Earlier this week, I had a really infuriating call with a member of my family.
She told me that despite all this “body acceptance stuff,” I had to start taking care of myself. When I asked her what she meant by that, she said, “Making healthier food choices.”
This is a woman I see about once every other month at family gatherings. So the only way that she could have decided that I was making “bad food choices” was that I was fat. Fat like nearly everyone else in my family, of course, but fatter than her. So I asked her if she meant a diet. “No, not a diet. Just better choices,” she said. “Come on, you know how to eat right. And you’re obviously not doing that.”
Obviously. And yes, I “know how to eat.” But obviously, she didn’t mean the ole fork to mouth. She meant what I had been taught to do since four years old — follow a plan, restrict, obsess, repeat.
What she was insinuating was that “this body acceptance stuff” was just a mask, a cover for my desire to eat more than I should, make bad choices, and be lazy. This is a person who’s known me my entire life, who must assume that I eat normally in front of her and then binge as soon as I get home. (If I did do that, it still wouldn’t be her business, but I don’t.)
But I don’t think body acceptance is lazy in the least. Telling people that you don’t and will never diet again, setting boundaries with people around you who are obsessed with fat and weight, sharing your views everywhere you go and facing ridicule and hatred, and making a choice (despite 99% of the world telling you that you’re crazy) that this is your life and you’re not going to live it encased in self-hatred — none of that is lazy. Whether we’re dieting, or getting horrific weight loss surgeries or decided to accept and love our bodies, I think fat people are constantly working at something having to do with their bodies. On top of that, fat people have the regular stuff to do that thin people do, like working, taking care of their families, and taking care of all the other stuff of normal life. Plus, because we face discrimination in education, the workplace, and the medical field, we have added stress and pressure and have to work extra hard as a result.
In fact, I have yet to meet the stereotypical, almost mythical fat person that everyone thinks is the usual fat person. This is a fat person who doesn’t care about being fat, eats all junk food, never exercises, and doesn’t do anything other than laying on the couch eating and drinking soda. The only people I’ve ever encountered who fit the mythical fat person description are people who are pretty severely depressed, and they’re not doing this with a blithe abandon that fat people supposedly exhibit (and are often not fat). These stereotypes get perpetuated by shows like The Biggest Loser, which shows its contestants as people who are out of control with no lives, even if they have families and businesses that they run and rather full lives in reality.
I think there’s a myth that body acceptance means not doing anything to take care of your body, and that’s totally not true. As I’ve seen for myself and for my clients, when exercise is not tied to weight loss, we can do it in a way that is aligned with our bodies and with what we find actually fun. When we listen to our bodies and trust them and their messages, we can make appropriate food choices. We can enjoy sex in a different way when we connect to our pleasure rather than worrying over our fat.
So body acceptance, no matter what your size, is the only choice if you want to embrace a happiness that is not centered on a goal weight or a particular size or fitting into a particular pair of jeans. That being said, it’s not always an easy choice to make, but it’s certainly not a lazy one.
Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. is a certified holistic health counselor who specializes in transforming your relationship with food and your body. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/stay-in-touch/ to sign up for her newsletter and get your free download — Golda’s Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining!