Please do not feed the diet monster

It’s only been two years since I started trying to break out of the whole mainstream fatphobic diet mentality thing, and I already have far, far more good days than bad. I learned to love my body and my self no matter what size or shape, I can recognise damaging talk when I hear it, I will never go on another diet as long as I live.

But earlier this week I made a mistake. I had a meeting after work, and traffic was bad so I only had a few minutes at home to change out of my work clothes. I threw on some jeans and a hoodie and ran out the door.

Fifteen minutes later, when I knew I would make the meeting on time and had calmed down enough to notice, I realised that my jeans didn’t fit. At all. What should have been boot cut was now super skinny, I couldn’t bend my knees fully, and even when I was standing the waistband dug into my stomach.

I was stuck in those jeans for 5 hours. Aside from the physical discomfort, I noticed some thoughts sneaking in as the night went on. Thoughts like

This is just because of the injury. Once I start exercising again I’ll get smaller.

If I use my kettlebells, that’ll have an effect faster.

These used to fit me, how did I let myself get so much bigger?

And hundreds of variations on that theme.

I had forgotten how ingrained fatphobia was. Here I was thinking I had beaten it, but less than an hour in some tight trousers was enough to push me a huge step backwards and get me planning and plotting to make myself smaller.

What’s even worse is that the effect didn’t go away when I took the jeans off. It’s days later now and I’ve got my first salsa class since before my injury; I know I’m bigger than last time most of the salsa scene saw me, and I’m afraid of what they will think of me. There’s a small part of me that is actually seriously considering not going.

All this because of ONE PAIR OF FREAKING JEANS!

Of course I’m going to salsa. That nasty voice in my head is still trying to stop me, but I’ve had two years practice at throwing my shoulders back, lifting my chin and doing it anyway. And then the second I have enough free time, I’m going through every item of clothing I own and getting rid of anything and everything that doesn’t fit me. If I then need to go and buy bigger clothes, so be it. Clothing sizes are just numbers and not one of them is better than another.

My body is perfectly fine exactly as it is. My body (and my mind) deserves clothes that fit well and that make me feel fabulous, not like a sausage about to burst its skin.

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The Militant Baker may be a mind-reader

Actual Size

 So I’ve gained weight. So what?

I came across this article by Jes Baker and, as happens so often when I read her writing, I had a lightbulb moment.

Ohhh that’s what I’ve been feeling!

See, I’ve also gained weight over the last year as my body figures out where it wants to be without me messing with it. I’ve no idea how much because I don’t weigh myself anymore, but I can tell by the fit (or rather not-fit) of my clothes.

I thought I was fine, as my reaction to this has been to alter the clothes or just buy new ones that do fit me, rather than having a hate-fest about how terrible my body is. I have not felt the urge to diet/restrict/make a ‘lifestyle change’/double my exercise in order to force my body into eating itself smaller and messing up my metabolism even more. I know full well that my worth has nothing to do with my size.

But there was this niggling little undercurrent that I didn’t even notice, until I read this:

I had just become comfortable with my body (thanks to an arduous amount of body love work over the years) — now, that body shape I learned to love was no more. Now I needed to re-learn how to love my body with all its new features.

Goddamnit, Life.

IT WAS HARD ENOUGH THE FIRST TIME. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.

Yes. That.

I had learned to love the shape of my arms, but now they’re not that shape or size any more. I loved my muscly legs, but now the muscle is beneath a bit more fat. I loved my pear shape, but I fill in from the middle so now I’m a little closer to straight up and down. Basically I learned to love a particular way of having a body, which is now gone, possibly forever, and I have to start all over again. Geezo. I need to sit down a minute.

Thankfully, Jes didn’t just hit me with that and then walk away from the rubble. She figured some stuff out and I’m super glad she shared it because I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get there for myself.

“My body is going to keep changing for the rest of my life. If it’s not weight gain, it will be aging. If not aging, it could be an illness. If not an illness, it could be any number of things that will cause inevitable change, which will require me to to learn to love the change.”

First of all, I’m accepting that my body is definitely going to change, because I’m a living thing and that’s what we do. Of course I knew that, but I didn’t know know it. If you know what I mean.

“Change is nothing if not constant, and this is where body acceptance comes in. It’s taken me a while to learn that body acceptance isn’t necessarily just about learning to love your body right now — though this is a great first step! It extends far beyond that, and also includes deconstructing the actual reasons behind body hatred: learning why we’ve decided that we’re not OK in general.”

