” True revolution comes not when we learn to ignore our fat and pretend we’re no different, but when we learn to use it to our advantage, when we learn to deconstruct all the myths that propagate fat-hate.”
Nomy Lamm, blogger, writer, Feminist
Ladies and Gentlecats,
By looking at my pictures, I don’t think you ever saw my entire body. I’ve always shown you my face, round with teeth exposed. But never have you seen what I look like as a whole. So I might as well reveal the rest of myself. So here goes:
Even though I’m headless, you also see that I’m far from rocking skinny jeans (and I wouldn’t anyway because–according to John Tesh–they can cause severe nerve damage. Think about that shit, man. Think.) But all joking aside, I only reveal this picture due to the word that plagues the minds of many a female:
Yes. I dropped the F bomb. The word that not only haunts the psyche of young girls and grown women, but the word that is used as a weapon against those who don’t have fall under the Eurocentric version of Normal, Good and Right. Let me stop you right there. This post is not going to be one about how we fat women (and men) need to unite against the machine by loving our bodies and how we need to walk around booty butt naked around the house to celebrate this love. I’m not going to talk about how we need to go on campaigns against the fashion industry and take all the media to task for feeding into the “low self-esteem of young girls and grown women everywhere.” Every Feminist has been there and done that and, though I thank them, I would be adding nothing new to their valid statements. But what I am going to talk about is the fact that those who have been traumatized and those around them have fallen into what I call the Fat Trap.
The Fat Trap is the idea that fat people are unappealing, unhealthy and unattractive and insecure. We live to eat and to sit on the couch, drinking down melted Ben and Jerry’s and watching Snooki punch some girl in the mouth while drunk. Since genetics and legitimate health issues are rarely taken into account, we’re fat because we’re lazy and don’t want to do anything about it. We ask for ridicule and therefore deserve it. We don’t have fulfilling lives because it doesn’t exists for us and it doesn’t exist for us because we love Ben and Jerry’s and Snooki’s boozing antics waaay too much to power walk for 30 minutes. We’re angry, depressed and bitter and we MUST have some underlying issues we have yet to address. Society believes it. The medical professionals believe it and so have those who have been through abuse.
Let me explain the connection between the Fat Trap and abuse. Many self-help books states that women who were sexually abused at some point in their lives will more likely suffer from an eating disorder. Anorexia and bulimia are the most common but survivors will overeat as well. The latter happens mostly because we tend to either turn to food for comfort or because we want to protect ourselves from further harm, according to the literature. In other words, most of us use fat as a protective shield because we don’t want to hurt any longer. Granted, this is very true. Most women who have been abused (especially sexually abused) purposely gain weight to protect themselves. Unfortunately, they have unknowingly fallen into the Fat Trap through no fault of their own. They too believe that being fat means they will suddenly become unattractive to future partners (or future perpetrators), not even realizing that fat women are capable of finding loving partners. Deep inside they believe society’s message: that, by being fat, they’re not acceptable and approachable. And instead of addressing the issue from this standpoint, many mental health professionals focus on the trauma and whether their client would shed pounds if the client would just address the issue at hand.
Why do I care about this topic so much? Because I was a victim of the Fat Trap for years. Since I was a child, my weight was the focal point of discussion and ridicule. My mom placed me on my first diet when I was nine, getting angry at me one day because I ate pancakes at my grandmother’s house. My father told me I ate too much and family members would stare at me with silent disgust because I was a grazer. I was bullied in school and was called “fat” and “ugly” on the regular. As a teen, I would withhold food from myself and and secretly took my mom’s diet pills to curb my appetite. When I couldn’t take the pills, I would eat, feel guilty and would try to make myself sick. In high school, I somehow came to the conclusion that, if I didn’t lose weight, I would never get a boyfriend. So I would exercise my ass off, lose a little bit of weight by walking to and from school. I became a vegetarian the first time because I heard on a radio show that singer Toni Braxton lost weight by not eating meat. When that didn’t work, I exercised on and off. Ironically my parents worried about my constant dieting, asking me what I ate that day. As I got older, I continued the habit of withholding food, not eating regularly and exercising inconsistently.
