On July 9, The Daily Mail posted an article online by non-doctor, but “self confessed fattist” Linda Kelsey titled, “Why Are Today’s Young Women So Unashamed To Be Fat?” The obvious attempt at a shocking subtitle read, “Horrified by the rolls of flesh she’s witnessed on show this summer, Linda Kelsey takes no prisoners!” I’m not even going to get into it with that corny ‘takes no prisoners’ line. They’re right. She doesn’t literally arrest anyone, but not because she ‘says it like it is,’ but because she has no authority to do so. The majority of the article is about the overused ‘obesity epidemic,’ but specifically targeting women. Much of what Linda “Fattist” Kelsey argues surrounds her general disgust with overweight women being comfortable in their own skin. She even shares an example of witnessing a group of fat, young girls enjoying themselves on a summer vacation:
“One was wearing shockingly skimpy crochet shorts, as seen on size-zero models in adverts. But in this case, the shorts made it appear the wearer had an extra bottom hanging below the cut-off hemline. Another girl wore white stretch leggings with a pattern of cellulite dimples showing through, accessorized with a super-sized sausage of overhanging belly. Meanwhile, the third sported a cut-away vest top revealing the entire back of her pink bra, complete with chunky rolls of fat above, beneath and around the straps. To top it all, these three were — I kid you not — sharing a bag of crisps.”
SHARING CRISPS, YOU GUYS (which actually makes me question the validity of this story since most big girls like me would totally have their own bag). Kelsey appears to have spent a bizarre amount of time analyzing the bodies of these women who apparently had the complete and total AUDACITY to feel as though they could leave their respective homes in clothes appropriate for hot weather, meet up together and have a good time. Their blissful unawareness of how much their appearances and seemingly “okayness” with them is upsetting Kelsey and really affecting her own day. She is not able to enjoy her sun and vacation with these “fatties” walking around and feeling, presumably, good about themselves.
What Kelsey doesn’t know is how these women ACTUALLY feel, and in more ways than one. She does not know the actual health issues of these women, nor does she actually know whether or not they are happy with their bodies. She is assuming they are happy with they way they look simply because they’re outside. Outside in the summer wearing summer clothes instead of baking themselves in sweats and oversized jackets or staying at home crying in the dark. So what’s Kelsey’s idea of an alternative to these women being outside in the sun in shorts and leggings? Should fat people only wear uncomfortably heavy clothing in public because they should worry that the very sight of their flesh may upset other people? Should they only be allowed to enjoy the outdoors while jogging or some other form of physical activity so that judgmental strangers can be assured they’re working on their “problem?”
This is sick and this author is sick. The term “fattist” is lazy attempt to make “insecure bully who is projecting their own issues upon other human beings because they don’t want to suffer alone” sound intellectual. Kelsey explains in the article her own diet and how she is strict with her intake and only allows herself and her son few treats to maintain a thin figure. Cool. If that makes her happy, good for her. Some people don’t do that though. Some people eat what they want and are completely happy that those choices are evident on the body they live in. This is the root of the problem with fat shamers such as Kelsey. They’re not worried about the health of others, they’re angry that they must worry and we do not. They are people who fear becoming fat, have been fat or feel fat right now and can’t stand that there are fat people in the world that seem carefree. Don’t you know you are disgusting!!?!?!? Aka, why are you happy after allowing yourself pleasures I restrict??? You’re supposed to be unhappy being fat!! That’s why I work so hard to stay thin; because fat should be unhappy!!! WHY CAN’T I HAVE MORE MCDONALDS??? The reason I know this is because I was one of these people for a very long time.
I was fat as a kid and my mother was big too. She was extremely ashamed of her weight, often yo-yo dieting, even going on an extremely strict diet program that eventually caused her kidneys to fail. Her mother had been bulimic when the disease didn’t even have a name. That sense of urgency to fit in and meet the norm fell upon my mother as well, who herself had grown up chubby and teased in school and by her family. The truly sad part about my life growing up in a small farming town as “Elicia Obecia” is that I look back and realize now that I WASN’T EVEN FAT. I mean, I was a little chubby kid. Chubbier than a lot of my friends and fellow classmates (many of whom were thin largely due to lack of food thanks to the poor area we lived in). But I wasn’t huge. I wasn’t obese. The constant teasing, an unsuccessful trip to fat camp, and even more ridicule later caused me to become anorexic at eight years old. EIGHT YEARS OLD. I didn’t even know what anorexia was then. I just knew that a friend of mine taught me the best way to lose weight was to stop eating. She had learned it from her mother and found it was the easiest way to never get fat again. So she helped me through it, eventually teaching me how to eat only saltine crackers, cheese and soda once a day. Then just crackers and soda. Then just soda and water. Then just water.
