On being “in shape” and the pressure to cover my “out-of-control” body

Until encountering the fat acceptance community less than a year ago, I had never questioned the “rule” that fat or fatter people had to cover up more than thinner people.  It made sense that you would just WANT to dress your body in as “flattering” a way as possible when you were in professional or social situations.  The only thing that struck me as unfair was that certain clothing that was acceptable for less curvy (and often that means less fat) people that would be considered too sexy for curvy (or fat) people.  I have a fairly large bust, so even during the brief time when I was at a “normal” weight, making sure I was not “too sexy” for the office was a daily task, and when I failed, I was keenly aware of it and would make a note not to wear whatever I was wearing to work again.   Even when I would dress up nicely to go out, I would inevitably get (what I suppose were intended as positive) comments from men I passed by.  I have a noticeable (read: typical womanly) body.  I imagine that thin, more boyish women don’t have the same very-visible experience unless they are dressing in a particularly revealing way (but I could be wrong, not having experienced that type of body).  And I hear a lot about fat women feeling invisible, but generally I feel visible (except when thin-preferring men are around and there are thin women around as well).

Anyway, this was just a long-winded way about getting to the point: I am now very aware that, just like I had to always be conscious of not being “too sexy” in the office, I now have to constantly be on my toes about being “too fat” in every space.  I didn’t used to feel this consciously, since I was on board with the goal of concealing how fat I really was, but now, I’m totally ok with being fat, so all I’m left with is the awareness that the outside world is not ok with me being fat.  I’d like to say that this has made me act in defiance, but instead, it has made me more removed.  I don’t want to be judged, so I remove myself from opportunities of being judged.  I don’t like the idea of some one else thinking “I see your fat and so now I have a narrative about who you are and what your life has been like”.  I keep my sweatshirt on when I’m hot but all I have on underneath is a thin tank top.  I opt out of hot tub parties.  And I know that it seems like there’s not a lot of difference between opting out because I’m ashamed of my fat and opting out to escape the judgment, but to me it’s very different.  I’m not ashamed, but I just don’t want to participate in an event where everyone else thinks I should be ashamed.

On a related note, I loathe the phrase “being in shape”, and I haven’t come across any good substitutes (“fit” doesn’t really work either).  I can’t stop picture a silhouette of an “ideal body” floating in air, and the real body bulging out of the sides as it tries to fit in the shape.  I wish the concept of being in a ready state for most athletic feats could be conveyed in a word or phrase completely removed from the language of physical form.  This goes back to my struggle to disassociate exercise from dieting.  I am not currently as ready to perform athletic feats as I would like to be, but I don’t even have culturally agreed-upon words to talk about it without condemning myself for not having the right embodiment.

Basically, I’m angry that the world doesn’t want to see my fat, and I’m angry that they don’t want to let me be an athlete without being thin.

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2 Responses to On being “in shape” and the pressure to cover my “out-of-control” body

  1. Samantha C says:

    I definitely agree there’s a difference between opting out from shame, and opting out so as not to be shamed. Even grammatically; one is internal and active. You stay away and keep yourself hidden because you accept that it’s your job to police yourself. The other is passive and external. You stay away because you don’t want other people to police you in a way you don’t deserve. It’s a really important distinction and I bet it makes things a lot easier to think about!

    • fattery says:

      Yeah, I’d never thought about that difference until I wrote that. It feels good to have that distinction, but also makes me angry! Anyway, thanks for stopping by : )

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