Thursday, July 5, 2012

On Fat Acceptance and Self-Acceptance.

Tonight I am reading Bella Tuscany – the sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun. The movie, by the way, has nothing to do with the book though I enjoy them both. In Bella Tuscany, Frances Mayes and her husband (who is actually NOT a cheating dickhead) return to Bramasole, their vacation home in Tuscany. At this particular juncture, they have left Bramasole for a side trip to Sicily. 

                Much of Mayes’ books are given over to describing food in delicious detail, but one particular moment of the Sicily trip stood out to me. She had her husband stop to split a cannoli and she interrupts herself to assure us it’s ok that that they ate one because they’re going to walk it off later. 

                This stuck out to me because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. A couple weeks ago Skinny Emmie posted a link on her twitter to this article and the article set me off on a bit of a twitter rant. The Fatshionista, aka Lesley Kinzel, a fat acceptance blogger who has a new blog coming out and the author of the article sat down to talk about fat acceptance and how the author of the article had been inspired by the Fatshionista to accept her own body.  The interview took place over breakfast, and while discussing the importance of body acceptance in general, the article’s author made sure to take time to point out that Kinzel had chosen to eat a healthy omelet and whole wheat toast. It felt like she punctuated the article by saying “well, yes, she’s fat and we have both dare to accept our bodies, but it’s ok, we’re the good fatties.” 

                How does this tie into Bella Tuscany? Because in the middle of a travelogue about the glories of Italy, Frances Mayes had to stop and justify her food choices.  A woman who is by no means fat, who had the good fortune to be portrayed onscreen by DIANE LANE – stopped and apologized for SHARING a cannoli. An article on the importance of accepting our bodies stops to make sure we know it’s ok for them to accept themselves – because they are eating “mindfully”. Why do they (and the rest of us) have to justify our food? If I eat a nice healthy omelet one night, does that give me permission to eat a slice of my own birthday cake? If I eat a candy bar do people get to judge me but if I eat a chocolate coated fiber one bar, I’m off the hook? Does Slim Fast come in cans now because we want to make sure people know we’re drinking a diet shake because heaven forbid they think we’re just drinking a shake? 

                This is not a protest against health. You SHOULD be thinking about what you put into your body. But I’ll tell you the truth, there are times when I dread going out to eat with my friends because I worry that everyone is going to judge me no matter what I order. If you order a salad, someone comments “live a little!” if you order pasta…are they thinking “way to go, fattie?” Why do I (we, I’m betting) feel so compelled to justify our right to exist in our own bodies?

                I confess to being conflicted about fat acceptance. I’m all for it on one hand. I believe that people have the right to live, to have access to good drs., to be allowed to walk down the street and to eat as they choose without fear of judgment or harassment no matter what their weight is. On the flipside…I’m not happy with my own body.  I want to be thinner – I want to be fitter, and I know they aren’t identical things…but I feel like they are. And I catch myself judging other people’s bodies and then I feel bad about it. At the same time, I look at the aforementioned Skinny Emmie and I think she’s super cute – and I also know she’s bigger than me. But I don’t find myself to be supercute.  Do I lack style? Do I lack grace? Do I judge myself poorly? Or is my problem just that I need to get a tan because I’m too pale (seriously y’all. I suspect pasty may just not photograph well.)? And why do I feel like I need to compare myself to others at all? I am trying really hard to find the balance in changing my body and accepting it.

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