Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fat Acceptance

In addition to reading a lot of personal blogs and weight loss forums, I also read what I call "fat subversive" blogs. These are written by people who are focusing not on changing themselves to conform to society's wishes, but talk about how society should accept fat people and focus on health rather than appearance. I'll be upfront and say that I don't often agree with about half of what is said, but I agree with the underlying goal of acceptance. People should be allowed to live their lives any way they like without censure, particularly in regards to something as personal as their weight or appearance.

I often find myself a bit torn between two viewpoints on the issue of the fat acceptance movement. No, those viewpoints are not to accept or not to accept. The viewpoints are whether or not most fat people (myself included) would be happier and healthier if people just minded their own business and left them alone. Personally, I think actually getting healthier and losing weight would be easier if I weren't constantly made to feel as if my weight defined my value as a human being. It's the self-loathing and censure that greatly assisted my nearly reaching 400 lbs., after all. However, that's not the issue at hand.

The issue at hand is whether or not I'd be just as happy remaining fat if the world stopped judging and punishing me. How much of our lack of happiness is externally inflicted, and how much is personal misery as a result of the difficulties we endure because of the size of our bodies? As I read fat-acceptance bloggers labor to justify their remaining at their size and proclaim their contentment, I ponder this question. At least two of the more prominent ones suffer from various health problems which may or may not be brought on by weight, but are certainly aggravated by it. (And both of them are charismatic writers and come across as very nice people.) One has a rapid heartbeat when exerting herself in strenuous situations like walking up steps. Another has joint pain issues. Both of them are relatively young, and I know all too well that these problems get worse with age as the strain on your body turns to damage of the overburdened parts. My pain, after all, has kept me close to house-bound (just going to work and doing what I had to do) for over a decade. Losing weight has alleviated a lot of that pain. At around 260-270 lbs. (my best guess of my current weight), I still suffer, but far, far less than around 380 lbs.

There are also issues of flexibility and mobility. At higher weights, it is harder to navigate around your own body parts. Your own flesh gets in your way. You can't move quickly or as easily. I tried doing yoga at my high weight, and it was impossible to achieve many of the positions even for my arms because my flesh was too voluminous to manage. I can also say with confidence that sex, which was very difficult before, is a lot better at my current weight because I can move more easily and my husband has to fight my obtrusive flesh a lot less.

Finally, there are issues with stamina. I have never been a lazy person. In fact, I move around a lot more than most thin people that I know. That being said, I was exhausted and tired nearly every day from all of the movement that I did, not to mention the ravages of the pain I felt. Now, I rarely reach that level of fatigue, and I move even more because it's easier to do so. Moving around a bigger body makes you tired much more rapidly than a smaller one. This is simple logic and is the reason why basal metabolic rates are higher for loftier weights. It takes more fuel to drive the bodily equivalent of an 18-wheeler than a compact car.

So, I do wonder if living in some perfect world of fat acceptance where all furniture were wide enough to accommodate our big behinds and all opportunity doors were equally open to us based on merit and not appearance would mean we'd live fat and contented, or not. I'm not a person who is disposed to vanity, as my handful of readers may have guessed based on my wearing the same clothes after losing somewhat over 100 lbs. I'm not looking to show off a better figure or admire myself in the mirror. I am looking to escape my health and mobility problems, have no difficulty navigating a world designed for thin people, and escape daily abuse based on weight. If you remove the last two, there is still the great incentive of living in less physical misery on a daily basis. That really has nothing to do with how accepting the world is, and it's more than enough to make me unhappy with remaining fat.

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