I learned ways to hide that I wasn’t eating. I would chew food, pretend to cough and spit the chewed food into a napkin. I would arrange the food on my plate to look like I had eaten some of it. Sometimes I would take several large bites, then excuse myself to go to the bathroom and spit the food into the toilet. Eventually I lost 20 pounds. My family was very happy for me, but I was sick, tired and my stomach ALWAYS HURT. It was commonplace for me to visit the nurse’s office most mornings for a cup of Alka Seltzer. So much so that my parents eventually bought me my own supply to keep in the nurse’s cupboard. Because of my constant stomach pains, I began often fearing I would vomit in class, which caused me to take several bathroom breaks throughout the day and left me feeling constantly anxious. My mom thought the anxiety and the fact my grades were slipping might be because I was unhappy at my school where I was often teased, so she transferred me to a different school where she was the principal and could watch over me more carefully. At my old school, it was easy for me to skip school lunch. Since we always ate in our classrooms, I would generally spend this time drawing, reading, chewing food and spitting it into my lunch bag which I eventually threw away. Since I mostly kept to myself, no one seemed to notice. At my new school, the kids were given school lunches and ate in a cafeteria together. This scared the hell out of me. I was sure I would be found out. The first time I sat with my class at lunch, I tried to give my lunch away to different students, one thing at a time. This worked the first day, but the second day one of the lunch monitors caught this and asked me why I wasn’t eating my food. I burst into tears and was sent to the principal’s office (my mom’s office). From then on I was allowed to eat lunch alone in her office which meant it often ended up in the trash. Ultimately I was found out by the school counselor who my mom forced me to see to discuss my vomiting anxiety after a particularly bad freak out in the gym. All the kids were making their own ice cream by rolling coffee cans with rock salt, crushed ice and ingredients back and forth to each other when the physical exertion of the rolling and the crippling, cold sweat anxiety of the onslaught of questions that would come my way when I refused to eat the ice cream caused me to pass out.
Throughout high school I carried the fat stigma with me. Then during my junior year I managed to lose a considerable amount of weight thanks to a car accident that left me with a broken right ankle and some bad reactions to pain killers and medication that left me eating soup and drinking water. I maintained the weight loss and lost more out of high school once my relationship with my first serious boyfriend I met at 17 became more and more abusive. The verbal, became physical once out of our parent’s supervision. He often chided me for my weight and cheated on me with thinner, whiter, women, reminding me of how much more attractive they were than me in between slaps to the face for unwanted comments which led to regular pushing matches and fist fights we had back and forth. I remained thin for most of my 20s between several failed relationships with different men and women, and a marriage and divorce. It was during this time that I learned I could maintain my weight through claiming a vegan diet which kept me eating very little and in small portions, sometimes aiding that weight loss with veggie broth cleanses and chocolate laxatives. It was during this time I began to resent heavy people. How disgusting they were and how dare they feel happy at their fat size, I thought! And I KNOW because I used to be fat! It’s not that hard to lose weight. I did it! Get off your ass and give a shit! I made some of the cruelest comments of my life during this time. I remember literally hating overweight people and feeling zero shame about openly admitting it.
Then I moved to Seattle, went through more chaos until eventually settling down with someone whom I truly loved. I began to perform stand up comedy and my weight ballooned. This was a mixture of bad dieting decisions, drinking too much and feeling a bit depressed. I had never learned how to control my weight in a healthy way and I wasn’t sure how to jump right back into eating normally since I never understood what that meant. I crash dieted at least once during this time, eating only kale, spinach and beans followed by obsessively working out. I worked out to video tapes when I woke up, when I got home from work and before I went to bed. It never felt like enough. I quickly lost 40 pounds in 3 months, but it never satisfied me. I was thinner, but I wasn’t happy. I felt tired and unhappy and was constantly feeling like I wasn’t doing enough.
