Monday, October 3, 2016

The trap of the healthy fat chick

When a plus size woman dares to love herself unapologetically on social media, a few things often happen.  One, lots of people are happy.  Yay! Because if we can love ourselves, maybe they can too.  Or because they already do and are happy that someone else does too.  Or because their plus size sexual partner is beautiful to them and they want her to see the beauty they see.  Or a million other personal reasons.  Yay for happiness and body love. 

Two, some people are dicks.  How dare this woman feel good about herself when she is aesthetically disgusting to them?  So they compare her to animals, threaten physical violence, or otherwise behave like the worst kind of human, because for some reason or other, her self love is threatening to them.  Or they’re bored or something.

So that’s kind of the best and the worst.  But there’s a third thing.  A sneaky thing. 

The concern troll.

“I’m so glad you feel good about yourself, but that size can’t be healthy.” “Promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.” “Glorifying obesity.”

Thankfully, I have been largely spared the aggressive and violent comments online, but I’ve been concern trolled aplenty.

And I haven’t been responding to that properly.

I have used language in my body love blog posts reassuring the trolls in advance that my fat body is healthy.  I have pointed out that I exercise and eat well.  I’m healthy, y’all. Fat and healthy.  Dont worry,  I'm one of the good fatties.  No need for your concern trolling here…

Except.  What a bunch of insidious ableist bullshit that was. 

I love my body and I’m worthy of love and I’m beautiful.  Full fucking stop.  Period.  Healthy or not.  Exercising or not.  Eating kale chips or potato chips. Diabetic or not.  In shape or not.  This is my body and I love it and I’m allowed to love it and celebrate it!  I’m allowed to take up the space I take up.  My health is between me, my doctor, and the people who love me.  No one else.

The trap of allowing and responding to the concern troll is that it says that I am only worthy of loving myself if certain conditions are met.  What a load of crap. 

Some things have happened recently that forced me to look at just how much I have allowed the concern trolls’ voices inside my head.

For the first time in my life, at age 42, I have a medical condition that could be partly due to my weight.

It also might not be.

I have hypertension.  I’m managing it with my doctor in the ways that we have decided together, and my health is fine.  But when it happened, when those numbers crept up, and I could no longer explain them away as “white coat hypertension,” I found myself on unstable ground. 

Shit, I thought.  They were right.  It was just a matter of time until my “unhealthy,” “obesity glorifying” lifestyle caught up with me. 

I felt ashamed because of some numbers on a blood pressure machine. 

Together, my doctor and I decided that before medicating, we would try weight loss, increased exercise, and reducing salt intake.  For months, I obsessively tracked every morsel of food to go in my mouth.  I exercised.  I reduced salt.  I lost ten pounds.  My blood pressure continued to increase.

I broke the Pam.
During that time, I had a nasty fall.  I slipped on some mud while walking in the woods with my kids, sprained a ligament in my knee and tore a ligament in my ankle. I hopped around on crutches, scooted around the house on a rolling office chair, leaned heavily on my husband for help, and eventually got to the point where I could walk with a limp.

I couldn’t stand or walk for long, and couldn’t do stairs.  Grocery shopping was enough to make my leg ache badly for hours.  I considered using one of those motorized shopping cart scooter thingies at the grocery store. 

But, I couldn’t ride one of those.  People would think I was just fat and lazy.  Every time I sat down when others were standing, every elevator ride, I heard the voice in my head, “fat and lazy.”  I felt lumbering. Like a fat caricature.  I considered wearing a knee and ankle brace, not because I needed them, but because they would signal to people that I was injured, not just fat and lazy.

Because if I’m fat and just feel like sitting down or taking the elevator, what?  I’m not worthy of the air I breathe?  The space I take up?  Can I be fat and (temporarily, in this case) not able bodied and have a medical condition and still be beautiful and love myself?

Uh.  Of course I can.

But for a minute, I didn’t know that. 

I had trapped myself in the story of a beautiful fat chick who was the exact size she was supposed to be, as evidenced by good health and an able body.

Pam, check your privilege. 

I’m plus sized.  I’m fat.  I’m fucking fabulous.  Sometimes I’m super duper lazy.  Sometimes I’m active.  Mostly I’m healthy.  In some ways, I’m not healthy.  My body is aging.  Some of that I’m embracing.  Some of it kind of sucks balls.  Exercise waxes and wanes with my mood and other factors.  I like salads.  And cheetos.  And bourbon.  And lentils.  And cake.  And dancing.  And sleeping late. Sometimes I wear fabulous clothes that make me look like a pin-up hourglass.  Sometimes I wear yoga pants and a tank top with no bra. 

And I’m beautiful and worthy.  I love myself and I love my body.  Full stop.  No conditions on that love.

Unconditional.  Just like my love for others.  I’ve finally learned to give that to myself.