Fat Girl with Thin Privilege

I recently wrote a post about being called “Not fat” (Not a compliment, btw) and it got me thinking, which is always dangerous. I’ve read a lot of interesting articles recently about thin-privilege and I thought it was important to note that even though I self-define as fat, I also have to recognize that I benefit from thin privilege. Here are some ways I personally benefit from thin privilege:

  1. clothes clipartI can shop in almost any store and find something that fits. This is a relatively new phenomena for me. For most of my life I could only shop in plus-size stores or stores with plus-size sections. I appreciate this every single time.
  2. seats clip artI can fit into most seats, on airplanes, at movie theaters, at amusement parks, in restaurants with booths. Sure, some are small and a tight fit, but no one suggests I can’t go somewhere because of my size.
  3. I can run in spandex and tank tops and not get constantly moo-ed at, yelled at, cursed. (girl runningAll these things happened to me regularly when I started running.) I still get yelled at occasionally, but  not so frequently or aggressively. I’m not made to feel that the clothes I choose to wear are an affront to someone else.
  4. cheesecake clipartI can order dessert or any other food I want without fear of aggression. I can’t tell you how many times I would choose not to eat something in public rather than risk a “Do you really need to eat that?”comment (or something much worse).
  5. Resume-ClipartI am not discriminated against at work due to my size. I work in education, a field that is less discriminatory than other fields in terms of size, but I don’t think I would have the job I have now if I still weighed what I did 3 years ago. I know for sure that I’ve been denied jobs and promotions in the past due to my size.
  6. doctor clipartI can visit a doctor and expect to be heard, rather than getting a knee-jerk (lose weight) reaction.  Well, not quite yet. The last time I went to get an annual physical my doctor looked at all my stats. Blood pressure? Perfect. Hear rate? Perfect. Respiration? Glucose levels? Cholesterol? All perfect. So what did my doctor say? You need to lose weight.
    I’m due for my annual again and just don’t want to schedule it because I don’t want to deal with this.

stethescopeIn the absence of any medical issues (other than fat) why do I have to lose weight anyway? What in my health data gives you the idea that I need to lose weight? You know, other than I’m fat… Which is apparently  a devastating medical condition that needs to take up all my time and energy.

Want to learn more about thin privilege? Here are some of my favorite resources:

wonderwomen

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Not Fat? That Isn’t a Compliment

fb_williams

Click to read the whole article.

It started with a conversation about Serena Williams.

“I don’t really understand what you posted on Facebook,” he tells me.

“What do you mean?” I ask. To me it’s so self-evident. Serena is awesome. Her attitude about her body is awesome. The way she deals with shamers & haters is awesome. Lots of awesome.  But he didn’t know anything about the media slams and Internet trolls (he’s cute and naïve that way). He was flabbergasted that anyone could look at Serena and think she was anything but beautiful. “Like Wonder Woman beautiful” were his exact words. And this is where the conversation got tricky.

virgieThe reality was, we weren’t exactly having the same conversation. He wanted me to explain how people could look at pictures of Serena and think she was fat or un-attractive. I wanted him to understand that the purpose of my post was that the conversation shouldn’t be what she looks like. This is a world-class athlete. A woman who has redefined the sport. She doesn’t just win Grand Slams, she wins “Serena Slams!” Why do people think they get to have an opinion about her looks?

After a while of back and forth he gets to , “Do you think you’re fat?” Oh boy!

We’ve been dating for almost a year and that one question underlines how badly I’ve failed both as a body-advocate and as a girlfriend. So far I have been completely unsuccessful in articulating to him the following:

  1. When I define myself as fat, it isn’t body-dysmorphia, it is self-empowerment and self-love.
  2. How others define me isn’t as important as how I define myself.
  3. Fat isn’t a derogatory term unless you let it be.
Jess Baker recently wrote an excellent post saying all the things I can't explain about this.

Jess Baker recently wrote an excellent post saying all the things I can’t explain about this topic.

