#968: “How can I stop fat-shaming myself and enjoy my life?”

Hi Captain!

My problem is one that I imagine is very, very common, but I’ll start with a little background on my specific situation.

I recently started going to therapy for some pretty serious self esteem issues that had led to me isolating myself for a long time. Up until this year I hadn’t been to a non-family social event – including just one-on-one hangs – in over five years (and even before that it was pretty rare).I’ve made a lot of progress over the last few months; I have a few good friends that I can go out with and all in all, I have learned how to get better about relentlessly judging myself during and after every social interaction.

But even after all this (successful!) work, there’s one aspect that I just can’t seem to crack, even with my wonderful therapist, which is the possibility of a romantic relationship. It has been ten years since my last relationship (I’m in my early30s) and I haven’t been on so much as a date since then. While I was in my hermit state I vacillated between “I don’t really want a partner anyway” (a big fat lie) and “You’re not worth a relationship.” Basically the idea of being involved with someone in a romantic way seemed to be something that just wasn’t in the cards for me, ever. I always pictured myself alone.

Now, though, that I’ve started being around people socially, it’s starting to seem…not so insane. Like maybe it’s not out of the realm of possibility anymore, at least not when I think about it in an abstract way. But when it comes to a practical way – joining a dating site, talking to guys at social events, whatever – I can’t seem to break that bubble of “Why even bother? Who would want to be with you?” Even just writing this part of the letter made me feel embarrassed and silly.

There’s one important thing at play here that I haven’t mentioned yet: I’m fat. [details of weight redacted by Captain Awkward, per the site policies] I just can’t stop thinking of my weight (and looks in general, to a lesser extent) as my #1 defining characteristic.

It’s pretty easy to draw a straight line directly from media portrayals to my issues in this area. A fat girl talking about sex is almost always a punch line, a character for everyone else to make “ew, gross” faces about. Despite intellectually knowing better, I’ve internalized this message. For instance, occasionally I’ll use Tinder when I’m bored or feeling optimistic about the future (but mostly bored), and one time I ran across a co-worker. What should have been a “haha isn’t this awkward” moment sent me into a complete meltdown. I was *mortified* that this co-worker might think that…I don’t know, that I thought someone would be attracted to me? It was ages (like, literally a year and a half) before I could be around this extremely nice co-worker without wanting to crawl under the table and die. I couldn’t even talk to him.

So that’s basically where I am. This feeling that, no matter how funny or kind or interesting I am inside, it doesn’t even matter because my outside is so unappealing. I get so sad thinking about how no one will ever look at me and think, “Oh, she’s pretty, I’d like to get to know her”.

How can I start to escape the “overweight=unfuckable, unfuckable=unlovable” cycle?

-Want To Make The Rockin’ World Go ‘Round (She)

Dear Rockin’ World,

It sounds like your weight gain in recent years has become a “load-bearing repository” for the massive social anxiety you’ve been dealing with. In other words, it’s become the big “unsolvable” problem that you can displace anxiety onto and blame for current unhappiness. Maybe reframing it that way can help you tackle it with your therapist? (Thank you, Letter Writer #963, that is such an excellent concept).

Our culture brutally hates fat people, and that’s not going away any time soon. So, your struggle is real. You can’t control whether a particular person will find you attractive, whether a total stranger will decide to police your food in the lunch line today, whether your doctor will decide that your [actual illness or injury] can be magically solved if you lost a few pounds, or the death-by-a-thousand cuts of weaponized fatphobia and fat hatred in the world. But that doesn’t mean that you are necessarily doomed to an unhappy or lonely life, or to feeling this way about your body forever. The struggle is real, but you don’t have to struggle alone, and it doesn’t have to feel this hard forever.

Here are some resources that help me with body acceptance. They might help you?

Shapely Prose (not active as a commenting community or being updated by the site owner, but the archive is a treasure trove of writing). Start with The Fantasy Of Being Thin, which refutes the idea that a happy life is something you can have “someday, when you’re thin enough to deserve it.” Also check out the FAQ to help refute common tropes and concern-trolling arguments that fat-shamers throw out all the time. The site’s creator, Kate Harding, also wrote a book with the awesome Marianne Kirby. This blog probably wouldn’t exist without Kate, Sweet Machine, FillyJonk, Dear Aunt Fattie, and the other babes of Shapely Prose, so, thank you.

Hanne Blank’s Big Big Love and The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide To Exercise (And Other Incendiary Acts). Overall thesis: Love and sex and exercise are there for you, should work for you (to make you feel good) and you deserve the best of all of those things and should never have to accept less.

Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD and the HAES community. Want to see some peer-reviewed scientific research about approaches to nutrition and exercise that actually improve health outcomes for people? Overall thesis: Study participants who learned to eat in a way that felt right to them and move their bodies in a way that was fun and sustainable to them without the stated goal or pressure of weight loss had better health outcomes than similar groups who exercised and restricted calories with the goal of losing weight. You can also check out The Fat Nutritionist.

Wear Your Voice, especially Dear Virgie‘s advice column and their Style Crush archives. The Establishment also has some great work here. Save Ijeoma Oluo’s piece You Don’t Have To Love Your Body for a rainy day when you’re just not feeling it. Worth noting: The connection between fat acceptance, fat activism, and unapologetic intersectional feminism is not a coincidence, y’all.

Retrain Your Eye

You’re absolutely right that media and popular culture don’t show enough images of fat women, and that when they do we’re all holding our breath waiting for either the punchline or the moment when a fat woman “doesn’t know she’s sexy” until heterosexual love magically teaches her about her own self-worth. (barf emoji) Your anger at that is a good sign that your self-preservation and bullshit-detecting skills are working.

If you can’t yet see the beauty in your own body or in other fat bodies, that’s okay, but it doesn’t have to stay that way forever. We’re surrounded by stylish, aspirational images of thin women, but we can also look at beautiful, stylish, aspirational images that celebrate lots of different kinds of bodies. Three of my personal favorite fat-shion sites right now are: Gabifresh, Lu zhiet an (I bought this dress after seeing it there and even though we have very different bodies it looks AWESOME), and Garner Style. One reason I really like Marianne Kirby (in addition to her rad glasses and shoe collection and generally excellent writing and witty human kindness) is that we’re the same height and roughly the same dress size so if something looks good on her it will probably look good on me. As you scout out plus-size fashion blogs, if you find someone with a similar body shape and style vibe looking awesome, that can be a jolt to your self-esteem…even as it shocks your wallet.

Here are some other things you can try and control:

  • Practice saying only nice things about your own body. If that’s too hard at first:
    • Take note of how often you find yourself saying mean things about your body. Can you interrupt the behavior?
    • What cool thing can your body do? Did it carry you all over the place today? Did it get some really good sleep last night?
    • Think about who is watching & listening when you say mean things about your body. Your “uncomfortable and embarrassed” weight is someone else’s aspiration.
  • Practice saying only nice things about other people’s bodies. When you see strangers out in public, try a little mental exercise where you wish only good things at them and look for things to compliment instead of criticize. Stop looking at people, yourself included, as a compendium of “problem areas” to be “minimized.”
  • When people around you devolve into body-hate or body-snark, stop them. You can fight against the idea that women have to talk about food as “sinful” or engage in ritual self-shaming as a bonding exercise.
  • Try out self-portraiture as self-care. Normalize your own face and your own body for yourself over time. Read about this here.
  • When you’ve got more confidence, pay it forward. Share articles about fat acceptance or gorgeous images of fat folks. Tell the fat people in your life that they look great. Delete or shut down body-policing comments from family or Facebook friends. Be the person who shuts down diet-talk at lunch with co-workers.

Even with all the resources I’ve read and all the work I’ve done over the years, I will never lie to you and tell you that I feel 100% glowingly happy with my own fat body all the time, every day. I will never lie to you and tell you that being fat in a culture that hates fat people doesn’t affect my self-image, my interactions with people, my physical comfort (ugh, airplane seats), my economic situation, or my health ( new doctor anxiety, anyone? “Hello, new physician, I see that I will have to remind you that I am a human being, AGAIN.“). I will never tell you that I didn’t sometimes accept shitty sex and a shitty substitute for love because I didn’t think I deserved anything better. I will never lie and say that being happily coupled-up doesn’t make this all easier for me right now than it does for someone who is unhappily single, or that I don’t have an easier time of things being white, cis-gendered, and hourglass-shaped. I’m not going to pretend this blog or this post is the most radical or progressive or forward-thinking or political manifesto that needs to happen for fat acceptance; it’s a start, only a start.

Here’s what gets me through:

  • This is the only body I’ve got. I can fight with it or I can make peace with it. I choose, mostly, to make peace.
  • My life is happening now, not someday. I let go of the fantasy of being thin and stopped waiting for someday.
  • I found community and great people who inspired me and who taught me how to love myself better (See all the many links above, and let’s pour one out for LiveJournal’s fatshionista community). When I can, I try to pay that forward.
  • I did the work of retraining my eye and doing what I could not to make the world worse for other people (by body-snarking, picking apart celebrity images, talking about diets).
  • I set and enforce a lot of boundaries with people who cannot be trusted to help me feel good about my body. There are some people who are not in my life anymore, or who are “small doses” people, because of this.
  • When I get down on myself, I try to imagine what I would say to a friend who was feeling this way. I hear my former (great) therapist’s voice a lot: “Could you try to be a little bit gentle with yourself around this?
  • I give it time, and many fits and starts. When I fall off the body-acceptance wagon, I have a process for getting back on. Sometimes that has to be enough.

Bonus practices, since you’re thinking about dating, specifically:

When I had my best/most happy/least sucky run of online dating after many years of trial and error, here are some things that helped me weed out the jerks and prioritize the cool people:

  • I used realistic photos that showed my body size in my dating profile and unapologetically self-identified as fat. Just say no to using only “flattering” face pics and then putting yourself through the dread of being “outed” as fat on the first date!
  • I only responded to people whose photos I liked. I didn’t try to talk myself into being attracted to someone if I didn’t like how they looked. Some people don’t like to fuck fat women, that’s cool! I wasn’t looking to fuck smokers or dudes with ponytails, and that is my personal subjective choice that I get to make. We’re both allowed to scroll on by, or “swipe left” as the kids these days are saying.
  • Any dude who made any weird comment about my size, either fetishizing it or “You’re not that fat” or “Um, exactly how fat are you?” or “You’re fatter than women I’m usually attracted to but you’re so cool I gotta make an exception” got a “Hey, thanks but no thanks.”
  • I like fat chicks, they try harder” = BLOCKED WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.
  • Anyone who said “So you are some kind of feminist, huh?” = BLIZZOCKED.
  • Ditto for guys who listed 10,000 super-cool books and bands and movies and artists they liked that were all created by and for white men. You just don’t happen to like any art by women? That’s cool, you continue to like whatever books you currently like, and I, a woman artist and writer, will continue to prioritize dudes who like some art by women.
  • Anyone who wanted me to do a lot of emotional labor up front – like, we’ve been on one date, why are you constantly g-chatting me about your family issues, or sending me texts that just say “Hey…” like I’m supposed to entertain you…just…no.
  • People who started their message with picking a “playful” argument or correcting me.”Your Hulk-ku was hilarious, but actually to be a real haiku it would have to be…..” Don’t know about you, but I find mansplainers completely unfuckable.
  • People who were pushy about wanting sex but not good at making plans or communicating = NOPE. (Casual sex has its place and I have had my glorious share of strictly physical encounters, but a guy who couldn’t text me back about whether we’re having drinks tonight after all in a timely fashion was not sending me encouraging messages about how fun sex would be).
  • Boring dudes who didn’t seem like they were interested in anything. “I’m looking for a partner-in-crime.” “I like to live life to the fullest.” “On a typical Friday night I’d be…hanging out.” “My mom says I’m funny.” My dude, even my enemies concede that I’m funny sometimes. These gentlemen were no doubt very nice and plenty interesting and someone will really like them, but we were not for each other. I needed “Big Weirdo seeks Big Weirdo for talking about Weird Stuff.
  • If the prospect of spending an hour with someone wasn’t as fun as if I’d spent the time with friends or alone, I didn’t go on a second date with that person. And if dating started to bum me out or take too much energy or feel like a chore, I took a break from it to focus on hobbies/work/school/art/friends/family/all the many vectors of love and companionship in my life.

You, a woman who is fatter than she’d like to be, can be picky. You don’t have to respond to everyone who writes to you. You can prioritize “shallow” things like attraction when making decisions about who to write back to or meet. And you are never obligated to put up with shitty treatment from some dude who thinks he’s granting you some giant favor by “overcoming” your body size to be with you. Weed That Guy out of your dating pool as soon as you possibly can.


I bet you’re pretty darn nice to look at! I bet lots of people see you and think that they’d like to get to know you. That doesn’t mean you fit the dominant beauty standard or that any person or people in particular will like the way you look or that your feelings about yourself are automatically invalid, but there are lots and lots and lots of ways to be nice looking. Lots of ways.

I bet your coworker was also embarrassed about the Tinder thing, but not because of not being attracted to you or not thinking you had a right to be there, just, it’s awkward to get mutual visual confirmation that a coworker is on Tinder. Your coworker was also taking a “Hey, I think maybe someone would be attracted to me?” risk.

I bet that if you can retrain your eye, find some solidarity, go slow, be gentle with yourself, and be picky, you’re gonna have a great life. At any size. At every size.

Sending you all the love and baby donuts, my lovely.


Moderation Notes:

  • What I’m hoping will happen with this discussion: People who have made some peace with their bodies will recommend resources and practices that work for them in maintaining body acceptance in a hostile world.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, give the Letter Writer weight loss advice if you wish to keep commenting here.
  • Do not tell us your weight, your size, your diet, your personal exercise regime, “healthy” recipes you eat. If you simply must talk about that stuff, behold, the rest of the internet lies open, ready and waiting to absorb this information.
  • Clothing sizes are tricky. “The dress in this photo is size ____/that site has clothes that go up to size ___” is useful information. “I am a size ____/I used be a size ___/I want to be a size ___” is not okay.
  • Well, you may be fat, but at least you’re not disabled.” NO. NOT OKAY. 
  • Some people/I personally am attracted to fat folks!” Okay? That can be good and true information, like, there is a ton of data that suggests that fat people are not doomed to die alone. Exhibit A:
Image Description: Wedding photo of Captain Awkward & Mr. Awkward looking fat and happy, outdoors in fall, near a cabin called The Little House of Glencoe. Old-School LJ Fatshionista Info: Dress = Modcloth, Size 4X (purchased on clearance, a sadly discontinued style), shoes = Camper (E-bay, also discontinued style, sorry), Cardigan = 3X, Lands’ End (probably still available in some form). Photography by the great Eric Lipe

But that doesn’t negate either the cultural messages or the Letter Writer’s feelings, so, make sure your encouraging comment doesn’t sound like a Note From A Boner.

Thank you in advance.

Edited To Add: I started reading fat acceptance and fatshion blogs 10 years ago, so the resources that come to my mind as ones that helped me reflect that. There are beautiful and active communities on Tumblr and Instagram and Twitter and elsewhere online still doing this work. If you are one of these wonderful people, self-promotion and self-linking in comments is a-ok. All I ask is that if your blog *does* mention specific weights other stuff that is not allowed in our site policies, please tell us so people can make an informed choice, for example: “I put my actual weight in all my posts so people can get a realistic idea of what that means, visually.








390 thoughts on “#968: “How can I stop fat-shaming myself and enjoy my life?”

  1. LW, when I read the letter, I had to check my memories to see if I had written to the Captain and somehow forgotten about it, because SAME BOAT! SAME BOAT! As a fat lady who has been forever alone and living with parents (chinese girl too) who are forever blaring the age old horn of thin equals man attention equals happiness, my efforts at gaining some body confidence is an eternal uphill struggle. Before Captain Awkward, life was pretty bleak
    The good Captain’s words, the fashion blogs and the recommended reading helps a lot though. Before these fashion blogs, I never imagined that us plus sized girls can look glamorous and pretty. But looking at these instagrammers, I suddenly have a hope in my future that, hey, I can also be hot. I can also pass by a mirror, point to my reflection and leer “HOW YA DOING BABE?”
    I wish you the best of luck in finding love, in both yourself and in your relationships!

  2. I love all of this advice. And your wedding photo really makes me smile. You guys are so damn cute. Thanks for sharing!

      1. Love the wedding photo! You look very happy together. And, thanks for all the strategies and info for the LW. There are many people who will appreciate them….myself included.

    1. The joy, the smiles, the outfits, the flowers, those shoes. Perfection! I’m so happy for both of you.

      1. Ditto! I want to make squee noises and hug you both. I am from the South… it’s genetic or something.

      2. Oh yes, so am I. 🙂 What a beautiful photo.

        Great, great advice, thank you Captain. I am dealing with these issues too. Three things that help me get through bad moments:

        1) I interrupt the destructive things I’m thinking about how I look by asking myself what is something I have done today that I feel really good about that is completely unrelated to my appearance. Thinking of something creative and skilled such as singing really helps. Or it might be reading a book in another language, or working on my thesis.

        2) Aquajogging. Feels great and freeing, and it helps me connect to my body as it is and feel how well it works.

        3) Drawing myself. I love drawing with charcoal, particularly people. Every now and then when I feel terrible about my body, I draw a self portrait. Oddly it doesn’t feel like fat-shaming, I find that it increases my empathy with my body and my acceptance of it as it is. Spending some time doing something I love just for my own benefit feels constructive. It helps me think yes this is my body and there are times when I feel good about that: I might not feel that great about my body at this point but I will again.

        LW, I really hear you. You are absolutely not alone. Jedi hugs if you would like them.

        1. Oops I’m sorry Captain, I should say I mention aquajogging not as a dreaded *one must exercise but because it helps me feel great about how my body works just as it is.

          1. For people who wish to exercise, I heartily second aqua jogging. If you take a class, it will depend on the teacher, but the exercises can be done on one’s own, as well.

            It is zero impact, which can be a plus if you have joint trouble, but is a minus in that it won’t build your bones up. It is vigorous, so it will help your cholesterol levels, if that is a concern.

            Despite being zero impact, there is a lot of bobbing. People with breasts may be more comfortable if they wear something supportive.

      3. Oh Captain I LOVE your dress and your shoes! I zoomed in on them and everything and I’m not even a shoes person! Awww

      4. YAY for the photo — so sad that the shoes are not made anymore — so cute!

    2. Another comment to say that the wedding photo is truly lovely. You two look beautiful and happy! May you carry on that way for many years to come! 🙂

  3. Commenting mainly to follow this, because I could have written it. All the HAES philosophy & seeing beauty in fat friends hasn’t managed to make a dent in my convictions about myself (and lord, the mortification when I think about dating! Making bystanders feel awkward and embarrassed, or laughing behind my back (or outright), as they watch my older-than-the-LW fat, frumpy self thinking she has a chance!), but maybe the Awkward Army can.

    LW, you aren’t alone, and I suspect that won’t help but Jedi Hugs in solidarity.

    1. >All the HAES philosophy & seeing beauty in fat friends hasn’t managed to make a dent in my convictions about myself

      It hasn’t made a dent in mine either; for years I felt I was Doing Self-Esteem Wrong, because if I *really* loved myself, wouldn’t I think I was beautiful and a sexy goddess? Of course, that lead to an even deeper spiral of self-loathing because damn I can’t even recognize how awful I am at Self-Esteeming, wow, I must be lying to myself when I say I like myself because I’m still not thrilled with my reflection, etc. etc.

