This holiday season was one for the books. Not because I made some super awesome dish, or because I managed to not get into a political argument with anyone, or because I won all the games that we play in an overstuffed haze after dinners.
This December 2018 was monumental for me because on the car ride home to Chicago, I realized that I had not once asked my sister or my mom if I looked fat, or even how I looked at all.
I didn’t ask if they could tell if I had lost or gained weight.
No one was forced to listen to my woes about the breakouts on my skin or the wrinkles starting around my eyes.
I didn’t ask my mom to hold up a flashlight to my scalp to see just how much my hair has thinned in the places that I didn’t know women’s hair could thin.
After 27 years old, I think this might have been the first holiday season that these things didn’t give me a major amount of anxiety in the days leading up to the holiday.
It might seem like a small accomplishment, but it’s significant to me for a number of reasons.
For one, it’s something I’ve done just about forever.
Even last year, after I had been a solid year or more into my body acceptance journey and ditching diet culture lifestyle, I still did all those things.
I remember specifically last year when I was getting ready to go out with my sister, I started having those spiraling thoughts that had started a few months before Thanksgiving.
They were the mean self thoughts that told me I looked ridiculous. The thoughts that told me I was an embarrassment. The thoughts that said I was too old, too fat, too ugly to be seen by the people that I’d grown up with.
With my new toolkit of body positive and feminist armory, I tried to ignore my brain and fight back. I didn’t care after all! It didn’t matter! I could be fluffy and lovable and my looks did not define who I am! Plus fuck the industry! Fuck the man!
But it wasn’t working.
As the moments until we were ready to leave the house ticked closer, the thoughts got louder in the way that thoughts we try to push away often do. I needed someone to tell me I was okay, affirm me, tell me I was lovely. Even if I no longer looked like the teenage version of myself that used to live in my hometown.
The minutes ticked on, and I started getting fidgety. I kept glancing at my sister and back at myself. She and I had always been opposites but yet so similar, as if the spring and fall created two versions of the same person.
I zoned in on the differences in our shapes, the contrast between her athletic and slim build, and my soft roundness. I started to twist and turn while watching the mirror, trying to angle my body in a way that would make me look less like me or just less. I turned to the side and straightened up, cocked my head back, tugged at my shirt, yanked up my pants and arched my back.
But it was still me.
My internal insults compounded as we got closer to the end, and the question felt as if it were about to burst out from inside me.
Don’t ask her.
Don’t ask it.
You don’t care.
You’re BODY POSITIVE GOD DAMMIT.
“Do I look fat?” The question erupted from my lips anyway.
I held my breath and the question hung there in a shamed stillness.
“Chloé,” My sister let out a sharp sigh. “You know you’re not supposed to ask me that.”
“Yeah, I know, but just tell me. It’s not a big deal, I just want to know.”
“I thought you were trying to care less about this! It’s not good for you! I’m not answering,” she said as she leaned forward to apply mascara.
“I am! Promise. I do! Just need to hear it, please. Then I won’t ask again, I swear.”
“You. Look. Beautiful,” she said, rolling her eyes.
Relief and embarrassment wrapped their arms around me. Wasn’t I supposed to be the big sister here, telling HER how great and fantastic and smoking hot she was?
“Really? Are you sure?” I’d turn again, sucking it in or re-adjusting my pants to smooth out the lumps and bumps just a little bit more.
“Yes! You look fine!”
I could live with fine.
I really hate admitting how much I was obsessed with how I looked. Scrap that past tense– I really hate admitting how much I sometimes AM obsessed with how I look.
I wish I could say that this was a one time occurrence of obsessing over my appearance and worrying about my weight. But that would be a lie.
This has been a pretty frequent scene in my life, for about as long as I can remember. I’ve spent so many years letting those thoughts turn into obsession which then turns into anxiety which then turns into shutting down and giving up. There have been countless times that I’ve not gone to a party, not met up with friends, not made plans or not done what I’ve wanted to do simply because of these anxieties.
And I still struggle with it. All the time.
The thing is, it’s hard deconstructing a lifetime of being told directly or indirectly that as a woman your biggest asset is your looks, your beauty, your youth.
It’s hard when our society puts so much freaking pressure on how we look and how we present ourselves to the world that if you’re anything less than what you’re absolute best potential is it’s easy to feel bad about that, and get a little bit obsessed with trying to “reach that potential” we’ve been told so much about.
It’s easy to want to change or get caught up and pressed down by all the ways we can “fix” ourselves.
It is hard be above it when there are so many things, people, and communities that try to keep us below it.
I still struggle with the learned desire to subscribe to our strict and narrow western beauty ideals. I am far from over it, through it or even woke enough to understand all the ways that I let my own privilege as a white woman cloud my views on the topic.