I SHOULD LOSE MORE WEIGHT, I constantly thought. I need to add more to my work outs. I need to eat less calories. I need to do more. Eventually this became too stressful and I gave up. My weight quickly ballooned over the years from 140 to 220. I am now the fattest I have ever been and it has been hard to love myself for an entirely new set of reasons. I remember a time when fat-positive zines and magazine articles about loving your body made me laugh. Why would they settle? Why do they want to promote unhealthy and unattractive bodies? Now here I am. That thing I feared the most. Covered in stretch marks from a sudden weight gain and fearful of what my friends think. I have days where I struggle to leave my apartment. I struggle to feel like it’s worth doing anything. Then summer comes and I am screaming inside. I can’t wear these jeans. It’s too hot to wear these jeans, but if I wear shorts outside people will be disgusted. They will see my stretch marks. They will think I’m ugly. And then I remind myself that beauty is not what defines me. It is MY LIFE. Do I want to stay this size? No, I don’t. I’m not happy at this size, but right now I AM THIS SIZE. That won’t go away tomorrow or next month or the month after that even as I try to teach myself how to eat and exercise in a healthy, non-obsessive way that will not hurt my mental wellbeing. I’m working on it, CONSTANTLY, but right now, I just want to feel like it’s okay being me. I quiet the doubts, put on the shorts and head out. And then this woman Linda Kelsey writes this bullshit article and decides she should tell me everything I already know. Everything I feared people would think. Every thing that makes it a CONSTANT STRUGGLE to just be okay, let alone happy with existing in your own body.
The true issue here is not these women Kelsey referenced in her article she supposedly witnessed on vacation and chose to shame publicly for doing nothing else other than walking, talking, and eating some chips. Kelsey should be ashamed. For all she knows, those women (like myself) are struggling and working out, counting calories and being just as miserable as her (after all, they did SHARE the crisps). Maybe she caught them on a rare day off where they decided not to be consumed by the ever-present worry about the perception of their size. Maybe they were laughing and enjoying themselves as a small respite in a world that tells them they are ugly, disgusting, and don’t deserve to wear shorts. Maybe they were feeling this very same fear as they walked and talked and secretly hated themselves. Or maybe NONE OF THAT. Maybe they are just human beings on vacation who are happy to be alive. Either way, none of these scenarios affect Kelsey’s life. Her vacation is not spoiled because some fat girls ate some chips in summer clothes. Among all the random obesity statistics and judgmental opinions about the unattractiveness of fat bodies espoused by Kelsey, she left out some incredibly important facts that I remind myself of every day: We, as women, whatever our size, do not have to dress to please others. We are not wearing shorts in public to make people want to fuck us. We are wearing shorts because it’s summer and IT’S FUCKING HOT OUTSIDE.
I really needed this article right now. I’m trying to get to where you’re talking about – dealing with the weight gain, wanting to lose weight, but being ok with where you are. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing this, Elicia! There’s an honest quality to your writing that I really appreciate.
Speaking from experience: ladies, wear the damn shorts, but don’t forget to use a little talc/baby powder if you’re prone to get chub rub on your thighs ;-)
Deodorant for chub rub! Best discovery I’ve ever made. Lasts longer than baby powder or talc and smells lovely :)
I need some more chub rub advice because I wear bike shorts and use baby powder and my thick thighs still hate this summer with a fiery passion that burns like a million white hot suns (and leaves a rash). I love my thighs, I love my shorts, and I do not love my sensitive skin.
Body Glide makes several products to specifically deal with chafing issues. I’ve never used them myself, but I know people who swear by them.
This article on XOJane had a lot of good ideas that I’m trying this summer: http://www.xojane.com/healthy/chub-rub-thigh-chafing-solutions. I can do baby powder *or* something like bike shorts, but combining them often gets bad for me. (The fabric rubs the powder in, somehow? I don’t really know how it happens, I just know that the results suck.)
One note I’ll add to the article’s suggestions: I found the bandelettes to be super-cute, but the lace options were too nubby + therefore chafe-prone. The plain cotton ones seem to be a lot more workable.
Gold Bond Friction Defense!
What a vile, self-absorbed person Linda Kelsey is. As if anyone is obligated to give a shit about offending her fat-hating sensibilities! I feel sorry for her son if she’s restricting his food because of her own obsession with thinness.
I’m sorry for the struggle you’ve been through with eating and weight loss, Elicia. I started dieting as young as 9, with my mom’s encouragement (though it was my idea). I was lucky enough not to develop an eating disorder, but my relationship with food and my body was fucked up for years. In high school I thought I was fat at about 140 pounds and 5’4″. Fifteen years later, I’m still 5’4″ and weigh 210, the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’ve been 200 pounds before, a few years ago, and I lost about 25 pounds gradually with what was honestly a mix of healthy and unhealthy habits. Then I gradually gained it all back plus 10. I’ve been a fat-acceptance advocate for about 7 years, including during the time I was losing weight, which just shows how hard it is to shake the belief that even if being fat isn’t bad, *I* could stand to be less fat. Like you, I’m struggling now to find a balance; I honestly don’t get enough exercise and I’ve been eating too much junk food, but I’m afraid that in trying to correct those habits, I’ll fall back into disordered eating and hating my body. I’m trying to just love my body as it is right now, for now, and gently steer myself toward healthier habits. I don’t really have any suggestions for you, just empathy and solidarity. And a big “fuck you” to the Linda Kelseys of the world!
