7.27.2010

Pre-Accepting of Fat?

So, the other day I happened to note that I had a unique journey to being a fat accepting fat man in that I was fat accepting before I was fat. Some commentators were quick to note I'm maybe not as unique as I thought, so I'm curious to here more from others who believed in fat acceptance before becoming a fat person and applying those principles to their own lives.

For me, my first awareness of Fat Acceptance was as another kind of FA, a Fat Admirer. This is something I was aware of and open about at an earlier age. I'm thankful that at the time I didn't settle for just understanding this as a passive sexuality, but rather I wanted to learn about the experience of fat people. This intellectual curiosity led me time and again to Fat Acceptance and I found it all very persuasive. This is really a whole 'nother post I need to make (or several) but I've long be disappointed with how Fat Admirers weren't really political engaged by Fat Acceptance and how easily many FAs were about to disassociate themselves from the political struggles of the people they were sexually attracted to. I very much saw this as my fight and learned early on that I couldn't think I could just tell a fat woman that I thought she was pretty and have that undo the systematic culture stigmatization fat people endure. I wasn't just looking at this as what I found attractive. I was reading magazine articles on the movement, scouring libraries for books like Shadow on a Tightrope to learn more about the ideology and philosophy of Fat Acceptance.

So, I was, shall we say, more than aware of Fat Acceptance. One of the first things I did in college was join NAAFA (again, whole 'nother post). The second thing I did was gain weight. Not intentionally. It just, well, happened. I don't think I even realized it until I had put on almost 20lbs. I ended up gaining about 40lbs my Freshman year. I was not really happy about this. I think I had a misplaced sense of superiority as a thin fat admirer. Really, I just understood that being thin lended me a privilege of credibility with some I'd lose if I was also fat. I was frustrated with my body and disbelieving. I'd always been thin, after all. Maybe it'd be okay for me to lose weight since I wasn't "supposed" to be fat. Of course, I soon recognized that this was a genetic pattern in my family. The men grow up very thin and gain weight as adults for the most part.

For all my frustration, though, I still knew deep down that hating my body wasn't going to be productive. I felt fat acceptance was right. By then I was taking in all this fantastic online writing by people like Marilyn Wann and members of the Fat Underground. I may have hated by fat body, but I knew that hate wasn't going to be productive. I wanted to do something about that.

The summer after my first year in University, I got sick and lost all of the weight I gained only to put it on and then some the following year. While I internally was happy with the initial loss, I also found myself upset when I was complemented for it. I really tried to be introspective about these feelings. I worked to expand my sexual attraction to fat women to a more general aesthetic appreciation for fat in men and women alike and then tried to transfer that to myself. This didn't happen over night and in some real ways, its still happening but I am deeply grateful for the "head start" I got because I already knew of and genuinely believed in Fat Acceptance.

Please share your own stories in the comments. I'm fascinated at how other people might have had a similar journey or how it might have been different. And others, certainly, please feel free to reflect on these themes even if it doesn't quite describe your path to fat acceptance.

Other posts about my Fat Admirer experience:
Eventually not about Britney Spears
Sexual Aesthetic

9 comments:

Rachel said...

I came to FA in a round-about way. As a young kid, I had the "sense" that diet culture was a bad idea, but not really knowing about FA until recently, when I discovered Shapely Prose a couple years ago. The roots of my disdain for diet culture really stem from my disability and knowing that changing my body was a futile effort. (Thats a post I've been meaning to write for a long time, but I keep avoiding, because it's a difficult topic.) Plus, I'm one of those John Locke-ian types who absolutely HATES being told what I can, can't, must and shouldn't do, and the diet (and youth and sports) culture have always pissed me off. When I lost 30lbs due to mono 5 years ago (which I have, not surprisingly regained) people would compliment me ALL the time and wonder what my secret was. I HATED IT. I am/was SICK, you jerks!

*breathe* So, you and I have gone down similar paths, it seems.

Tiana said...