I’d taken that first step, which is a great start, go me! But now it’s time to take the next step and move on. Yes, I can love my body right now, but right now will never ever happen again. I have to learn to love it now, tomorrow, next week/month/year/decade, as it is, as it will be, as it ever could be. I have to figure out why loving it needs so much effort in the first place.

It was hard enough the first time. I don’t want to have to do this again. But I’m going to.

The alternative is sliding back into being miserable with everything because my body doesn’t look the way I think it ‘should’, hating the one thing I can never get away from as long as I live, and putting limits back on my life because of the way I look.

I’ve been there, it sucks, and I’m never going back again.

Let the hard work begin.

 

Go check out themilitantbaker.com (I want a unicorn dress!!)

I think you’ll find he can, too

Today is an exciting day, a day of firsts for my blog.

It’s not only my first ever official guest post; it’s written by a man! OOooOOooh exciting!

So make sure you’re sitting comfortably, and I’ll let him begin.

Guest limit #1: Boys can’t wear dresses.

A couple of weeks ago an acquaintance of mine was describing a dress they had their eye on. “It’s dead good, ‘cause, like, you can wear it to go out in, or to go to work in. Well, obviously you can’t. You’re a boy.”

My immediate thought was “oh can’t I?” (I’m not entirely sure why: maybe I’m just contrary like that) but as the day went on I got more and more annoyed at the exchange.

Imagine if the script was reversed. If the person had said “You can’t do x, y, z; you’re a girl” they’d be in so much trouble. But I’m a guy, so that’s just fine apparently.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago: It’s Christmas eve and head office has sent down a memo saying everyone in our local office is allowed to wear our finest festive dresses for the day. I’m pretty sure they were trying to be clever, but ended up making a typo. Still, head office must be obeyed, so I swore I’d follow orders and show up in my finest dress.

The dress was “Noelle” by Hell Bunny with a white t-shirt underneath to deal with the scandalously low neckline. It wasn’t a drag act; I didn’t shave my arms and legs, I didn’t wear make-up or a wig, nothing of the sort. I was simply myself, but in a dress.

Hell bunny noelle

I was worried. The people I work with are not the most mature people at the best of times and given that I’m ‘the weird one’ anyway I had a feeling it would end badly. Still, I looked at myself in the mirror and said “Damn, you look good” before walking into the lounge like nothing was different.

The reaction around the office was…varied, we’ll say. Some of the younger women said I looked very pretty, just not as pretty as they would look in the same dress.

Some of the guys thought it was hilarious. One colleague made a point of saying, quite loudly, “Look at him, he even walks gay.” Because wearing a particular kind of clothing means you’re gay, you know. My girlfriend will be heartbroken.

But I digress. The response was mostly positive.

And now it’s boxing day! The office is surprisingly normal. I’m not ‘that weirdo in a dress’ or ‘that pansy’ or any number of awful insults I imagined I would be. It’s almost like people don’t care what I wear at my desk (provided I rank at least two less than them on the scale of perceived hotness).

The trouble is, while my acquaintance couldn’t have known this, they were absolutely right. The official dress code says that female employees can wear anything they want, so long as it’s company colours, while the male employees have to wear a shirt and trousers. And no that isn’t sexist, for reasons entirely too obvious to explain. To anyone. Ever.

Still! I did something new (and hijacked this blog for 519 words), and all because someone said I couldn’t do something when I think you’ll find I can.

All change (or not)

Shop changing rooms. They’re tricksy little beasties, somehow highlighting every ‘flaw’ you have while making new clothes look amazing. I’ve always wondered how they do it. Sorcery, probably.

I would hate to count up the cumulative hours I’ve spent in those cubicles, cataloguing the parts of my body I hate most. What a horrible, sad waste of my life.

But since jumping feet-first into body positivity, I thought I had left that changing room self-hate behind me. I’ve completely turned some of my most hated parts into my favourites. I love my body now, so how much better would it be to see it in full, lit up, in shiny new clothes? Surely it would be fun!

Turns out, no.

I went in to try on the most beautiful dress in the world, and some other fairly nice dresses, and the inner snark started from the second I closed the door. It went for my socks, the size and shape of my feet, my thighs, my hips, my stomach, my arms, my overall size, my hair, my stretch marks, the clothes I was wearing that day, and the clothes I had taken in to try on.

