Why I Will Always Choose to be a Little Bit Fat.

Via on Sep 29, 2013
Photo from The Hilda Gallery, The Toil Girls
Photo from The Hilda Gallery, ToilGirls.com

How we can all feel good about ourselves, whatever our size.

I saw an article a few weeks ago with this incredible before-and-after set of photos of an overweight, post-baby woman who then became totally “bikini-worthy.”

So I had to click the link, of course, to have a look. No question about it—the “after” photo of this woman was a stunning shot. She looked fit, toned, healthy and gorgeous. I read on, eager to discover what her secret was; what profound magical method it was that she had used to shed however-many-number of pounds.

There it was, a long and detailed tract of the super lean, restrictive diet she had put herself on for a year. No carbs, no dairy, no fruit, no nothing. The sample diet she had shared in the article seemed to consist of little more than hummus, celery and endless amounts of steamed fish. Healthy—yes. Exciting, delicious, fun lifestyle—no.

I decided in that moment that I would choose to continue being a little bit fat.

Yes, I could do with losing at least about 10 pounds so that the Bébé dress I bought earlier this year would fit that much more snugly. But if it’s at the expense of not eating fruit, freshly baked breads, Greek yogurt and honey for a year, well then, I choose emphatically to continue being 10 pounds more than I should be.

Science is a wonderful thing. It’s revealed so many revolutionary ways of understanding the way our bodies work and the effects of new foods, super foods, bad foods and good foods on our health. It’s sad though that “health” has so often come to be equated only and necessarily with thinness.

The glut of diet programs, weight-loss fads, fat-burning supplements and specialized bikini-body workouts are now as much a part of our daily consumer choices as the aisles of (“forbidden”) food in supermarkets. There seems to be no excuse not to be “healthy” (read: thin) given the huge number of aids, YouTube videos and literature on the subject.

Articles like the one I read aren’t necessarily always an encouraging, inspiring thing. They don’t just tell the story of an overweight person who chose discipline and a healthier lifestyle. There is often also a more sinister sub-narrative that raises its eyebrows at the reader and challenges her—“If this person can lose xx pounds, why can’t you?”—even if the reader may not actually be unhealthy or overweight.

The titles of these articles alone are almost always weight-centered, like “I lost 120 pounds, ask me how!” or “How one man lost 200 pounds in a year.” Rarely are these articles presented through the perspective of someone choosing a healthier lifestyle, discarding bad nutritional habits or incorporating fitness into their daily routine.

There it is: the continuous, unceasing reminder that we should all be striving toward thinness. From cabbage soup fasts, to low-everything diets, to 20-minute fat-blasting workouts, the desirable end result is usually almost and entirely about becoming become a thinner version of ourselves.

I am not ignoring the fact that for a percentage of people who are facing the health risks of being dangerously overweight, losing weight is a part of becoming healthier. I don’t discount that and understand how important it is in these cases to count calories and lost inches.

Problems arise when that very same method is being adopted by people who aren’t facing any health risks—who may, in fact, be completely healthy, fit people—but who still feel that they would be healthier if only they were five, 10 or 20 pounds lighter.

So I’d like to suggest flipping things around a bit; looking at things through another lens.

Let’s focus on being healthy—and just that.

Logically and biologically, it would follow that by following a healthy way of living, eating and exercising, everything else will find its proper balance. We would lose weight if we needed to lose weight, we’d gain muscle if we needed to gain muscle, we’d balance out all the other things that come from not being healthy—stress, cholesterol, diabetes, poor complexion, hair loss etc.

And what does it mean to live healthily? In the face of all the new diet and exercise schemes, I think that actually, we all already know what it means to live a healthy, balanced, feel-totally-awesome lifestyle, without having to follow any fad or buy any specialized products.

Intuitively, deep down inside, we do know the basics of living well. We know when we’ve had enough to eat, what kinds of foods are good for us, what makes us feel good and what makes us go into a slump, how much exercise we need to do, when to stop when we’re exhausted and when to rest.

