self loathing

All posts in the self loathing category

Working Your Way Out of the Self-Loathing Land

Published September 12, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Recently I received an email from an anonymous reader of Fat Heffalump, that asked me how one could possibly engage in Fat Activism/Acceptance when they absolutely loathed everything about their body.  They made it clear that it’s not that they thought that other people should loathe being fat, they just couldn’t find a single thing to like about their own body, they found themselves just that repulsive.

I think that is a bloody good question and one we should talk about.

Let me just say, there was once a time when I felt that way myself.  Even after years of being steeped in fat acceptance, I still have times where I get caught up in that kind of thinking.  I want to make it clear that there isn’t some kind of magical transformation that converts you to some kind of magnificent 100% self-loving fatty.  It just doesn’t work that way.  All of us have to work on it and practice and hone our skills.  I think the difference is that once you’ve been practicing this stuff for awhile and get better at it, you’re conscious of what it really is.  You’re aware that it’s not about your body being repulsive, but it’s about carrying the emotional baggage of a world that fears, loathes and stigmatises fat bodies.

We also have the benefit of community.  If you have a shitty day and you feel bad, having the community of the fatosphere to turn to is definitely beneficial.  When you have someone else to talk to, even online, who understands how you feel, and/or has had similar experiences, it is so much easier to deal with.

But also, it takes work.  We don’t just miraculously start loving our bodies overnight.  It takes work and practice.  Things like doing lots of reading of fat positive material.  Cutting out body snark of others.  Critical thinking about popular media and culture.  Surrounding yourself with fat positive people.  And taking the time to work on seeing yourself from a different perspective.

The thing that I think started to tip my thinking out of constant self-loathing was learning to be gentle with myself and actually entertain the thought that it wasn’t always going to be that way.  Just allowing yourself to think that there is an alternative way to feel is very powerful, even if you don’t feel that way right now.

So to start you all off, I’m going to share a little exercise that helped me to change my thinking about my body, and if you like you can share it in the comments below.

Think about your body and pick one thing that you like about yourself physically.  It can be anything, from the colour of your eyes, to your hair, your boobs, your hands, your elbows, the backs of your knees… anything on your whole body.  Just find ONE little thing that you like about your body, and think about it.  Think about that body part, you might like to close your eyes for a minute if you can.  Just think about it, the shape, the colour, the texture of the hair/skin/nails, all the different features of that one particular body part.  The only rule is no negative thoughts – you have to let those go.

If you can, take a photograph of that body part, or find one you already have that you like.  Think about what it is you like about that body part.  Think about how that part of your body serves you in your life, in it’s function in your body.

Hold on to those thoughts.  When you feel down about how you look, when you feel like you can’t love your body, go back to those thoughts and embrace them.  Remind yourself over and over about that one feature that you really like.  When you feel ready, have a go at finding another one.  And over time, you will find it easier to find things that you like about your body, adding more and more to your arsenal against self-loathing.

It sounds kind of silly, but it has really helped me in those very tough times.

Just to quickly share mine, I have always loved my feet.  They’re big but they’re a lovely shape. and they get me around everywhere I need to go.  I have funny wee toenails that I can paint cute colours, and I LOVE shoes, so my feet get to be decorated with something I love.  I also have both of my feet tattooed, which is another thing I love about them.  They also served me for many years with my dancing and I’m still very light on them.  Plus my feet never smell bad.  I just don’t get stinky feet, no matter what kind of shoes or socks or tights I wear.

Here’s a photo of my left foot before I got a real tattoo on it, back when I first started doing this exercise:

I’ve almost forgotten what my feet looked like without tattoos!  No matter how much I get caught up in the crappy messages society pushes at me about fat bodies, I only have to remember my feet, and how good they’ve been to me.

Your turn!!

Your Body is not Voldemort

Published July 28, 2011 by sleepydumpling

One of the lovely, but slightly scary, things about blogging and having your blog audience grow to a fair size is that people start asking your advice about all kinds of things.  It’s lovely and awesome, to be seen as some kind of fairy fat-mother, but in the same time, it’s kind of scary.  I mean, I’m not an expert on anything by any stretch of the imagination, and in my day job, I’m an IT librarian.  I want to get things right for you guys when you ask my advice, I want to help.  But I am a human being and I can only give my own thoughts/opinions and hopefully that helps.

I get a lot of questions from people who hate their bodies.  Or they hate something about their body or appearance.  I get a lot of questions about people (usually young cis-women) who are ashamed of something about their bodies/appearance, and don’t know how to change that.  Or want to know how to hide the thing they’re ashamed of, or who to talk to about that shame.  Sometimes it’s about being too embarrassed or ashamed to go to the doctor to talk about something that worries them.

Mostly, it’s a whole lot of shame and fear about their appearance.

Every time I get a question like this, there are two things I want to do.  Firstly, I want to hug that person and tell them that they’re perfectly ok as they are.  But I also want to give them something to set them free of that shame and fear.  I don’t quite know what that is yet though!

One thing I do know, is that fear and shame often make the issue seem a whole lot bigger than it is.  That’s the nature of fear and shame – it festers away in our heads growing bigger and bigger and bigger by feeding off itself and each other.  Think about when you were a kid, and someone told you a scary story, or you watched a scary movie.  It was terrifying, wasn’t it?  But then when you go back and watch it as an adult, often it looks silly and cheesy, rather than scary.

Fear makes the wolf look bigger.

