Theses, writing, weight-loss, and sweet metaphors

Today in class, my new American Studies thesis students were challenged to answer this question, how will doing a thesis change me as a person and affect my life?

They came up with a  lot of good answers. They talked about confidence, work ethic, intellectual achievement, playing to their strengths, and managing their time. When it came to me to tell them what I believe the answer is, I told them something like this:

The thesis is a learning experience on a large scale. It’s yours, you own it entirely. You are the captain of your own ship, and as a result your successes will be yours and so will your failures. The way the thesis will change you is that when you are presented with a seemingly insurmountable task, whether it’s related to career, personal life, family life, romance, projects, or journeys, you will be able to look at it as a whole and know that you are capable of doing the work to get where you need to be. You won’t doubt yourself. When you’re presented with something that, at the outset, seems near impossible, you will push forward. You will know to break it into manageable pieces, work on it everyday, slowly and steadily. Even when you’re tired, and fed up, you will always see the forest beyond the trees and you will always trust that you will get there. The thesis will teach you that you have every bit of will, and grit, and motivation you need to do whatever you set out to do.

Large scale research and writing is very difficult. There’s a reason why not a lot of students sign up for majors that require work of this nature when they’re undergraduates, and there’s a reason why the students who do are exceptional. There’s a reason why when they write this thesis, which is, for many, their first major research and writing project, that they work closely with TAs, professors, advisors, and each other. Part of what makes this a valuable experience is knowing that they can fall, they usually don’t. But if they get lost, or need a hand – one will be there. We joke about this – “help will always be given in thesis class to those who ask for it.”

I did my first large scale (or it looked large at the time) writing project in IB2 (12th grade). It was called an Extended Essay and it’s basically a miniature version of an undergraduate thesis. I then wrote an undergraduate thesis, and capped it off with a master’s thesis. While I was doing that I started helping other people write. I love helping other people write.

Research driven academic writing might seem dry and sad to a lot of people, but I believe it provides one of the most poignant, useful metaphors for getting through life I have ever encountered, which brings me to my point.

As of today I have lost 80lbs. When I started losing weight the idea that I would ever get to 80lbs down seemed impossible. Even from my current vantage point, there is still so far to go. Starting a weight loss project where I decided to set about losing 200lbs (half my starting weight) was scary, it was scary because I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if I had the physical capacity or, perhaps more importantly, the emotional and psychological wherewithal. I knew all the data about dieting and about massive weight loss, that it often doesn’t work, and many dieters don’t make it past 10%, many people never reach their goal, and many people end up gaining to weigh more than they did at the beginning. Losing weight is socially, emotionally, and culturally stressful. At the outset, in the first 20lbs (which came off quick, but were invisible) I interrogated my choices a lot, I questioned whether my motivation was good enough, whether my choices were noble rather than being selfish or, perhaps, not even mine.

However, in the last 60lbs, I’ve learned so much about myself, and my motivations. I’ve learned that my motivations are complicated and are in a perpetual flux. I’ve learned that this is a project, it is a large, seemingly daunting project, and I’ve learned that in order to get where I want, and achieve what I set out for I have to be committed. While there are days were I don’t count calories so closely (or count them but don’t worry about them) every day is in service of the larger project. Not only the physical elements of weight loss (the eating, the working out) but the emotional and psychological parts. In order to get up everyday and want to keep doing this, I have to know that I am capable.

