It’s the first day of 2017 and warm enough already for a little splash in the pool! The beginning of the year is also fraught with the traditional onslaught of diet and weightloss ads in every corner you look, so I thought it would be timely to post some positive inspiration to help counter the toxicity that us fatties are routinely assaulted by around this time. The moment the year turns around, you see it screaming it you from billboards, newspapers and even browser ads. ‘New year, new you!’ ‘Resolve to be a skinny minnie this year!’ ‘Time for a liquid diet “cleanse” after that gluttonous Christmas!’ Well, here I am in my daisy print bathers, with stars on my face and unflattering curves everywhere else and I haven’t made a new year resolution to lose weight since the year 2007.
It hasn’t been easy all the way, fending off well meaning advice from acquaintances and relatives, and having to tune out friends unloading their weightloss plans onto me. Thankfully, and mostly because I’ve been doing it for so long, this sort of selective vision and hearing comes as second nature to me. But when the lovely folks at Lime Ricki swimwear asked me if I’d like to try out one of their swimsuits and talk a bit about feeling body confident as a fat woman, I realised that it would actually be helpful to share my tips for keeping sane and preserving your mental health (and confidence) in this month of weight based penance (ugh!)
1. Take out the trash
By which I mean the glossy magazines promising miracle ‘cures’ on the cover, the tabloids and their websites, the Instagrammers selling diarrhea tea, basically any media that’s not fat positive. Back in 2007, I was more than a bit addicted to celebrity gossip – it was entertaining and a welcome distraction from my undergrad texts. However, once I realised how badly the tales of celebrity weight loss and gain affected my own body image, I started weaning myself off it. And the more time I spent on the fat positive internet, the more I started abhorring popular media and the diet culture it sells. After a point, I didn’t even want to browse through ONTD anymore. Especially because I could find all the fashion inspiration I wanted from the fat internet, and that too on bodies that looked like mine.
2. Surround yourself with fat positive media
Admittedly, the fatshion community has a very different face now than it did a decade ago, and there’s no onus on plus size bloggers to be fat positive as well. You’ll find countless plus fashion bloggers who advocate weightloss and think nothing of documenting their diets, but there are just as many anti-weightloss bloggers you can follow if you’re looking for some positive reinforcement to go with your daily fashion fix. If you’re looking for somewhere to start with, my blogroll on this page has quite a few awesome internet peeps who are just as fat positive as they’re fashionable. And if anyone you’ve been following for a while, and whose style you love descends down the slippery road to diets, don’t hesitate to unfollow them if that’s what you need for your sanity. Just putting that out there because I feel kind of bad whenever I have to do that!
3. You don’t have to listen to your friends’ diet talk
I have friends who get down on their bodies, who can’t stop talking about how badly they need to lose weight. Most of us have friends like that. It’s especially distressing when they’re people you’re close to and genuinely care about, people whose concerns you can’t just shut down without an explanation. I’ve found that a gentler approach works best in these situations. All my friends are extremely aware of my stance on diets and weightloss – I mean, I’ve only been banging on about it for the last decade or so! Yet they still try to talk to me sometimes about how they’re planning to lose weight. In situations like this, this is pretty much what I tell them: Listen dude, it’s your body, you do whatever you want with it. But you know how I feel about weightloss, so there’s no point telling me about this because I’m just going to space out. You’re an adult, making your adult choices, so go ahead and make them *shoulder pats* I have literally zero inputs to give here. *firm shoulder pats*
Back when I was first learning about fat positivity, I made it my mission to bring all my closest friends into the fold. How could I let them suffer in the purgatory of dieting and self hate when I’d found such freedom in the alternative? Unfortunately, that’s not how people work. And ultimately, everyone has to make their own decisions about the path they want to follow, whether it comes to weightloss or the rest of life itself. You can help them along the way, but the decision of whether to be diet free or not is theirs to make.
4. Spend some time with yourself
One of the things I realised when I was getting to grips with body positivity was this: I didn’t actually know my own body. I used to avoid looking at mirrors, especially when I was naked, I only ever saw myself from one single angle, looking down at my boobs, belly, a bit of leg and feet. Whenever I came across a candid photo, I would be aghast because is this really how everyone sees me? To accept my body, I had to know it first. From every possible angle so that I couldn’t take myself unawares. Back then, I had my ex to photograph me naked, but if you don’t have anyone like that, use the mirror, use your webcam! Take photos of yourself with the self timer, standing, sitting, in silly poses and unflattering ones. Examine those photos, find the parts of your body that you love, and write down what it is that you love about them. Then find the parts of yourself that you don’t love as much and figure out something positive to say about them as well. Write that down too. Keep going back to those photos and notes whenever you can, and keep adding to them. If I’d taken these swimsuit photos 5 years ago, I’m sure I’d have been cringing at my flat butt and lumpy thighs entirely because I wasn’t familiar with them. But now I know exactly what I look like from the back, or sitting down. The body I have is the body I expect to see in photos because I’ve seen it so many times now. I know exactly how my belly folds, where my things dimple when I’m walking. These are regular, everyday features to me now, not some kind of a bogeyman waiting to jump out at me from photos I didn’t expect.
5. Set a positive example by eating
This one’s for those of you who have already taken the first steps towards body positivity, those of you who are feeling secure enough to give a very public middle finger to diet culture. I didn’t find public eating easy at the beginning, especially since I had a history of eating disorders. As my BFF recalls, one of her first memories of me was at the University canteen, with an apple in one hand and a cigarette in the other, steadfastly refusing any other food because ‘that’s all I needed for lunch.’ It took a while to get to the point where I could go out with her and triumphantly demolish platters of food in public. What I noticed, though, was that whenever I was out with a group of people and a couple of them were heading towards the ‘I think I’ll just have a salad’ territory, they ended up ordering what they actually wanted and enjoying it once I’d set the lead by unabashedly eating what I wanted. And even if you’re still a way away from being able to eat freely in public, I think that just eating the food you want with relish and joy and savouring every bite without guilt is the biggest FUUUUU you can hurl at the diet industry this time of the year. So treat yourself to the food you love and actually want to eat, listen to your body instead of the ad pointing out your supposed failings. And remember, food has no morals attached to it, it’s we who burden our plates with them.