When I moved to New York, I joined groups like Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous just to lose weight. The weight did come off, but only for a short period. I actually tried to keep the weight off by purging and I did that for some time. Whenever I felt I ate too much, I vomited and tried to cover it up by brushing my teeth. Eventually, I gained all my weight back and started withholding food from myself again, not eating for hours. Still I didn’t lose anything and people continued to focus on my weight. I was in my late 20s doing this shit. It took a dedicated nutritionist, a medical doctor and my therapist to convince the 31 year-old me that what I was doing to myself was counter-productive and dangerous–even though I tried tirelessly to convince them that eating was the reason that I was fat and that I needed to “get this fat off of me” so I can eventually find a partner, have children and have a fulfilling life! Meanwhile, I placed my entire life on hold simply because of my fear of eating and gaining weight!
I’m slowly, but surely, working towards enjoying food and the idea of eating.
But it was never about food or weight or even about my trauma. It was about the messages that were passed down to me from my parents and bullies who were also victims of the Fat Trap. We were all convinced that being fat was far from normal and right and, in order to be accepted, we ALL have to be thin. No matter how sick it can make us, it’s ok to look anorexic or be a bulimic because it’s a hell of a lot better than being the butt of fat jokes. It’s better than not being able to date because no man (or woman) wants to be with a fat person. Meanwhile, many overweight people are now convinced that they are in the wrong because of what they look like.
What bothers me the most is the fact that parents fall for this obsession with obesity. Parents tell their pre-adolescent children (who haven’t even hit puberty yet, mind you) that they have to lose weight. There’s all these campaigns to motivate kids to go outside and play kickball, but anyone who’s paying attention knows this push against “child obesity” isn’t about health. It’s about convincing a child early on that being fat is unacceptable and that it is best to learn that now and not later. As a result, little girls are going on diets because the world slapped them with the Fat Trap.
According to the media, America is the “fattest country” the world due to our heavy consumption of Coke soda, Big Macs and carnival sweets. Every time there’s a story on the news about the rise of obesity, you pretty much see pictures of overweight people walking down the street, eating slices of pizza. You would think, Readers, that they were filming a B-Movie by the looks of the footage. And we don’t even question it. We believe what we’re told. Think about it for a second: is there really an obesity epidemic or is this just a hyped up obsession about weight woven into this belief that everyone is to be thin? I’ll take it even further–is this just another way for Euro centrism to rear its ugly head by stating that everyone (minorities especially) needs to be fit into the dreaded skinny jeans in order to be succeed in this lifetime?
Speaking of countries, when did being fat become interwoven with politics? I have seen Radicals defend “the right” to be fat, Conservatives attack us through the “obesity epidemic,” and Liberals explain the traumatic reasons behind weight. Why? When did the human body become a focal point for political debate? I truly believe this is also a part of the Fat Trap because it allows politically impassioned people from all corners to focus on the body as if it’s our identity. I can’t speak for everyone else, but my body does not define who I am as a human being. My body does not define my personality, my strength, compassion, creativity, sense of humor or intelligence. It is not the reason why I have friends who love me dearly and why am more than ready to change the world in every way, shape and form. I use it to express myself and to move from one place to the other. The fact that being fat is now a political statement does not even help fat people, but only makes it worse because we’re still seen as freaks from different perspectives.
With that being said, we cannot fall into this Fat Trap–especially those who suffer from trauma. There is NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING FAT AND NOT EVERY SKINNY PERSON IS HEALTHY! There is nothing wrong with my body and–though I may not like my body all the time–it doesn’t have to define me! We fat people can live fulfilling lives and add to the lives of others and the belief of being less than has GOT to be questioned. I’m not saying to break your body down to the point to running into health problems, but we do have to question society’s perception of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. And it should not be to the point of making body image into a political issue. Otherwise, this vicious war against fat people is never going to stop.
Lamm, N. (1995). “It’s a Big Fat Revolution.” Retrieved at http://tehomet.net/nomy.html