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!!)

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31 things I love

We’re halfway through January already, how mad is that?!

The Body Love Conference is running a challenge this year called the Body Love Challenge 2016 (‪#‎BodyLoveChallenge2016‬) and, as I’m still fairly new to all this, I jumped right in!

They’re kicking off with “31 Things I Love About My Body”- one thing for every day in January. As we’re now past the halfway point, I figured I’d do a round up.

Day 1: My body ran today, up a hill in Kelvingrove Park that I have never managed to run up before

Day 2: Even when I hated every other part of me, I loved my eyes.
They’re pretty, they only need glasses on rare occasions, and they let me see everything around me. You go, eyes.

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Day 3: My fingernails!  I didn’t realise ‘good’ fingernails were a thing, but since I stopped biting them years ago I’ve had loads of compliments. I love that I can decorate them, they help me pick stickers off stuff and get into little cracks to open things, plus my hands would look pretty darn weird without them.

Day 4: My shape. I love curves, and I have plenty to go around! I wouldn’t change my pear-shape for anything.

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Day 5: Today I love my skin.
I love the colour of it (no, we don’t have any Spanish/Italian/Greek/Indian ancestors that we know of), I love that it keeps the outside out and my insides in, that it’s not sensitive or allergic to anything I have come across so far, and that I can doodle and paint on it whenever I want.

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Henna patterns with face paint

Day 6: I love my hands, for the millionty different things they can do.
Like typing this, holding weights so I can lift them, baking, writing my blog, crocheting, card-making, washing, trying to control my hair, painting my face, wrapping gifts, handing those gifts to people I love, turning book pages. The list is endless!
I’m also a super tactile person, and I love being able to use my hands to ‘see’ how things feel.

Day 7: After years of hating, fighting, crying, and wishing it away, now I can honestly say I love my bum.
Sure it knocks things off low tables sometimes, but that’s a small price to pay for so much fabulousness! It’s mine, it’s curvy, and I love it.
Everybody now – my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…

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Day 8: My hair is really rather shiny, I love the colour (although I wouldn’t say no if someone found a way to dye it blue without making it look like straw), and it will sometimes do as it’s told when I style it!
Short or long, it looks pretty good.

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Day 9: I can’t even express how much I love singing. If I were only allowed to keep one hobby, I wouldn’t even have to think about it – singing always wins.
I love that my body can produce these sounds (usually in tune!) and that no matter how I feel, singing can enhance it.

Day 10: I love my muscles. It makes me feel super strong to see them popping up when I move, and working on them is so much fun.
Plus I get to be contrary when someone says women shouldn’t be muscly!

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Day 11: I love the random freckles I have all over my body, even on my little finger. I specially love the one on my nose. It’s like a marker, ‘boop here’.

Day 12: Today I love my heart. My physical heart (obviously), which has so far managed to keep me alive for nearly 28 years.

But also the part of me that cries when someone is upset, that finds joy in helping and sharing, that can still be disappointed by the world when bad things happen, because I still believe in its goodness.

I have a big heart, it’s right out there on my sleeve, and I’m not ashamed of it.

Day 13: Since being given the label ‘chronic kidney disease’, I’ve had a messy, angry relationship with my kidneys. It felt like my own body was betraying me, and letting me down in the worst way.

But it’s not their fault nobody had apparently heard of reflux when I was little. If that had been treated they could have bounced right back, and even now they’re damaged, they still try their best.

I wouldn’t last very long without them, and so I choose to be grateful that they haven’t failed completely.

I love my kidneys – scars, stone, and all.

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Day 14: I love my imagination. It comes up with pictures, patterns and ideas pretty much constantly. It makes for a noisy head and some weird dreams, but it’s also the root of all my creativity.

Day 15: I love my legs. Awesome shape, they can walk for miiiiiles, and squat like a boss.

And Day 16: My memory is pretty amazing.

