Loving Your Body Isn't A Diet!
This blog is gonna have to be a quick one because I have to go to a friend's play and I have to scan some documents for my new job as the Managing Director of the tres fab Michelle Tea's company, Radar Productions, and I also have to find time to flat iron my bangs and get a latte.
Ok, so as life would have it I came across a few things this month that made me really stop and have a ponder. I read a book that was sort of focused on weight loss recently (and I mean I kinda knew it was gonna be focused on weight loss but it kinda went in a direction I wasn't entirely expecting) and also had an amazing conversation about the myth of "emotional eating." And the realization was this:
Some people believe that self love is a weight loss tool.
Wait! Wait! I know it seems counterintuitive. Especially since my work - and the work of the other coaches, lecturers and activists I admire - focuses entirely on NOT losing weight. Especially since our work seeks to demystify weight loss as a cure for all of life's woes.
And yet it seems there are some who are done with the idea of "traditional" dieting and believe that "self love" is the true path to the Land of Skinny. The idea is that if you love yourself that your mind and body will perfectly synch and "automatically" do all the things that make you "healthy." And because we culturally have almost no framework or understanding of health outside the idea that thin = healthy, there's a belief that when body zen is achieved that thinness will come "naturally."
The truth is: you can't "love" your body into thinness.
But then it really hit me. Thinness is not only seen as a guarantee of access to romance, success, and happiness. It is also culturally seen as the ultimate way to show that you CARE about and LOVE your body.
Maybe I was being naive or had my head under a rock. Maybe this has been going on for a long ass time and I just totally missed the way that body love/body acceptance language was being used to promote what I am against.
Actually when I thought about it harder I realized that long ago - in the midst of my own dieting hell - that I too may have believed this for a hot second. It actually dovetailed really nicely into my Pentecostal upbringing which argued that dieting was part of treating my body "like a temple," which when translated meant that being thin was a way to honor the gift that God had given me - my body. But we all know that's some patriarchal bullshit.
I think the internal thought process of the "body love diet" maybe goes something like this:
"Omg. If I LOVE my body I will inevitably 'treat it better' and so it will automatically become thin because I am only fat as a result of the way I 'abuse' food and 'harm' my body."
I'm really skeptical of this idea that people are killing themselves with food but I remember that I used to think that all the time.
But let me be clear: trying to force your body to be a certain size isn't self love.
There's this myth that fat people are fat because we are holding onto some greater emotional problem. Our culture sees fat as a manifestation of a pathology of self harm and self loathing. But THAT'S. NOT. TRUE.
Self love will not inevitably lead to weight loss. Believing that you're fat because you don't love yourself "enough" or the "right" way is harmful and false thinking.
Your body isn't wrong. Our relationships with our bodies are complicated! I know. It's not easy to love yourself in a culture that tells you that you'll never be good enough (remember how I said that in Hot & Heavy?). But real love isn't perfect! It doesn't always (or even often) look shiny and sparkly and perfect and each day of a self-love relationship doesn't start with staring adoringly at yourself in the mirror. What loving relationship do you know that's perfect? Nones, ghurl. But trust me when I say your body deserves love - real love - and not the sneaky kind that masquerades as love but is actually all that nasty ass self-hate again.
#LoseHateNotWeight forever ♡
p.s. I have a Virgie VIP mailing list now! You should totally sign up (go here - you can subscribe right under my picture)!
In light of the recent Instagram booty blunder I have been thinking a lot about my fat body, and how the way I choose to dress or expose it relates to ideas of feminine "decency."
Apparently much like Instagram's content policies, there are many inconsistencies when it comes to what is deemed appropriate or decent and what is considered gratuitous or even obscene culturally when it comes to women's bodies.
While I can totally imagine Gisele Bundchen on the cover of Baby Gap wearing a loosely crocheted bikini (for instance) I feel like I can barely leave my house wearing a tight *turtle neck* without causing a stir. Much like Meghan's censored booty selfie, I find that the line between "ok", "sexy" or "tasteful" and "too much" can often be predicated on fatphobic visual norms.
In short, I am tired of my body being deemed indecent or lewd because my boobs, butt, belly and thighs are big and jiggle while I do almost anything. Mm.. jiggle!