      Not sure if it’d helpful to you, but about a year ago, I started embracing my own view of myself but, more importantly, separating out my own self-worth and value from it. I can see myself as not gorgeous, and *still love myself*, because my value no longer rests on physical appearance. I don’t HAVE to think I’m beautiful, or a sexy goddess, or anything like that, because it’s immaterial to how I view myself.

      Not sure if I’m even explaining it adequately, but I found a lot of power in being able to say “I’m not attractive. I’m awesome!” I didn’t have to force myself to “see” something I wasn’t seeing, and the negative connotation of what I was seeing also no longer dented my self-worth. It was a two-for-one punch up for my happiness and mental health.

      1. This was important to me, too. Like, I like and respect and admire plenty of people I don’t find physically attractive, so, why can’t I like and respect and admire myself even if I don’t like what I see in the mirror? I am not just my body.

          1. Thanks 🙂 I’m getting there (or there-adjacent) with a lot of help from a therapist, but there’s just this *wall* between “I’m pretty awesome” and “Someone out there will be able to look at naked-me without immediately puking”. What’s helped so far has been to realise how awesome my friends are, which led to a realisation that they wouldn’t hang out with me for nefarious reasons, so… maybe I’m good company? But good grief, the thought of anyone having to see me naked, or having to deal with me flirting with them (etc etc) makes me want to curl into a ball & cry, for the cruelty of putting them through it.

      2. Personally I find a lot of value in the idea of working to divorce one’s self worth from one’s appearance. I am lucky that I’ve always conformed to conventional beauty standards, but as a side effect I’ve invested a lot of my self image in that. I’ve made a fair bit of money modeling too. As I get older, and I inevitably become less conventionally attractive, it’s hard for me to remember that my value as a person is not in my appearance. My personal growth journey– perhaps for the rest of my life –is teaching myself that my beauty is just one thing about me, a nice thing maybe, but not an important one, or one that makes me who I am. Beauty doesn’t determine my worth. I am not there yet, but I am working towards it.

      3. “for years I felt I was Doing Self-Esteem Wrong, because if I *really* loved myself, wouldn’t I think I was beautiful and a sexy goddess?”

        Same same same! For me the only thing that helped the endless spirals of self-loathing and yo-yo dieting and other horridness was throwing out a bunch of that “love your body” talk. It absolutely works for some people! It did not work for me. I found that once I could get to a point of saying “Yeah I weigh [number] and I wish it was [smaller number] instead, and that sucks, but I am worth far more than my attractiveness” I was able to finally move into healthy self-care and self-acceptance.

        Another thing that helped me a ton was looking at pictures of fat athletes with their weights attached, so I could tell myself “This person weighs [number] and I [feelings feelings feelings mostly gross fat-shamey feelings] about that number, but she can clean and jerk 120 kg. Hot damn that’s awesome and does it really even matter that she weighs whatever?”

        1. I struggle with “loving” my body, because I’m disabled and in pretty much constant pain. Hard to love a body that restricts my life choices and has taken away many things about my life that I deeply enjoyed :/

          OTOH, *accepting* my body is a more successful endeavor — I can still feel body-positive (and cute as hell), and I can enjoy the awesome things my body *can* do, and I can do things that make my body feel good, and that are affirming to my heart and mind.

          So, yeah — the body-love stuff was easier to get my head around when I was healthier, but body-acceptance (and being positive about other people’s bodies) is a more intersectional thing to strive for, in my experience.

          1. I too have a hard time with the “body love” rhetoric, because I’m in pain a lot and often don’t love my body because it’s hurting and pissing me off.

            I find it way easier to think in terms of being gentle with my body.

          2. Yes! Care and gentleness and kindness. If my body were a friend, I would take it out someplace nice and listen to its woes over a nice glass of wine, and maybe stroll around the city dreaming what a better future could look like and how we would spend time together then. Without being angry that my friend is struggling and hurting and the future isn’t here yet and I don’t know if it will ever be quite like I imagine.

            Why am I so impatient with my own body? Why do I unsympathetically tell it to shut up, I don’t have time for its stupid human problems? …probably I am afraid, that’s why.

        2. I have started to really love the ESPN Body Issue – yes, a lot of those athletes have beautiful toned bodies, but ESPN also included images of larger athletes, an athlete with an amputation, and a trans athlete, and it’s really awesome seeing those bodies being celebrated for what they can do versus what they look like.

      4. +1 for using “I’m awesome!” as your go-to self-talk. I had to like myself before I could like my body.

      5. This has been my source of agency too. And, strangely enough, giving up the idea that *I* must see myself as beautiful made it easier to accept that others can and do, and I can appreciate their appreciation, even if I don’t share it.

        I also had a really powerful realization fairly recently, that beauty is basically irrelevant (to me, anyway) – I was remembering a favorite teacher – she always dressed very well, and extra flamboyantly, especially her earrings (they were always giant dangley fountains of colorful beads) and she’d wear bright lipstick. She was also quite old, very wrinkly, and definitely not in the conventional categories of beautiful or handsome … but that didn’t matter. The way she dressed was such a clear expression of who she was that it did not matter one bit whether she fit some beauty standard. She was simply herself, authentically, and she shines brighter in my memory than anyone who could ever be described as pretty.

        I realize that doesn’t help with the search of romance, but I do find it quite empowering to switch from trying to meet someone else’s standards to instead trying to find and live in my own authenticity.

        1. This is awesome! and so true! I had a college professor who stands out for that reason as well. She has the most exquisite collection of unique and well crafted leather knee-high boots and always coordinated outfits to match!

        2. I have a similar issue – I read things like, “I see people with bodies like mine, and I think they’re beautiful.” Well, I see people with bodies like mine, and I don’t think they’re particularly attractive.

          But. If I notice at all (which of course is like 1% of the time), what I think is “That person’s body, like mine, is not particularly beautiful.” I do not think, “… therefore, they are lazy and disgusting and their professional accomplishments are meaningless and they don’t deserve to enjoy sex and their children should be embarrassed to be seen with them…” and so on… all the things I add for myself. I remember, for other people, what they look like is just a small piece of who they are, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t extend that courtesy to myself.

      6. It’s the same way for me. I’m totally on board with body positivity in general, but at the end of the day I dislike mine. I’d rather be at a different weight, I dislike my facial features, there’s functionality my body doesn’t have that I’d rather it did (higher reflexes, running ability, that sort of thing), and if that was a central point of self-worth and value this would do a lot of damage. It isn’t, so it doesn’t. I’m not attractive, I’m not particularly athletic, and I’m allowed to have flaws while still having value, so what-the-fuck-ever. There’s more to me as a person than those two traits.

        If an attitude of blowing conventional beauty standards off and deciding that you like how you look and how your body is works for you, go for it. It’s a great strategy, and if you’ve got “you’re ugly” cycling through your brain “that’s bullshit” is a totally valid response. So is “whatever, I’m also [positive trait]”.

    2. All the HAES philosophy & seeing beauty in fat friends hasn’t managed to make a dent in my convictions about myself

      Funny how we’re all special snowflakes. For me, a turning point was someone posting pictures on LJ, looking gorgeous and not overly fat. They were the same height/weight than me, and my mind kept oscillating between ‘they look gorgeous’ and ‘but those are my stats, and it’s impossible to look great at that weight’ until it settled somewhere in the middle.

    3. Some of us (and I include myself) just aren’t all that attractive. It has nothing to do with our weight, and in my case, nothing to do with my self confidence or esteem. I’m just not beautiful. I have crooked, yellow teeth – even missing teeth – that no amount of affordable dentistry can do anything about. (Seriously, I have had braces twice and a retainer once and have tried teeth whitening, okay? It’s been tried.) I have a very red face, with blotchy patches of discoloration. I have acne, chronic rashes, moles, and skin tabs on various parts of my body.

      And yet. I am confident in my strong, capable body. I value my intelligent, creative mind. I strive to be the best person I can be. And I deprioritize beauty. I know we are trained from birth to believe that the most important thing that a female identified person can be is pretty, but I reject that. Granted, I consume very little popular media culture, outside of books. I don’t follow celebrities, watch movies and tv only occasionally, so that probably makes it easier.

      For what it is worth, I have been partnered for 20 years. The right person will love you because they love YOU. You’re a package deal. You’re so much more than what appears on one’s transiant surface.

  4. I used to “rent space in other peoples heads” a lot around exercise and grocery shopping specifically. I live in an area where the surroundings are glorious for hiking and running and I hesitated because of my weight, and thought everybody would judge me. Little by little I started doing what I like but was always vary (as is natural, for fat people) that other people would judge me/shame me. Once I was outside, running, it was raining and windy, and a car filled with teenaged-ish boys drove by, slowed down and the window rolled down. I prepared myself for something horrible, but they shouted encouraging words, complimenting me for running in bad weather. This helped me enormously when I tried to let go of what the outside world thought about my shape or looks.
    LW, there are a lot of us out there that have found love, and rejected lots and lots of not-so-good prospects. I second the Captain´s advice, and wish you soooo much luck in doing everything you wish going forward.

    1. The thing about rejecting not-so-good prospects is also that you’re teaching yourself that you’re allowed to have standards that this isn’t a one-sided interview where you’re trying to pass, but where your prospect has to be at least this cool to ride. Rejection as self-love practice 🙂

    2. scrappyjoe, I love that story about the strangers shouting encouragement. It’s easy to forget sometimes that people are good.

      1. Me too! My heart was in my throat for a moment (as a lady who was once yelled at by teenage boys from a car in a very unkind way). The story really made me smile!

    3. I used to walk with light hand-weights near my apt. Once I got a set time established, several women along the route started waving and shouting encouragement to me. I’ve had that happen before my accident, but this meant so much more. I didn’t welcome the men doing it, though they were just as friendly, and the cars of boys were also kind, though sadly I did tighten inside to see if there was going to be a zinger. Sadly, my neighborhood isn’t safe to do this favorite exercise anymore.

      While I love weights and bodybuilding, I haven’t enjoyed the particular gyms I’ve gone to as management didn’t police the creepy guys hanging around the leg machines. -Not all gyms!

      That black with flowered skirt dress at the start of Captain’s reply is so, so cute and so is that girl. I’d love to work somewhere fun and creative with her. I wish I’d seen her dress before I didn’t go to a fancy tea party. Having the belt high on the ribs is really cute and I’d forgotten about that look.

    4. awwww… those boys seem so nice! How lovely to get encouragement for running in the rain (especially since that is NOT FUN STUFF)

    5. I once had a group of young guys drive past me, slow down and roll down the window. I was inwardly bracing myself (because nothing good ever comes from strangers yelling at you from a car), and then they yelled “You’ve got curly hair!”, then drove off.

      I was completely gobsmacked, didn’t know what to do with that, and started laughing. I try to think about that every now and then: I do indeed have curly hair and I’m also fat, so why should pointing out one of those things be funny and pointing out the other be hurtful? My fatness is no different to my curly hair – they are both just part of me.

      (Having said that, you have no idea how glad I am the LW asked this question – even after years of FA, I’m still struggling with this myself.)

  5. Captain, please delete this if it violates policy (long time reader, first time comment).

    LW, I used to be fat. Now I am not. I do not have a positive body image, and was not instantly more self-confident when I lost weight (the fantasy of being thin link is fantastic). That has grown over the years, but was an adjustment process, with a lot of frustration at myself for a long time: “Why am I not feeling more self-confident? Why am I not more outgoing? Everything should be solved now!” Essentially, I very gradually adjusted my attitude, mainly due to getting older and gradually feeling like I have to care less about what other people think of me (still very much a work in progress). I wish I had not had the “I will be happier when I am not fat!” mentally when I was fat. Or “no one will find me attractive because I am fat!”. It would have saved so much time and effort feeling rubbish for no reason whatsover. Because all this nonsense that society tells us is truly all just rubbish.

    The Captain’s advice is golden. Start with the saying/thinking nice things about other people’s bodies if you can’t manage it about yourself just yet. It gradually affects your attitudes and makes the rest easier. You’re essentially retraining your brain after a lifetime of society hurling nonsense at it. That takes a while. Baby steps, go easy on yourself and forgive yourself for set backs and still feeling crappy. So much luck with everything going forward.

    1. You’re within bounds – people change body sizes in all directions for all kinds of reasons. It’s the descriptions of the “weight loss journey” that I’m patrolling the borders for.

    2. I went the other way! When I was within the not-getting-hassled zone on the dreaded BMI chart, I was obsessed with my weight and my perceived fatness (I might not have been medically considered fat at that point but I am a big, solid woman whose shoulders tend to hulk out of clothes – I have literally torn out the underarm seam on so many otherwise-loose shirts reaching for stuff. Unsurprising: the cultural shit women get for taking up a lot of space is not actually about your health or even the facts of your body in any way, no matter what. You cannot negotiate with it by actually being or not being any certain size or build.)

      I’m fat now. (My reasons for that are private, and I’m not interested in debating their virtue. Some of it IS about having a sedentary job. I DO think being tied to a computer or phone headset for economic survival with limited breaks for nine-plus hours a day is hard on your body, fat or no. The assumption that we’re all going to spend 100% of our free time rehabbing ourselves from our work day is. Interesting). I feel better about myself than I did then. Working on not engaging with fat talk externally and on just plain distracting myself internally has been really good. (Thought pattern: I feel “fat”, whatever that – no, Purps, stop. Look! A bird! … I feel f- nope, do you need to stand up and stretch your sore back? Do you need some water? How do you take care of this body that is your body?)

      1. Oh dang. “I feel f–nope… How do you take care of this body that is your body?”

        This zings me hard. I’m learning to interrupt my unkind thoughts about others, but it’s proven more difficult to interrupt them about myself. This is such a simple and lovely interruption, I’m stealing it immediately.

      2. “The assumption that we’re all going to spend 100% of our free time rehabbing ourselves from our work day is. Interesting”

        So much this!!

    3. I just wanted to second the -being thin does not a positive body image guarantee- sentiment. It’s strange, but ever since I was a teenager I have existed in a space where people (often just acquaintances!) tell me, “If only you did [this beauty thing], you could be so much more attractive!” Sometimes that means losing weight, sometimes it means wearing more/different make up, different clothes, etc. But I’ve discovered that if you want to listen, there will always be a voice telling you that something about your appearance isn’t good enough. Something that helped me to not internalize these messages is to see the beauty industry for what it is: an industry. People want to sell you their diet advice to make money. People want to sell you their beauty standards to make money. This isn’t about what’s best for you, it’s about what’s best for them.

      Anyway, seeing these things as an attempt at manipulation and/or advertising lets me get angry about it, and I like feeling anger much more than I like feeling shame. I also like to visualize those ideas coming from someone I don’t like, or who I know is not sincere, because then I can just casually whip out a middle finger and move on.

      And as far as the fear that getting naked in front of someone will immediately cause them to run away in horror, I get it, LW. The Captain’s advice that you should be picky when you date is really good, and I also want to extend that to being picky about who you get naked in front of. You don’t need to get naked with people you don’t trust 100%. I hope that when you do get to that point, you’ll already know that the person you’re with wants to be there just as much as you do.

  6. 1. The wedding picture is lovely.
    2. Supportive virtual hugs if wanted, LW.
    3. Keep on with therapy, etc. This can literally be a life-threatening mindset. I had a relative in an older generation who refused to go to the doctor when she felt ill ‘until she lost some weight’ because she didn’t want the nurse reading THAT NUMBER on the scale. And it did not end well. You deserve happiness. You deserve to be alive in your body right now. And if you need a little help getting to the point where you truly believe you deserve these things…then you deserve that help.
    4. Maybe try a media ban and look at the people out in the world? When I walk around, I see people of all shapes and sizes happily coupled, or looking confident and well-dressed on their own.

    1. I am personally guilty of canceling medical appointments if I don’t want my current weight to become an official part of my medical record. Especially since my PCP is a huge exercise advocate.

      1. You know, you can sometimes opt out of going on the scale. I’ve done that. Unless I’ve gone on a new medication that might somehow be implicated in weight gain or weight loss, or I haven’t stepped on the scale in a long time, they let me waive it. Sometimes I’ll just tell them to put on my chart that I’m self-reporting a particular number. My doctor is cool about it, and told me that when she needs to weigh me, she’ll let me know that I have to get on the scale, and why.

        That said, Another Jennifer, please don’t cancel medical appointments, even if your doctor makes you weigh in every single time.

      2. FWIW: I don’t let doctors weigh me unless it’s to calculate anesthesia medication or some other specifically-weight-related thing (and even then, I tell them not to tell me the number and I don’t look at the scale).

        If the nurse/assistant is new, a confident-and-cheery “oh, I don’t get weighed” is usually enough. When it’s not, I say “well, I’ll talk to the doctor about it,” and then just stand there until they tell me which exam room to go to. So far, it’s gone pretty well. I also talked to my doc about it so she knew what was up, and she was fine with it. I spent years in Weight Watchers as a pre-teen/teen, and it permanently fucked up my relationship to the number of my weight. This is not uncommon, and a decent doctor knows that.

        If you decide to let them weigh you (which is 100% okay), you can face backwards on the scale and tell them not to tell you the number. You are allowed to do that. Hell, I have asked my doc to black out the number on the paperwork she gives me and she’s done so.

      3. I back onto the scale, while announcing that I don’t want to hear the number unless it’s a medical emergency.

        (Backing onto the scale was suggested by a PA a few years ago. Before that I closed my eyes.)

        They don’t tell me the number.

        I’ve been avoiding scales because of the eating disorder I had as a young woman.

        1. Same – part of learning to maintain a reasonable relationship with my body as an adult has been making choices that keep me safe in terms of ED recovery. I do not own a scale. Unless I am buying custom clothes online, I do not measure myself. These are non-negotiables.

          Every nurse, PA, and doctor I’ve had since setting these boundaries has respected them.

      4. Yup, joining this crowd! I just sort of…don’t look down, and throw in a cheery “Feel free not to tell me, thank you!”. I’ve never had a doctor insist on informing me.

      5. You can opt out of the weighing process. I asked my doctor why we get weighed every time we go to the doctor and he said it’s because weight gain or weight loss can be indicative of a serious problem. I asked him, how much weight gain or loss? He said, a size or more in a very short period of time for no reason at all.

        I told him and his staff that I would no longer consent to being weighed. I would tell them when I needed to be weighed. And since then I’ve been weighed once – right before a surgery for which I’d need anesthesia. They were really cool with it. My doctor is a Kaiser doctor, too, and Kaiser is known for weaponizing its weight loss services.

        It’s a real relief to not have to deal with the scale. On a similar note, they have different sizes of blood pressure cuff and if you pester them, they’ll get out the larger sizes.

        1. A different BP cuff size can dramatically change the BP reading you get, especially on the automatic readers. My husband has large arms and his reading is always 10 points higher with the too-small automatic cuff compared to when the doctor does it manually with the more-adjustable manual cuff.

        2. ^Rapid weight loss for no reason was what sent my grandmother to the doctor (years and years ago) and the idiot doctor was like “I thought women like losing weight?” spoiler: it was intestinal cancer (treatable and she was fine for many many years after that, but this remains our family story of “wtf” and “ugh weight in society wtf” and “DOCTORS SERIOUSLY WTF”.

      6. I 100% fired a PCP who would not shut up about exercise while I gained some weight. 1) I was exercising. Exercise did not negate the amount of food I was eating. the serious looks and discussions about exercise were bad health advice if she just wanted me to lose weight, and were pointless if she just wanted me to exercise. And 2) the only time I was thin enough for her I was on the what I like to call “vodka, sadness, and bad decisions diet”. As soon as I was not seriously depressed and off the rails, I started gaining weight again. I’m probably currently a bit fatter than is maybe optimally healthy for me, but trust and believe that thinness was only achieved in a time of incredible pain, by truly punishing my body and my soul. And my terrible doctor just wouldn’t listen and kept saying triggering things that would take me back to a bad place.

