I’m finally as Fat as I Always Thought I Was
In the struggle of daily living in modern 21st century society, people are bombarded on all sides by the ridiculious expectations that are placed on our bodies and in our minds. This is particularly true for women, disabled people and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Engaging in spiritual growth is one way to make a commitment to finding your own true vision of yourself, rather than the vision society wants to give you or may force you to have.
One of my personal areas of growth has been learning how to ‘give no fucks’ about what other people think of my body. The last time I weighed myself I was 24-ish stone, give or take a lb or so. For those not in the UK that is roughly 150kg or 330lbs. Mostly I am just a fat person.
I don’t weigh myself very much anymore because weight gain or loss can set off a spiral of old behaviours that cause me to suffer mentally. Many malignant thoughts and patterns would come up, triggering some heavy self-loathing that can take a good month or two to delete from the program. It’s like ‘rogue code’ that I thought I had gotten rid of, but keeps popping back up and I have to go back through everything to delete it properly. It’s a painstaking process, but I feel better each time part of it is removed. I would scroll through my brain and remove the memories and the feelings: the time a random male called me a fat slut [deletes], the time my mother told me I would be so pretty if I lost weight [deletes]. The problem is that, even when I feel I have finished, I still know I didn’t get it all. Each time I do, I reclaim some of the power that has been taken from me but, despite the work I have done, there is still a lifetime of similar things locked away in my mind.
This is me, now.
39 Year-Old Me
I turned 39 and I was doing a photo shoot for my website. I hated these photos, because a part of me could not look at myself objectively when I first saw myself. These photos did not reinforce the vision of me I had in my head. I am forever telling women that their first thoughts are their programmed thoughts. They are the thoughts given to us as we grow up in society and they are not our real thoughts. I mean, they can be if we never question them and where they have come from. The first thoughts we have on seeing ourselves in a non-controlled setting is often negative. Selfies and pictures we have taken to show our ‘good’ angles do not count.
It was this photoshoot that prompted me to weigh myself because, when I saw the pictures, I thought “Is that me?”. I had constructed a visual image of myself that was thinner, that allowed me to feel confident and outgoing. This thinner version of me was able to pick clothes that ‘flattered’ and perhaps made me look smaller than I was.
This approach helped me feel like I deserved sexual attention and that I was allowed to do anything because the skinnier girl in my head could not be denied. I cannot say that this was bad. In fact I will go so far as to say I am happy I did this, as it allowed me to live in a way that I may not have otherwise been able to. It was my safety. What was problematic about it is that I would feel confident and happy and entitled only to the unreal version of myself that only lived in my head. It is like having an airbrushed image of yourself. Where it falls down is that others can show you the real version and it’s at this point you realise you had trained yourself to only respect the airbrushed version.
The real me, the one in the photo above, got very little love from me and that is what I needed to acknowledge and change. It was all well and good loving a vision of me that I had constructed; a person that I felt was worthy of all the things I wanted. But that means that I was not accurately reflecting or demanding respect for what I actually looked like.
I use to call it positive brainwashing: lying to yourself until the lie becomes the reality. We do it all the time in a negative way: we tell ourselves that we are fat when we are not. Society reinforces the belief that fat is bad and unattractive, so fat people become brainwashed into believing that they are worthless. I started this deprogramming and reprogramming in my early 20s, but here I am nearly 20 years later still getting knocked by my body image.
30 Year-Old Me
The reason I started writing this today is that I saw some pictures of myself that were about 7 years old and I showed my daughter how small my boobs were. I should say at this point that my boobs have always been large so when I say small I mean when I would wear a double D bra. (Even then my boobs were bigger than a double D but I wore that size for a long time because I was afraid of what going up to a bigger size would mean). I look tiny in these photos. My face looks different, my body looks different and I know that I felt huge at the time. It was not long after I’d had my 4th baby. It had been a rough pregnancy and I generally felt pretty rubbish about myself. At that time I weighed 9 stone (about 60kg) less than I do now but, in my head, I felt I looked as fat as I am now.
