Friday, August 23, 2013

Confessions of A Fat Girl

There is a book sitting somewhere in my lounge room right now - a friend kindly gave it to me because they remembered I'd been looking for it, and I took it home and promptly tried to forget I had it.

You see, it's a diet book.

The imprint from a wonderful badge made by the very talented Fancy Lady Industries
Yes, you read that right. I own a diet book. I was actively looking for a diet book. I have actually been expending time and effort researching different diets, and had decided the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet looked like it was worth a go. It's not really a DIET per se, I told myself. It's a healthy eating plan. It's not about losing weight, it's about feeling better and being healthier and maybe building my immune system up so I don't get every fucking cold going around. It's not about conforming to societal standards, I told myself. It's about helping my body work better. I mean, this diet is all scientific and shit! It's serious business, not like those trendy fad diets. It's a "smart person's" diet.

But still, the book remains in my loungeroom somewhere, untouched. You see, diet is a very complicated word for me. 

Apart from a brief brush with socially acceptable levels of fat in my early 20's (when I was starving my way through university), I've always been fat. It's as much a part of my perception of myself as my glasses, and has been an outward visual indicator of "me" for as long as I can remember. Even when I was actually quite thin from an objective point of view, I still visualised myself as fat. There are certain things that I am, that I've always been - I'm short, I'm fat, I have glasses, I have crooked teeth. These aren't ALL that I am, but they are essential touchstones of how I visualise myself. How I feel about these visual indicators has varied wildly - sometimes I feel okay about them, sometimes I wish I could carve the flesh off my bones. But regardless of how these visual indicators make me feel, these are all things that I know to be "true" about my physical appearance. But the thing is, they're not just physical indicators to me - these things are all part of how I view Me as a whole, part of my overall sense of self.

More great stuff from Fancy Lady Industries. I really should have gotten a black one of these before they sold out.
Last year I had to have extensive dental work done, to get my wisdom teeth removed, a root canal, and a bunch of fillings. Since a lot of the fillings required were in my front four teeth, the dentist suggested that he could mould the filling material so as to make my teeth appear straighter. He pitched this idea to me as quite a gentle suggestion, and then quickly added that he could obviously also make them look just as they did before if I would prefer that. It should have been a straightforward question - of course I would want them to look straighter, right? Only I didn't. I felt awful about the idea of losing my scraggly, broken fence post smile. It wasn't pretty, but it was me. It was mine, and I didn't know who I would be without it. In the end, I realised it would be ridiculous not to take the more aesthetically pleasing option, and now my teeth look much better - far from perfect, but also far better than they did. I still don't smile with my teeth in photos though, out of a lifelong habit of trying to hide them. My internal perception of myself hasn't caught up with how they actually look now as opposed to how I remember them.

It's not just cognitive dissonance that makes me hide my straighter teeth though - there is also a part of me that is a little ashamed of having them straightened. Like I somehow sold out, swapped my "unique" teeth for something more popular. From a rational perspective, it was absolutely the sensible choice. The fact is that people DO judge you if you have crooked, scraggly teeth. They judge you as being ugly, and no one likes ugly people. There was no point in trying to make my life harder for myself, especially with regards to job interviews. I'm already crazy, overweight, and have a rather unusual resume - I don't need to show up with ugly teeth as well. But still, there is this little tiny part of me that feels like I'm not as me as I used to be, and that this is a bad thing. That I took the easy way out, and I should be ashamed of that.

From a purely rational perspective, it would be sensible to try and take my weight down even a little bit. I'm lucky enough to be in the band of fat where I would only need to lose a size, maybe two, and I could shop at the big end of most mainstream stores. I would still be big, but I'd be "acceptably" so. I'd probably have more energy too, and more energy is a good thing to have when you're someone like me who insists on taking on more projects than they can possibly ever complete. To be totally clear, I don't buy into the idea that fat automatically equals unhealthy in the slightest - it's total hogwash. But me, personally? I could be healthier, regardless of size. I eat pretty well, but I could eat better.

However, the siren song of society's obsession with slimness equaling happiness gets pretty fucking loud when I let my mind wander down this path, and rationality very quickly goes out the window. The vain, shallow thoughts that emerge almost immediately as soon as I start considering losing weight reveals my insistence that I only want to diet "for my health" to be a total lie - if I was really that invested in improving my health, I'd stop smoking for a start. It's just the cover I put over my vanity, to try and pretend I'm not like all those weight obsessed diet fanatics living on protein shakes. I try to pretend I'm not "like them", but deep down, I know I can be just as delusional.

