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Monday, January 13, 2020

Accepting and Loving My New Fatter, Happier Self


The newer, fatter me. Never been fatter, never been happier. In my life.

I wear my belly like a badge of honor. And no, not because of birth. (But, ok, that does contribute to my belly.)

In a world that says weight and size are a determiner of your worth, I say no.

Currently, I weigh the most I ever have in my life.
And I'm proud of that.

Most of my weight is centered in my belly.

I get people asking me if I'm pregnant, "God bless your baby"s and questions of when I'm due. I usually tell people 'Not pregnant, just fat' and when they get all mortified I tell them that I'm not bothered by it, I know I look pregnant (diastasis recti and my fat contribute) but I tell them to please not make comments about other people's "pregnancy" because it's a very sensitive topic for many people.

So why would I be proud of this belly of mine?

Well, let me just say that even when I was my skinniest, I always had a belly. Even as a young underweight child, my belly protruded. I was chastised for it, told that I'm not working hard enough to tighten my abdominal muscles, and I strengthened them and tightened them and it still protruded.
Most likely bloat caused by my undiagnosed gluten intolerance.

Then I gained weight when I reached puberty, lost it when I was pregnant, but post pregnancy my belly stuck out despite my lower weight, as my abdominal walls separated when pregnant.

My weight went up and down over a few years and pregnancy, but the one constant- always looking pregnant.


And then once my daughter Rose was born, as I threw up the least in her pregnancy, and gained the most weight, I weighed the most I had in my life until that point. Having internalized the fatphobia I'd experienced my entire life until that point, I was stressed out and worried and thought I looked ugly, and decided to try to lose weight.
I went on a pretty strict diet, first paleo, and then low carb paleo, and slowly but surely, I lost the weight.

But I learned something after the fact. Diets aren't sustainable. First there's the fact that deprivation causes negative side effects, and the likelihood of being able to stick with a diet long term is really low, statistically. Even if its a "lifestyle change" because even "lifestyle changes" take a lot of work and entail a lot of sacrifice.
Then there's also the fact that you can do your diet "perfect" and still gain weight, or stop losing. Because dieting changes your metabolism. Even though I was doing low carb paleo perfectly, my weight loss stalled, and then I started gaining weight again.

At the time when my weight was the lowest, my mental health was also the worst.

Guess what?

There's studies that show that diets can negatively affect your mental health.

I started going on meds to improve my mental health, because I was in a really rough situation, and one of the side effects of the meds was weight gain.

I know people that, when they get this side effect, decide to stop the meds, because they'd rather feel terribly emotionally, as long as they "look good", or rather, what society tells you looks good.

I chose not to. I chose to stick with the meds, even though I was gaining weight.

But I tried to go lower carb, thinking that at least I'd be able to stop the weight gain.

And I had the worst time of my life. Cutting back carbs caused me such bad emotional health issues, ones that had physical repercussions. To the extent that my psychiatrist basically banned me from going low carb.
Banned me from dieting.

And my religion, that has certain fast days? I was banned from that too. Because my mental health cannot handle starvation or even limiting my carbs.

So I gained weight. And more weight. And more weight.

And I made the choice.

I would rather be fatter and feel good about myself, be in an mentally and emotionally stable place, on meds, than off meds and skinnier.

So many people sacrifice their health, both mental, and physical, on the alter of "looking good". But I made the choice that I come first.
That my mental health comes first.
That I need meds.
That any form of dieting is really bad for my mental health.

So then I decided that I would exercise. Go running. Because if I couldn't lose weight by dieting, I'd at least try to exercise the pounds away.

But that didn't work either.

I couldn't fit running into my routine. That when I tried running, it caused me bad panic attacks. And I was in pain in my feet and my pelvis.

So I decided not to do that.



And I decided to accept my body as is. And not try to change it.

My weight went up and up and up.

I decided to toss my bathroom scale.

I learned about the concept of Health at Any Size, how detrimental intentional weight loss can be, that weight does not cause health issues, but rather that many health issues go hand in hand with weight gain (that they are correlative, not causative), and that if you just leave "weight" alone and focused on intuitive eating, your body will find its comfortable size, where you don't have to make an effort to lose or maintain weight, but you'll also stay the same weight.

My body reached that. I eat exactly the same way as I have the last two years. And while I no longer have a scale, out of curiosity I did decide to peak at my weight using the scale in the doctors' office, and it has stayed consistent, so it reassured me even more. (Though staying consistent in my new clothing style helped.)

I made sure to not subconsciously or consciously punish myself for the weight by holding on to clothing that no longer fit me "in case it fits me again one day" and instead made sure to buy clothing that fits me well and that are comfortable and are pretty.

I no longer try to hide my belly by wearing only loose drapey things (though I sometimes do, because they are comfortable).

And if my belly sticks out, and if I look pregnant, and get comments?

That's all right. I've had 4 kids. Pregnancy changes a body. And my belly is my badge of honor, my constant reminder that I've put myself and my mental health first, that I'm treating my body like the temple it is, giving it the care and the nourishment and the meds it deserves, and I've decided to stop trying to shape or hide my body to please other people.

As for exercise?

One day.

