So today is Love Your Body Day according to the National Organization for Women’s NOW Foundation, an endeavor I fully support. As a believer in Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, I want to make every day “Love Your Body Day,” for everyone.
But I notice things. Things like the fact that there are no fat bodies represented in the header of the LYBD page. That the thumbnails for the “featured videos” don’t seem to show any fat bodies. The Grand Prize winner of their poster contest shows a smaller-sized body (and there are no super-plus-sized bodies on any of the winning posters, just ambiguous “curves.”) And hey, where are the men? Men have bodies too, and problems loving their bodies.
So, I’m into the day, though maybe not the website so much.
This journey of acceptance has been pretty challenging for me at times. I wasn’t brought
up to love my body, but to fight it – fight its size, by “eating to live, not living to eat.”
Fight its shape, by finding the right bra, wearing a slip, not wearing stripes, choosing the right pants or swimsuit or jacket for a short person (like any article of clothing is going to make people think “my, isn’t she tall? Here I thought she was only 5’1!”)
Fight its appetites, for food and other things, by counting calories, following the Food Pyramid or the Slim Fast plan or the recipes in Woman’s Day for Losing 20 Pounds in 30 Days, by ignoring its sexual desires, by only acknowledging those desires that were “appropriately” heterosexual.
Fight its impulses, by keeping my opinions to myself, keeping my voice down, keeping my hands in my lap.
Who’s got energy to accept anything? I’m too busy fighting! There’s a war on, you know.
Wait, that’s not what I was taught! I was taught food was a weapon all right – a weapon to try to make you fat. A weapon to be defended against at all costs (“don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach!”)
My body never did obey orders well. It got fat no matter what I fed it, wanted things that were “bad” for it, did and said things that got me in hot water. Stupid body.
I have spent a lot of time being very irritated with my body, rather than loving it.
Size Acceptance and HAES have helped me “work on that relationship,” as we like to say in family therapy. They’ve helped me accept that this is what my body looks like and functions like today; maybe it will look or function differently some other day, but today this is where we are, and all the wishing and self-hating in the world won’t change that when I open my eyes and look in the mirror again.
They’ve helped me accept buying clothes in the right size, no matter what the number is on the tag. They’ve helped me critique the concept of “flattering” when it really means “disguises your fat, a little bit, kind of” and wear costumes and colors and clothing that I previously would have thought “off limits” and look fabulous while doing it. They’ve helped me appreciate other people’s fabulous beauty as well, in new ways I never saw when I bought into the idea of “beauty = thin.” (And white, and cisgender, and…)
They’ve helped me realize that there is no such thing as “getting a beach body”; your beach body is just your body, at the beach. (Do I go to the beach that much? In San Francisco? Sure, in jeans and a sweater. Hush.)
They’ve helped me listen to my body and work on developing a normal, intuitive relationship with food and hunger. They’ve helped me speak up to doctors and refuse to be weighed, refuse to be ignored, refused to be mis-diagnosed or abused because of my body size.
But they’re not a cure-all.
It’s still hard for me to love my body a lot of days.
I bought a bike a few months ago. I can ride, but I’m not very confident. I’m scared of traffic, scared of potholes, scared of the steep hills in my area. But mostly I’m scared of being a Fat Girl on a Bike, and being mocked for huffing and puffing away as I learn this new skill.
I forget sometimes that when stuff doesn’t fit, it’s not me, it’s the clothes. The problem is a world that doesn’t honor bodies of all shapes and sizes and genders, not the bodies themselves. I get mad when I can’t shop somewhere, when I see smaller people trying everything on when nothing fits me, when a vendor says “oh I’m sure I have something that will fit you” and pulls out a skirt that is clearly never going to make it around my waist. (I managed to work myself into a fine surly mood at the 2011 Edwardian Ball over that one – what a waste!)
I reject photos of myself that seem to show my imagined or perceived flaws, even photos that other people say are beautiful.
I forget to ask my body what it wants to eat, and I start judging and criticizing its preferences, ignoring its needs, listening to advertising, confusing hunger with other feelings, equating food with morality.
I think about approaching someone whom I find attractive and then convince myself that they’ll be horrified that I showed interest. I get mad at my friends and loved ones who have body size privilege (it’s not their fault!)
I forget that it’s a process. That loving your body is a daily practice, not a place you arrive at. That there’s good days and bad days and days that start out bad but get better.
It really does, to quote the videos for queer teens, get better. Once you stop fighting your body, it gets better.
So happy Love Your Body Day.