Source unknown*

Well it’s the same with our bodies and our appearance.  That scar we obsess over, those stretchmarks, the wobbly arms we hide away, the round bellies, the hairy legs… whatever it is we attach shame and fear to.  We stare at them in the mirror, or poke and prod at them as we get dressed or bathe… and we look at them in every minute detail.  You’ll never know a body as intimately as you know your own.  We practically go over ourselves with a magnifying glass, looking so closely at our supposed flaws that we are afraid other people will see, that we usually fear those flaws far bigger, far uglier and far more dramatic than they actually are.

Sometimes douchey people pick up on those things, and they use our fears and shame against us.  They are perceptive of our vulnerabilities, so they will hone in on that and ridicule or point out those things because they know they can hurt us with  it.  Thus the person who has that ridiculous habit of bellowing “You’re so fat!” or something else about our appearance, or in my case, posting troll comments about how I’m fat, hairy or ugly.

I do understand those fears and the shame though.  I lived with them my whole life until just a few years ago.  I’m fat and hairy.  I’m kind of a tall hobbit really.  I tried EVERYTHING to hide my fat, hairy self.  I avoided those topics in conversation.  I wore clothes that I thought disguised me.  And worst of all, for many years I let so many people hurt me so deeply by pointing out how fat and hairy I am.  Sometimes the barbs still sting for a second, but not like they used to, and it’s rare that it does actually sting any more.  Because it’s a pretty sad person that has to highlight other people’s supposed faults or belittle someone because of their appearance to make themselves feel better.  Seriously… it’s a bit hard to give them any power to hurt you when you stop and think just how pathetic that is!

What we do, is turn our flaws into Voldemort.  Yes, I am a Potterfile, stick with me here.  Through most of the Harry Potter series, everyone is SO afraid to even think about “The Dark Lord”, they can’t even name him.  He is You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  Even the name Lord Voldemort isn’t really his name, it’s the name he’s given himself to appear even more frightening, because he knows that not speaking the real name of something you fear, keeps the fear growing.

J.K. Rowling actually said it in the first Harry Potter book:

Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997.

We do that.  We speak of fatness in hushed tones.  We don’t mention being hairy, or having acne, or stretchmarks, or skin problems, for fear of uttering those names will conjure them up in front of us, or put a huge neon sign over those “flaws” we have.

When really, most of the time these things aren’t Lord Voldemort, they’re just boring old Tom Riddle, and can be defeated, or at least reduced to something so much easier to deal with, simply by not fearing them any more.

Letting go of that fear and shame is not easy.  But that’s the hardest bit – letting go.  Taking that first step.  Opening the door.  Once you take that step, and set off, it really does get a whole lot easier.  That doesn’t mean you never stumble, or you never have the overwhelming urge to run back in and slam the door shut behind you.  That still happens.  But I think once you’ve taken that first big step, you can often recognise the fear and shame for what it is.  You’ve given it it’s real name, rather than hiding away and never mentioning it.

So… how do you feel about fear and shame in the context of your body and/or appearance?  Is there something you think you could let go of to make the wolf look smaller?  To lessen the grip that fear and shame have on you?

Or have you been able to give something it’s real name and chase that fear and shame away?

*I’m unable to find a source/credit for this awesome grafitti/photo – if you can provide one please let me know and I’ll update with full credit.

Dear You

Published March 7, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Yes, you.  Yeah… the person reading this.  I need you to know something.

There is nothing wrong with how you look.

There isn’t.  Not a single thing.  No, there’s nothing wrong with your butt.  Or your belly.  Your hair is fine, seriously.  Who cares if you’ve got tuckshop lady arms, or skinny arms, or any other kind of arms, they’re fine too.  That body hair you’re hating on so much?  It’s alright too – nothing wrong with that.  What did you say?  Your thighs rub and are dimply?  So?  Mine do too, lot’s of people’s do.  You’ve got zits?  Well, skin does that sometimes.  Double chins?  Perfectly acceptable, I would even say cute.  Come on, everything that you think is terribly wrong with you… it’s not.

Your toes, your feet, your ankles, your calves, your knees, your thighs, your genitals, your hips, your butt, your belly, your boobs, your back, your shoulders, your arms, your elbows, your hands, your fingers, your neck, your chin, your mouth, your nose, your eyes, your ears, your cheeks, your head, your  hair… all perfectly fine to look at.

Yes they are.

When I see you, yes, I’m talking to YOU, in a photo, on the street, at work, on the internet, at a friend’s house, in a shop, at a school, wherever I see you, I don’t see those things that you think are hideous.  I see you, a human being.  Nothing about you makes me recoil in horror at the mere sight of you.  No, not even you there, hiding in the corner.

All those things that magazines and advertising and TV and music videos etc tell you aren’t good enough about you, that’s bullshit.  They are designed to make you feel bad about yourself so that you’ll buy more stuff.  They lie to you on purpose.  They make lots of money by lying to you.

Oh I know, there have been people who have pointed out things about you and carried on like they’re hideous, disgusting, gross.  They do it to me too.  But guess what?  There’s something wrong with THEM, not you.  There’s something wrong with people who need to humiliate other people because they look different.  There is something wrong with people who feel the need to point out other’s “flaws”, as if they themselves don’t have any.  They are the flawed ones, the broken ones, not you.  They are the ones that need to change themselves, not you.

You hold your head high.  Wear what you want, when you want.  Live your life how you want, and what works for you and those you care about, not how anyone else thinks you “should” live it.  Don’t hold back.  Don’t wait until something changes about you.  Do it right now.

