Monday, April 16, 2018

It's Worth It

Content Warnings: 
Discussion of fatmisia/fatphobia,
diet culture, disordered eating, and related topics.

I didn’t always hate my body. I remember a time, early in my childhood, where I honestly didn’t think about my body much at all. I wore the clothes I was given, let my hair go where it wanted to (my hair has only ever had a purely Latinx idea of “obedience”) and I was fine like that.

I could probably pinpoint the age where that changed, and I became more and more aware of my shape, and the way I was perceived by those around me. I was never a skinny child, but I was blissfully unaware of the concept of fatness and societal opinions of it.

Until I wasn’t.

I was born and primarily raised in Louisiana. If you’ve ever been to LA, you know how brutal our summers can be. (I say, now living in Florida, for I am forever doomed to live in semi-tropical areas) My body image and self-esteem was bad enough that I didn’t wear shorts until I was nearly 22 years old. I wore long sleeves and leather jackets in July, when the heat can be hazardous to your health.

Eventually, my attire shifted to preferring long tunic style shirts, anything to hide the pooch of my belly, 3/4 sleeves to hide the flap of my upper arms, and the hair too thick, too obvious, on my forearms. I still primarily wear longer shirts, longer pants. But my closet is now filled with tank tops and shorts that show off the thickness of my thighs and the shape of my ass, the jiggle of my arms, and every last dark hair passed down from my Latinx heritage.

I struggle with disordered eating, and harmful thoughts about my weight, and dieting in general.

I’ve worked hard to get through it, to create healthy habits, and it helps that I have amazing support networks who know about my issues, and others who have struggled in similar ways.

Over the last year, I’ve been making more of an effort to go to the gym. I won’t lie and say that the act wasn’t born out of a hatred of my size, a desire to be smaller, to look in the mirror and not hate myself based on arbitrary ideals that diet culture swears I need to embody. But I also won’t let myself let that be the only reason I’ve been going, or let those very ideals dictate why I do things.

I enjoy going to the gym. I like the physical challenge, the exertion that lets me get out of my own head, and I feel exhilarated at the end of it. The anxiety I feel walking in is nothing compared to how I feel walking out, covered in sweat, and physically exhausted, but proud of myself. Proud because I pushed through the anxiety, because I didn’t touch the scale in the locker room, that this body of mine can do things that I never believed it could, that I know others don’t think it can.

And sure, I’ve noticed visible changes with my body. I’ve noticed that my legs seem leaner, stronger, and my body doesn’t feel as wide as I’m used to it feeling. And I honestly don’t know how much of that is actual change in my body, and how much is a change in perception. I catch sight of my reflection and I look different. But I also don’t feel like I have the impartiality to say what’s actually changed.

I will never stop fighting for fat acceptance, for fat joy, fat inclusion. I may always be fat. I don’t have to be unhappy in that. I’ve worked hard to have a few days where I feel good in my fat body.

But neither do I have to feel like it’s a betrayal to that work to feel good in a changed body, and that’s a feeling I’ve been struggling with. That, as a fat activist, as someone who has worked so hard to feel like I deserve to love myself and be loved by others in this fat body, it’s a betrayal to want to be not fat. To be happy as my body changes.

However my body does or doesn’t change over the course of my life, the thing that doesn’t change is that my body is worth loving. It’s worth the effort of caring for it, of appreciating the things it can do, instead of lamenting the things it can’t.

I don’t always succeed in loving my fat body, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.

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