So here is the lie and the truth. At 21 years old I found a rare photo of myself when I was 16. I can see in the photo that I was uncomfortable with it being taken, as I had a pretty strict ‘no photos taken of me’ rule. I had done no emotional work on myself at that age and I was not long out of school, a 5 year period where I was called ‘fat’ on a daily basis. The only people that seemed to find me physically attractive were older than me, because I was so ‘mature’ (I am grossed-out on behalf of my 16 year-old self) and my family’s opinion of me was borne out by the cruelty of strangers in the street, on the bus... basically everywhere.
The world told me I was fat, when I was not. It was presented as truth when it was a lie.
This photo of 16 year-old me is the picture that changed everything, that brought on the moment where I decided my own truth.
16 Year-Old Me
I remembered how I felt about myself at that time. I felt disgusting. I was not worthy, I was not worth being alive. I can honestly say that, in this photo, I felt as fat then as I actually am now. It is so hard to explain to somebody what I mean by that but routinely, if you ask women to put themselves in a line-up with other women based on size, they will put themselves much higher than they are. I was fat and therefore felt that I must just be so huge that everyone had to notice it, otherwise why would people feel the need to comment?
I felt every bump on my body and every curve and I multiplied it by 10.
It should be noted that in this picture I was 13 stone (just over 80kg) which meant I was overweight with a high BMI. At this point I had already experienced the fatphobia that is rife in the medical profession by being tested for diabetes every time I went to the doctor. I was routinely told I needed to lose weight no matter what I was going to the doctors for. I remember my mum taking me there when I was 15 because I couldn’t stop sleeping and they tested my thyroid because that would “explain the weight”. It oddly resolved itself when I left school.
The turning point came when I looked at that photo years later and my brain caught me in a brief moment of not instantly hating on myself and I thought “God I looked good then.”, which was immediately followed by a wave of pain, loss and rage I couldn’t quite understand at the time. I felt overwhelmingly like I had been lied to by the people I had loved and trusted. Why did no one tell me how good I looked? Why did they only reinforce in me the self hatred? I felt that they should have told me how good I looked and the more important part is I instantly started to wish I still looked like that!
So there I was, 5 years later, weighing 15-ish stone (~95kg) wishing I had realised how good I looked then so I could have enjoyed it, rather than hating on and cursing myself. All I could then think was how I had let myself gain this additional weight and off I went into a spiral again.
Then it stopped dead. I am not sure what stopped it, but I think it might have been the rage, the feeling of injustice I had that something had been taken away from me. Worst of all I had allowed it. I decided then and there that I never wanted to look at a photo of myself again while wishing I’d realised how good I looked. I never wanted to regret lost time and unnecessary pain caused. That is the moment when I started to build my own truth through the vision in my head of the beautiful 16 year-old girl that never got to celebrate herself and she is still with me. It felt like a lie, but it as infact the best truth.
She is partly why I wrote the Embracing The Crone post. That 16 year-old girl deserved the time she has been given. She deserved to put on a beautiful dress and strut through a bar. She deserved to look at herself in the mirror with joy. She deserved to feel that she was a beautiful and whole person.
I would be lying if I said achieving this was an easy task: it was not. It was a daily battle to refocus that image in my head so I could hold on to that beautiful girl. This would not have been possible without my ever growing spiritual journey, walking hand-in-hand with my ability to change the narrative around my physical self. I would continue to look at photos of me and see this person that didn’t match the picture in my head. As much as I tried to drown out societal weight bias, it is a full time job and you cannot always do it. The crying in the changing rooms of shops when something gorgeous doesn’t fit you. The ridicule of men who one second want you and then, in the face of rejection, label you fat like it is the ultimate insult to soothe their egos. Or worse, the friends of men that you like in a club. Overhearing a conversation where one says “Woah, she is not your usual type.”, and them so nicely saying “Hey, leave her alone she has 2 kids.” like that somehow explained it, and gave my body a valid reason for looking like it did. If only that man had said “What do you mean? She is hot AF.”.
My friends’ compliments were always stingers. They would tell me if clothes made me look thinner, if they flattered my shape, if they hid my tummy or if they were too short for my chunky thighs. That’s what good friends do, right? The weight loss compliments were the worst. Any time I lost weight I would feel like I was on the way to who I should be, but also that every single time someone had complimented me when I weighed more that meant they must have been lying, right? Surely?
