Since my last blog mainly focused on my dating life, it seems fitting that this one should start with a breakup. Don’t worry, le bf and I are fine. The relationship I’m ending is probably the longest—and definitely worst—coupling of my life. You see, after more than 20 years of fighting I am finally ready to tell the entire diet culture to get right fucked.
Here’s the thing: I’m fat. It’s not a big deal, it just is. And it’s okay. Do you know how freeing it is to say those words together, fat and okay?
I haven’t always been fat, but I’ve almost always felt fat. As a kid, family members would let me know when I had packed on a few more pounds than they were comfortable with, usually as a marker of an upcoming growth spurt.
When I was 16 and weighed 110lbs soaking wet, a cruel comment from a boy (in the process of breaking up with me) about my “hideous stomach” cut me to the quick. I spent a considerable amount of energy trying to hide said hideousness, whether it be empire waistlines and tankinis or physical barriers like pillows—the way TV shows try to mask an actor’s pregnancy.
In university, I started to get “really” fat. The pounds crept on during my second year, and it seemed like each diet (more on those later) just made me gain faster. My weight did not go unnoticed by friends and family. People commented (some out of some misguided attempt to help, I think), I was ashamed, and I turned to food for comfort. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I thought I would lose weight when I moved to Korea. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. I thought I would lose weight when I came home for my post-grad. You guessed it, still nope. In fact, I lost each time I tried to wage war on my body through deprivation, punitive exercising, food journaling, and the like. I just kept getting fatter.
Then in 2013, something different happened. You’d think I would have this really stark moment of clarity, but for the life of me I can’t remember how or why things changed this time. All I know is I ended up losing 60lbs in about a year and all of a sudden I was living in a very different world. People only wanted to talk about one thing: what magic had I harnessed to lose the weight?
I didn’t have the answer they wanted. I literally gave up everything delicious (except alcohol, and at my thinnest I was drinking a bottle of wine most nights. Healthy, eh?) and I would tell people that. For two years I didn’t eat a cookie, slice of pizza, or piece of cake. But I had won, I was thin. I could shop at stores that had been off limits for years. I could wear skirts without worrying about chub rub. No one got uncomfortable when I sat next to them on the subway. People were complimenting me constantly. I should’ve been free. I should’ve been happy. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t. I spent almost all of my free time thinking about food—what I was or wasn’t eating, what I should or should not eat. Internal debates about having just one bite of something lasted hours. Special occasions were agony. I ordered a fruit cup at my own damn birthday.
I was tired. I thought the fight would be over when I lost the weight, but it was a never-ending battle. I did the unthinkable and had a cupcake at a friend’s wedding. Two years and many cupcakes later, the weight was back and I saw myself as a failure and assumed everyone else did too. So many people had been so damn proud of me for losing the weight. Now that I was fat again, was I a constant disappointment to them? What about my partner, who met me when I was thinner? Did I sell him a lie, lure him in with skinny girl bait and then do a fat girl switch? The closet full of clothes I couldn’t wear, the old pictures that popped up, the subtle comments from friends and family all served as stark reminders of my deficiencies.
So I tried again, and again, and again. I sought professional help, but something broke in me when I heard the words “Would you rather be skinny or full?” I tried non-diet diets, cloaked in the trendy new label of clean eating. I juice cleansed to “detox my tastebuds,” but went right back to sugar. I divided food into stark categories of “good” or “bad”, as if food has a moral compass. And here we are.
Clearly none of this is working. It’s not working for my body and it’s not working for my soul. And I’m tired. I am bone tired after nearly 20 years of fighting with myself, fighting with food, and fighting for space in the world. So I’m done. I’m breaking up with diets, “lifestyle changes,” clean eating, and every other euphemism for restricted eating we can come up with. I’m going to eat the cupcakes, and the kale, and whatever else I damn well please. I’m going to do yoga because it soothes my soul and not because it burns calories. I’m going to go for long walks and not count a single step. My body is smart, it will tell me what it needs.
Maybe this is the amount of space I’m meant to take up. Maybe instead of punishing my body for what it isn’t, it’s time to celebrate it for what it is. Maybe it’s not me, it’s you.