I feel about my body the same way I used to feel about being queer: I don’t care if other people are fat, I don’t want fat people to be harassed or discriminated against, but I still would rather not be fat myself and I’m not proud of that.
Also, awesome name.
Also, I don’t even know what “fattist” is supposed to mean, but it does sound an awful lot like “fascist.” Just sayin’.
Thank you for this article. I am the heaviest I have ever been, but I am also just beginning to feel beautiful again. Not because I am dating someone who tells me I am pretty, or because the world is supportive, but because I buy clothes that actually fit me and are not the size I wish I were. Because I wear what I want and dance in front of the mirror before I go out. Because I find things to admire about my imperfect body.
It has taken me a long time to get here, but I am finally not feeling so mean and judgmental about myself.
Also, this Kelsey woman is just an awful person.
I think your experiences demonstrate that a preoccupation on weight leads to weight gain. Health as a whole is personal. I do not understand why so many people feel the need to comment on personal health issues. Kelsey has found a eating plan that works for her family and resents that her effort isn’t more rewarded. At one point, she makes a smoking comparison. Smoking can be effectively fought through shaming, education, and making tobacco inaccessible. (Leaving aside the morality of using shaming for anything.) Weight can not be. A person can’t quit fatness cold turkey. It’s impossible.
This is an important topic to revisit often; so many women (like myself) benefit from even the smallest of continual reminders that we are supported/not alone in our struggle to feel comfortable in our bodies after a lifetime of warring with ourselves.
The first time I became aware of being fat was in the 4th grade, when we got our class photos back and a boy sneered at me and told me he couldn’t wait to go home and cut my fat ass out of the picture so he wouldn’t have to look at me.
I stopped wearing clothes that made me happy at 9 years old.
I didn’t wear dresses for 20 years because I thought that as a fat person, I wasn’t allowed to, that it would look like I was trying too hard to be pretty when I didn’t deserve it.
I am always so touched to read even a snippet of another woman’s fat narrative.
Thank you for allowing me the honor of reading just a bit of yours.
Oh, also, I totally wear dresses now because fuck it dresses are cute and I am cute and all of us are literally the cutest and we deserve to wear whatever we want.
Your comment is making me sad, wistful and happy all at once.
Plus, I really wish 9-year old me could have found and been friends with 9-year old you. We could have shared dresses/skirts and snubbed the kids who were being such assholes.
This article was really touching and just really great and empowering to read.
*trigger warning: some sort of unhealthy lack of eating*
I’m part of the people who react to anxiety by forgetting to eat. Like literally I’ll wake up from an internet stupor and it’s six pm and I realize after a while that I haven’t even had a glass of water yet.
Your words brought the doubts back in about my veganness and desire to eat very healthily; like, how much is it because I actually care about this stuff and how much is it because I’m subconsciously putting more obstacles in the way of getting food? I hate not being able to trust myself in these things.
holy shit is that daily mail article ridiculous! the only reaction i can have is to CACKLE WITH JOY at the thought of poor linda kelsey clutching her pearls upon seeing some cute happy fat girls. the horror! the humanity! the cellulite! someone tell them IMMEDIATELY that being fat is socially unacceptable, i’m sure they have NO FUCKING CLUE!!!!
<3 BIG GIRLS IN LITTLE SHORTS FOREVER <3
Linda Kelsey obviously serious self-hate issues. It’s sad to see her broadcast them in such a pathetic way.
Also – if you want to avoid negativity, materialism, misogyny, etc. it’s probably a good idea to avoid going to Daily Mail.
*obviously HAS serious self-hate issues
I wish you could edit comments
Elicia, thank you so much for sharing this story. Being another lady of size, it is always comforting to read what I would otherwise only see in my journal. And with that I have to also applaud my fellow straddlers here sharing your experiences/anxieties/wisdom.
I can, unfortunately, relate to the cycle of having an unhealthy relationship with my body+food (anyone else got paranoid LOOKING at a pizza. I used to only eat the mushroom toppings of a pizza. In front of people. With pride. And later think that was too much and fall down a shame spiral). All the adults in my life REALLY supported it because I guess being a chubby middle-schooler was an eye sore for them. Ugh, why wasn’t I more conventionally sexier by being thin when I was hitting puberty, y’all?! So gross!
I am now 200 something pounds (knowing the number actually triggers my obsessiveness–I starved myself to my lowest weight at 115) and I am ALWAYS practicing/struggling to practice body love+acceptance with stretch marks+all. I am just happy to see so many other beautiful humans on that same journey.
