*Trigger Warning* Discussion of body size, fatphobia, and dieting.
Dear straight-sized friend, family member, or partner;
First, I must start this letter by saying, I love you. I am so proud to have you in my life, and you are so valued by me. Today, I have a hard letter to write to you.
You, like many, have made comments recently (or perhaps regularly) about your weight. 2020 in particular has caused struggles for you. Your body has changed, or your fear that it will. You have expressed to me your insecurities, and I hear how hard they are for you.
I need to share something with you. I am afraid. I am afraid that the way that you target your body is a reflection of how you think of me, your fat friend, and other fat people. I know you will say no. I know that you will tell me it is just YOU you are struggling to accept. I know this feels true, and when I was straight-sized, I felt this way too. I know the frustration and shame this can bring. I know the words “I believe in body positivity for everyone but me”.
You are straight-sized, which is to say, you can shop for clothes in basically every store. Your size does not stop you from receiving medical care. You are never worried your body will not fit in a seat. Strangers do not take time from your day to tell you to lose weight, or to be ashamed. Your ability to get life insurance isn’t affected by your BMI. This doesn’t mean that you do not struggle, or that you have no right to struggle with your body image. I just implore you to hear me when I ask you the question: why?
The easy answer might be that society values thinness. That you have been flooded with these messages from the media, friends and family your whole life. Your worth is attached to your thinness and it is scary to feel you could lose that. The deeper answer is, I think, a little less comfortable.
In order to see thinness as more valuable, you must see fatness as less valuable. When you worry aloud to me that you are afraid you aren’t attractive anymore, I hear your sadness, but I also hear your fatphobia. The thing I don’t think we talk about much is that the problem isn’t just that thinness, especially in women, is idealized. The other part of the problem is how we have been convinced that people who do not or can not achieve this idealized size are viewed as not only failures, but threats. If fat people were to not only accept their bodies, but love them, how far could that spread? Who could leave toxic diet culture and the money it makes through oppression? This is an unacceptable threat to the diet industry; fat bodies must stay the shamed “before” picture.
You need to understand that fatphobia is deeply rooted in control. The North American diet industry is a 72 billion dollar industry built on shame, racism, sexism, and bad science. The diet industry has weaponized food, weaponized movement, weaponized self-confidence. When you talk about your fear of weight gain, or insult your body or the bodies of others, I hear these weapons in your voice, and they hurt.
So when you say “I have gotten so fat!” or, “I feel so fat”, or “Oh no, I can’t eat that *gestures vaguely at body*”, what I hear is, “I don’t want to look like you”. As we move through the shame posts and stories of the holiday season, we will enter the new year when, for me, it feels like everyone wants me to know that my body is not ideal. It should only ever be the “before” picture.
I think, for a long time, that is how I saw my body. As a “before” picture. I ignored fatphobia and the toxicness of diet culture because I didn’t want it to apply to me. I was a thin woman in a fat woman’s body. I was just trying to be “healthy”.
But my health comes from love. Love of my body and all it can do for me. Love of the food that nourishes me. Love of the movement that makes me feel good. Love of my friends, family, and loved ones in all their beautiful shapes and sizes.
I am blessed to expand. Every pound has added perspective. My weight grounds me in the knowledge of what I was able to float above before. I do not blame you for being afraid of weight gain, and attaching your value to your size. 72 billion dollars has been put behind those feelings. So many of us struggle with them.
But I am asking you, please, just pause. Pause before you insult the appearance of yourself or anyone else. Pause before you say you can’t eat “that” food if you don’t want to gain weight. Pause before you talk about the diet you want to try, or the exercise plan you need to begin. You are so much more than a number, and so am I. Your words can hurt me in my healing, and I know that isn’t what you want.
Body acceptance is a revolution. It is scary. It is hard. It is not a linear journey. Understanding our impact as individuals goes a long way to creating real change. Your body is a good body, today. So is mine. Let’s work on kindness to ourselves, because we just don’t know how much that kindness could help someone listening.