If you want to change something, then change it for YOU, and only YOU.  Nobody else has the right to tell you that something about you doesn’t look good, or right, or enough.  Only you have that power, and only if you are doing it for what you think, not what other people think.  Do you want to change something about your appearance?  Ask yourself, “Why do I want to change this?”  If it’s because other people say it’s not good enough, or even what you think other people might say or think, then ask yourself “Why does what someone else’s opinion of me get to dictate what I do to myself?”  Remember, if someone is criticising you for how you look, the problem is with THEM, not with you.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.  You ARE good enough, every one of you.  As you are, right now, this minute.

But most of all, remember that no matter who you are comparing yourself to, not a single person on this earth is more perfect than you are.

Love,

Kath

P.S.  Here’s a song for you:

(Just a heads up, it has swear words and images in the clip, probably not safe for work or kiddies)

No Guarantees: A Post for Jackie

Published February 8, 2011 by sleepydumpling

My heart is heavy today.  Very late last night, I got a message to tell me that a lovely friend of mine in the US had passed away unexpectedly.  Jackie was only in her early 30′s, and such a sweet, sweet soul.  I was only chatting with her via Facebook a couple of days ago, mere hours before she died.  Her best friend and roommate came home in the evening to find that she had passed away in her bed.  At this point we don’t know what has happened, but I know she wasn’t feeling well when I last talked to her, but she’d chalked it up to the consequences of a good night out the night before.

I think a lot about her right now, in context to the fat activism I do.  Jackie and I often disagreed on a lot of things around body politics.  Or not even that, it’s like she agreed with me in principle, but was unable to believe them of herself.  I used to feel that way too, I would think that Fat Acceptance was a great thing, and all these fat women (and a few men) were doing amazing things, and were fabulous people, but I couldn’t be like that, it didn’t apply to me.  That did change with time.  Jackie and I used to talk about it from time to time, and I was always hoping that she could see the beautiful woman I saw when I looked at her, but I know she always struggled with that.

Jackie and I had so much in common.  We were both Cysters (women with PCOS) and met online many years ago on a PCOS forum.  I was so lucky to meet her in person when I went to the US, and spend time with her and her friends (one of whom I now consider my friend) and get to know her even more.  She was such a generous soul, she made me feel so welcome, and even though we could only spend a few days hanging out together, we talked so much.  She made me laugh, and she made me think, and she made me cry.  She had the cutest Louisiana accent (though lived in San Francisco) and was one of the most stylish women I ever met.  That girl could rock a frock and a red lipstick like no other.

We have both had difficult times in our past, and both dealt with the issues of our weight, self loathing and food issues.  Our paths diverged somewhat when I found Fat Acceptance, but we still had so much in common.

Jackie did everything that a woman is “supposed” to do about her weight.  She dieted, she exercised, she struggled.  She couldn’t see that she was so beautiful, both inside and out, and she struggled with her self esteem.  I wanted so much for her to see just how wonderful a person she was.  I understand it though, I struggle with my own even now, and I’m well immersed in the soothing balm of the Fatosphere.  Eventually Jackie had weight loss surgery and lost a lot of weight.  She was still beautiful, with or without the weight, she was still intelligent and funny and kind and just a lovely person through and through.  She was one of the most glamorous women I have ever met, always immaculate and fabulous.

And she still struggled with her self esteem.  Which has always broken my heart.

As I sit here remembering her, and all of the effort and yes, hell she went through to conform to society’s ideal of femininity and beauty and “health”, it hits me all over again that she’s gone.  That even after doing what our culture tells us women need to do to be “desirable” and “healthy”, we have lost her at such a young age.  I totally understand why so many women choose this path, because it is sold to us as the only way that we’ll be of any value, and that by getting rid of fat we’re taking preventative measures for our health.  I understand that wholly, that pressure is phenomenally strong, and those of us who fight it have to fight day and night, as hard as we can to resist getting caught up in it.  We are wading against a tide that takes every bit of our strength to resist.

But I can’t help but feel cheated for losing such a beautiful friend despite her trying so hard to do what society tells us is the right thing to do.  I am angry that not even when you do what mainstream culture tells you to do, there’s no fucking guarantee that it’s going to give you a long life or even make you happy.  All I wish right now, knowing that we can never have Jackie back, is that she knows how loved she is.  That she knows how terribly she will be missed.  And that she knows right now that she has been beautiful and valuable and precious all along.

A Bad Day Get’s Better

Published January 28, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I woke up feeling pretty good.  I had my outfit picked out (something I could never wear to work – denim skirt, leggings and a leopard print camisole), and was excited to be going off to get my next tattoo today.  I showered and dressed, and realised I had a little bit of time up my sleeve, so I jumped online and went to my Facebook page.  Unfortunately, the first thing I saw was a post that was intended innocently by the friend who posted it, but was actually a big ole pile of fat hatred.  Even though it was posted in good spirit, it was painfully clear that the person who made the meme (one of those Demotivational posters) was being hateful and pushing more fat stereotypes (the junk food loving gluttonous fatty) and some of the comments were of very bad taste.

I was so hurt.  I plummeted into a spiral of self loathing and shame.  It took every ounce of my intestinal fortitude not to cancel my tattoo appointment and go back to bed.  Then it took every ounce of my willpower to not change my outfit and cover my body, to stay in the outfit that bares my fat arms and shoulders, that is visible.

