I’m having a fat day.
Or rather, a fat week. Fat fortnight? It’s been a while. I’ve slid up a jeans size about a month earlier than usual – winter hibernation does tend to stretch the wardrobe after all – and everything about my body feels…off.
I just feel fat.
But can I say this to anyone at all, ever? Hell to the no. If those words escape my lips or fingers, it gets me jumped all over in a number of ways: loving, patronizing, condescending, jealous, feminist, fatist, HAES-ist. Seems like everybody’s got a comeback.
You’re not fat – you’ve got such a great figure.
You’re not fat – you wear single-digit clothes.
You could work out more or eat less.
You’re being too hard on yourself.
You’re turning “fat” into a dirty word.
You’re supporting the oppression of male gaze.
You’re not fat enough to be our ally.
In the past, I readily accepted this sort of chastisement as reassurance and/or as correcting my straight-sized privilege. But it wasn’t until very recently that I realized what we actually have here is a failure to communicate. I’m getting alternately soothed and attacked because the words aren’t translating. It’s like I’m a Norwegian in a British tobacco shop; I think I’m asking for a pack of smokes, but I actually said, “My hovercraft is full of eels.” What? Exactly.
Let me ‘splain.
Three simple words – “I feel fat” – is a true statement of my current emotions. Not a factual statement about the physical state of my meatform.
I said it repeatedly when I was under the evil sway of ED, hovering around 120lbs and working out five days a week. I said it when I weighed my heaviest – on my wedding day. Actual appearance, measurements, and, hell, reality, has nothing to do with the utterance of that phrase. It’s a cognitive and emotional dissonance between how my body feels to me when everything’s in sync and when it’s gone wrong.
Feel. That’s the key. I feel fat.
When I’ve got my shit together, I can tell.
Regardless of how much the scale says I weigh, my body fits me. My skin holds me perfectly, my muscles slide easily, my energy is stable, my food cravings are clean. I feel strong, vibrant, confident. We’re one unit – body and Self. I breeze through the day knowing this little critter I get to run around in is happy and healthy, whatever my pants size.
Sometimes the harmony breaks down, though.
The system isn’t perfect – I have a sweet tooth, don’t like to exercise, and can’t say “no” to relatives offering food as a show of love. That mis-care of my godpod adds up, and I get bloated, dehydrated, sluggish, and depressive. A divide forms. Suddenly, I’m not a person, I’m a Self in someone else’s body. Like trying to dance to music that’s constantly and randomly lagging – I’m familiar with the tune, but the flow is gone.
“I feel fat” is not a demonization of fatness.
I’m not equating being fat with badness – that’s just wrong, ignorant, and hateful. It’s also a whole other conversation that I’m not touching on here because I could fill a book. The phrase is an apt one, though – the psychological sensation of being abruptly two sizes bigger is disorienting and angstifying.
The trouble is the difference between intention and reception. When I say, “I feel fat,” what most people hear is, “Please reassure me that I’m pretty enough for your standards,” or on the other end of the spectrum, “I want you to feel bad about your body because I feel bad about mine.” And what I really mean is, “My body and I aren’t getting along today” or “I feel crappy because I ate too many rolls and drank too much wine.”
Saying, “I feel fat” is the sadly inaccurate verbal translation for the untranslatable feeling of separation between “I fit in my body” and “something feels wrong.”
It’s incredible to me that I’m at this place where there’s a difference. For the better part of a decade, those three little words held all my self-hatred and perceived unworthiness. They’re why I looked into liposuction at 22 and helped me starve myself. They made it easy to poison my body with laxatives and dangerous weight-loss drugs.
To be standing here at nearly-age 29 and be able to say, with every grain of truth, that my “fat days” are a passing emotional blip is giving me choked-up chills. It is such a relief.
It’s one of my dearest wishes that those still stuck in that place where “I feel fat” is a cry for help or a scathing self-admonition can find this place, too. To understand the discrepancy between emotional reaction and physical reality.
But it’s one day at a time, remembering that your body is a holy vehicle, that you get to choose your thoughts, that the ungainly feelings are temporary, that a scale isn’t the arbiter of health or awesomeness.
Fatness – of any definition- is no cause for self-hate.