I have no idea if the editor from Women’s Health and Fitness was sincere in her request for me to ‘divulge’ my secret to not hating myself… So I replied anyway! Here’s what I have emailed back:
Dear Rebecca,Thank you for your reply, I appreciate you taking the time to write back. Although I am not entirely sure you were sincere in your request for me to discuss my own experiences with body acceptance it is something I am happy to share with other women.I am not, as you put, always totally unconcerned with what others think. You would have to be living in a hut in the middle of nowhere to not be influenced by the saturation of media in our lives. I am also trying to undo 20+ years of dieting and desire for weight loss. And the belief that fat is bad. How do I do it? Well, it is a continual process that is not perfect and has ups and downs on the way. Two years ago I decided to stop dieting. Quite simply I stopped waging a war against myself and decided I could no longer wait to start living ‘when I was skinny’. I was introduced to the work of Geneen Roth and Suzie Orbach. I read books about intuitive eating and the fact that diets simply do not work. And I have slowly come to the acceptance that I may never lose weight and might just stay at the weight I am. I stopped viewing foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (although this is a very continual process that requires a lot of work). In other word - I legalised food. There is no food out of limits for me. I don’t read women’s magazines because they generally perpetuate an unhealthy perspective on women. I don’t engage in diet talk with people - which means I don’t bond with other women about their diets or self-flagellation over eating ‘bad’ food or being ‘fat’. I have immersed myself in the fatosphere, I follow body positive blogs. I wear clothes that make me feel good and that don’t hide my body - I make sure I am visible. I do a lot of exercise, mainly walking and boxing because I am also a chronic pain sufferer so am physically limited in some ways. I set goals for myself physically and it gives me a huge amount of confidence experiencing my fitness and strength increase - I do not exercise to lose weight. I love that I can do an hours boxing and keep up with the class - I’m the fat girl and I’m holding my own. And when I say fat I don’t mean all those meanings we attach to that word (lazy, disgusting, ugly). I am a large woman - fat.To answer your second question, I don’t know where to begin to try and undermine the body hate the media endorses. The media is about making money - magazines are about making money. How do you make money - you make sure your readership think they are buying a dream. You let them think if they buy your product they will attain a certain aesthetic. I think there is a grass roots change happening though, its online mostly. In a way your call for women sizes 12-16 to show themselves in bikinis is just what has being happening online with women posting pictures in their fatkinis. This to me is inspiring, women who society say shouldn’t wear bikinis giving the finger and saying ‘actually you cannot tell me what I am allowed to wear’. Perhaps giving those women a voice in the mainstream is what needs to happen to start a change? The risk of visibility for fat women is the immense ridicule and hatred they encounter. For some reason a happy confident fat woman is very threatening. I guess if people accept the possibility that you can be fat and happy it somehow shatters their beliefs about themselves.Anyway, I feel I have written a bit of a novel here. Ask a journalist (well former in my case) a question and you are always guaranteed a good response.Kind regards,Helen
Helen, you are my hero! What a fantastic response! So well-presented and articulate. Whether the journalist thinks about it and learns from it is another question, as in my experience some people just cannot grasp what we’re trying to say, particularly if they are not fat themselves (I have no idea if she is or not, I’m thinking about the journalist I spoke to a couple of months ago who twisted everything I said and clearly did not get the message). But it doesn’t even matter because it is the fact that it is being said at all that counts. We get it and hopefully some day everyone will. Bravo to you!