I just wrapped up another day of doing the Shred.
It’s been a year since I started putting conscious effort into working out, and I’ve stuck to it.
There have been some months where I’ve gone more days not doing it than days I have done it. There’ve been weeks that have passed without doing a single workout.
But then there are days like today, and the day before, and the day before, where I get into the workout, find that groove, hit flow, and walk away not just sweaty and gross, but feeling higher than anything and super pleased with the workout.
In the past year, I’ve lost nearly 40 inches total.
And maybe 10 pounds or so.
I get down on myself about my weight periodically, but I’ve always been fat. I’ve always had it on my body, and it’s just a part of who I am. In the last year of working out, I’ve gained a much stronger sense of confidence in my own body and in the physical state in which I exist and inhabit. I won’t lie and say that losing double-digit inches in my hips and my waist hasn’t boosted my confidence and made me really happy — especially when it comes to trying on clothes or being able to not think twice about whether something I want to try on will or won’t fit.
But more of my confidence comes from being fat and being able to push myself through an intense, ass-kicking workout and seeing it through until the end. My fat body is able to move and to sweat and to endure for 30 minutes without collapsing, without falling in on itself, without my heart stopping in the middle.
My fat body is awesome for this, and I am grateful every damn day I can do it. My fat body is so awesome for being able to do this that I reward my fat body with doing it again. And again. And again.
I will never be thin, and this is a fact I accepted at nearly 300 pounds a few years ago, and it’s a fact I accept now, weighing significantly less than that.
My fat isn’t something I am regularly conscious of. It’s just a part of who I am, and I accept it as a reality of my existence. I’m okay with it. My body does and feels good things.
I like my body
even though it’s fat. I like my body even if you or anyone else does not.
This is on my mind again after reading Becky’s great post over at Book Riot on Book Deal breakers. What are those things in a book which turn the book off to you completely? I agree with nearly every single thing on Becky’s list, and I add one more: books which are about the fat body and that play into fat tropes. More specifically, books about fat girls that play into the fat girl tropes.
Almost all of the time, these books use their fat characters as the story. It is the fat on their body which drives the entire narrative. The character usually hates herself for her fat body because there is nothing worse than being a fat teenaged girl. You don’t get dates. You don’t have friends. You don’t fit into clothes. Furniture and stairs creak and groan under the pressure your body exerts upon it. Trying on clothes in the dressing room is a joke. Sometimes, fat people themselves are the joke — the ones around you or with you, even.
These books center on the issue of fat — being fat means something bad here, and the way to happiness, to friendship, to sexual enjoyment, to being able to move and dance and exist is through getting rid of the fat. Be it through a “healthy new dieting routine,” through gastric bypass surgery, through working out and “putting a little effort into your look.” Miraculously, those changes add up to a character better understanding herself and her place in the world and when her body finally fits the acceptable mode, she is accepted.
It makes me feel ashamed that the message of most YA books featuring fat characters is that your body is wrong, it’s going to kill you, it’s going to hold you back, and it’s not worth the space it takes up on this planet. Because this is a message we already send teenagers and if you don’t believe it, I point you to a recent story about how the Boy Scouts of America won’t let obese scouts go to the annual Jamboree (which is an event centered all about being active and having fun but fat bodies aren’t allowed that privilege because fat bodies aren’t real bodies).
Being fat isn’t a disability. Being fat is a physical state of being.
Why is it that fat people only have books featuring characters like them when the plot of the book centers around the most obvious thing — their being fat? Why is the character’s entire being and existence wrapped up in this one element of who they are? And why is it that losing weight is the end goal? You can be perfectly happy and healthy and active and confident and love for yourself at any size or shape or weight. It is not about the state of the body; it’s about the state of the mind. Fat is a thing you have, not a thing you are.
The more we continue to believe that it is about the state of the body, rather than the state of the mind, the more we continue to tell fat people their state of existence isn’t okay.
We tell them their stories — as they are — do not matter. That their stories will not matter until they reach a certain, socially-constructed, mythical ideal shape. Many times that won’t matter, either, because then their stories are about how they did it. How they “beat” fat.
I want to see more books that feature fat characters — fat girls especially — because I wish that body-positive, empowering books like Susan Vaught’s My Big Fat Manifesto and Simmone Howell’s Everything Beautiful had been around when I was a fat teenager and everywhere I looked, I was made to feel like I did not matter. Because the thing these books do that so many fat character-centered YA books don’t do is they show that fat characters wear their bodies as they do and still have rich, fulfilling, exciting, dynamic, and interesting lives beyond their shape. That they have dreams and goals and their bodies are going to help them get there, rather than hold them hostage or disable them completely.
What I want is for a teen to pick up a book that features a fat character who isn’t a silly sidekick or a laughing stock. Who isn’t seeking a way to better herself by losing weight. There are some authors doing this, but we need more (just like we need more who are writing about diversity or sexuality). I give kudos to authors like Rainbow Rowell, who has written a fat girl in Eleanor in Eleanor & Park — but I must install this caveat to my statement of what we need.
We need more books featuring fat characters that are done with enough conviction — given enough of a life and story and narrative and richness of their own — that they stand alone and stand up to the intolerance that some readers might bestow upon them. In other words, I think that having to explain why your character is fat or talk about that choice and what it may or may not mean in a blog post assumes a lot about your readers, and it also maybe suggests that your character doesn’t have enough to her to stand on her own and be what she is without elaboration. I don’t think it’s necessary to consider the “how fat” question at all.
It stings me to read representations of fat hate, even if it’s meant to be “subtle” or throwaway, as I suspect is the case in David Levithan’s Every Day, where A is essentially a klutzy, worthless monster at 300 pounds and disgusted and repulsed by it.
This is already what we see and experience.
For so many years, I believed that my being fat would hold me back. And it has in some ways — but never because of my body. It’s held me back because of other people’s perceptions of what a fat person can or should be doing.
I was shamed for my body once, by a colleague — a boss — at a program, in front of a group of teenagers. To this day, I remember standing there as she made a fat joke to this group of teenagers who were having a really good time at a program we were running. After she told it, she turned to me, covered her mouth with her hand, and said “no offense, I’m sorry Kelly.” I felt two things: first, tiny and insignificant as a person for being reduced to just a fat body in the eyes of a professional and second, dread that my teens had to see that whatever they may experience in their lives now may actually never “get better” when they become adults.
We can do better than this.