Guest Post: Fat As Survival

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Stock photo of triumphant fat woman

CW Discussion of size, weight, fat, fat phobia, diet and exercise culture, weight loss culture, eating disorders, body hate/dysmorphia, food, mental health, depression, stress, Suicide, intrusive thoughts, self harm, and doctors/medical talk, abusive family member

The following guest post is published anonymously at the request of the author.

I am a fat andro-femme who is very familiar with thin privilege. The first 25 years of my life, though marred by ortholexia and body dysmorphia, were years in which I was thin, or at least thin enough. I did not recognize it entirely at the time, caught up as I was in disordered eating, but I was thin and received all of the attendant privileges.

In my early twenties I started gaining a little weight. Escaping a deeply abusive family member and being a little freed from some of the worse symptoms of my ortholexia and compulsive exercising, living with a person who instead encouraged me to listen to my body’s needs and love myself, translated to a gain of maybe 10-20 pounds. For someone who had been borderline underweight before, these were a good 10-20 pounds. And this coincided too with my first exposure to fat positivity. I worked hard to love that extra little chub that I saw around my middle, rather than despising it the way I had despised my body constantly and intensely from 16-22.

I moved then to an urban city, for the first time in my life. I was newly reliant on public transit, with no access to a car at all, and I developed even more bulk, this time all muscle. I felt powerful and strong, and I was deeply in love with the feeling. Despite all the life stress at the time, I felt in control of my life and my body and my future, and I felt more certain and positive than I had pretty much my whole life. For the first time I was totally free from my entire family, from their expectations and criticisms. It was at once terrifying and liberating.

Then my partner experienced a health emergency that slowly plunged us further and further behind. Until, eventually, we were forced to give it up and move back near my family. Their financial support, physical support, and the gifts they gave us of shelter and furniture and food were instrumental to our survival at the time. But I was back near that one abusive family member again, and all of my mental health and PTSD was triggered back into a near-constant state of red alert. Constantly anxious, nervous, and battling self-loathing and depression, I slowly stopped feeling powerful and slowly started gaining weight again. Not much, just a few pounds here and there. My fat friends still complemented me on how skinny I was, but my thin friends did not. Not anymore.

It was very strange, being just at that in between point. To my thin friends I was fat; definitely fat. To my fat friends I was still the skinny hot one. Obviously many of my friends at the time had their own embedded body issues as well, but it is not to my purpose to dwell on that.

The stress began to be felt in my relationship with my then long-term partner. While I was fighting hard to accept my body as it was, my battles with both flare-ups of my ortholexia and increasingly levels of body dysmorphia made it hard for me to feel sexually attractive. My partners depression and his own internalized fat-phobia and admitted decreasing interest in my body did not help. His store of skinny-blond-white-girl porn that saw more action than I did didn’t help either.

And when our relationship of eight years did eventually fall apart was when I started gaining much more weight. It started with severe intrusive thoughts, suicidal thoughts, and thoughts of self-harm that forced me to quit my job. Then when I did leave him I was homeless, couch surfing, unemployed, completely adrift and dependent on the charity of others for the better part of a year. I moved from friend to friend, unable to keep a job when I kept switching counties, unable to keep up with my own mental health. I had started a medicine for depression just after leaving my spouse, but the medication didn’t work, and that whole year of homelessness was also how long it took for my doctor to figure out a medication and dosage level that worked for me. Even still I don’t feel cured. Just barely able to function.

And this year, this year in which I truly did not know if I would live through it, this year was the year in which I got fat. I am fat. My doctors have discussed my weight with me. I get passed over and ignored in the streets and out in public now. People do not offer to help me anymore when they see me struggling alone. The last vestiges of my thin privilege disappeared somewhere around the time I started shopping in the plus size section of the thrift stores. When many shoes no longer fit me because of my fat feet. When I have a double or triple chin in many of my photos now. When people ask me when I’m due. When I am receiving backwards compliments on the “bravery” of my choice to wear the same style clothes I’ve been wearing. When internet commenters feel entitled to express disgust and horror at the sight of one of my rolls.

But I am fat because I lived. I became fat to live. When I could barely feed myself once a day, when it was all I could do to get out of bed, when I had to call and go visit friends in the middle of the night to keep from self-harming or trying to end my life. My body gained weight so that I would not die. My body was saving my life. My body was not permitting me to end my beautiful existence. And, I firmly believe, my body has become even more beautiful.

Every one of the many stretch marks I have received in the last few years when I rapidly gained all of my size, each one of those is a testament to my survival. Each of those is a symbol of my body growing to contain all of my pain and my hurt and my illness and my disability. Each of my rolls shows the lengths my body went to to love me when I could not love myself. My folds contain a will to live that my brain could not muster.

The comfort I feel now, as a fat person, is both literal and figurative. No longer does it hurt to sit on a hard bench. My body has cushioned me from that. No longer do I shiver in cold when I have sobbed myself dry in the middle of the night. My fat body keeps me warm when my soul feels like ice. And, perhaps most importantly, as a fat person I was able to find my non-binary gender expression that finally fit with who I am inside. I no longer feel daily body dysmorphia from feeling like someone I’m not. I am not longer masquerading as a binary-gender that denies the reality of who I am. My fat is big enough to contain all of my gender, and allows me to feel outside of the constructs of gender and attractiveness that my conventional thin attractiveness made me feel more bound within.

I am obviously not trying to speak for every non-binary or fat person. And fat can be very woman or very man if that is who you are. But I think it is important to note and to remember that thin white faces are not the only non-binary.

I don’t quite know what the purpose of this entire ramble was. Except maybe to say; I reject your hatred of my fat. I reject it, and I aggressively love my fat body. I love my fat stomach, my fat legs, my fat fingers and hands and feet, my fat neck and back fat, my fat arms and fat cheeks. I love my fat me for surviving, for thriving, for coming into myself. I am, finally, getting closer to being the perfect expression of me.

And I wouldn’t change my fat for anything.

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3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Fat As Survival

  1. Congratulations on loving yourself! As a 40-year-old life-long fatty, I still don’t love my body. It’s a process, however, and I do appreciate all that my body does for me, fat or otherwise. It’s so lovely to read a post where gaining weight saved a life and was a positive experience. I’m not sure how to express this without sounding condescending, but I feel proud of you for making it through a truly difficult part of your life and coming out triumphant and knowing what is best for you. Thank you for sharing your journey!

    Like

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