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I read the comments. I should know better.
I loved Robin Givhan’s latest article about plus size fashion and was so excited I clicked the comments button to see if others were as awed as I. I figured I’d see some familiar names in there of fellow bloggers or friends. Instead I scrolled and scrolled, and scrolled and scrolled past comments attacking model La’Shaunae Steward and plenty of “advice” geared towards overweight women.
Just eat less, eat better, and exercise and you don’t have to be fat. It’s that simple.
This past year, I did exactly that. A year ago, I changed my life quite drastically and it’s become my new normal. I quit my stressful day job to focus on my blog. With that I ended up home to cook all three meals (no more lunches at District Taco, snacks from the CVS on the ground floor of my building, or post-work cocktails and fried bites at the bar down the block). I took meditation classes and joined Talkspace. My husband stopped drinking and I only have maybe two glasses a wine a month at networking events. The biggest change is I joined a gym and work out with a personal trainer five days a week. My trainer provided a meal plan that is plenty of fresh produce and lean protein with specific portion sizes. That combined with my husband’s love of cooking and desire for an inflammation-reducing diet I eat mostly fresh produce with some lean organic proteins and the occasional indulgence to not feel restricted. For the first time in my adult life, I don’t use business trips as an excuse to eat crap and drink one glass too many. Instead, I became comfortable in hotel fitness centers and found my new signature cocktail (club soda, two limes, and one lemon).
I am 5’3” and 190 lbs. A year ago, before I made this major life change, I was 200 lbs. I did all this changing and I only lost 10 lbs.
But the thing is… I’ve been smaller before. I remember it well. I am stronger and healthier and happier now than I was when I was smaller. At 43 years old and 190 lbs I have far more endurance than when I was 30 and 150 lbs. At age 32 and 160 lbs my doctor wanted to put me on statin drugs; at 190 lbs I have a perfectly healthy normal cholesterol level without medication. And for the first time in my adult life, I can run. I couldn’t do that even when I was a size-4 college student.
I’ve been thin before and know how to get back there. Restricting calories was successful. When I went down to 650 calories a day I lost weight. Sure, I was an asshole, I had consistent acid reflux, called out of work to sleep because I was so drained, and had fantasies about being in a hospital so someone else could manage my life but I looked good in a swimsuit.
I could also go to the gym more. Back when I was popping Diet Fuel like candy and walking in circles around tracks for hours at a time with ankle weights I lost weight. Granted, my heart was constantly racing, I passed out once at the bathroom at work, had insomnia, and popped handfuls of Advil each day to deal with my knee, ankle, and back pain but I fit into a single-digit clothing size so it was worth it, right?
So many see a fat woman and equate it with being unhealthy. But there are many women who aren’t fat and are unhealthy. And many women who look fat who are in amazing shape.
But honestly, none of this matters because it’s not about health, it’s about policing women’s bodies. Chris Christie gets jokes, Tess Holliday gets death threats.
Givhan’s piece was about plus size fashion, yet the 1,000+ comments primarily focused on overweight women and the assumed health of La’Shaunae Steward. Givhan’s previous piece about Edward Enninful was phenomenal, picked up by many news sources, shared all over social media by those in the fashion know. That article has only four comments, and not a single one is about his body. Another article by Givhan about Proenza Schouler that begins with a photo of an extremely thin model has 79 comments but only three about the bodies of the models. These two articles, the comments are by those who are interested in fashion. In Givhan’s article about plus size fashion, the comment section is full of individuals who clearly know nothing about fashion but were drawn to comment purely based on the feature photo.
As a blogger, I regularly receive anonymous or not-so-anonymous comments about my body and how disgusting it is. After writing a piece for the Washington Post, I had individuals take the time to find my email address to tell me that I needed to lose weight and should consider working out. Strangers made an effort to find my email address to tell me I should join a gym, but didn’t make the effort to find out I am a member of a gym!
The people I know who are the most knowledgeable about health, fitness, and diet are fat women. They’ve done the research, they’ve read the studies, and likely they’ve tried the methods. To tell fat women to just eat less or hit the gym is like telling a James Beard-winning chef they should consider cast iron. Do you know how many doctors have told me to cut out soda to lose weight without even asking if I drink it (I don’t)? The demise of society won’t be from obesity but from armchair quarterbacks who pass judgment from a feature photo and clickbait title without taking the time to read the article.