Of course, there are also plenty of people whose blogs I read who are fat or super fat who feel they are unique in their body size, but few are actually truly unique in this day and age. Most of them are ostracized and have issues with their esteem as a result of the way that larger society treats them, but they are hardly "outsiders" except to the extent that they view themselves that way (for good reasons which I'm about to get to). While there is no doubt that everyone around them is pointing a finger and saying, "freak" (I've been there, oh yes, have I been there for at least 35 years of my 47 on this planet), most of them are told they are different when they are really not so different. This is a way of elevating the judge at the expense of the judged and doesn't necessarily reflect on a truly odd and unusual nature of the target of such judgment.
This talk about how different one is from ones peers is of interest to me because I've noticed that there are marked similarities among such folks. One is that most of them are sad and mad most of the time. Both the sad and the mad are drawing their emotions from the well of pain that comes from feeling isolated and objectified. The normal response to being constantly bullied is to have such feelings. This is not unique, and is totally understandable. It doesn't matter what aspect of a person's persona or physicality is being targeted to propel the response, the responses would be the same. The truth is that most people are ostracized and in pain, but are not unique at all in either their fatness or their behavior and attitudes.
At the root of all of this is a struggle not to self-hate as a result of how one is treated. I know this both because I studied psychology and I lived in this space for most of adult life. I've spent more years mad and sad than some people have actually lived. When I started this blog, I was definitely in that space. Being out of it for all of a year or so isn't enough to make me forget what that was like, but it has given me perspective on a lot of things.
One of those things is that we draw comfort from finding an identity which sets us apart from others in a positive way. Being told you are a freak, ugly and a blight on society day in and day out is huge part of what tears you apart inside and builds in self-loathing. To find self-acceptance, people often re-define themselves as rebels, outsiders, and being anti-establishment. It is taking being objectified and turning it inside out such that it becomes a badge of honor to be fat in a world which seems to be nothing more than a conformity factory that pushes everyone to look like Barbie and Ken dolls.
This response and effort to re-purpose rejection as something positive is not new. It happened with countercultural movements in the past. In the end, most people end up being re-absorbed back into the mainstream. They do this not because they become accepted, but because the purposeful labeling of self as an outsider is superficial and ultimately unfulfilling. Positioning yourself as a mad person because you feel persecuted will only take you so far in your identity. Eventually, you have to find out who you really are inside, not who you see yourself to be as a reaction to perceived oppressors.
Why am I even talking about this? The reason is that I think I lived in this identity for a long time and it did not help me. In fact, I think it made it all that much harder to understand myself and love myself. If I see myself as existing in opposition to the world because the world seems to operate against me, that becomes too integrated with my sense of self and affects my actions. I eat in defiance. I go out in public in defiance. I dress in defiance. I project an attitude in defiance. All of this defiance is exhausting and discourages positive change because I see my life as a battle between myself as an outsider and oppressive "insiders" rather than as an individual or self-contained entity.
Early on in this blog, I talk about being conflicted about losing weight because there is a sense that I'm admitting people were right about certain things. They would be right that losing weight would improve my health. They would be right about perceived beauty being more important than character. They would be right that I should conform and fit in. At my core, the largest sense of this particular conflict came from feeling that I was allowing them to "win" when personality is pitted against appearance. I am not my body. I am my soul/personality. Focusing on my body so much and so hard, which is necessary to lose weight, is admitting that my body matters. A lot. As much as "they" say it does.
The bottom line is that my body does matter a lot, but it matters to me (and my husband). Losing weight wasn't about conforming to society's standards but about stopping so many things which caused me pain both physically and emotionally (and, yes, part of that was constant social censure and not fitting into public spaces). I lost weight because my body mattered to me, not because it mattered to others. Separating this is extremely important after years of being objectified and feeling that I was "surrendering" to the forces that oppressed me. I wasn't. I was surrendering to the reality that my body as it approached 50 was suffering horribly under the strain of my weight. My joints and muscles could not support a body over 200 lbs. well, and absolutely could not support one over 300 without pain and difficulty.
The irony is that I still feel like an "outsider", but not because of my appearance. I feel like that because of my opinions. There are two large camps out there, fat acceptance and dieting culture. I don't belong to either and feel like I'm a voice in between which does not subscribe to the rhetoric of either side. I've given up entirely on attempting to reason with the people who are clearly in these camps because the responses are generally straw man arguments that respond not to what I'm saying, but what they find easiest to argue with. Being taken at face value on the internet is always difficult, but it is more so with those who operate in an emotionally charged state and are intent on seeing themselves as "rebels". Their natural response is to disagree and to try to shout down anything which resembles opposition to their causes. This happens on both sides.
The other part of my situation which makes me feel like a continued outsider is my focus on psychology, which is, once more, rejected by both camps (dieters and fat acceptance bloggers) as playing a significant role in dealing with weight and food. Both deny that it has a role in food relationships or weight management issues, albeit for very different reasons. The dieting group insists they suffer no psychological issues that result in overeating and can only conceptualize "psychology" as playing a part when trauma or neuroses are involved. Fat acceptance bloggers similarly refuse to see habituation, routine, or behavior modification as a part of psychology and therefore related to their weight issues, but they do so in the service of denying that they "overeat" at all. This is, unfortunately, the natural consequence of having their behaviors attacked and scrutinized throughout their lives.
It's rather ironic that this is common ground for two groups who are diametrically opposed. I guess that there is something beautifully symmetrical for me in being the point at which two very different groups can agree, though I can't say that I am in anyway happy about it. Sometimes, you can't escape being an "outsider" whether you want to be one or not.