Yesterday, one of my co-workers said to me, “I just wanted to let you know — I can really tell that you’re losing weight!” And she gestured towards her jawline, and then her general abdomen area. “Here, and here.”
And I agree with her; I’m pretty sure that I have lost some weight recently. After spraining the same ankle twice — in November and again at the end of December — my ability to exercise was extremely curtailed. But at the end of January, my ankle had healed enough that I could get back to the gym.
After 3 months of virtually no exercise, apparently the past 10 weeks of exercise (moderate though it is) has moved my body back in the direction of the shape it’s in when I regularly work out. Set point? Equilibrium? Whatever you want to call it, there’s a shape/size/weight my body settles at when I feed it well and move it frequently. Not being able to exercise for 3 months, quite understandably, skewed my size upwards. And now it’s skewing back down.
The reason I’ve gone back to the gym is NOT to lose weight; it’s because my ankle is healed enough to handle working out. I like the endorphin buzz. I like feeling — being — strong. I like watching the kids’ basketball games in the gym that the walking track overlooks.
It just happens that, because of the period of inactivity before I went back to the gym, I *am* losing some weight as my body settles where it wants to, based on how much I move it and what I feed it.
So when my co-worker said “I can tell you’re losing weight!” my reaction was, “Yeah, I think I am.” Because I didn’t realize at first that she was couching her statement as praise. So when I affirmed that there was less of me, she said, “Good job! Keep up the good work!”
And for the first time in my life, I didn’t react by being self-effacing (“Oh, well, it’s hard, but I’m trying!”) or self-hating (“Well, if I just lose 50/75/100 more pounds, then I’ll be happy!”). What I said, when she told me to keep up the good work, was, “Actually, I’m not *trying* to lose weight; I’m just exercising more than I had been able to do since before Thanksgiving.”
Her response to that? “Well, you *are* losing weight, and that’s GREAT!”
Honestly, it was almost 5:00, and I had no desire to start a long, drawn-out thing, so what I said back was, “Like I said, I’m not trying to lose weight; I’m just enjoying being able to exercise regularly again. It feels good.”
Should I have said more? Maybe. But I’m still so new to fat activism, and I’m still feeling the boundaries of how much education to offer people in different settings. I’d say much more to a friend or some family members, but at work, I don’t feel that it’s my place to sit someone down for a long discussion with charts and graphs and Web links.
Does that make me a “bad” fat activist? I don’t think so. Others might, and that’s their prerogative.
I also have to confess that there’s still part of me — the part that went to WW, the part that exercised compulsively in college, the part that was always told that I have “such a pretty face; the boys will line up for dates” if only I lost weight — that *did* feel a momentary thrill at my co-worker’s recognition. I’m *not* trying to lose weight; that never was the reason I started back at the gym. But over 20 years of wanting to lose weight, trying to lose weight, believing I should lose weight, believing I *can* lose weight if only I “try harder” — it installed a lot of bad beliefs that I’m having a hard time erasing. One of those is the desire for recognition of my “accomplishment.”
Does THAT make me a bad fat activist? I’ve read some fatosphere blogs recently where the sentiment has been expressed that anyone who wants to lose weight can’t really be a fat activist. I believe it was expressed something like “I don’t want you accepting my fat if you can’t accept your own.” Well, does that also include people who are pleased that someone noticed their weight loss, even if they hadn’t been trying to lose weight? Despite that contradiction, can *they* (and here I mean *me*) not be fat activists? I don’t think that attitude takes into account the reality that fat acceptance is a process, and not even a one-way process.
For me, it was a HUGE step forward that the reason I went back to the gym was NOT because I wanted to lose weight, but ONLY because I wanted to move my body. I missed working out, missed the endorphin buzz, missed the feeling of physical exertion.
That’s one step. Maybe the next step is not feeling that momentary flush of accomplishment if anyone remarks that I seem to have lost weight. But I obviously haven’t hit that step, and what I’m wondering is: where do I have to be in the fat acceptance process before my fat activism is legitimate to others in the fatosphere?
I’m not perfect. I’m deeply flawed. I thrill to *any* acknowledgment of my accomplishments — good grades in school, a promotion at work, having my writing published — so, yes, over 20 years of trying to lose weight instilled in me the desire to have weight loss acknowledged. And even now, when I *am* able to look at it and see that weight loss isn’t an “accomplishment” any more than weight gain is a “failure,” my old, ingrained reactions still kick in, even if it’s only for a moment.
I want to get past that. And I believe that I *am* getting past that. Is it good enough for the fat acceptance movement that I’m on the continuum, even if I’m not as far along as others?
I figure, as utterly ridiculous and damaging as hating myself for my weight is, it’s just as ridiculous to consider myself a “bad” fat activist for not being at the same stage of fat acceptance as others. Why trade one form of self-hatred for another? I won’t do that.
Where I am is where I am. *I* recognize that it’s a much healthier frame of mind than I’ve ever had, even if it still has contradictions in it. And I intend to keep moving forward, to get past those contradictions.
That’s good enough for me. It HAS to be.