Losing large amounts of weight is so much like writing. It’s so much like writing that everyday gets easier because I realize more and more that this difficult thing is just like the difficult things I’ve done before. The difference between success and failure is patience, commitment, grit, and knowing that no matter what happens as you go, it is the process that is valuable. When you’ve finished a thesis, and smack it down with the familiar thump of a 100 pages, when you hold it for the first time as it finishes printing and it’s warm and smells like toner, it’s finished and and while it still needs to be graded, and (you hope) read – your relationship with it is finished. Everyday, every mile, every pound I lose feels like a page of a thesis. Meeting a micro-goal is like finding that book you really need, or writing a literature review that you don’t fucking hate.* Weight loss for me is a writing process, it’s a story about my body that I am wholly in control of, it requires my dedication and motivation, and requires that I not let other people derail my ideas, or hijack my work. This isn’t about other people’s ideas, this is my project and I’m writing it with my body. Every success is my success and while I undeniably have excellent people around me to support me, when it comes down to it, it’s mine. When my feet hurt so much I can barely walk, when I’m so bored of eating the same weird foods, and when all I want is just not think about it, I’m the person who has to. And I do because I’ve written, I’ve written long, complicated things, I’ve watched students follow wild trains of thought to magnificent conclusions, and because the body follows the brain.

Writing a thesis changes you in that you learn that if you need to write, if you want to write, you sit down and you write.
It affects your life because you learn that if you want to do something, you look at it as a whole, you think about what’s it’s really made of; the research, the skills, the time, the process, and you make a plan and you follow through with that plan.

*Unclear that this is even possible.

Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face, or Why #boycottingtarget Is Completely Stupid.

In the last few days, a significant number of fat fashion bloggers have ignited a movement to boycott Target due to the fact that their  latest designer collaboration, with Altuzarra, will not feature large plus sizes. I should specify that no Target designer collaboration has featured over a size 14/16, but they’ve all included size 14/16, which (and I hate to say this) isn’t really a “small size.” It’s mostly going on at the Twitter #, #boycottingtarget. Man, I love a good #. This is where it started.

The bubbling fury at Target’s refusal to provide stylish clothing for very fat people has really rallied a wide array of women to action. I think this is ridiculous, and I think it’s ridiculous as a fat person. As a fat woman who takes her clothing very seriously. I have three major reasons for this:

1. If you’re a plus size, and you want designer clothing you can have it. You take yourself into Nordstrom, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Lord and Taylor and any of the major department stores and shop a selection of Vince Camuto, Calvin Klein, Tahari, Adrianna Papell, Sejour, Ralph Lauren and others. Designer clothing comes in big sizes, and it’s never been more available. Yes, it can be expensive, but anyone who pays full price for department store clothing is a shopping like a moron. Further, the excuse that there are no plus size options is beyond trite. Asos. Modcloth. Torrid. Lane Bryant. Old Navy. TARGET. I could go on, and on. AND ON. (In addition to dozens and dozens of independent online stores.) People are getting paid real, actual money for wearing fat girl clothes stylishly and you’re going to tell me there are no options? Give me a break.

2. Target has a perfectly acceptable selection of plus size clothing in-store and especially online. I say this not as a skinny person who has failed to understand your plight, but as a 6′ tall, 300+lb person who’s spent most of her adult life hovering around 400lbs, and has never been smaller than a size 20. I’ve bought jeans, dresses, blouses, skirts, tops, and even pajamas at Target, I’ve rarely shopped their online selection, because I’ve rarely needed to. Further, I’m not a fat style slacker, I’d rate the importance of my appearance in the top 10, fuck it, top 3 most important things in my life. (Incidentally, it’s this very vanity that gets me in the gym, spends too much money at Sephora, and, what many people would consider, too much time on hair and makeup.) When I say there are good clothes at Target, I know what the fuck I’m talking about. If you’re failing to find acceptable clothing at Target, you don’t know how to dress yourself. Go straight to fashion prison, do not go past “go”, do not collect $200.

3. When you boycott Target, you not only cut off your nose to spite your face in that you stupidly deny yourself the aforementioned plus size clothes, but also the home wares, accessories, furniture, storage solutions, and assorted other awesome things that Target does really well. Beyond that, by not shopping at Target, you trap yourself in a situation where you will need to purchase the things you once got at Target, unless you plan on going without towels, lamps, toilet paper, and socks.

