I Love You, I’m Proud of You… Now Shut Up

I am fat. I have been, to varying degrees, for a significant period of my adult life. I have always struggled with my weight, so it’s never far from my mind.

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In turn, I struggle with my self-image quite a bit as well. I place way too much emphasis on the correlation between size and happiness. That’s not to say I don’t need to lose weight to be happier – at this point, I certainly do. I’ve had multiple ankle surgeries and had limited mobility for the last couple years, so being more active and losing some of the weight I’ve gained is important to me, for my own personal happiness.

I’ll never be a size 6, and that’s fine. I don’t need to be. But I do need to be healthier and more active to start really feeling like me again, regardless of the number on the scale. In the meantime though, I need to really work on loving myself in spite of the fact that I’m not where I want to be right now.

One of the people who has been most instrumental in helping me do this is Gil. He is the most supportive partner I could ever ask for. He loves me no matter what, and he tells me how beautiful I am every single day, and how attracted he is to me. He tells me and shows me in a million ways how much he appreciates everything about me, including my body.

He is also very much supportive of me wanting to make changes, which is another point in the “wonderful boyfriend” column. He himself has made a ton of positive changes in the last year and a half. He cut out regular soda, fast food, most sugar, and he got a job as a coach working with kids, so he is literally active all day long. And recently he has even taken up running and is getting even more serious about getting in shape. He’s lost over 40 pounds and counting. It’s incredible.

And I hate it. I mean, I love him and I’m proud of him, and it’s amazing. But I HATE IT.

I say that with as much love in my heart as possible. But we are both people who have struggled with our weight over the years, and for him to be making such drastic progress when I’m not is extremely challenging. Don’t get me wrong, I AM proud of him. But when he comes into the living room and complains that there is no way he’ll be able to eat all of his allotted calories on MyFitnessPal for the day, or how he lost another 3 pounds, I want to stab him in the eye with a fork. And then use that fork to finish a giant bowl of pasta.

My mom works for Weight Watchers and she sees this all the time. Couples come in together, and almost immediately the man starts losing weight faster than the woman (because biology SUCKS), and she inevitably gets frustrated. It’s one of the biggest challenges my mom sees her members having, when their spouse is losing and they aren’t.

When Gil and I started dating, we went the way of many couples. Lots of dinners out, weekend trips, and nights ordering in, not watching what we were eating at all. If he had a third piece of pizza, so did I. If he was going to sit and each chips and salsa, so was I.  And surprise, surprise, I gained at least 20 or 30 pounds in the first year of our relationship. Him? Probably none.

I’m not blaming him by any means. I did it to myself – it’s easy to give yourself so much leeway in the beginning of a relationship, and most of the women I know have fallen into this trap at one time or another. And if you struggle with weight and your relationship with food the way I do, it can become this weird free pass to do all the things you know are going to take you to the dark side. The side where nothing in your closet fits even though you JUST caved in and bought things a size up to get you through last season.

My mom always tells me how she would be struggling to diet and lose weight when she was dating my dad, and he would just announce one day that he planned to lose 10 pounds that week. AND HE WOULD. How he lived to father 2 children, I’m not sure.

When Gil needed to make some changes to his diet for medical reasons, I was all over it and helped get us stocked up on my healthy go-to’s. Gil wasn’t even trying to lose weight that first year – it just happened. I have never, in my entire life, known a woman who just “accidentally” lost weight.

And now that he’s actually actively working on getting in shape and really trying to watch his diet more, I can only imagine how successful he will be. And even if it makes me a horrible person for saying it, that’s really hard for me.

I have gone through so many attempts to “get started” on my fitness goals over the years, whether it was with MyFitnessPal or Weight Watchers, or whatever, but it is a daily struggle for me and it’s very slow going. There are a million reasons why, but none of that really matters. All that matters is that I am struggling to make the changes I so desperately want to make, and the opposite is true for my partner.

And I am completely terrified of being the fat girlfriend with a fit boyfriend.

It was different when we were both big – it was just part of our charm as a couple. Big people, big personalities. But now I feel this pressure that if I don’t lose a bunch of weight with him, that I’m failing in some way. That people will judge. That he might decide he wants someone who can keep up with him.

It’s a terrible feeling, but one I’m going to have to come to terms with. Because I want him to share his successes with me. When he is excited about losing another 5 pounds, I want him to feel like he can celebrate that with me. I don’t want to be threatened by his progress. But today, I still am. There is still a little part of me that can’t stand hearing how well he is doing, when I am still struggling to get on track. But that’s OK – I am giving myself permission to feel that way.

Because I’ll get there. Whether or not I actually lose as much weight as he does is not the point. I’ll get to a point where I can fully accept myself. Maybe that involves losing a bunch of weight, and maybe it doesn’t. All I know is that I want us to be able to fully support each other no matter what. And even if I get struck with the occasional urge to hurl heavy objects at his head when he announces that none of his pants fit anymore, or that he COULDN’T POSSIBLY have one more bite as I’m cleaning my plate… well, I’m only human.

