How I Reconciled My Diet With My Feminism
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I am fat. I have been fat for a long time, and I have been more or less OK with it for a long time.
My attitude toward my fatness has largely been shaped by the feminist, fat-positive movement: I wasn't going to make myself miserable trying to force my body into the mainstream image of ideal female beauty, and I was instead going to work on being as healthy as I could be -- eating well, exercising, reducing stress, etc. -- at the weight that I already was.
But a few months ago, my bad knee started getting worse. I've had a bad knee for a long time (I blew it out doing the polka, and it's never been the same since); but as bad knees go, it wasn't that bad. I had to be careful getting in and out of cars; I had bad days when I had to rest it; I had to quit doing the polka. No big deal. I can live a rich, full life being careful getting in and out of cars and not doing the polka.
But a few months ago, it started getting worse. Like, having more trouble climbing hills and stairs.
That was not OK. I live in San Francisco. I need to be able to climb hills and stairs. And I know about knees. They don't get better.
I could see the writing on the wall: I knew that if I didn't take action, my mobility would just get worse and worse with time. I could easily lose more than just stairs and hills. I could lose dancing. Fucking. Long walks. Walking at all.
Short of surgery, there's really only one thing you can do for a bad knee that I wasn't already doing. And that's to lose weight.
How do you be a fat-positive feminist who's losing weight?
It's really hard not to feel like a traitor about this. When I reach a benchmark in my weight loss and get all excited and proud, or when someone compliments me on how good I look now and I get a little self-esteem-boosting thrill, it's hard not to feel like a traitor to my feminist roots, and to the fat women who fought so hard to liberate me from the rigid and narrow social constructs of female beauty.
And even apart from feeling like a traitor, there are about 80 million emotional traps along the way: traps that threaten to upend years of hard mental health work spent learning to love myself the way I am.
For starters: I know that weight loss typically fails 90 percent of the time. So far, this weight loss thing is working; but I've only been at it for a couple of months, and I know that in the long run, it could easily fail.
And if this fails, then I get to feel like ... well, like a failure. I get to be back at Square One, with my bad knee and everything -- but without the emotional supports I built up during my "Fuck You, Body Fascists" anti-dieting years.
But if I'm one of the 10 percent that succeeds ... well, then I feel like an idiot for having whined about it for so long, and for not having done this sooner. (I'm already feeling like that now. In a purely practical sense, this has been easier than I'd thought it would be, and so now I'm feeling like a jackass for having insisted all these years that it was all but impossible.)