The sickest part of this for me is that a huge number of grumpy, entitled fat people who refuse to shop at Target because the designer dresses aren’t big enough will take their business to Walmart. WALMART. I don’t know if you’ve been in a Walmart, but it’s the worst. Not only does Walmart personify bad business practice with beyond dubious labor policies, and crushing local business, but it doesn’t come close to Target’s selection or charitable community work. Beyond that, shit in Walmart is so fucking tasteless, that I won’t go in there, also the lighting is horrifying, but I digress… Remember Target, the store who LOST BUSINESS THIS YEAR because they refused to let customers carry guns, meanwhile at Walmart (your new favorite store) the towels and ammunition sit side by side, HOW RAD.

I fail to see how any Liberal can take their money from Target over dresses being too small, and give it to Walmart, so they can pay women less, and flood America with tacky, tasteless shit. I realize that between these two behemoths, we must chose between two evils, but honestly, it doesn’t take a genius to see which is the lesser of two evils. The one with the cute lamps, stylish clothes, positive labor policies, and striving to make style affordable and accessible. But wait, you forgot about that important, ideological stuff because you were whining about dresses.

 

Let’s talk numbers…

Now, I know I’ve been posting a lot about fat, and weight-loss lately, but it’s because this is what I’m doing right now and, guess what? It consumes most of my life. That’s right, in just over 3 months I’ve lost 33lbs, and it is the most significant thing I’ve done in the last 3 months. People have been very encouraging, offered a lot of support, kindness, and helpful advice – a great deal of which I have made use of and all of which I am grateful for.  In so many ways, getting started on this and doing well so far means so much, I am very proud of myself, I feel accomplished and I feel better. However, I’ve also realized some really important things:

33lbs means nothing. You can’t tell. I look exactly the same as I did 33lbs ago. There is no evidence of my work in my day-to-day life. If someone wants to say something mean to me, they’ll still call me fat, and they’ll be right, because I’m fat, and I’m just as fat as I was when I started. Kindly people will tell me I look slightly slimmer, and it’s different. It is slightly different, and I have pictures to prove it, but at the end of the day, I have the same fat body I did when I started. The same “look how fat that person is!”, “Oh my god, you’re so huge!”, “You should take the stairs!” fat body.

This might seem strange or shocking, but that’s how it is for really fat people, 30lbs, 50lbs, even 70lbs (If my body looks noticeably different 15, 30lbs from now, I’ll be stunned.) these are joke numbers, they have no impact. Volumes of weight that would completely change the appearance or even life, of a “overweight”, “average”, or even “slightly obese” person are meaningless to really fat people. The reason I bring this up is because of how many people think really fat people don’t lose weight because we’re lazy. It’s not that we’re lazy, it’s that this is so much harder than someone who isn’t really fat can possibly imagine. I go to the gym 10+ hours a week, I’ve spent so much money on training, I count every single calorie that goes in to or out of my body, I keep spreadsheets, I consult calculators all day. I am always in some kind of pain, because working out everyday hurts. The first thing I do in the morning is plan how I’m going to eat during the day, and I obsess over every single bite.

Why?

Because I have to, because to lose 33lbs in 3 months when you’re really fat means being really motivated, really diligent, it means there are no cheat days, there are no breaks, there is no day where you don’t push yourself as hard as you can, there is no time where you aren’t aware of every inch of your body.

Does that sound crazy depressing? Does it sound pathetic and sad that last week I got stuck at 370lbs for 3 days, and spent time sitting alone in a locker room honestly contemplating my self-worth over where the scale was stuck, and then chastised myself because that time could have been spent working out? And all for weight you can’t see, for weight that doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.

