Fat is a wonderful thing. It is a miraculous physical resource, an emblem and artefact of success, an architect of beauty, intelligence and wellbeing and a mighty aegis against hardship and ill-health. If it were not for our ability to store delicious fat, our species would undoubtedly be a grunting footnote on an evolutionary flow-chart to something that could. Fat is our friend; I love it and am unstintingly grateful for everything it's done for me.
If we can't be model-thin, when model-thin is the only publicly-sanctioned attractiveness, what else is there? Why bother at all?
Tightly-coupled with this defensive position is the retreat of health in general as a thing to which everyone can and should aspire. The leisure and income required by many touted diet regimes are an impossible dream for so many of us; even being literate, logical and motivated sounds so fucking expensive and time consuming.
Let's start with an objective look at ourselves in pursuit of autonomy and improvement. I'll go first.
If you're thinking of losing weight the DIY way, be prepared to take stock in a comprehensive manner. What's the reality of your situation? What can you really manage? What needs to change? How can you do that? Well, here's my shit.
The Positive- It really is my destiny to take up more room than most. Both sides of my visible family exhibit substantial tendencies and robust morphologies. There are no waifs, no gamines, no graciles; it's all big feet, industrial joints, gorilla musculature, Norman torsos and Celtic shoulders. I've inherited a completely awesome seal-like fat storage system that squirrels everything away in an even, wetsuit-type sub-dermal layer.
The Negative- While seal-blubber-pattern fatness is a good deal from an overall health POV (vs visceral deposition), it's also a sneaky curse, the insidious side-effect being that I can carry a shitload of extra kilos without hitting any metabolic or musculo-skeletal walls for longer than most. Unfortunately, I'm also a rather lazy denialist and wily rationaliser with little investment in anyone else's expectations. I don't give a rat's arse if someone else thinks I'm tubby- chances are, they could stand to lose a few kgs themselves... not everyone's meant to be thin... the sporty physique is anti-femme. Etc etc. I have a low caloric requirement and an economical metabolism. The flab's been creeping on since I gave up smoking and settled into a happy relationship in my early 20s. I'm a writer and an artist, which means I sit on my arse and don't like to be disturbed. We heart food, big-time, and my very active, slender partner eats like a team of oxen, which encouraged me to do the same despite our divergent requirements. That same slender partner likes booty and dislikes confrontation. Limited income means it's hard to justify increased expenditure on high-quality foods. Chronic, isolating depression. The feeling that focussing on weight is caving to an evil set of expectations that you've been defying all your life.
Tough love yourself Don't be a pussy. If you're thinking about change, ask thyself some big, hard questions. The middle of a monumental existential crisis was as good a time as any and a few certainly occurred to me.
- Are you okay with how you are now? No, I really wasn't.
- Would I fuck me? Serious question. I'm sort of bi so it's easy for me to say, but the answer was no. I wouldn't buy me a drink, from a purely mercenary casual sex point of view. How we feel about ourselves is contagious. I care about that shit and it was fucking humbling to admit.
- In a world full of ageing people who will require a lot of expensive care, am I living up to the socially/ethically and even environmentally responsible standards by which I judge others? Hypocrisy; it burns!
- When I watch someone dragging their too-fat arthritic long-suffering dog into the vet clinic, do I mentally congratulate them on their insight and compassion? That would be no.
- Do you believe in an effortlessly healthful afterlife or do you strongly suspect that your current effectuation is the only conscious existence you'll ever know? I think we both know the answer to that.
- You're smart enough to spell tsunami. Could you outrun one, fatty? * Glares at self *
- You might not be on death's door, but is being too big stopping you doing stuff you'd enjoy? Yes, definitely.
Get naked and look at yourself in a full-length mirror while no one else is home and take it all in. Plenty of us can't even imagine examining ourselves with that kind of candour and that is horribly sad. But please attempt this; it may not be as bad as you think and the truth is the first step on the road to somewhere else if it is.
