“Hey, you don’t have to justify nourishing your body.”
That’s what I should’ve said to one of my close friends and mentors two years ago when we were on a Pagan goddess retreat. I didn’t. Instead, I sat like everyone one else at the table, chewing silently, averting our eyes to our own plates. I remember staring at the vinyl tablecloth, the kind all our grandmothers have. Red and white checkers, soft felt backing that’s pilled with age, with a harsh plastic zipping sound when one of our aunts or mothers tries to wipe it off with a wet paper towel.
I should’ve nipped it in the bud. I should’ve reassured her. Instead, I kept my mouth shut, allowing her justifications to roll around in my head, silently giving her approval. As a fellow fat person, it was a move I knew so well:
Beat everyone to the chase. Call out all the “problematic” things we do first, before anyone else does. Call them out so we let everyone know that we know. Her justifications? They were for walking over to the table with a plate of food during dinner. That’s it. Just a human, eating during the dinner hour at a retreat.
She had a scoop of pasta, a few meatballs, some salad, a roll. Your standard pasta dinner that everyone else was eating. She might’ve had three meatballs instead of two. One plate. As she buttered her roll, the dime-size plastic container abandoned on the side of her plate, a smudge of butter clinging to the foil wrapper, she felt the need to announce “I didn’t eat today, so I’m eating a bigger dinner.”
A bigger dinner? I remember glancing at the rest of our plates—the plates of the thin people further down the table. Everyone had a variety of basically the same amount of food. One person had two rolls, another had four meatballs, some didn’t have salad. All of these plates belonged to thin people, though. My friend and I, along with the other big people at the retreat, were always justifying what we were eating, how much we were eating.
Fatphobia is defined as “the intense fear or dislike of fat, becoming fat and fat bodies.” It’s the justification of what we eat and how much we eat that made me realize that even as a self-identified fat person, I was scared of being correlated to that adjective. Somehow bringing attention to what we eat gives us a reprieve. If I eat a salad, I must be dieting. If I don’t, I shouldn’t be eating whatever I’m eating. Fat people with food is always a bad thing, because mostly everyone correlates being fat to overeating.
It’s exhausting being a fat person in a thin-obsessed society. Simply existing needs to be justified, and if I’m not working towards being thin, aspiring to be thin or also obsessing over being thin while also obsessing over others’ thinness, then somehow I’m the one that has an issue.
It’s because of this internalized fatphobia that I and every other large person I know feels the need to loudly announce “yes, I’m eating, I know it’s “bad,” don’t worry I’m working towards being not so bad, not so f*cking FAT.”
I leave for this year’s retreat in a few days, and I can’t wait to see my fellow witches, my fellow community. I’m more aware this year, and I also hope that someone there announces a justification for what they’re eating, so I can finally say “Hey, you don’t have to justify nourishing your body.”
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