But when I do, I'll be exercising as a celebration of what my body can do, and not as a punishment for what I ate. I plan on starting to go to Zumba, or some other dance lessons, because I love moving my body to a beat and want to learn more moves. And because good exercise does give me an endorphin run. I joined a Facebook group for exercise that is very health at every size oriented, where people give encouragement and tips to fat people exercising, without the weight loss incentive, and it is really motivating.

But for the meantime, the exercise that I am doing is working on strengthening my pelvis and my core, so that way I can live my life without being in pain.


Accepting and appreciating my body has really been a journey for me. At first I tried to remind myself that fertility goddesses always had bigger bodies, and that Rubens painted beautiful fat women. That everyone's taste in bodies is different. I was convincing myself of that.

But now? I look at pictures of myself when I was intensely dieting, and though I fit the standard "mold" of societal expectations of beauty, I'm much happier now with my larger, plumper, rounder body, and think I look better too. And I try to teach my kids acceptance of bodies at all sizes, and my girls, at least, talk about how they love my fat because it means I'm squishier and give yummy soft hugs.

(P.S. If anyone is extremely curious how much I weigh, not that it matters, but I know I'll get comments like I'm not "really fat", I'm roughly 250 lbs, and at my lowest, after all my dieting, I got to 165.)

10 comments:

  1. That is similar to how i feel about wrinkles and grey hairs. I used to love dying my hair, but now I don't want to because I don't want to cover them. They are MINE!

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  2. Very well said. I am in a very similar situation, only my meds that got the weight piled on are prescribed for fibromyalgia. So my choice is between suffering crippling pain and being pretty much non functional due to it, but slim - or being reasonably functional and fat (pretty much the same weight as you). To me that's a no brainer.

    And like you, I like the way I look, belly and all. I am tall, and I am fat, and I really do not intend to apologise to anyone for the space I take up. I am the way God made me l, and thus have a right to that space :-)

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  3. What a beautiful post! You are inspiring.

    If/when you feel up to exercising again, I would recommend barre. I, too, have core/pelvic issues and have found barre to be incredible for strengthening both my core and my leg muscles that have contributed to my pelvic issues. I also find it really enjoyable and restorative for my mental health. I love the bar method videos but there are other ones out there as well.

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  4. Very true. You are best off at a weight that stays constant sans stress.

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  5. Your right, you do not look fat. You look great! Thanks for another post, one that I'm sure wasn't easy to write. I lost 90 lbs over 2 years and kept off 80 of it for 2 years. I've since gained 40 back. Plan to lose that too. Eat less, move more but finding it harder to move more as I approach the big 50. One thing I did learn was that losing weight is more mental than physical. Wanna be more like you and listen to my body tell me when it's full instead of eating because I can. Hope you find a Zumba class you like. Keep up the great posts. (BTW, I lost weight due to physical pain, never cared what folks think about my appearance.)

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  6. I'm so happy you are putting your mental health as a priority! It is so hard to do that in our world today. As a taller, large built woman myself, society is so harsh on women's bodies. It took me a long time and a lot effort (mentally and physically) to have peace with my body and to take proper care of myself.

    If you access to Jazzercise (we're all over the world!), you may want to give that a try at some point. Dance based fitness, that includes all levels and strength training at every class, though we have dedicated classes that are low impact or just strength training as well. It's the only workout I've ever been able to stick with and 8 1/2 years ago I became a licensed and franchised instructor. You can put in your location at Jazzercise.com and see if you have something local. I'm not sure about costs of Jazzercise vs Zumba where you are. We have a lot of dancers/former dancers and I think you might enjoy trying it, even if it's something you decide isn't for you in the long run.

    Lea

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  7. Good for you, I think approaching health and weight and exercise needs to come from a place of positive motivation. I lost 10 pounds this last summer and then was in a car accident and my eating was out of control. Now I am back on track. I don't like feeling bloated and out of control with my eating so I am just approaching things in moderation and adding in fruits and veggies and decreasing sugar. I think for me the only thing I need to worry about is cutting down on sugar and bad white carbs. I read an interesting article recently you might like. Here's the link https://www.instyle.com/beauty/health-fitness/sugar-detox

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  8. The one thing you didn't mention is your height which I believe is rather tall which helps you to carry extra weight without looking fat at least from the front. In the pic with you in black, a sliming color, you look great and your smile is infectious.

    But also, they do have shapers and girdles to hold one's belly in. I use them when I have extra pounds on me and they do help. I also got an under the desk pedal bike and have been using that at home which helps me burn a few calories and stay active when reading on my bed etc. I admire your attitude and common sense approach to a happier you regardless! Keep on being happy!

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  9. Thank you for your post. I feel like women are finally fighting back the societal pressure to be thin. There are much more important things that our efforts should go into than trying to be thin or pretty.

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  10. Good for you! Weight is such a complicated part of our health, but society puts so much judgment and scorn on weight gain. Acceptance of our bodies and the reduced stress that comes from that acceptance will lead to better health outcomes than strict dieting.

    Also, when you're ready to jump into exercise, I highly recommend MommaStrong. It's 15 minutes a day, new workouts everyday, and only $5/month. Very focused on strength (especially core) and positivity, not post-baby weight loss. Honestly, it's been such a huge boost to my mental health to be able to carve out this small portion of my day to consistently take care of myself, but it's been really do-able, even with small kids, because the workouts are so short.

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