Every Body Is Worth Shopping For

I keep buying THINGS. Mostly clothes and shoes. Oh, and makeup.  I think it might be developing into an actual problem. I told my boyfriend last night I was going to return yet another pair of boots that didn’t quite fit, and that I was really going to try to cut down on all my online shopping in order to start saving more. Because you know, taxes. And down payments. And other boring adult things.

And yet I JUST bought a bunch of clothes online. As in, 30 seconds after I hit “purchase” I started writing this. I mean really though, it was buy one get one half off so it almost would have been irresponsible NOT to buy them now, right?? This is the warped logic I can use to convince myself of just about anything. I work in sales and I like to think of myself as a fairly persuasive person. But when it comes to myself, that shit is dangerous.

I know I need to cut back a little, but clicking and spending and buying is so much FUN. It is, you can’t deny it.

But I’m running out of room for all the things. You see, when my boyfriend moved in he got zero hanging closet space – just a consignment nightstand with 2 drawers I shoved in the back corner. That’s it. I kept the rest of the space, and even then, my stuff was overflowing.

So for the sake of our relationship, I’ve been forced to purge my closet at least twice since he moved in. As in, 4 or 5 garbage bags worth of clothes to donate to Goodwill. Not counting shoes. Seriously, I had so many clothes I needed to get rid of.

But that’s the thing when you have fluctuated in size from a 12 to a 22 in the span of about 5 years. You hold on to all those size 12’s because, come on. They are so cute. And so small. And it wasn’t THAT long ago that you fit into them.

On top of which,  you spent good money on them, and someday they’re TOTALLY going to fit again and it would just be a waste of money to re-buy everything. They’re sexy. And inspirational… and such a tease… and actually kind of soul-crushing when you start to think about it too hard and hold them up and realize that isn’t you anymore.

So you purge. But purging your skinny clothes is hard. It feels like defeat in so many ways. It feels like admitting you’re in this fat body for the long haul, and don’t believe you’ll ever get back to that size. It makes you feel so crappy about yourself that you want to sit down and eat a whole bag of Goldfish. Or is that just me?

Anyway, I purged. I said goodbye, because you know what? It was time. And I needed the closet space. And not just so my boyfriend wouldn’t have to store his clothes in the trunk of his car. But because I finally decided in the last year or so to really start shopping for my current body, and to start dressing it in things I actually liked.

I’ve always been a person who loved fashion and took a lot of care in the way I dressed, whether it was silver platform sneakers and matching metallic jacket, or the perfect maxi dress and beaded necklace. But something happened when I got to a size I didn’t like. I stopped shopping. So I literally had nothing to wear, since nothing in my closet fit me anymore.

hanging clothes

I relegated myself to yoga pants and baggy tops pretty much every day. I didn’t go out and supplement my wardrobe, didn’t get different sizes in the styles I actually liked. I had this warped idea that I should not be spending money on THIS BODY. That THIS BODY wasn’t worth anything, financially or otherwise.

That somehow, I’d magically lose the weight and be back in a body that was worthy of love, and worthy of fashion. And in the meantime, I would dress my ugly, frumpy body in ugly, frumpy clothes. And stare at my size 12 jeans and halter tops while I wept into a bowl of ice cream. (The reduced fat kind, because you know, that’s healthier.)

I almost felt like if I punished myself hard enough for being in this fat body, I might somehow shame myself into changing it. Turns out, that’s not how it works. It just starts to feel hopeless. You start to value yourself less every day.

But at some point last year, something clicked. Some part of my brain recognized I am still beautiful, that this is not the final destination on my journey, and that I deserve to decorate, celebrate and otherwise embrace myself as I am right now. Size 2, size 12 or size 22.

Part of that probably has to do with the fact that I was in a great place in my life – good job, great friends and family, and the most supportive boyfriend on the planet. I have to give Gil a lot of credit for helping me learn to love and accept myself again because he’s played a big role in it. And honestly, he still loves my body more than I do, but I’m working on it.

So I shopped. I clicked. I bought. And I remembered how fun it could be. Especially since there are a lot more plus size options available today than there were a few years ago. I filled my closet with leopard-print tops, black leggings, wide calf boots, bold print maxis, V-neck tees, fitted blazers, and SO MANY STATEMENT NECKLACES.

It didn’t feel like defeat – it felt amazing.

And then a weird thing happened. Over time, I started to like how I looked a little more. I started to feel a little better. I started to want to celebrate my body in other ways, like trying yoga for the first time. I mean obviously I’ll have to go shopping for some yoga outfits first, but I’m on the right path.

Turns out my incessant shopping has actually been an important step in the right direction for me. At that’s exactly what I’ll remind Gil every time a new package shows up at our front door.

