July 20, 2013

Why Fat Activism Doesn’t Work For Me. ~ Jas Faulkner


Would it be a terrible thing to admit that I’d like to be roughly half the size I am now?

Achieving that would not make me skinny by today’s standards.

It would make me able to run, climb stairs, dance, practice yoga and possibly take up karate or tai chi.

A few years ago, I lost the equivalent of an Olsen Twin.

When that happened, my body felt like a shiny new toy. I could dance, I ran, I took long, long walks and enjoyed the heck out of dressing this new thing that I couldn’t believe was mine.

Then I got my dream job, found myself investing long hours and all of my creative energy for little to no pay.

In every way possible, I crashed and burned. What happened next was that I refused to take the lesson that I nearly ruined my mental and physical health. In a career move worthy of Stupo, the lost Marx Brother who was usually sent away to eat crayons at the other end of the house whenever company came by, I redoubled my efforts to do the same thing in a different setting.

Did I learn my lesson? Nope.

I worked harder and got even better opportunities and ended up spending long hours at my desk, feeling even more isolated at worst and like a spectator of life at best. That was when I gained back almost all of the weight I lost.  In gaining more me in the physical sense, I was losing that sense of self I’d acquired.

That sense of self, of being physically engaged is what I crave. Waking up to that need in this body is challenging because the discourse around women who look like me seems to run from one extreme to the other.

People who are, for lack of a better term, phobic about fat will attest that my burgeoning posterior is a sign that my character is deeply, possibly irreparably flawed. At the other end of the spectrum are fat activists who tell me I am beautiful just the way I am.

When I am this overweight—no, I need to change that—when I am this fat, I do not feel beautiful. I feel hindered. My body becomes my personal canary that tells me things are congested and desperately need to be changed. It is an indication of clutter from the deepest part of my psyche to my living space and beyond that things are out of control and need to change.

Recognizing this and acting on it makes the protests that I am beautiful just as I am come across as hollow platitudes. Activist’s statistics might declare me healthy and happy as I am. Their defiant stance against Western beauty standards is noble. I know too well what it feels like to be reduced to a collection of superficial physical attributes when there is so much more going on inside.

Please understand, I am not suggesting that there are no beautiful large people. There are, I have seen them. I know quite a few of them. I also know what is right for me:

1. Feeling that integration of breath and movement.

2. Reclaiming my power from the “can’t” that is weighing me down in all this extra, unneeded flesh.

3. Reclaiming my environment from the clutter I’ve acquired to distract myself from what has been going on.

Do I need to feel beautiful as I work my way back to this? Yes. Do I need to feel worthy? You betcha. 

But that worthiness has more to do with self care. I wish fat activists and the people who try to push everyone to be thin understood this.

It’s not about making someone accept me; it’s not about finding the perfect boyfriend or designer clothes to fit me at every number on the spectrum or expecting my life to magically fall into place once I reach a certain size (or accept me just as I am.) It is about caring for the life I’ve been given.

So I took those first steps just a few hours before I wrote this.

My mat and boxing gloves are airing out. I have filled two shopping bags with things to donate my favorite charity thrift shop. My meals for the next few weeks are planned.

This is just the beginning. 

I might not gain any outlaw cred, but I am on my way to the life I want.


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Asst. Ed.: Kathleen O’Hagan/Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: via Pinterest








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