On Swimsuits and Bodies

My beautiful Avenue swimsuit!

I grew up around water. Whether I was going to one of the Great Lakes for vacation (as I did this past week), or swimming in my grandmother’s pool, or joining the swim team, I spent countless hours perched on the edge of some body of water, wearing little more than a swimsuit.

This past week, I logged at least three or four hours a day in my swimsuit. Spending that much time bearing your body to the world is difficult for many people, male and female. And every summer, when vacation time comes around, it’s something I always think about.

I was lucky, I think. As a kid, I joined the swim team. From age eight up through age fourteen I swam competitively. It was, in many ways, a terrible time for me. I frequently was called fat. I was incredibly uncomfortable in my body and with what was happening to it. I was hyper aware of what my body looked like to other people. But I enjoyed swimming. At some point, I began winning my heats and doing quite well in long distance swimming. (I used to motivate myself to swim fast by pretending there was a shark behind me. It worked every time.) Though I was aware of how my body looked (and how fat I was), I was also aware of what my body could do.

Having spent so much time during my formative years in a swimsuit, I barely even notice it today. Yes, there’s always a twinge when I break out the swimsuit for the first time each year. I stare at it for a while, put it on, glare at the scrap of fabric in the mirror for a while. However, it’s not enough to stop me from wearing it. I vow not to let it stop me from enjoying myself.

But it’s harder sometimes. I sat on the beach yesterday, watching as girls pranced by in their bikinis, and I wished that I had the confidence, the curves, the abs that would make me feel comfortable in so little fabric. I look at them and wonder if I could ever look like that. And then I shake myself, trying to not let myself get invested in that counter-productive train of thought. I remind myself that, even if I were that thin, who’s to say I won’t still want to have a “better” body in some way? Who’s to say I will appreciate what I do have? Who says the body I have isn’t good enough?

Renewing my faith in myself is something I always do. I have to love my body, even in a swimsuit. I have to love my body in a tank top, in a skirt, in a bra and underwear, in long pants and a sweater. I need to love my body in some way every day. And I need to stop believing my body isn’t good enough how it is. Yes, I’m only human, and insecurities come with the territory. Some days it’s harder to do. Yesterday was a day I forgot. Today, I hope I’ll remember.

Fat + New City = Insecurity

I spent this past weekend looking at houses and apartments in the city I’m moving to for graduate school. I’m already getting nervous about leaving the place I am right now. You get comfortable and content in a place with people who care about you, and being uprooted to somewhere new makes all your insecurities rise to the surface. This is part of my so-called “process.” I tend to get anxious before big life changes and start to get nervous that I’m not ready, or not good enough to do well in my new life.

Part of this, of course, is a drop in self-confidence and renewed obsession with my appearance. I always worry that people are going to judge me when they meet me because I’m fat. And I’m terrified that this will happen when I move.

Luckily I’ve secured good, accepting roommates for the fall (I met them this weekend), and already have a few friends in the area, but it’s still tough. It’s one of those times of insecurity that makes me question my resolve. I start to think about losing lots of weight and becoming thin and therefore “beautiful.” I start to want to change myself because I think it will matter to all these new people I’m going to meet.

This, in turn, makes me angry at myself for thinking I need to change who I am for someone else, and continues the loop of frustration. I think I’m secure in my body, but then I start to think negative thoughts and buy back into the same traps and pitfalls I’d had before.

This is one of those times, I think, when I need to be reminded of people out there who don’t care about my size but care about who I am. This is one of those times when I have to remember who I am and what I believe in. This is a time when I need your advice. How do I avoid falling back into my insecurities? What has worked for you in your life? What wisdom can you give me to persist, oh Fatosphere of Wisdom?

The Truth: Sometimes I Need Help

I’ve spent a long time away from this blog. Nearly a year. The thing is, I still open it daily. I look at my header, think about writing a new post. I visit when I get the occasional new comment to approve it. But I haven’t posted here in months.

And what really gets to me is that there’s no reason. I stopped for absolutely no reason. I still keep up with the FA community. I still write about body acceptance, feminism, and other issues that would be fitting to discuss here. But I stopped posting.

I think there comes a time in everyone’s life when they go through an off year. For me, this year has held some of my worst moments, and some of my best. I’ve experienced unemployment and having to live with my parents. I’ve taken temp jobs and finished temp jobs. I’ve moved in with friends. I’ve gotten into grad school. I’ve done a lot, and missed a lot of opportunities.

But, throughout all the good and bad, I think I’ve somehow lost my self-esteem, my confidence.

I find that’s my biggest issue nowadays. Having graduated from undergrad, I stopped having a method of measurement for my happiness. Grades have no relevance now. My friends have scattered. There are no more awards to win. I don’t have a job to be successful at. I’ve had nothing to help me feel accomplished.