Sure, I once made it all the way to work before remembering I needed my pass to get in, and I’m frequently greeted by people who know me when I have absolutely no idea who they are.
But I can tell you what songs we learned the first time I ever went to Voicebeat two years ago, I can even tell you what order we did them in, and I sang all 18 songs in our summer concert without any lyrics in front of me.
There’s a poem I learned in high school that I can still recite, and another from my Masters.
I remember the first time I spoke to my first boyfriend, which was at least 10 years ago, perfectly.
I may forget little things, but my memory keeps the important things, the beautiful things, the life-changing things, and holds onto them for good.

Stripes

Limit #16: fat girls shouldn’t wear stripes.

This limit never really bothered me before, because I don’t like stripes. Horizontal, vertival, thick, thin; doesn’t matter. I do not like them.

But then I was out shopping, and I spotted this:

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It’s totally stripey. About as stripey as they come. And yet, I instantly wanted it.

After years of being told fat people shouldn’t wear stripes I was sure it would look awful. But being stubborn and contrary as I am, I picked it up and tried it on anyway.

Result.SAM_3428

The reaction wasn’t even “well it’s nice, but see how it makes your hips/bum/chest/arms/other random body part look. Ugh.” – I tried it on, looked myself up and down, and thought “heck, yes!”.  Then I bought it.

Now I don’t really want to take it off.

I'm eating ice cream, in case you're wondering.
I’m eating ice cream, in case you’re wondering.

 

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Wet hair. Don’t care.

I think you’ll find I can wear stripes. I’m actually finding it quite difficult to stop!

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.

Excuses, excuses

So this little nugget has started making the rounds again

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and somebody asked me to give my response to it. Check me out, I do requests now!

Here follows my response:

 

I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. What’s my excuse for what?

For not having three children under 5?  Well I’m a bit too busy with Voicebeat and Salsa4Water and Madrigirls and Shapenote and spontaneously staying out til 3 o’clock on a Saturday morning and all the creative hobbies I’ve picked up and running and kettlebells and…you get the point.

Plus I’ve not found anyone worth reproducing yet.

For not being a fitness professional? My brain runs naturally toward admin. I don’t take admin jobs just because they’re all I can get; I enjoy this stuff. Shuffling a bunch of random information into a coherent report, or slotting the final piece of paperwork into a personnel file so it’s ready for audit is really satisfying to me.

There’s also the fact that I’m an introvert. Just the thought of my entire job consisting of one-on-one sessions with people I don’t know very well or standing in front of a whole class of people, is exhausting.

Or are you actually, seriously asking what’s my excuse for not looking like you?

Really?

Let’s start with the fact that we don’t have the same parents. Or grandparents. Or any familial link whatsoever. My genes are not your genes, your body is not my body, we process and distribute fat in different ways, we have different metabolisms and gut bacteria, and muscles. Basically, we’re different people.

You do understand that different people are…different? Right? You don’t actually think the shelf of identically-shaped Barbie dolls is a realistic goal for society, do you?

Has it even occurred to you that maybe some people don’t need an excuse because they wouldn’t want to look like you?

Yeah you fit the shape that the media tells us everyone must fit into (even though only about 5% of people can achieve it) but, honestly, I like my shape better. You’re kinda straight up and down, and I like curves.

But even if none of this were true; if there actually were a ‘healthy size’ or a ‘correct shape’ for people to be; if it were physically possible for everyone to become exactly the same size and shape as you if they just tried hard enough, do you really think shame is the way to get people to do that?

People have been fat-shaming at least as long as I have been alive. That’s 27 years – more than enough time for everyone to ‘move more and eat less’ their way into your body shape. But there are still fat people in the world (hi there!) and not everybody looks like you. It’s time to consider the possibility that fat-shaming is no use as a weight loss tool.

And why would it be? Why on earth would we spend time and money looking after something we hate? There’s a botanical analogy I quite like:

If a flower is a weed, you kill it.

If you like a flower, you pick it.

If you love a flower, you nurture it.