The reason I think telling you this is important is that I do this gladly, I count, and obsess, and interrogate every pound, every minute on the treadmill, and every calorie willingly, because I want to. What’s more important is that is that I don’t hate my body now, I didn’t before, I won’t ever in the future. I love my body, I love the way I look. I do feel a bit guilty, like I’ve betrayed my fat self, sorry that I felt fine before I started, confident and happy, and yet I’m still asking my body to do this for me, still asking it to climb endless hills to nowhere, and count food.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being denied in any way. Eating the amount I need to eat is easy (except when it’s difficult to eat enough) because when you’re as big as I am, even diet numbers involve giving yourself a lot of fuel. (Want a quick window into what it takes to power my body? To maintain my weight at my current activity level, I’d have to eat over 4,000 calories a day. As it stands, I eat fewer calories than I would burn laying in bed all day. And some days, I don’t manage to eat enough.)

Even with all that I’m doing, and doing it right – a healthy diet, committed, challenging exercise, self-motivated, and being held accountable – the distance to actual, tangible results is hard to fathom. I’ve done this for 3 months, and lost approximately 10lbs per month. I am still 7 months away from being considered “severely obese” rather than “morbidly obese.” I’ll probably be “severely obese” for my birthday! Yay!  March 2015 might see me get into the “moderately obese” category, and from there I’ll still be 70lbs away from “normal.” This is all assuming that it’s even possible for me to maintain this level of commitment until October 2015, or a total of 1 year and 7 months from now. (It’s also important to mention that my goal weight is right in the center of “overweight” and that in order to maintain that I’ll probably have to live like this for the rest of my life.)  Also, this language! Everything I encounter on my journey basically tells me that the grim reaper is sleeping on my futon, and I’m about to fuse to my chair.

This all seems very depressing, but the idea is that people should realize just how difficult this is, it’s not easy, there is no easy way. The scary part of this is that all of this is that it is much easier for me than it is for many people who want to lose weight. I have no medical conditions, no dietary restrictions, no issues with mobility, or mental illness. This is how difficult it is for someone who is confident, comfortable, physically and emotionally healthy, with an awesome support system, as well as resources to spare to pay for the gym, and the trainer. Now just imagine how hard it is for someone with even slightly different circumstances. This is why if someone doesn’t want to lose weight, and wants to be happy being fat that is totally up to them, and no one should be allowed to tell them to do this, or shame them for not doing it.

Good Fatties, Bad Fatties, and why I keep talking about fat.

In the last week or so a very compelling hashtag emerged on Twitter, #notyourgoodfatty. The goal of #notyourgoodfatty was a space where “bad” fat people could share their rebellious experience. I am of the firm opinion that when  non-normatively bodied person loves their body and celebrates it, it is a political act. The people of #notyourgoodfatty did so with exuberance. We discussed wearing what we want (#fatkini), eating in public, enjoying food, enjoying physical exercise for fun and not weight loss, having sex, being sexual without shame, and generally celebrating, loving and caring for ourselves. It was inspiring and truly beautiful.

The notion of “good fatties” and “bad fatties” is a relatively new concept, for a long time all fat people were “bad” and that was that. Now there are “bad fatties,” which is more like “Oh, you bad girl, eating that cake! ;)” and “good fatties,” which is more like, “you’re having a salad and working out! You go girl!” Neither bad or good fatties are truly bad or good. There are inherent problems with both. Good fat people run the risk of feeling tied to their weight loss, feeling as if their value is determined by their ability to lose weight, and often these impulses can take away from quality of life. Bad fat people have to contend with the potential health risks, disapproval from society, and not “fitting in” or trying to. It’s a complex issue, and most people will fall somewhere in the middle, some things we do will be good, and some will be bad. Balance is crucial. 

I believe that fat people have the right to be fat, and that if they don’t want to lose weight, or dress to flatter, or cover up at all, that’s amazing. I find many fat bodies lovely, beautiful, exuberant. (Goodness knows I’m crazy about my own.) I don’t really care about the health of my fellow fat people, I only care about my own health. I may be an anomaly here, as I also think people should be allowed to smoke their cigarettes without being made to feel like monsters. I see “caring about someone’s health” in order to tell them how to live as a shitty and oppressive thing to do, and one that masks fatphobia behind false altruism. Ultimately, I believe that whatever body you’re in is beautiful and should make you happy. I also believe that if you’re unhappy in your body, it is your responsibility to identify that and change it, with or without help, in whichever direction. 