We know this not just intellectually, but physically—our bodies are always telling us what we need to do; we just need to listen.

One’s body will tell us when it feels like a massive binge on Chinese take-out. It will also tell us when it’s had enough so we don’t insist on finishing every last fortune cookie. Our bodies will take us dancing, running, swimming, trampolining and playing; but they will also make us rest and sleep.

I read something beautiful a while ago, about how we shouldn’t change our bodies so we can love them.

Instead, we should create change in the way we treat ourselves because we love our bodies.

Ultimately this is about focusing on health: the physical health of our bodies and the emotional health of how we see and relate to our bodies. We love our bodies—this temporary shell on loan to us for this lifetime—so we treat them well, nourish them, feed them, move them, hug them, stretch then, let them dance, discipline them, give them a treat sometimes and most of all enjoy them.

Enjoying our bodies is to indulge in the beautiful, sensual things like good food, good sex and the rush of an energetic run in the mornings. But also, I think enjoyment is about ensuring our bodies are at their prime health so that they truly get the most out of these things and appreciate, at our body’s fullest capacity, the good food, good sex and energetic run.

This is true whatever size we’re at, whether we’re trying to lose weight or gain weight, whether we’re severely overweight or dangerously underweight.

This is true because it’s a matter of health and of helping our bodies be at their optimum functioning levels, not merely a matter of what we look like.

Yes, ideally, I would still like the scales to tell me that I am 10 pounds lighter and to see my dress size drop to a single digit. But then, I have to ask myself what it really is that I’d like to get out of being that much thinner. I don’t have any illnesses, I live a happy, active life, and I’ve been medically cleared for good, prime health.

So what is it? To be more attractive? To feel more energetic? To turn more heads? To tighten that gap between me and the Victoria’s Secret models?

I realize now that if I only just went back to focusing on being healthy, everything else would find its rightful place. When I’m feeling healthy, my skin glows, my hair is shiny and I’m a face full of radiance. When I’m feeling fit after a big run and deep session of yoga, I’m also confident, joyful and there’s an extra bounce in my step.

Automatically, without being a single ounce lighter, I realize now that being healthy alone is enough to be more attractive, feel more energetic, turn more heads and gain almost as many admirers as the Victoria’s Secret angels.

With a focus on health, instead of weight, I find too that I enjoy life a whole lot more. I eat without guilt and play with abandon. I move and shift and indulge the very real needs of my body instead of spending good hours of my day fussing over diet plans, exercise schedules and meal replacement shakes.

It isn’t only when I achieve a vision of thinness that I am deemed healthy and attractive.

I am attractive because I am living healthily.

And if that means I shall always be a little bit fat, with a few extra pounds to shed, then that’s exactly what I shall be.

Like elephant journal on Facebook.

 

Ed: Bryonie Wise

About Jamie Khoo

Jamie Khoo is a writer from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is passionate about alphabets, sugar and the wondrous conversations that arise over mugs of tea. Someone once told her that the “best” thing about her was that “she was not stunning” which has since spurred her on to explore all kinds of issues related to beauty, body-image, self-confidence, self-empowerment, self-love and peace in her writing. Find more of her musings on her blog, The Effortless Beautyor connect to her on Facebook.

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20 Responses to “Why I Will Always Choose to be a Little Bit Fat.”

  1. synergy says:

    I wish I was there with you sister. I am some days, but other days I still yearn to be 5-10 pounds lighter, for no good reason other than that is the media portrayal of what a woman 'should' look like, and what I now think a woman 'should' look like.

    My husband thinks I'm perfect as I am. He prefers my body with a few extra pounds on it (he's seen me 7 pounds lighter, he though I wasn't quite as appealing).

    I am strong, fit, active, happy, healthy….. I have no need to lose weight, but every day I wish I were just a little bit lighter.

    I have noticed thought that my perception of myself is directly corrolated to how well I've been taking care of myself.
    I'm working on coming to terms with the fact that I may always be a little bit fat too, and I think that's the way I want it, other wise it would be different.