Honestly, it nearly overwhelmed me at first. It’s been so long since I faced such a tirade from my inner Nasty Voice that I couldn’t remember how to defend myself. My eyes filled up, and I was on the brink of a major meltdown.

Then up popped the Body Pos voice I’ve been working on for months.

“Excuse me? You seriously think it’s okay to speak like that? Would you say that to your friends? Would you let your friends, or anyone for that matter, say those things to you?

No. No you wouldn’t. So what makes you think it’s okay to speak to yourself that way?”

*Nasty Voice mumbles something incoherent*

“You can shut up now. We have, in fact, noticed that we’ve become bigger recently; you don’t need to point it out. We also decided that size/weight/body fat percentage have no effect whatsoever on our inherent value and self-worth, remember that?

You know only 5% of the population can achieve that shape you’re comparing us against. You know we are not in that 5%, never have been, never will be, no matter what. And you know that doesn’t stop us being hella sexy and downright fabulous.”

At which point the Nasty Voice died a violent death and vanished, leaving me and Body Pos voice to live in peace forever more!

Except this is real life, and I’m only human.

I silenced the Nasty Voice long enough to not cry, and to try on the clothes I had picked up. But when I tried on the most beautiful dress in the world it pointed out that a size 12 would have fitted me 6 months ago. I tried another and it sniped at the way the material lay over my hips and bum. A third and it laughed at the sag in the chest area that I can never quite fill.

The difference this time was that the comments slid over the surface instead of cutting in deep. They flitted across my mind and then they were gone.

Then I tried on a jumper dress. It’s the kind of thing I would never normally go for, but I tried it on anyway and Body Pos voice said “Heck yes!”.

This is what progress looks like, I suppose. I am changing. I am kinder to myself now than I ever have been before. But when the simple act of walking into a changing room can cause a meltdown, I clearly still have a lot of work to do.

8, 10, 12

I was in New Look today, and across the store I spotted the most beautiful dress I have seen all year: skater style, black mesh with deep blue velvet roses, that shimmered in the light like an oil slick.

I had to have it.

I went through the rack and picked out the biggest size they had in stock, a 12, knowing it wouldn’t fit well but would give me an idea of whether I liked it.

Into the changing rooms, and I didn’t just like it. I completely loved it. But I was right; I needed a size 14. So I gave the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world  back and decided to order the right size online when I got chance.

Skip forward a few hours and I’m shouting at my laptop in disbelief.

They don’t make the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world in my size. In fact, they only make it in size 8, 10, and 12.

Three different sizes. When people exist from size 6 to 26 and beyond, New Look have decided to stock an item of clothing in only three different sizes. All of which are below the average female dress size in the UK (16, if you’re wondering).

So there’s £30 they’ve missed out on because I can’t buy that dress. Multiply that by the thousands and thousands of women who are also not size 8, 10, or 12 and there’s a bucketload of money they’ve lost.

It’s kind of frightening that fat-shaming is so pervasive that companies are willing to lose business by contributing to it.

But here’s the thing. Even after a mini-meltdown in the changing rooms (post about that coming up later), I’m not bursting into tears and hating my body for not fitting this dress.

I am raging that New Look dare to think my size-14 body isn’t worthy of it.

Their message is loud and clear: only small bodies deserve the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world.

So I’m going to send them a message back, telling them that I deserve every beautiful thing they sell, and so does every body. That fat-shaming is not even a little bit okay. That their dress, although it may be the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world, is contributing to fat-shaming. And that this kind of message needs to stop. Right now.

Cover yourself up, woman!

Limit #15: Women shouldn’t wear trousers.

Which leads to the first entry on my list entitled ‘Stuff I Can’t Believe I Actually Have To Say’:

  1. Of course women can wear trousers.

Women can wear whatever the hell we want. Trousers, skirts, shorts, dresses, onesies, dungarees, leggings, bikinis, wetsuits, g-strings and pasties. Whatever we want.

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I can wear what I want AND eat ice cream in Winter. Such a rebel.

While struggling to find some logic behind this limit (a lost cause if ever there was one) I came across the following theory:

In certain religions, women must cover their legs for modesty’s sake. So a long dress/skirt = good, and trousers = bad.

