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!!)

Advertisements

Easy peasy

“Well it’s easy for you to be confident when you look like that.”

I’ve heard variations of this sentence from several different people recently. Mostly from friends, so it’s probably meant as a compliment. But if you look closer there are some not so good things about it.

Firstly, I want to look at what these people didn’t actually say out loud. The unspoken second sentence, which sounds a little like “But what hope have I got?”.

Of course I used to do this. I used to hand out compliments like “your hair is so much better than mine” and “I wish I had your legs” all the time. Every possible variation of ‘you are worthy and I am not’.

I was so entrenched in society’s belief that I was not good enough, so afraid of being seen as cocky or arrogant, that I could even repurpose compliments as fuel for my own self-loathing. This is what we are trained to do, from so early an age that I didn’t even realise I was doing it.

Until I did.

And then I stopped. Because there are more than enough things in the world trying to tell me how unworthy I am; they really don’t need my help. Because there is nothing arrogant about not hating your own body. But mostly because what’s the point of making one person feel good just to bring another person down?

If you’re going to compliment me, thanks! We should absolutely build each other up every chance we get! But only if it builds you up as well, or at the very least doesn’t attack you. If I had to choose between a compliment that put somebody else down and no compliment at all, I would choose no compliment. Every time. You deserve so much better.

 

Secondly, the suggestion that body confidence is easy for anybody, especially women, in our culture is quite frankly ridiculous.

Billions and billions of pounds are spent on telling us that those with straight hair must want it to curl and the curly-haired must want it straight. Dark skin must want to be lighter, and lighter skin darker. Fat must strive to be thin, and thin must do everything in their power to stay that way. Every woman must aspire to walk that line, as thin as a razor blade, of being both slim and curvy. No matter what we do our bodies will never, never be enough.

All so that we will buy things. Products to control our hair, plastic surgery, diet books, gym membership, pills, weird vibrating belt things, ANYTHING that could possibly help us become what we are not. It’s a lucrative, well-honed business, and it’s everywhere.

So no, it was not easy to become this confident. It’s taken years and years of fighting the unceasing negative thoughts about myself, learning to walk away from harmful body image conversations, ignoring adverts telling me how I could be ‘better’, telling myself that I’m worthy and enough even when it seemed the least believable thing in the world.

I’ve worn tight or revealing clothes that I loved, while believing it would make people explode through sheer disgust. I’ve shouted that my body is beautiful while crying because I can’t stand the sight of it. I’ve spent hours smacking down snipey comments about my appearance, trying to ignore the voice in my head that whispers “they’re right”.

How dare you tell me it was easy.

In this society, just deciding to not hate your body (especially if it’s fat) is a radical, divisive, and difficult decision. But it is so entirely worth it.

I wish everyone could experience that amazing moment when I realised I am enough. I wish everyone could know how it feels to look in the mirror and not start listing the things they would change if only they could. To actually like what they see. To feel self-love, which is a love like nothing else I’ve ever felt.

It’s a long, hard process, but you could begin right now by deciding to pay positive-only compliments.

Replace “your hair is better than mine” with “I love your hair today”. Say “your legs are so toned” instead of “I wish I had your legs”.  See what a difference it makes just removing some negativity from your life.

Or you could jump straight to the master level and try to positive-only compliment people on anything other than their physical appearance. Because we are all so much more than just the way we look.

It’s not easy, but you won’t be disappointed. Give it a try : )

Speak For Yourself Oprah

Once again, better than I could ever say it.

Dances With Fat

WTF are you doingWhen Oprah first bought stock in Weight Watchers last year I blogged about it and said “while Oprah has every right to join Weight Watchers, be a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, buy stock in Weight Watchers, get “I Love Weight Watchers” tattooed on her ass or whatever, that doesn’t make long term weight loss any more likely, and it doesn’t make Weight Watchers any less of a scam.” I was going to leave it at that, until I heard her first commercial for WW.

It’s tricky criticizing Oprah because she has done truly amazing things, fighting racism, sexism, misogyny, and a crushing pressure to be thin to do it.  There are so many things about Oprah and her work that are incredibly admirable, but this Weight Watchers thing is a problem. First of all, her choice to promote Weight Watchers seems to mean one of two things:

Scenario 1:  After all her years of…

View original post 844 more words

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…

View original post 733 more words

Compare and contrast

Hands up who’s seen something like this on social media:

compare

The text reads “Malala Yousafzai & Kylie Jenner. Both turned 18 recently. One was given a Ferrari and spent thousands on facial modification. The other was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, survived a gun shot to the face by the Taliban due to corruption in her country, and opened a school for Syrian refugees to combat the lack of education for youth around the world.”