I guess you could call me a Fat Admirer, too. I mean, I've been attracted to people of all sizes and generally don't care much about physical appearance, but let's say I consider fatness an additional bonus. ;) This is related to how I discovered FA as well, although it probably wouldn't have been enough on its own. What helped was my history with "healthy" eating.

Despite growing up as a naturally thin kid who could eat whatever she wanted and had somehow missed the memo that girls weren't supposed to be proud of how much food they could wolf down in one sitting (I missed a lot of memos), I started to look into "healthy" eating quite early because I thought it might help with my undiagnosed health problems. I soon discovered that much of the advice out there was contradictory, and since I was determined to only start changing my eating habits once I had found something for which there was compelling evidence, I became a little obsessed with seeking out said advice. Several years later I was very frustrated and no closer to an answer.

I abandoned the idea for a while, but then I met my first boyfriend. He was taking meds that made him gain weight, and during his various attempts to lose it again, people started to give him food-related advice in my presence and everything that I had learned and the frustration came rushing back to me, which got worse with every conversation because nobody believed me when I told them I had heard of something that contradicted what they said.

At the same time I started to feel guilty about not really wanting my boyfriend to lose weight because I "knew" it was unhealthy and all that. But when his doctor tried to put him on a ridiculous diet due to something that I couldn't even imagine being weight-related (hiatal hernia), I started to do some research. I discovered that there were as many contradictions surrounding weight loss science as I already knew from my Quest to Find the Meaning of Healthy Eating and nearly panicked, but fortunately I soon came across a FA blog and finally everything seemed to click into place. The fact that I started to gain weight myself only a few months later is quite ironic ... but I'm glad that being familiar with FA already saved me from freaking out about it.

Er, sorry for writing a novel in your comments section. Keeping things short is not one of my talents.

Mary Sue said...

I took dance lessons from age 4 until age 12, when I became a competitive dancer. At age 13, I was 225lbs during the dancing season, and 275 outside the season. Outside the season still involved working out three times a week-- during the season I was working out 40+ hours a week and had a body fat index of 19%

So I never understood why people seemed to think fat people couldn't do anything. I spent high school and college flying my fat ass through the air in leaps and bounds, and maybe some of the other competitors were laughing, but they sure as heck weren't laughing when I took the trophy home and they didn't.

I think knowing from a young age what my body could and couldn't do, and learning how to listen to it, helped me a lot when I was dieting. Because I vividly remember sitting in a WW meeting after my competition days were over, where I was being lauded for having dropped 50 pounds through calorie restriction alone, and the meeting leader said, "I bet she just feels so much healthier now!" and I thought to myself, "Actually, I feel awful. I feel weak. I feel ill. I don't like feeling like this."

And that's when I decided to listen to my body instead of what other people said I should do. I've stabilized at 300lbs now, in a very sedentary job, but I do still dance my fat behind around a lot.

And then a couple years ago, I discovered through the miracle of the Internet that I wasn't the only fat person out there who didn't think fat was something that needed to be cured.

Brian said...

Oh, for gosh sakes, I'm the king of novel length comments. I assure you, I have never taken issue with an excess verbosity. More stories the better, I say.

More about your Toy Diva said...

Oh good stuff! I received this somehow in my in box thanks to SocialMention.com I am going to sign up for your RSS feed. I love this topic. I am a Sex Toy Expert and a Plus Sized woman my whole life. I find I spend quite a bit of time helping women to STOP the unproductive negative talk you mention. Thanks so much for this. I am so excited sm.com helpd me find your blog and I always love learing about the F.A.'s out there.

Anonymous said...

Oh, FA and FA. Both can be so wonderful.

I was into Fat Acceptance before I knew what it was. I remember having to read a play in the 11th grade and picking up "Fat Pig," marching over to the checkout counter and sliding the book over to the man at the register. My mind was rattling off "I want to buy this play called "Fat Pig" about a fat girl like me. Got a problem with that?" Of course, I didn't say it, but I'm sure I had a pugnacious look in my eye, daring him to say something. As I sauntered out of the bookstore, my mother close in tow was spouting about how brave I was for buying a book with the word fat so boldly printed on the front. Not just fat, but pig too. "Saying I'm fat won't make me fatter, mom. Admitting I'm fat won't make people go 'O my god, she IS fat!' They already know."

