As a fat woman, I know all about naysayers. I only have to walk around in my large, roll-covered body to get the message loud and clear that my body size is not okay. From the sideways looks from strangers in the street, the concerns family members have about my “health,” the clothing stores where a “plus-size” section is a pitiful couple of racks hidden in the back corner, to the magazine covers touting shame-filled “before” pictures that look a lot like me, you’d have to be completely oblivious to miss the message.
So a fat girl does one of two things in response to this message: we hide (usually in the form of binge eating, become a “people pleaser,” always sitting in the back row, being overly polite, etc.) or we choose to go big with our bigness and dare to live life fully now, not someday later when we drop unwanted pounds. Think Gabourey Sidibe, Melissa McCarthy, and Rebel Wilson.
If a fat woman dares to be happy with herself and enjoy life despite her size, she is doing something revolutionary.
For me, following the conventional wisdom of the diet culture did nothing to make me thinner or happier or better off in any lasting way. I had to pick my own path that honored my truths, start my own revolution. My continued happiness, full life and newly found comfort in my body prove to me that I made the right decision for me.
Of course, I knew that my radical decision would be challenged, as it was when I received my first “naysayer” comment on my blog after sharing an adorable and informative video by the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) called “Poodle Science.” I was stunned. The comment brought up a whole bevy of mixed feelings for me. At first, I was excited that I had received a comment on my blog, but that was quickly replaced with feelings of anger and sadness after being told that I was “out of line with reality.” Typically I would have become depressed and started questioning myself, but not this time. This time, I began to laugh! What struck me most was that I had finally posted something that prompted someone to comment, but it was just to tell me how wrong I was. I didn’t hide. I actually wrote a new blog post highlighting and sharing the comment prominently for all to see.
I have realized that unless you have at least one dissenter, you are not doing anything revolutionary.
If you only receive positive comments, you are not pushing any boundaries. You are not fostering deep thinking. You are just telling people what they want to hear and most of the time, you are preaching to the choir.
When your choices are challenged by those who either do not, cannot or refuse to believe the same, you are faced with the wonderful opportunity to reexamine what it is you believe and the truth therein. Like a fortress under siege, your weaknesses are revealed and you are given the unique chance to shore up your defenses, re-educate yourself, or simply stand more firmly in what you believe.
When you love the choices that you make, you do not need the permission or validation from others to benefit from the decisions that you made.
Nay-sayers are a gift, cleverly wrapped. Learn to take them in stride, especially if you’re swimming against the current.
Tiana Dodson is a fat activist and health coach who runs One Beautiful Yes, where she helps people in big bodies find their healthy. (Body shaming, intentional weight loss, and self-hatred not included.) If she could only ever tell the world one thing, it would be that health isn’t about the size of your body: it’s about how you function in that body, how you fuel that body, and how you feel about that body. And that process always starts with one precious, beautiful yes.
Image courtesy of realineme via Deposit Photos.