        My current doctors have… never weighed me? I think. I can’t remember. I’m also currently pregnant, and for some reasons nobody seems to care about my weight (but me), which is nice.

        OP: I’m a person who has been a lot of different sizes. Thinness is no indicator of joy. And it does necessarily not bring joy. That doesn’t necessarily help you accept and love your own body, but sometimes it helps me disrupt when I am having unkind thoughts about myself.

        1. Maybe all this weighing is a US thing? I was weighed as a kid to see if I wasn´t getting too underweight, but never since reaching my full height. Almost 37 now, so that´s… 24 years of no MD needing to check how much I do or do not weigh. Even though I am now visibly not underweight.

          1. I’m in Canada, so… who knows! Honestly my last doc was a reaaaaaaal fatphobic.

        2. Oh that Vodka and Sadness diet…it reminds me of my yogurt and breakup diet where practically the only thing I could stomach was yogurt. It also reminds me of the “sick diet” and how horrible I felt when, weak and barely out of the woods from that illness, my then-boyfriend Darthy McDartherton told me it was the hottest I ever looked. Ugh.

          Happiness and health look different on everyone. I can’t wait for the society/advertising/media at large and medical community especially to recognize that.

  7. Hi LW! I feel like I semi-recently turned a corner in terms of body positivity myself, although my struggle was never quite like yours. I have generalized anxiety and am overweight. I also have chronic pain, which was diagnosed in my mid-teens, and I’ve been living with it ever since. My chronic pain has been my loading-bearing depression repository and has limited a lot of areas of my life.

    Some things that helped me: I read Health At Every Size and have made a point of asking primary care doctors about it when interviewing for a new one. I researched the hell out of my mental health and physical health diagnoses. I’ve learned that I’m able to channel my anxiety and depression into hyper-focusing on learning as much as humanly possible about [topic]. That might work for you! It might not.

    Last year I switched providers and got very lucky with a new doctor, who treated me as a human worthy of respect. Most importantly, she took my pain seriously and provided me with a referral for physical therapy and a pain management clinic. Working with a respectful physical therapist who took my pain seriously and also taught me that I could manage it has helped loads. A really important piece of that was that neither my physical therapist nor my doctor ever said to me, “Have you considered losing weight?”

    ** Another piece that was helpful to me was that I had an ongoing mental health therapist who also never weight-shamed me. The first few physical therapy sessions were _intensely_ emotional for me and having the space to process that was invaluable.

    Note that my level of access to professional care providers is absolutely a privilege, and I recognize the painful truth that not everyone has a similar level of access. You may not have the baggage surrounding pain either! But please, please make sure that you have a Team You (it sounds like you do!) and that _everyone_ who is part of Team You is part of Team All Of You, not Team You Should Lose Some Weight.

  8. “The Fantasy of Being Thin” is fantastic and really changed the way I thought about myself and my right to be happy as I am today without having to become “better” and I highly second this recommendation.

    I also second the online dating advice. The best time I had with online dating was when I got picky, picky, picky. I didn’t meet a ton of men this way or go on a ton of dates, but I enjoyed the men I did meet a lot more. A book that really helped me get my head right for this approach was “The Case for Falling in Love” by Mari Ruti. The cultural references in it are probably pretty dated by now, but I found it very readable and helpful when I decided to get back in the dating pool after years of taking a break (it gave me permission to be aggressively myself in my dating profile and on dates, instead of putting my most socially acceptable foot forward-which felt great and helped me meet people who liked my weirdness). Good luck!

  9. I feel like I could have written most of this letter just a year or two ago. In addition to all of the excellent advice above (and probably below), I consciously tried to remind myself (with the help of an excellent therapist, at first) that rejection happens to everyone, and that actively mean rejections reflect only on the person who send them, not on me. They still stung, of course, but with a little distance, and sharing ridiculous exchanges with trusted friends, they became stories to roll our eyes at over drinks, nothing more. And at the same time, I’ve had some really lovely dates with people I met on those same dating websites. It took time, but it’s most definitely possible. I sincerely wish you all the best, and hope that things work out the way you want them to.

  10. Much love and jedi hugs (()). I loved the Fantasy of being Thin article and really enjoyed Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski (specifically related to sex but useful for all kinds of self-esteem stuff)*. But for me, nothing else came close to giving me a sense of peace and happiness with my body like following body positive bloggers and making friends who didn’t buy into body shaming. The hardest part has for me has been steering my mom away from diet conversations, but I trust we’ll get there.
    p.s. Love your wedding photo, captain!

    *note that it is mainly directed at cis women

  11. Oh my god LW I was 100% you, some days I still am 100% you but slowly slowly I am learning that I will always be be squishy, and that life is there to be lived and loved and godammit we are worth living our one life to the full. I’m so ashamed to live in a society that allows such a vilification of a group of people for such an arbitrary and morally neutral trait. I promise you you’re lovely and I promise you that finding happiness and meeting a good person who makes your day isn’t the mountain climb it feels like.

    My personal advice would be, if you haven’t already, get instagram. If you let instagram suggest accounts to you, you will be inundated with the same teeny tanned body in a bikini over and over again, but if you fill your account with BoPo (body positivity) accounts, you will get the joy of scrolling through a feed of inspiring, lovely plus size women who run round in bikinis, do yoga, go for a run and then eat a burger and wear that unflattering shift dress because fuck it they like it.

    Every time I feel myself going back to my teenage self, waiting to be thin until I could let myself be happy, I log onto instagram and scroll through a feed of glorious beautiful bodies, all different shapes and sizes and all belonging to beautiful people who go do what they want in the world regardless of what anyone says. (Bodyposipanda, vintageortacky and strutbymic are great places to start)

    I really really hope you can keep finding peace with your lovely self. There’s no size restriction on deserving to love yourself 🙂 xxxxx

    1. +1 for curating a body positive Instagram! There are so many fierce fat babes out there, and seeing images of them really helped me retrain my eye and see beauty in all different sizes.

  12. Hi LW! I am so happy that you are in therapy and working on your self-esteem and getting out and all that great stuff! That is really excellent and I am so impressed by your courage and determination. 🙂

    Something that really helped me start to get a handle on my body issues was to start loving what my body could *do*. I did this with strength training at the gym for a while, and long distance cycling for a while, and yoga for a while, but I don’t think it matters what it is as long as it’s something you enjoy or find rewarding. I found that the thing that made me happiest was actually yoga, even though when I started I thought I would feel worse. It turned out I didn’t. But it’s important to remember that whatever you wind up doing, or whatever you wind up doing next, you just have to keep at it. I don’t think that self-love is a thing that you attain and then just have, I think it’s a thing you have to practice regularly.

    Another thing I do is moisturize. I know that sounds weird, but putting on body butter is good for my skin and by touching my body and doing something loving for it every day, I am able to keep reassuring myself that my body is okay and worthy of this love and attention. Also: mani-pedis! Now, this is just me, so if you’re not into that stuff there’s definitely something else that will give you the same feelings. 🙂 But I thought I’d mention what helped me.

    And Cap, if I loved that pic of you and Mr Awkward any more, it would burst into flame. You two are the *cutest*.

    1. Seconding the moisturising. It is a small thing, but it feels like a great indulgence. I use a scented oil that I first found while travelling; the smell is evocative of one of the most wonderful weeks of my life, which happened to fall in one of the worst and hardest periods of my life. Taking a couple of minutes to use that oil after a shower was an act of love and self-care that I desperately needed at that sad, difficult time; in the decade since, it has become a sense memory – well, senseS memory, really – that brings me joy and has the awesome side benefit of keeping my skin healthy and happy.

      On a similar note, I don’t have heaps of disposable income, but whenever I can I will buy good-quality and preferably organic soap, shampoo and conditioner. These make me feel good and make my morning shower a more pleasant way to start my day, and hey, it turns out that an enjoyable shower is a great way to spend positive time with my body!

      You’re doing amazing work and you are awesome.

    2. +1000 to all of this, especially the yoga. What I love about yoga (as it is taught where I go) is that it’s not about some kind of future goal, such as weight loss, it’s about helping your mind and body feel better in *this* moment. It is helping me reconnect body and mind after trauma as a result.

      Also loving the photo! You both look fantastic and so happy. Congratulations.

      1. As a fat person who had done yoga off and on, I wouldn’t blanket recommend yoga as a practice for someone who is fat. Many teachers of yoga have simply no idea how to deal with fat bodies, or other than thin, able bodies. I have a couple of chronic issues that make me have to modify/change poses and some yoga teachers are simply unable to deal with that. I suppose that makes them bad at their job, but they are out there. I would recommend going to a variety of yoga places and finding one that seems like a good fit. There is a huge diversity of yoga instruction out there, some good, some not so good.

        1. Recommendation for a good yoga person: Jessamyn Stanley! She’s a fat, queer yoga teacher from Durham NC who has online classes and a book about yoga; she focuses specifically on how moving our bodies in ways that feel good is not solely the preserve of the thin. When I felt “too fat” or “not strong enough” to go to exercise classes, her stuff really helped me cherish my body.

        2. As someone who needs modifications for a number of poses due to injury or weird conformation, I think it’s incredibly important to find a yoga instructor who A) has actually taken instruction in yoga instruction and B) has practiced in a specific school of yoga, and C) meshes well with you and your goals. I stopped taking a conveniently scheduled yoga class because the instructor “didn’t believe in modifications” (don’t tell me to fucking try harder, dude, my arms are legitimately several inches short for my height) and another one because the instructor’s practice dialogue was distracting and unpleasant.

          On the other hand, I attended the class of an instructor that I honestly thought would not be a good fit for me at the beginning because she was one of those stereotypical tiny lithe instructors with long arms for her height and I assumed she wouldn’t be cool with arthritic, short-armed, weird-footed me. Instead, she showed me modifications I still use to this day, was gentle and encouraging in her corrections–and always asked permission!–and made it clear that her goal was to make everyone feel present and happy in their bodies and on their mats for 75 minutes. “Even if all you can do today is breathe, you are here, and that is important” is a powerful message. She is probably the best, most highly-trained instructor I’ve ever taken classes from, and she was amazing.

      2. I mostly stream yoga classes and I highly recommend both Yoga Download and YogaGlo. All the instructors are encouraging and mindful about offering modifications (though not as mindful as they could be). I’d suggest a beginner’s class at a studio to start, if you’re comfortable with it, and I’d suggest talking to the teacher about any mobility issues before class. I’ve never had a bad experience with yoga (not true with other types of exercise), through I know some people have.

        I love yoga. It’s the only exercise class where instructors don’t talk about how movements will reshape your body.

        1. I am sincerely glad that people like yoga and have found exercise that they like. However, can we wrap up the yoga chat in this thread for now? The Letter Writer didn’t ask for exercise tips and yoga is very easy to find if she gets interested.

          Thank you.

    3. re: Yoga — I just read Jessamyn Stanley’s book Every Body Yoga and it was really encouraging. She’s a fat, Black, queer woman who is also a yoga teacher and got to be well-known via posting photos of herself doing yoga on Instagram. I’m just starting to get into yoga myself and really liked her book.

  13. I was doing well, until the picture. How’d it get so dusty & full of onions in here. Congratulations & Good Wishes to Capt. & Mr. Awkward !!

    (I also wore a blue sweater to my Fall wedding in the woods) ((pps… cute shoes!))

  14. Fist bumps to you, LW, for getting as far as you have!

    I’ve found that anger can be a helpful response to that kind of society-enforced negative self-talk. Like, I *know* where these thoughts come from, and I *know* they’re bullshit, and I think them anyway. And choosing to get MAD at the cultural pressure is a way for me to feel stronger in myself and it makes body acceptance something I’m doing as an act of defiance.

    I also really love this essay from The Toast (Warning, while Captain doesn’t allow specific weight details here, the essay does list them): http://the-toast.net/2015/01/26/fat-woman-love-laid/

    1. I love that essay!

      As a fat woman who dated people that attracted me and were attracted to me. Who married a wonderful person that is many years later still aroused by my fat body, and in love with my weird mind. (The feeling is mutual) I still struggles to see myself as attractive some days.

      It will be okay just as long as you don’t settle for scraps. Scraps of Love. Of Respect. Of Lust. Of Attention.

      That’s the true challenge of Fat Dating. Weeding through the parasites who want your full focus in exchange for a snip of theirs. As though your abundance means you don’t have the same needs as anyone else.

  15. MODERATOR NOTE: I’ve already deleted 5 generally nice helpful supportive comments that mentioned the person’s clothing size, weight, or being a specific amount of pounds overweight. I know, I KNOW, that this is a common automatic behavior and you don’t mean any harm when you post this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a harmful thing to do. It is strictly and directly against the site policies. We can learn to break ourselves of this habit, together, but break it we will.

    1. I really appreciate this policy. I’m fairly cool with being fat these days but the one thing that I find difficult, that still feels like a slap in the face in spite of everything, is when someone I respect goes into some self hating monologue about how they’ve reached this terrible weight and have to fix it the horror the horror – and it’s still considerably less than I weigh. Somehow having that number explicitly stated makes it much worse. I can’t be the only one here who feels that way.

      1. “how they’ve reached this terrible weight and have to fix it the horror the horror – and it’s still considerably less than I weigh. Somehow having that number explicitly stated makes it much worse. ”

        One of the many, many great things about this site is not having to engage in conversations like that.

  16. Hi! If it’s ok to talk up our own work here, I’d like to suggest a blog I run on Tumblr called Ok2BeFat. It’s http://ok2befat.com/

    There’s fat politics, but I also try to post a lot of photos of fat people, because looking at other fat people changed me into someone who hates myself a lot A LOT less than I was before I found fat activism.

    I try to especially feature as many photos as I can find of the fat people who don’t normally get featured, people who are superfat or have no defined waist or fat rolls and double chins. Fat people wearing hijab. Disabled fat people. Queer fat people, trans fat people. Fat people who aren’t white.

    My goal is to include as many different kinds of fat people in the “look at photos and destigmatize fat people hooray!” process as I can.

    I also have a Twitter and FB page for Ok2BeFat, but I especially recommend the Tumblr b/c it has the photos.

    And seriously– the looking at photos thing works. For yourself and other people too!

    1. Thanks Ali, I like your work and appreciate the link a lot! My fat acceptance reading came pretty intensely during a certain time, 5-10 years ago, and I know I’m missing lots and lots of awesome resources like yours when I think of the top-of-mind stuff that helped me.

      If there are other fat acceptance and fatshion bloggers in this community, self-promotion is A-Ok. Please indicate if your blog ever does talk about specific weights or weight loss so people can make an informed decision about whether that’s something they can deal with.

      1. Thank you! ❤ ❤

        Ok2BeFat has an explicit policy of not allowing talk that promotes intentional weight loss.

        There is occasional content that includes a reference to specific weights or sizes is in the context of destigmatization and problem of the lack of inclusion for larger fats.

        Any content referencing calorie numbers is in the context of critiquing and rebutting diet culture.

        I try to be extremely scrupulous about tagging posts with trigger warnings and if I miss something, I am happy to add it.

        You do need a Tumblr account to message me through the Tumblr page tho. Allowing anon comments is unfortunately not feasible at this point.

    2. wow i actually came down here to the comments to recommend YOUR BLOG! it’s so cool to see you here! maybe you remember me, you recently posted some back fat positivity for me to gear up for summer and i really appreciated it :’) thank you so much for running that blog!

      while i’m here, some other great blogs i know are danceswithfat.wordpress.com and bigfatscience.tumblr.com

      much love to CA, LW, and everyone in the thread who relates to this letter! ❤

  17. Captain, thank you for this article today, you’ve created an amazing ripple with the beautiful pebble you just threw into the pond. And the only advice I will give is about on-line dating, from my daughter (who fought her way back from a terrible life experience with determination and focus, back to her happy place): When I asked her about her strategy with the OLD is, “Look for reasons to say ‘no’.” As you did. RW, thank you for having the courage to reach out and ask for advice, there are millions of us cheering you on. We–YOU–deserve to be happy.

  18. Oh, LW, I want to give you a big hug. You don’t need to apologize for existing in the world.

    I can relate so hard to what you wrote. I love this advice by Captain so much that I’m printing it out. I particularly love the “retrain your eye” portion. Lindy West talks about this in her book (Shrill, which I highly recommend) or it might have been the This American Life show where she talked about “coming out” as fat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mSwjO4zAKE highly, highly recommend!

    I’m gay, and I’ve noticed that I notice and am attracted to women of all sizes. I think it’s easy to see beauty in other people, but I’m super critical of myself. Combating years and years of self loathing and horrible societal messages can do that.

    As far as Tinder goes, the etiquette is to swipe left (that’s no, correct? I haven’t been on there in awhile) and act like it never happened, when you come across someone you know in real life. No one is thinking anything about you being on there, after all, they are too!

    Hugs and love and everything good to you, LW.

    1. The college etiquette for finding a friend on Tinder (at least at my university) is actually the “courtesy swipe right”, then unmatching them once you know they’ve seen it. That way you acknowledge “hey, person I know, you’re not undateable” as well as “but you’re my friend so no.” But workplace is, as D-Slice mentioned, hard swipe left.

  19. Here are two things that I found helped me with accepting my fat body:

    1) Only say/think nice things about other people’s fat bodies. This may have been easier for me, because I was thin when I started doing it, but as a young person, I decided that this notion that I should hate people or find them ugly because they were fat was mean-spirited and unfair. So I went out of my way to only say nice things or neutral thing about fat people’s bodies, and if I caught myself thinking mean things, I would give myself a do-over and think something nice. Making the habit with other people made it easier for me to think and say those things about myself, both when I was thin (but never felt thin enough) and as my body changed in my 20s and I got fatter.

    2) Doing a thing with my fat body that brings me joy, and sticking with it long enough to get good (and good and tired) at it. For me it’s running and contra dancing. But also playing music, coding, public speaking, etc. The point here is do a thing that you feel good about, that makes you proud of yourself, and that you can do enough that it’s tiring or challenging enough that you get in the zone and only think about that thing. I found that really helped me reframe what my body was _for_. My body isn’t _for_ looking pretty for other people, or meeting some arbitrary standard of shape and size. My body is for doing the things I want it to do. And if I put effort into making it better at doing those things, and watch as it gets better at those things, then its (in)ability to conform to other standards doesn’t matter so much to how I value it.

    1. So much your second point “Doing a thing with my fat body that brings me joy, and sticking with it long enough to get good”

      I never truly started to accept my body (it’s an ongoing work in progress) until I started roller derby and learned all the fantastic advantages that my fat body gave me as a blocker and how to use it more effectively (and as a jammer – google Freight Train roller derby – she’s amazeballs. For blockers, Brawn Swanson is my hero). I also took up weight lifting. Not necessarily for any change on the scale, but so that I could be a stronger version of me and hit people harder and go faster. It also turns out that I’m weirdly into weight lifting – the pushing myself to do one more rep, one more set, etc to exhaustion hits a certain feedback loop that works for me.

      So find your thing. Try lots of things. Try roller derby .

      1. I came here to recommend this as well. I’m not in y’alls same boat – I’m a trans man who’s less than a year into transition – but my gender dysphoria​ and mental health has improved so much since I started taking up more out-of-the-house hobbies, especially ones I can be enthusiastically​ bad at. Specifically, I’m in German longsword fencing classes through a Historical European Martial Arts school, and it’s so much fun.

