Updated: May 2, 2020
"I like being fat." I waited for the shame to come and for the fear to overwhelm me, but oddly enough when I spoke those words, I found comfort. In a society that praises thinness over wellness, it's not popular to think it's okay to be fat. When I walk into a restaurant, a lingerie store, a doctor's office, etc., there are all kinds of bombarding accusations that attack my mind. "You don't belong here." "Are you sure you wouldn't rather have a salad?" "Umm, I guess I should set the scale to 200." These words aren't actually spoken, but the shame associated with those comments comes regardless. Well-meaning friends reach out on social media and suggest their newest supplement for weight loss only to reinforce that my weight and life are not very well managed and are shameful. It has always been more comfortable to let people say what they will, but deep inside resenting them and their comments. In that cavern of shame hides a small, unspeakable truth that despite the stigma and projected self-loathing, I'm fat, not broken.
Discovering I like being fat became a reality during a tutoring session with a new student. She called herself "stupid" and told me that her family doesn't like it when she says it, but that's how she feels. I had her close her eyes and try to identify other feelings connected to stupid. It turned out feeling stupid meant she was upset, angry, frustrated, and discouraged. I tried the same thing with feeling "fat," except I discovered positive feelings with the word: safe, in control, comforted, content. That surprised me. Those feelings didn't line up with what society says. They didn't line up with what weight loss programs said. They didn't line up with what my loved ones said. They didn't line up with what I thought "fat" should say. It caused me to dig deeper and really consider what I feel about being fat.
What does it mean to be fat? According to my internet search, "Being overweight or fat is having more body fat than is optimally healthy." Okay, so who decides what's healthy? What factors are considered in how much fat is optimally healthy? I have spent the majority of my life feeling ashamed for my frame, my build, and my "fat." As a result, I always felt like I was like a salmon swimming upstream if I walked into a gym until I discovered interval training and powerlifting. The beauty of both is that you learn to work at your personal best. You set the goals. You scale to your strengths and weaknesses. It's about more than my optimal weight, it's about my optimal performance. At age 43, I am 5' 7" and weigh around 250 pounds. That doesn't sound optimal, but I can jog comfortably at 4.5 mph on a treadmill. I can jump on a 20" box. I can do anything I set my mind to do. More importantly, I have excellent form when I do these activities without any joint pain or swelling. So, is my weight really optimal? Maybe not, but it's allowing me to make progress and have my optimal results.
It occurred to me that part of this journey reconciling my past and finding hope to rise again is to find the courage to walk in a way that's not familiar. It's not familiar to walk without feeling defensive. It's not familiar to eat a donut without shame. It's not familiar to feel good at a size 16. It's not familiar feeling good about my optimal results. How do I personally do it? I see a therapist who helps me practice mindfulness exercises to keep me focused on the present. I make good investments in my life that esteem my optimal results. A gym membership, a fitness app to help me set goals and increase activity, and supportive friends and family that love me even though I like being fat. I don't love being fat, but my body mass doesn't keep me from doing things that matter to me. I believe finding balance in my body, mind, and soul will support me in my journey. I'm not perfect, but I'm making progress and that gives me hope to rise again.