I was about 26 when a friend asked me if I had lost weight so I said “Maybe, why?”. She said “Because you look really good.”. I sat for a little while and then asked “Did I not look good before?”. She demurred of course and instantly told me that of course I looked good at other times, it was just that I looked better on that day. So I asked “You think I look smaller so I look better?”. It was an awkward and clunky conversation that didn’t really reach a satisfactory conclusion, but it did get me labelled as a person that didn’t like compliments (which is nuts because I love compliments). What I didn’t realise at this point was that it wasn’t a compliment, but a fatphobic comment. This went on for a while until a friend asked me why I didn’t like compliments so I told them that if they told me how great I looked when I have lost weight, what would happen to my self esteem if I gained that weight back? The chances are that, if you are dieting, you will put it back on because diets have a 95% fail rate. Yep, that includes Weight Watchers and Slimming World and what’s worse is that in addition to the high likelihood of regaining the weight, a high proportion of people will gain more because of how it affects the metabolism. (Link to PDF at University of Carolina)
Doctors and medical professionals across the globe have to take a huge amount of responsibility for the 'concern trolling' that happens to fat people. It does not matter what reason you go to the doctors for - if you are perceived as fat they will bring weight into the conversation even though you might be there because you're pregnant, or sick or epileptic. I was once prescribed an anti-epileptic drug with horrible side effects simply because the doctor thought that the off-brand potential side effect of weight loss would be good for me.
The mental health issue is so strong that I once had a doctor convince me that I was going to get gestational diabetes because of my weight. I was so convinced that I freaked out at every potential symptom. Thank the gods for the Internet! I eventually found some research online and read reports on the statistical likelihood of me getting gestational diabetes. If I had been morbidly obese my chances were around 15%, which is significantly lower than the 70% or 80% chance I assumed it was, purely based on the way the doctors spoke about it. As I was only overweight at that stage, it made my actual chances of getting it about 2%, which is only 1.3% higher than someone who is considered ‘normal’ weight. I brought this up with my doctor and midwife and asked them not to mention it to me again unless I was actually showing symptoms, or if the test that is done midway through the pregnancy came back as positive.
They believed wholeheartedly in what they were saying because it is what they are taught. My questioning of their narrative earned me the label of ‘difficult patient’. It is nigh on impossible in our society to defend yourself from this constant barrage of fat biases or any other societal biases that femmes in particular face. My 16 year-old self had no defence against it and my 21 year-old self could only grasp the injustice of the situation because learning how to combat societal programming is a tough job that needs daily strength. We can all have that daily strength and we deserve it.
I hovered around the 15-16 stone (100kg) mark for most of my 20s, up until my early 30s. By the time I was 35, I was 18 stone then, at 37, I was 20 (~130kg). At 39 I jumped up again to 24 stone (~150kg). Each time the scale went up I felt like a complete failure, like my life goal was to be smaller. It doesn’t matter what has been going on with my life or my health, society allows no quarter for those who get fat. People never really believe me when I tell them how much I weigh. They always say “Oh you can’t be that heavy.” (fatphobic comment), “You carry it well.” (fatphobic comment), ”You don’t eat that much.” (fatphobic comment), “So long as your boobs are bigger than your stomach.” (fatphobia comment)”.
I think that finally, right now, if I were to tell a person how much I weighed, they actually wouldn’t be surprised and, believe it or not, I find that empowering.
I am finally as fat as I always felt I was and it has freed me. Not from the way society treats fat people, of course - that has obviously gotten worse. I mean that I am mentally letting go of the image of the 16 year old because it is now time for me to just love myself. It is now time for me to look at the pictures that show the real me and give them the love they deserve, the love that I deserve. What does any of this have to do with tarot and changing your life I hear you cry? My answer is that tarot is all about this shadow self work. You can come to a reading with me, wanting to know the name of your future partner and I won’t be able to tell you that. I will be able to help you work through the blocks in your head so that when you meet that future partner your vision of yourself matches up to the perfect divine reality that is you. It isn’t easy and it has taken me years of work but the internal peace that comes with it is worth every second.
This story of reclaiming my power has been focused on fatphobia and learning how to change my internal story, but this can be true of any beauty standard that's rooted in capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.