Updated: Jul 18
A faceless person shouted, “Fat Bitch!” at me out their car window the other day as I was crossing the street on my bike.
Before I go further, I’d like to say that, although it's happened before, this type of thing does not happen to me often. I’ve always been big, but I benefit from the privilege of being able to go out in the world without being constantly harassed about–or because of–my body. I know that is not the case for a lot of people and I want to acknowledge you if that’s your experience and you’re reading this. You deserve to be able to go about your business in peace. That being said, I felt that my thought process after the event could be helpful to some, so I wanted to share it here.
While I'd like to be at a place where this type of thing truly just bounces right off of me, that wasn't the case. My first thought was: Oh, so that’s how people see me. For the old me who was still entrenched in diet culture and fatphobia, this thought might have been directly followed by sulking, lots of shame and guilt for having a body that was “wrong”, and food restriction and/or excessive exercise. Maybe I’d have binged. Or maybe I'd have simply engaged in those destructive behaviors without realizing why.
But this time, I went deeper. I recognized that it stung a little and that I had an interesting reaction worth exploring. I wasn’t quite ready to dive into it all right there on the spot, but I promised myself that I’d do some self-care when I got home; a bath for soothing followed by some journaling for understanding, acknowledgment, and self-expression.
At home with my notebook, I wondered: how did I manage to take one asshole’s comment and extend it to all people? I quickly realized that just because he saw me that way, it doesn’t mean that’s how all people see me. Secondly, and more importantly, WOW. Apparently, I still think of being seen as fat as a bad thing. So what if people see me that way? I’ve been working hard to neutralize and celebrate the word fat and fatness itself for seven years, and here was the evidence that I still have a long way to go.
The task then became to answer that question...so what, indeed? You might be thinking, "Why even give this a second thought? That person was clearly an asshole and it shouldn't affect you." But here's the thing: even when we do the work to understand our faulty wiring and untangle it, when we’re triggered, those old neural pathways might still be there, ready to light up again, causing the same old reaction. There’s not a whole lot we can do about that, so there’s no point in being frustrated or angry that we didn’t have a “better” reaction. What we can do is work to notice the reaction and choose a new way out after the fact; like the self-care route that I chose that day. That's the practice. To brush it off and just tell myself to move on would have been to bury my feelings, which is something I'm trying to stop doing.
The follow-up? I really need to get myself one of these t-shirts when they’re back in stock. And to remind myself that being fat is cool, and that no one who sees me on the street from their car is actually seeing me at all anyway. While I've worked hard to truly love my body and it’s important for me to honor her and treat her with love, I’m very aware of the fact that I am so much more than my body. We all are.
Want to learn strategies for overcoming and neutralizing the stress of fatphobia and diet culture? Join me for a two-day virtual workshop on Saturday, July 24th and Sunday, July 25th: Yoga Philosophy and Practices for Stress Management (Diet Culture Edition!) Learn More Here.