Everything would be better, I tell myself. I'd be more attractive. My boyfriend would want me more. I could go on dates without fretting that my date will "discover" I'm fat. I could buy clothes wherever I wanted to (more or less). I wouldn't have to ask a shop assistant ever again if they carry any bigger sizes, and get That Look. I'd get a better job, because I'd be prettier, and prettier people have better jobs. I know, I KNOW this is all nonsense and lies and total garbage. I KNOW that none of it is true. I know people much bigger than me with far more confidence in their appearance, and people much smaller than me with far less. I KNOW self confidence is all in my head, and not linked to my actual physical size but to my perception of myself. I KNOW that the vast majority of diets do little to nothing to reduce your weight long term. But these tempting lies are always there, in the back of my mind, waiting for a chance to slither out and convince me that if only I was smaller, if only I was slimmer, then everything would be better.

I don't actually know how difficult it would be to drop those sizes - considering I already can't eat the vast majority of junk food or drink due to allergies, dietary changes would probably not be that difficult. I've looked at the CSIRO cookbook, and it's not hugely different from what I cook normally - I would just have to stop getting takeaway for dinner three times in a row. I'd also obviously have to do some sort of exercise, considering I don't do any at the moment. I mean, I walk around a fair bit, but nothing you would call strenuous in any way. I don't mind exercise, I could do that.

But I'm so afraid of the emotional implications. I'm afraid of succumbing to the ridiculous nonsense that sings to me from my subconscious. I'm afraid of putting everything into losing weight,  then either not being able to, or doing it and having nothing in my life change apart from the weight. I'm afraid that I won't be able to do it sensibly, for all the sensible reasons, with sensible expectations. I'm afraid of other people judging me for dieting and failing to visibly lose weight, even if I feel better. I'm afraid of people seeing me dieting, and thinking that it implies a judgement on their size. I'm scared of people at work seeing me dieting, and thinking it's totally okay to say whatever they want about fat people in front of me, because obviously I'm on "their" side and I think fat people are gross too. I'm afraid that I can't untangle how much of wanting to go on this diet is a genuine desire to eat better and feel better, and how much is due to feeling I won't be acceptable until I'm thinner. I'm afraid of letting my plus size friends down, and I'm afraid of being seen as selling out. I'm scared that I just want to diet because learning how to love my big fat booty is simply too hard. I'm scared that if I can't love my big fat booty now, then I probably won't love it any more if I made it smaller, and then I'd feel like a fucking idiot. And a hungry idiot at that.

I don't expect anyone to have any sort of answer to this conundrum - lord knows I don't. But I just wanted to put that all out there, in case other people feel the same.

If you want to read about the "No Diet Talk" phrase pictured in the Fancy Lady Industries badge, I highly recommend this excellent post from The Militant Baker.


  1. very interesting post Cassie! I fell for the "everything would be better if I was skinny" thought pattern...I would be smarter (I already AM smart?), people would like me more, I'd be able to do more things, I would never hate another photo of me again! I fell for it and I was skinny already. All that achieved was misery, numerous health complications that I'm still dealing with, and incredibly low self esteem, again that I'm still fighting.

    Maybe don't start dieting? Maybe just try to start exercising? I think weight is mostly related to what you're eating anyway, so exercising more wouldn't be "selling" out, per se. But exercise can make you feel fantastic about yourself...if you find something you enjoy! It doesn't have to be slaving at the gym for hours, either. Try hula hooping, cycling, yoga, dancing, etc etc until you find something that you do because you enjoy!

    1. I would LOVE to try dancing. I love dancing. (and not just because I've watched way too many dance movies) I should really look into that - I think your idea of more exercise and continuing to eat what I like is a very sensible one.

      It's funny, it took me ages to realise just how completely divorced from actual physical size low self esteem can be. I always just assumed fat people were depressed, and skinny people were happy. But the more I talk to people, the more I realise if you hate your body, you're never going to be "right" size no matter what you do.

    2. Dancing is so much fun! And amazing exercise, too. I like Zumba and bellydance b/c the music is upbeat and I can dress up and pretend I'm a Latin or Middle Eastern princess -- which is more fun than "exercising"... just be sure to find a class where most folks are at your level. I've quit classes where the expectations were too high -- I'm just there to move and have fun, not go out and perform in public.

  2. Yeah, I figured I'm mostly eating ok, but could add exercise, so I've tentatively started pilates again which I enjoyed a few years ago. I've never found exercise to reduce my weight at all, but it does make me feel better. I love pilates because for me the results are really obvious in terms of flexibility and reduction in back pain, so I focus on those.