But I did the old “fake it until you make it” and set out for the day.  I’m so glad I did.  Wanna see my outfit? (Click here for outfit details)  Here you go:

OOTD 28th January 2011

I’m fresh out of the tattooist chair, their apprentice took the photo for me.  There’s nothing like the adrenaline high after a tattoo to lift your mood.  I went from hating myself to feeling amazing in the time it took my tattoo artist, Victoria (from Wild at Heart Tattoo in Charlotte Street) to do the piece.

The piece is very significant too.  I know you want to see it.  But I’m going to tell you about it first, before I unleash it.  It’s a piece that Victoria and I designed, inspired by the art of Rubens Cantuni, a fabulous artist from Genova in Italy.  He does these pieces called Tokyo Candies that I fell deeply in love with a little while ago, after seeing some of his sexy fat lady artworks pop up on Tumblr.  (Rubens is on Twitter and Facebook if you’d like to follow him too.)  I saw this picture over a year ago and absolutely loved it, but it was seeing this one on Tumblr about a month ago that made me decide I absolutely HAD to have a tattoo piece inspired by his work.

I took a bunch of his work to Victoria and between us we came up with a design that was just perfect.  Not only is she beautifully fat positive, but it’s a celebration of the things I love about myself too.  I only have to look at her to be reminded of the things that I feel good about myself.

Yeah yeah, I know, you just want to see the damn tattoo.  Well here she is…

New Tattoo

See, I told you she was beautiful.

Fat in a Swimsuit

Published January 1, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Well, whaddya know.  Guess who fell into a big pile of self loathing in the past 24 hours.  Yup, you’re looking at her. (Ok smart arses, you’re READING her!)

Yes, it still happens.  As positive and as confident as I get, sometimes it just happens and there’s no rhyme or reason for it.  Yesterday, I wrote my previous post for the New Year’s Revolution, was feeling good, and spent considerable time posting body positive messages to my Tumblr until midnight rolled around and it was 2011.  I was feeling good.

But then, in preparation for going to the beach with my friend Kerri today, before I went to bed I decided to pull out my swimmers and pack my stuff up ready to go again.  I got a pair of new swimmers on sale the other day, so I planned to wear those.  I tried them on (I knew they’d fit, but I wanted to make sure the straps on the shoulders were the right length) and looked in my full length mirror… and it hit.

In hindsight, it’s because the top half of the swimsuit had NO bust support.  Which meant that my magnificent rack of doom had nowhere to go but down.  And it was uncomfortable, no – PAINFUL.  But instead of doing what I should have done, which is cursed out the manufacturers of a size 26 swimsuit, it became a spiral of self loathing.  I hated my breasts.  I hated my belly.  I hated my thighs.  I hated my back.  I hated my chin.

I agonised over that damn swimsuit and my body for a good hour.  Eventually I decided to put it away and wear my old swimsuit (which I only bought last year) which also doesn’t have adequate bust support in it, but I can wear a bra under that one and it isn’t visible.  I can at least know my back and chest aren’t going to hurt because I’m properly supported by a bra.

Just an aside, who the hell makes a size 26 swimsuit without adequate bust support and thinks that’s ok?  Who do they think is going to wear this?  Ok not every size 26 woman has big breasts, but wouldn’t it be better to have too much bust support than none at all?

Swimsuit designers, manufacturers and retailers, here is what I want.  I want a two piece swimsuit, the bottom half doesn’t matter that much, briefs, skirt, shorts… whatever, I prefer the shorts but will wear the others.  But the top half, I want a HALTER necked tankini style top, with fucking UNDERWIRE and proper adjustable halter-neck so that I can fit the damn thing properly, and not have my boobs dragging my back and shoulders and chest down.  I want one that has REAL support, like a proper bra, but is made of decent swimsuit fabric, in cute colours and prints, and I want you to put a reasonable price tag on it.  Not $300, but under $100.  If my size 12 friend with B cup tits can get this, why the fuck wouldn’t you be making it for people with bigger breasts?  SERIOUSLY.

Anyhoo..

Off to bed I went last night, feeling crappy.  I woke up feeling crappy.  Yes, in the midst of all the body positivity of the New Years Revolution campaign, all my talk about giving up dieting and self loathing and so on, it hit me.

Because it does.  It doesn’t just go away overnight.  It doesn’t go away at all really.  And no matter how immersed you are in fat acceptance, body positivity and surrounding activism, it still whomps you on the arse unexpectedly at times.  Some days you just can’t avoid it.

However, now that I’ve got through today, I think it’s a good thing that it happened to me when it did.  Because then I can share with all of you that it still happens, it still sucks… yet we survive.  We go on.  We keep going with this body positivity and fat acceptance stuff… because it really, truly does make it better.

Because of being part of fat acceptance, I was able to take a moment this morning, acknowledge that I felt crappy, and then consciously ask myself what I could do to try to make myself feel better.  The first thing for me is music.  I made sure I was armed with a couple of songs on my iPod that I know just lift my mood.  The second thing was to pop online and go through my Tumblr stream.  Sometimes, I need to hear those body positivity messages too.

Most importantly, I knew that the best thing I could do was put my damn swimsuit on (with bra on underneath), grab my stuff and get my arse out the door.

Kerri picked me up, I put my happy song on in her car, and I spent the day with my friend who makes me feel good about myself.  I went to the beach as planned, chucked off my sarong and went and got in the water.  I swam and fell over and laughed and got sand in places where sand should just not be, I swallowed great gobs of salt water, I talked with my amazing friend about life, the universe and everything, I let the power of the ocean take over and spent a good hour and a half being hammered about in warm salty water.  Then we went and got changed into comfy maxi dresses (I wore this one), headed up to Australia Fair, got a decent feed and wandered around the shops together.  I saw a dude who was so smoking hot that he took my breath away, our eyes met and we had a flirty moment.  Kez and I talked some more, laughed some more, shopped some more and then had a ridiculously flavoured coffee before heading home, salty, sandy, sunburnt and sleepy… but feeling great for having spent the day hanging out together.

