The kind of fat I am depends on what side of fat you’re looking at me from. If you’re a thin person, I probably seem very fat. If you’re a very fat person, I might seem average to you. To me, I am fat.
I’ve been all different sizes. I’ve been bigger than I am now. I’ve been smaller than I was in high school. I’ve been everything in between. Right now I am fat; I don’t love it. Because I know what it’s like to be smaller, I know that it feels better than I do now. But right now, I’m also happy — not with my body but with my life.
If you’re a thin person who has always been thin (or you’re a formerly fat person who worked your ass off to be thin), you’re probably thinking something like “if you’re more comfortable smaller, why not work hard to be smaller?” If you’re a fat person, you might be thinking “me, too” or, alternatively, “there are ways to feel good without being smaller.”
You’re both right. Also, I already know both of those things.
I’ve chosen different paths to wellness with my body. I have worked to lose weight in a safe and healthy way and been fulfilled and proud of that. I’ve also eaten cake with reckless abandon and not cared about the upward movement of the scale needle. I have been obsessed with weight loss. I’ve lived with and recovered from an eating disorder. I’ve been miserably fat. I’ve been miserably thin. I’ve been average — neither fat nor thin nor miserable.
What I am now is the product of a lot of years of self-loathing, a few years of self-loving, and 43 years of being a human being. What I am now is OK.
For most of my life, I have believed that I only needed to accomplish X to be fulfilled.
X might be being thin or having money; it might mean being married or divorced, living in a home or traveling abroad. I have accomplished many of the X’s, and I have been proud of those accomplishments. But ultimately, they have never made me happier in my life. I believe now that you are about as happy as you make up your mind to be.
I think it’s true: There is a threshold past which you just can’t get happier. If you have food and clothing and your other basic needs met, the rest of the stuff isn’t paramount to your happiness; it’s just accoutrement.
I thought that being thin was the answer to my happiness, but it wasn’t. It was the answer to some things — more attention, a wider range of clothing options, fewer sideways glances from my grandmother over the gravy boat — but there were many things being thin couldn’t do. Making me happy was one of them.
I know from experience that my weight is almost irrelevant to my happiness. So I am choosing to stay fat.
I could change my body, but I don’t want to right now. The reasons I am choosing not to make any changes are both simple and complicated. I have plantar fasciitis, and I don’t feel like walking. Walking is an easy way to feel better in your body, but my foot hurts, therefore walking hurts. Yoga does not hurt, so I’m doing that. Walking might result in weight change, but I’m not really thinking about that right now. Instead, I’m focused on healing my foot.
Overall, though, my health is excellent. There are no pressing physiological issues. My blood pressure is great; my cholesterol is fine. I have no compelling health risks motivating me to change my body.
My mental health is stable. I’m focused on my root health. I’m working on healing my body from the inside, using a combination of spiritual, mental, and physical changes. I am not working on changing my physical body because ultimately my physical body, while important, is less important than all of the other things I’m working on.
My body doesn’t prevent me from doing the things I want to do.
I can ride my bike, do yoga, chase my kids, and run up and down a mountain and along the beach. So any attempt at weight loss, right now anyway, would be rooted in aesthetics, and the expectation for me to be aesthetically pleasing is one that I won’t surrender to because being beautiful isn’t that important to me.
We’ve been taught to value pretty above all of the other things we can be and are: smart, funny, generous, compassionate, kind, caring. But I am not young, and I am not a fool. I know two things: Beauty is fleeting, and the kind of people who care if I’m beautiful are not the people I care to be around.
For all the work women (mostly) do to achieve and sustain our beauty, our bodies will remain in flux. The thing you try to make beautiful now will sag next year. I cannot prevent the varicose veins, the wrinkles, the stretch marks. I will not waste my time trying. And if my partner one day told me that he thought I wasn’t beautiful and was no longer interested in me, I would have to tell my partner to get screwed. I don’t want to be with someone who values beauty above my intellect or my kindness.
Someone emailed me recently and said she’d read something I wrote a few years ago about being fat.
She wanted to know if I was still “fat and happy.” She wanted to know how to let go of the need to feel thin but also find joy. She wanted to know how I found peace in my body. I don’t email everyone back, but I emailed her back because I had something to say I thought she would find valuable and that I needed to hear, too. The answer isn’t that I found peace in my body — it’s that I found peace in my life. Once I located that peace, I realized that the turmoil I felt around my body wasn’t stronger than the joy I found in everything else.