I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I think the New Year is a great time for self-reflection and mapping out what you want to do and be in the coming year. One of my resolutions this year was to continue working towards getting “in-shape” to support my long-distance cycling habit, and my desire to get pregnant in the next 5 years.
Some of you are probably reeling at the fact that I just told you I wanna get knocked up, while the rest of you are thinking, “WHAT? BUT YOU’RE A RADICAL FATTIE! HOW CAN YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT?!” To which I say, fuck no my resolution isn’t to lose weight, it’s to continue working towards being in better shape. But as it turns out, it’s just as hard to convince myself that I’m not dieting as it is to convince all you radical queers that I’m not trying to get skinnier.
I spent a LOT of my life on the “diet and exercise” bandwagon. About 14 years of it, actually. So it makes sense that with over half my life spent counting calories and eating low-carb and spending money on gym memberships, I’m a bit gun shy about telling people I’m working to get in shape, let alone admitting it to myself. How do I convince myself that getting in shape doesn’t mean dieting or losing dress sizes? How do I “watch what I eat” without it becoming obsessive? How do fat people reclaim healthy eating and exercise as a normal part of life instead of a guilt-ridden expectation?
Dieting, as a rule, rarely works in the long term (under 5% success rate!). There are psychological as well as physiological reasons for this, but the bottom line is that “just losing the weight” is not easy, is not fun, and can be damaging to the body and mind. For a fat person, spending every waking moment thinking about what you’re eating and how many pounds you need to lose before you’re “ideal” is considered normal, healthy behavior. For a skinny person? It’s an eating disorder. I do NOT want to fall back into disordered behavior, thank you very much. I want to live a normal, healthy life. And you know what? As a fat person, I can do that.
A recent study showed that it really is about how you take care of yourself, not how much you weigh. Marilyn Wann’s (my fat heroine) reading of the study puts it best: “When looking at a very large number of people, those who ate 5 servings of fruits and veg a day, got regular exercise, drank alcohol moderately, and didn’t smoke tobacco were more than three times less likely to die, regardless of what they weighed or whether they lost weight. The fattest people in the study benefited the most from their good behaviors, without losing weight.” That’s right. You can be fat and healthy. It’s HEALTHY BEHAVIOR that matters more than weight.
Biking and cooking are my ways of reclaiming a healthy life that isn’t about weight loss. I bike because it makes me feel good, it’s fun, and it’s a great way to explore the Bay Area. I cook because it’s empowering to know exactly what I’m eating. I’m fat and I can ride my bike 25+ miles no problem. I’m fat and I eat the most gorgeous, well-rounded diet full of nutrient rich produce and grains. I eat this way and get on my bike because I WANT TO, not because I’m expected to in order to “fix my weight problem.” I’m reclaiming “getting in shape” as staying committed to healthy eating and cardiovascular health.
You know how you can support me, and other fat people, in living healthy lives?
- Don’t tell me I look good if you’ve noticed I’ve lost weight. I look good fat, too, but no one ever seems to tell me that.
- Don’t exclaim, “YOU’VE LOST WEIGHT!” I don’t track my weight or waistline because it triggers me into disordered eating patterns.
- Don’t tell me about your weight loss goals or post them on Facebook. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong by not publicly declaring, “I’m being a good little fattie by telling you all how hard I’m working to be skinny.”
- Don’t tell me how that one diet worked really well for you. My body is not the same as your body, and I’m not interested in becoming a weight loss zombie again.
You know what you CAN do? Join me for a walk or a bike ride! Come over and cook a kick-ass meal with me. Tell me how good my fat ass looks in those bike shorts. Being an ally to me, and other fat people, in living healthy lives is really just being good to yourself. You are beautiful, no matter what size waistband you have, so take care of that body in the way anybody should.