    I have so many feels about body image and I've been working hard to accept my body as it is now, because if it goes down that's cool too, but if I like it now then we'll all get along*. I was always super skinny as a kid/teen and only gained weight in my 20s, mostly intentionally, but then it wouldn't stop.

    I had a pretty big body feels day yesterday, when all these lovely intentions of loving all my bumps didn't pan out. And then to top off a miserably depressed day (stoopid brane) a jackass on fb concern trolled me when I posted a body positivity article.

    So I guess I'm saying it's hard to extract ourselves from the societal implications of size/fat/thin/appeal, but we can try.

    *we in this case being my brain and body I guess.

    1. Oy, I saw you talking about the concern troll, and that was part of what pushed me to write this out today. I don't think a lot of the concern trolls really understand just how complicated an issue this is, and the damage they can do with good intentions. I like to think they don't understand anyway.

    2. In the case of this particular troll it's his third strike, so he's out. Other two were other issues about women and their rights.

  3. Something I always find odd in your posts is the way you refer to yourself as fat. Possibly my perception of normal is weird but my inner voice is always complaining. 'But Cassie isn't fat, she's normal'. I'm not trying to tell you your labels are wrong, just perception is relative.
    The thing I like about the CSIRO diet is that it works especially well for people with insulin resistance or PCOS. I.e. about 1 in 5 women such as the lovely Tina.
    Really a diet should be about finding the right mix of foods for your body. Everyone is different. I have a friend who's health improved greatly when he started adding saturated fats to his diet. Not a good idea for everyone but worked for him.
    Regardless of weight, finding the right foods and diet for you will improve health and energy. It doesn't have to be about weight loss or gain.
    Also remember that happy makes you live longer than thin does.

  4. It's late on a Friday afternoon, so I apologise in advance if this comment comes out a bit jumbled and nonsensical.

    Firstly, great post (as usual). Very interesting to read a different perspective on the whole dieting/self image thing.

    Secondly, I sort of understand. I had braces as a teenager, but before that my teeth were absolutely zombie-like. I showed my friend a photo of my smile (with teeth showing) when I was a kid, and she screamed and dropped the photo. I'm supposed to wear a retainer every night but I'm lazy so I don't, and my teeth have slowly started shifting out of alignment. I recently went back to the orthodontist and he said I might have to get braces again. I was horrified, because who has braces when they're an adult??, and his response was to chuckle and say "Don't worry about it then, crooked teeth add character." When I went home and looked in the mirror, I realised that he's right, and that although having perfectly straight teeth would (probably) make me look like a superstar model, I don't want to be a creepy tooth clone of a girl in a Colgate ad.

    On the other hand, I'm a big fan of dieting for health. As you know, I'm already freakishly skinny and I can't gain any weight, so losing weight isn't really an issue for me, so I used to justify eating Maccas for every meal as being ok because it's not like it'll make me fat. But I enjoy the taste of healthier homemade meals, and how it gives me more energy and I feel better. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to feel smug about my healthy lifestyle, while it lasts.

    I agree with the comment above that you should find an exercise you enjoy. I absolutely haaaaate exercising, but I really enjoy pole dancing. I've only been doing it for a few months but I'm amazed at how much I can actually enjoy a physical activity. Compared to something like, running on a treadmill at the gym for half an hour, it gives me something to work towards, it's fun, I can see myself improving and it gives me so much satisfaction when I can finally master a move that I thought would be impossible. And I'm getting exercise while I'm doing it! It's like... surprise exercise!

    Lastly, if you're not going to use the book, give it to me ;)

    1. Wow, that turned into a novel. Sorry about that. I must be really bored at work.

    2. LOL! Firstly, I'm keeping the book, on principle if nothing else.

      Secondly, slightly wonky teeth DO add character. Personally, I found David Bowie and Christian Bale both VASTLY less attractive after they had their teeth fixed.

      Thirdly, I would consider pole if I didn't know so many people who are so good at it that I would embarrassed to be in a studio with them ;)

    3. Do pole with me! I'm absolutely terrible at it! :D I flop around like a baby giraffe.

    4. Bwhahaha! THAT is an amazing image.

  5. I think a "diet", or rather, portion control, nutritionally balanced and eating to hunger can be a good thing if you want it to be. Mostly, it's about saying "Society's bullshit about the way I'm supposed to look is bullshit, but I would like to x" where x is something functional and active.

    For me, it's running. I am... very bad at being an adult and remembering to eat vegetables and three meals a day and not live on bread and cheese and beer. So I saw a nutritionist and got my basic "what I should be eating" sorted out, and now I eat to support my running. And I feel SO MUCH better because of it. Three meals a day plus snacks does work, who knew! I'm losing weight, but that's a side effect of running.