        It’s helped me better understand how my body works and moves, and it’s also helping me relearn how to socialize.

      2. OMG I have always wanted to try roller derby but I am chicken. It looks incredible!

        1. Heck yeah, me too! There’s not really a place around here, but I’d love to even just see a roller derby match live. It looks like fun!

      3. All the roller derby high-fives. (And all the Brawn Swanson love! I love watching her play offense for her jammer. She’s so calm and deliberate about it.) It’s the most body-positive athletic sport I know of. Every kind of body has its own advantages on the track and is viable in every position. If you’re moved to play it, go to it! If you’re not, go *watch* it (it’s all over youtube, and at wftda.tv)–it can be part of the aforementioned training of the eye..

        I never did identify as fat, certainly didn’t have the full weight of fat-shaming society land on my head (though my mom tried very hard, if mostly unsuccessfully thank goodness, to get me to worry about my weight because “I was skinnier than you at your age, and look at me now! You’d better be careful you don’t end up like me”)–but I did internalize the message that my body didn’t match the beauty ideal and thus wasn’t something I should be proud of.

        Finding an activity I enjoyed enough to participate in at this level A) made me love and take pride in what I could do with my body, rather than regret what my body wasn’t doing for other people’s eyeballs, B) made me stop making excuses for my appetite and gave me the ammunition I needed to fire back at food-policers (including the ones who think they’re funny by “congratulating” me on how much I ate, “You finished the whole thing, good job!”–way to talk to me like an effin’ child, rando), and C) gave me the confidence to laugh at a doctor who pointed out I was still on the “overweight” side of the BMI scale even after losing an unexpected wodge of weight during a particularly strenuous roller derby season. (More knowledgeable people than me can rant, and have ranted, about what a fucked up yardstick the BMI is.)

        I still find it awkward dealing with people who ask me if I lost weight since they last saw me “because you look healthier” – the unwanted congratulations feel like a negative judgement on past me that’s not their right to make, and I don’t want to tacitly support fat-shaming by accepting the compliment that’s based on the idea that fatter=bad and thinner=good. So I’m trying to come up with good responses if it happens again. It’s a work in progress.

        1. Maybe “I am feeling healthier, thank you, but it has nothing to do with my weight!”, if that’s true for you? Say with a happy smile for extra awkwardness-for-the-complimenter points.

          It’s the opposite situation, but whenever family members tell me, concerned, that I’ve put on weight, I just smile my biggest smile and answer: “Do you really think so? Why, thank you! It’s all those delicious cakes I’ve been eating lately, they are yummy!”. It has the advantage of being true, as well as leaving them gobsmacked and floundering 🙂

        2. Ugh, yeah. When I was at my thinnest (and when I got the most compliments), I was in the throes of a thyroid disorder (Graves Disease) that was doing a LOT of damage to my body. I’m in remission now, and I’m also a lot bigger than I was then. I already had a ton of self-loathing when I was thinner, and now I have the bonus-bugaboos of both weighing more and having that weird Graves-side-effect of bulging eyes. So my longing for invisibility has reached unprecedented heights. But I’m working on it, and all I can do is try to A) embrace the process and be gentle with myself, and B) whenever someone pays me a body-scrutinizing “compliment,” shut that shit right down. Reading this post and these comments is like a salve for my soul, so thanks, all. And LW, hang in there.

  20. Captain: PREACH. (also you and Mr. Awkward are the cute, that is a killer wedding look, WHERE did you get those gorgeous shoes)

    LW: Story time! My mother once expressed to me that it concerned her that I’d always said I didn’t want children, but as soon as I met my girlfriend (now wife), I was talking about which of us would have the baby.

    Now, this was a very reasonable thing to bring up as a parental concern! But there were two things she didn’t know: 1.) my girlfriend had miscarried a much-wanted baby two weeks after we officially shifted from “tentative bisexual coffee” to “yes apparently those WERE dates”; that child would now be finishing the third grade. We had the “kids: if oops, then keep?” conversation pretty early on. And 2.) and more relevantly, I had built a fantasy of My Life As An Adult in which I was single. I figured I’d have charitable projects and night-owl hours and probably cats. Because it was a lovely fantasy! Which coincidentally just happened to avoid incorporating any fall-back-to-earth elements of things I obviously couldn’t have!

    Because alongside my idea that I would Surely Be Thinner One Day (pfffft … my body says no), I had also built up this simultaneous notion that obviously there would not be an option of romantic partnership for me. Because, like, obviously. I was weird. I had odd interests. I was very aware I was kinky. And … well, I was “overweight.” * Women like me had fandom friends, not datemates.

    Yeah, so, it turns out that finding a match to a particular weirdness is much rarer than finding a match to any kind of body. I was lucky enough to find both. And now I not only find myself attractive; I find other fat women bloody gorgeous. I’m also more likely to see beauty in intentional choices about appearance — my interior attraction monologue is more like “what a dapper gent with his nice accessorizing, he’s gorgeous” or “his eyeshadow is on point, would like to know better” or “what creative hair she has, I would like to stick my hands in it assuming we had been introduced and it was not creepy to do so” — but I also look at myself naked in a full length mirror and go “yeah, girl” even though I weigh a number I once thought of as a Better Off Dead Number.

    My point in this rambling story: I could not conceive of myself as a person who would marry and have children, so I absolutely get what you are describing with the vacillation between “don’t want it anyway” and “who wants me, anyway?” (And “don’t want it anyway” totally is a valid sexuality and/or romantic orientation — but it sounds like that’s not the feelings you are having?) But once I met someone who matched my internal distribution of Weird, and loved my body, and (not incidentally) introduced me to a faith tradition that valorizes Venus of Willendorf bodies … there was a strong positive correlation between “hey! I’m lovable!” and “hey! I’m hot!” and “hey! vanilla heterosexuality is not compulsory!” and “hey! I’m both worthy of having a family and would be a kickass mother if given the chance!” These things — these “I could totally have kids if I wanted to pursue it” things and these “I actually like myself as a person” things — happened together. Fulfilling one human need tends to lavish some extra on other needs.

    I tell you this because, if you are anything like me ten years ago, you are probably going “Okay but reading the Shapely Prose archives is not gonna solve my romantic anxiety (and ohno what if loving myself makes me MORE unlovable and deluded and sad),” and … well. Judging by the arc of anecdata in the past decade for me, it really might be a good choice on a very holistic level that includes the romantic anxiety!

    Hopefully you are not much like me ten years ago, because I don’t wish those particular fractured anxieties on anyone, but I wanted to chime in with that personal experience in case it helped.

    *I no longer use this word and if someone says it in my presence I have been known to say waspishly, “Over what weight?” I apparently give the impression of willingness to verbally eviscerate people (which, hahahaha no I cry at confrontation), so luckily I’ve never had anyone give more than a “well, uh, subject change” answer to this question. I am fat. And I am glorious.

    1. “Over what weight?”

      I love this. Putting it on my list of Comebacks I Wish I’d Known Earlier with a smiley face and a gold star.

      1. Oh god, no. You know whatever asshole was calling you overweight to begin with is going to _actually have_ an answer to that. Some number of pounds or BMI that they think you shouldn’t exceed, and shame on you if you do. I would not say that. It just gives them ammunition, and then they feel legitimized because they were able to answer your snappy comeback with “actual facts”

  21. I used to buy clothes in “aspirational” sizes. As in, “I aspire to this size or weight, and I just know I’ll get there one of these days!” Trousers that will fit as soon as I lose that holiday cookie weight. A blouse that won’t stretch open over my bust if I stick to this diet plan for a couple of months. A dress that will zip up comfortably if I stay away from happy hours after work.

    So every day I’d hazard starting the morning with a good round of stinkin’ thinkin’ and eventually choosing something ill-fitting or outdated to wear.

    Eff that. Even if something is on deep discount on the clearance rack or it’s $3 at the charity shop, if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t come home with me. This goes a super long way toward helping me start my day on the right foot.

    1. I, too, have at times been guilty of aspirational shopping. And of its less optimistic sister, breaking into tears in a fitting room because of having to put a larger size of clothes on my body. The horror of needing slightly more fabric to fit comfortably and attractively into clothes! (I make light, but this can feel very serious.)

      It’s another manifestation of the fantasy of being thin, of attaching morality to your body. LW, Glomarization, the Captain, and I: we are good enough now, to wear clothes that fit us. We deserve that.

      And it does go a long way, honestly. Wearing clothes that are too tight is a way to remind myself ALL DAY of the brain raccoons that wreck my self-esteem. It is a way to feel uncomfortable ALL DAY because a waistband is cutting in to me, and wondering if everyone who sees me is thinking about my body and how unacceptable it is. It is one of the least loving things I have ever done to myself.

      Wearing clothes that fit is validation that your body is your body, and that can be hard to accept at first. But it’s also validation that *regardless of your body* you are a person deserving of comfort, style, and acceptance as you are.

      1. ‘The horror of needing slightly more fabric to fit comfortably and attractively into clothes! (I make light, but this can feel very serious.)’

        And its closely related cousin, the horror of finding out there is no more fabric. that is the end of clothing, you have consumed all in your massive gravity horizon and no clothes in the establishment will serve to cover you.

    2. Ugh. I used to do the “inspiration outfit” too. Which turned into another outfit, and this blouse, and those dresses…until I was not only dealing with the angst about my shape, but also the stress of storing more and more clothes that becoming outdated in a box in my basement.

    3. I have to embrace getting rid of aspirational “clothes that used to fit, and maybe someday will fit again.” I think today’s blog is my impetus. My spare room closet is like a department store…it has clothes of all sizes.

    4. My stepmom used to do this. She didn’t lose any weight as far as I know; her body is the same, she’s just happy with herself and her life now. She gradually gave away the clothes that didn’t fit to friends, family, and charity, and now when she sees one of us wearing something she’d originally bought for herself, she’s proud that she has such good taste other people like the clothes she picks out. She DOES have great taste!

      And she does look nice in the stuff she buys for herself now, but the big breakthrough for her was realizing that it doesn’t matter as much as she thought it did if she thinks she’s attractive, that there’s more to life than being attractive and that she can have a lot of fun without being attractive. It’s OK to be unattractive; nobody owes attractiveness to the world, or their friends, or their family. Sure, it’s more fun to be attractive, just like it’s more fun to be good at the piano or to be physically strong or to have lots of money – but none of those are healthy things to base self-esteem on. Love yourself. Be a good person. Be considerate. Be honest. Be hardworking. Be proud of yourself for stuff like that.

    5. I just came back from a yearly event that I’m a part of (which makes me SUPER HAPPY, because I get to see a ton of otherwise-far-away friends), and one of the fun parts was being in charge of running a clothing swap.

      I tried to make it as inclusive as possible (especially regarding gender and size — I specifically made sure that the announcements invited participation by all sizes and genders), and it was awesome to see other people getting joy from too-small clothes that had been filling up my closets, and to find some awesome things that worked on my current body.

      I was so pleased that we had a great turnout of larger and smaller people, and that there were options for just about everyone 🙂

      Getting rid of “aspirational” or ill-fitting clothing can be a liberating act, and this kind of thing can help with body acceptance and positivity.

      LW, I know you’re just getting back into social circulation, so I’m not going to suggest that you take on the responsibility/logistics of running something like this right now (although I have confidence that you could, if you chose to!), but it might be a good idea to keep an eye out for *specifically plus-sized-inclusive* clothing swaps or sales in your area.

      It’s a great confidence-builder to be around cheerful, fat-embracing people who are having a good time and engaging in a celebratory, accepting mindset about their bodies.

      FWIW, I’m single and have been for a while (after an awful breakup with my partner of 7 years), and have also had to deal with a lot of difficult feelings about age, weight, disability, and desirability.

      I’ve been actively getting out and expanding my circle of friends, maintaining a dating profile (which has a recent and accurate full-length photo!), trying new things, and expanding my comfort zone.

      I’m also working on making sure that I know what I want and am maintaining my own personal standards and boundaries — I don’t want to settle for something that I’m not happy with, just because the validation and positive attention feels good.

      I’m not going to accept crumbs from a feast, rather than deciding that I want a partner who thinks I’m amazing and who makes me shine, and who I feel the same way about.

      You can do this, LW. I hope that you find strength and joy in the journey — and self-acceptance is a huge success on its own, whether or not you find dating a partner/s in the process 🙂

      P.S. Captain and Mr. Awkward, y’all are AMAZING, and that photo is delightful!! ❤

      1. I have a friend in Seattle who does inclusive stock photography and boudoir photography, and she hosts a quarterly plus-sized clothing swap. http://blog.sweetamaranth.com/ is the boudoir site, http://diversestockphotos.com for the stock photos; https://www.facebook.com/pg/Sweet-Amaranth-Seattle-body-positive-boudoir-and-portrait-photography-123899854324603/events/?ref=page_internal for the clothing swap.

        “I’m not going to accept crumbs from a feast, rather than deciding that I want a partner who thinks I’m amazing and who makes me shine, and who I feel the same way about.” THIS. I discovered recently how utterly astounding it is to have a partner who loves all of me for who and what I am, thinks I’m amazing and tells me so, often, and makes me shine. And who I do the same for, somehow! Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I have to settle for “less than”, in any sphere of life. I’m not saying it’s easy (dear gods, it’s so hard sometimes), but it’s totally worth it to know my own worth and expect others to treat me accordingly. I have settled before, because it was easier; I was really unhappy, but I didn’t even realize how unhappy I was until I had “happy” to contrast it to. (And, not to be indelicate, but the sex is SO MUCH BETTER with someone who really appreciates me.)

        It’s amazing to be so valued after a lifetime of not being valued, even by myself. Her regard for me has translated into treating myself better and valuing myself more, and vice versa. When you find that person whose weird matches yours, and who loves all of you for who you are, including your body, it makes a huge difference and it’s much easier than trying to do it yourself because the other person reinforces the good and the positive things.

        LW, I have so much sympathy for you, and I’m sorry that maybe my comment seems like throwing salt in the wound. My point is, I’m fat, and I have someone who loves me, not “because” or “despite” being fat, but just as I am. (She loves on my tummy, which has made a huge difference in how I perceive my tummy, for instance.) She sees me as complete and whole as I am, and although we both recognize that we’ll change as time goes on because that’s part of life, the physical changes aren’t so much of a thing as the changes to become stronger, more capable people. For instance, she’s trying to lose weight not for appearance as much as for other reasons (she needs hernia surgery that the doctors are being asses about because of her weight), and I’m planning to exercise more to strengthen my joints (I have a genetic condition that this will help). If we happen to lose weight, ok. If we don’t, ok. I love her as she is (although I would prefer the surgery get done! she’s very uncomfortable right now), and if she never lost weight, that would be ok with me.

        (I’m also appreciating that, because she’s fat, she’s lovely and snuggly and I don’t end up injured when we snuggle! Sorry, I think I went on a “I love this woman so much” tangent. XD)

        I’ve found that body positivity blogs on tumblr have helped me normalize fat bodies as beautiful, too, as well as Lindley’s photography. It really is amazing how much of a difference just intentionally following people who post pictures of beautiful fat bodies has changed my perspective. We’re surrounded by images of people who all conform to one particular standard, but just because it’s “standard” doesn’t mean it’s the only option. There are a million different ways to be, and they’re valid and lovely, despite what society tries to tell us. It’s a revolutionary act to love yourself and to appreciate fat bodies as beautiful, and it’s definitely a journey. Lindley said one time that there’s a process, and people can get stuck on the journey, especially at that stage where it’s “Fat bodies are beautiful (except mine, for Reasons)”. But that’s still progress, and it’s all part of the journey.

        1. Oooohhh, thanks for the info about your friend’s swap! I’m in TX, so it’s a bit far for me, but I hope that the links help some West Coast people to get a chance to participate!

          My daughter said something really insightful after I posted my comment — she said that one of the things that made her feel really good about our swap was that while people were trying things on, 3 or 4 people would spontaneously exclaim about how awesome they looked. It was a really positive, affirming environment.

          And *yay* for finding someone wonderful who matches your weird. Reading your story made me happy ❤

  22. LW – Been there, am there, I feel your pain. You are lovable, f*ckable, and your worth does not rest in your weight. You deserve affection, happiness, and a life that makes your heart sing. You really do. Anyone who cannot see and acknowledge your beauty does not deserve your time.

    It is hard to overcome the socialisation and the shame, I don’t think I ever will, but I’ve come to an uneasy truce with my body – I’ll try to treat it kindly and try to love it for what it is, and what it can do, instead of hating it for what it isn’t and can’t.

    You. Deserve. Love. You deserve to give and receive it, to have intense and mind blowing sex, and to be cherished.

    Masses of Jedi hugs if you need them.

  23. I’m fat and I’m working on my self worth.

    One thing that’s helping me personally is only picking out and wearing clothing that I love. If I think it’s fine, but not great, I won’t buy it. If it doesn’t fit right or if I feel uncomfortable, I won’t wear it. It’s a small thing, but feeling confident in my clothing, even if I want to nit pick certain things, helps. And it’s nice for me to get complimented on my clothing choices too, but it’s don’t dress for them, I dress for me. Even if clothing shopping is terrible, which it generally is because sizes and fit and prices.

    The conscious decision of picking out clothing that makes me feel happy and like myself helps me to inhabit my body better.

    1. Oh gosh, yes. I initially read your last sentence as “… helps me to inhale better” and was like YES I HAVE BEEN SO MUCH HAPPIER SINCE MY CLOTHES LET ME BREATHE PROPERLY. Then I reread it but the point stands.

      I still hate clothes shopping. I’ve found that pants shopping is still THE WORST for me but I have 1-2 brands that consistently fit pretty comfortably. For shirts, I pretty much have a uniform of t-shirts/undershirts and plaid button-downs. I go to one or two thrift stores periodically and will usually try on 10-20 things and if I’m lucky 1-2 will fit well and be in a style I like. But this took practice. For a long time, every piece of ill-fitting clothing felt like a rejection and judgment of my body. CBT techniques actually helped me a lot with turning “this piece of clothing doesn’t fit me” into a value-neutral thing. (Childhood clothes shopping was _fraught_ and I had one relative who, on every visit, insisted on taking me shopping and buying me clothing that didn’t fit me, either body-wise or style-wise, and then employing emotional manipulation tactics to make me wear it at home and in public. Never. Again.)

      1. My body is a much different size now than it was this time last year. I SO needed to hear (and to remind myself) that “this piece of clothing doesn’t fit me” is value neutral!

        I’m also trying to remind myself that the number on the tag is just a way of ranking which otherwise identical items will be tighter or looser, instead of feeling like one number “should” be the size I wear and feeling bad when it isn’t.

      2. Some days it’s hard but I try to remind myself that it’s “this piece of clothing doesn’t fit me”, not “I don’t fit this piece of clothing”. If certain clothes don’t look good on me, it just means they haven’t been made for me, not that I’m somehow not good enough to look good in them. In the changing room, I’m the boss, not the interviewee.

      3. For those like me who focus on clothing size rather than an actual lbs weight: I felt a whole lot better about a bunch of things when I realised that, as far as clothing sizes go, shops / clothing manufacturers are basically MAKING THAT SHIT UP.

        Like, seriously. There is absolutely ZERO GOVERNANCE about what constitutes a size [A] as opposed to a size [B]. NONE. You could make a pair of trousers that would literally fit a Barbie doll, label them a size 16 in your own shop and there’s no rule against it. Every woman I know knows that you can pick up a size [C] in one shop and have it fall off, and pick up a size [C] in the shop next door and not be able to get a single limb in.