A year or two later, I discovered Fat Acceptance.

I've known about Fat Admirers, however. Never dated one, but have talked to quite a few. I like men of all sizes, but really gravitate towards fat men. My boyfriend of 9 months is a 260 pound British vegetarian, video game, and music lover. He's thinner than I am by about 30 pounds but I adore him... His tummy, his arms, his full cheeks, his handsome smile, and his shaved head. He's magnificent. He's not a Fat Admirer, but he says he admires me and I'm fat, so it's kind of the same thing. Haha!

Big Smiles!
-LexieDi

angryfatwoman said...

I think that if you're the type of person who accepts others as-is, you simply do that despite appearances. I've never thought about being a "fat admirer" or "fat acceptor." To me, people are people. Any one of them could carry any mix of labels. So, to answer your question: I can't answer your question. I suppose a take people one-on-one as a matter of being.

DivaJean said...

I have been formulating a response in my head and decided it better get out, lest it slowly drive me crazy. Background first to make sense of my life and frame of reference...

I have always been big. I was born at almost 11 lbs and the nurses in the newborn nursery as well as the obstetrician & pediatrician were all shocked I was not the product of gestational diabetes. I cried for hours my first day of life- I just couldn't get full on formula alone- until the nurses got special permission to add some rice cereal to my formula to give my belly something to work on. I weighed 100 lbs in the 4th grade- which sounds stupendously fat until you realize I was also 4'11" tall. (A generalized rule of thumb for ht/wt is 100 lbs for 5 ft tall, 5 lbs for each inch after that) But back then (1970's), you would have thought I was OMG deathfats by the way everyone carried on. Many moons and many diets later, I quit dieting forever (circa the 90s) and have remained stable at 250 lbs for my 5'9" frame. I am still considered OMG deathfats by BMI.

My partner & I met on a blind date. She wondered if I was big- wanting me to be so. I wantede to know if she was Italian- knowing my preference for such. We both lucked out. She was, at the time, paying top dollar and going into major debt buying premeasured diet foods and spending unrealistic amounts of time to maintain her short, square, and muscular frame. Romance won out and eventually she could no longer afford the food or spend the time on exercise she had been (time with me was preferable). She gained weight as expected and we looked like a matching set of cookie jars (and there sure as hell ain't nothin' wrong with that).

However, her parents put expectations on her to be "healthy" and she bought into it over time. (I personally gave up on that crap around the same time I decided I was lesbian- no one has power over my body and my choices other than me. Not even my partner.) After we had married, adopted 2 kids, and bought our dream house, she sprung it on me that she was getting a gastric bypass. As the weight came off, everyone marveled at how healthy she looked- but to me, her coloring changed to a scary grey undertone for about 9 months. Other underlying health issues arose, but no one got told those stories- not even her parents. She cannot keep up with our (now) 4 kids, so I am the one taking them out to learn to ride bikes, swim, etc. She is the stay at home, but I am the one who must work since she can't maintain energy. Her body has changed from a robust mid 40'sw woman to that of a saggy elderly woman. And I am not physically attracted anymore. I try to put it past me, but somewhere, I discovered I really am a fat admirer. I will never leave, cheat, whatever- but here I am. It's really quite sad.

Brian said...

I've been in a similiar situation, Jean, and I know how awful it can feel. I don't have any easy answers as I know you have a family with her but you certainly have my sympathy.

Being a Fat Admirer is not something to be ashamed of. For me, this is just how my sexuality works. I think there are some men and women like me, some who are specifically sexually attracted to thin people, are probably a lot in the middle and all of us are okay and deserve respect for our sexuality and our expression of it. Being a fat admirer has not always been easy, but its impact on my life has been so profoundly positive and fulfilling far beyond just my sexuality that I can't imagine being anything else.

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