    • encounterillumination says:

      As i read your post..I heard between the lines that "lighter" isn't really about weight at all!! I think it is a desire for more freedom in spirit…releasing what no longer serves. Then finally, the scale wont matter…best of luck!!

  2. Jamie Khoo says:

    Hey Synergy, I am totally with you babe. There are many days that I think "Oh I could be 5 pounds lighter", "Oh I wish i was one dress size smaller" – and yes, we totally have the media to blame for that.

    The other day though, I met a friend of a friend – this girl was much larger than me, dressed in nothing more fancy than jeans and a tshirt which very obviously showed the rolls of her belly. But she was so stunning, had this gorgeous face and this really cool, beautiful energy. You couldn't help but sit there and stare at her! She was larger than me but she was healthy and confident and in that alone, she was beautiful. So then, I went from wanting to be a size 6 to wanting to be like her, all rolls of flesh and large as life.

    So I think that's really what it is – being healthy and confident and loving your own body – everything else falls into place.

  3. amphibi1yogini says:

    I love this post. I subscribe to this view, even as my current "package" (diseased, but managing diabetes with low-carbing) belies this.

    Please don't stop inspiring.

  4. Ann Nichols imagineannie says:

    Amen and amen. I'm old (!) but I got all my "numbers" from blood sugar to cholesterol into the normal range without focusing on weight or setting up a lifestyle that made me miserable. And last night, when I reeeeeaaaaaalllly wanted a handful of candy corn? I ate it, savored it, and stopped. I'll never be "perfect," but I'm healthy and enjoying my life.

    • amphibi1yogini says:

      Well, you're healthy. Correlation is not causation. I was low BMI (for YEARS) when I'd been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (many hereditary factors, which led to long term use of statin drugs which had tipped the blood sugar "scales"– suddenly and severely.)

      Cultures should stop demonizing fat as causing diabetes. It demonizes diabetes, too. Nearly unrelated conditions, imho.

      Now I'm really low BMI (aesthetically speaking, I look about 70 years old–and I'm not even 60 yet) and carbohydrates (NOT sugar/gluten/wheat/whatever demon food du jour per se) have become my Kryptonite.

      Health at Any Size!

  5. Jamie Khoo says:

    Thanks for your comments!

    I love this: "Health at any size!"

    There are plenty of people with perfect little bodies but excruciatingly bad health; or larger-than-life people who boast perfect health readings. I don't believe health and size are mutually exclusive.

  6. oldyogachick says:

    I loved this article and how it discusses listening to the body rather than the media. Amen to that! One thing I think you left out is the fact that for many women being too lean, having too little body fat is actually a health risk. Diseases from infertility to osteoporosis can occur in young women who are super lean. It happens a lot in elite athletes like runners, dancers, ice skaters and also women who simply diet excessively. Some women are born with body designed to be lean and healthy while others needs a bit of curve to be healthy. I am not advocating obesity. What I am talking about is there is a reason it is so hard for many women to lose 'the last 10 pounds". It is not laziness, it is the fact that their bodies are actually healthier with those 10 pounds. Being too lean can mess with our female hormones. This is not a license to eat junk food or stop exercising. Yes to being healthy, Yes Eating real food, Yes being active, Yes to being strong but then relax and enjoy wherever your body weight lands. We need to stop having one standard of beauty or health. Let's embrace all forms of healthy from lean to curvy. Time to break out of the box of one size fits all.

  7. Ashley says:

    You are phenomenal for writing this. So true. I have felt so many times that many "health bloggers" are just proponents for the Skinny Movement and that there is an increasing feeling among them of deprivation and fear relating to food and body size.

    Healthy is the new skinny! Rock your body!

  8. Elaine Cody says:

    I love this! For all of us who can't live without pizza, chocolate or pinot! Who no longer cares about having a bikini worthy body. Life is too fun for a restrictive diet. Healthy- Yes!, skinny- no!

