Health At Every Size. How To?
I try to live by some version of a “Health at every size” type of ideal.
Everyone has their own take on what exactly this entails, but the most basic aspect is to emphasize the fact that health is not determined by a person’s physical size or weight. You can be healthy and fat, or skinny, or whatever.
Health at every size is an antidote to fat-shaming. This philosophy of approaching health should also shed compassionate light on unhealthy behaviours that people use to become thinner or to stay thin. Health at every size is meant to prioritize physical & mental health over weight loss or normative beauty standards. It’s meant to shut down fatphobic bullshit.
The point is that all bodies are inherently valid.
The point is that there are a whole lot of sexy fat people out there.
On the “don’t give a fuck” method.
People have a right to just not give a fuck about their health, about their weight, about looking hot – the whole deal. No one has an obligation to themselves or their partners or society or to anyone to strive for “health.” There is no perfect definition of what “healthy” means & trying to define it would likely be super ableist in any case. Everyone has the right to not give a fuck about their appearance, their weight, their health. Okay?
I’ve been trying to separate myself from normative standards about what my body should look like & the surrounding baggage about what I should eat & how I should exercise & how much time and money and brain space I should devote to that.
I have no diet rules & no exercise plan. As a big “fuck you” to the patriarchy & ableism I have been eating whatever & doing whatever & I expected my body to make it work. Except, well, it’s not working.
On mental health & fatness.
Not giving a fuck is not working so great for my health anymore. It was the right decision in the middle of seasonal depression season, when wanting to eat all of the carbs was an actual depression symptom & I didn’t have the energy to prepare even basic meals. My antidepressants radically improved my well-being but also caused weight gain & sugar cravings. I happily accepted that trade-off.
I told myself then that the most important thing was getting out of bed & being able to do the things I wanted to do with my life. I told myself, “who gives a shit if you get fatter?” I told myself I would work on healthy eating & exercise when I wasn’t depressed all the time.
I did get fatter. I’m supposed to be cool with that, right? Did you see all the stuff I wrote at the beginning of this post about being cool with that? Politically, I’m cool with that. Day-to-day, I work on being cool with that.
I still wanna feel healthy, no matter what my size is.
Because right now I feel kinda shitty, actually. I want to be more flexible, and stronger. I want to have more energy & feel more alert. Everyone and their mom will tell you that exercise can work to treat depression & I absolutely do want a piece of that action. I want to be able to go jogging with my dog. I want to be able to open jars by myself. I want to be able to help lift the heavy furniture when we move. I want to have super acrobatic marathon sex, if I feel like it.
And my pizza + coffee + beer diet is obviously not making that happen.
I want to make some changes but I’m not sure how. Healthy lifestyle behaviours are so similar to dieting behaviours, & the feminist, fat activist part of me wants no part of trying to lose weight or dieting or whatever.
I want to be able to pay attention to my health without getting fucked up about it.
Keeping track of my eating makes me start feeling like all food is unhealthy, no matter what it is, & then I don’t eat anything. Going to the gym means being immersed in this environment that is filled with this palpable & desperate feeling of body hatred. I don’t want a personal trainer to measure my body fat & I don’t want to take “before” photos & the thought of being a chubby lady trying to figure out how to use fitness equipment in front of a bunch of brawny, sexist bro dudes makes me feel like I am going to puke.
I have a lot of worries:
- I used to pay for a gym membership, tell myself I would go, and then not go. That’s an expensive ticket to shitty self-esteem land that I don’t want to buy.
- What if paying more attention to health is too hard & complicated & I get more depressed?
- What if people in the change room at the gym see me naked?
- If exercise makes me thinner, will I start getting catcalled?
- If exercise makes me thinner, will my internalized fatphobia come back?
- Will I embarrass myself trying to figure out weight machines or in fitness class?
- Will I suddenly be surrounded by body snark & judgemental douchebags?
- Will I still have time to do all the other shit that I love?
- Will I have to keep anything I do a secret so as not to invalidate the bodies or choices of my loved ones and pals?
It’s possible to find empowerment and strength through exercise.
I know because people I trust tell me. I know because of reading blog posts like this one, from Queer Fat Femme. Damien Luxe talks about why she loves the gym:
I’ve found that while working out is the time my mind crystallizes ideas [like this blog post] and when I get home I actually have the energy and focus to implement said ideas. In my time at the gym sometimes I get really frustrated and sometimes I hit walls of sorrow and sometimes I get fucking pissed that I have to do so much goddamn work to achieve a state of resilience. But, I keep going because the payoff is so real and the stakes are so high: I want to live in my body, and I want to feel strong. I work out with one goal: to be strong. I have a mantra I remind myself of when I am tired and don’t feel like pushing on: that I have not met everyone I will want to be strong for yet, and I have not done everything I can with my body.
Pretty much, I need fat-positive critical strategies around healthy lifestyle stuff. Resources for better health that aren’t triggering, shaming, and belittling are scarce. So I thought I’d ask:
What are your healthy self-care habits & routines? Do you have trusted exercise partners, cookbooks, exercise dvds, food blogs? I wanna know.
Tell me about your little habits or big changes. What makes you feel awesome and energizes you? I am a lapsed modern dancer, a slow cyclist, a dog walker. Well, really, as a non-driver, I’m pretty much an everywhere walker, right? I like a good stretch. What do you do? Are there any critical femme jocks in the house?
Perhaps as importantly, what don’t you do? What turned out to not be worth it? To be too problematic? To be a too expensive? To be a major bummer?
I want to start out with some small changes & as much free, fun exercise as I can discover. If you know me in real life, join me! Invite me to some shit. Come over to my house & I’ll cook all the vegetables. Come on out for a dog walk or three. Let’s make this shit pleasurable, okay?
Links I love:
- I didn’t know how to write this post until I read Katie West’s “Real Talk: My Body.”
- j. bee at Sassyfrass Circus posts outfit photos taken in the family change room at the gym.
- j. bee is Too Jacked for Sleeves!
- About Fat Acceptance at Definatalie. Also read her post I Keep Moving about the fear of being harassed while exercising & the struggle of finding exercise clothes that fit fat bodies.
- Queer Fat Femme Guest Post: Damien Luxe on Why She Loves the Gym. Lots of discussion about exercise & class. I want to read similar posts from all sorts of people.
- Zinecore radio #21: Get fit for the pit! Interview with Nicole Harris, who writes a zine of the same name.
- Fat from the side is an awesome fat-positive resource. “Fat, From The Side is a project meant to familiarize and empower. Our bodies are all amazing, from every angle.”
- Fuck Yeah VBO. “Plus-sized fashion often focuses on flattening, smoothing, and concealing fat bodies. FYeahVBO aims to counteract that by making the belly just another part of the outfit, not something to be hidden or disguised.”
- I really wanna get my hands on this zine: FIT: A Zine about sports, fatness, feminism, and disability(zine) Andrea deBruijn.
- Jae Steele blogs at Domestic Affair & I like her cookbooks a lot. Super tasty plant-based recipes & lots of health info with no weight loss language. She’s vegan but I’m not telling you that you should be.