When I hit the shower as soon as I got home, I realised I didn’t hate my body any more.  I was angry at the damn swimsuit manufacturers/designers/retailers for not providing me with adequately made swimsuits.

This is how it works my lovelies.  Through giving up the dieting and trying to change your body to something it is not, and focusing on caring for yourself, building up your self esteem, working through the tough bits, immersing yourself in positivity, surrounding yourself with people who build you up, not tear you down and living your life to it’s absolute fullest, you get through the bad times.  You learn to be able to put in place the strategies you need to get back on track.

But most importantly, you don’t miss out on all the good stuff, like spending the day at the beach with a dear friend, because you’re too filled with shame and self loathing to put on a damn swimsuit.

Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got to go shake more sand out of uncomfortable places.

New Year’s Revolution

Published December 31, 2010 by sleepydumpling

If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen the New Year’s Revolution campaign started by Marilyn Wann and Amanda A Evans.  The idea is to put an end to the ridiculousness of setting New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, or diet, or any other body loathing goal.  If you’d like to learn more, you can have a look at the campaign page set up here.

Most of the campaign has a Health at Every Size foundation, but since I don’t believe HAES (or even health) is compulsory when it comes to fat/body acceptance, I’m going to skip that bit.

I am however going to talk about fat acceptance and body acceptance as a New Year’s revolution.  I like the idea of “revolution” instead of “resolution” because, well, let’s face it, actively working towards NOT hating your body is radical, revolutionary.  When the mainstream media is flooded with ZOMGOBESITY CRISIS stories, magazines and other popular media tell us in one breath how to love our bodies, then how to diet them away, and then look at these yummy desserts you can make, stepping out of that flooding stream of body negativity is a radical act.

We are taught that loathing your body, no matter it’s size, is normal.  From being too fat, too thin, too short, the wrong shape, too wrinkly, going grey, having visible pores (let alone actual “blemishes” like freckles, scars, zits, moles, and all the other completely normal things that human bodies have), being too hairy, not having lush, flowing locks on our heads, having curly hair, having straight hair, having big breasts, having small breasts, from being apple, or pear, or whatever other fruit they can think of shaped bodies, you name it, you’ll find a magazine article, or a news story, or a television advert about it being “wrong”.  We’re bombarded with these messages from as early as we can hear and see.  We hear them from our parents, our colleagues, our friends, everyone in our life.  We are told what clothes to wear to be “flattering”, what shoes will elongate our legs, what makeup will hide our “flaws”, what diet will get us “bikini ready”.  Fitness, and increasingly more loudly, the moralising of “health” (to be exact: thinness) is the message that is hammered home over and over again.

Is it any wonder that when a new year rolls around, and the cultural meme of setting resolutions for the coming year kicks in, so many of us just default to body loathing to spur us on to our goals?

What if you were to just not do that this year?  What if you were to not set any goals, or if you feel you need to, set a positive one?  Or one not even related to your body?  What do you think would happen?  Do you think that your life would suddenly get worse if you didn’t diet or if you just stopped engaging in body hating activities?  Would you die?  Would anyone go to jail?  Would the zombie apocalypse happen?

I’m totally ready for the zombie apocalypse if it does happen, by the way.  No really, I’ve got it covered.

I know what would happen.  You’d not have to worry about the disappointment of failing another diet.  You’d not have to beat yourself up about breaking another resolution.

You know what else might happen?  You might actually feel good about yourself.  You might have more time to spend on living life, because you’re not fussing over diets or having to get to the gym when you hate it.  You might actually look in the mirror one day, and not feel bad.

I can tell you what has happened to me since I stopped buying into body shame and loathing.  Now, just like Pantene, it didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.  Let’s see:

  • I’m a heck of a lot happier than I was when I bought into all of that diet and body shame and loathing.
  • I can look in the mirror and not feel worthless, ugly, repulsive.
  • I can go shopping without it being a major exercise in self loathing.
  • I save a whole lot of money that I used to spend on diet pills, meal replacements, diet magazines, “fitness” gadgets, and a bajillion other expensive things designed to fail at losing weight and getting fitter so that I would just spend more money on them.
  • I get dressed in the morning and feel good about how I look, and if someone doesn’t like how I look, then tough shit to them!  I still feel good about how I look.
  • More people compliment me than ever.  Now that my shoulders are back and my head is held high, people feel they can approach me, they smile at me and I smile back.
  • I just smile more often than I used to.
  • When someone makes a rude comment, or is downright nasty, I now realise that’s their shit, not mine.
  • When the black dog of depression does bite my butt, and I find myself either depressed or anxious, I am better equipped to work it through than I was when I was full of body loathing and self hatred.  It still happens, but it is usually shorter and less severe.
  • I’m better company when socialising around food.  No more agonising, no more causing a fuss because “there’s nothing I can eat” (because I was eating nothing and hated being around food), no more self loathing and guilt trips for actually letting any food pass my lips.
  • The range of clothing I will now wear is far greater than it ever was.  All those things I told myself I was too fat to wear… just get in my wardrobe already!
  • I have so much more confidence with dating.  I hold my head up, look a dude in the eye and smile.
  • I save a shitload by not buying magazines.
  • I only watch TV without any ads… I can watch twice as much in the same time.
  • When I have conversations with people, it’s about INTERESTING stuff.  Not diets and how fat I am and blah blah blah.

