I am overwhelmingly body-positive–I love the many forms people come in, their shapes and sizes. I could also give less of a heck in hell about what other people think of my body; my body is my business, no matter what condition it’s in.
That said–I’m really unhappy with it.
The schism here–between acceptance of varied bodies and my own self-loathing–is pretty wide, and it’s become increasingly hard to reconcile these two concepts. I have, through a long, long process, come to basically like myself as I am. I have always generally liked others, and I have sought to overcome my prejudices about how others should look and be. This ranges from prejudices about the nature of skin color, of gender presentation, of body modification, but most importantly, of weight. I was raised, in the United States, with a message that being overweight is both unseemly and inevitable–something that happens to the average American, but something they should try to overcome. I’ve never wanted to be average, but, well, here I am.
By a medical definition I am obese, although I would say I probably look more chubby than anything. Actually, honestly, what I look like is a pregnant person. While I’ve put on some weight on my arms, thighs, and butt, a good chunk of it sits on my lower stomach. It puffs out. I even have stretch marks along my hips! Recently, it’s begun to try to pull out and over the waistband of my jeans. Shirts try to slip away from it, pulling up and away and revealing my embarrassing, misshapen stomach. Some vain, foolish part of me keeps wearing clothes that no longer fit, which only makes it worse. I’m not a Medium anymore–I’m not even a Large, in many things.
I do think that shape, the stomach that looks pregnant but definitely isn’t, is a big part of my discomfort with my weight. I have a contentious relationship with my own fertility. At the age of 26, I’m still not totally sure if I want biological children; my opinion changes from day to day. I do know that I’m both fascinated and horrified by childbirth. (Things tear! This is a common problem!) I know people who are also overweight who I envy, because their weight is distributed differently–they still have waists, hourglass shapes. They don’t look pregnant; they look, and are, far from thin, but their weight flows with their body. Even women without waists, whose weight is simply evenly distributed, make me feel envious. Their individual parts aren’t so obvious; their body feels whole, even, when I feel like my protruding belly is an unwanted attachment.
And that’s another thing–glamour. I’ve always secretly wanted to be glamorous, to be old-school beautiful, but in a real sort of way. I look up to those other women, who look gorgeous in short skirts, who can flaunt assets or even just feel more comfortable baring skin. While I don’t hate my body, not anymore, I do not see a glamorous body when I look at myself in the mirror. I see…myself, my conveyance, what gets me from place to place. I see my pear shape and see the women on my mother’s side of the family, who all tend to become pear-shaped at one point or another. My body doesn’t feel beautiful.
Of course, I also know that this is the body I have made for myself. I know how to eat healthy; my mother is a registered nurse, and we had a minimum of sweets growing up. (Halloween was a special time of debauchery.) I also know full well how to exercise. I do not do these things. There’s plenty of very legitimate reasons for this–working and doing grad school full-time, chronic fatigue from narcolepsy, a shoulder injury that kept me especially stationary last year–but the fact is that I’m not physically incapable of eating healthy or exercising, and many people with similar circumstances manage to fit exercise and good food into their schedule. But I don’t, and for all my excuses, I feel burdened by the stupidity of my choice. While I may not feel overburdened by the guilt of other peoples’ judgment, I do feel guilt about my health, about what the long-term ramifications are of my unhealthy lifestyle. I want to be able to be active at 75; knowing my family history, that won’t be possible unless I try to stay healthy throughout my life.
An aside–I have ADD, and frequently, ADD-havers have a heightened sense of inadequacy, of guilt or shame over our actions. We are frequently, keenly aware of how our unique brains make it harder for us to accomplish the same tasks as the normals, and often feel responsible for things about ourselves that we can’t help. The shame often also gets confused with other things in our lives. I vividly remember crying to my mother as a kid because I was convinced that my own failures as a student would somehow directly lead to my sister becoming a homeless person as an adult. I have no idea why I believed this, but I remember the intensity of my guilt, of how willing I was to beat myself up over something. I tell you this to give you a frame of reference for how much it eats at me that I am, objectively, responsible for my current body. It’s bad enough that some things may be my fault; it’s even worse that other things are my fault.
So–I want to be different. I want to change. I don’t want that for other people; they’re beautiful in all the ways they are. But believing that of myself is so difficult, especially when it’s on such a thorny topic as weight. It’s hard to navigate validating others, navigating your own health, and navigating the endless minefield of self-perception. I’m not sure how to get out on the other side of it.
I exercised last night, for the first time in a year. My purpose is selfish; the last picture I saw where I liked seeing my body was three years ago. I have something I want to cosplay for in September, a glamorous cosplay, and I want to feel glamorous. For me, that means going back at least three years in terms of my weight gain. Maybe I’ll keep exercising; right now, irritated and saddened by my body, it feels like I will.
But I also wanted to get up with the alarm clock and exercise this morning, and I didn’t. My early-morning self wasn’t having any of that bullshit.
So we’ll see.
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