Many people on Twitter did not agree with, or feel positive about the bad fatties having such voice, and trolls and naysayers began to post in droves. The posts were hurtful, discriminatory, bullying, and personified what I dislike about the Internet. A space where people can be rude, cruel, hurtful and not care about the consequences of their behavior. The battle raged (and rages) between “fat haters” and “fat apologists”, “the healthy” and “the sick” and so on. Debates about whether dieting works, whether fat people cost the state too much money, whether they’re gross, lazy, slobby, mentally or physically ill dominated the scene. Many powerful fat voices emerged, both men and women, of various ages and various races. Many of them were health care professionals, nutritionists, and really knew what they were talking about (often proponents of HAES (Health At Every Size). The backlash was similarly diverse, a blend of genders, races, ages, and also a mixture of hateful thin people with former fat people, and fitness professionals. 

What is and was most interesting for me about this space is two-fold:

Firstly, both of these sets of voices ended up shouting into a vacuum. The people who need to hear what bad fatties have to say are sad fatties. Fat people who are suffering with diets, struggling to lose weight, and feeling emotional and psychological hurt as a result, these are the people that need the powerful, self-love rhetoric of #notyourgoodfatty. People who want to learn to love themselves, and find their own health. Similarly, people with fat children (you know, it sucks being the fat child to normal parents, I would know.) and fat family who need to understand how their loved ones love themselves. 

On the other hand, the people the opposition need to reach with their thoughts on excuses, and “living life”, “not eating yourselves to death” etc are the fat people ready to make a change. The unhappy fat people who want to be told to let go of their “excuses,” the people who do not want to live of the edges of society, and want to be the healthy they’ve always imagined. The fat people who have had health problems emerge, or who genuinely want to lose weight. Not being they hate being fat, but because they’re on the other side of the system. I believe the narratives of former fat people are some of the powerful, wonderful things one can engage with during a weight-loss process.

I saw both these sets of voices being wasted and only causing more unhappiness and frustration. 

Secondly, I am not a bad fatty, so I felt like a usurper speaking for them, with them. I felt like I’d done something wrong when I started working out vigorously, or when I want to lose weight. I realized this was a problem, both these positions where firmly demanding each person be one way or the other. It felt like there was a strong, “with us or against us” attitude. Now, I know I’m not a bad fatty, but I’m also not a good fatty, sometimes I eat things I shouldn’t sure, but it’s more than that. It’s that while I’m changing my body, I’m not solely in love with the “thin person” (I don’t think this person exists) I’ll eventually be, I don’t have to hate being fat to want to be different. I felt as if I was forced to think of my desire to change as repulsion, dissatisfaction. This is simply not the case. 

I realize that the whole concept is more complicated, my experience with my body is more complicated. While I may workout everyday and eat carefully, and on most days really relish each inch and pound of weight loss, it doesn’t mean I don’t like my fat body. I live under no illusions that my fat body might not be as healthy as it could be, but that doesn’t mean I hate it. Similarly, not hating my body doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy losing weight. Do I like my less fat self more than my fat self? Not really. I feel pretty equal (and great) about both. A lot of people will tell me this is an obvious lie, why would I try and change my body if I didn’t dislike it? Because I can, because I’m vain and I want to shop at J.Crew?

That might be all there is to it. 

 

Fat Girl In The Gym

So, I started going to the gym in February. February 8th, to be specific. I had never so much as set foot in a gym before (my ‘working out’ had always been confined to my apartment, or the basement gym of an apartment block where I could go at 3am and never be seen.)

I decided to go to the gym for three major reasons:

1. The two people I spend most of my time with (my roommate and my significant otter) go to the gym regularly. Really regularly. Everyday, every second day, twice a day. They do very serious things at the gym and they seem to really enjoy it.
2. I went to the doctor, and I got on one of those cannot-tell-a-lie digital scales, and the results were…significant. (More about this later.)
3. I committed myself in 2014 to taking control of my life. More budgeting, less driving, more writing, and more self-care. The gym seemed to fall into that.