        FWIW, a national department store here in the UK made the news a few years ago by announcing that they were, basically, letting all their sizes out by an inch or two. When challenged their answer boiled down to “Due to improved health / nutrition the ‘average’ size woman has historically increased “. They spent a few months taking thousands of scans of random woman, calculated a new average, assigned that a middle-range size number and adjusted all other sizes on a bell curve. Because there ain’t no rules against it.

        1. And meanwhile men’s sizes for a LOT of things are just straightforward measurements in inches or cm of relevant dimensions >.>
          Women have to dance through hoops just to put clothes on our backs. This is by design. Burn the patriarchy

          (I will always treasure the memory of That One Shop that sold WOMEN’S JEANS in actual dimensions instead of random bullshit sizes)

    2. Thank you so much for this comment!
      Although my stuff is not size stuff, but gender stuff, the advice about picking clothes really helps. So, thank you 🙂

      1. B. There are some specialty websites for trans guys that focus on male clothes for guys with curves. There are probably sites for trans women that address their particular needs (i.e. bathing suits made for transwomen that provide appropriate coverage, etc). I don’t know any off the top of my head, but I’m sure google could help you there.

        That said…even cis people have horrible problems getting the right fit. I’m short and round. I think manufacturers think that if the size goes up, your legs and arms get longer too. I reliably have to cut off 6+ inches off of pants before I can hem them another inch or two. Skirts never hit at the right place (all skirts are maxi skirts). Capris look like (slightly highwater) pants on me. My cousin, who is extremely tall, and extremely thin (I often wonder how we are the same species, much less blood relatives) has the opposite problem. Sleeves come just past her elbows, and pants are never long enough. So…yes…don’t take it personally. Clothing companies are working off of their own standards. In the olden days, every one wore handmade clothing, so everything was made to fit.

        One tip: Spend money on tailoring, if at all possible. You can get classic styles that last a long time, and that just feel perfect on you.

        1. I appreciate the thought, but I’m covered on that front (pun intended).

          It’s just a big thorny complicated issue with no clear-cut solution (pun unintended) and what Clodia said about only picking clothes that make them* feel happy about their body really resonated 🙂

          * Apologies, I don’t know which pronouns you prefer, Clodia.

        2. Leggings are a blessing! As someone with a proportionately small waist and large hips, I could never find jeans that fit, even when I was thin. Jeans that fit at the waist would bite me in the crotch when I sat down. Jeans that fit my hips gave the entire world a view of my underwear, because of the gap at the waist.

          Leggings avoid both of these problems.

    3. Yes this. I have always been quite feminine and when I got fat, I decided I was going to keep dressing my body in the sorts of styles that made me happy. And, interestingly enough, the fatter I get, the closer I get to my ideal, slightly off the wall wardrobe. I wear a lot of dresses and skirts. I wear skinny jeans. I wear low cut blouses occasionally. I just bought two new bikinis. There was an article put out recently about “toddler grandma” fashion that talks about how, ironically, freeing ones self from the need to present as sexualized (or being forcibly freed by society’s bigotry) gives one the capacity to self express more fully through fashion. And I have found that covering my body in a poofy elephant print skirt (for example) makes me happy, and gives me the confidence to present with ease and grace.

  24. Hi! Another fat and happy married here! I started dating as a fat person, met my now husband (who was/is also fat) on Ok Cupid. We got fat and happily married in October! 😀

    I would 100% second Captain Awkward’s advice regarding using full body, honest pictures of yourself on your dating profile. If people aren’t into your fat body, then let the pictures weed them out. I’d also take that advice a step further, too, for when you’re ready. Lets say you’ve met a guy who interests you and you are ready to get intimate. At that point, that person knows how fat you are. They’ve seen your body in 3D space and they know how you move. Taking your shirt off when you get ready to be intimate isn’t going to somehow shock them–they know you are fat, and they’ve chosen to be with you anyway! Intimacy is so much more fun when you can let that go and stop worrying about them really seeing you. When its time and you like someone–just get naked. 😉

    Retraining your eye is really critical, and that’s what helped me learn to be comfortable with my body. Tumblr has LOTS of fat positive blogs featuring men, women, POC, people with all range of styles and budgets. You could make a feed for yourself just of fat positive blogs! Try searching the “fat positive” or “body positive” tags and find people you like. heyfatchick.tumblr.com was one of my go-tos back in the day, but that blog is no longer update. Lots of archives though!

    Hanne Blank’s book on exercise is great. I think finding exercise you love is wonderful. One thing that has been neat for me is retraining my goals. As a fat person who exercises, it’s assumed I want to lose weight, right? Wrong, I can make my own goals! I’m really into yoga, and I’ve enjoyed watching my arm muscles get bigger, watching my flexibility improve (I can touch my toes! easily!), or working shoulder stands and plow pose (someday I’ll be able to get it without an assist!). Recognizing your body getting better at stuff, whatever that stuff is, is an empowering feeling that brings you closer to yourself and more appreciative. If you can find a physical activity you love, that is a helpful outlet.

    This American Life also recently did a really good episode dealing with a lot of these issues. The episode was called “Tell Me I’m Fat” and I think it’s totally worth a listen.

    Best of luck to you. ❤ ❤ ❤

  25. Excellent advice, as usual.

    LW – I have completely different issues but I have also managed to make the sort of big changes in my life that you’ve started making. And I just want to say that I’m impressed with what you’ve done so far!

    One thing that helped me was participating in supportive online communities. That helped in a lot of ways that the captain mentioned and they also let me practice being the kind of person I wanted to be in a pretty low stakes way. Frex, I started confidently proclaimimg that I’m a bi woman online (not using my real name) long before I was able to say it in person to more than my closest confidants.

    (Not that I think that being fat and being queer are the same, but I’m starting to see that there are some similarities, particularly in having to decide to overcome culturally conditioned self-loathing. That said, fat people don’t really have the option to be closeted so I know it’s different. And there are queer fat fashion bloggers out there too)

  26. Thinking kind thoughts about other people:

    I play a game on public transport where I look at each person and think ‘if I loved you, like, really loved you, what is the visual thing about you I would find really familiar and comforting?

    This started out because I had a weird moment where something about the way a guy was angling his head against the window on a train was exactly like how my partner would angle his head against a window and I had this massive rush of affection for a complete stranger who looked nothing like my partner at all.

    It’s ended up being a meditation on faces and bodies – not ‘every face and body is beautiful’ because fuck that noise, it’s OK not to be beautiful, hierarchies of beauty are bullshit prioritisations of weird and specific things, but ‘every face and body is loveable’.

    And that means my face and body are loveable, and your face and body are loveable. If we were both playing the game in the same carriage of the same train we’d have no trouble finding things we’d love about each other.

    Dunno if you find that comforting, but I do.

    1. This is lovely, and it reminds me of a time when a massage therapist, in passing from lower body to upper body, gave my hand a squeeze. It was such a sweet moment of “You’re a stranger to me, but here’s to being a human being with a body.” I like to give people the mental equivalent of that hand-squeeze as I go by.

    2. “It’s ended up being a meditation on faces and bodies – not ‘every face and body is beautiful’ because fuck that noise, it’s OK not to be beautiful, hierarchies of beauty are bullshit prioritisations of weird and specific things, but ‘every face and body is loveable’.”

      I LOVE this. I’ve always hated the “everybody is beautiful” for exactly the reason you stated, but the idea that we’re all *lovable* or valuable is amazing. This is very comforting to me. Thank you!!

    3. I love this!

      Speaking of retraining your eye – I find it can help to do this IRL. Being VERY mindful not to stare, when I spot a person my shape (or more or less) on the street, I think “they look like me, and they look great.” Never, ever, a critique of their outfit, or “I hope I don’t look like THAT…” but the positive mantra “they look like me, and they look great.”

  27. I suggest you read Ragen’s blog over at Dances With Fat as it is very helpful for fat people like me. And also very funny.

    Internalised fat hatred is like internalised misogyny or internalised racism. It is difficult to overcome evil things that we are conditioned to think. But it can be done. A few things that helped me are:

    [anecdote redacted by moderator]

    One’s body may or may not be a temple but it’s certainly a place of pleasure. Being very nice to your body can make you appreciate its wonders more. I suggest that you make a point of doing things that feel good. I actually put small but fun stuff like – eat strawberries, go dancing, get out for a breath of fresh air, put on the good shea butter body lotion, get a foot massage – on my To Do list and do them. It all helps. Some people make a daily practice of thanking each and every body part from toe to top. That helps too.

    Remember, you’re a human being, just like everyone else. Starhawk wrote that we are all sacred beings and we cannot be ranked. I repeat that to myself like a mantra sometimes. People of all faiths and none can still appreciate that every being has an unique part to play in the world. Being fat like me is just part of the rich tapestry of the universe. One can be of any size and live a happy and full life.

    Be good to yourself, LW. You deserve it.

    1. Hi tehomet, I know this is not your intention and I don’t want to be hurtful but I think it’s worth remembering that saying ‘well you might be fat but at least you’re not one of Those Poor Disabled People’ is a damaging narrative about disability.

      It’s a narrative we’re totally surrounded by and it’s super easy to be caught up in but Cap has plenty of disabled readers who don’t need more of that in their lives and while I’m not one of them I’m sure I’m not the only person who read your comment about your aunt and winced.

      It’s possible to tell stories which love and celebrate a fat-but-not-disabled body and are grateful for the things it can do without setting up disability as The Terrible Alternative.

  28. I don’t know how this might translate over to you but it’s something that helped me greatly. For everyone I know, everyone around me I refuse to discuss my weight in any way shape or form. I’m betting you’ve got some people in your life that love to comment or think they are helping. The issue with this is that this needs to be on your schedule and you might be having a nice moment when WHAM they slam you in the face that no one will ever let your forget your weight.

    I’ve outright made it completely not allowed. I’m not talking banning negative or controlling comments I mean all comments, I don’t want to hear “you’ve lost weight” I don’t feel like writing up how that isn’t a complement to me but long story short I don’t want to hear it.

    Lay down some boundaries basically a coworker makes a comment “ooh eating healthy are we” if you bring a salad you reply with “I don’t discuss what I eat, please don’t make such comments” and whatever the defense posturing is “I don’t care, I don’t want comments on my weight or my food, keep them to yourself please”. You’ll ruffle feathers, society seems to think not only are fat people terrible but we get to be punching bags or the repository of making others feel good “I told the fat person to eat a salad, I helped them, I’m a good person”

    You’d be surprised how much stress that will get lifted when those comments slack off.

    It’s hard, it’s very hard to love yourself when society tells you not to. You’re deserving of love, especially from yourself. I think what helped me most was accepting the small victories. Be happy when you have a good day, ignore the thoughts even for an hour and let yourself be.

    1. Oh man, the salad comments are one of my pet peeves. I love salad (LOVE. SALAD.) but I hate how eating salad in public means getting comments about “healthiness”. I have a ton of food allergies. You know what a healthy meal for me is? Something that isn’t going to send me to the hospital!

      I think we could do with a lot less of people commenting on other people’s food.

      1. I’m someone who is deeply interested in others’ food, because I like food – preparing it and eating it. If someone is eating something that looks delicious, I often have to restrain myself from asking lots of nosy questions. I try to limit myself to, “That looks/smells great!” Death (or at least dirty looks) to people who shame others for what they put in their own mouths.

    2. THE SALAD YES. I’ve perfected the art of saying ‘I don’t do food guilt’ with completely dead eyes and then staring just until it’s awkward, it’s changed my life.

      1. Oh, I like that phrasing. I’ve gotten better over the years about shutting down or at least refusing to participate in discussions about the moral value of various kinds/quantities of foods, but every time it comes up I find myself searching for the words while also navigating the “oh no you’re disrupting the default group-of-women-bonding topic!” awkwardness. “I don’t do food guilt” gets straight to the point; I love it.

      2. This thread is giving me all the comebacks I need in my life. Thank you for this one!

        Because salad… yum. Crunchy vegetables, slightly-too-lemony and Dijon dressing… salivating as I think of it. My favorite.

  29. Oh my goodness, this is my first time commenting here, but this post just speaks to my soul. LW, I struggle every single day with accepting my body. And I have found, through being a variety of sizes over the years, that my body image and love/dislike of myself appears not to actually relate, in any way whatsoever, to whatever number is on the scale. Love of body (and happiness in life, and happiness in relationships) doesn’t have anything to do with fat. Or thin. Or any other physical aspect of your body.

    And I did not realize that for years and years and years. I held on to that “when I am thin enough, I’ll be confident and happy” myth with a great deal of stubbornness. When I was at my most overweight, I was convinced that as long as I lost the weight, I’d be happy and confident. But in my more thin periods, I simply found something else about my body to dislike and be ashamed of (oh hey, excess skin! Look, a scar! ooooh, cellulite – you know, our bodies’ imperfections are never-ending if you are really focused on finding Something Terribly Wrong).
    When I was not overweight, and yet still unhappy with my body, I’d argue with myself that I probably just was not quite thin enough yet. But that way, eating disorders lie, and the most recent time I was at a healthy weight and found myself thinking that, I finally realized – Oh my goodness, this is not mentally healthy, I am going to obsess myself into a real disorder here. And I *know*, from being both fat and thin at various points and yet equally anxious and body conscious at every size, that my weight was just a decoy for the real problem, which is that I felt somehow simply Not Good Enough and not worthy. That feeling followed me around regardless my body size.

    Which led me to doing some painful work on myself. I am in the middle of it now. I am trying Very Hard not to think about weight (or excess skin, or scars, or cellulite, or for that matter – gray hair, wrinkles, etc etc etc). Love does not have anything to do with any of that. I am trying to take my partner’s word for it that he loves me, and my weight/dress size/hair color/whatever else I manage to criticize myself about is irrelevant to how much he loves me. That is hard for me to believe, and when he says it I start to think to myself that I am SURE he likes thin women, and I marshal all sorts of Very Compelling Evidence for how he must prefer thin women – but I am trying to change my internal script when I do that. I interrupt myself. Instead of having an internal imaginary argument where I try to prove to myself that he wishes I looked thinner/firmer, I stop and call up a nice memory of us.

    Just keep trying. I love the suggestions for retraining your eye that Captain linked. Interrupt your own internal script as often as you can. You do not need to wait for permission to be happy, or get to a certain weight or look or size to be worthy of love. Find ways to be kind to yourself.

    1. This isn’t super relevant, but it seems like the more crazy scars I get, the more I like them. The first one, I was devastated. But now, if I’m wearing shorts and they come up some how, I get to point to each one and say “Swimming, hiking, biking and fishing. Collect them all!”

      (Which usually leads to people asking “Wait, how do you get a scar from swimming…” and it was coral.)

      1. Maybe I just havent done enough fishing, but… how do you get a scar from *fishing*?

        1. Hook on your finger?

          I used to feel very self-conscious of my scars (a couple are self-inflicted, one is from an actual human bite, and so on) till I accidentally got one in the shape of a butterfly on my wrist (hot water burns work in mysterious ways) and everyone started oooh’ing and aaah’ing and telling me it looked pretty or cool. Like, yeah, turns out that patches of raised or differently coloured skin can be cool too (!). Now I think of them more like bookmarks of certain life events. Life happens, sometimes it alters your skin. Nothing right or wrong with that, just life.

          1. “Like, yeah, turns out that patches of raised or differently coloured skin can be cool too (!)” I once saw a woman who had taken a skin tag (or some similar thing) raised section with two or three “segments” about the side of a fingernail on her neck that I’m guessing she grew up self-conscious about, and turned it into a tiny tattoo of pair of butterflies where the one with open wings, the skin tag were the wings. It was amazing and I loved it SO MUCH that I could pretty much draw it for you right now and this was probably close to ten years ago now.

        2. That’s usually the next question!

          I was fishing at this little lake, and my husband has wandered onto a little island. Someone had placed some medium sized stones under the water to get out there, so you only had to wade knee deep instead of upper thigh. I was carrying all my stuff, and a couple fish as well, and when one of the fish jerked, I fell right off the rock I was on onto one that was seriously just pointing upwards from the lake bed like a giant tooth*. Went right into my shin! Then I had to hike 4 miles home. You can still feel a dent in the bone.

          *I don’t think anyone placed that one, it was just an incredibly rocky area, if anyone knows like the Lee Vining area.

    2. “my weight was just a decoy for the real problem, which is that I felt somehow simply Not Good Enough and not worthy.”

      Repeating this for how true and good this comment is.

  30. LW, I have the same problem that you (and all fat American women) have, and it _can_ be (partially/mostly/enough) conquered using the techniques the Captain describes. The thing that helps me the most is, when I’m out in public/looking at images, NOT to let myself (a) judge other women’s bodies or (b) (more importantly) compare them to mine. Brené Brown has some quote like “comparison is a joy killer,” and it’s true. Your body is your body, it is part of who you are, and it is pretty damn amazing. Science documentaries, especially, help me remember that—in view of all the mind-blowing stuff your body can do, the fact that it can’t be (or just isn’t) thin seems, to me, insignificant. ❤

    1. Shit, sorry, my not-linked-to-but-existing blog mentions weights and sizes and things.

  31. Captain, please delete this comment if it looks unhelpful!
    LW, I noticed that you used the word ‘fat’ as a pejorative. ‘A big fat lie.’
    What would it feel like to walk around in a world where ‘fat’ was just a word meaning ‘of a large size’ and was not an insulting or demeaning term, used to make a bad thing seem worse? Wouldn’t that be great? You can’t make anyone else do that, but you can be mindful of your own usage. When I started teaching, I purged both ‘fat’ and ‘stupid’ as synonyms for ‘bad’ from my vocabulary, and to be honest I have no idea if that made anything better for anyone. But at least it didn’t make things worse.

    1. ‘Reclaiming’ the word ‘fat’ as just a descriptor has been really helpful to my mental health. It took a little bit of training; I’d stand in the mirror and start describing myself in neutral ways. “I have brown hair.” “I have ten fingers.” “I have 2 eyes.” “I have fat.” “I have brown eyes.” It slowly started to leech off the negativity around the word and turn it neutral. Now, if my Jerk Brain does pop up with that heinous whisper of “You’re fat,” or some mean person on the Internet decides it MUST be an insult, most of my brain is trained to just see it as a descriptor, like someone telling me water is wet. Robbing the word of its negative connotation and being able to say it about myself in a neutral way has been a very effective shield.

      1. That’s similar to what I said upthread. It’s just a description. It’s only an insult if you allow it to be an insult.

  32. I spent decades hating how I looked, the fact that I was bigger than other people my age, that things were a struggle for me when it seemed so easy for others (of course I know that’s bullshit NOW). Here’s what helps me: realizing that outer beauty doesn’t last, but inner beauty does; that being thin doesn’t magically make your life easy or banish all your demons away; and that I can try to focus on the fact that my weight doesn’t determine whether or not I am worth anything or worth spending time with. For me, being amazing at my job helped put my weight in perspective. I will always have body-image issues, but that doesn’t mean I can’t live my life and love my life and spend most days with that voice so quiet I can barely hear it.
    One more quick thing (if you want): I find it helps “recalibrate” my own beauty gauge when I really look at the people I am with (coworkers, friends, random people if I’m having a solo lunch). Taking the time to find their beauty across all ages, body types, style choices, etc. can really add to a general feeling of well-being regarding my own looks.
    I hope this helps in some small way. I wish you all great things!