My Love/Hate Relationship With The Word “FAT”

I am fat. Objectively, this is true. I don’t live in some strange delusion where I don’t know this to be the case. I know it is, and I am taking steps to change it. Some days more than others, but it’s a process, and if you’ve never struggled with your weight, you don’t understand it’s about more than just “eating healthier” and “exercising more,” although those elements are both necessary.

There is a reason I gained the weight in the first place, and it’s more complicated than “I ate too much.” I mean, I totally did. I ate way too much and didn’t exercise nearly enough, but I have to really take a step back to understand all the reasons why and work on them.

Anyway, I accept the fact that I am fat. For now. So in a way, I embrace the word “fat” and love that there is a voice on the internet that is getting louder and louder every day; an army of women stepping up and owning who they are, no matter what size. Proudly rocking bikinis and crop tops and demanding a better selection of clothing for plus-size women. Women who refuse to let their size define them and who accept themselves for the people they are. These are women who have reclaimed the word “fat” and said “eff off” to those who would use it to try to make them feel “less than.”

To them, I tip my hat. I am wildly impressed with their confidence. And part of me embraces the adjective “fat.” It’s just a word, and words only mean what we allow them to. Case in point, my boyfriend tells me all the time how much he loves my “fat butt” and I know it’s a compliment because he can’t keep his hands off me. And I know my butt is “fat” and not “phat.” At first, it ruffled me a little – “fat” has always felt like a dirty word to me, and I was terrified of it in high school and college. So to have someone I love use it to describe me was initially a shock to my system. But now I really embrace it. He really does love my big ol’ butt, cellulite and all. He wouldn’t change a thing about it. He loves my body more than I do, and I’m trying to take a page from his book and embrace me, as I am, right now. So in a sense the word “fat” is helping me to accept myself, which is pretty awesome.

But on the flip side, I freaking hate it. It’s a word that has traditionally been used to put people down, belittle them, and act as a ridiculous excuse to pass judgement on someone’s worth as a person based on their size. And to those people, I say “go to hell.” Being fat does not define who I am as a person – it is a state of being that I happen to exist in right now.

I’m fat, sure. But I’m also funny, successful, happy, beautiful, kind, loving, clumsy, loud, opinionated and strong. If you ask anyone who knows me to describe me, I’m certain they would choose one of those adjectives before “fat.” And fat doesn’t trump any of the things on that list.

No matter who we are, we shouldn’t have to be defined by physical appearance. Unfortunately, that’s not the case – we ARE defined by physical appearance in so many ways, and not just regarding our weight. Our appearance is the first thing people notice when they look at us, and people DO form opinions. And some people will be unkind based on certain physical attributes. So we have to find ways to take ownership of those things, and find self-worth from within. To be kind to ourselves, even if people around us aren’t doing the same. Easier said than done.

I’m not stupid or delusional – I understand the health risks associated with obesity and the fact that no matter how hard we fight, there WILL be judgement passed on those who are overweight. I live in the real world – I understand these things. But as I’ve been reading more and more articles and fashion blogs from plus-size women practicing self-love and body acceptance (whether you’re a size 2 or size 22), I am inspired by them. By their confidence, their bravery, their style, their swagger, and their sexiness. But what I can’t understand is why so many people seem to have such a strong negative reaction to these women who are simply on a quest to love themselves even if they happen to be fat.

Fat is not an obstacle to happiness.

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I can only speak for myself when I say that yes, I know I will feel better, more energetic and healthier when I lose some of the weight I’ve gained over the last couple years. But just losing that weight is not what is going to make me a happy and fulfilled human being. Accepting myself and those around me for who they are, travelling the world, saying “yes” to things that scare me, and spending time with friends and family are things that will contribute to my happiness. Loving my “fat butt” as much as my boyfriend does is a personal goal of mine. I’m gonna love my fat butt so hard.

Because you know what? I deserve unconditional love from myself. I am happy to love others unconditionally, and I understand what it means to do so. And I accept unconditional love from others. But unconditional love from myself?? That is a newer concept for me. And it means I need to love myself now, with extra weight, as much as I would if I were a size 6.

A very wise friend of mine said to me years ago, as I was having a meltdown over my weight before a night out in Vegas, “Court, we will never be here again. In this moment, right now. Be happy and enjoy the experiences in front of us. Weight is a temporary thing – you can always work to change that. But we can never get this moment or experience back.” He was right. I want a happy and amazing life RIGHT NOW. Not 75 pounds from now. I deserve happiness, at any weight.

So by any standard definition of the word, I am fat. But I do not solely identify myself that way, or even primarily identify myself that way. It’s just part of me right now, a person who is constantly evolving. And one of the elements of my evolution is my body. At the end of the day, this is the body I’m living in right now, so I have to accept it. I can work to improve it, but my worth cannot be tied to a number on the scale. My worth is determined by me, dammit.