Monday, November 10, 2008


Whenever I look into the mirror, I receive a shock. I am shocked by the way my body looks. The way I feel, the way I move, the way I look at myself from above (no mirror) is strikingly different from the way I look and move in the mirror, or on video. I've never felt like I move slowly or heavily, but I look so awkward when I'm able to watch myself. I don't feel as big as I look in the mirror. And so, every time I look, I'm jolted back to reality.

And so I avoided looking into the mirror, for a long time. Lately, I've been looking more and more often into the mirror, trying to find something to like. At first, I saw very little. For example, I like my eyes. I think I have pretty eyes. I like my nose. It's not too big, not too small. I like my mouth; I like the shape and color of my lips. I like my glasses, but I can't take too much credit for those. Didn't like much beyond those though. Very recently, I'm starting to get used to looking at myself in the mirror. I realized a few days ago that I like my skin tone: I'm not pasty white, but I'm no where near tan. I wouldn't even say I'm in the middle; somewhere between the middle and pasty white.

And so I've gotten to thinking. Why is there such a disconnect between the way I feel and the way I look? Am I really as big as I look? By whose standards am I judging, exactly? Is there a way for me to capitalize on not feeling so big as I look?

I'm going to take a shot at the first question right now. I think this disconnect was formed by our dieting, fat-hating culture. It has somehow created a gap, a gulf, between me and me. Me being the way I feel. Me being the outside, the way other people and myself see me. Somehow, me has remained untouched, but only sort of. I still think I'm fat, and I still have a hard time letting go of the idea of dieting. That part of me has been touched. But other parts haven't. (I'm probably not making any sense at this point. Bare with me. Or me.)

I don't know what my own standards of fat are. What I should say now is that it doesn't matter: there shouldn't be a standard at all. Probably true. But I think it's important to understand whose standards are whose so that I can identify what needs to change and whose standards I should begin to listen to. My own standards are probably best; the most informed, researched, and tested standards are probably even better. But I'm not sure that the latter exists yet.

Fat acceptance means that I need to start putting "fat" and "normal" into the same sentence more often. It's okay to be fat; it's normal. Just like it's okay to be black. Or female. Or short or tall, or blue-eyed or brown-eyed. It's normal, it happens, and its (mostly) outside my control. Short women can put on high-heels to get taller; men can get surgery to become women; anyone can put on a pair of contacts to change their eye color; and a fat person can overcome their weight if they are (1) lucky, (2) patient, and (3) unreasonably determined, perhaps to the point of obsession.

But I don't think weight is something to overcome. When I'm not looking in the mirror, I feel pretty good, for the most part. I should maximize this, so that the feeling spreads. I can do that by eating better, exercising more, educating myself, and learning to love my body. (It's so strange to type that - "learning to love my body." It shouldn't be.) Once I can appreciate my own body can I begin to push back on my culture's hatred of my body. Once I can reconcile the way I feel with the way I look - by learning that my fat body is normal and maybe even attractive - can I approach the rest of the world about it.

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