So lately my boyfriend Jamie (hyperopiacheart) and I have been discussing our thoughts on being fat and exercising. I encouraged him to write about it.
From a young age, long before I can vividly recall, my character has been driven by a degree of controlled compulsion. That is to say, I was always insanely curious as a child, restless when there was a fact left unknown about something, uncomfortable without as full a picture as possible; it was only as I grew older and more analytical that I realized this extended beyond just knowledge - pretty much everything I do is all or nothing, albeit with a pretty good controlling hand making sure I don’t get too insane and no one things derails me or becomes an obsession.
All of that makes for a pretty circuitous path into the subject that has been stuck on my mind lately – exercise, body image and weight loss. I stand (hunch, more accurately) about 5”10 and I would guesstimate weigh about 230lbs (it’s been a while and I do like cake). As a kid, I took a fairly keen (and equal) interest in food and sports. I liked to play soccer, rugby, tennis, badminton, you name it, I played it; same applied as far as food is concerned. So I’ve always managed a pretty good balance between heft and healthiness.
My attitude to that balance has swayed a lot through my adolescence and up to the present. I’ll skip the childhood bullying which I brushed off as irrelevant, the yo-yoing girth throughout my teenage years finally equalized at the higher end of the scale with the discovery of BEER at age 19, the damage done to my self-confidence by a succession of fairly uneven and discouraging relationships…most of us have the same stories, in some form, and I don’t think I have anything particularly new or touching to take from mine that other, far more eloquent members of the Body/Fat Acceptance community haven’t already articulated better than I ever could.
What weighs on my mind currently is this: I’ve started running again, going out late at night, with my shorts and my Red Wings hoodie on, some bizarre playlist that combines Slayer and Beyoncé blasting in my ears, pounding the pavement in my slowly disintegrating Nikes. It’s not the running that I’m focusing on, I’ve always enjoyed running; it’s my reasons for doing it, or rather, my attitude to the side-effects, namely weight loss.
I got a pudgy belly, a big ass, wide hips, boy tits, rugby players thighs, fairly thick but not so flabby arms and tiny little ears on a big ol’ potato head. That’s the physical components of my body. I know them well and I’ve come to love them dearly. At least, I think I do. Therein lies my quandary at the moment: I’m running again because I missed it, I miss feeling clean, like my veins aren’t clogged with wet dust, like my muscles are firing electricity or, even better, ice cold glacier water through them and shooting off sparks of electricity, I miss feeling alive [qualification: we all feel ‘alive’ or whatever our preferred state is in different ways – without a decent amount of movement/exercise, I don’t feel particularly great, but that’s just my personal preference and I’m by no means stating this as a singular, universal good, or goal]. I know, logically, that when I run a lot, I get in to a cycle of eating in small meals to keep myself feeling fuelled, and so I usually end up eating less and healthier (more fruit, lots of water, yadda). I know that this move to organic produce, coupled with more exercise will likely lead to my losing some weight. And that right there, that is the crux of my existential crisis right now.
I have never exercised simply for the goal of feeling healthy in and of itself. The closest has been the times I exercised to ‘feel better’ which was tied in, to some extent, with losing some weight, or toning up, or whatever. So I have no mental or emotional muscle memory of what it is to lose weight and not view it as a goal, or a good in itself, something to be strived for. And when I think about working out, and the benefits, I go first to feeling more vital, and more energetic….and then this little voice, this voice from the past, the voice broken by the well meaning but narrow perspective of my mother, this voice pipes up and whispers ‘and you’ll lose some of that pudge too’. It whispers with glee.
I can’t reconcile these two things – that I love my body as it is, and that some part of me, however repressed, thinks it would look better with smaller tits and a less pendulous gut. This is where that burning curiosity I’ve had since I was a kid comes in – I’m not only wrestling with this from an emotional perspective, I’m then trying to analyse those emotions: ‘which of these is my true feeling?’ ‘does that matter?’ ‘if my true reaction is that I am looking forward to losing some pounds, am I lying to myself if I think it’s because that’s just a tangible signifier of my feeling better and entirely unrelated to aesthetics?’ ‘should I eat a cake after every run to avoid thinking this much?’. These and about 400 other tangentially-related thoughts permeate my brain every time I try to really tackle how I feel about my body, exercise, my weight, how I look…
And I think it comes down to this:
- I am fat.
- I like to run.
- If I run a good amount and eat how I eat now, or close to it, I might lose a few pounds.
- If that happens, it happens.
- I will feel however I feel about that.
- If I like how it looks on me, I should not feel ashamed of that.
This is a personal story more than anything: my girlfriend, who introduced me to the Body Acceptance movement through her senior college thesis on the subject, is an extremely eloquent and articulate writer and after a recent discussion on this matter, she encouraged me to write about it after she had first suggested she might blog about it. Hopefully that doesn’t deprive the world of her views on it because they will surely make more sense; but I thank her for pushing me to try and work out my feelings through writing. It always works, or helps, soothes, whatever. The reason I tell you this is that my story is not meant to be prescriptive, or any kind of advice – if it was, I’d have made it less rambling, had more bullet points and probably more qualifiers in case someone actually took any advice I might accidentally come up with. It is, instead, exactly what it purports to be from the outset – my own story, a snippet of my ongoing battle with my own hyper-analytical brain, my attempts to uncork the stopper it sometimes puts on my emotions and prevents them from bursting free unencumbered, my experiences as an unapologetic fat dude living in a world that confuses the fuck out of me.
I love my body, and I love who I am, but I am beginning to realize that, like any other relationship, that takes patience, understanding and brutal honesty delivered with the appropriate respect and tenderness. It is not a slogan, it is not an easy solution; it’s a life choice and everything that follows thereafter, good, bad, joyful, difficult, uplifting and upsetting is part of a never-ending process; but there has never been a better time to make that choice, never a better, more visible, more open collection of human beings to share that choice with, offering their own stories and support, in awesome-sauce times or shite ones.
In closing, I’d like to quote the wonderful Glenn Marla, who provided the mantra that has resonated with me most deeply in my journey into this brave, new world, that has kept me resolute in weak times, and provided a particularly incisive means of bringing back down to earth (and cutting down to size) anyone who tries to equivocate or justify their body-shaming:
“There is no wrong way to have a body”.
Was just rereading this and felt I should reblog it because, well, this man is the love of my life and he says some brilliant things.