Ah, weight. That thorny issue. I almost didn’t write for this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt because despite my blog being about body positivity, I couldn’t really think of anything to say about my own weight that didn’t make me sound smug or like an annoying motivational speaker. But actually, I do have something to say about weight. Weight isn’t fat. Fat is fat. Weight is weight and whether you’re slight and androgynous or bountifully buxom you have a weight. And you know what? I kind of think those of us whose weight tips the upper end of the scales have a louder voice in the body positivity conversation and it’s not something I am that comfortable with.
I completely understand why this is and why our right to own and celebrate our beauty and sexiness, whatever our shape or weight, should not be taken away. And I am in no way questioning the damaging impact promoted ‘ideals’ of beauty that are pedalled by the fashion and beauty industry have on our self-esteem. I just think that in celebrating our big beauty we should be careful not to silence the voices of lighter women who have as much right to form a healthy relationship with their body as we do.
Last summer I had a conversation about this blog with a friend of a friend who is tiny in height and weight. Tears prickled in my eyes when she recounted stories of being dubbed a ‘concentrate camp victim’ at school and how now, as a Mum at the school gates, she feels excluded and judged by women talking about post-baby bodies. Of course a slim woman has as much right to talk about changes in her body as a result of motherhood as one who is trying to shift a few pounds, but do we ever really think about that? Do we think to involve slimmer women in conversations about weight or consider how they may also need a morale boost? That chat was a wakeup call for me about the dangers of believing that because someone is slim they must be happy with their body.
And when we assume the primary reason a woman is loved is because she is slim we reduce her relationship with her partner to being about her body. We ignore her intelligence, her kindness, her spirit, that she might inspire her partner to be a better person, that they make an awesome team that’s greater than the sum of their parts. I am pretty sure nobody has ever once looked at me and thought ‘I bet he loves hanging out with her because of that big squishy belly’ so why do people so often think a partnership where a woman is slim must be built on the foundation of her body? Of course our relationships need a big dose of mutual ‘wow, you’re hot, I want to fuck you’ but the fact that most of us find a whole range of physical types attractive means chemistry and good partnerships are quite clearly about so much more than the body.
Slimness, also, does not equal healthiness. I sometimes quip ‘I’m fat but fit’ in reference to my ability to happily and slowly plod around 26 miles despite my belly being a homage to the awesomeness of cheese and wine. Jokes aside, I am confident about my fitness levels; I have no question in my mind that I am significantly healthier than an old flatmate who is markedly slimmer than me, yet smokes, frequently goes without meals and barely exercises. A slim but sedentary body will never be as healthy as a big one that moves.
Related to this is the bullshit notion that women exercise primarily as a way to lose weight. I am not saying it isn’t a massive motivator for some. Of course it is and that’s fine. I am currently engaged in a ridiculous programme of high intensity interval training as a way to quickly shift the results of two months of post-marathon partying. I’m cool with this. It’s problem and solution exercising. The exercise that enriches me and makes me feel mentally lighter is the running, the long walks, the quiet weekday swims in an almost empty pool. That exercise is about the whole of me, not my waistline. A slim woman expressing disappointment at not having time for a run or a gym session will often hear ‘oh, don’t worry – you don’t need to exercise’. It is meant to be encouraging but it means her exercise becomes about her weight and not about the headspace it gives her or the endorphin rush she gets or how it improves her energy or reduces stress.
I don’t think anyone who is likely to be reading this blog has ever intentionally made a slim person feel bad. It’s not how this lovely community plays! But I bet many of us have unintentionally said or thought something that assumes a slim person automatically feels good about themselves just because they are slim. One of the things I think is most telling is the relative lack of posts and photographs we see that explore slim issues. I had a conversation with another friend last summer and she mentioned how as a slim woman it’s hard to have a real voice in the body positivity space for fear of being judged. I said then I wanted to explore this with Exposing 40 and I mentioned it again in my Christmas post. But here we are in July and I have done nothing more! So, feel free to hold me to account on this! Let’s widen the conversation. If you have something to add I would love to share your thoughts and photos here. I have written this largely from a woman’s perspective but as ever I am always interested to hear from anyone with anything to say.