Hat tip to Carmen VanKerckhove (via Twitter) who got me thinking about fatploitation. I'm fat. I'm fat. I know it. Feel free to hum the tune of your favorite Weird Al song, but I'm serious (and, I apologize if that tune is now stuck in your head!). I'm fat. I could blame it as battle wounds of my three children and my 50 hour a week job. I could say that I'm fat because of some deep embedded belief that I actually *like* being fat, and therefore that is why I am fat. I'm sure my former therapist was trying to unravel the reasons why I subconsciously think that fat will protect a more vulnerable part of my psyche that I subconsciously wish to keep hidden. Being fat - and coming to terms that I have always thought of myself as fat - is a daily struggle.
While I'm proud of my body and what it has done, I am still embarrassed to show it. One out of every 500 pictures might have one of me in it -- and none of them have my entire body. My Facebook profile has either a carefully cropped version of the side of my face, or I am strategically placing all three of my children in front of me to "create this illusion that I am thin." (note to self: when you can fit THREE children in front of you and STILL see your body, you are not creating any illusion....)
The truth is.. food is yummy; And, I eat more than I burn off. Before I had children, I used to run 3-5 miles a day (2.5 miles before breakfast; 2-3 miles after dinner). Now, I feel productive if I can do 3-5 loads of laundry a week. As newlyweds, my husband and I used to spend evenings making dinner. Now, dinner with three grumpy and tired children, a work-induced headache, and a barking dog begging for attention, dinner preparation consists of opening a box and boiling water. When there was only two of us, our salaries went to paying for rent in a safe neighborhood where we could walk for miles around a well-groomed suburban block. Now, our salaries are stretched thin to support our family, and we live in an area right off of a very busy street and major highway.
Exercise is a luxury; and I get very little of it. All my great girlfriends and Mommy friends will, no doubt, come to my emotional rescue and say, "Taking care of 3 children IS exercise -- laundry, dishes, daily vacuuming, picking up clothes, lifting bags of groceries, walking the dog, lifting children into car seats, etc." I love them for it.
I am always on my own case for being fat - though, not necessarily for padded emotional reasons. Rather, I saw my own child face mortality. My friends have died from cancer. My sister battled cancer at a very young age. For them, their illnesses weren't their choices. For me, to some extent, being fat has been a choice. So, how could I betray them? How could I take my own health for granted by choice when they faced each day praying for their health?
But, regardless of the 101 reasons why I am fat, I have come to accept that I Am Fat. And, while I'm still not brave enough to post my exact weight nor my exact size, I don't apologize for being fat. I am pleasantly surprised at each physical that - despite my weight on the scale - I have a healthy cholesterol, excellent blood pressure, normal blood sugar processing, and a pretty uneventful first 10 minutes of my doctor's appointment. Then, I get on the scale. The nursing assistants are always very kind - putting that big weighted bar at least 1-notch too light. "Uh, yeah, you're gonna want to move that over 1-more-notch," I say unapologetically.
I've been awake quite a bit more during the night, and have been catching some interesting television shows lately. To my pleasure, I've caught on to a number of shows that I say have very "body positive" characters, themes, and messages. Drop Dead Diva has been a favorite in my house - and even my brother-in-law admits to looking forward to watching it. I almost dismissed the show, being mildly turned off by the idea that some skinny blond model has been "horrifically trapped" in a size 16 (gasp!) body. Barf, I thought. Another "I can't believe I'm a fat girl!" theme. But, DDD turned out to have an excellent writing staff and a very body positive message. Not to mention, my girl, Margaret Cho is on there. And, she's not being all crazy and weird, either she rocks.
Then, I caught "Dance Your Ass Off". WTH?? What is this thing? So, it's fat people dancing? I admit, I watched it out of sheer curiousity, but ended up feeling both inspired and moved! Here was a group of fat contestants who were HOLDIN' IT DOWN!! Damn, these people can dance!! Do they cha-cha and high kick like those on "So You Think You Can Dance" or "America's Best Dance Crew"? No. Not at all. But they work with their bodies, and they seem comfortable in their bodies. And, while the show is about them losing weight, it's also about showcasing their talent and the ways they appreciate movement and style.
What about shows like "The Biggest Loser" or "More To Love?" Well, I've watched a few episodes of The Biggest Loser and definitely like it, but I also accept that the contestants have to undergo such major changes in their lives, with the goal of being skinny and healthy (physically and emotionally). I don't follow it closely, but I certainly do like seeing the changes people go through as a result of their hard work. "More To Love"? I don't really watch these reality dating shows, anyway, so I'm a bit more skeptical that MTL embraces the diversity within the body positive community. I'm told, as with all the dating reality shows, that the interest is more in the personalities in wide spectrum as opposed to being very body positive. But, in their defense, I think it's about time that the media shows that people of all sizes are looking for similar comforts of love, happiness, and togetherness.
Seeing someone with a body like mine represented in media is as exciting as when I see someone of Asian heritage in a mainstream role. I think the conversation around obesity, childhood diabetes, unequal access to healthy and affordable foods in underresourced communities, and the decline of exercise is a very serious one. I realize I have the privilege of sending my children to a school that continues to promote physical education and exercise. I accept that I have the privilege of only needing to work one job and being home at a time when I can encourage movement vs television. I own that not everyone has those privileges. And, for me, my focus here isn't about these institutionalized injustices. Rather, it's about seeing people like me have a public voice and about actually being seen and heard.
Yes, I'm fat. And, seeing other fat people on television and mainstream media who are living the same lives, expressing the same interests, and experiencing the same journeys is refreshing. I hope we continue to move in this direction where these mediums are not used to exploit nor mock others. Rather, I am optimistic that we are becoming a society that is starting to give voice -- a normal voice -- to people who make up the very fabric of our every day lives. Yes, I'm fat. And my fat life is life filled with compassion, care, confidence, and courage. And, yes, the occasional ice cream.
Coming soon!: The ways in which body image, race, and anti-racist parenting intersect.