When you fat shame me (and yes, that photo is fat-shaming), you’re trying to tell me that my body is a weed. It doesn’t matter that you believe this weed can be transformed into a lovely flower; you’re telling me that my body, as it is right now, is bad.

That’s reeeeeally not going to make me take care of it. At all. I’m actually more likely to go eat a double cheeseburger with fries because my weed-body doesn’t deserve good food, while telling myself repeatedly what a sack of wasted oxygen I am. Yah, that’ll get me losing weight in no time.

Thankfully, I no longer derive my self-confidence from my outward appearance. You can try to fat shame me but I am just not listening.

But, for the sake of people still stuck in the trap of the diet industry, please stop. They are amazing, beautiful people just as they are but because they believe people like you, they can’t see that. You’re destroying them.

What’s my excuse?

My excuse is I don’t care how you think I should look. My excuse is I don’t need to alter my body to fit your ideal, because it’s perfect just the way it is. My excuse is I don’t need an excuse.

If you want to do whatever it takes to look the way you do then fine, do you.

But don’t you dare try to manipulate me and steal my happiness by making me feel like my body is made of excuses. Like the one and only reason I look the way I do is because I’m too busy ‘making excuses’ to take care of my body.

There’s enough rubbish in the world without people sticking narrow-minded bullying like that up on the internet. It’s time to stop it.

A really good question

“Basically, I take everything I’ve ever been told I can’t or shouldn’t do, and do it anyway.”

Lately I feel like I’ve been explaining my blog to people a lot.  The first few times I stumbled through some wittering rubbish that probably put them right off. Because words out loud are difficult.

But then I polished it up a bit to get the sentence at the start of this post. I think it sums it up pretty well.

People’s responses have ranged from “cool!” to “um…okay.” to “What, even ‘don’t put a knife in a plug socket’?”. But last week I got a really interesting and thought-provoking response:

“Have you ever regretted the things you’ve done?”

Well. If we’re talking about life in general then heck yes. Regrets ahoy over here. Like you wouldn’t believe.

But do I regret anything I’ve done for this blog?

Not even a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, there have definitely been some uncomfortable moments (did someone say crop top?) along the way. But that’s actually good; being uncomfortable forces me to grow.

There were some things I was absolutely certain I would regret. But didn’t. In fact I really enjoyed them, learned some stuff about myself, and figured out a way to help fix society. Result.

I don’t even regret the responses I’ve had from people. There have been rants. They’ve told me they found my posts intimidating.  There was one guy who greeted me by repeating the word ‘fatty’ over and over, getting more aggressive with each repetition, and ending by calling me a ‘f*ing stupid girl’.

I do not regret this. In fact, it makes me want to do even more. There’s nothing like an extreme reaction to reinforce that what you’re doing actually matters. The fact that someone would shout and swear at me simply for calling myself fat, proves that there’s a whoooooole lot of work to be done. I’m looking forward to helping with that work!

And that right there is the real reason I don’t regret any of this; it has completely changed me.

Even if the me I used to be ever said anything to invoke such a reaction, she would have taken the anger personally and run off to cry in a corner, vowing never to even think of that topic again.

But I never would have said anything. My confidence and self-worth were based so entirely on what other people thought of me, that I tried never to say or do anything that could possibly get a negative reaction.

Really, it’s no way to live. Hating my body and everything about it because it didn’t fit into the widely-held belief of what a ‘perfect body’ was, trying to feel better about it by waiting for other people to say nice things about it, or putting it down in the hope that they would argue and say how wonderful I was. But ultimately being disappointed because everyone else is too busy with their own issues to soothe me like a nazzy child. And even if they did say something nice back to me, somehow all I remembered was my nasty comments, not their lovely arguments.

Compare that to last night:

Walking home after choir, my hair had frizzed up in the rain and the wind kept blowing stray bits of it into my face. But instead of thinking “WHY WON’T YOU BE PERFECT, HAIR??” I thought how lovely and soft it felt against my skin.

