Keeping up with the Joneses

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This is the “Witness” Team (from left to right Karishma, Grete, me, Tess, Bea and Abinaya right after completing a benefit walk/run held on the Newcastle Town Moor a couple of years ago), brought together by someone who I have mentioned previously in this blog as one of those people who seems like they’ll be a great friend, until you actually know them.

She’s not pictured because she was taking the picture.

The reason why I post this is because I found myself having a very nice exchange today with a woman who I privately messaged on FB because I could not directly reply to a message that she wrote on one of the pages we both follow. Basically, I wanted to tell her “exactly, what you said!” because she and I are the rare voices in this crazy “body liberation” movement: We are both over weight and both want to lose weight… not because we are caving to the pressures of society, but because we both recognize that the weight we are currently at is not allowing us to live our in the way we want to live them.

The crazy thing is that one of the first things she mentioned is that she wants to be able to “keep up with others.”

Woh, have I been there and done that! I knew exactly what she meant because that is one of the main motivators I have for getting into better shape! But, strangely enough, the last time I had a real problem with that was in Newcastle, even though I was about 100 pounds lighter than I am right now. Mostly because the humidity in England plays merry hell with my asthma.

I tried not to complain too much then because I knew that the reason why my asthma had gotten so bad was because I had stopped doing the sort of daily exercises that helped me go into a sort of asthma-remission for most of my childhood and young adult life. These daily exercises were the singing exercises I had in choir, and the act of singing daily itself. One of the best things an asthmatic can do is practice good breathing and singing techniques on a daily basis, I think, because learning to be able to pull in deep breaths and strengthening your ability to control your diaphragm just help a person maximize their lung capacity, which seems to be pretty damn important when your bronchial tubes begin to tighten.

By the time I left my dingy, disgusting little valley home in California to go to a massively more humid climate, I had been out of choir for years and just didn’t have the breath control I had once had.

And so, every time I went out and about with my small group of much younger, non-asthmatic friends, they forced me, again and again, to eat their dust.

All except my ex-abuser, that is. That’s why it was hard for me to “know better” when it came to him and the way he used me, because he was so kind, loving and otherwise caring and protective of me. When the others left me behind because I literally could not catch my breath enough to keep up with their pace, he was there to walk with me.

Anyway, when it came time to train for the cancer run, the other girls talked of going jogging in groups. I told them no, and was pretty much slammed by Shere, the girl not pictured, for the fact that I wasn’t “training” enough.

It pissed me off, since she should know better: When it comes to getting in shape, it does little good to try to train with someone who is not at your level of fitness. They won’t want to wait up for you if you fall behind. They will make you feel bad about yourself for falling behind.

I am a nice person and I didn’t want to say it, but I should have just said “Shere, I don’t want to train with you because you are a judgmental person, and nasty when people don’t live up to your massively high, and stupid expectations. I don’t want to train with you because I will walk at my own pace and cross the finish line at my own time, and live my life by my own rules. Not yours. Not now and not ever.”

I didn’t need someone giving me crap about not being able to keep up with non-asthmatics, especially since I’d already had too much to deal with in terms of my fat body and my crazy brain, and because, at the end of the day, anyone who doesn’t walk along side a person with asthma is a total asshat.

In the parable of the tortoise in the hare, nobody ends up wanting to be the hare, because we all see that the hare is a shithead.

The idea that there is some “correct” level of health is one of the biggest bullshit principals being pushed by “healthists”. There is no X level of health that will magically make your live easier, better, longer, or make you more acceptable to others. Just being skinny doesn’t mean that everyone will suddenly love you, and anyone who has lost weight for any length of time knows this is true. People who lose weight because they are still motivated by looks or some false concept of health as size aren’t traitors to body positivism, they’re just idiots who don’t know better. Eventually everyone grows up enough to know that health is not a full-service warranty. You can’t buy it like health insurance, and maintaining it doesn’t promise a pay-out. All health can do is make a person feel better in the present moment.

That’s why, when a lot of people start saying they want to lose weight in their 30s or 40s, all they are really saying is they want to get fit, and expect to lose maybe 20 pounds, or 30. We’re not talking dramatic changes or bending over backward to the horrible pressures of thigh-gap worshiping idiots. We’re just talking about improving one of the measurements of health, which is improving the way we feel inside our own skins.

Not everyone can do it. There are physical conditions that are outside of our personal control and which cannot be improved through a lifestyle change. But when it comes right down to it, if the difference between the way I am now, and 20 pounds lighter is me being able to fully participate in say the Relay for Life, then its in my best interest to do what I need to do to obtain that goal, participate in the event, and be happy with my self and my accomplishments.

Not because anyone has defined them for me, but because I chose what I wanted for my own body, did what I had to do to get there, and got there on my own.

