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Health at Every SizeThis follows on from a  previous post as I go through HAES.

Our culture accepts dieting and body hatred as normal.

We feel shame about our bodies. The media tells us so, both directly and indirectly. Family and friends tell us so with the lovely remarks such as “you’d feel so much better if you lost a few pounds”. Misplaced sympathy doesn’t work either. I don’t want friends who are sympathetic to my weight problem. I want friends who don’t consider it relevant. In turn I try to do the same to them.

I used to refuse to buy myself new clothes on the basis that if I didn’t then I would lose weight so I could get into the ones I had. I’ve stopped doing that but I still feel uncomfortable buying clothes that are large size both because I’m selecting clothes that cover rather than fit and because I feel it is a waste of money to try and look good while fat because the two don’t go together.

Change comes from valuing and caring about yourself enough to want to improve your life.

I accept clearly that I have tried to use self-hatred to “force” myself to change my body image and that being fat has represented being lazy, unattractive and a failure. It hasn’t worked. I recognise the negativity every time I open a newspaper. I no longer comment when people talk about their diet. I rarely challenge them on it but I’m no longer impressed by it. I have lots of fat friends who I love, and in many ways prefer to the thin ones. I do compliment them on the way they look because they are beautiful, inside and out. But I can’t see that in myself.

Being able to separate your own needs from social expectations

I have never been a follower of fashion and don’t want to do things because other people do. I try not to compare myself to other people in many aspects but am not successful at this. I need to do things because they are right for me, without comparing, contrasting and judging. But I also do this as a way of rejecting society and its expectations on the basis that I’ve never fitted them anyway. This I did as protection from childhood.

The more you cultivate your internal resources, the more you recognise your beauty and your value – and the higher your self-esteem – the less others can infiltrate your world.

You are worthy of love. There are people who will enjoy you as you are, who will love and support you, even if you haven’t met them yet. Make it a priority to find them

This last quote brings tears to my eyes. I don’t believe that I am worthy of love. I haven’t got there yet. I do most definitely have friends who love me unconditionally and that constantly amazes me still. As to the internal resources, I’ve learned the hard way to rely on myself, to know that no-one else is going to do it for me and that if I want something I have to go after it myself. I need to learn to do that as a positive influence and choice, rather than because I feel alone.

Do you want to be fat?…Many reported that their fat afforded them some “protection” – it allowed them to recede into the background and hide. It helped them avoid being marketed, judged, viewed as a sexual object or in competition with others.

This is a hard one that I hadn’t really thought about. But I started really to put on weight when I became long-term single for the first time in my life. Considering that both ex1 and ex2 were verbally abusive, domineering, not good for my sanity and demeaned me at every opportunity, then maybe yes, subconsciously I decided not to seek out a partner again. I also recognised what I was doing as I almost went headlong into a new abusive relationship and decided never to have one with a complete arse again. As well as making a conscious decision not to try and get into any relationship, I may well have made a sub-conscious one to become fat so no-one would want me. I know on many levels that the idea of a new relationship scares me and this is something else I need to think about.

For some of us overeating and getting fat is an unconscious rebellion against the social expectations placed on us.

Yes, no, maybe. I am angry and judge myself for having two fathers to my children (I feel it sounds as if I sleep around when nothing is further from the truth, and even then, so what?), for not having a career and chasing the money, for not being the person my father wanted me to be, for not fulfilling my own destiny and living up to my potential, let alone anyone else’s. I feel judged when the government or media talks about single parent families. And so on. I feel there are huge expectations placed upon me and that I fail each and every one. So that’ll be a yes, not a no or a maybe.

They [mothers] viewed their fat as a physical representation of their role as nurturers and caretakers and a sign they had abdicated their role as sexual beings, which they felt was an important part of being mothers.

Like many, I became a mother and I slobbed around, getting dressed later in the day, not bothering with what I was wearing (baby doesn’t care) and putting the baby first and foremost. I breastfed exclusively for six years, not even expressing milk so I never went out without taking a baby with me. I subsumed myself into the role of being a mother and defined myself by it. I told myself that was what good or “perfect” mothers did. I opted out of the rest of my life at the time. This was also because I felt the need to prove to my parents and to myself that I could be a better mother and parent than they were, that I thought the need to focus on the child more important than they did. I also felt it gave purpose to my life and that I had hitherto been without direction.

Are there other ways in which I rely on my fat to protect me? Do I feel it gives me more of a presence, that it makes me more noticeable, that people look through the size to see who I am instead? Quite possibly. I’ve always prided myself on looking at who people are rather than what they look like and maybe I’m encouraging others to do the same.

What parts of my personality does my fat express?

Looking at this from the positive side is harder. I think it expresses a strong personality and a desire to be noticed, to be louder than others, in the centre of things. It also represents a desire to not be invisible any more. I won’t be ignored again. All these things I can do regardless of my size.

Your body doesn’t represent your core self….Your body is valuable because it houses you… You can choose your own standard of beauty, one that is realistic and respectful, or you can choose society’s hurtful standards.

I can accept myself. Or not. It’s my choice. One’s positive and self-affirming; the other is destructive. I know this. I can’t feel it yet.

Moving toward a health body image requires…changing your mind to appreciate your actual body.

Can I walk tall? Head up, shoulders back, eye contact, smiles. These I’ve got better at and I’ve noticed occasions where I start to shrink myself. I need to focus on those where I am comfortable walking tall. I still walk tall as a protective covering sometimes rather than because that’s how I genuinely feel and I need to look at that too.

Make a list of everything you like about yourself.

Homework and a separate post I think.

I need to recognise and throw out the negative thoughts. I have a lot of those. I need to work at changing them into positive thoughts, to visualise and pretend where necessary the positive attitude that can turn into reality.,

Find Support

Yes, as I said in my previous post, I’m working on that. Books like this one, online blogs and articles, talking to people online, whether in forums or via twitter are all on the list. Hopefully finding real people to talk to as well. So I’m working on that.

The single most powerful act available to you is to own your body – to walk proud and let others see you enjoying your body. Self-love is a revolutionary act. A person who is content in his or her body – fat or thin – disempowers the industries that prey on us, telling us we are unacceptable and need their products to gain acceptance.

I understand this but am not there yet. I have been quite good at rejecting industrial insecurity and not buying into the concept of buying stuff to “make me beautiful” but I think that’s just as much because I didn’t feel that I deserve to be beautiful.

This has been a long post and a long chapter, full of statements that I know, but do not feel, that I need to come back to and to keep thinking about. It’s also about hope and aspiration and a great desire to reform the way I think and feel about myself.

Quotes are taken from “Health at Every Size” by Linda Bacon