I was wearing a dress that used to be too big for me. I didn’t beat myself up or call myself names for gaining so much weight; I know now that weight has absolutely nothing to do with my worth. Whether I’m a size 6, 16, or 26, I am glorious.

In that moment I felt like I was actually floating on a cloud of body positivity. I could have done absolutely anything.

I regret nothing, except the fact that it took me 27 years to realise just how fabulous I am.

The “Thin Woman Inside” Lie

“People are allowed to believe whatever they want about manipulating body size. People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, including attempting to manipulate their bodies to look a certain way for whatever reason they want. What’s not ok is anyone who suggests that the choice to try to lose weight, or any success someone might have makes those people or their bodies, better than people who make difference choices or get different results. What’s not ok is people who suggest that anyone who doesn’t pursue thinness is wrong, inferior, or “making excuses.”

What’s wrong is telling fat people that we should think of ourselves as thin people covered in fat, a before picture, a perpetual potential future thin person, anything but a fully realized authentic person. I’m not a thin person covered in fat, just like I’m not a blonde covered in brown, or straight-haired person covered in curls, or a green eyed person covered in hazel, or clinically under-tall – I’m a brunette, curly-haired, hazel-eyed, short, fat woman, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

A million times yes. Ragen nails it again.

Dances With Fat

You Forgot Your BullshitThis picture has been making the rounds on Facebook again (thanks Natasha for bringing it to my attention!)  It’s an extra-disturbing iteration of the idea that there is a thin person inside every fat person. In this case it used to advertise someone’s fitness/weight loss business with the quote “Your TRUE potential is hidden deep within. It takes a lot of hard work and diligence to sculpt a masterpiece. But once you unmask it, it will last forever…” There are a number of ways in which this is super disturbing (I’ve intentionally made the image small, you can click to enlarge it or just skip over it.)

Disturbing statue

First, any fitness professional who suggests that they can guarantee you a body of a certain size, or a body that looks a certain way is straight up lying to you.  Body size, type, musculature, and even athletic potential are all complicated things, multifaceted, and not entirely…

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You have got to stop.

When you tell me “No, you’re not fat.” maybe you think you’re paying me a compliment. Maybe you’re trying to make me feel better (in which case you can stop, because fat is not an insult), or in some weird way trying to make yourself feel better. Or maybe you’re just an egomaniac who is incapable of understanding that your opinion is not the only opinion. I don’t know.

What I do know is that you have got to stop. Whatever the reasons, no matter how many you have or how valid you think they are, you have got to stop.

Because this is what you’re actually saying to me when you say “No, you’re not fat.”:

“Your body is up for debate.”

I am not an ethical issue. I am not a political idea. I am not Marmite. There is no debate or argument to be had here. Dictatorship, remember? What I say, goes.

“I have more right to define your body than you do.”

In primary school we had to fill in a sheet describing ourselves physically. ‘My eyes are blue/brown/grey’ ‘I am short/tall’ and so on. When it came to hair colour, I said brown. When my teacher saw this, she said “no, no it’s not brown. It’s black.” and changed my sheet.

This memory has stuck with me for maybe 20 years because it’s the first time I remember being angry with a teacher, although at the time I couldn’t articulate exactly why. Now I get it – even then I knew that it’s wrong for somebody else to think they can define my body better than I can.

I got angry when my teacher tried to define me as black-haired, I got angry when a man tried to define me as a girl and then as a lady, and I get angry when people try to define me as skinny or thin or ‘normal’ or however they word it. The words don’t matter; the subtext is always saying they can define me and I cannot.

“I experience your reality better than you do.”

I live in my body. I experience my body. Only me. Nobody else can, does, or will ever see my body through my eyes and process that image with my brain. And my experience of it is of a fat body.

Of course that’s not the only way I see it. It’s a strong, flexible, rhythmic, tuneful, brave, brown-haired, stretch-marked, short(ish), creative, loving, hopeful, fat body.