And there are no doubt dozens of other benefits that have come my way since I got off the body loathing roller coaster.

Look, I can’t promise you that all of this is going to happen to you.  I can’t promise you that any of it is going to happen to you.  But don’t you think it’s worth a try?  Don’t you think that if you get just ONE benefit from giving up on all of the self loathing and actually being kind to your body, and therefore yourself, the experiment is worth it?

Would you give it a try?  Just for 2011.  Come on, the water’s fine.  Jump on in.  We’ll look after you.

A Letter to My Body

Published November 14, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Dear Body,

I owe you an apology.  I’ve not been very kind or accepting to you in our relationship.  In fact, I’ve downright hated you for most of our life.  I realise now that the hatred I had for you was very unfair, and that you were undeserving of it.  You deserve more respect than that.

I am sorry that I did so many things to hurt you over the years.  I’m sorry that I starved you, exercised you into the ground until you simply failed to function in several ways, and that I punished you for just being yourself.  I’m sorry that I cut you, filled you full of pills and other substances that affected you in so many damaging ways.  I’m sorry that I didn’t give you what you needed, that I forced you to ingest things that you hated, or that made you feel bad, simply because I hated you so much.  I’m sorry that I picked you, tore your hair out, chewed your fingertips, and didn’t listen to what you were trying to tell me.

You’ve given so much to me through all the hard times.  You kept me going when depression really, really tried to stop us in our tracks.

You didn’t deserve to be hated so much.  You’ve looked after me for over 38 years now, mostly uncomplaining in the scheme of things, and how have I repaid you?  By hating you and trying to force you to change, by picking you apart as if you’re not a whole being, by desperately trying to reduce you and starve you away, and at times, I tried to kill you.

But you kept on going.  You kept on doing your job, and doing it very well, for all these years.  Even when I wore you down to exhaustion and pain, you still kept going.  You patched yourself together as best you could, even though you tried to tell me you were exhausted and in pain, I wouldn’t listen, so you just did the best you could.

You’ve done so much for me.  You’ve allowed me to do every single thing in my life that I’ve ever done.  You’ve allowed me to experience love, and joy, and happiness, and laughter, and fun.  I’m sorry that I never acknowledged you for giving that to me.

I tried to make you do things you simply couldn’t.  Like be completely different to what you actually are.  I measured you by other people’s standards, tried to change you to be something you’re not, and tried to force you to perform in a way that you’re not designed to, just because other people’s bodies behave differently.  I realise now that I have been completely unreasonable in my demands on you.

I want you to know that I am deeply sorry, from the bottom of my heart.  I ask you to forgive me for hating and punishing you for so long, and know that I will work very hard to never do that again.

I want you to know that you are beautiful in your own way.  You are strong, powerful and healthy.  I don’t hate your big belly, or your fat arms, or your thick legs any more.  Your rolls and bumps and lumps are not objects of loathing to me any more.  They are now things of beauty.  They always have been, I just recognise it now, where I didn’t before.  You are a feminine body.  I never used to see you in that way, but now I do.  You’re all woman baby!

I don’t hate that you are hairier than other bodies.  I don’t hate that you pump out more hormones of all kinds than the average body.  I don’t hate that you sometimes have trouble keeping your skin smooth and clear.  I want you to know that I am not ashamed of you any more.  That I will stand up for your right to be as you are, and if anyone tries to change you when you don’t choose to change of your own volition, then I will fight them from doing so.

You and I, we’re going to work together.  Because we are together.  We’re one and the same.  You are me, and I am you.  We’re going to take care of each other, and make each other happy.

I love you.  You are beautiful.  Please forgive me.

Kath

P.S.  I’m going to shave your head in January, but it’s for a good cause.  You might feel a bit naked for awhile, but let’s just show your pretty scalp off and rock it huh?  We might have some fun.

Let’s Make it Better

Published October 7, 2010 by sleepydumpling

I want to talk about bullying.  But I’m struggling with it, because even now, when I am in a safe, happy place in my life, when I am bully free and strong, I still feel hurt and fear.  Just thinking about what I suffered at the hands of bullies plunges me back into all of those emotions, even though rationally I know that I am safe and strong.

But I HAVE to talk about it.  Because not only is it good for me personally to voice all of these demons that bother me, but because being open about it, putting out there into the world what people are suffering every single day, and calling it out for what it is, is needed to help battle the very deeply ingrained bully culture of our world.

Brace yourself, this is going to be a long post.

Bullying is by no means a new thing.  It happened to me all my life and I’m 38 this month.  As a child, as a teen, and yes, even as an adult.  And I know it’s been happening for so long in history one couldn’t pinpoint an origin.  But I do think that it is particularly vicious in our time now.  I’m not saying it’s at it’s most vicious now, or that it we haven’t had equally/more vicious periods of bullying in our history.  I do think it comes and goes in cycles perhaps, as society finds excuses, until the inevitable backlash comes along.  It’s time for that backlash now.

I am of course, right now, spurred on by the It Gets Better project, which is in response to the suicide of several young gay men who were bullied to the point of losing all hope.  However, while I do want to send a message of support out to the young queer folk out there, and talk to them about the bullying they go through, I want to broaden this to anyone who has suffered, or is suffering at the hands of bullies.  Whether that be because you are GLBT, fat, shy, female, small, different, just an easy target… whatever reason the bullies have chosen you, I want to talk to you in this post.  And that goes to those of you who have been bullied in the past but are doing ok now.