Judgement Let's just cut the bullshit. Should you accept excess chunk that's limiting and possibly debilitating you? Fuck no. There's no way around it; allowing yourself to be voluntarily, injuriously fat or thin is unethical in regard to both ourselves and our wider society. Anyone who insists that we should embrace a state conducive to limitation or debility does not have our best interests at heart. There are smiling saboteurs where you least expect them and in the process of losing mass you'll find this out for yourself. Fat Acceptance is an obnoxious term for a fake condition.
Unless we're thusly afflicted, we are largely the authors of our own wobbly acreage.
If I don't have any trouble calling out fat apologists, I still have philosophical issues with making overtly negative statements about fatness itself, feeling as though I'm aligning with every frat boy and fashion vampire who's ever lived and exacerbated someone else's misery. Fat Acceptance may be wrongheaded and destructive, but not for the reasons other wily rationalizers like to espouse. Fat is fundamentally a health issue, not a cosmetic judgement. When we think of being too heavy as the self-harm it undoubtedly is, all confusion falls away and everything becomes crystal clear. We need to deal with it. Would you support a Cutters Acceptance movement?* A Suicide Support Network? Pro-Ana may be a thing, but it's widely recognized as tragically demented and rightly so. So why should we applaud obesity? It might be argued that getting too fat doesn't require the same level of conscious, deliberate committment as 'classic' self-harm, but staying that way in the face of knowing better is not a healthy, rational or positive choice.
No one is going to save us from it any time soon. The civil authorities charged with the administration of public health have Big Agriculture balls-deep in their arseholes; they've already written off a generation. There's not enough money in the world for all the bariatric surgery indicated by present levels of obesity and those procedures are a loathsome token of our massive collective fail anyway. We need to value and liberate ourselves instead of paying someone else to section our gastric processes.
Is that offensive? Well, if we're at the point where we have to surgically salvage people too huge to walk to the supermarket and buy themselves what they need to keep overeating, we have have a lot more than hurt feelings to worry about. Under different circumstances, that could be you or me. Not cool.
(* If any of these do exist and you're an exponent, give me your address so I can come round and slap you really hard.)
Of course the freedoms we all treasure mean everyone can do as they please with their own bodies (more or less); if you want that for yourself, you have to respect it in other people. Homo sapiens evilensis doesn't have a great record with any other system. On a micro-political level, I'm not implying for a moment that it's okay to execrate or demean or concern-troll anyone for their waistline. You don't know the nitty gritty of other peoples' situations, so just keeping your cake hole shut about that is always best practise. There is no perfection to be had, only what is best for each discreet individual and when I urge judgement, I mean in regard to ourselves, for our own benefit. After all, the benefits of value to wider society are ironically contingent on our most autonomous imperatives.
Wise judgement requires discernment and compassion. Having compassion for my own fat self is an integral part of my mental health survival strategy. But let's flip that shit over. When does compassion and self-acceptance become fondly stroking your furbaby of dysfunction and feeding it another Tim Tam?
Personal freedom requires personal responsibility, or everything breaks down into a sludgy puddle of entitlement and vomit and Red Bull. While I was not suffering any condition likely to result in injury/massive public expenditure (yet), I would have felt horribly culpable if that had been the case because I may have been partly responsible. In rejecting manipulated, cynical and misogynistic images, we have lost sight of healthful human expression. Curvaceous now signifies obese instead of ample. Thin = healthy, when it may be no more indicative of that state than hair colour. Larger peeps rag on their smaller compatriots for being elitist, narcissistic or eating-disordered (fit shaming). The thin resent the thick for being health budget-bogarting slobs (fat shaming).
Conclusion None of this is universally rational or scientifically defensible, but within any species stressed to breaking point you will find cannibalism. In our preoccupation with each other's weight we are consuming what's left of our own happiness and autonomy, regardless of BMI. Many of us are disordered in that we have become obsessed with food and body image, whatever the result. I've known people who've been dieting for 30 years. We've built a diet industry directly invested in keeping their clients on a treadmill of token success and fundamental failure. All this is so fucked up.
Picture credits (from top to bottom)La Odalisca, Mariano Fortuny 1861. Catwalk models, unknown. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso 1907. Kali Ma, mother of darkness, unknown. Minoan Labrys, unknown. Roast chicken (pic my own)