Once upon a time in 2009, I went to the doctor (for birth control, the only reason I could ever truly justify visiting a doctor back then.) and got on the digital scale, and weighed in at approximately 412lbs. Now, it is no joke when you’re told you weigh over 400lbs. You want to crawl into a hole and die. I decided then to lose weight, and I did. I told myself that if I lost weight I would be prettier and happier. I used Weight Watchers (totally works, lots of fun), all sorts of funny diets, half-hearted juice cleanses, some very hesitant working out – 2 or 3 times a week, and a lot of shaming. I shamed myself, and welcomed shaming from other people. I generally made myself miserable. BUT I lost like 95lbs (at my most, those last 25lbs yo-yo’d a lot.) So, by that measure – I totally won.

However, when I was confronted with major life change and crisis, I couldn’t sustain my frenetic eating habits and lost the grip. I kept promising I’d get back to it, but didn’t really get around to it. Now for a moment of real honestly: I didn’t get around to it because I got into a new relationship with someone who didn’t fetishize my fatness, but didn’t shame it either. Eventually after a couple months of this grievous lack of shaming, I realized I was too happy to bust my ass losing weight that I didn’t mind having, and apparently no one else minded either.

It’s easy to lose weight when I’m miserable, it’s harder when I’m happy.

However, when I got on the scale in February and it said 396lbs, I thought, “well, shit. I’m 28 now, and things feel fine now. But how long will that last?” I decided that I would order workout clothes and go to the gym the very next day. I also decided that if I liked the gym, I’d keep going, and maybe think about my food more, and see if I could lose some weight. I realized it didn’t need to be lots of weight, and it might not budge at all (ol’ metabolism isn’t what it used to be, it takes me three days to recover from a mild hangover.) I also realized that it wasn’t going to make me happier, or prettier. (In fact the only tangible result I would expect would be crossing back over the “visibility line” where a fat girl goes from being sexually invisible, to being an object of sexual fixation. This is SUCH an awkward experience.) I also had the realization that I gained 70-some lbs because I was happy, because I’m dating someone who fails to appropriately shame my body. Hardly seems like a thing to cry over. (Also, failed to notice said weight gain. WOW.)

Now, for the driving point of this post: How is the gym (Gold’s Gym in Courthouse, Arlington) for a fat girl?

To be quite frank, it’s fantastic. It’s great fun. The day I got there, everyone was really nice to me, and not in a condescending way, or a relieved way, or the way I imagine people are in Evangelical churches, but in an honest kind of way. They made clear they were happy I was there, and they seemed excited because I was excited. They didn’t issue me any tedious warnings, or make me commit to promises I didn’t intend to keep. They simply showed me around, told me I would get a free session with a trainer, and sent me on my merry way.

I’ve been almost every day, sometimes twice a day depending on what sort of day it is. I generally work out for 60 or 90 minutes, I walk (I nearly broke into a run yesterday, my legs said “yes,” and my brain said, “cool it, you’re not ready.”), I bike, I have training sessions with an awesome, attentive, highly capable personal trainer, and complete her weight workouts three times a week. All in all it comes down to about 90 minutes of weight training, and 5.5 hours of cardio a week. It’s not easy, and it’s not “getting easier” because every time I do it, I make it harder for myself, constantly attempting to beat my last day, or personal best, and I keep rigorous records (the spreadsheets are at least 30% of the fun.)

Now, this may seem rather rose-tinted and idealistic, but remember, I am a fat person. A real, live fat person. The gym is in Arlington. Fancy-pants Arlington.

