Joni Edelman, photo credit Staci Sheets
The thing about being ok with being fat — or differing from the ideal in any way — is, it threatens people. It challenges deeply held beliefs about happiness and social paradigms.
My inbox is sort of like a bathroom in an all-night diner with free coffee refills, or a mall at Christmas. Which is to say, it’s busy, a constant influx of email. Sometimes email from people who want to degrade or demonize me, but mostly email from people who want to know the formula for accepting yourself, for happiness, for peace.
I said I was fat and happy. And then a lot of people emailed me saying, “Help.” A lot of people figured I am happy, and therefore I must have The Answer.
That desperation is real. I’ve felt it.
I don't have The Answer.
Regardless of how you look, as living beings there is an experience we all share: Pain. I used to have a considerable amount of pain, borne from my desire to look a particular way, to be a particular way. But even when I did look that way, the pain did not diminish. Even when I looked conventionally "beautiful," the pain persisted.
Eventually I decided that I was tired of that particular pain, tired of building my life around an ideal that was taking every ounce of my energy to attain. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. Eventually that pain diminished. I learned to love myself, for the things I am, and those I am not. I found peace — even joy — in the body I have now, in the person I am now. And I’m ok.
This is my guide. This is the only Answer I have. I hope it helps you as it did me.
1. It’s ok to be happy.
How much time and energy could you save by loving yourself as you are, right now? A lot. You can do a lot with that time. It’s ok to be at peace with your being.
2. People around you want you to feel like shit.
The thing about being ok with being fat — or differing from the ideal in any way — is, it threatens people. It challenges deeply held beliefs about happiness and social paradigms. People may call you stupid and ugly and disgusting. They may be mean, but what they mostly are is in pain. It’s ok to be compassionate. It’s ok to ignore them. It’s ok to tell them to get lost.
3. Your relationship with food doesn't have to be disordered.
You may have eaten pain away. You may have starved pain away. You don’t have to. It’s ok to like food and appreciate that it keeps you moving and healthy. It’s ok if it is pleasurable. It’s ok if you don’t count it or measure it. It's ok if you don't keep track of it at all.
4. The media is a lie.
If it seems like there is an ulterior motive to what you’re being spoon fed, there probably is. If you see a commercial that asserts you will be happier if you are six dress sizes smaller, it’s really just a commercial telling you that you will be poorer. The world is driven by capitalism. It’s ok to question everything. It’s ok to recognize it as a lie.
5. Thin does not automatically equal happy.
It’s ok to be happy. Now.
6. Fat does not automatically equal sad.
7. On beauty
Physical beauty is A. Subjective and B. Fleeting. You don’t owe anyone beautiful. You don’t have to be thin or "pretty" or anything to occupy space in the universe. You are deserving of love and happiness, simply because you exist. It’s ok to not be “beautiful.”
8. Your physical appearance doesn’t have to factor into your happiness. At all.
It’s ok if the two aren’t at all causally related, or even correlated a little. They are independent variables. It’s ok if you don’t care even a little about your physical appearance.
9. Your body is impermanent.
When you feel particularly distressed about your body — weight, saggy whatevers, wrinkly bits — remember that the clock ticks on. There is nothing we can do about aging. Any attempt to stop it is futile. It’s ok to accept that your body isn’t going to last forever. It’s ok to be liberated by that truth.
10. Your appearance is only a small part of your recipe.
Let's talk about cake. Baking soda is a leavening agent that is important to the overall deliciousness of cake. Without baking soda, cake would still be cake, but not as delicious. Conversely, baking soda is also only a very small part of the cake, a teaspoon or two at most. If you were to eat baking soda alone, you would find it tastes awful. But it is necessary to the cake. All of the ingredients that are part of your recipe, are you. It’s ok to to be made up of lots of ingredients. Even fat.
11. Spending a lot of time fretting about your body is a waste of time.
My body works. I walk and talk. I breathe and hear. My heart is pumping, without prompting, even as I type this. My body doesn’t punish me, even when I have punished it. I have starved it. I have ran until I broke it. I have deprived it of sleep and of joy. All in the name of presumed happiness. My body is happiest when I just let it do its homeostatic thing. Spending too much energy thinking about how it’s bad, or wrong, or how it could be better, doesn’t help. It’s ok to just say, “Thanks body for doing all the stuff.” It’s ok to love it for simply keeping you alive.
12. Live for now, not when.
When I am thin. When I have a six pack. When I can run 5 miles without stopping. When. When what? Stop bargaining. Dress for your body. Now. Take care of yourself. Now. Love yourself. Now. When you limit yourself to "when," you are limiting your happiness, you are limiting your life. Live for now. It’s ok to live for now.
In love and cake, The Happy Fat Lady.