So many problems with this. Let’s go with holding up two people we know very little about to be judged on their worthiness. Because that’s what it’s saying: “Look at how amazing this one woman is, and what exactly is the other one for?”

Comparison is not fair in any case, but comparing Kylie to Malala is just mean.  I’ve had nearly a decade longer on the planet and I’ve not managed even a fraction of that impressive list of achievements. Pretty much everybody fails when compared to Malala Yousafzai.

Luckily for me, this is not high school; there are no grades for writing compare and contrast essays. There is no list of worthiness that ranks people according to what they have contributed to humanity.

Yes, the world would be better if everyone was so willing to help the helpless, but it’s not a requirement for being considered worthy as a person. I will never win a Nobel Peace Prize, but I am still enough.

You might not like Kylie Jenner’s actions or choices (because of course we judge her instead of questioning a society which places so much value on outward appearance that an 18-year-old would pay to change her face) but she is a human being, and therefore worthy of respect. She is enough.

I love Malala’s work because it’s spreading this idea that everyone is equally worthy. Everyone deserves the chance to be educated because they are all enough. And guess what? Even before all these wonderful things, she was also enough.

Everyone is amazing. Yes, everyone. It’s beyond time to realise that, to stop dragging certain people down in order to make others seem higher, and just appreciate every person for who they are.

Can we just stop with the comparisons already?

Onesie McSingleton

I have been single for… around 2 years, I think. I lose track.

During that time several people have suggested joining an internet dating site. Most of them have done so several times, despite the fact that I said no the first time, and continue to say no every time it’s brought up.

I’m assuming the thought behind it is kind. Every last person that mentioned it was in a relationship, some of which started through online dating: They have found something good and they care about me enough to want me to enjoy good things too.

But I still wish they would stop. Aside from the fact that I expect my “no” to be understood as “no” and not “try to persuade me” (in all circumstances), my life is already full of good things.

I have two different choirs, I have salsa, church, book club, farmers markets, vintage fairs, running, baking, crochet, weightlifting, reading, writing. I have a flatmate who is a really good match for me, I have friends, I have family, I have friends so close they may as well be family.  There is no boyfriend-shaped hole in my life that must be filled in order for me to be/feel complete. It’s already pretty darn complete!

Now I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice if a boyfriend did happen along and fit into my life (there must be space somewhere…), but I am saying that my time is precious and I’m not willing to spend it on a search for something I don’t need, or particularly want right now. Same goes for my money and energy.

But I forgive my friends for bringing it up. Like I said, it’s probably a weirdly caring thing.

What winds me up more is the general pressure from people who don’t know me very well. The ones perpetuating the outdated and quite frankly insulting idea that a woman is nothing without a partner. Thank you so much for that one, Disney.

Of course I used to believe that too. I was with a complete douchecanoe for over a year, when he shouldn’t even have made it past the first, terrible date. I stayed because being with someone rubbish who made me miserable was nowhere near as bad as the thought of being single.  I often think if time travel were invented in my lifetime I would go back there to give myself a wake-up slap.

And yet without that experience maybe I never would have learned how wrong that belief is. Since then I have realised that I am enough, and I’m completely whole just as I am.  Which has got to be better for the next man who does come along – he doesn’t have to be some hyper-supportive superman who I need to fix me, he can just be himself (as long as he’s not another douchecanoe) and be wanted rather than needed. It can be so tiring sometimes to be needed.

So please, stop with the online dating, don’t try to set me up with any of your lovely friends, and if anyone even thinks of mentioning my body clock I will go Nuts McGee.

You have been warned.

Om nom nom

Limit #9: fat people shouldn’t eat in public.

But if I don’t eat in public how can people judge what I’m eating? How can people shame me into realising the error of my ways so I can suddenly get skinny? I know society looooves a good bit of judging and shaming.

I am one of the lucky ones, in that nobody has ever straight-out told me not to eat in public. I know there are people out there who have been told in many and various unpleasant ways, and I wish I could hug them all.

But I have definitely been on dates and felt a sinking sensation when they suggested going for a meal after the movie. I have hidden in corners, booths, and bathrooms  to eat without being seen. I’ve even closed the blinds in my ground-floor flat before, just in case someone walked past and saw me putting food in my mouth. The horror.

I have never been told, but somehow I just know. Today I encountered a perfect illustration of how this came about:

This morning I was eating a slice of cake at my desk and my manager went “oh, Hannah.” in a terribly disappointed voice while looking pointedly at the cake. “What’s the occasion?”. Because I’m fat so I must be trying to squeeze my body into society’s one, tiny definition of an acceptable body, so there must be some ‘occasion’ to provide mitigating circumstances that allow cake eatage.

