Living in today's society, I have incorporated all of the messages that we tell ourselves about eating and what's okay to eat. Today, I was craving a donut. My immediate internal message was that this was "bad" and that I should resist the urge. But resisting the urge often has the opposite effect - I can become fixated on the donut I didn't indulge in.
Why should I resist a donut, anyway? This is the question I come back to. I've shared with you all the struggles I've had with weight my whole life. The struggle comes down to this: I'm heavier than is considered acceptable and this is a challenge for me to live with.
I have tried diets and when I go off the strick guidelines, I gain back the weight that I've lost. I can lose weight, but this is not the issue. I eat healthily and I'm getting more active. But I am painfully aware (even when I was at my thinnest recently) that if I am walking down the street eating a donut there will be someone walking by who's judging me for eating the donut and being fat.
In some ways, I am lucky. My family is big. I've never been blamed for being big or told to eat less. My mother is sometimes hard on herself, but only a few times was I made to feel bad about my weight (comments by Sister when we were both too young to know better). I've heard the tales of other's whose family and friends are not so forgiving.
I just finished reading Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata, and she asks a great question towards the end of the book. Why are fat people judged so harshly for their body size? Let's put aside the health question because that is actually a different issue. What I'm questioning is the disdain and outright hatred that people seem to exhibit when discussing fat people.
Is fat a moral issue that people should judge the obese and feel hatred and disdain towards them? It is, in fact, an issue that the Old and New Testaments of the bible address in the form of gluttony. Eating too much and the attendant issue of not leaving enough for those who need food is at issue. It's an interesting thing to think about in this day and age...in a sense we are a gluttonous nation more so than just individually. But early Christians seem to further the issue by defining gluttony as more of an obsession with food or with eating. Indeed, among the 5 ways of identifying gluttony which Thomas Aquinas came up with, one is identified with "dainty eating" (perhaps an early form of dieting?).
But most often within Christian traditions, it is the fat that were looked upon suspiciously and accused of gluttony. I hypothesize that this early belief is transferred from generation to generation, despite the fact that most people no longer believe in the "7 deadly sins." If you think that generational disdain doesn't happen, think about whether you have heard anyone refer to Jewish people as "stingy." It's been a long time since the usury laws were overturned in most countries, but we still seem to blame a whole ethnic group for the sin of being not accountable to that law.
It's a damaging belief this idea that we should blame fat people for their body size. We buy into the idea that if fat people would just be less gluttonous then their lives would be gloriously better. But, really, fat people's lives would be so much more gloriously better if others (including ourselves) could just accept us without the judgement of how or why we are the shape that we are.
Today, in particular, I am saddened by the damage these beliefs cause. Sister called last night (something that rarely happens) to tell me that a friend had tried to commit suicide on Sunday. Her friend is fat and Sister is pretty sure that her self-esteem is pretty low because of her weight. Considering that she is living in the same society as I, I can only imagine that she has tried to lose the weight she carries and has not been successful...the cascade of internalized fat hatred from there is painful to imagine.
Our journey to accepting fat people starts with accepting ourselves. It starts by acknowledging that the body we are born with is perfect in and of itself...no diets or surgeries or control top undies are needed to make it the only house you will ever truly have. Loving yourself leads to loving others.
P.S. I couldn't find a donut, so I had a muffin instead.