I’m really glad I found someone who sees me as beautiful and sexy. I want him to desire me and get “hot and bothered” when I walk in the room. Telling me I turn him on is a compliment. Telling me I’m sexy is a compliment. However,  when he tells me I’m not fat, it isn’t a compliment. It undermines my self-identity in a way that is difficult for me to verbalize. (Although I’ve tried to here, here, and here.) It makes me feel like he isn’t seeing me.

I can be beautiful and brunette. I can be beautiful and blue-eyed. Why can’t I be beautiful and fat? And, for that matter, why do I even have to be beautiful. Personally, I’d rather be called smart, strong, or kind than be called beautiful.

Some ideas for how to give compliments on things besides looks and physical appearance, from artist Caroline Caldwell

Some ideas for how to give compliments on things besides looks and physical appearance, from artist Caroline Caldwell

Early in our relationship I asked him not to compliment me on how I look but on what I do, but he could never really wrap his head around that concept. I tried giving examples. I can’t even tell you how excited I get when someone says, “I never thought about it that way before,” or “Because of you I understand something I never did before,’ or “I feel very special when I’m with you.” These are compliments.

As our discussion continued I realized that a big part of the disconnect comes from his own body-image issues and experiences.  He wants and needs to be told he is sexy, and handsome, and desired. I wasn’t sure how to get him to understand so I held his stomach with both my hands and said, “I really love your belly. I love this part of you. And if this part gets bigger I will still love it. And if this part gets smaller I will still love it.”

Side Note: It has taken me several hours to write/edit this post. Writing about something so personal is very difficult. This isn’t my normal post about being empowered by running or how I feel about my food. I’ve edited and re-edited the words over and over, trying to get the right tone and be sure I’m saying what I mean. Even then, I’m sure I’m not getting it all “right.” This makes me think I need to forgive myself for not being able to communicate these feelings in a live-and-in-person conversation, where I can’t think about every word carefully, and delete the ones that don’t come out exactly right. Just wanted to add that in.

Be accountable.

31 weeksGoals are important, but unless you are accountable to those goals, they may not mean much. Writing down your goals makes them more real than just thinking about them. Sharing your goals with others is even better.

mapmyrun

There is no way I would ever be able to run 1,000 miles this year if I didn’t keep up with this blog.

I have several levels of accountability when it comes to my lifestyle changes. Probably the most important is this blog (and to a smaller extent my twitter account ). I don’t have an extremely high readership by any stretch, but once I post something, it becomes real to me. Sometimes I backtrack on what I write (yes, I made up with peanut butter) but the act of writing makes me more thoughtful on what I commit to.

Tracking is another great tool for me. I use Fitbit® and mapmyrun to track my daily, weekly, and yearly progress. I may want to skip a run or just stay in bed for a week, but just looking at my own numbers keeps me moving. For example, my daily step goal is 8k steps and many nights I’ve looked to see only 5k, 6k, or even 7,599 and decided I better just finish off my steps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken an 11 pm walk just to get the numbers on my Fitbit over 8,000. Not just because friends and family are following me, but because the numbers remind me how important my goals are to me.

accountabilityAnd it’s not just exercise.  For the last two years I’ve written down everything I ate. It may seem strange since I pretty much eat the same thing every day, but I find that if I don’t write it down, it doesn’t count in my mind. No one sees my food log (and a food log may seem very diet-y for a non-diet person) but when I don’t write it down it is easy to fall into old habits and slip in the foods that de-rail me. For me, this also lets me be more non-diet.  If I want to eat something not on my program I do and don’t worry about it.  For example, on my recent vacation I enjoyed some brownies and an absolutely delicious piece of cheesecake. I tracked and moved on. No regrets, no guilt, and no pretending I didn’t do it.

And that is the ultimate accountability – to myself. Whether I track my progress or share my goals, I need to be honest with myself. I owe it to myself to invest the time and energy into myself.