But I’m learning.
And I’m trying to unwind the tangles of bullshit that have formed cages of insecurities and false truths in my brain.
This December marked a shift for me, a shift big enough to realize that I have changed in the last year in ways that I didn’t even realize. The thought of asking how I looked or if something made me look a certain way didn’t even cross my mind, and that is abso-freaking-lutely progress.
I no longer let what others may think of my body, my face, my skin, my hair, my anything crush me into not leaving the house for fear of not being enough.
It’s a reminder that in ways, I’ve started to care much less about what other people think of me, and it’s a reminder that I’ve started to care less and less about what I look like.
Even with progress, it’s doesn’t mean that it’s not hard to remain in this head space during the holidays especially. I’ve been feeling it a LOT lately.
Our society applies ridiculous moral value to food choices, and the body shaming index feels higher than normal because the opportunities to indulge are everywhere while the diet and fitness industry amps up their marketing efforts to remind you that as soon as January first hits, you better get that plump ass to the gym or on a cleanse or into a challenge of some sort that will make you wish you never had that third oreo ball!
This type of thinking and way of being is so normalized that we do it without giving it a second thought, which makes recognizing the causes of our formulated self-hatred all the more complex.
It’s hard, and because of that I wanted to share some of the things that help me on this journey during this time of year.
How To Stay Body Positive During the the New Year
1. Unfollow All the MOFO’s
I don’t follow ANY accounts that make me feel bad about myself, in anyway.
Even if I love the person in real life.
No matter if they had a good recipe on pumpkin bars that one time.
Even if I’m a fan of their dog.
Sometimes, now bear with me here, sometimes it even means unfollowing people that I’m actually friends with in real life.
The thing is– if how someone else presents themselves on social media makes you in anyway feel bad about yourself for any reason– you have EVERY right to unfollow.
I love Sally but all the photos of her doing planks makes me feel like I’m a piece of shit for not doing planks.
I like Kate but all the photos of her smiling and on cool adventures all over the world funded by the money she made from winning the lottery make me wonder what I’m doing with my life in a cubicle.
I’m cool with Bill but following him makes me wonder if breaking things off with him was the right decision even though I KNOW IT WAS.
I’m a big fan of Ashley but all those pictures of her salads make me feel bad about my donuts.
It’s okay to unfollow people you like in real life.
You aren’t mean, it’s not because you don’t like them. It’s because you’re creating a safe space for yourself.
You don’t have room in your brain to feel bad about yourself because of someone else’s highlight reel.
They won’t notice.
And if they do, they won’t ask about it.
And if they do ask about it, you can explain why.
It’s just like deciding to unfollow an ex.
It sounds petty but you’re not doing it because you’re trying to be petty. Even if you want them to be happy and you care about them and you’re even friends with them, if seeing them happy makes you feel bad, un-fucking-follow.
You don’t want to yuck their yum but you also don’t want to be reminded of their fantastic new relationship that looks perfect on Instagram while you’re still at home bottle feeding your newly adopted raccoon.
It’s okay to do what you need to be okay.
2. DO NOT ENGAGE.
I try my damnedest to not engage in diet talk.
I’ve spent most of my life commiserating about losing weight and gaining weight and the latest health craze and quite frankly I’m bored of the conversation.
Commiserating makes it more normal to put ourselves down, so I like to either change the topic or give a response that catapults the whole diet-body-shaming conversation to a close.
It can be difficult to not engage without being a total asshole, so here’s a few real-life examples on how I actually respond:
- Unassuming Friends: “Oh, yeah— I’m on this new diet and I love it! I’ve already lost six pounds and it’s been a week.”
- Clo Bare: “Happy to hear you’re happy!”
- Unassuming Friends: “I lost two pounds yesterday!”
- Clo Bare: “That must’ve been a great shit! You must feel wonderful!”
- Unassuming Friends: “Ugh, I totally shouldn’t eat this. It’s so bad.”
- Clo Bare: “You know what’s worse? Heroine. Meth. Opioids.”
- Unassuming Friends: “After the New Year, I’m going to go on a cleanse.”
- Clo Bare: “Do whatever makes you feel good but remember that you’re fantastic/gorgeous/amazing/sparkly/shiny/a-total-badass exactly as you are, and you don’t need to change your body to be any more sparkly than you already are.”
3. Be prepared.
Have your own response ready if someone tries to body or food shame you. You should NOT have to put up with body shaming and it is 100% encouraged and permissible to stop it in its tracks the second you hear it aimed at you or anyone else.
Again, you don’t have to be an asshole (but also– you totally can because anyone body shaming is being an asshole whether intentionally or not). There are so many great clapback articles that you can find by googling “body positive clapbacks” or “body positive responses to shaming” but here are some of my favorites:
“Are you sure you want to eat that?”