  9. shrutisharma says:

    I agree with you. It's all about choices. But I majorly disagree with the statement that our bodies tell us when to binge and when the stop. When to stop – that's where the mind and will power kick in. The body wants to be comfortable – as well fed and relaxed as possible. It's our evolutionary and self-preservation instinct. And that pretty much gets us in weight-management trouble.

  10. Karen. G. Runciman says:

    This is is all very sweet, and the sentiment itself is noble, and I would like to be very clear about that from the outset, but i also think there is a question to be answered about body-image; one that is beyond the influence of the media. It is a very personal question, and the question is, "Why do we over-eat?" Where does the anxiety associated with food-intake come from? If we momentarily put the media out of the picture, and ask ourselves directly about those feelings, I think we would come up with a different answer. I believe it is always personal first, and the media is just a backdrop against which our personal dramas are played out, and enhanced. And if we don't over-eat and still feel bigger than we should be, where do those feelings come from? The media is not that strong. I believe the answer lies in family of origin or other personal experiences, commonly, and to ignore that in favour of scape-goating media influence instead is harmful to people who feel stressed about the simple ritual of eating every day of their lives.

  11. Ann says:

    Terrible title to the story! Fat? Really? Perhaps the title should run "Why I choose not to give a shit what the crappy misogonist society tells me how I should feel about my own body". Just saying. It really is sad that there seems to be so much time and effort spent analyzing about how food makes one feel etc… Fuck that. We have been for too long told that almost everything we do with our own bodies is wrong. That it needs to discussed and critiqued. I can assure you that both you and I know what it feels to be full, lucky us by the way, and what it means to be hungry. Hungry on purpose is a truly ridiculous choice. 10 pounds more than you should be? Really? 10 pounds! This is a great moral victory? Please.

  12. ValterV says:

    This article was terrific, thank you!

    Personally, I love curvy women, I think curves are sexy, and I find thin women not much healthy-looking.
    And I know many men that share my tastes (alas, they do not write magazines ;-).

    Besides, being close to an always-dieting woman (like the one mentioned at the beginning) is a real mood-killer. :-/
    Give me a woman who enjoys food, life and pleasure anytime, instead!

    Loving our body as it is, and taking care of our own health (regardless of size), is the way to go.
    Kudos!

  13. mngirlangie says:

    On top of this being an excellent article, I adore the photo you chose! Growing up, I remember that my Grandfather always had a "Hilda" calendar in his home. I always thought she was so beautiful, still do:)

  14. Sherri Rosen says:

    Jamie, delightful article. Thank you.

  15. Deb says:

    Loved it. Healthy needs to be the new skinny. Extremes of any kind just lead to so much distress, and missing out on the beautiful experiences life offers us. I've struggled with weight (always about 20 lbs more than I want) and some health issues, but when I think on the times of my life when I've been happiest overall, it's when I just LIVED — hiked, practiced yoga, ate good, yummy food without restricting it, simply listening to my body — I felt and looked great. Was I a model? No. Did I need or want to be? No.

    Cultivating self-care, self-compassion, and self-love seems to be the best way to tune in to what we truly need and want and then the images staring at us from the covers of magazines can just be relegated to irrelevant … because they are.

  16. Kevin says:

    If I may be honest. I find it much sexier for woman to a natural and healthy shape, rather than that "supermodel" shape. Great article!

  17. Amy E says:

    Following a stringent diet regimen, and spending 3 hours a day in the gym, might make you feel and look great, but it is not fun. Focusing on balanced nutrition and activity levels is a happy medium. Drink lots of water, don't smoke, and limit your alcohol intake. Get good sleep and fresh air. Take supplements, if necessary. Keep your stress under control and laugh a lot, while having fun. That makes more sense to me. The good news: as we approach 60, most doctors suggest we carry an extra 20 pounds (depending on your height and frame) in the event that we contact a chronic illness. It also helps to have a little more padding if you fall.

  18. Lucy says:

    amen! <3

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