And thus, I started to feel bad. Bad about myself, my body, my laziness. I started to believe that I’ve been deluding myself all these years into thinking I was something, someone. I’ve given up, in many ways. Completely given up.

Lately, it hasn’t been as bad. Moving in with friends boosted me up. I started laughing a lot more, crying a lot less. I started recovering myself. I started writing again, researching my obsessions, cooking. I’ve gotten a lot better. There’s something about surrounding yourself with positive people that makes you feel positive. It makes you believe that if they can see the good in you, there must actually be some. I’m getting better.

And so, here’s the truth: sometimes I need help. Sometimes I need you all to remind me why I should keep posting, why I should keep believing in this. Why I should have confidence in myself as a fat woman. I hope to come back here. It’s about time I post here again. I need to get my head back in the game, and take back my body, my mind, my spirit. This is a call for help as much as it’s a thank you for your support. This is my return, my second chance.

Speaking Up

There’s a great post up over at Big Fat Deal answering a question by a newcomer to fat acceptance about when to speak up. She asks, because recently she lost about 20lbs, and is just now seeing friends who she hasn’t seen since she lost it.

Many people haven’t seen me at all this summer, and I am now dealing with lots of weight-less comments about how much weight I’ve lost, and how “good” and “healthy” I am. These comments now make me extremely uncomfortable. This happened the other day with a coworker, and I tried to diffuse the situation by saying that unfortunately I realized that for me, weight loss actually came with a lot of unhealthy behaviors (and muscle loss), and I don’t diet any more and try to practice health at every size instead. It resulted in colossal awkwardness and blank stares.

When I found FA it was after a similar experience. I’ve been pretty vocal about how I had lost about 40lbs while in Ecuador. Immediately after I returned, I found FA and had to deal with the compliments that resulted from losing weight, and trying to find a way to explain to my friends, and sometimes even strangers, my new feelings of self-acceptance.

Unfortunately, this is something that I still find difficult. Although I haven’t gotten weight loss compliments in a while, I still feel like it’s difficult to decide when to speak up. While at school most of my friends and even some people who I didn’t really know were well aware of my fat acceptance activism. Although I didn’t drill it in to the campus like I wanted, I was pretty vocal about being size- and body-accepting. Most of my friends read this blog, and a lot of the campus saw my fat documentary and/or heard me read from my poetry collection. It’s something that I had to be vocal about at that time in my life.

Now, as I continue on to new places with new people, I find it a bit harder. When I started working at the internship I’ve worked at this summer, I wasn’t sure who to tell and what to tell them. I was nervous, sometimes embarrassed, to explain where I was coming from. It was pretty easy, eventually, for me to spread word that I am a size acceptance activist because we’re working on a show about women’s health. When I expressed an interest in interviewing Kate Harding, I had to also explain my fat activism.

So somehow, without really meaning to, I’ve informed almost everyone in my life thus far that I am a fat acceptance activist. And maybe that’s the key: I identify myself as an activist. For me, being a member of this community means I speak out about it. Now, that’s not the same for everyone, but I think that’s why it’s seemingly easy for me, and I’ve figured out, in some wonky way, how to answer those complimenters.

I say, “Thanks.” because I know they mean well. And then, next time I see them I tell them about my blog, or my video work, or my poetry collection, or when they ask about me I tell them who I am. If they’re a friend, I wait until the appropriate time to explain fat acceptance to them. But part of my whole existence in this community is to spread the word. So that’s what I do.

Anyway, I encourage you to read the post and comments at BFD. People have some great suggestions. This is just my meditation on it.

Meghan McCain is my Homegirl!

Meghan and John McCain

Meghan and John McCain

Thus far I’ve used my homegirl posts to recognize celebrity women who I feel particularly fond of at a certain time. Margret Cho and Kate Winslet, the past Homegirls, are women who I have been a fan of for quite a while now. Lately, however, I’ve found myself following the story of Meghan McCain, whose anti-Ann Coulter comments posted at the Daily Beast have caused Republican radio-show host Laura Ingraham to mock McCain for being “plus-sized.”

I’m not going to get into all the details here (though you  can find them here, here and here), but I’d like to say, Meghan McCain’s response to the media blitz now focused on her weight have caused me to say “Meghan McCain is my Homegirl!” I’ll admit that I did not follow McCain before now, and that I’m not a fan of her particular politics. But she has conducted herself with such grace, poise, and beauty that I can only be in awe of her. She recognizes the importance of her position in the media, and has stepped up the plate to say “hey, it’s not okay to say that my weight means my opinion isn’t valid!” I am proud of her.

Meghan, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re an inspiration.

