Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm not fat

I’m not fat.

I’m stating this up front because I can’t stand the thought of all the filters clicking into place, dulling your impressions of me through the lens of someone not quite in control. Someone with a self-imposed, somewhat pathetic, condition. Whether you feel pity, compassion, revulsion or nothing at all, I do not want you to think of me fat.

So, picture me if you will, strong, lean, capable. Carrying my body with the ease of one who has just what is needed. Light-footed, walking toward you with my eyes and smile wide open; our handshake becomes an embrace between friends.

Or picture me as I am.

How might others describe me if I weren’t in the room and, for some reason, needed describing? Heavier side of average? Keeping well under the circumstances? I think she looks fine? Or perhaps they would use other descriptive qualities: strong, intense, intelligent, attractive. Though those aren’t much help in picking me out of a crowd. Likely people would stick to safe features – long dark hair, blue eyes, about five-five, mid-30’s.

Size isn’t appropriate to discuss.

How do I see me? It depends on the day. Some days I look at the sagging skin of my battle-scarred mid-section with admiration that it’s not worse - like, wow, you grew two humans in there, grew yourself out to the size of a beach ball twice in 3 years – and now, not bad, considering. Some days I even manage to see an increased fullness as sexy, as long as I don’t look too closely at my thighs. Most days I manage to skip over self-hatred, through self-pity, and on to loving compassion in pretty quick succession.

But I'll tell you, there is a kernel at the centre that my can-do attitude can't reach. And it doesn’t take much to wake it up.

So yesterday it woke up. A casual tweet, humorously intended. And as I read it, I pictured a person I feel I’m getting to know, a person I admire, a person I know to be lovely and thin, dismissing me as a big fat slob. The comment wasn’t to me. It wasn’t about me. It wasn't intended to be judgmental. But in my own little kernel of fear, I believe it applies to me, and in the moment of reading, that belief burned.

My brain threw water on the flame frantically to prevent my fear of rejection heating into a gaseous state that can consume my whole being. I turned my thinking to the reasons for my unreasonably strong response, and found myself very impatient with them. And with myself that they are still there, lurking. Yes, yes. Am I not done with this yet?

The truth is, I’m almost okay with myself as I am, while gently and slowly working towards the body I want to inhabit – one that is strong, capable of doing what I need it to do without complaint. And, yes, one that is more beautiful to my eyes.  Most days I don’t think twice about it, I just make one choice at a time based on what makes me feel healthier. And it's coming along.

What I’m definitely not okay with, when I let myself consider it, is how other people might see me. I’ve been heavier, I’ve been thinner, and everything in between.  I have clothes in my closet from size 6 to size 14, not counting maternity wear. What I’ve discovered through personal experience is this – people, at least in business, take thin people more seriously. Fat is a symptom of weakness, lack of control, lack of discipline – a certain softness where firmness would be preferred. Unlike other addictions and many mental illnesses, fat is visible.  It can be covered and minimized, but there is no hiding girth.  It’s embarrassing. It’s private, but it’s on display for all to see. Heavier people make twice the effort to build half the respect. We could debate it, but that's my experience-based observation.

Since respect was my lifelong consolation prize for feeling too off-normal to inspire love, I still have a part of me that sees my weight as a real threat to my identity and my ability to connect with others.  My fear triggers whenever something confirms my suspicion that polite conversation doesn’t reveal the true assessments by which I can be casually dismissed.  Seeing myself on TV or even home video becomes torturous as I subject that poor girl to the judgments I build in my own mind for everyone else to hold. How much is real, how much is fear? I may never know.

What I do know is this – I am strong, capable, respected, loved and, yes, beautiful and sexy. Now, to penetrate that kernel of concentrated fear and neutralize it with that knowledge. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?