Ignoring the fact that there is nothing immodest about my body just because it’s female so I shouldn’t be forced to cover it up, this argument is totally logical. I mean, it’s not like the definition of trousers is an item of clothing that ENTIRELY COVERS YOUR LEGS.

Yep. This is the most revealing outfit I own.

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I couldn’t possibly show my face in such an immodest outfit.

Looking outside of religion, I really can’t see any ‘logic’ in the idea at all.

There’s the theory that women are less attractive in trousers so we should stop wearing them. Because everyone knows women only exist to embody the male idea of attractiveness, so any man who feels like looking at us will be pleased by what he sees.

But even if that were true, I’m really struggling to see how trousers v skirt have any effect whatsoever on my attractiveness. I’m either attractive to someone or not, why would that change according to what style of cloth I cover my body with? Unless I put the cloth over my face. But then I would still be attractive underneath it…

Oh wait, I get it. I’m only attractive if a male says so, and how can he say so if he can’t see properly? Heaven forbid he have to use his imagination.

In the past I’ve had men tell me they prefer ‘girly girls’ who wear skirts and dresses. And that’s the only definition they have ever been able to give me: skirts and dresses.

So covering the space from one leg to the other is automatically girly? I dare you to say that to a Scotsman wearing a kilt. I dare you.

I honestly don’t know what else to say about this. I find it incredible that I have to say anything.

Just stop being so ridiculous, of course women can wear trousers. Welcome to the 21st century…

Slightly more cropped (ish)

I’ve heard it’s good to do things that scare you. In which case, this blog is amazing.

Here is my ‘working on the crop top thing’ outfit:

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Obviously not office-appropriate so I changed into it straight after work and headed to salsa, with my long coat on over the top. Because I didn’t want anyone to see me.

This plan would have worked, had Glasgow not decided that day would be the one day of actual summer it gives us each year. I managed to keep the coat on for about 10 minutes, then went for not-heat-stroke and took it off.

I thought walking up the stairs in Boteco was scary, but that was nothing compared to walking down a busy Glasgow street. By the time I reached the traffic lights across the road from salsa, I was physically shaking.

We have created such an iron rule about fat girls not showing their stomach. I had to constantly, consciously focus on keeping my arms down at my sides to stop them pulling the top down and skirt up to cover the gap. When I crossed the road (which obviously took up my attention) I got to the other side and realised I had adjusted them without even noticing. Covering my stomach was an automatic action I did without thinking – that’s how ingrained it is.

I was still trembling when I went in to salsa but at least I went in. It took a lot to overpower the voice in my head screaming at me to run away and hide my massive body under a duvet forever. Gotta love that voice.

Anyway. It was exactly the same process as last time I tried a cropped(ish) top: even though I started off hideously uncomfortable, by the end of class it just felt normal to have my midriff on display. And what with it being a warm day, I was rather glad of the extra ventilation.

I knew I had reached a milestone when a friend joined us and said she liked my dress, at which point I lifted my arms up to show a bit more skin and said “it’s a crop top!”.

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Boteco was fantastic. I never realised before how much I usually try to hide my body, and suck in any parts I can in an attempt to look smaller. There’s really no way to hide when it’s all on display like that. But instead of crippling me with shame like I expected it to, the exposure actually made me feel much more free.

I wonder what other things would be more fun if I stopped obssessing over my body and just enjoyed them…

Wear the rainbow

Today I’m going to get contrary.

Please, try to contain your shock and surprise.

I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard the ‘rule’ about clothes; blue and green should never be seen.  Together, that is. You can wear blue, and you can wear green, but both together is sacrilege. Or something.

I was confused. I remained confused when asking why generated the following answers:

“Just because.”

“That’s just the rule.”

“Because they don’t go together.”

“They just don’t.”

None of those are actual, logic-based reasons. Which leads me to the conclusion that ‘blue and green should never be seen’ for the same reason that ‘fat people shouldn’t wear crop tops/leggings/animal print/glitter’ – because society isn’t happy unless it has a bunch of arbitrary rules to enforce.

Well nuts to you, society. I can, and will, wear blue and green together whenever I want.

See:

Possibly my favourite selfie ever.
Possibly my favourite selfie ever.

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I can even go for different shades of green and blue.SAM_3130

Sexy and I know it
Sexy and I know it

Although with the weather in Glasgow, this one is more likely:

Hoodie = warm
Hoodie = warm

I could go on. Turns out I have even more green and blue clothes than I thought.