So let’s start with my story.

As I mentioned, I was bullied my whole life.  I came from an abusive home, so perhaps I already had the mark on me of being a suitable victim.  I don’t know, but it definitely started before I got fat, so it’s not just my fatness that was the reason.  I can remember being pushed over at Kindergarten by a boy who was bigger than me on more than one occasion, for no good reason that I knew.  When I went to primary school, I got it there.  Menaced by bigger boys for any money I might have (which was very little if any), or my stuff, even if it was cheap and crappy.  I was made fun of for being poor, for being dirty, for being fat (even before I was fat), for being stupid (which I have never been), or just because I was available for bullying.  When I got a little older I would stand up to the bullies if they targeted my younger brother, but if I was just on my own, I seemed to lack the confidence to do so.   They would push me around, throw food or anything else gross they could think of at me, steal my school stuff and hide it or destroy it, make fun of how I looked or what I was wearing, or lie to teachers and get me in trouble when I hadn’t done anything.

But, in primary school I had friends, a couple of lovely teachers, and my beloved school library (complete with teacher-librarians who I still idolise today), so I survived.  It was much harder surviving what was being dished out at home than dealing with what was happening at school.

When I got to high school, things changed.  I got fat.  Puberty hit at the end of primary school so I was far more developed than my peers.  Added to the mark I already seemed to have on me labelling me as a perfect bully victim, it equaled 5 years of living hell.  For the first time, the girls started in on me.  Say what you like, boys might be rougher and bigger, but girls are far, far more vicious bullies.  There was one girl who had a pair of twin sisters as friends.  Think of the two oafs that Draco Malfoy has as his henchmen in Harry Potter… Crabbe and Goyle.  That’s what these two twins were like.  Twice my size, mind numbingly stupid, but would do anything that the Malfoyesque girl told them to do.  They beat the shit out of me.  They burnt my stuff.  They followed me home (across the street from the high school, fucking great huh?) and stood there on the corner for hours on end, menacing me.  They told the older boys that I liked them and that I’d sleep with them for money.  They rang the school pretending to be a concerned parent and dobbed on me for doing things I didn’t do.  They told my violent father that they caught me smoking.  They stole my lunch and ground it in the dirt.  They cornered me in the girls toilets and forced me to stick my fingers down my throat until I vomited, and told me that I had to do that after every meal because I was so fat and disgusting.  They found a boy to piss on me, which he would do every couple of days.  They got other boys to ring my house and ask me out, and then laugh at me no matter what reaction I had.  They spat on me, they stole my school books, they tore my school uniforms, they just never fucking stopped.  All the while the main girl just told them what to do, and spewed hateful words at me.

One day when I was about 14, something snapped.  I lashed out with a steel ruler that I happened to have in my arms with my school books, and hit the main girl across the face with it.  I was horrified but I had just snapped.  The deputy principal took me into his office and said “I know you’re not that girl, you’re not violent.  But I know what goes on at home, and that you don’t want to be that person.  Don’t ever come back into my office for this reason again.”

They never bothered me again.  In fact, even the oaf twins gave me a wide berth.

But the bullying didn’t stop.  Older kids stepped in.  Boys got worse.  They grabbed my breasts, forced me into corners and grabbed my crotch.  They pulled down my pants.  They asked me out and then screamed with laughter at the mere thought of dating me.  They spat on me, pissed on me, threw dog shit at me, you name it.

I changed schools in my Senior year because my mother moved us to a new town.  The bullying happened there too, just with different kids.  But they could have been the same kids.  They looked and sounded like the same kids to me.

Teachers never helped.  They told me not to be so sensitive, not to engage with the bullies, not to take things so seriously, to mind my own business, to get a hobby, to lose weight, to apply myself better in school.  My parents didn’t care, they were too busy fighting each other and bullying me themselves.

By the time I was 16, I wanted to die.  It was the only way I could see an end to it.  But for some reason, I never did it.  I just wanted dying to happen, I couldn’t do it myself.

After I left school, there were some good years, but soon after more bullies found me.  One of my first full time bosses bullied me for fun.  A neighbour bullied me.  I had some more good years.  Then a colleague bullied me for a couple of years that were absolutely hellish, and which only stopped when a bullying complaint was filed on my behalf (when I simply asked for help) and while that complaint was dismissed because of a technicality, for some reason the bullying stopped too.

I got help with my self esteem and the depression issues (which I believe are part chemical, part result of constant abuse and bullying my whole life).  Things are good for me now, and I know I would never, ever take the shit that I once used to tolerate.  But in those bad years, time and time again I wished for death to claim me, a few times I got to the point of attempting it myself.

So I know, oh believe me I know how it feels.

Now, to those of you who are young and think it never ends.  It does.  You are not what they say you are.  You are not worthless, ugly, disgusting, gross, nothing.  You will survive this.  And it WILL get better.  Please, please don’t give up.  Talk to someone.  Call or email something like The Trevor Project, or Kids Helpline, or Lifeline, or something else in your state/country along those lines (anyone who knows any services, please share links in the comments).  But hang in there.  Hold your head up and know that you DO deserve better.

And I promise you this.  I am working to MAKE it better.  It’s not fair of people to just say “Hang in there, it will get better.” without doing anything to make it better.  You shouldn’t have to just ride it out and tolerate being bullied.  But if you can hang on, I and a lot of other people who care, will work to make it better, to change things.  I will fight to change the cultural attitude of permitting bullying, or excusing it.  I will ask others to stand beside me in that fight.  It has to change.