The people in Arlington are not known for their fatness, but rather their public jogging, trips to Whole Foods, and general sveltness. I workout alongside all these slim, trim Arlingtonians. In the evenings, most people in the gym are my age – runners, lifters, joggers, cross-fitters, men and women. During the work hours, 10-4, there are more older people, stay-at-home moms, people recovering from surgeries, or accidents, fat people. The folks who work in the gym treat everyone exactly the same, they are helpful, supportive, cheerful, and present (should someone need advice, or should I fall and snap my fat ankle).

I say this with total honesty, I never feel put-upon, or alienated by these far thinner, far fitter people. They see me, they see me in my pink sneakers, and my leggings (yep, I wear leggings to the gym and everywhere else. Want to get comfy with your body, ladies? Wear leggings) and my fat. They know that some of the things they do could damn near kill me, and I do less in my whole work out right now than they might do for a warm up, but that doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to be there, it doesn’t make my fitness goals or my hard work any less admirable. In fact, I’m sure the people who see me there every day feel no animosity toward me at all, why would they?

I’m not interfering with their workouts, my walking or biking doesn’t stop their workout. They don’t know why I’m doing this, or where I come from, and I don’t know anything about them. I have no idea how the guy lifting a lot of weight did before he could do that, or what that girl who is sprinting like crazy’s life is like. And I don’t feel like they’re judging me, because I’m not judging them. I don’t think they don’t have anything better to do, or that they lack real intellectual pursuits, or that they are shallow, empty, or stupid. Most importantly, I don’t assume that they hate me, or find me gross, or would make fun of me because I’m fat. I don’t go into the gym with that attitude, and so I get to bounce out with the same enthusiastic glow as the sprinter, and the lifter (but not the same self-important air as the cross-fitters) because I  know why I’m there, and I find that environment to be encouraging, exciting, full of potential, and promise. 

So next time you’re fat (or even less fat) in a gym and feel put-upon, take a second and think about the assumptions you’re making about the people you think are judging you. 

 

PS. I’ve lost 16lbs!

PPS. Trust me, the moment someone makes a shitty comment to me in a gym, I will have no hesitations about putting them in their place, because guess what, I paid to be there too.

My Favorite Place On The Internet

It’s a well known fact that I am in love with the Internet. However, beyond and over all places, I love one website most. I love it more than Facebook, Pinterest, Netflix, or Etsy. More than Vogue.com, The New York Times, Gilt Groupe or Twitter, I love it even more than the website where I play hours of Tetris.

I love Chubby Bunnies best.

Chubby Bunnies is a body positive Tumblr blog run and administered by a woman named Bec who lives in Australia. Bec is the kind of warm, supportive person who reaches out, offers comfort and advice, she’s non-judging, caring and smart. Her personal blog, and Chubby Bunnies are opinionated, well-informed, and welcoming. She’s the kind of person one aspires to be, someone who offers a kind of real love to people for no reason except that it’s right.

Chubby Bunnies is part of an ever-growing network of body positive Tumblrs and websites. As the name would suggest, Chubby Bunnies is fat positive. Striving to create a safe space for fat people, particularly fat girls (there is a Chubby Bunny Boys blog too.) to express themselves, articulate their struggles, their happiness, and in many cases the sexuality that fat people are denied.

It runs on submissions, thousands of women from all over the world submit pictures. Faces, bums, boobs, tummies, and often personally ground-breaking full body shots. Pictures of girls in every state and style of clothing to complete undress. Each picture tells a story, each one, with or without commentary offers a window into the personal life of someone living in a body that they are told to hate every single day, and yet refuse to.

It’s an incredibly inspiring place. Firstly, because Bec doesn’t hesitate to reblog important content, regarding sex advocacy, women’s rights, queer and gender issues, and human rights. Secondly, because every single person I’ve seen on the blog is beautiful. Every photograph is an exercise in bravery, in confidence, in standing up for something. Chubby Bunnies is a space where the fat woman’s body becomes political. What aesthetically, society demands be hidden, the sexuality it pretends does not exist, the confidence that, frankly, scares everyone else flows forth freely and powerfully.

