>the fat girl’s guide to life

>My title happens to be one of the many books I’m currently reading. I want to talk about it because it’s a book that makes me feel good. Right now, with my stress levels soaring from a very paperwork/knowledge-intensive day job and a bustling but foot-numbing retail night job, one of the things that pulls me through is the happy comfort I find in flipping through books and magazines. Borders feeds my addiction, and without exaggerating, I can admit that I have already spent more than I have made in my three weeks there. But oh, the discount.

I am reading The Mermaid’s Chair by Sure Monk Kidd for my book club (I run this book club and I haven’t loved any of our suggestions yet), The Sisters Mortland by because it was a free advance copy from the Borders breakroom, and The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life by Wendy Shanker because I was in the self help section, was shocked by the title, thought the author headshot was pretty, and because I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t too embarrassed to purchase it from one of my coworkers.

Fat Girl is a memoir and manifesto, demanding that women stop hating themselves and face the reality that the majority of our poor body image is fuel for capitalism and a direct result of jealously and misunderstanding. Anyone who makes anyone else feel bad is doing it to make themselves feel better. I tell my second grade students this everyday. But this book makes you consider it. I knew the first time that Weight Watchers suggested I strive to weigh 104 pounds that they were motivated by my money and not my health. I knew they gave me an unrealistic goal that was impossible and unhealthy, not mention aesthetically gross. I still felt shitty, overweight, and like I failed. I still went to at least 6 more meetings, until my capacity to follow any diet ran out.

Fat Girl talks about these issues, and names them. She lists the diets we’ve considered, the moments we’ve experienced, and tells the shocking, painful, sometimes whispered but NEVER shouted truth that SOME PEOPLE WILL LOOK THE WAY THEY LOOK FOREVER. Some arms will never look like Madonna’s, bicep curls be damned. Some tummies will always be round, or hilly, or many-layered. I’ve read literally hundreds of dieting books and articles, not to mention numerous self-confidence body-love tomes. No one has ever made me face and accept that I am genetically made the way that I am. That I could be the superwoman I dream of (perfect diet, obsessive workouts) and still have my womanly abdomen curve. That I am a real person who farts, eats, and has flab in certain places where it will live forever.

Nothing about these admissions is sexy, or graceful, or even cute, which are adjectives I variously strive for and achieve. But this admission and acceptance could let me be those things by pulling off those disgusting layers of loathing and doubt that make me slouch or suck in or look self conscious. I want to give myself the dignity that I demand from other people.

I doubt that reading this book will be the only step to instantly loving myself. My family still jokes about the time I visited them and was complimented on some recent weight loss. I instantly shot back, “I have acne on my back.” I was literally incapable of accepting a compliment about my physique without blurting out my “dirty secret” and harboring hatred for any part of myself that I could. I have a long way to go (and I’m only on chapter three). Still, I’m excited to get a little clarity.

At the very least, I’ll be able to stop beating myself up for needing new school pants and stop the fantasy that not buying clothes that fit will force me to lose weight. Yes, it’s a cliche that is constantly quoted in magazines and Tim Gunn has taught me MUCH better than to ever own/wear something that doesn’t fit anymore. Still, my hopeful little brain has been walking around the school with the pockets of my pants puckering out like tiny little wings on my hips, all the while convincing myself that I’ll go to the gym at ELEVEN when my FIFTEEN HOUR day is over, and by Friday, those pants will fit just fine. No thanks. The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life has given me permission to go shopping, and I see no better reason to recommend a book then that.

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