  33. I was very lucky that I was part of Shapely Prose back when it was an active community, and so many of the posts there and the comments were AMAzING and helpful for me.

    Another thing that has really helped me is finding activities I enjoy, and also defining boundary’s for myself around what I will and wont do.

    I don’t put myself in positions to have to deal with “size” stress. I always buy two seats for an airplane, I always check or call ahead for any activity I think might have a weight limit. These were the thing things that I found MOST crushing, and humiliating. I try to make sure that my life fits ME, i don’t go to restaurants where the chairs aren’t comfortable, I manage that part of my life.

    When it comes to sex and dating, one of the things that really helped me was looking for communities where erotic images of larger women were popular. I know, I KNOW it’s not feminist and we are all more than just how fuckable we are. But finding areas of reddit, tumblr or other message boards where photos were posted. Not for the photos themselves, though they are useful for retraining the eye, but for the reactions.

    Seeing people post about how beautiful and sexy these women were, when the women themselves weren’t around? SO helpful. It’s not just a friend reassuring you that you’re beautiful or that they find larger women attractive. It’s seeing people actively seek out bodies that look like mine, when it had nothing to do with me. It’s real, it’s a thing. And yes, sometimes it veers too far into gross territory. But for me understanding that there are people out there who find ALL types of bodies attractive, yes even in the gross objectifying way, helped me see myself differently.

    (That said I was likely fortunate to find a mostly positive community, so be cautious because it IS the internet and I don’t think it’s possible to be a woman on the internet and not get hateful comments.)

    1. I agree about the erotic images thing…I ended up on r/gonewild a few weeks ago and saw a fat lady, similar in size to me getting positive comments. A lot of my anxiety comes from how I look naked (rather than just being fat) so this was a real confidence boost. If erotica isn’t your thing, try going to a life drawing class…they get all shapes and sizes, and and are confident ladies.

      1. I’ve heard most figure drawing classes love getting a variety of body types in, because it’s boring and not very instructive to draw the same type of body over and over again. So they love to see different sizes, shapes, abilities, etc. Last time I was near an art school, they were actively recruiting models who were outside the standard “fashion model” template, be they fat, disabled, over 50 years old, whatever. Going to one seems like a more body-positive experience than you might think.

      2. I was really nervous when I had to take a figure drawing class my Freshman year of college, for a lot of reasons (insecurity about my inexperience with sexuality and nudity, religious hangups, worry about mentally comparing myself to a hot, confident model, and, of course, worry that I wasn’t a talented enough artist to major in it.)

        And in the very first class, our model was a giant, fat, charming grad student who brought in her own top hat and wore it the whole time. She looked like Holley Mangold, and she was immediately funny and charming and put the whole class at ease.

        The first exercise we did in every class was 10-second / 20-second /30-second draws, where you draw the whole body only by looking and moving, without thinking. Between that and the friendly, confident model–that class was amazing. I learned how to see bodies–including my own– without judgement, and I started finding aspects of people’s bodies beautiful or intriguing that I hadn’t even considered before. And every single day different models, of all ages and races and shapes and abilities, came in and were confident and friendly and honest and modeled self-compassion as well as poses.

        It helped so much. I didn’t even remain in that major, but it was seriously one of the best classes ever. So, highly recommend figure drawing / life drawing.

    2. I also promote this advice, if looking at erotic images and the reactions to them doesn’t make you feel icky. Following fat erotic models on IG is something I’ve done/do that helps me feel differently about the specific issue of sexual attractiveness and fatness. It’s not a subtle approach, but it’s certainly helped me!

  34. I went through a lot of similar reading when I got engagement photos taken and was both dismayed that I looked bigger in the photos than I thought I was in life but also disappointed that I felt bad. I found Health at Every Size to be illuminating, as well as resources that focused on developing healthy habits or learning not to feel as though you are at war with your body and weight is something to be “controlled,” vs. developing habits that make you feel good in your body. I also liked this essay: https://cupofjo.com/2017/03/my-boyfriend-weighs-less-than-i-do/

    The main thing I started practicing was being kind to yourself in the way that you are kind to others. When the voice in my head gets mean, I don’t have to feel bad that it’s there, but I can question it, in a, “hey, how would I feel about a cutting remark like that if someone said it to a friend of mine? or even just a total stranger next to me on the bus? I would want to defend even that stranger, and I should extend that same protection and kindness to myself.”

  35. Does anyone remember the collection of photos someone put together a while back, where people submitted selfies of “What obese looks like” to show the incredible diversities of bodies in that category?

    I found it really helpful, and also awesome, but my Google-fu is failing me today.

      1. PS: Oh, dear lord – I shouldn’t have looked at the date. 10 years ago?!! *Sigh*

  36. Here is a thing I did.
    I stopped watching TV for twao months (for Reasons, but whatever). I stopped looking at magazines with ads for the same two months.

    At the 6th of 8 TV&Ad free weeks, people on the subway magically turned into beautiful people. All of them. Skinny teens who obviously burned calories just sitting still were beautiful. Fat, saggy people were beautiful. Very old people were beautiful. Very young people were beautiful. Even the toddler dropping bits of food over the side of her seat. It was a little weird. I was not used to being on the subway with so many beautiful people.

    When I started watching TV again, people slowly became less beautiful.

    It was an interesting experiment which I don’t think I will repeat, but it did teach me about narrow standards of beauty set by Hollywood and Photoshop.

    1. Yes, yes, yes! I don’t watch a whole lot of TV anymore, except for my beloved Rachel Maddow, and it helps tremendously. For one thing, you’re not subjecting yourself to those fucking Hydroxycut commercials.

  37. I just want to say thank you for posting the links to the fat&health information. I am fat and it helps SO MUCH to see that information again – that exercise is much more important for my health than thinness! And I’m someone who’s been wholly onboard the fat-positive train since Marilynn Wann published the beautiful Fat!So? which I highly recommend if physical books are your jam. I guess what I’m saying is that no matter how much you know this stuff in your head, it’s hard in our world to feel good about being fat and does take work and lots of refreshers to remind yourself. And that’s okay, and it’s okay to struggle. This post is a great refresher!

  38. I was thin when I was young and now I’m fat. When I first started getting fat I came across a lot of the same resources the Captain listed because it was probably around the same time (early to mid 00’s). Reading all of it at the beginning helped so much. it didn’t stop the self-hate, but it did mitigate it and I’ll be forever grateful. Eventually I decided to say ‘fuck it’ and started getting out there meeting people and it wasn’t awful. I’m not 100% cool with my body yet, I don’t know if I’ll ever be. Time marches on and we all change. But I’m sitting outside in my backyard right now and I’m waiting for my husband to come home. The reason I’m sitting outside is because 1. It’s a nice day, and 2. I’ve got 2 kids (that exist because my fat and amazing body gave birth to them) that wanted to play in the sunshine. I’m still fat, but I am not an anomaly. My fat sister is about to have her third child, she’s happily married. My other fat sister is in a loving partnership and may get married and may not but is happy. My fat mom was married to my fat dad for almost 40 years until he died of something that had nothing to do with him being fat. I got fat aunts and uncles that are happy. I’ve got fat cousins and fat friends who have found love, some married, some not, but are satisfied with their lives. It can and does happen, a lot more often than the media wants you to believe. I’m probably gonna be fat forever, but it’s ok. I’m ok. And you’re ok too.

  39. Hi LW! My favorite Shapely Prose piece is On Dumb Luck: https://kateharding.net/2007/05/22/on-dumb-luck/ This… may or may not be comforting to you, but I find it very much so. Dating is a numbers game, and what makes that game easier for some than others is partly looks and partly really not.

    Also, Captain, not only do you and your groom look extremely great, your BOUQUET. *covets*

  40. I love that the Captain linked Ijeoma Oluo’s “You Don’t Have to Love Your Body” piece here-it’s been especially useful for me! I’ve also followed a lot of body positive Tumblrs and Instagram feeds and stuff, but have found that I often fall into the jerkbrain trap of looking at them and simultaneously thinking “that fat woman is gorgeous and rocking it, but that crop top/swimsuit/dress/whatever would look hideous on me because ~reasons~” and feeling like I’m a bad feminist for not loving my body as much or being as confident as her. (None of this is an indictment of body positive media or bloggers, of course, just one bad way that my brain interacts with it).

    What I’ve found works for me is choosing not to focus on my body or other people’s bodies as much sometimes, and to aim more for the body neutrality that Oluo talks about in her piece? Like when I have negative thoughts about my own body, instead of essentially yelling at myself “no, your body is great and you love it! Stop being bad at body positivity!*” I treat it as a boring interruption and try to push my internal monologue more towards “yup, still don’t like (body part). Noted. Anyway, maybe I should have tacos for dinner/I really like the later seasons of Deep Space 9/I need to pick up more toilet paper/other boring normal thoughts”. Weirdly, this has helped me cultivate a much more peaceful and positive relationship with my body that actively trying to push myself towards loving it did.

    Anyway, tl;dr is that you should be gentle with yourself and not hesitate to try out different approaches to body acceptance if one creates stress for you-all the Jedi hugs if you want them, LW. ❤️

    *I know this isn’t at all what body positivity practice is supposed to be or what the movement suggests one do, but, y’know, jerkbrain.

    1. OMG, internal monologuing about the later seasons of DS9 would be a GREAT interruption! “Don’t really like that body part. But more importantly, do Vorta have body image issues? Or, since the Founders created them, do they just assume the Founders know best? Ha, oh man, and remember the way Weyoun and Dukat sniped at each other all the time?? Classic stuff. That occupation of DS9, what a great arc. And Weyoun, what a fascinating character, I could just watch The Weyoun Show all day…”

      1. I think they assume – or try to – that since they were designed that way, it must be correct. But sometimes they struggle with that a little, or at least Weyoun did – remember when he commented on how his eyesight is terrible and he therefore couldn’t see the mines being destroyed? Or the way he seems to be trying to learn what makes art “good”? But he clearly is TRYING to accept the “I am perfect exactly as I am designed” mindset and not quite making it…

  41. I just spent about 20 minutes looking at dresses on Scarlett & Jo and trying not to order ONE OF EVERYTHING.

    I think often of an essay Maeve Binchy wrote, about seeing herself in a photo where she briefly didn’t recognize herself (or maybe in a mirror across a room? the details are fuzzy now), and realizing she looked like a warm, friendly person that, if she were to see herself across a room, she would want to talk to. This has helped reset my own feelings about how I want to be seen. Exactly how highly do I value having a man I don’t know look at me and think “Whooo! She’s hot! I’d do her”? Along similar though more violent lines is the fiction book Dietland, by Sarai Walker.

    Something I do when I see a photo of myself and have a negative reaction is I pretend it’s someone else. Like, I pretend it’s one of my dear friends, and I look at it again. This can help me be less self-critical.

    If I catch sight of myself in a mirror and have a negative reaction, I find it helpful to go with a similar tactic: I wouldn’t think it was okay to talk about someone else like that, and I wouldn’t it was okay to THINK it about someone else, so maybe I could be a little nicer to myself. Or I’ve also had luck with defiance: if I catch myself thinking, “Ug, I look like [some unflattering thing],” I say back to myself “YEAH?? SO WHAT IF I DO??” This makes my chin go up and my eyes flash, which is frankly a nice look on me.

    Looking at magazines or movies or TV, I can easily feel as if everyone is thin and beautiful. I try to tune in when I’m out in public, too—seeing how normal most of us look, and how I fit in with that. So few people are thin and beautiful; so many people are just sort of normal-looking, like me.

    1. It’s been 2.5 seconds and I already regret the use of the word “normal.” I don’t think it reads the way I meant it, and I think it’s a difficult word and can mean some bad things. I retract it. I meant something more like—I look at the people around me and it helps me not to aspire to some sort of tiny-fraction-of-the-population ideal.

  42. [Moderator Note]

    We’ve had some awesome and intense discussions recently, and we’ve got a lot of new readers, so it’s time for some housekeeping reminders.

    1000+ words, 1500+ words, in today’s case more than 2000 words are not an appropriate length for blog comments.That’s a whole post!

    If you have a lot to say about a topic, that’s wonderful. Please share it on your own site and link back to us, and people can discuss it there.

    Thank you.

  43. +infinity to the suggestions to read through the Shapely Prose archive, and The Fat Nutritionist is /the best/. I found Shapely Prose back when it was still an active community, and the concept of fat acceptance/activism and HAES was my introduction to feminism more broadly.

    One thing that I found really helped me to come to terms with my appearance was life drawing. I have a background as a visual artist, and in high school had the opportunity to take a life drawing class (ie, a model sat for the class, usually in the nude, and took a variety of poses for the students to draw). It just so happened that our usual model was built like a 40-something version of me. Over the course of the school year, the pure exposure to someone who looked kinda like me – or like I might in 25 to 30 years – worked wonders for how I felt about my own body. I learned to see beauty in the soft curves and gentle lines. As a bonus, it helped to eradicate my fear of getting older – at least as it pertains to physical beauty. So for either the LW or anyone around here who might want to explore their artistic side, I highly recommend taking up life drawing, with an emphasis on finding a class that hires models who are well outside our society’s outrageously rigid beauty standards.

  44. LW, there’s a tonne of good stuff here. I only have two things to add, about intrusive negative thoughts in general, which is that it CAN be useful to just … not fight them, sometimes.

    I don’t mean you have to agree with them, or accept them. What I mean is that trying to *make* yourself stop thinking something is nigh-impossible.

    What I find works better is 1) exposure to positive stuff that will help balance out and eventually crowd out most of the negativity, and treating negative thoughts like… an annoying person on a long car trip who really really wants to tell you about how Ayn Rand changed their life, and who for whatever reason can’t be dropped at a rest stop to find their own way home.

    Just sort of … let Bad Brain talk. Don’t engage. Don’t defend. Just [Bad Brain says terrible thing about your body]
    *shrug* “Okay.”
    [Bad Brain keeps talking]
    “… Sure.”

    Try it and see how it works for you. For me, withdrawing as much attention as possible from the negative thoughts reduced them quite a lot.

    The other thing is that I can have a lot of trouble accepting positive statements about myself, internally or from others.

    Now, in general I am all about people, especially female-identified people, accepting compliments calmly and acting as if we deserve them.

    But if you’re not there yet with positive talk and self-talk, it is totally okay and can be helpful to go with “sounds fake … but okay.” Or whatever equivalent works for you. I love that phrase. It lets my self-doubting bad brain get its little nudge in but then undercuts it, and as silly as it is it’s done WONDERS for me.

    Oh, okay, actually I do have one comment about physical self-acceptance which is this: doing things my body is really good at – bicycling and carpentry and hiking in my case, but could be anything – knitting or dance or painting or yoga or anything – or picking something physical you enjoy and committing to getting really good at it, can be a massive help. I never feel more attractive or fonder of my body then when I’m standing triumphantly on top of something I just built, or climbed, myself.

  45. I hope this comment is within guidelines. Over the last few years I’ve gone from being very thin to quite a bit heavier. It’s been hard to figure out my changing body and it’s place in the world. I felt like I became awkward in my body- everything was different, nothing fit, and would people like me just as much/how would our image-obsessed culture view me? I’ve found that a lot of the sites Captain Awkward have definitely helped me accept the changes better. I’m loving Ijeoma Oluo’s writings a lot right now. And I’ve been following Whores of Yore on Twitter, that has had a lot of shapely very nsfw pictures showing all sorts of body types, body hair, and fetishes. It’s helping me see there’s no wrong way to have a body.

    One of the things that have helped me best are doing things that “skinny” me wouldn’t have done because I was trying to look like someone out of an Ann Taylor catalog. Let’s get a nose piercing! Dye my hair crazy colors and get an undercut! A tattoo! Wear garish eyeshadows & super bright lipstick! Wear loud, beautiful, ridiculous prints on my dresses! And I discovered that doing these things I’d been wanting to do and had not done because “adults don’t do that” has made me way more confident and feel more like me as I actually am. I can do these things and still be professional. It’s almost like I’ve balked at what I “should” and nothing bad happened, which gave me the confidence to do something else that scared me. I’ve gotten to a place where I like being a loud larger lady taking up space. It feels subversive and somehow gives me *more* confidence in myself. And somehow, even though I’m dressing and *being* for me, I’ve made more friends than I have when I was young and skinny. And if people are weirded out by me, well, they’re just denying themselves the pleasure of my company.

    I don’t know how recommend you get to that point- everyone is different, but I’d think about things I’d been wanting to do, but society says I shouldn’t. My therapist noticed I’d been saying “I should do X” a lot and told me to try to stop “should-ing” myself. It took some time, but I’ve found it to be really helpful. There’s nothing that one innately *should* do just because society says so. Is there something you’ve always wanted to wear? A haircut you’ve always wanted to try? A makeup style you’ve wanted? An activity that’s been screaming your name? Try dipping your toe in on the easiest scary thing. It’ll get easier from there. The Captain’s advice to be nice to yourself, do things for you is solid. Be picky – it’s OK! You are an amazing person and you are not in a “beggars can’t be choosers” situation. You deserve to be choosy.

    1. Try dipping your toe in on the easiest scary thing. It’ll get easier from there.

      I can vouch for this strategy. It works for learning to set boundaries, speaking up for your yourself, and being more satisfied with your life because you’re listening to what you’d really enjoy – among other things.

  46. This is something I struggle with, as someone who grew up with her (well-meaning) mother always policing her food (even when I was ‘conventionally’ sized) because “You need to be HEALTHY. All of us in this household are UNHEALTHY with our eating habits and I DON’T WANT THIS TO HOLD YOU BACK.” So, y’know, when I was standing in a grocery store at seventeen and crying in the arms of my bewildered best friend because I had been trying to choose a package of granola bars and couldn’t do it without worrying about my mother’s lecture if I chose the ‘wrong’ kind … well, clearly this had all been for my own good, her policing was for the best, and I did not feel at all held back that day (end sarcasm). (Also, if you think ZombieDad is better at this, no. But he only tried it one time before he learned it wasn’t worth wounding his daughter’s self esteem. And I can only speculate this because he has never tried again since.)

    I still live with my folks (thanks, Canadian job market!) but I made a few choices that have helped me navigate this a little better:

    1) I stopped stepping on the bathroom scale. Our whole family life was tied up in The Number, and it was immensely freeing — after a period of separation anxiety — to stop attaching a numeric value to my life outside of ‘A+’ and ’10/10 Would live this life again’.
    2) Whenever I shower, I bring my change of clothes into the bathroom. Partially because it’s easier than remembering to grab my bathrobe, but it also means I look in the mirror every time I change. It normalizes my view of myself. Again, as the Cap says, not every day is a win, but nowadays I have more instances of, “Dang, this body part looks awesome today!” than I did before I started doing that.
    3) I make the food I want to eat, and I make a conscious effort to be proud of it, even in the face of unsolicited criticism. Even an implied version of “Are you really eating that?” is met with a “Yep, and it’s delicious!” “Yep, this is one of my favourites!” Any further commentary from the offending individual is met with one of the Captain’s excellent neutral responses. (“Hmm.” “Huh.” “Okey-doke! Om nom nom …”)
    4) For people who are close to you who reinforce negative ideas –see: ZombieMom, above– if you feel comfortable, it can help reinforce your own self image if you take the time to explain why this is Not Cool. For me, it was something to the effect of, “ZombieMom, this whole thing about controlling my food is REALLY WEIRD. Also, all your love and concern for me in the whole world does not make you a doctor, let alone MY doctor. Trust that I have my life choices handled, since you raised me well, and if for whatever reason you perceive me to be making the wrong choice, give yourself the gift of not worrying about it.” But this is also daunting! Be kind to yourself if you feel like you can’t, or if you feel like you would rather put that emotional labour to work in some other way.

