Tag Archives: fat acceptance

me drawing me, you drawing you

I am an average-sized woman, and when I tell people I use self-portrait drawing to work on body image and shame issues, I have often felt like I was being looked at sideways like “What, why you? You’re fine… you’re pretty… what’s the problem?”  The problem is in my mind, but it affects the way I feel about myself, the way I act, and the opportunities I allow myself to embrace, or not, in life. This applies to everyone who is unhappy with their bodies – even in extreme cases of anorexia or obesity, the actual body itself is not the root of the problem, it’s the way we perceive or ignore the body that creates so much tension. The invisible suffering makes people feel very disabled. Many women, in particular, find themselves over- or under-weight at various periods in their lives… following pregnancies, when in deep emotional pain, and due to hormonal fluctuations brought on by aging, menopause and metabolism changes. For many people, difficult life experiences can lead to compulsive overeating or a loss of appetite, which have similar effects to yo-yo dieting and bingeing. If all these difficulties are rooted in false beliefs, negative thoughts, and unreal perceptions, no wonder so many outside interventions to make changes are unsuccessful!

shame-flipI have been practicing self portraiture for ten years, between ages 36 and 46, and I have drawings of me in small, medium and large sizes. But they’re all me. Obviously I prefer to show what I consider the better ones… but for those who share this form of suffering, I promise to share curvier images and the bone-thin drawings of myself too. Because I’m blogging about this does not mean I am free from ego and vanity. Of course I think the prettiest images were drawn when I was healthiest, happiest and medium-sized. But the clincher is:  I was more critical, unhappy, and disgusted with my body when I was younger and thinner than I am now, even though I’m getting older and carrying more weight. Drawing the body helps see the beauty in it, just like drawing a flower can be a celebration of beauty.

I invite you to try drawing yourself; your face, your silhouette or your entire body no matter what size or age you are, to experience the shift in perspective that happens when contemplating anything from a new angle. I’ve often been discouraged with my  drawings along the way, but if I stayed with the portraits long enough to let judgement about my drawing skills and my body fall away, I began to see something that was and is always there… the simple beauty of every human body just as it is!

You don’t have to be an artist to practice self-portraiture. I will offer as much guidance as I can through this site. You can write to me personally and send drawings, questions, anecdotes… anything you want to share on the subject of self-love or self-hate related to your body image: mybodyisloved@yahoo.ca. I will only post what you send with your permission, but it’s very possible that what you have to share can also really help someone else who is suffering.

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fat girl

Fat Girl; A True Story is the title of one of the most important books I’ve ever read, a memoir by writer Judith Moore. I think what struck me the most was her honesty and her daring to truly be herself in delivering her story of a heartbreakingly difficult childhood and a not so easy life as an adult who was overweight. I was immediately taken in by her introduction, where she is clear that this is not about a miracle cure she survived, it’s just about her life, as it is, or was, since she passed away in 2006. I’d like to quote a little of the introduction, just to give you a feeling for her refreshing authenticity:

“I am fat. I am not so fat that I can’t fasten the seat belt on the plane. But, fat I am. I wanted to write about what it was and is like for me, being fat. This will not be a book about how I had an eating disorder and how I conquered this disorder through therapies or group process or antidepressants or religion or twelve-step programs or a personal trainer or white-knuckling it or the love of a good man (or woman).

I am not a fat activist. This is not about the need for acceptance of fat people, although I would prefer that thinner people not find me disgusting… I will not write here about fat people I have known and I will not interview fat people… I will tell the story of my family and the food we ate. We were an unhappy family…

I mistrust real-life stories that conclude on a triumphant note. Rockettes will not arrive on the final page and kick up their high heels and show petticoats. This is a story about an unhappy fat girl who became a fat woman who was happy and unhappy… But I haven’t always been fat. I had days when I was almost thin.”

As you can see, she has a good sense of humour, but there were some stories that broke my heart, partly because I could identify with them, and partly because I couldn’t, but mostly because I wish this kind of suffering on absolutely NO ONE yet I know that literally millions of people know it.

bodyimagenatureI’m using her honest example as an introduction to continue to expose and reflect on my body image struggles, as I share this self-portrait (not too daring, but it’s a start) which shows me carrying an extra thirty pounds around my middle that I wish would magically disappear. Thirty pounds… big deal. It isn’t if you know what it is to be overweight by a hundred pounds more. But in my mind it is a big deal, and the effects on my self-esteem are not positive.

So let me remind myself, and any readers who may land here, that the point of this blog is to share a practice. Like Judith Moore’s book, which is a truthful exposure of her life and habits (which were not completely isolated or unique – others have similar experiences), I wish this blog to be an honest reflection on my own body image issues because I know them to not be experienced in a vacuum either, yet for many, these issues are tightly guarded under wraps. Writing about them brings relief from the destructive shame that I carry, while the drawings, bring about a change in perspective that is absolutely liberating. Not instantly or once and for all;  it does require a practice that slowly chips away at lifelong misperceptions fed by our culture.

While Judith Moore blatantly talks about “fat” and “fatness” I am less accepting of any negative language towards people and especially people’s bodies, so I don’t, and won’t use these words here. The way I see it, if I chose to adhere to concepts like “fat acceptance”, something is missing. It’s too exclusive… there would also have to be movements for “thin acceptance” and “tall acceptance” and “short acceptance”. My deepest desire is to know a complete and total acceptance of everyone, exactly the way they are, freeing us all to be exactly who we are, no holds barred.