Dear Jes Baker,
Months ago I was reading Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls and could barely keep myself from responding positively to every single thing I read. I was blogging for hours and hours; feeling uplifted and powerful; feeling new and empowered. It was a heavenly feeling. Truly. Nothing had come along in ages that I had felt more connected to, more challenged by and more ready to share with friends and lovers of all body sizes. Fat is rad! You knew it, I knew it and I wanted everyone else to know it!
And then something happened. It was the strangest thing… I started to feel shame and a deep anxiety. A book meant to empower started to make me feel ashamed. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls forced me to look deeply inside myself and examine how I feel about by fat and the space I occupy; reflections I welcomed with open (chubby) arms, and what I saw made me sad. Deeply sad. The tears were altered from their previous joyful flow and I struggled with even continuing to read the book.
It’s not your fault, of course. I mean, how could I predict the response I had. But it’s been a response I have continued to struggle with since it happened. I DON’T feel good in my own skin; I feel like I currently occupy a body that isn’t mine but that is hiding my real body, padded out to keep her safe.
My body is currently a battle ground, a space of healing and hurt. Food became a protection and a weapon and the result: I got fatter. Surrounded by chips and ice cream I felt safe. Eating wasn’t a rebellious act, it was self protection. It was solace and harmful. Instead of cutting I ate until I was sick. Ate until it hurt to move, until my body and my organs hurt like my heart. Ate until I woke up in pain and hungover. I wanted to feel anything, to remind myself of my human-ness.
So what happens when fatter-ness comes at the result of self harm? How does one find the body positivity in that? How does one heal from trauma and feel at home in their own skin when the result of the pain feels like a violent alteration of the body. This body in the mirror, naked, feels like someone else’s. A me of a time of pain and a pain I am slowly recovering from. And I feel glimmers of my old self - sometimes in the arms of a lover when pleasure becomes the only sensation. Sometimes with friends and family when joy is in the fore of the conversation.
The truth is, that despite my politics, ethics, activism and deep desire to love myself radically exactly as I am: I want to lose weight. I want my old self back. A self altered by events but a self I loved. A self who kept me strong and fierce and energized and fit and fat. I want to take all the trauma and pain and frustration and hurt and loss and grief and learning and wear it in a different version of myself; a version of myself who finds joy in food; a version of myself not faking it. This body triggers me because it is the result… It is not authentic and I hate it.
But I feel like I am betraying the cause. Like I am shunning my fat sisters who are recovering beautifully in their own skin. How do we talk about weight loss and body positivity? How do we share a legitimate journey with ourselves and healing that feels in direct opposition to our personal politic? How does one advocate for radical self love when you do not radically love yourself? Can I work to lose weight without betraying these deep values?
And can we please talk about it? And this… what about this? This fills me with so much shame I can hardly stand.
You and Virgie Tovar speaks so much beautiful truth but what happens when I know all this and still desire to change. Is it possible for weight loss to happen without internalized capitalism and misogyny? If I know it is not about turning myself into a commodity for trade?
I want to love myself. I want to heal. I need to heal. I need to not have to explain myself if I don’t want to… I need to not feel shame about what I want as much as I need to not feel shame in my own body. And what if want to talk about it? Well, I guess I am... but is there space to talk about losing weight in queer/feminist/body positive spaces?
And to those rude people who say crappy things like, "you said riots not diets"? Can I tell them to fuck off? Can I riot and diet?
I need my body to be a space of love again.
So, what does this have to do with you? Well, I guess nothing. Not really. It just seemed like the way to frame it… To frame my feelings into a reflection on a specific thing. To ease myself into what I am deeply feeling. Your book made me feel brilliant and beautiful and desirable and afraid. But it’s the afraid I am left with - and a desire to get back to brilliant, beautiful and desirable.
So, this is to you Jes, and it isn’t. It’s a battle cry and a shameful whisper. Perhaps, it’s just the wind…
Life sure is fucking messy!
Battle on, sister. Battle on.