Summer 2013 Madeline Mundt
Lago di Dentro, Ticino, Switzerland
Summer 2013 Madeline Mundt
Camera sensors just don't read red and fuchsia very well, so remember- it's the latter, not the former. Trust me.
* Why stop now when so much more awaits your perusal? Click here *
How I lost a lot of weight. Why dieting is bullshit. Some thoughts on body image & the Paleo regime. Part 1: Reality, Identity & Judgement.
To call someone or something fat used to be a congratulatory gesture since it referred to obvious health and contentment. It's only when we use the word in its modern sense to describe ourselves in our entirety that things start getting stupid. No one is fat, per se. Plenty of us carry too much of it on our bodies. That might sound like pandering semantics but it is, in my opinion, a vitally important distinction; if we're overweight, it's far too easy to identify with that excess, to accept it as a deep part and even the whole of who we are. In rejecting the hysterical and unrealistic standards presented by Western media, are we not encouraged to think defensively and live reactively, to embrace our oversized dimensions as intrinsic?
It is now cheaper and easier to be overweight, a dramatic reversal of our historical and evolutionary reality. My reasons for relating my own experience are earnestly-intended; no smug before and after pics, no fraudulent lifestyle flaunting, no entry fees, no lycra. I'm trying to summarize everything I've learned in the hope it might prove beneficial to somebody, anybody, because my approach, while partly empirical, has been richly informed by a diverse spectrum of other people's wisdom.
Let's start with an objective look at ourselves in pursuit of autonomy and improvement. I'll go first.
Case study I'm as guilty of a fuck-you dichotomy as anyone. While I can aesthetically appreciate most human phenotypes, I don't give two figs for commodified ideas of perfection or Anna Wintour's heart of darkness hate olympics; in short, I have never hated myself on the basis of my physical reality. Quite the opposite. Overweight or not, I'm a five-nine, double-D brick shithouse who can arm-wrestle guys and have hardly had a sick day in my life. There is possibly no greater fortune than to be a vigorous organism with the luxury of rejecting many societal expectations, and to live with a partner who views lots of arse and boobs as a premium fantasy situation. It should be this way for everyone, but sadly, such a situation amounts to privilege and I appreciate it as such.
That's a blessing (thanks, Neanderthal grandmas) as far as being able is concerned, laziness notwithstanding. We live in a relatively safe, picturesque rural area. I have no known infirmities to prevent my being active. About 10 years ago we started eating with health in mind and that's a trend we've continued to refine. We don't own a car, drink or smoke (tobacco, lol), enjoy free time, a very modest but adequate income and are child-free. My partner is very supportive. A midlife crisis means everything's on the dissection table. I was genuinely tired of being overweight and knew it was possibly now or never if I wanted to change that.
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.
- Has my interest in biology informed me of the potentially grave repercussions of being overweight for too long? So that there's no bridge for me to make like a troll and dive under? Fuck yes, alright, dammit.
- 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.
I'm still not thin. But I'm happy and healthy and almost where I want to be size-wise. I enjoy myself now. Everyone should, as thoroughly as possible, and I'm not advocating self-loathing as a path to physical reform; I'm saying that maximum enjoyment surely derives from good health and positive self-regard. If you can be fat or bony at the same time- whatever, dude. Diversity is one of the few attractive and valuable aspects of our species and the push to embrace those completely legitimate differences was long overdue. I love my remaining trunk junk and Barbie and her modelizing fetishists can go fuck themselves. Did I say fuck themselves? I meant peace out (no I didn't). It occurred to me, though, that recognition and celebration of difference had begun to merge with something less laudable; the advent of near-ubiquitous fatness and the slow creep of fat acceptance.
Because please. Who is really at peace with even their own fatness? If you are, congratulations, I suppose. Personally, even as a much larger person I would have crossed the road to kick a pro-fat militant, because they're full of cant, special pleading, false equivalencies and self-exemptionalist shit. Eating too much and moving too little is neither an identity nor a disease. Actual non-autogenic biological conditions require our empathy, attention and assistance, not being 20 kgs over the odds. I'm not talking about people suffering a disability that functionally restricts weight regulation, or one of the very real metabolic/endocrine conditions that disrupt fat deposition and expenditure. Or even the kind of severe emotional disturbances that are as crippling as any physiological fact. And I shouldn't have to make that distinction.
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).
We all know why we're so fat. Modern urban living and industrial agriculture- durr. They come together in a perfect storm of apathy, immobility and empty, expedient calories. It's one of the few instances where the obvious and reductive aligns with reality. The image treasured by dramatic fat-phobics of half-crazed blubbersacks emptying their refrigerators into their mouths isn't most peoples' experience; getting fat is less operatic pathology than just eating 5% too much relatively healthy, yummy food and watching TV on a regular basis. For many, it's just boring and gradual and seductively unconscious. But so many of us are getting there that we need to do more for ourselves than shrug and scratch our arses.
What now? Modern living isn't just sitting in a cubicle scoffing something super-double; it also comes with things like access to science-based healthcare, the internet, fitness apps, walking groups, anthropological information, bike lanes, every exercise regime known to man and an astonishing range of beautiful, bountiful foodstuffs, the like of which the world has never seen. And annoying, self-righteous bloggers who will happily bite your nuts with their crazy-arse theories in the belief they're giving back to society.
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)
I'm finished biting your nuts for this week but I'll be back in that capacity with more about what I did and how I did it. What is it like to be fat? What is it like to be thin?