    And finally, as a way to pump myself up, I always love listening to ‘Body Image’ by TWRP. “I’m absolutely positive/that you should have a positive/body image, baby” is a good refrain to have stuck instead my head on a rainy day.

    (I have no idea how to embed videos; I’m more frequently a lurker than a commenter, so please forgive me.)

    Above all, please please PLEASE be kind to yourself, which is the hardest part because it’s hard to find emotional models in pop culture of anyone being kind to us. I hope you are able to surround yourself in the kindness you will find in these comments.

  47. Hi, LW! Last week I had to do a unit on bodies and health for my high-school students to talk about. There had to be photos of people living healthy lives, and I wanted to portray just fat people and visibly disabled people being healthy, because they are. They live healthy lives every day. Because fat is not unhealthy, disabled is not unhealthy, and I want to teach my students that.

    So I asked people who do fat-acceptance and body-positivity activism if they knew any resources where there were photos of fat people being happy and living well. One acquaintance recommended Substantia Jones’ Adipositivity project (adipositivity.com, I think. Beautiful photos of all kinds of fat people [but mostly ladies], naked and clothed [but mostly naked], being happy and sexy and alive). It’s beautiful, y’all should check it out. No specific weights mentioned anywhere I could see.

    From Adipositivity I found Jessamyn Stanley’s awesome yoga blog (mynameisjessamyn.tumblr.com, I think). Jessamyn is a queer femme fat POC who loves yoga and teaches it for free to every body of every size who wants to learn, as well as doing activism for fat acceptance and body positivity. So if you like yoga or you just want to look at beautiful photos of fat people making difficult poses look effortless and good, go check out Jessamyn’s work. No specific weights there that I could see, either.

    And I once read this on the biography of Nieves Álvarez, “Yo vencí a la anorexia”: when she was on the process of beating her anorexia, she threw away her bathroom scale, and never again stepped onto a scale. Never again mesured her weight. She says in the book that not knowing how much she weights helped her to heal back then and helps her be on good terms with her body now. Maybe it will help you, too.

    Dear LW, I have the privilege of being thin, so I don’t know a lot of things about what’s like living as a fat lady in this world, but this I know: your health is so much more than a number. You are so much more than a number. You are a beautiful human and you deserve love and happiness.

    1. Seconding Jessamyn Stanley! I was just going onto her instagram to find a link to post here and then I figured I’d been beaten to the punch. 🙂

      View this post on Instagram

      Y'all, @workmanpub, @jadeyogamats, & I have teamed up for a preorder sweepstakes celebrating my new book, "Every Body Yoga: Let Go Of Fear, Get On The Mat, Love Your Body"! The story of my personal yoga practice is much more complex than what could possibly be shown in a few instagram photos. In "Every Body Yoga", I'm finally able to give a full and clear answer to everyone who asks 'Hey Jessamyn, How Do I Start Practicing Yoga?' Click the link in my profile to check out the book + a chance to win: 1 . Coffee or a meal date with me, @mynameisjessamyn/@jessamynstanley 2. A signed copy of #EveryBodyYoga 3. A 68" mat and large cork block from @Jadeyogamats Throwback to that time @yogicphotos convinced me to practice my #handstand game in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge while wearing @k.deer leggings. SPEAKING OF WHICH, thanks to everyone who entered the @k.deer gift card giveaway! I went through and read all of your answers to the question "what pose kicks your ass?" and I was inspired to the brink of tears by how many of you are able to be completely fucking honest with yourselves about the reality of your personal practices. I could ramble forever on this topic but in short- thank you for being vulnerable with me. If you've ever feared beginning a yoga practice, do yourself a favor and scroll down a few entries to the giveaway post- there is some genuine human development going on in y'all's practices, and you can take comfort in knowing that everyone (yes, everyone) is challenged by asana practice. Anyway, YOU GET A CARD: $50 gift cards- Marie-Hélène Dugal (Facebook) & @soulfulshania (instagram) $500 gift card- @retroengineer Leggings- @k.deer Photo by @yogicphotos

      A post shared by Jessamyn (@mynameisjessamyn) on

      1. EERK SORRY CAP’N I didn’t want a big instagram preview cluttering up your feed. Can you adjust the hyperlink to break it up in to well-behaved bits?

    2. Here, this is the web page of my yoga teacher Annie: http://supportiveyoga.com

      She teaches yoga for every body, and has lots of pictures. I hope that she has stuff you can use next time you need such things.

  48. Good vibes and luck, LW! You are awesome, you are worthy of love and sex and admiration (even if that doesn’t feel true yet). It is not in the least laughable for you to seek and want a relationship.

    My #1 tip for reprogramming one’s brain around weight and attractiveness: Look at more images of fat bodies, especially fat folks who are naked and/or gettin’ it on. YMMV, of course, but that is the thing that I credit with making the biggest difference for me personally.

  49. Long time reader, first time poster.

    I finally reached a state of okay-ness with my body two years ago by getting angry at a former acquaintance. Really.

    So. Former acquaintance was pregnant at the time – yay for them! My partner talked me into getting a bikini for the first time in my life and I decided, what the hell, why not try it, and liked it, and put a picture on the Facebooks. Other person took this as an opportunity to tag me in MULTIPLE posts of themselves in a bikini, citing me as “inspiration.”

    And I was like…I’m not inspirational. I’m fat. Like me for my scholarly achievements. Like me because I’m good at crafts and created an awesome program at work from whole cloth and can make funny jokes. But don’t like me because my body is one (not socially acceptable) shape and yours is temporarily pregnant – and will soon go back to being conventionally beautiful.

    Former acquaintance and I are no longer acquainted. I’m planning to buy several more bikinis this summer. Life is pretty good. But it really took that sudden realization that I deserve to be treated as a human being to move me forward.

    OP, you are an amazing human being and I would hug you if I could and you were okay with it.

  50. Hey, I just wanted to say that I feel you LW. I still struggle with these feelings, and they totally like to ambush you when you think you’ve gotten around them. The Captain’s advice about body positivity reading is spot on- I’d especially like to recommend Hot and Heavy by Virgie Tovar, and Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker. Also, nothing makes me feel sexier than seeing people who look like me acting and feeling sexy, so diversifying your imagery (Tumblr is amazing for this) is totally key.

    Also, a little low-stress type of retail therapy can help; get new shoes (don’t need to worry about a spiral if they don’t fit) or makeup to play around with if that’s your jam (it doesn’t come in sizes! Everybody can rock it if they feel like it!) or a spiffy piece of jewelry that makes you feel really you.

    I also find stuff like massage helps me feel more embodied when I’m not enjoying the body I’m in. Someone that is providing a service to your body no-judgement, and you get some comforting, less-fraught human touch out of it. Massage therapists see literally all kinds of bodies: fat ones, skinny ones, sick ones, able bodied ones, disabled ones, hairy ones, squishy ones, and I’ve heard it from many of them directly that they just don’t register that stuff at work, because they’re all just bodies, and part of the normal routine.

  51. This is a little weird and LW, depending on how severe your anxiety it may not work for you, but one thing that work for me to start feeling less destructive towards my own body was trying to find one thing about every other woman I came across that I liked, and then actually going up to that woman and telling her so (if the situation allowed). For me, accepting my body was a political and feminist statement, so building other women up with me became a big part of that. Compliments I particularly made the effort to actually say out loud were someone rocking something that is traditionally scorned by the mainstream in my country but that I actually find pretty (multicoloured hair, super-stylish hijabs, gorgeous tattoos, vertical stripes, etc.)

    Other things that have helped along the journey (which is in no way finished, and unlikely to finish ever) have been reclaiming exercise as something I do for me, not for others, and promptly donating clothing that doesn’t fit so someone else gets to love it rather then saving it for “someday”.

    Side note: I actually recently started doing the compliments thing with kids wearing t-shirts of stuff I like. So many kids adore Minecraft or Youtube or Roman Reigns and have these interests mocked or ignored by the adults in their lives. I was the only staff member at my old science camp who actually played Minecraft, and it blew the campers’ minds that an adult was listening to them describe the skeleton-farming setup they built. My rules for complimenting kids is I stick only to clothing choices (see this article for a guide to how to compliment kids without promoting body shaming early https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/09/25/the-best-way-to-compliment-little-girls/) and I make sure they have a parent or guardian nearby. I will note I have the privilege of presenting in a fairly non-threatening way, so a parent is unlikely to be worried about me talking to their child. YMMV.

    1. I am suppressing a barbaric YAWP at that first paragraph! Cosigned.

    2. Er…I know it’s very YMMV, and I’m sure many of the people you complimented felt uplifted, so I don’t want to say a firm “no, don’t do this,” but, uh, oh my god please don’t to this to me? Just…I have actually been in a situation on campus where a very extraverted genderqueer person ran up to me and complimented my owl backpack. I think they were specifically trying to compliment other LGBT people, for a Pride Week project? But I’m not totally sure. (I’m a cis lesbian, fwiw)

      Anyway I don’t necessarily have great spacial awareness, and I had headphones in, and typically being accosted by strangers is a negative experience, so my gut reaction on someone seeming to pop out of nowhere and talk loudly at me is, “Oh sh*t, they’re yelling at me, I’m in trouble, a stranger is mad at me,” and I started crying. And then this person started apologizing and trying to explain (now that my headphones are off) and I’m apologizing and trying to continue to walk away, and I was quite flustered and embarrassed. It was about a block later before I actually realized they had actually said “I f*ckin’ love your owl bag!” and not an insult of some kind.

      Just, you know. I’m not saying “don’t do that,” just maybe people will be upset so be careful.

      OTOH, a different Pride Week project involved people holding signs saying “free compliments” and “free hugs,” and I took people up on both offers. That went a lot better I think.

      1. I am super introverted (and also started the compliment thing to try and overcome my fear of strangers a little) so I have always been taught “headphones means leave alone” and I think that’s a super important point, to read the signals. Hence the “when convenient” stipulation I put in my original comment: convenience works both ways, and “has headphones in” or “is currently on the phone” or “looks like they’re juggling heavy objects” all get a “this is an inconvenient time for them, move on” from me. Thanks for the reminder to be careful when approaching strangers!!! It often gets forgotten.

  52. Things that help when I can remember to do them:

    1. To focus on what my body can do, and to do things in/with it that bring me pleasure and joy.

    2. To focus on the fact that my body contains (or is, or whatever your personal philosophy on mind-body-self interaction is) myself.

    3. To read the hell out of body-positive everything and to follow people of lots of different sizes who do cool things with their bodies — my suggestions would be olympic athletes whose body diversity never ceases to amaze me and make me glad to be a person alive in the world.

    4. To be really, really intentional about finding beauty in the bodies of every person I see, and to stop the “jeez, what a frumpy outfit” or “If I ever look like that in a pair of pants I’ll never leave my house” or “she musta got that dress from the Tent & Awning Supply” inner snark supplied by my mother, and the condescending “good for her, getting out and exercising at her weight/size/whatever,” and replace them with a steady stream of “People are allowed to wear/do what they want. All bodies are good bodies. Someone’s right to exist in the world is not dictated by whether or not they personally please me aesthetically.” And to speak that truth whenever I have the chance. I am a teacher of teenagers, and body image stuff comes up ALL the damn time in my classroom. It’s an opportunity for me to rehearse truths in my own mind while planting important seeds in their minds.

    5. To try really hard to take those same accepting statements and apply them to myself. “I am allowed to wear/do what I want. My body is a good body. My right to exist in the world is not dictated by whether or not I please people aesthetically.”

  53. One thing that really helped me a lot was naked time near mirrors. At first it was hard. But over time, I got more comfortable with my body, and I saw myself more positively. Which made it easier for me to take care of myself–eat well, exercise, do cute things with hair and clothes, *enjoy* my life.

  54. On Tumblr I follow, among other things, some fatshion blogs and also a lot of “hot plus size chicks” blogs. The fatshion ones can be useful even though A LOT of the clothes on the ones I follow tend towards rockabilly/mid-century-modern style stuff, which is a cool look, but it’s not the *only* look, you know?

    ANYWAY, the “daily hottie” type photoblogs have helped me more personally because they provide me with (1) some external validation that, yes, there are people out there who think people like me are attractive, and (2) visual evidence of people who look like me who I find attractive, and (3) for the hardcore blogs, people who look like me having hot and fun sex. So much of porn is skinny/white/young/cis girls, and at least to me it was worth it to hunt down stuff that wasn’t that and that I personally found attractive, even just as a daily reminder of “people who look like you are hot” to combat the rest of the fatphobia our culture poops out on a daily basis.

  55. Marie Howe has a few lines in her poem What the Living Do:

    “But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
    say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

    for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat
    that I’m speechless”

    I love those lines, I don’t know if they’ll help you at all, but that sidelong cherishing is what I want for myself.

    Things that have helped: I have clothes that I feel like I look good in, and I have a store I can walk into and know approximately what my size is so I don’t have the angst of not fitting into clothes; I straight up don’t know how much I weigh. I turn my back on the scale in the doctor’s office, and they actually respect my request to not tell me the numbers. I find comfort in pragmatism–you may not– but it’s helped me immensely to understand, unless I suddenly become unhealthy, I am probably only ever going to get fatter. I am fat now. So what do I do? The only two options are be miserable or be not miserable. By deciding to be simply not miserable, it’s made room for happiness.

    I try not to invite or participate in body-shaming talk, or food-shaming talk. I also got into politics.

    Also, I am not 100% on ANY of these items. At all. I can’t emphasize strongly enough that this deprogramming is a radical, political act and it is accordingly incredibly difficult, and it’s different for everyone. Good luck: you deserve to be happy.

  56. This is so, so hard. I’m not over it and I still struggle with my body, especially when it *gasp* CHANGES, but here are some things that helped me:

    – I looked at photos of naked fat people that treated those people as objects of beauty. I noticed that there were women like me that I thought were attractive. I tried to understand why it was okay with me for someone else to be this fat but not for me to be this fat. I failed, but it helped me see myself and be kinder to myself. I found naked/mostly naked photos to be better than clothed photos because a lot of plus-sized clothing is meant to flatter and disguise.

    – I found exercise that was not exercise, but like, things I want to do that make me feel good and joyful. I try not to think about the calories I’m burning/not burning. I try to derail guilty feelings about not wanting to do that exercisey thing that day. I don’t feel guilty if I don’t want to see a movie or I don’t want to braid my hair, so why should I feel guilty if I don’t horseback ride/dance/hike/bike through town/go for a walk/play Quidditch/go to yoga class? I also got pretty good at some of these things, and it doesn’t hurt my self-esteem to be better at something than the thin people whose bodies I tend to envy. Your body might look more like our culture tells us we should look, but my body is better at doing this thing than yours is, and sometimes that’s even BECAUSE it’s a larger/heavier/squishier/differently-shaped body. (I hope it’s obvious that I don’t say that out loud to people but, it can be comforting).

    – I listened to thin people who thought they were fat/ugly/eating too much/drinking too much/not working out enough/too short/too tall/not getting their eyebrows waxed frequently enough/whatever and realized that WOMEN LITERALLY CANNOT WIN SO I MIGHT AS WELL ENJOY MYSELF

    1. Okay, I hope this is appropriate here because I’ve been thinking about it and I really want to add a fourth thing that helped me: sex and masturbation. Masturbating (and sex) as self-care really helped me, because orgasms are a cool thing my body can do! It can even help other people have orgasms sometimes! What an amazing body it is!

      If you are a person who is comfortable with casual sex, you may consider (carefully) explore the opportunities for having casual sex with people who will think your body is amazing and awesome even if they are not people you would want to date because they are fetishizing fat people in a gross way, but maybe it’s nice to remember that some people (MANY PEOPLE) would rather have sex with fat people than with thin people and for some people (SO MANY PEOPLE) being fat is actually what makes you fuckable? YMMV.

  57. I wanted to say, Yes, this to the Captain’s advice.

    Also, the late Leonard Nimoy did a photography project called The Full Body Project in which he took nude photos of fat women of various races/skin tones and sizes (googling “leonard nimoy photography” should get you there pretty quickly), and he did so in a respectful way, to show that fat women are human and as worthy of love and respect as anyone else. In some of the photos, there are groups of fat women hugging each other or otherwise being affectionate; it’s really a lovely set of photos, and I find them very helpful when I’m feeling down about my own fat woman’s body.

  58. LW, As a fat woman in today’s society, I can relate. I am a fat woman over 50, to boot. Here’s what I’ve learned.

    First, “fat” is not a bad word. It’s a descriptive word. At age 4 or 5, kids are starting to notice other people, and compare and contrast and describe. During one of my kid’s play-dates, one of the children came up to me and said “You’re fat.” Her mom was aghast, and said to me “No you aren’t” and to her child and started berating her. I interrupted her and turned to the child and said. “You’re right. I am fat. And I have brown hair. And I’m wearing a purple shirt.” She nodded and scampered off. I turned to the mom and said, you know, she wasn’t trying to insult me, it was just her pointing out something about me that’s notable. Instead of telling her it’s mean to call someone fat, I’d rather her learn that it’s not polite to comment on people’s appearance in general…like, we don’t point out that to someone that they have a very curly beard, or that they are unusually tall, or have a lot of tattoos, etc. It’s just not socially acceptable to point that stuff out, but by telling your kid that calling fat is a mean thing to say, it’s imbuing ‘fat’ with a negative connotation.” So, again, fat is not an insult, it’s merely descriptive.

    Being fat, is just one thing about you. It’s not the whole of you.

    When I told my dad that I was getting divorced, he actually said to me that I should stay with my emotionally abusive husband, because I was too fat, and no one would want to date me. I’m pretty sure I stayed in that horrible relationship for much longer than necessary because I had internalized that message. But, I was at the point where I’d rather be alone for the rest of my life, than spend another day with my husband, so I left. And you know what? I was *not* alone for the rest of my life.

    I’ve dated plenty. I’ve had relationships (I’m in one right now). I’ve had dry spells. I’ve had periods where I had 2 dates a week. I’ve had to take time off from dating because I got burned out. But, to find someone you click with, you have to put yourself out there and make yourself vulnerable. And remember, all the guys out there are making themselves vulnerable too. The point is, being fat is not a date-preventing stigma.

    I think of dating as just a way of getting to know someone, to see if they will fit in your life (and vice versa) and to see if their quirks and eccentricities are things you can live with (and vice versa). I don’t treat any particular date with meaning beyond, hey you seem interesting, let’s see if that’s true. Sometimes I’m not feeling it, sometimes they don’t feel it, and it’s nothing personal. Not every date is a love match. You get to learn to say things (or hear things) like “Thank you for meeting with me this evening, but I’m not feeling a romantic connection.” And it’s not the end of the world. All dates are win-win in my book, because if I have a good time, well, that’s obviously a win. If I have a bad time, I’ll have a funny story for my friends the next day. The worse the date, the better the story. So, that’s a win too.

    I completely agree with the captain about being forthright in dating profiles. I never lie about my age, that I have a kid, or what I look like. I make sure my photos are honest representations of what I really truly look like, and put the dates on photos as well. I only use photos that are under 6 months old (unless it’s something cool, like the time I went hang gliding).

    Anyone who is going to reject you based on your looks isn’t someone you’d want to date anyway. And that’s not just sour grapes.