Bottom line: our stories are important and I would gladly share a bag of crisps with y’all anytime.
This was awesome to read and I miss your very smart and hot face, Elicia!
It can be so hard to resist fat shaming attitudes from your family. My grandmother and my mom are pretty bad about it. Every time I see my grandma she wants to know how much I am exercising and what I eat. Then she tells me what I should be doing. My mom does the same thing but not quite as bad, since she gets it from my grandma too. Their attitudes about my body and habits have definitely influenced my attitude toward my body unfortunately.
what fat shamers don’t realize is the powerful role that genetics plays. both me and my mama just don’t feel the urge to eat that often, we’re just a couple of naturally small people, and i guarantee that elicia has about 500x more willpower than both of us put together. eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, aiming for moderation and balance, are all good guidelines to live by, no matter what size you end up being.
hey gray! just fyi, it’s probably not necessary to share guidelines about eating, especially in a space where people are discussing the ways in which that kind of discourse can be harmful to them! i think ultimately the issues at stake in Elicia’s essay are emotional and mental health, and those might be good for us to focus on rather than guidelines for healthy eating!
i apologize, you’re right. looking back, that comment was not really appropriate
Thank you for sharing this. It’s scary how early this shit starts – I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t constantly aware of being the fattest girl in the room and being ashamed of it.
Personal stories time: Luckily, I didn’t develop a serious eating disorder, but my relationship with food and my body has always been messed up. I lost about 50 lbs at the end of high school (even then, I wasn’t “skinny”), and throughout college I thought of my body before weight loss as some terrible secret – like my friends wouldn’t like me if they met me that size. Total bullshit, of course. After college, I gained it all back plus some. I’m slowly losing weight now, for a variety of reasons, but I think that perhaps it was important for me to realize that I could be fat and have friends and do well professionally and have a partner that adores my body and look sexier than I ever have (the way I carry myself has changed, I learned how to dress, etc). Maybe I’ll always be fighting the little voice in my head that correlates weight with worth, but right now it’s losing. And it helps to hear from others who have dealt with this shit too.
Another daughter of a fat-shaming mother, and a former school kid with ruthless classmates. Result: years of anxiety and self-hatred and depression. The situation now: learning to love myself as I am. Thank you for this article.
Today some of my cellulite showed. Take that, Linda!!!
I love this – it really made me think: “This is the root of the problem with fat shamers such as Kelsey. They’re not worried about the health of others, they’re angry that they must worry and we do not. They are people who fear becoming fat, have been fat or feel fat right now and can’t stand that there are fat people in the world that seem carefree. Don’t you know you are disgusting!!?!?!? Aka, why are you happy after allowing yourself pleasures I restrict??? You’re supposed to be unhappy being fat!! That’s why I work so hard to stay thin; because fat should be unhappy!!! WHY CAN’T I HAVE MORE MCDONALDS???”
Yes, this is perfect.
Haven’t read this article yet, but I just want to mention that no happiness ever arose from a story that starts ‘While reading the Daily Mail…’
Truly. There’s a reason it’s been nicknamed The Daily Fail!
I sooo needed this. It’s not something I struggled with until a couple years ago, especially the past year (I gained a lot of weight since I graduated, got an office job, a car, turned 21, whatever). And now, my girlfriend and I are caretakers for the apartment building we just moved into. Vacuuming and mowing the lawn, I’ve been wearing long dresses or sweatpants, which have been miserable. Today I will say fuck it, put my sophie shorts on, and vacuum the halls, because it is muggy as hell!
Even though I am a skinny-ass, I don’t have the greatest relationship with my body, so I related with a lot of this.
People should wear what makes them happy. Everyone else can deal.
Thank you so much for this. This is the best article re: the whole fat-shaming situation I’ve ever read – I feel like I learned something about the kind of people that make those sorts of comments, and your excellent prose and story was all sorts of relatable. (I uh, also cried for a while last night after my mom shamed me for wearing shorts to come fix her computer *at her house where no one could even see me*, so this hit me right in the feels.)
I especially love the bit about being happy with the body you have now, regardless of how it may change in the future. :) I think one of the worst things about fat-shaming is that it can make a person associate doing anything to take of themselves with validating the awful comments made to them – any good feeling I’d have after exercise as a preteen/teen would immediately vanish if my mom caught me at it and proceeded to congratulate herself for ‘successfully motivating me.’ It’s taken a really long time and I still have to actively remind myself that I can do things like jog or eat vegetables because I love my body no matter how it looks and just want it to feel good, not because I’m giving any merit to other people’s ideas that I should hate it and want it to change until it looks a certain way.
