A few years ago, I was really obsessed with the body building, "fitspo" realm. I had a major goal of ending up on the Mr. Olympia stage one day, and was determined to create my "best self" which at the time I thought meant a perfectly sculpted, very low-in-fat, 6 pack abs body.
At that time, I was really angry with fat people all the time--before I get really into this, I'd like to first say that although "fat" is a taboo, negative word in our society, I am simply using it as a descriptive term. I don't think of fat as a bad thing.
Anyway, I was really angry with fat people because I thought they were lazy, irresponsible, full of excuses, and a menace to our society. With all the "obesity epidemic" talk out there, I felt that they were bringing us down. I assumed that all fat people must feel gross and angry all the time, because that's how I always felt when I weighed more. I had a lot of assumptions without ever actually having an honest conversation with someone about their own experience. Oh, how we can be so ignorant sometimes.
One night, I was on my way home from some outing on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. I was on another rant to my boyfriend Jason (I went on these rants often) about how the body positivity movement was dangerous, and how it was irresponsible to condone fat people acceptance, and it was only going to make things worse.
I posted an article that was all anti-fat, anti-body positive movement...and I felt SO self-righteous. I had lost weight. I had changed my life-so why couldn't they?? "It's not that hard" (side note-at the time I was obsessing daily over my body, had binge eating disorder, experiencing mild orthorexia, exchanged a social life for a life dedicated to clean eating and the gym, all the while still hating myself).
Not long after I posted the article, I received a message from a cousin I hadn't heard from in a long time. She had struggled with weight her entire life, and always experienced life in a larger body. Her message was so loving, and so gentle, yet so subtly educational that I wasn't immediately put on the defense like I usually was.
I don't remember exactly what she said, but I do remember that it was something along the lines of her understanding where I was coming from because she had dealt with it her entire life, but she is a real person with feelings and struggles just like I am, and that having these thoughts and posting this material was hurtful instead of helpful.
Her message hit me really hard. Putting a face to the struggle. Talking to a person that was experiencing real things. I immediately took the post down.
At the time, that conversation didn't change everything for me. It did however plant a little seed that I would need years later when I was finally ready to hear the full message.
A few years later, I opened my mind up to an entirely different world of body positivity and health at every size. I was tired of battling my own body. I had dedicated years to meal prepping, two-a-days, and broscience that got me to a certain body until I plateaued. Then from there, I fluctuated up and down, and up and down. All the while thinking there was something wrong with ME. My willpower was off. I wasn't trying enough. I wasn't good enough. I would never be good enough. And as always, I didn't fit in.
I was dealing with binge eating disorder for over 10 years, and by this point it had spiraled into a mess that consumed me. I felt unworthy. I was embarrassed to see family and friends I hadn't seen in a while. Would they judge me and think I gained weight? Would they see me in a bathing suit and think I was a fraud? How would I find the magic key that would give me the magic willpower that would lead to the magic body? I had to find the answer!!!
Whelp, turns out the "answer" was no place I ever expected it to be. When I dove head first into the world of health at every size, everything changed. The world around me changed. I experienced myself in a way I never had before. And I saw others with so much more compassion than I knew I had in me.
I let go of my unattainable goals. I gave up my idea of a "perfect body". I decided to accept myself as I was.
Letting go of all that allowed me to release my binge eating disorder. And in exchange, I found an intense happiness for the first time. I found love for myself for the first time. I found health in a way that made sense to me.
The answer wasn't to berate myself into changing. Or to push harder. Or to say to myself "no excuses". The answer wasn't to force myself to eat "clean", self-righteous foods for the sake of "health". It wasn't to say "I eat for fuel, not pleasure". Heck no...I eat for pleasure and nourishment.
The answer was to accept and love myself, and to forget about the weight, or the size, or whatever other pressure I was putting on myself to be perfect. The answer was to forgive myself, and to own my flaws. The answer was to nourish my mind, body, and spirit. To honor my body daily, not punish it.
And if you're thinking that accepting your body or someone else's body will grant permission to "give up" or get super unhealthy...has hating or berating your body gotten you very far?? It's clearly time to try a new approach!
So if you have a problem with fat people, and you really feel obligated to "help them", the best way to do that is to stop trying to help them. Stop assuming that they're unhealthy or unhappy just because of their size. Instead, work on loving yourself and taking care of you first.
And if you want to inspire anyone to be healthy, regardless of size, you can spread the ripple effect of good health through self-love and acceptance, not through self-loathing and criticism.
The world around us changes when we first change ourselves. Work on becoming more loving and compassionate, and watch how that impacts everyone around you.