For more from Meghan, here she is on The View:

On Dresses

I haven’t mentioned in a while that my sister is getting married in May. This is partially because I haven’t written in about forever, but also because while I’ve been at school, working on all my various projects and jumping through the last (most stressful) of my academic hoops, I’ve been largely removed from all the planning. This past weekend when I was home, however, I got a good healthy dose of wedding talk.

Most of it is stuff I really do want to hear about: plans for flowers, seat covers, etc. But occasionally, we get to something that puts me off the whole thing: dresses. I talked yesterday about how much I love dressing up. This is no different. I took joy in picking out my shoes. I’m excited for my sister’s wedding dress to come in so we can see her all dolled up. I actively participated in finding my mother’s Mother-of-the-Bride dress (and the most beautiful shoes ever). I love dressing up.

But the one thing I absolutely detest about dressing up is all the talk of thinness that’s associated with it. This weekend, my sister came to visit my parents house when I was around, and immediately the conversation turned to how good she looked (read: thin). My sister talked about how she had cut pop out of her diet for a good few days. She talked about how she’s on a diet, etc. My mother chimed in with how good that was. I scoffed, expressing the opinion I often express that they should both get dresses that fit them the way they are now.

This proceeded to a conversation about motivation. My mother said it was good that my sister had this motivation to lose weight. There’s no harm in having some motivation. She wants to look good. Therefore she should lose weight.

My problems with this statment are obvious. And I proceeded to say so.

“I think that’s all bull. Yes, it’s good to have motivation, but didn’t we once have a very productive conversation about changing the emphasis from looking good to becoming healthy?”

My mother ackonwledged this point, and the conversation continued. Honestly, this has been my biggest problem with the whole wedding: fighting against the perspective that being beautiful and looking perfect on your big day means being thin.

This whole experience and conversation coincided with my own struggle with dresses. When I arrived home late Friday night, there was a dress hanging in my room. A beautiful, patterned dress with red and pinks and black and white, creating a sort of abstract rose pattern. My mother had bought it for me after a discussion of how many formal outfits I was going to need for the upcoming spring in which I will graduate from college, attend a number of formal graduation events, and attend all the showers, rehearsal dinners, etc. for my sister’s wedding. I immediately tried it on, very excited because it looked very cute on the hanger.

It was pretty simple to see that it didn’t fit. It was slightly too small. Now, normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. I would put it down and say “too bad.” But I had absolutely fallen in love with the dress. And although it was too tight right under my bust, it fit everywhere else. I went to bed thinking, as was inevitable, “if only I lose a little bit of weight…I’ve been trying to start working out again anyway. I can get down to fit into that dress, right?”

I promised myself, though, that I would never do such a thing. But I just loved this dress so much, and the way it cinched under my bust made me look especially well proportioned (in the way that the media shows us whe should be). The dress, in the end, was more important to me–looking ‘thin’ was more important to me–than having a healthy attitude about my body.

In the end, we were able to find the dress in a size up (which fit much better). But in that moment of weakness, that moment of love of the dress, I wondered if that was how my mom and sister felt all the time. If that was the place they went to. And I wondered, then, if there were any way to really get them out of it.

Are there really Fat Beliefs?

In my post yesterday where I was talking about the election, I asked a rhetorical question that now is really bugging me. The post was about an absurd article I found talking about the ten fattest states being for McCain and the ten slimmest being for Obama. I said the article was absurd as asked the question: “Are there really fat Beliefs?”

I got a rather incindiary response from a commentor, Kay, about my post, and she specifically addressed the subject of Fat Beliefs. I tried to explain in a comment how I felt, but I’m not sure I was clear. I’m going to try again here.

Since Fat Acceptance has just recently become a part of my life, I’ve never thought about my fat as dictating my belief system. My beliefs are centered more on women’s rights, feminism, and human rights in general. For me, the fact that I’m fat does not dictate how I think, vote, etc. It has been an emotional hurdle for me to overcome, and has inspired me to act on behalf of this injustice, but I have not been able to translate that directly to action, political or otherwise.

Herein lies my problem: my beliefs are not Fat Beliefs. I can’t become an activist for fat acceptance if I can’t even figure out what that means. I can’t even put my beliefs in the realm of fat. Other things always come first: women’s rights, equality, promoting tolerance, etc. Are these Fat Beliefs? Are these just other beliefs that just happen to blanket my fat? What are Fat Beliefs?

This is something I’m really having trouble wrapping my mind around, and I’m curious about what all you think. Kay said in her comment:

I sure as hell absolutely am “voting with my waistline.” Staying alive is one of my top priorities.

I honestly don’t think I understand that comment at all. I’ve been pondering about it since I recieved it yesterday, and I don’t understand it.

So, someone, please help me put this into perspective. Are there really Fat Beliefs?