I completely agree with you on the exercise thing – it had always been tinged with an air of punishment for me, and I’d stopped even realizing it. When the “point” of exercising is to lose weight, and I could never lose it permanently, everything ends up feeling like failure, no matter what it’s doing for my heart rate, muscles, endurance, etc.
Here’s to rewriting our brains! (and, if you’re feeling feisty next time your mom asks you to fix her computer, here’s to changing her homepage to a fat acceptance site.)
I like this a lot.
My issues with my weight come from my mother. I think it’s just another thing that women inherit from their mothers and then pass on, just like mitochondrial DNA: how one looks at her body.
For a lot of reasons, my mother sort of took out her own insecurities on me. And so even though I was a tall, lanky kid, I hit puberty and my weight’s been fluctuating in major ways ever since. I’m in a heavier period for all sorts of reasons, working on losing weight a healthy way this time, and it’s just so hard to deal with all of my inner thoughts on my body.
For me, I just psychoanalyze why exactly my mom had her insecurities and realize it was never really about me, and more about her. She’s a very thin, short person, but she has hips/butt and bigger boobs thanks to her heritage. Her older sister is 4’10 and something like 80 pounds, so my mom has a complex about being both the younger and physically bigger sibling, although to the rest of the human population, she’s still incredibly petite. *I* don’t have anything to do with my mom’s issues about her relationship to her sister. My body doesn’t even really mirror my mother’s—I mean, I have big hips, a big butt, and big boobs, but I’m taller than my mother, and as a result, a healthy weight for me is going to be more than my mother’s.
But yes, I think every girl inherited how she thinks about her body from her mother, grandmother, etc, right along with that mDNA. It can certainly be either a blessing or a curse. I’ve just had to divorce myself from it and other people’s projections and think for myself. I think this is the first summer I’ve worn shorts regularly since I was a little kid.
This article was great. That kelsey character can go eat dirt!
This article hits home this week especially. A close friend of my sister’s passed away last week after a 15 year struggle with an eating disorder–something that this “Kelsey”‘s attitude seems to feed (to make a perverse pun).
More generally, I’ve always been overweight, but I found some pictures of the 14-year-old me, and realized I was never nearly as big as I thought. I was normal pretty normal. I imagine it’s the exact same situation today. I hate that this seems to be the norm. I’ll pin that Daily Mail article in the same column with all the “[BLANK] Causes Cancer” pieces.
Eight years old?! That breaks my heart.
I’ve never been overweight but like some of the other commenters my messed up eating and body issues were greatly influenced by my Mum.In my case, it was very much a case of her projecting her own issues.
After a lot of teary conversations I demanded that conversation about our appearance and eating habits is no longer allowed at all when we’re together . Thankfully , it seems to have stuck.
It’s hard for me to dig deep and still not feel resentful to how my Mum effected me so profoundly. Yet, I think empathy has helped a bit.
Self compassion is so so important-EVERYONE needs more of it.
Virtual hugs to all the commenters.
Good for you for drawing that boundary! I’m still trying, this inspires me.
Kudos for being able to draw boundaries. I’ve tried that for ages when it came to my Mum complaining about my not-even-that-chubby body when I was a kid and then my skinny-half-starved body when I was a younger 20something. Now I’m more in control of myself, but she’s still talking shit about my godchild’s weight, and I do not always call her out on her bullshit. I vow to do better, though. Thanks for inspiring me to really go ahead.
Thank you for writing this article – it really hit home. I am currently overweight, but was ‘small’ as a teenager (I was engaged in not-healthy eating habits/not eating at all). <3 Thanks for your courage.
This article was so great. I’ve never really been thin, and it’s taken years for me to get to the point of accepting my size for what it is. I used to have huge issues with wearing sleeveless tops. I’ve made progress, although I still went out yesterday with a pair of jeans under my dress even though it was 85 degrees outside. At least it was a sleeveless dress!
My weight and self-image struggles (and arguably, a good portion of my depression) are a result of my failing to accept my queerness. A lot of the self-hatred I felt about being queer ended up manifesting as shitty body image, which led to binging and starving. Once I came out to myself a lot of that self-hatred was gone, so I was able to start accepting my body and my fatness. I almost cried the first time I was able to look in a mirror and say “Hey, you’re actually pretty cute!” I still struggle with my appearance most days, but it’s one HELL of a lot easier now that I’m out.
i knew this article was going to be super triggering, and i am so glad i decided to read it anyway.
I decided long ago that too many people make their money out of making other people feel miserable about themselves. Yes, there are negative health implications towards being heavier than average, but that doesn’t justify bullying larger people who are not part of your life just to get cheap attention and give a person smug ego boosts.