- “Yes. Thanks for asking though. I think I got this. If I need advice on (name area of their expertise), I’ll be sure to ask you.”
“You know that has like 1,000 calories in it, right?”
- “In that case, I’ll have two.”
“You look like you’ve gained weight.”
- Option One: “Thanks for noticing. I’ve worked really hard on it.”
- Option Two: “Thanks for noticing. I’ve worked really hard to get over a lifetime of eating disorders and it’s finally paying off.”
- Option Three: “Thanks for noticing. I’m preparing for hibernation.”
- Option Four: “Yep. I decided to stop making myself miserable for a diet and fitness and health industry that profits off women’s insecurities.”
- Option Five: “Yep. I’m trying this new thing called ‘I-eat-whatever-the-fuck-I-want-and-don’t-feel- bad-about-it.’ It’s going well.”
- Option Six: “Thanks for noticing. I’ve also made a job change, managed a blog, started freelancing, became addicted to kickboxing, dealt with some pretty intense trauma therapy, went on 12 trips, read fifty-two books and started learning another language this year, but I’m glad you noticed my weight gain.”
- Option Seven: “Thanks. I really like what it does to my ass.”
So many options. Pick your favorites.
4. Tell those thoughts to merrily fuck off.
Don’t entertain the thoughts that don’t serve you. I’ve said it a million times, but I will say it again– You MUST remember that your thoughts are not you.
The thought that tells you that you are not enough– that thought is not you.
That one that tells you you can’t do something– that thought is not you.
The thought that says that you have to lose weight before you can do something? That THOUGHT IS WRONG AND NOT YOU.
YOU CAN ACT IN OPPOSITION TO YOUR THOUGHTS.
NO ONE HAS TO BELIEVE IN THEIR THOUGHTS.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO WHAT YOUR THOUGHTS TELL YOU.
Seriously. Frigging make that your mantra. Your thoughts are not you. It’s weird at first, but it gets easier as time goes by.
Taking a moment to recognize these thoughts that come up and making a conscious effort to say FUCK off, is the most powerful tool that has helped me in learning how to accept myself and unlearn the damaging beauty standards that created these thoughts in the first place.
5. Follow what makes you feel good.
There are so many dedicated body positive, fat activist, feminist as fuck accounts out there that do a much better job than I do breaking down barriers and sending out constant reminders that your body, your sex, your race, your gender is not the problem– society is. They say what I need to hear ALL the friggin time.
Here are some of my favorites that have helped clear my Instagram feed of the bullshit and have made it a much safer place:
- Bodyposipanda actually makes the world a better place. She is actual sunshine and rainbows but also is unafraid to get real about real shit. Follow her immediately but be prepared to start accepting and not hating your lumps and jiggly bits.
- This is an account I just recently started following and I love it because of her “Instagram vs Reality” posts. Ya’ll know that stuff is my jam, and I love that because I think it’s SO friggin easy to forget that Instagram and social media is not reality. Like this one on her butt– it’s perfection and a reminder that what we see is only what the people posting want us to see.
- Jes Baker is the woman who first introduced me to body positivity and I credit her books with changing my life more than ANY self-help book I have ever read. I had never realized that I could choose to not buy into the diet world until I happened upon her book in the Hoopla library. I am so grateful that this badass activist exists, shares her struggles, calls out diet/beauty/fitness industry bullshit, and bares her soul to empower others to do the same.
- I love this woman. She is a goddamn queen. Not only is she one of the best writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading in recent years, but she is a fucking slayer of all mother fucking sexist, fatphobic bullshit and did I mention that I love her? Also read her books.
- I love this account because Gloria is constantly dropping truth bombs no matter how uncomfortable it makes people. Her account is body positivity and social reform and I love it. She inspires me to be as honest as possible, but she also makes me realize my own bullshit and biases that I didn’t even realize I had. I love the account and I learn from it all the damn time.
There are also several books that I have read (a few that are still on my list) that help me on this journey.
Here’s a few favorites:
- Health at Any Size– Linda Bacon
- Bad Feminist– Roxane Gay
- Hunger– Roxane Gay
- The Beauty Myth– Naomi Wolf
- Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls– Jes Baker (THE FIRST BOOK THAT EVER INTRODUCED ME TO BODY POSITIVITY!)
- Landwhale: On Turning Insults Into Nicknames, Why Body Image Is Hard, and How Diets Can Kiss My Ass– Jes Baker
- Shrill– Lindy West
You don’t have to go through this new year focusing on how you wish you were different. You have all the right to appreciate and eat and drink and enjoy yourself like everyone else does. Do not let this body shaming bullshit keep you from doing you.
Lots and lots and lots of love to you all this new year <3