Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Fat acceptance and me

I'm writing this I suppose because I have been reading a number of fat acceptance websites and blogs and been surprised that my experience of being fat doesn't seem to tally with the lives that other fat women have lead. Especially in regards to abuse, discrimination and comments from strangers.

Don't get me wrong, I'm fat. Size 26 and although my weight have dipped down to a size 18-20 at some (short periods) time. That's still large enough to be considered obese and I know others who have been hassled about their weight at that size.

So reading these other blogs has made me think about two things. Firstly have I just not noticed the abuse and discrimination? Maybe some of the men I fancied didn't fancy me because of my weight, but at the time who can tell why someone doesn't like you back? I do remember one time that a friend and I were walking home late one night from the pub. She was fat too (I used to spend time wondering if she was fatter than me and hoping like hell she was). Anyway a guy walked past and said 'you should go see a dietitian'. Well, it was a university town so maybe the fat abuse is a little more high brow there?

My most negative memories about being fat are to do with two things. The second I'll mention later but the first was clothing. I never felt like I had the right things to wear or garments that fitted or suited me. I didn't have any choice about what I could buy and used to wear men's jeans as they were the only thing that fitted. There was a really bad legging phase as they were the only thing that fit and I remember one night that I couldn't go out to the pub as my only going out clothes were dirty (and being so ashamed that I couldn't find any clothes that fitted me). That is what living in NZ and being fat was like in the 90's for someone who didn't live in either Auckland or have masses of cash.

Ok, so the other thing that I have really negative memories about is also the thing that the fat acceptance blogs brought into focus for me. I don't remember anyone abusing me, demeaning me or making me feel awful about my weight except for my mother. For what ever reason (and she had plenty I know - all to do with her issues about her weight) she spent my entire life fucking up my approach to food, my body and my self esteem.

I went through fat acceptance when I went to a counsellor at the age of 19 and burst into tears asking whether it was ok to feel good about myself, despite the fact I was fat. I had a partner who loved me who assured me it was, but he was biased I thought.

I went through fat acceptance when I stopped talking to my parents for 6 months because they ignored my requests that all conversations stopping starting with how awful I was for being fat, and how I should diet and I was so pretty and didn't I know no one would ever love me and I would never be worth anything and did I know that fat people smell and no one likes fat woman cleavage... you get the general idea.

I'd go through that every time I saw them (unless i had dieted) until I was finally forgiven and had admitted the error of my ways and promised to diet and be a better person and daughter. Then my mother would break out the food, lots of food, cream cake, booze things like that.

And the two things she always said that made it all so worse. I'm only saying this because I love you. And I'm the only one who will tell you the truth.

So when my mother died two weeks after the birth of my daughter one of my first emotions was relief. Because although i did love her my feelings about her were so so tainted by how crushed I felt about myself when I was around her. I was glad that I wouldn't have that fucking conversation every again and I could just get on with life being ME.

So that is why for me the whole societal fat acceptance thing isn't such a big deal for me because I went through the worse from the start and made it through.


  1. This was real easy for me to follow you...
    Your post is truthful and well written, I imagine a lot of women have experienced a similar mother & daughter relationship. I was not fat until senior school and my earliest memories of 'fat abuse' were from my family. Great post... do you mind if I repost it to my blogpage?


  2. I would be honoured if you want to repost it. Was very cathartic to write it down.

  3. wow....reading this post was like reading, in part, my own life to page. There are differences of course, because I do take it all to heart alot more, but your relationship with your mother is spookily similar. I agree that in whatever way cutting those ties to the person that made you feel that way about yourself is the best way to go.

    Its a beautiful post, truly lovely despite its content, and incredibly well written

  4. Sorry if you have gone through or are going through something similar in your life. I don't often talk about the details of my relationship with my mother, except with my husband.
    Now I have a daughter of my own I am determined not to make my mother's mistakes, but undoubtably I with make different ones!

  5. I wonder how much of the difference you experience is cultural. You make it sound like you're from a small town, plus you're in New Zealand, so the influence of the "Thin is In" mantra may not be as intense as it would have been in Auckland or other, larger cities.

    But the experience with your mom is something you have in common with MANY fat people. That being said, no two fatties have the same experience. Some fatties are naturally confident, which tends to discourage assholes (they love an easy target). So if you were relatively confident, then maybe that provided some sort of buffer.

    Whatever the case, every experience is a valid fatty experience in Fat Acceptance. There are definitely people in FA who act otherwise (only oppressed fatties understand!), but they are the minority. The fact that you grew up so self-aware of your weight is enough. And even those who somehow got through childhood without realizing they were fat and fat is bad have something to offer Fat Acceptance.

    Honestly, it sounds like your mother wanted to help you and protect you from whatever she went through as a child. Like you said, when people have kids they often set out to not make their parents' mistakes and inevitably make their own. Your mom probably thought that she was helping you avoid the torment of being fat, but in doing so she made things worse, not better. The only torment you seem to have experienced was at her hands, which she probably didn't realize.

    I have yet to meet a parent, even a terrible parent, who did not absolutely believe they were doing the best for their child. As you're learning with your own daughter, it's not easy to be a parent, but so long as everything you do is infused with love, then you're doing everything right in my book.

    Good luck to you!


  6. She actually wasn't fat as a child but did become overweight in her teens and her father bullied her for it. She was incredibly looks focused and had little self esteem. Knowing all this helps me understand why she did what she did, but it doesn't help with the after affects. Don't get me wrong though I don't spend everyday moaning that I was screwed up and woe is me. For what ever reason it made me stronger and less worried about what other people think about me.

    I used to live in Dunedin, where thin was and is still probably in. I now live in the UK. I think I have always had at least an exterior confidence maybe that mitigated my experience.

    Thanks for your post!