We spend a lot of our lives looking at images of women. For a fat girl these images can be incredibly painful; models, actresses, diagrams in textbooks which look nothing like us. A skinny, slim ideal held up as the only way to be healthy, sexy, desirable, confident, even acceptable. I’ve spent a lot of my life looking at other fat women I see around, trying to look at their bodies and rationalize my own. Chubby Bunnies allows this, it allows me to look at bodies like mine, girls of similar shapes, with similar thighs, rolls, and tubby little knees and see myself reflected. It’s not the reflection we’re lead to believe looks back at a fat person; these women are not disgusting, lazy, dirty or gross. They’re beautiful, powerful, individual and sexy. Their bodies are appealing, the wide hips, soft stomaches and arms, all speak to an aesthetic we are culturally denied.

Frequently, girls write in on their pictures that the blog has improves their self-confidence. It’s unsurprising, seeing something we’ve never been allowed to look at changes the way we feel, changes the way we feel about ourselves. It’s remarkable, profound and important. So, if you’re game for seeing some beautiful, awesome, empowered fat girls this is the place to go.

And that is why, Chubby Bunnies is my favorite place on the Internet.

 

Some of you may have noticed…

Maybe it was the thesis stress, maybe it was the allergies, maybe it was the smaller, but not small dress I bought, maybe it was the threat of spring looming on the horizon bringing with it intolerably short shorts and mostly naked undergraduate girls…

Whatever caused it, yesterday I reached breaking point.

Some of you may have noticed, I am fat.

I’m not “pinch an inch”, “could serve to lose a few pounds”, or “chubby”, “tubby” or even “festively plump.” I dwell on the plus size of plus sizes. Usually I don’t talk about it, except to make one of my no fail jokes [Look, I didn’t get this body climbing stairs and avoiding cupcakes.] I figure if I don’t mention it, you all won’t notice. You won’t notice how much of the sofa I take up, how I fill up my chair (or one of those wretched little desks), you won’t notice my thighs, or back rolls, or double chin when I’m laughing. You’ll instead notice my voice, or my smile, or my bunny front teeth, my excellent hair perhaps, or how handy I am with liquid eyeliner.

I also know this is not the case. I live in the same media frenzied world as everyone else. I know that despite everything I’ve achieved, or how well I get dressed in the morning or just how good I am with the liner, I am still fat. At the end of the day a fat girl is just a fat girl. Everyday is battle against homeliness, against looking matronly, maternal or pregnant. Everyday I walk around Washington DC, and I am aware that when people look at me, they see a fat person. I have all the stereotypes of what fat people are like hovering around me; we’re lazy, unmotivated, uninspired, miserable, out-of-control, we’re not confident, and we’re rarely sexy. Yeah – would you believe that is exactly that set of characteristics that got me where I am in life. I am 100% a successful student, friend, person, intellectual, artist and writer because I’m an lazy, unmotivated, miserable fat fuck. Funny, that.

Usually, I’m pretty confident about my body. I have the rare good fortune that I didn’t “get fat”. I started out pretty fat, and stayed fat. There isn’t a moment in my memory when I wasn’t fat. My appearance now is the logical conclusion of all my other appearances. That said, something happened the last few weeks (I do NOT want to talk about it.) that threw me a curve ball. So, after a week of panicked mega-dieting (I’ve lost 6 lbs since last Wednesday, when I’m on it, I do not mess around.) frantic waddling on the treadmill and treating my closet like a collection of burlap sacks, I went online last night and googled “fat positive”. For the first time since high school, I needed someone else, a total stranger on the Internet, talking to not me, but fat women everywhere that my body is okay. It worked, looking at pictures of other people, women, my size, larger and littler made me feel like it was okay. That I could get up today and get dressed and feel okay.

I am in love with the Internet. Why? because in a split second last night I could begin a process to put to bed a lot of hurtful feelings I’ve been dealing with all week, for this I’m very grateful.

The excellent website I stumbled onto was http://fuckyeahfatpositive.tumblr.com/