Shere’s attitude was defined by the thought that at the actual walk/run, we HAD to stick together because we were a team. I don’t know why, to this day, she thought that. Teams don’t have to finish together. There is no must-be-met qualification time for us to be given our participation medal and goody bag. When it comes to walking and running for charity, the idea is that “everyone is a winner.” And EVERYONE usually recognizes that. After all, nobody is going to cheer the first person across the finish line and then scorn everyone else. Mostly because the person who runs the hardest isn’t necessarily the person who raised the most money for the cause. Everyone is a winner because everyone who participates put in money, which is going to help others, and that in and of itself makes the runners and walkers winners.

All you have to do is give 100% of a shit about the cause. So that’s what I gave.

I walked, as fast as I could and much faster than others jog if the truth was told, and the other girls ran or jogged. They left me behind… as I left others behind. I went at it alone, finished alone, and was proud of myself, alone. And, like everyone else, I got a medal for participating and a pink goody bag and was sent on my way.

Being comfortable in your own skin is like walking or running for charity. You tackle it, step by step, train and build on it day by day, until you reach your given goal and can then stand proudly and confidently in yourself for reaching your own goal, without anyone’s help or direction. Or without anyone telling you what that goal HAS TO BE.

Its for this reason that I am completely boggled by supposed “fat activists” who want me to embrace my fat and just be happy with my body, regardless of how big it is and how I feel inside this skin. When was it up to them to tell me that I am just the way I am supposed to be at over 300 pounds? When was it up to them to say that because I am this fat, I should always be this fat, and even losing a pound of it for my own reasons is capitulating to society?

If 300 pounds makes me feel tired and lethargic, inflexible and lazy, and 200 pounds makes me feel energetic and full of life, then why the hell do I have to stay at 300 pounds to please fat activists?

I don’t. Because being body positive doesn’t mean “embracing fat”… it means embracing biology.

Fat is fat. People are fat when they have a BMI of 25, they are “obese” fat when they have a BMI of 30 and they are “deathfat” at 40+… but THEY ARE ALL FAT! Biology doesn’t differentiate between a 25 and a 45, biology doesn’t say, okay, you’re 231 now so I think I think at .5 more pounds I will make you feel fat, but if you can keep below 231.5 you’ll feel skinny… All biology says is “you are good at storing fat” or “you can’t store fat for shit.”

When you embrace your biology (yay, I’m really good at storing fat) then you’ve moved a step closer to just being yourself, and comfortable in your own skin.

From that point on, then you can choose to say things like “I want to be thin enough to do pages 30 through 50 of the Kama Sutra for Dummies” or “I want to be able to out-shop thinner friends” or whatever, and not have to worry about what that means to others, because what it means to you is that you know how to live your life to its fullest without capitulating to what others expect.

When you accept your biology, you accept that even 20 pounds can make a big difference in how you live day to day, and because it CAN make this difference, and you want it to, for some specific reason, it’s perfectly reasonable to set that goal for yourself.

Just as its reasonable for you to say, I don’t give a shit if I lose 20 pounds, I just want to do more cardio and be able to power walk for five miles.

Both are perfectly legitimate goals to have once you have gotten past the idea that you can somehow “change” your biology. You can’t. The only changes you can make are cosmetic. Period.

Fat activists think that women like me want to lose weight because it will be some kind of mind blowing, life altering experience. No. For me, losing weight is like cutting the legs off an old pair of jeans: it’s changing something on the outside to better express some internal desire I have. People have the ability to do these sorts of alterations to their clothes, without judgement, and for no other reason than they just want to show off some thigh, or because the bottom of the jeans are so tatty anyway that you might as well make them cut-offs. So, if losing twenty pounds means you can suddenly ride your lover like a mechanical bull, then why the hell does a fat activist have to see it as an act of treason?

It’s just another form of stigma, from another group, who are invested in trying to control you for their own selfish gain. Don’t listen to them. We are so much more than our bodies. In the grand scheme of things, our bodies are just a shell for which is far more important, our minds. It’s only when we can ignore all the noise that others try to push into our minds that we will finally have peace of mind.

And yeah, maybe some have tried to change and can’t. Sometimes losing weight is like being a blind person trying to see, you just can’t do it so best to accept it and learn to live your life to the fullest as it is.

The only time it is fair and right to do so, however, is when you have recognized that you set goals for yourself which are unattainable and thus you just say, I was wrong to set those goals.

At the end of the day, maybe we shouldn’t be trying to keep up with the Jonses at all. Maybe you and I and the woman I communicated with briefly on Facebook should be telling the Joneses, I don’t have to keep up with you. You have to keep up with me. If you can’t do that, then you can turn your ass right around and walk it back home. I don’t need you on my journey.

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