What I learned about myself last term in seminary:

[Trigger Warning: Talk about abusive language, body shame, fat shame, and eating disorders.]

I wrote two very big papers at the end of last term about abusive language, eating disorders, and body shaming. What I haven’t written about yet is what it taught me and what I feel about it.

Although, if you read the paper about theology and sexual abuse, you would have seen some of the personal bit. I recognized myself in the descriptions about disordered eating. Particularly the Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified. While I don’t think that I meet the exact clinical definition for it, I think I have form of it.

The fact is, I know certain things: I know what it’s like to decide not to eat because I feel like I don’t deserve food. I’ve been down the path of yo yo dieting. I know that diet ads and weight stigma trigger me like nothing else does. It’s hard to eat at friend’s houses or at parties, because sometimes I try and sneak the food when nobody is looking so that people won’t see me eat those chips, or that cheese, or have more than one hot dog. Or I don’t eat a lot because I don’t want to look like I’m eating all the food. If I make a dinner, I let everyone go ahead of me. I can tell myself that it’s because I’m being a good hostess, but most of the time, it’s so that people don’t see me putting food on my plate, because there’s that part of me that believes that everyone is judging what I put in my mouth.

I’ve worked really hard to try and counter the effects of this in my own life. Hell, I stopped watching cable TV because of the effect it had on my body image. I tried to read body positive blogs and sites. I try (stress the word “try”) not to read comments on articles about health or obesity because they are usually loaded with abuse. I’ve educated myself on the studies and facts about why BMI is bullshit and why diets don’t work. I try to be proactive with the healthcare system that would rather let me die than diagnose me properly because I’m fat. I practice intuitive eating and try to follow Health At Every Size principles. I also can’t not-eat because insulin issues (possibly stemming from PCOS).

But the really hard thing is when I see and listen to people I know, in real life, talking about their weight loss endeavors. I feel like I’m somehow a failure because I look the way I do. People talk about the “obesity epidemic”, even in church, and I wonder sometimes: Am I failing the Gods somehow because I’m fat? Do people not take me seriously as clergy because I’m fat? Does the fat stigma negate all the work that I’m trying to do?

To be honest, it’s hard not to see a big huge YES in my head, and in society, as the answer to these questions.

And it’s not even the fault of the people doing what they’re doing. It’s my own trigger. My own shit to deal with. I know this.

But the real shitty thing about this is that you can’t escape the abusive language and attitude about weight in our culture. There is no safe place to be in regards to body size, even in spiritual groups. It’s not that individuals are doing it, it’s that society is doing it. We’re raised from the cradle to hate our bodies. We’re told from a very young age that if we don’t look a certain way, or act a certain way, or if we are seen to be doing something that is considered bad, then we’re stupid, lazy, and fucked up. No matter how much weight one loses, it’s never enough. If I could snap my fingers and loose 100 pounds tomorrow, and it wouldn’t be enough.

Even if I stopped eating tomorrow, it would never be enough. Even when I swam the Tiburon Mile, it wasn’t enough. In some ways, it’s kind of sad that I stated in the video of my swim: “Just goes to show that a fat girl can do it, too!” As if I had to justify all the hard work I did in training because I’m fat. Like I’m some sort of fat girl prodigy because I swam a mile in the ocean in just over an hour.

I know that what people do with their bodies is their business. Just as much as it’s not anyone’s business what I do with my body. But what hurts is I know that some people might be mad about this post. Or that I could get trolls, or even people who try to be “well meaning”, who will talk to me like I don’t know what a vegetable is or tell me the usual crap that gets paraded around our society as “science”. And sometimes it hurts because I know there are certain things I just can’t talk about with people because I know it would hurt them to do so.

Ultimately, I don’t know what the answer is. I try and stay positive. I work hard at it, but there are just some times where I feel like I’m using peas to destroy the Great Wall of China. I know I’m not the only person who’s been where I’ve been, but in a lot of ways, society likes to make you think so.

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