Personally, I have put on weight due to disability and medication munchies. That shouldn’t make me a target for some uptight shrew to get her jollies from. Anyone could be in that situation, so why does it make someone a target for abuse? Heck, is it beyond the imagination that the walkers could be doing the best that’s available to them at this point in time, a motivational stroll in lovely weather?
Why does Linda Kelsey not commend those people for EXERCISING and SHARING a treat rather than having one each? Does she think they should be hidden away at home, becoming sealed to a 2 seater sofa, rather than out walking with people in the same boat?
Kelsey is just like an anti-abortionist (never about babies, just about shaming people for having sex). Like Nuala Helu said above, if she gave two fucks about people’s health she would be commending the girls for strolling outside and getting vitamin D and exercise.
This was so satisfying to read, Elicia.
I was at my unhappiest when I was my fittest and skinniest because my attitude towards food was self punishing, restrictive, and focused on fear of putting on weight and not losing more weight. I liked how skinny I was (from lots of exercise) but I hated how my enjoyment of food was decimated.
I became a bitch, much like Linda Kelsey. I got supremely jealous of fat people having fun and eating their food, I am ashamed to admit. They just looked like they were not beating themselves up about what they ate, they looked like they were savouring and relishing the flavours and getting nourishment from the food that they ate, and I was SO jealous. Jealous of their happiness, their fuck you attitude to skinny fascists like me and all I stood for, and their insistence upon living their lives to get the happiness they wanted as they pleased. The cheek of it etc etc!
That was 8 years ago. I have never been fat, but I am a lot bigger now as after two years of being miserabley exercising, denying myself the pleasure of food I have always craved and enjoyed sharing that same pleasure with others, exercising and hating it, coming home from the gym, weighing myself after, ensuring I drunk enough water to make up for the shitload I had sweated, I entered into my first lesbian relationship and started to savour sharing food with my partner. She wasn’t an exercise or fat shaming fascist like I was, and her lifestyle to me was very seductive. I enjoyed the food we ate, I live for food.
We broke up and I fell in love with a chef. Well. I was her willing guinea pig. We have since parted ways but the joy that we both found in food, and sharing food together with each other and our families, what food came to mean was nurturing and excitement, things which I let myself enjoy. Yes I got larger. Yes I have to daily practice with some success some days, fat acceptance. Would I swap this experience for the “greatness” (?) of being skinny and desirable? never. Having the balls to say yes to food and all it means has been one of my lifesavers. I have got the exercise thing going, but it is food that I enjoy and wish to continue to enjoy and love.
I have not hated myself more than who I was when I was skinny. I was not me. I did not feel strong or vital. Now that I can say YES to enjoying my food and not give too many fucks as to calories, I like myself a whole lot more, and also love being part of that crowd who enjoys food. I belong now.
Welp, I happen to find this article today after spending a good part of the day measuring myself, weighting myself and downloading fitness apps on my phone. Good timing.
It’s funny. I am heavier than I’ve ever been but I’m also happier and less self conscious than I’ve ever been. I need to lose weight because I put a few pounds in the past year that I want to get rid of, but I feel like I might approach the task in a healthier way this time. My weight fluctuates a lot because I channel anxiety through eating and the past times I’ve been on a diet it’s been because the guilt my mom made me feel was too strong and made me feel too crap. It’s simultaneously funny and sad that the person who supposedly cares about my health and wellbeing is also responsible for 90% of the self-esteem issues I’ve ever had. I didn’t know just how much my mother affected me until I stopped living with her and hearing her casual comments. They became a rarity I couldn’t get past when I got to hear them. I remember feeling and thinking of myself as fat for my entire life. Specially when I was a teen, I thought i looked atrocious. Well, I saw videos of when I was a teen the other day that I’d never seen before and I surprised myself because I saw a pretty, normal sized girl.
And, at 24, I feel as if the notion that I was fat lived with me until it ended up making me overweight for real.
Being happy in your body is super sexy.
A great big FAT hug to all of you beautiful, intelligent fellow human beings! It often feels so lonely in this world but thanks to articles like this and all the comments posted because of it,we are reminded that we are not alone in our stories. It took me until I was 40 to say f**K it, it’s summer, I’m hot and I’m going to start dressing for comfort and fun!! I wish I had come to that point years ago.
Thank you so much for this article. And also all of you for commenting. My brain is currently a jumbled mess and it’s hard to think about my relationship with food and my body let alone write about it, because it is something I try very hard to not think about. Often my mantra “I’m fat and I don’t care. I can be hot too” Except I do care. I care a lot. I think that I love myself but often it’s not enough and it’s really fucking tiring to constantly hear negative input from people that think like Linda Kelsey.