    I'm going to take up ballet in the new year. I am incredibly unco-ordinated. It will be HILARIOUS.

    I get shit from people at work because my base lunch is a salad and chicken. But I don't have to go "Oh, what will I make", I can make it while I'm still 3/4 asleep and it's TASTY. I have avocado and tomato and cucumber and roast sweet potato as well as the lettuce. NOM.

    Mostly, I deal with that by saying "I actually enjoy eating this" or "It's odd that you mind what I'm eating. Are you unhappy with something in your life?"

  6. Such an interesting post Cassie - to be honest, I never thought of dieting from that perspective. To be honest, I hate the idea of dieting. Everytime I see someone that looks like they might be on a diet I give them the shifty eye and start examining their collar bones, wrists, shoulder blades and arm hair to try an decide whether they always eat this way, are on a diet, or have an eating disorder. But that's just because I'm recovering from an eating disorder and want to stop as many people from going down that path as possible.

    As for dieting for health, in theory I agree with it, but often I don't actually think people need to. I'm a firm believer of the set point theory, a good explaination can be found here ( and so really, I think if you have been at this sort of weight for your entire adult life - I think that's where you are meant to be at. Also, the body can functional ALOT better when it's a little overweight than when it's underweight.

    But, on the other hand, it's your choice. Exercise is something great to do because it's fun. Exercise can help the body - it makes it feel good, become strong and more resilient. I think that exercise might be the way to go to improve your health a bit.

    But, I think you're pretty fabulous as you are! :)


  7. Hey Cassie,

    Your post has had me thinking a lot (good work!). Firstly, it looks like the CSRIO diet is a good one if 'healthier eating without a focus on weight loss' is what you're looking for. Some of my parents friends (who weren't looking at weight loss) used it and liked it, and found the food tasty.

    I find it difficult to read posts that are particularly anti-diet, as due to my own weight-related health issues, watching what I eat is necessary for me if I want to 1) procreate in the next few years and 2) avoid diabetes later on as I am at an increased risk for it. I firmly believe that no one should be told what to do with their bodies, what they should eat etc - that is for an individual to decide, with input from *insert relevant health professional* if necessary. But when I read articles (not referring to yours here, but others such as the "No Diet Talk" post) telling me that I am delusional for my desire to lose weight and inflicting pointless suffering on myself, it makes me feel a bit frustrated. I'm sure those articles aren't aimed at people like myself (with an undisputed medical reason requiring a lower weight), but even if it was as simple as wanting to fit into some of my one-size-too-small clothes or wanting to make running a bit more comfortable, I think those reasons should also be okay too.

    I respect the need for no diet talk around individuals recovering from eating disorders, and I would only ever discuss my own issues in the most body positive way possible (if at all) with my friend who is recovering from an eating disorder. But to ban talk of such all together would mean I couldn't share an important (if not particularly interesting) part of my life with those close to me.

    My perspective on all this may be coloured by the fact that I've never looked at myself and hated, or even particularly disliked, how my body looked. I'm no supermodel at all, but I guess at the end of the day the size of my body doesn't take up a huge amount of my thoughts. I think the way I stay sane about eating in moderation and exercising is just remembering that it is such a small part of who I am as a person. It feels great if I can do some exercise each day, and eat food that makes me feel happy, but if I don't manage that, the world is not going to end.

    This has been a terribly long, and terribly rambling comment, but it can make up for all the other comments I thought of but never got around to write. Love your blog as always Cassie.

    Love Jess xo

  8. Hey Cassie, nice post. It's not a "diet" it's about being healthy and happy in whatever form that takes for YOU.
    Along with the whole happiness thing though is exercise. I have a friend who poles, I find the prospect of being upside down without a helmet on scary!! I reckon she's nuts so I've taken up hula hooping. It makes me laugh. That's never a bad thing and it means I WANT to go out with the music up and spin a hoop.
    Do what makes you happy with some thought to the future. As we age things don't work as well as they used to and that is part of the reason why I'm much more attentive now. Shit happens. I don't want it to be because of my bad habits.
    As for teeth... just make sure they don't hurt and they do what they're supposed to do.
    I've had some crazy rude comments made to me about my appearance by doctors who REALLY should know better. Surround yourself with people who are on the same page. I haven't been able to do that in the medical system so I have a much tougher skin that I used to have. It sucks, but at the end of the day, I don't care about their opinion at all and the people I do care about don't care about the other stuff anyway.
    We're all unique as it should be.
    Thank heavens....


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