Being Alone

This year is my first year living completely and utterly alone. I had a single room my sophomore year, when I was an RA, but I was still on the meal plan on campus, so I wasn’t really ever completely alone. The first few weeks of RA training (really, most of September), they kept us so busy that I didn’t realize exactly how alone I was. But over the past few weeks, I’ve definitely felt my aloneness keenly.

Though I’m the head RA in my building, and still living in a residence hall, I have an apartment. I have a closet-turned-kitchen, a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom, all to myself. It’s a great, cute little apartment, and I love it, but GOSH to I feel isolated sometimes. I honestly spend a lot of time alone, in my room. I’m a very social person, although I do need “me” time, but lately, everything has been just me, by myself. I’ve realized, that the only big difference between now and before is that I’m eating alone, and cooking for one.

My friends teased me last year about how I’d be cooking for myself and no one else. Before, meals were always a very social time. Sometimes, it was the only time all day that I would spend hanging out with my friends. I think that meals are important in that way. Before college, I’d eat with my family, at home, around the table. I know that not every family does that, but GOSH was it some of my favorite time ever. And then in college, my friends became my family, and we ate together.

Now, it’s completely different. Eating is a very…lonely affair. And when it comes down to it, I think it’s taken some of the joy out of eating for me. Having to cook is certainly a bit of an experience, since I haven’t had to cook before. But the actual eating is just…going through the motions.

I don’t know how to feel about it. But I think that recently, this has been the key to my feelings of loneliness. I think that in many ways, it’s not good for me to spend so much time by myself. For one, I get almost nothing done when I feel lonely because I’m always spending time on the internet, or talking to people online because it makes me feel like there are other people out there, and not like I’m on my own little island without communication with the outside world.

Second, I have too much time to think, and too much time to get down on myself. I’ve battled with a lot of negativity, especially when stressed, these past few weeks, and that bothers me. I like being my happy, bubbly self, and it makes me feel even worse to think about how down I feel.

Thirdly, I start, because of that stress, to set, believe it or not, HIGHER expectations for myself. And then when I fail to meet them, I’m just a ball of misery. Eventually, yes, I come out of it–usually with the help of my friends, and spending time with them–but I don’t like the cycle. And I want to break it. I’m a firm believer of mind over matter, and I hope that even writing this post will help. I haven’t been feeling as bad lately, mostly due to a lot of quality time spent with both family and friends, but midterms are about to happen, my life is getting busier, and I have a lot to do. Which, overall, means more time spent in my room, by myself.

So, does anyone have an advice on how to handle my loneliness? Please please let me know, and share any stories you might have. It’ll help.

Haircuts and Happiness!

I got my haircut this weekend! And I love it. Absolutely love it. There’s something about getting a Haircut that rejuvenates me. Here’s the before and after:

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

What do you all think?

I think this is probably my favorite thing to do, cut my hair. I love trying new styles, being able to do new things with it, and overall, I love feeling like I have a new look. It’s something drastic that makes me feel like a new person.

There’s something about making a drastic change to one’s appearance that really gets me going. I absolutely love doing it. It’s addicting. Like, when I got my new bras (cited as my “Re-boob-olution”), and suddenly had this burst of self confidence. For me, it’s the same thing wtih hair. I like to change my hair in response to particular pressures and stages in my life. When I graduated from high school, I’d been growing out my hair for an age and a half (in response, I think, to a terribly short haircut as a child that scarred me for life). It was about down to my waist. It was frizzy, curly, and unmanageable. I wore it up in a ponytail every day.

Then, school ended. At my high school we have two weeks between when school ends and when we graduate (seniors get out two weeks early, that is). So, what’d I go off and do? In those two weeks, I cut off ALL my hair. We cut off about 11 inches, which I then donated to locks of love. My hair still brushed my shoulders, but GOSH, it was incredible. It was like a clean slate. I was able to wear my hair down for the first time in my life. I was able to just really have fun with it. Since then, I’ve been addicted to the drastic change of hair.

My sophomore year of college, I made a drastic change by getting bangs. Again, I was at the same point in my life where I needed a change. This one was more of a “gosh, am I sick of the way I look” cut, but it had the same effect. I played, I had fun with my image, and I absolutely loved my bangs.

And that brings us to this haircut. Why, after months of growing my hair long, did I cut it this time? I think I’ve talked once or twice about how I’m moving forward in my life, and making decisions about my future. Being a senior, I feel like the future is coming at my like a runaway horse, and I’m about to get trampled by it. So, to challenge that fear positively, I got a haircut. A haircut that I would consider almost “young-professionalish.” I’m really happy with the result. I think this haircut is easy to manage, easy to straighten, makes me look good, and makes me look much more like an adult than a kid. Overall, I’m really glad I did this. I feel good again, and I’m looking forward to my future with a fresh start!

Anyone else have some incredible haircut stories?