Body Image, Fatphobia, and Healthy Living

Let's talk about these things for a bit. I think it's an important discussion to have. I know from experience that it's a thin line to walk between all three, but it's not impossible. It's something that I keep in mind every day.

Do you know, even though I was overweight/obese as a pre-teen, teen, and adult, I never hated my body until a few years ago? I know I'm pretty lucky in this, but nobody ever teased me about my weight growing up and it didn't stop me from doing what I wanted to do [I still played sports pretty regularly up through high school, even 50+ pounds overweight]. I never even thought about my body, truthfully, until I joined Weight Watchers when I was 20. And then, my love for my body only grew! I started working out regularly again [this was junior year of college, so it had been a couple years since high school and the cessation of sports] and I was constantly amazing myself with how much my body could do. I'd never really paid attention to how my body looked before, but now I loved that too. But the number on the scale and my body size only mattered a tiny bit; what really mattered was how far my body could run, stretch, and keep going long after I thought possible.

A year after reaching my goal weight and maintaining, I moved to Chicago. I stopped going to Weight Watchers meetings [couldn't find a meeting/leader I liked], and had to take some time off from exercise because of a back injury. A few pounds came back on, and then another few. After gaining back about 15 pounds, my insecurities grew. I felt fat and thought everyone was making fun of my weight behind my back. I'd never thought that of myself before, but there it was. [And I was only 150, at the top of my healthy weight range!] I started working out again, just a little, but I also started eating more. Food was a huge source of both comfort and celebration in Chicago.

Another problem with this was that in Chicago, my group of friends were… well, pretty radical. Actually, we were Radical Cheerleaders.

Radical cheerleaders! I'm the one in the red hat.
I felt conflicted about trying to lose weight because I thought my friends wouldn't understand, they were very into fat acceptance and one of our cheers was even "Riot Don't Diet". [I still don't believe in dieting, I believe in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it's tiresome to explain the difference over and over and over.] I felt that I couldn't talk to them about wanting to lose weight, and my journey with Weight Watchers, because they'd condemn me for being on a "diet". [Looking back, I don't think most of them would have, but I didn't realize this at the time!]

I'm the one with the blue hair... I can't believe I was so conscious of my weight here!

Like I said, my friends were very into fat acceptance. Which is great! Fat acceptance means loving yourself, and others, no matter the size or number on a scale. I'm all for that! But I'm also all for making a choice for myself to live a healthy lifestyle. I can't make this choice for anyone else, and I won't even suggest it to other people. But I personally want to be healthy, which for me involves losing weight. My family has a laundry list of obesity-related diseases and I don't want any part of them.

It took a long time for me to get back to this mindset. I was afraid of what my friends would think so instead of opening up to them, getting myself together, and losing those few pounds, I kept gaining weight. An average of 15 pounds a year every year I was in Chicago. In that time, I went through periods of hating my body and hating what I'd done to myself. I also went through periods of hating myself for wanting to lose weight. What can I say, it was conflicting! But I wasn't successful until I went through my old weight loss journal and started remembering how amazing I'd felt, running a 5k and flying on my bike and doing challenging yoga poses. I wasn't successful until I started loving my body, and all the things it had the potential to do, once again.

Even now, I still have over 50 pounds to lose but I can honestly say that I love my body. A couple years ago [when I weighed less than I currently do], I wouldn't look in full-length mirrors and would have cringed at the thought of exposing my stomach. But this week, I've been walking around just in running shorts and a sports bra [it's too hot for more clothes than that!] and I am okay with it. I'm more than okay. I can't stop admiring myself in the mirror!

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
my belly's chubby but I still love it!
A part of me is still worried that some people will accuse me of being fatphobic. It comes up a lot when someone's very public about losing weight. But I know that I've never judged a person based on their weight, and I never will. I just personally want to lose weight so I can be the healthiest version of myself.

I'd been sitting on the idea of writing this post for a while but couldn't put the words together. Then I recently found my friend Raechel's blog. Raechel was a radical cheerleader with me in Chicago and just reading her thoughts on healthy living while also keeping a "radical" mindset was very encouraging.

Conclusion? Love yourself, and fuck what other people think.