This afternoon my manager did an online shop, listing out loud the cakes, muffins and biscuits she would buy. Another skinny woman was leaning over her shoulder making suggestions for other cakes that she might like more.

I’m fat so cake=ALLOFTHEJUDGING. They are thin so cake=just another thing that people eat sometimes.

This happens all too often. I’ve sat down with food and had someone at the table ask sarcastically if I’ve got enough, or just yell “how much??”. I’ve been having my afternoon snack and had someone ask “are you still eating?”. I take my lunch from the microwave at work and someone invariably comments “ooh that looks healthy!”. It might be less insulting if they didn’t sound so surprised but I can’t tell, because they always do.

And even typing this I have to keep fighting the urge to justify myself.

I was eating cake because…

But I always have a healthy lunch…

I don’t just eat chocolate and crisps…

But I don’t need to justify myself. That would be me falling into the Good Fatty/Bad Fatty trap (which I first heard of on an AMAZING blog – Dances With Fat). My fatness is not made okay by the fact that I only eat cake sometimes, and that my lunch box is usually full of fresh homemade food. Because my fatness does not need to be made okay.

I am enough no matter what/when/how much/how often I eat.

So back to eating in public. Or anywhere for that matter. Nobody ever has any right to tell me where I can or can’t eat, ever. Y’know unless I decide to have a picnic using the shroud of Turin for a blanket. Then go ahead.

I eat wherever the heck and whenever the heck I want, and if people want to comment on it they can expect me (since starting this blog) to answer back.

When my manager asked what the occasion was for cake, I said “I don’t need an occasion, I can eat cake whenever I want.”, and felt very proud because just a few months ago her comment would have had me crying in the bathroom and the cake in the bin.

Last month when someone shouted, “how much??” I asked what made them think my food was up for discussion. They had no answer, and left me alone to eat in peace.

This is the dinner club:

dinner club

We eat in public every Wednesday after salsa class. I’ll admit the first few times I went I felt hideously self-conscious and assumed all those skinny people were judging my burger and sweet potato fries. Yes, I still remember what I ate – those fries were GORGEOUS.

But now I don’t even think about it. That one time I ordered a starter as well as my usual main, and someone asked if I was pregnant, I just gave them the look and then carried on eating the amazing food.

I eat ice cream in public:

NZ

I also eat fro-yo in public, which might be my new favourite thing.

yog

I refuse to ever be shamed by eating anything in a public place again. I have as much right as anyone else to exist and to eat, and to be happy and unharassed while doing so.

Enough.

It’s taken me a few days to put this into the right words. I’m still not entirely satisfied but I just want to get it out there. So here goes.

I started working on my self-confidence a couple of years ago. And by ‘working on’ I mean ‘building up from scratch’.

I spent 5-10 minutes every day telling myself that my toes are beautiful. My feet are beautiful. My heels are beautiful. My ankles are beautiful. My calves are beautiful. My shins are beautiful, etc all the way up to my head. You can see why it took me up to 10 minutes.

For the first month I felt completely ridiculous. Beautiful shins aren’t a thing, and even if they were then mine would not fit into that category. But I kept doing it anyway.

In the second month I started actually believing some of the things I was saying. I kinda do have pretty white nails, I love the shape of my eyes, my hair is really shiny.

I eventually got to the stage of knowing that every word I said was true, and I only repeated them every day to make sure I never forgot. If I bumped into the me of two years ago she probably wouldn’t recognise me, because this level of self-love seemed impossible to her.

This was huge progress for me. However, after all my blog-hopping recently I realise that something is missing. Of course it’s healthy to not hate the way I look, and of course it feels good to feel beautiful.

But I am so, SO much more than my appearance.

I am a good, if somewhat disorganised, friend. (I was only 10 months late with that birthday present…)

I am a pretty good salsa dancer.

I am a very good singer.

I am a grade 6 flautist.

I am a brilliant Administrator. Because I am an automatic alphabetiser (that’s how my mind rolls).

I can bake, crochet, sew, and all manner of other creative things.

I am far stronger than people think. In every way. As my mum once told me, I am steel.

So I’m a fairly well-rounded human being. Great. But the other day a thought occurred that takes this one step further: Even if none of those statements were true, I would still be enough.

I would still be enough.

Of course I would like to do something great and make my mark on the world. But I don’t have to. I don’t need to list my achievements or somehow justify my existence. I don’t need an excuse for being.

I am, therefore I am worthy. I am enough.