So thank you so much for writing and publishing this
Thanks for this article and for all the comments you all have been posting. I’ve never been overweight but I have struggled with self-image and an unhealthy relationship with food and eating, so I can relate to some of this article and discussion.
Wow, amazing article. I am the largest I have ever been, and am working on it. But I own zero pairs of shorts because I always felt ashamed to go outside. I have barely gone outside until evening this summer because of it. I live on an island and have yet to go to the beach.
I am going to buy shorts TODAY. Thank you.
Thank you for writing this article. Thank you for being unashamed. Thank you for laughing in the sun.
I may be a “fat” girl but I love wearing my shorts :)! I really don’t a shit if it offends anyone.
I have this mantra when I’m about to wear something which isn’t “conventionally attractive”, but that I want to wear (such as when I bind my chest, or walk around with exposed legs which I haven’t shaved yet this week):
I don’t dress for the male gaze. I don’t dress for the male gaze. I don’t dress for the male gaze.
And part of that is not dressing for people who think I should dress for the male gaze, like this Kelsey person.
THANK YOU SO MUCH everyone who has shared their stories, personal mantras, experiences and general support. I have read them all and I am so so happy to know that writing this was worthwhile to someone. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate every single person on this comment thread. Your comments brought me to tears. THANK YOU.
So I’m sobbing at my desk reading this on my phone, cause your story mirrors mine so so much. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been on the ED recovery struggle bus a lot this month and reading this helped like you wouldn’t believe. It’s hard to find a balance between wanting to be healthy and wanting to go back to my old reliable ways, and reading something like this helps knock me back into the real world where no one besides me notices that I’ve gained a couple pounds.
Also, my former high school classmate/plus size model/certified bombshell Jennie Ruck posted this on her Facebook recently and it’s right in line with what you’re saying. Putting the shorts on when I get home.
A couple of other people have mentioned this, but it’s worth repeating – don’t read, or expect anything, from the Daily Mail. I refer you to their analysis of the fashions of female MPs yesterday. Here’s a link to the Guardian report, so you don’t have to go on the DM website (http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jul/16/daily-mail-downing-street-catwalk-female-ministers-outrage).
The paper, including its female staff, seem pretty much committed to keeping women down, ashamed and objectified.
(Great article, though).
I love love love this article I’m giving it a big hug. <3
The fat stigma has always cast a shadow over me since I was a child. I have always been overweight since my toddler years and it wasn't until I hit my tweens that I realized that my size was a stigma. I remember when I was ELEVEN my mom signed me up for weight watchers and had to sit through group meetings where I was the only person under the age of 18 in there (and many were at least 30). I had to follow a 24 food point diet system- yes I dieted when I was in the 6th grade. My mom meant well of course she was concerned about her daughter growing up to be a healthy woman but it honestly never seemed that way even up to my junior year when she kept insisting for me to only choose dresses that had sleeves or to buy a cover-up for my arms. I stressed ate a lot over my image and relationship with me body which never helped the fad dieting my mother had me on at least once a year.
So of course I've hated my body all my life because if my loved ones wanted to change it why should I love the way it is now? It hasn't been until this last year when I've said "fuck it" and now I'm wearing sleeveless everything and short skirts and shorts that show off my thighs and have stopped the fad dieting that I've been doing all these years. I'm not saying I no longer have body issues, but I've certainly love myself more than I used to!
Being ashamed should be based on why you are fat. If you always have been fat, if your metabolism has just been slow from the start, if you eat right and you make an effort to stay healthy then NO you should NOT be ashamed of your fat. But, I have seen many, many women let themselves go. I am a woman, I am 31 and I know how easy it would have been to let that happen to me. So for myself, having never been more than 101 pounds until I became pregnant at 23, if I today were fat, I’d be ashamed of myself. But, I would exercise, as I do now, and follow a strict diet that is clean and lift to add muscle just like I do now, in order to combat the fact that over the years, we put on weight…and my testosterone will decrease, thus making my muscles even less abundant. But…to each their own. I think a person who doesn’t take care of themselves should be ashamed though, personally ashamed.
I just recovered my account details that I had long forgotten for the sole purpose of commenting on this article. I really, really needed this right now. For the last year-ish, I’ve been yo yo dieting and fluctuating between absolutely resenting my size and wondering how other large people could seem so carefree, and reluctantly- yet increasingly -beginning to appreciate my body for it’s own charms. Reading this was like a breath of fresh air.
Thank you <3