Now to those of you who are adults and have suffered bullying in the past.  Or those of you who maybe have or know kids you’re worried about when it comes to bullying.  I need to talk to all of you.

It’s not right that we ask kids to hang on, to suffer through the bullying with the vague promise that “it gets better”.  We need to MAKE it better.  We need to teach our own children, and all of those around us, that bullying is never, ever acceptable.  I’ve seen posts over the past couple of days saying that bullies do so because they hate themselves, or because they’re the victims of abuse at home themselves, and a myriad of other reasons.  I’m here to say that while I care that people feel this way, I DO NOT ACCEPT THOSE EXCUSES.

I hated myself my whole life, until I was past 35.  I came from a violent, abusive home.  Lot’s of us did/do.  Lots of us have things in our lives that made/make us miserable, but do we turn to bullying to deal with that?  No.  Because we know it’s just a very pathetic excuse to be a cretin.

I do not accept any justification for bullying.  I am not going to give bullies sympathy and hugs.  Not until they stop bullying.  If and when anyone chooses to be a good human being, and to treat others with basic respect, then I will encourage them and support them until the ends of the earth.  But so long as someone is bullying others there need to be decent repercussions for that behaviour.  We need to stop making excuses and enabling bullies.  We need to speak up and say it is unacceptable, over and over and over again.  We need to tell our friends, our families, our colleagues that bullying behaviour is not acceptable.  We need to work to make it better for the kids that are coming up behind us.  We cannot let the same injustices happen over and over again.

It’s time we stood up and said loud and clear that bullying is NEVER acceptable. Change takes time, but we have to stand up and start making that change.  The kids of today will join us down the track, and more and more after them.

Let’s not expect young people to just suffer through bullying.  Let’s make a difference.

Sorting Out My Head

Published September 15, 2010 by sleepydumpling

What a funny few days it’s been.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was processing a lot from the Australian Fat Studies conference.  It’s been a real mix of emotions.  Delight at meeting several of my favourite Aussie members of the fatosphere, as well as some of the women who have really influenced me since I came to Fat Acceptance.  Intellectual exhaustion from so much really stimulating and challenging discussion and ideas that came from the conference.  Physical tiredness from a trip to Sydney and right back to work the day after I got back.

Not to mention a whole host of emotional stuff stirred up.  Sharing my own story of the lowest point in my life with everyone both at the conference and here on my blog, a story that I’d never told anyone before this time, really meant a lot of thinking about how I felt about that time in my life, and how I felt about the world knowing of just how dire things got for me at one point.

Then there was hearing so many other stories from women who had suffered humiliation, shame, self loathing, bullying, desperation and so many other hurtful emotions and experiences before they found the positive messages of Fat Acceptance.

But mostly, I had a bit of a harrowing experience of my own self esteem taking a rather massive dip there for a few days.  I found myself surrounded by so many amazing, beautiful, intelligent, funny, talented, fierce, fashionable women (and a handful of fab men) that I started to feel really inadequate.  There were moments that I found myself thinking those old thoughts that I was not worthy of being there with these people, that not only was I the fattest in the room, but I was the ugliest, the least intelligent, the most annoying, the least fashionable, the least talented and so on.  I really had some big moments where I just felt like I was worthless and that my presence at the conference was a huge inconvenience on everyone.

It’s silly really.  I know it was just one of those things that comes with intense times in your life (and boy, was that an awesomely intense weekend!) that old emotions and things are churned up, but it crept up on me so stealthily, but so strongly, that it was very overwhelming to be taken back to that place.

I’ve had a few days to process, and have been able to talk to my counsellor about those feelings, just so that I could set them all out in front of me and look at them before putting them in their correct place.  I know those feelings are just old recordings from the days before I started to work on actually loving myself as a person, and can move forward from that place.

But that brings me to think about how I hear so many women worry that they won’t “fit in” to Fat Acceptance because they still struggle with low self esteem, disordered eating or exercise behaviours, a longing to change their bodies and self loathing.  I think that because most of the bloggers of the fatosphere write so much about the importance of strong self esteem, positive living and fat pride, among other positive topics, there is a perception that we’re all so together, that we really just love ourselves these days and don’t struggle with self esteem issues ourselves.

Please know that this is not true.  We struggle as much as anyone else.  Only we use our blogging, and the community of the fatosphere, to help mend those disordered thoughts and behaviours.  One of the best things I have ever done for my self esteem was take up a place in the fatosphere.  Every time I find myself in that place, the place where my brain sends me off into a spiral of self loathing and feelings of inadequacy, the best way to bring myself back to reality is to read the writing, see the photographs and art, admire the fashion, follow the tweets and Facebook updates, and generally just surround myself with the people of the fatosphere.  Even better still, to talk to them.  Whether it is through social media, or through my own blog here.

It doesn’t mean everything is rosy and perfect in the fatosphere, but I believe that there are so many good people there that you can just move on from those who you do not feel comfortable about.

I have found an incredibly supportive community, with plenty of good honest advice and common sense to share, some laughs, some tears, and some passionate debate.

If you’re like me, and you struggle with your self esteem, and yet you feel hesitant to become involved in the fatosphere, give it a go.  If you write, blog.  If you like to share pictures, post pictures (Tumblr is really good for that!)  If you love fashion, share your fatshion inspiration.  Whatever is your gig.  I don’t believe you’ll regret it.

I certainly haven’t.

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