What Does ‘Fat’ Mean to You? And Why is it So Important?

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Right after I wrote this, about how weight forms a complete obsession in my head, I found this fantastic article on HuffPost: Why ‘Love Your Body’ Campaigns Aren’t Working, by Isabel Foxen Duke.

I highly recommend reading the full thing because she talks about this issue brilliantly and clearly. What I loved most was the way she positions how we think and talk about fatness, appearance and our personal relations to our bodies – timely and so relevant to what I’ve been thinking and talking about lately.

She calls attention to those “love your body” / “love the skin you’re in” campaigns being run by brands like Dove and Victoria Secrets. Outwardly, their efforts are to be well applauded as they  encourage people to love themselves just as they are, whatever size they are. But why is it then, she asks (and we wonder), after our initial oohing and ahhing over these adverts, do we still wish we were thinner?

Then, she says this:

“Eventually my relationship with my body did start to change… when I finally realized I can get the guy, the job, the cute clothes in the window right now, regardless of my weight. Women with “non-traditional body types” are not disabled from creating what they want in the world, we’re just taught that they are.

[…]

One could argue that’s why Lena Dunham is so successful — she’s not just saying “beauty at any size;” she’s saying “you can have it all at any size.
(emphasis is mine)

And that’s it – that clinched it for me. It’s the fact that really, believe it or not, all you slaves to your scales, your size is not a single determining factor for success, happiness, love, peace, fun and all those lovely things.

In the grand scheme of things, size is actually irrelevant. It’s us who make it such an overwhelmingly central force/hindrance in our lives.

In all this obsession with our weight, we’ve come to believe (or been made to believe) that fat girls can’t be as successful or happy as thin ones, they won’t be as popular or well liked, it won’t be as easy for them to find a partner, they won’t be as happy as if they were just 10 pounds thinner. We may not voice this openly, but it becomes enmeshed in the way we think, act and pursue our goals, probably without us even realising.

So Isabel asks further down the article, “What are YOU making “fat” mean?”

Just that one question is an awfully huge one and our answer to this alone can entirely change our relationship to weight and to our bodies.

I’d like to add to that and also ask,

What is it that you hope to achieve / get / feel by being ‘not fat’?
(and conversely) What do you feel you’re limited from achieving / getting / feeling by being ‘fat’?

Me – I’d like to be a successful writer whose writing inspires and makes people happy;
I’d love to find someone to love who loves me back (would be great if he looked like Adam Levine, but let’s not be too choosy!);
I’d like to be interesting and have fun every day that I’m alive;
I’d like people to think I’m a great, inspiring, funny, beautiful human being;
I’d like to be happy and peaceful, and be able to inspire others to be the same.

So here’s the magic realisation – I don’t actually have to be even a single pound thinner to achieve those things. Right?

Well, of course. D’oh. That’s obvious.

But oh, how easy it is to think that those 10 extra pounds (okay, more like 20) I’ve got on will get in the way of all that. There’s a long way to go, to replace the 90% of my brain that’s filled constantly with fat thoughts, weight thoughts, size thoughts, 20-pounds-to-lose thoughts.

Let’s refocus then – stop thinking so much about how much our ‘fatness’ is stopping us from achieving and doing, and start thinking instead of what it is we want to achieve and how. Realise and remember that body size is more often than not irrelevant to what we’re trying to achieve in the wider scheme of our lives.

As a friend commented under one of my FB posts about fat & fat shaming some weeks ago, (and repeat after me):

“you are much more
than your body”

I couldn’t have said it better (thanks, Peter!) nor found a more perfect conclusion to this post.

So now let’s start the week with the resolution not to stand on the scale or fuss too much in front of the mirror… and instead, to do something fulfilling, interesting and happy. I’m off to cinch a sub-editing job with one of the country’s most popular magazines!

One thought on “What Does ‘Fat’ Mean to You? And Why is it So Important?

  1. Hey Jamie,

    Great! You have realised that you are so much more than the sum of your body parts or shape, clothes and all the other physical things that go to make up a human being. Your personality and that certain unfathomable something else that we each have are far more important in terms of attractiveness to any potential mate. We’re not fish who are programmed to be attracted to the largest or most colourful male, nor deer who get turned on by by the largest antler spread. Today, our concious human male brains are “programmed” by the media and such as fashion models to be wowed by slim female body shapes, but in reality, we respond to a pattern of desirability imprinted upon our brains prior to puberty before we are interested in the opposite sex. At some time before that we unconciously acquire a model that we find desirable and behaviouraly sexually attractive. Studies have shown that it can be a sister, mother or the girl next door though we are not at all aware of it. My M.Sc. was in Zoology with a double major in Fisheries and Animal Behaviour – my professor, who had a previous tenure at John Hopkins, heavily taught us this fact.

    We’re not infallibly programmed however. For myself I am naturally attracted to Asian women or at least those with “Asian” features such as some Polynesians (my ex wife). I figured out where it came from. My model was my best friend’s (from the age of 5 years old) Cantonese Mum ( no, she was not 5 – I was) in New Zealand. We were friends through to adulthood, she becoming my children’s grandmother because I was a welfare kid not living with parents. Sometime during my growing up, she had become the model imprinted upon my brain. However in looking back, the real “love of my life” was a blue eyed fellow student with Dutch parents. We lived together for 3 years at university and I stupidly didn’t marry her. We later became close friends but sadly she died of breast cancer in 2003 when I was sailing my yacht up the Red Sea. I have seldom cried in my life, even a a kid, but I did then. So, we don’t always obey our model.

    Sorry, I digress. It s the Greek blood in me. I just get concerned when I see people of different genetic body shapes stressing about becoming a twiggy model. There is a huge difference between a woman with a few extra pounds (they are meant to have rounded body shapes) and an obese one. If you wish to see the latter, just come to Sydney, especially to the working class suburbs. I have lived in China, Japan and Malaysia and travelled to all the ASEAN countries includng East Timor and have yet to see similar grossly obese human females.

    Please remember that who you are is more important (especally to a potential mate) than what you are. A body may initially attract but it is the unphysical you who will retain and establish a more permanent relationship because part of our model includes personality and behavoural traits.
    My apologies for the length.
    Ciao
    Peter.

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