A quick story about the first time I realized there was this double standard: I remember in college my boyfriend's brother dated a woman who was very petite. At a family gathering once she wore a short sleeveless dress. It was super hot that day and I wished I had worn a short sleeveless dress - preferably with no bra. But then I remembered - I didn't own ANYthing like that and going bra less would have invited an afternoon of ogling, poorly hidden boners, gasps and stink eye. I remember I noticed my reaction and the reactions of others to her outfit. No one - not even me, at first - even bat an eye. She didn't really get particularly positive or negative attention as far as I can remember. It seemed completely natural that she would wear a light outfit on a warm day. And I remember feeling frustrated that the very same behavior - if done by me - would have made me feel like I had taken my asshole out for a round of show and tell. So for a long time I always wore conservative outfits even when it was hot as balls.
Even though I don't follow those kinds of rules anymore I still feel the pressure.
Not only am I expected to cover up because I am fat - no matter how hot it is, no matter how much I want the air to touch my thighs or belly or shoulders or how DESPERATELY I don't want to wear a goddamn bra!! - but I am expected to cover up because my big boobs and big butt have been deemed indecent and the people on the subway just really aren't ready for this jelly. My bodacious bod is apparently distracting (Lewd? Pornographic?) and I am the one responsible for keeping it all under wraps.
A petite frame affords one a sort of cultural cloak of invisibility because the display of a thin woman's sexuality is considered her right - and not mine. The display of thin legs and "tight" torsos is considered a matter of course while mine is considered offensive or over-the-top because I am not supposed to be comfortable with my body or my sexuality. A display of sexual confidence from a fat woman goes against cultural norms that limit us. We are not supposed to feel sexy - or BE sexy - because those things are reserved for someone else. When I expose cleavage or a fat roll (or two!) I am asserting a powerful and subversive message: "suck it, patriarchy."
And I'm also sending another message: "I'm pretty sure this fat ass is the highlight of all y'all motherfuckers' day."
So, here's to my sweet ass and all the sweet fat asses in the #bootyrevolution.
Read what my friends have to say about the #bootyrevolution!
Jen of Plus Size Mommy Memoirs
Chrystal of Curvy Girl Lingerie
Amanda of Mother of Ambition
Jes of the Militant Baker
Virgie Goes #Fatkini Shopping!
Today I woke up with abso no intention of going fatkini shopping. I'd like to say that there was tres mucho planning that went into this excursion, that I lit a candle to Dolly Parton and Miss Piggy in hopes that they would be with me - GUIDE ME - in this ever important swimwear journey.
Alas, none of that happened, ghurl.
I seriously woke up at my boyfriend's house in the 'burbs, as per usual he got ready for work while forcing me to listen to NPR (he loves torturing me with the early morning self-congratulatory, monotone, neo-liberal coverage of gut-wrenchingly detailed tales of human suffering.. I digress), ate some ciabatta with olive oil and pepper (freshly cracked of course), wished it was hotter so I could finish reviewing this book by the pool, sighed disappointedly, and then got a text from one of my main fat femmes, Olivia, informing me she was coming into the city to go fatkini shopping and asking if I was ready and willing.
Well, I put on some Whitney and got in the shower. Immediately.
To say that I have a swimwear habit is, like, kiiind of an understatement. I mean, I am a full-on swimwear addict. I love bathing suits - one piece, two piece, new, vintage, whatever.
If it's made primarily of spandex I'll wear it.
I'm not entirely sure if this is related to my love of being submerged in bodies of water or if it's an entire obsession unto itself, but I love being encased in a shiny piece of water friendly lingerie that's totally ok to wear outside the house. They're sexy and cute and strange and practical and I have about 20 of them (and that number has taken considerable discipline to maintain).
I have more bathing suits than there are hot days in a San Francisco summer but I manage to find opportunities to wear them. My current favorite is a vintage one-piece that reminds me so much of Miss Piggy on the cover of that workout Aerobique LP she did.
So, even though I had to speed walk to catch the train outta the 'burbs I made it and we had a solid 2 hours of try-on time at Forever21. I swear you can track the progress of the fat movement from how cute the stuff in the plus size section is. And if Forever 21's plus size swimwear section is any indication - the fats are winning! They have SERIOUSLY stepped up their fatkini game since last year. I use the word "fatkini" loosely in this post.. most of the pieces I liked and tried on were one-piece suits but I like the idea of it all falling under the fatkini umbrella. I wanted to show you some highlights from the try-on sesh!
I went into the fitting room with 9 pieces and emerged with only one ^^^
It was HARD to leave the black one with mesh panels (in cover image) that allowed some serious tummy peeping. It also was the one that matched my serious bitchface the best. Siiigh. I stand by my choice, and knew that in a pinch I could just cut some massive holes into the black bathing suit I already own.