But while we’re on the subject…

Pink AND red *gasp!*
Pink AND red *gasp!*

Seriously, nobody can tell me what colour(s) I can and can’t wear. Ever. I could even wear all of the colours if I want.

Um...
Um…

But I’m probably not going to.

Cropped (ish)

Limit #8: Fat people can’t wear crop tops.

For years I’ve had an incredible fear (I suppose it’s a phobia) of people seeing my stomach. I don’t know what I expected to happen if anyone ever did see it. Maybe they would explode out of sheer disgust.

But the real reason I have always kept it covered up comes from the part of my mind that has got self-deception down to a fine art. It believed that, as long as my tummy was covered up, nobody could actually know that I was fat. That bulge right there, that could be my clothes, it could be the way I’m sitting, I could have a cushion stuffed down there. You don’t know.

Having decided to accept the fact that I’m fat and it’s okay, even this bizarre logic isn’t a good enough excuse to keep hiding myself away. But this is a long-standing, deep-rooted, powerful phobia.  It will not go away overnight.

However, I am determined that it will eventually go away, so I’ve started working on it. With this top:

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Seems pretty innocent, right? Even standing up there’s nothing on show.

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But here’s the thing – I wore this top to salsa. I have never tried dancing salsa with my arms fixed down by my sides but I can imagine it wouldn’t work too well, and this is what happened when I raised my arms for a move.

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Vasilala con styling…ish

And there it is. Nobody’s exploded? Good. Then I’ll continue.

It may not look like much, especially considering most moves involve my arms being raised for a few seconds maximum, but walking up the stairs in Boteco wearing this was terrifying.

I will always remember the first dance in this top because the sensation of air on my midriff was so bizarre I could hardly follow my leader. It’s good practice to keep your free arm at waist height when dancing Cuban salsa, and I spent the whole dance resisting the urge to put it right across my waist to cover up.

But we made it through, still with no disgust-explosions, and I felt a little more relaxed. Then a few people said they liked my outfit, and you should never underestimate the power of a well-timed compliment. I started to think maybe I looked pretty good.

After the next (better) dance and another round of compliments, something fundamental shifted. I won’t say I was ready to run to Primark and clean them out of crop tops. Because that would make me a big snowman liar. But I could definitely see this becoming a regular part of my wardrobe, just another top like all the others.

So I haven’t exactly broken this limit, but I have laid some solid foundations and I know that one day I will.

Prepare for the gun show

Limit #2 Fat people can’t go sleeveless.

Not everything I ever post will be about clothes. Honest.

But today the sun has made a rare appearance and it’s (relatively) hot outside. So my arms are coming out to play.

Behold, my favourite dress!

Oh yes, sleeveless AND translucent.
Oh yes, sleeveless AND translucent.

It also looks amazing when I spin, but I think two spinny photos in the space of a few days is more than people really need.

So I used to buy into this no sleeveless rule wholeheartedly. If there was ever a time my arms weren’t bigger than I wanted, I can’t remember it. They’re covered in hair, when everyone knows women are supposed to be entirely bald below the eyebrows. And they hold my highest concentration of stretch marks.  “Nobody wants to see that, least of all me” is a phrase I have said out loud more times than I care to admit.

So how did I get to this:

Sexy and I know it.
Sexy and I know it.

Answer: the hard way, at first. I sucked it up and put on a sleeveless top, braced myself, and went out into the world. Shockingly, nobody exploded out of horror and disgust. So I did it again, and again, and again, until it just became normal and I hardly ever thought about it.

But I still hated my arms. Since seeing Bruce Almighty I have often spent time imagining what I would change about myself if I could suddenly do anything, and it always started with my arms.

That is, until I discovered strength training.  Did you know your arms can do stuff? Impressive stuff. Like push-ups and pull-ups, swinging kettlebells, moving dumbells, handstands, cartwheels, allofthestuff!  And the more I focused on what they could do, the less it seemed to matter how they looked.

Now they’re one of my favourite parts of me.

Of course there are bad days when nothing could possibly induce me to remove my hoodie and I go back to my daydreams. But they are few and getting farther between, far outweighed by the days I can’t stop checking out my guns.

The most beautiful blend of over-stretched skin and hard-earned muscles I will ever own.
The most beautiful blend of over-stretched skin and hard-earned muscles I will ever own.

Nobody wants to see that? Well fine, they can look the other way. More gun show for me!