Ask Ciiku: I have internalised fatphobia

Hi Ciiku.

I’m a fattie, and I love the work you do for body positivity. I like to think I’m body positive myself- except for *myself*. I can’t stand my body. I hate my flabs and tummy and how round my face has become. I cannot look in the mirror and call myself a beautiful person. I feel hideous. I hate that I put in so much work into unlearning beauty standards, but it never works to help me, only others. The thoughts still plague me. My relationship with food is also horrible. I feel like it is something that condemns me to fatness. At the same time, I’m a binge-eater when I’m sad, so this only worsens what I feel about myself. Most of all, I’m seeking a relationship, and I feel like I am unwantable in my fatness, and so I can only ever be in a happy relationship while thin. I have been unlearning beauty standards at least 3 years now, and most days I’m fine, but over the past 2 months or so, I have spiraled and cannot seem to get myself out. How do I channel my body positivity inwards? I feel like a ‘body posi fraud’. How to form a healthy relationship with food? I am spiraling and don’t know how to stop myself

Anon

Dear Anon,

Something you typed made me pause:  “My relationship with food is also horrible. I feel like it’s something that condemns me to fatness.” Words mean things you and “condemns me to fatness” shows me that you associate fatness with something bad, a punishment that you shouldn’t be experiencing. You say you are able to see how body positivity helps other fat people but it seems you believe that fatness is a punishment, suffering and shouldn’t be something that happens to you, you hate your body, can’t stand it. That is a lot to carry.

I am curious as to your understanding of the body positivity movement. Especially in relation to you saying that you hate your flabs and tummy and how your face has become round. I must ask, how do you use these identifiers of fatness on yourself and say you are hideous yet you say you are unlearning beauty standards? How then are you able to love it on other people if you don’t love it on yourself? Body positivity has to start from oneself, when you are able to love your self, your body, then are you able to extend that same love to others. There is beauty in every body, no matter the size and if you that is part of your value system then you are indeed body positive and if not, you aren’t. Self acceptance and self love are key to being body positive.

Some questions for you: What does loving your body look like? Why do you associate thinness with happiness? When did you first realise that you hate your body? What precipitates those thoughts? What would happen if you lost weight then you gained it back? How do you think you would deal with that? What is a good body? What type of body deserves good things?  Do you spend time with your body? Have you explored why you have such a negative association with fatness?

Internalised fatphobia manifests in different ways, in not seeing yourself as worthy – which is what you are talking about. It shows itself in seeing yourself as the good fattie because you work out, watch what you eat “unlike other fat people” and also in seeing yourself as better because you aren’t “that fat” – example being those who are size 18 seeing themselves as better than those who are say size 28. All these indicate that there is still some unlearning and unpacking that needs to be done.

Matters relating to standards of beauty are fed to us, in my opinion, before gender roles. If your whole life you have been told that your body isn’t beautiful, is a mistake that needs to be corrected through diet, exercise, surgery etc, that you are not worthy, you are lazy, you are indisciplined. If your whole life has been a series of negative association, then you are bound to internalise this and hate yourself as you hate your body. There are days when I do not like how I look, years of being fed this does that to you, but I do not hate my body, I will not hate my body, myself, if I gain weight and I have no desire to be thin. I do not think my happiness is tied to thinness or in changing my body. That has taken years of work and I think you need to work on it.

Regarding your question, some key aids that I have found to be useful are following body positive and fat acceptance people either on twitter (Simone Mariposa for one) or watching their videos, reading articles – for example those by Your Fat Friend , spending time with your body – understanding it, listening to it, touching it. Finding another coping mechanism for when you feel sad outside of binge eating can also help, something that gives you comfort. I might not be the one to help with this one since my thoughts on what “healthy relationship with food” means, what message it sends, might be seen as radical. Perhaps speaking to a counselor can be of assistance.

Finally, sometimes we think that finding someone who will love us must mean that we are worthy to be loved, no matter how they treat us.  I think seeking a relationship when you have not yet learned to love yourself or when you think you do not deserve happiness or when you carry feelings of not being wanted MAY attract people who will take advantage of how you feel. What needs to be the focus is loving yourself which in turn leads to seeking out healthy relationships.

All bodies are beautiful. All bodies are worthy. All bodies are good. This isn’t an empty platitude. It is a fact that you have to accept and begin the journey to loving your body.

All the best,

Ciiku

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