If you haven't had a chance to try on a fatkini I highly recommend it! Walmart has a seriously cute collection too. If you can't find a place nearby - or you can but the pieces don't fit well - buy something you like that's cheap or used and try altering it. Cut, snip, add fringe. I like to pair my swimwear with serious eye-catching water-friendly jewelry, massive sunglasses and a parasol.
This summer, spend at least a few hours in SOMEthing that lets oft-covered skin get sun and air. Look at yourself in the mirror. Take a selfie just for you. Sit in the bath tub with the window open for too long. Buy (or make) a hand fan and dramatically cool yourself in front of strangers. Drink iced tea. Show too much skin. Drink from the hose. Resolve to #LoseHateNotWeight.
This week I felt super inspired by #HonorMyCurves and #EffYourBeautyStandards and I decided to put on my big girl panties, make it official and announce #LoseHateNotWeight.
I've been living by and talking about this standard for.. a hot minute.
#LoseHateNotWeight is about de-centering self hatred and re-centering self love.
#LoseHateNotWeight is about refusing to give into societal messaging that some bodies are good and most bodies are bad.
#LoseHateNotWeight is about that moment you wake up in the morning and your first thought isn't "I hate my body."
#LoseHateNotWeight is about seeing your hotness and living your babely righteousness right now.
#LoseHateNotWeight is about knowing that my muffin top only makes me a stronger, hotter feminist and you can just suck on that, patriarchy.
#LoseHateNotWeight is about ending an era of self harm and starting an revolution of self care.
#LoseHateNotWeight is about shifting the meaning of health away from numbers on scales to holistic emotional, spiritual and sexual well-being with the recognition that hating your body is not healthy.
#LoseHateNotWeight is about YOU dictating the rules and terms of your life, YOU choosing what happiness looks like, YOU deciding what you will wear and how you will love and who will get to be a part of the world you create for yourself.
#LoseHateNotWeight is about recognizing that your body is gonna shift and change, gain weight and lose weight, get sick and get better and there's just no room for hate in your new fab life, ghurl. So, it's gonna have to go.
So if you believe in all these things as much as I do I'd loooove for you to join me in spreading the word. Add #LoseHateNotWeight to photos and status updates. And I'll obvi be on Instagram doing the samesies, ghurl.
p.s. Here's a retrospective gallery of pics of me living my cute hate-free life. Feel free to share! <3
The word of the day is HYPOCRISY, girl. Read on.
So, the long and short of the story I want to discuss is that a woman named Brooke Birmingham submitted an image of herself in a bikini to Shape Magazine. She took this image after losing 170 pounds. Because her body didn’t adhere to what people reading a dieting-ad-subsidized magazine, I guess, think a post-weight loss body is "supposed" to look like, the magazine rejected the image, asking her to submit one in which she was a bit more covered up. She refused and now Shape is like “oh no you misunderstood our request.” Side-eye.
Because we live in a culture in which weight loss is considered a panacea / cure-all for everything from back pain to depression to romances gone wrong (oh, and that chipped tooth and overdue phone bill, that can somehow be cured by weight loss too!), people are drawn to diets and procedures aimed at “changing their lives” through weight loss.
People are taught that weight is a signifier of our ability to be disciplined and good.. a la “how do you expect to find a man/job/happiness/escape from patriarchy if you can’t even put that sammich down?” Otherwise put: “this is all your fault!” But we in the know understand that’s all just a clever way to throw you off the scent of some nasty ass oppression politics.
There’s a little bit of a switcheroo that happens somewhere between the marketing and the public health rhetoric.
Weight loss marketing says you’re doing this for the little black dress.
Public health discourse says you’re doing this to save your life.
We consider all the hostility and condescension toward fat people
as justified by the health rhetoric. We lambast people with images of slender
bodies and then tell them it’s their choice to take control of their destiny. Because “obesity” is threatening our country and fat people are literally committing suicide right before our eyes, don’t you know?!!
All that health talk gets confusing because the actual desired outcome is a particular – and uniform - kind of body.
An oft-neglected part of the weight loss story is the variety of what post
weight loss bodies actually look like.
Let me break this down:
Well, girl, I’m here to tell you that that shit ain’t real. But good news: I like saggy boobs and a roll a day keeps the bullshit away. Here’s to you, Brooke, and all those who refuse to bow to make-believe stories, manipulation, and hypocrisy.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.