate in your diet talk or your food morality talk, and I’m certainly not going to compliment you about your changing shapejust as your science says {food group is evil}, my science says diets do more harm than good in the long term, and that fat-shaming causes exponentially more health problems than body acceptance. 

I will ask you to not talk about those things near me, because the reasons I value our time together have nothing to do with shape, or size, or caloric intake versus expenditure.

I promise, I love you for you. 

Please just love me for me.