If I wrote a post about how creative I am, nobody would dream of telling me “No, you’re not creative.” and I wouldn’t accept it if they did. I know I am creative because that is my experience of living in this body.

I don’t accept people telling me I’m not fat, I know I am because that is my experience of living in this body.

“Your experience of reality does not exist.”

Like I said, my reality comes from experiencing my body with my interpretation of it. When you say I’m wrong about being fat, you’re telling me that my reality is not actually real. In abuse terms this is called gaslighting. Please, stop abusing me.

“The way you define yourself is offensive to me”

Several people have got really worked up about me calling myself fat. I know what it’s like, I’ve been speechless with irritation before when someone smaller than me has repeatedly complained about being fat. Saying they’re fat must mean they think I’m enormous!!

It’s taken me many years to realise that saying they’re fat actually means they…are just saying they’re fat.

People are incredibly self-centred, if they are commenting on their own fat-ness it has nothing to do with you. They are either a) fishing for comments on their thinness (I am not this one) or b) actually experiencing their body as a fat body (this is me). Comparison to and comments on your body are so not the point.

I am not commenting on your size by defining mine. Why would I? Your body is your business, just as my body is mine.

Of course if you want to keep thinking “No, you’re not fat” then I can’t stop you. But do not say it, type it, write it, or text it to me. This is not up for debate and I am not taking any more comments on it. Just stop. Now.

What do you see?

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I’m not going to post a link to this video, it’s had far too much air time already, but you know the one I’m talking about.

Many, many people have responded to it, probably far better than I’m about to. But I have to post, because while watching the video I saw something I wasn’t expecting.

Obviously I see her fat shaming (you can’t say something doesn’t exist and then go on to do that thing for 5 solid minutes. Seriously.), her shallow judgement and bigotry, and the complete ignorance of scientific studies about fat as it relates to health. Standard.

But underneath all that is something less obvious. Something I’ve never noticed before because I’ve always been so focused on the vitriol.

I see the reason fat acceptance and body positivity are for everyone. I see how we have so demonised fatness that just being thin is not enough any more. I see people like her filling their lives with hate and spite and negativity and shame, because somehow that’s a better alternative to being associated in any way with fat.

I see fear.

And we’re all supposed to join in with this?

You’re telling me that I have to starve my body into eating itself smaller, kicking it along with strenuous exercise whether I like it or not, to force it into a shape it was never meant to be (only around 5% of the population naturally have that ‘ideal’ body type). Then when I finally get there I not only have to keep up the ridiculous effort to stay there, I also have to give out nastiness to anyone bigger than me?

Sorry (not sorry) but I’ve got better things to do with my life. Like being happy.

Which is why the fat acceptance movement is important for everyone, not just fat people.

Imagine a world where people can eat whatever they feel like eating, wear whatever they feel like wearing, do whatever they feel like doing, safe in the knowledge that nobody will tell them they can’t because of the way they look. Nobody would tell skinny people to just go and eat a cheeseburger, or fat people to just eat a salad. Fat people wouldn’t need to be afraid of videos being made about them, because skinny people wouldn’t feel the need to make them.

It’s not about ‘promoting obesity’ (I can’t get over how stupid an argument that is), it’s about destroying judgement and fear. And that is for every body.

7 lessons learned from getting my kit off

So life modeling.

The class last night was actually part training for noob models like me. The group was split in two and one half posed while the other half drew them, and then we swapped.

I learned many things during those 3 hours, some more surprising than others:

1.I still can’t draw for toffee.

This one is not a surprise at all. I did discover that my issue is focusing on specific details rather than seeing overall shapes. But what can I say? I’m a writer; detail is my thing.

I gave it a go anyway and it turns out drawing good poses seriously helps you to create good poses when your turn comes around.

Here is my feeble attempt:

I mean, you can tell it's supposed to be a human being. That's improvement
I mean, you can tell it’s supposed to be a human being. That’s improvement

I’m bizarrely proud of the left foot.

2. But some of the warm-up exercises were fun.

The first lot of poses were 2 minutes long. Obviously you can’t get a photographic copy in 2 minutes so we just had to sketch out the ‘energy and movement’ of the pose. Which is kinda fun.

This right here is actually my favourite picture of the night:

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And here’s one somebody did of me, which is a bajillion times better:

Anybody recognise setenta? Or the fact that it's me?
Anybody recognise setenta? Or the fact that it’s me?

3. It’s harder than you think.

“Just turn up and stand up.” someone said. “You’ll be fine, you just sit there.” said another. And I’ll be honest, I did think it would be fairly easy.

No. Really, really no.

I want you to raise your arm above your head. Go on. Is it up there? Right, now keep it there for 20 minutes.

Too much? Okay then, twist your upper body to the side. Any side will do and you only have to go far enough to feel your back muscles engaging. Done? Now you can’t move for 7 minutes. And doesn’t breathing seem kinda difficult now your diaphragm is twisted?

Just ignore the stitch/cramp/pins and needles when they turn up, and try not to shake too much.

4. The initial shock at disrobing never really went away.

Seriously, every single time we swapped over and I had to take the robe off, my mind went

“WE’RE NEKKID IN PUBLIC!!”.

5. But then I always got used to it.

After that initial shock I just got into the zone, and during the 20 minute pose I actually relaxed so much I almost fell asleep. That’s bad, by the way. All your interesting shapes relax out if you fall asleep. It’s apparently perfectly fine if various limbs fall asleep though, you just have to shake it out when you’re finished.

6. Everyone should do life drawing /modeling at least once in their life.

There are several parts to this.

Firstly, at the start of the evening I was terrified at the thought of all these people (including men!!) looking at me naked.  I’m female and apparently fairly attractive and also fat: I spend 99% of my outside life being looked at, appraised, judged, admired, wanted, dismissed, shouted at, chatted up, and catcalled because of my body and the way I look.

But in the class, even though I was more on show than I have ever been, nobody was looking at me that way.

I was turned into shapes and objects to be drawn, without being objectified. I was being seen rather than just looked at. I had at least 7 pairs of eyes on me but felt completely safe. Every woman should get chance to experience that (sadly rare) sensation. Every man too.

Secondly, some problems in the world come from over-sexualisation of people and parts of said people. Take breastfeeding in public for an example. “Sexy stuff in a restaurant?! Nobody wants to see that! Think of the children!!”.  But breasts are actually not sexual organs, they’re just another part of a body. Like feet.

There’s no point just telling people to stop shaming mothers who feed their babies in public; they will argue, and get angry, and threaten rape, and all kinds of horrible things. But if we could get people to see that women are not just sexual objects, they wouldn’t struggle with seeing breasts used as something other than sex toys, and the shaming wouldn’t happen.

I honestly believe a life drawing class is a perfect platform for making that happen. You expose people to a bunch of naked bodies with no sexual context whatsoever, and they can’t help seeing them as bodies of actual human beings. Like I said – seeing objects without making it into objectification.

If everyone did this at least once, and got used to seeing bodies in this way, I wonder how much better society would be.

7. Do the things that scare you most. You might find something you enjoy.

That small voice in the back of my mind that thought I might enjoy modeling? It was so right.

I enjoyed a solid 3 hours of safety and the absence of judgement.

I enjoyed learning how to hold my body in interesting poses.

I enjoyed trying something adventurous, even though my shoulder is still complaining about it today.

And I really enjoyed seeing the drawings people made of me. It’s so interesting to see myself through other eyes.

Also I appear to be kind of good at it. For the 20 minute pose, half of the class drew me. Including the teacher. She said my pose was really interesting, and I nearly burst.

Not sure what happened to my head.
Not sure what happened to my head.
The teacher's drawing.
The teacher’s drawing.
My favourite drawing of me.
My favourite drawing of me.

Limit #10 (again): fat people shouldn’t make art of themselves.

I think you’ll find we can and should.

And honestly….I probably will again!