  59. Hi, LW! Greetings from a fellow fat lady! The captain gives excellent advice here on body acceptance. I owe a lot to this blog for helping me to accept and love myself over the past 8 years or so.

    Aside from the specific advice given, there is one other thing that helped me to become the gorgeous self-loving fat lady that I am today: I was able to find clothes that I love to wear and I look good in through online shopping. I used to find shopping for clothes to be the most demoralizing ritual imaginable. I’d go into a store, see something I thought might fit me, try it on in the dressing room and immediately find it’s too small. I’d do this over and over again until I found one thing that fit me – and the thing that fit me would always look unfashionable, or baggy, or like something a 80 year old would wear. Totally demoralizing, totally in line with society’s scorn of my body and my attempts at trying to be fashionable.

    The first time I bought something online, it was from a shop called Igigi (I don’t recommend them anymore because they’ve changed bosses). I’d been lucky enough to find a dress they had on sale, but even then it was expensive because Igigi has high price points. It was empire-waisted, and had a loose, sheer pleated skirt (with an underskirt for modesty). Putting that dress on was like a dream. I loved it, I loved how I looked it in. I looked so good I was actually scared to wear it to work at first, thinking of how people would look at me, or would ask me what I was dressed up for. I didn’t get any strange looks when I did wear it; I didn’t get the third degree about what I was trying to do. I did get a few compliments. I felt ethereal in the dress. I even went back to the shop and bought two more dresses in additional colors so that I’d always have a copy of what at the time was my favorite dress.

    1. Hi, fashion and clothing can really help people feel good in their skin, and thank you for the detailed list of links, but plus-size shopping is not the main topic for this post so I have edited your comment. Maybe share one resource you love, or one source of inspiration, or start a plus-size fashion resources thread in the forums at http://friendsofcaptainawkward.com?

      1. OK, that’s difficult, but fair! I guess I wanted to share all because there are a lot of common, practical items that are hard to find if you’re plus-sized (particularly if you’re above size 26), items the loss of which make you feel all the more like there’s a reason for you to feel shame, that’s why I included so many. One practical item I still haven’t found: blue collar work clothes. A particular issue for me as a woman who’s trying to start being a field tech.

        If I had to narrow it down to one shop, I guess it would be eshakt: http://www.eshakti.com/
        All the basics except undies, goes up to size 36W, tons of customization. If I do get the field tech job I’ll probably be getting some customized straight leg jeans from there (They don’t have khakis though, which I hope won’t be a requirement for the job. Maybe I should send them a suggestion about adding them)

  60. LW, I have tried a few things that have helped me a great deal in dealing with this.

    1. I needed to get basically an entirely new wardrobe. This can happen slowly or not at all, but wearing clothes that are beautiful and make you *feel* beautiful without physically hurting you (pushing on you too hard, restricting your movement, making it hard to breathe in, etc) makes a large difference. Getting rid of ugly clothes can mean you are saying goodbye to beliefs about yourself being ugly.

    2. I try to think of it as me and my body being in this together. When it dies I die. When it dies I rot in the ground with it. How much fat there is on my corpse is not relevant for pretty much any purposes. So me and my body try to work together, each of us doing their best to take care of one another and function how we want. Sometimes this is difficult because I am disabled, but I try to remember that my body isn’t attacking me, it is trying its best and is very confused. It is not its fault that it hurts. And when I die, what will be remembered is likely not to be that I was fat. It really won’t matter all that much.

    3. I realized after a while that most people don’t really pay much attention to how you look or what your body is. Certainly with my friends I’m generally aware if they’re fat or skinny if I think about it, but otherwise it doesn’t actually matter very much, nor do most people pay it attention. This is tricky, because with romantic relationships people *do* take it into account, but there are many people out there who doubtlessly find your body beautiful and sexy and take genuine sensory pleasure in it.

    4. I decided to take as an axiomatic belief that my body was beautiful and that fat =/= ugly. Certainly there are fat ugly people–the guy who plays Winston Churchill in The Crown is hideous–but there are also many ugly skinny people, like Benedict Cumberbatch. But there are also dozens upon dozens–billions, really–of utterly beautiful fat people who I find stunning. Other commenters have blogs that have many pictures like that.

    5. I sliced out ‘losing weight’ as a goal for my own exercise. It doesn’t make you lose weight or get in shape, it makes you miserable and hate yourself.

    6. I started an exercise program that a) I can actually do and b) I enjoy doing. I cannot really run, for example–the shape of my hips and my knees and so on make it impossible and painful. So instead I do a lot of swimming and weightlifting, both of which I am naturally good at and enjoy doing, and it makes me happy.

    7. I started to *make* and *do* things with my body and my hands. Learning to crochet, washing dishes for my family, carrying heavy boxes for friends, taking the dog/cat/baby for a walk, cooking for friends…all of that can make your body much more tolerable, because you can see how it makes beauty in the world.

    8. I decided to treat my body as if it were ‘good’. (This part may be triggering to people who have had disordered eating patterns and thoughts.) Basically, in a dieting culture, you often punish your body for being fat/a body, and even if you don’t actually diet and try to reject it, these thoughts still creep in and you still sometimes deprive yourself of simple, small good things even if it makes little financial or personal difference. Sometimes, when you are trying to love your body/stop shaming it, you can follow the same behaviour pattern, except you deprive and punish yourself for failing to love yourself enough. It’s really not rational, but it happens. So instead, try rewarding your body and treating it as if it is good *before* you love yourself all the way; actions can create thoughts.

    1. And to clarify on point 4, part of changing that belief is slowly but relentlessly catching yourself when you think things to the contrary and telling yourself “no, that is not correct, and in fact x”. When I started catching myself thinking “I’m so fat and ugly” I instead would think to myself “No, I am fat and beautiful. Fat is not ugly.” And by virtue of keeping doing it endlessly, it began to work, and it gained momentum.

    2. Seconding #6-7. As part of my workouts I’ve been learning how to do front splits, middle splits, headstands, and handstands. I think moving your body and being outside in the sun and fresh air are really important for both mental and physical health; and for exercise it was much more gratifying to find something to *do* and not a way to look, like the difference between bodybuilding and powerlifting. *What* that thing is isn’t the point—work within your own preferences and physical limits. Moving around makes me feel better and having something that had an end result—especially a showy, party trick kind of thing, at least for me personally—helps me like my body more, because “check out this cool thing I can do” is good at overruling “look like this or be ashamed.”

      1. Yes, weightlifting is great for this. Seeing the numbers go up and up is an amazing concrete feeling.

    3. ‘4. I decided to take as an axiomatic belief that my body was beautiful and that fat =/= ugly. Certainly there are fat ugly people–[REDACTED] is hideous–but there are also many ugly skinny people, like [REDACTED].’

      Yeeeeeeeeeeah, one of the things that helped me the best on my journey to self-acceptance was shutting down people who demand adherence to the idea that there is a universal hierarchy of attractive and unattractive people. There’s an awful lot of wiggle room in human aesthetics and desire.

      Listening to people rag on actors that I consider attractive makes me feel like my aesthetic sense is being judged, like I can have no idea of what attractiveness actually is, and so how could I possibly be right about looking good? … So I stop listening. If people want to talk about what they personally find attractive in human bone structure, that’s their right, but I nope the hell out if someone tells me that some actor or public figure or anything just IS unattractive. (Especially if they’re talking about women, because narrow constructions of acceptable public femininity, amirite? But I hate it when talking about men, too.)

      But yeah. We all have people we find ugly. But that’s kind of beside the point, because we all have different people we find beautiful or charming or captivating or arresting or sexy or bewitching or scintillating, and there’s a huge range of those.

      1. The equivalent of not listening on the internet is scrolling down. In addition, as you are not an actual moderator on this site, I find it inappropriate for you to attempt to “shut down” a simple joke meant to make my comment somewhat less morbid and heavy. If Jennifer or another moderator asks me to not again mention the stunning unattractiveness of the aforementioned actor, then I will refrain. It is their site.

        I disagree with you on both your implicit assumption that I believe in an objective hierarchy of attractiveness (I don’t…I make statements like “so and so is beautiful” with the full knowledge that this is subjective opinion) and that calling anyone ugly ever is roadblock to everyone’s journey of body self-acceptance.

        Have a wonderful day.

        1. So just because Aris isn’t the moderator, she doesn’t have the right to say, “hey, this is destructive and problematic”? We are trying to create a body-positive atmosphere here, and you are calling people ugly.

          And when you say, “I disagree with you on both your implicit assumption that… calling anyone ugly ever is roadblock to everyone’s journey of body self-acceptance,” that’s not what she is implying. What she is saying, overtly, is that this specific instance–calling Jon Lithgow and Benedict Cumberbatch ugly on a thread surrounding encouraging body-positivity, fat-positivity, and self-love–IS a roadblock to SOME people’s journey of body self-acceptance. Primarily, it’s a roadblock to people who:
          1.) find either of those men attractive while knowing they are far from models, and are self-conscious about their aesthetic
          2). feel that they themselves look like those actors and struggle with body acceptance
          3). Really don’t find Jon Lithgow to be very fat, and despite attempting to make the term fat neutral, it still has a negative connotation, especially when it’s right next to the word “ugly”

          So, I’m hoping that this was just sort of a flippant mistake? And you do actually care about people’s journey to body self-acceptance, even if it is different than yours. I am certain your intention wasn’t to cause harm; but now that you know that is does cause harm, will you stop?

          1. I reacted very negatively to Aris’s comment because it was very passive-aggressive, and she spoke of “shutting [me] down”. That to me is a moderator’s power; telling me ‘this is not okay’ is different, and not relegated to a moderator’s realm. I am fine with people telling me I am wrong or acting inappropriately when they believe I am, so long as they respect me enough to do it plainly.

            I do care about other people’s journey to happiness and ending shaming themselves, and I do not enjoy the accusation of not doing so because I read the room wrong. I didn’t know that this would become such a huge thing, and perhaps should have considered my comment more thoroughly beforehand. I do disagree with body positivity’s universal usefulness, but at this point that probably can be discussed in another place.

        2. @Tennia: “The equivalent of not listening on the internet is scrolling down.” = Well, that’s some self-serving bullshit.

          You wanted a moderator, so: Your initial comment didn’t ping my “must moderate now!!!!!” relative to some of the other stuff that showed up yesterday, but, can we just, like, not say mean things about people’s bodies here to make a point? You’re allowed to find people ugly or attractive as you wish, but there’s no need to name names.

          Come back some other thread, some other day and try again.

    4. I really love #3.

      But, #4, can we, like, maybe not call anybody ugly? What is someone reading this is like, “Wait, I look like those actors, what if Tennia thinks I’m ugly? 😦 ” [thus confirming fears that everyone thinks you’re ugly]

      Like there could be a lot of positive ways to say this same thing instead of negatively. Like, there are a lot of fat actors and actresses I find hot– like I love Gabourey Sidibhe, and I think Zack Galifinackis is really cute!

      Just, kinda like the (now moderated and redacted) disability comment, there’s no need to categorize people’s attractiveness, or to try to lift up one kind of body type by putting another body type down.

      1. I suppose I forgot to place the disclaimer that honestly, when I say x y z person ugly, I’m aware that it’s a subjective opinion and that one thing necessary to teach myself was that other people’s opinions on my own beauty weren’t relevant for the most part, and therefore neither were my opinions of other people’s uglinesses. (As other commenters have mentioned, learning to stop being negative about *other* fat people’s appearances is also a good way to learn to stop shaming oneself.)

        I do however think that trying to pretend that you (general you) don’t ever think anyone is ugly is kind of counterproductive and is overpositivity, but I suppose different amounts of positivity work for different people.

        I honestly meant it as a funny joke to lighten the mood of my comment–he’s a famous actor and his face is a meme because of how many people find him deeply ugly, I doubt he cares about one person’s throwaway reference, but I also honestly have never considered that anyone could even look like him enough to feel insulted as well. His face seems unique to me.

        1. Please, don’t keep digging? You meant it as a joke, but it was quite inappropriate in this context, as other people pointed out. Don’t try to justify it any more, because you’re making it worse.

      2. I am here to deliberately miss the point: I find John Lithgow beautiful, and his performance as Churchill in the Crown especially so!

        1. I had a bit of a crush on John Lithgow at one time, and I still like to see him act. On that tangent, I have to give a shout out to the late Pete Postlethwaite and his glorious cheekbones on a face that I have always found unconventionally beautiful!

  61. I second the advice to immerse yourself in blogs and instagrams and the like by others who are content with their bodies. Jessayn Stanley on Instagram comes to mind, as a plus sized yoga instructor. Even if you’re not into yoga, the gal is body-proud!

    If LW has hobbies that involve the body in some way, see if there’s a niche community. I, myself, sew my own clothing (and if there’s anything that forces you to accept your shape, it’s sewing your own clothes) but it was always with a tinge of sadness because all I knew to sew were clothes that are meant to flatter trimmer women. That is, until I found the Curvy Sewing Collective – an online niche group for my hobby of women who sew for their curves and are proud of the clothing they make and how it flatters their roundness.

    Since I’m mentioning clothing, I also want to say: F*ck department stores. Most fat women have larger than average boobs, hips & rear ends. And nothing is more depressing for us than going to the department store and having to settle for old-lady beige granny undies or bras that give us the four-boob look or dig into our shoulders. I like Hips and Curves for plus-sized lingerie and there are other great sites out there. You may pay a little more but, in my opinion, nothing does more for a gal’s self-image than quality lingerie. Even if your date prospect won’t get to see you in it, YOU will know you have it on and sometimes that’s all the confidence boost you need – feeling sexy before you even leave the house!

    1. Learning to sew has been great for me. I’m still not able to make all the clothes I’d like, but just the little bit has been great. I’m no longer at the mercy of the fashion industry. Sewing turns me into both an engineer and a model. When someone compliments the way I look, they’re complimenting my ability (at sewing) and as well as the way I look (which I doubt because: imperfect body). But this way, I win because I can pat myself on the back because I did make the dress myself (and because the dress does look pretty good on me. I still have my doubts, but a custom fitted dress looks better than anything store bought on me). Ashley Nell Tipton is a hero. I’d like someday to make my own patterns from scratch, but being good at adapting patterns and making them fit perfectly is good for the time being. I like the old folkwear patterns (because they’re historical and unusual and because I love the 60s) and because they adapt well to my figure. (Newer, more fashionable stuff is good too. I just don’t know what patterns to recommend for more up to date styles.) And when you make your own clothes, you can buy all the bright colors you want. And lovely linens. (I adore plain weaves.) You can also get embroidered fabrics, use them in ways others wouldn’t think of. (I also love capes.) I could go on, but really, learn to sew. It’s unbelievably fun.

      1. HELL Yes. Shopping for clothes is frustrating and upsetting a lot of the time, but making them tailored to my shape is incredibly inspiring. I think it’s the difference between trying on a series of garments and failing to fit them, and shaping something to fit myself.

  62. Oh, thank you so much for this post. I’ve been having a really rough time mentally large in part to battles with myself re:weight and fitness. I know it’s a process, but this reminded me so much that I need to keep up with the process actively. There’s something I did at the beginning of this year that helped so much. YMMV, of course, but it was so therapeutic to get this organized, and I need to get back to it because just remembering how much it helped is bringing me up a bit. I believe I got the initial concept from an episode of Mental Illness Happy Hour, that was talking about self esteem first aid. The idea was to make up a list of things you like about yourself with each thing on a note card, and then once a day take one thing from that list and write a quick paragraph about it until you go through them all.

    I decided I wanted this to be a little bit more of a ritual, so what I did was make my list of things, write each on a little slip of paper that I then rolled up and stuck in a perfume sample vial, and I tossed all these vials into a pretty bowl I bought for the purpose. (I’m not a huge Potterhead, but I believe I took inspiration for that part of it from a crafting post for a Pensieve bowl that was floating around facebook for a while) I’d then draw one out and read it every day, and I had been keeping it someplace I’d walk past every day and see it to remind me that even when I’m having a hard time mentally, there’s still a ton of things I love about myself. (I need to find a new place for this… I rearranged furniture and hence it not being in an easily spotted place right now.)

    I also expanded this into an activity for Galentine’s Day this year. See, I’ve seen that another of the things that helps me tremendously mentally is when I complement someone out of the blue. This can obviously be fraught with difficulties, however. So, I went through my friends list and picked out a number (I think I did ten). I then made out a list of 5 things I loved about them, rolled them up into little perfume vials like my bowl, and put them in a little jar with a bunch of confetti. I sent them that with a letter saying that no matter how little we may keep in touch now (I’m notoriously bad at keeping in touch with people), I still think of them, and appreciate them, and want them to be able to remember that someone thinks they’re awesome even when they are having a rough time. It made me so happy to do this for them, and selfishly it also made me happy to see how happy I could make them.

    I’ve also taken refuge in doing nice little things for myself on the reg, as well. In the past I really go into nailart – it was both something I could keep my mind occupied with for a few hours once or twice a week, and it was something I could look at easily and smile at. Right now, it’s dying my hair all sorts of fun colors (for my birthday I did unicorn hair in shades of blue, green, and violet. I just had it redone, and it is now bright fucking purple and even though I’m not in the best state mentally right now seeing the purple strands makes me smile)

    1. Ooooh, I almost forgot the most important part – coming up with that list, especially when you aren’t feeling good? INTIMIDATING AS FUCK, I know. What I did, literally, was google like a half dozen lists of positive character traits that people use as writing resources or whatever. Absolutely beat myself up about it at first. But it’s so hard to narrow stuff like this when you are coming up with a new character. It’s hard to pull just one narrow thing about myself from the morass of everything that is me. But that’s where I started – looking at a list, deciding if I exhibit that trait, and then literally writing it by hand that say, “I am an emphatic listener.” And then later you write how this trait is important in a person, and how you exhibit it.

    2. The pretty bowl idea is so awesome, MJRawr! Kudos on your creativity, and I’m sure your friend loved your gift 🙂

    3. Oooh I really love this idea! Do you remember what size vials you used? I see 10ml vials in bulk, but I wonder if they’d be big enough. (Maybe for a fortune cookie sized piece of paper?)

  63. First time commenter. I too, struggle with my body image. This post reminded me of a quote I ran across just two days ago, which really resonated with me:

    “Every time I hate my body I remember that there are millions of old rich white men who benefit from my self hatred and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s old rich white men so I snap out of that shit instantly cos I ain’t EVER giving them the satisfaction” (found here: http://me-talk-kitty-one-day.tumblr.com/post/160896676457/journeythroughalife-chronicreality-chens)

    Put like this it actually helped me feel better about myself, so I am posting this here in case someone else finds it helpful, too. Good luck to all of you!

  64. To go along with the whole, train your eye thing. I unfollow anyone on Facebook that can’t stop posting about their diet or exercise regime. I may like them find (or they’re family) but I don’t need to be inundated with that stuff constantly and I find I’m happier for it. I’ve also followed people/pages on Facebook and Instagram that are fat friendly, or otherwise support heath over size. It helps to weed out the stuff that just makes you feel bad, or feel judged, or any other negative reaction and try to use social media in a way that supports your own well being.

  65. I’ve found it helpful in caring about/for my body to do the sorts of things that make it happy. I get regular exercise because I feel better that way, avoid most junk food and caffeine because those make my stomach cranky, and try to get enough sleep, among other “healthy” things. I also eat desserts like pie bcs I like them, spend days staring at the wall petting the cats instead of exercising, etc. The idea is that I’m doing things MY body likes that help me feel good about it and help me enjoy my day. That goes a long way towards helping me like it. I would recommend some form of exercise not as a way to lose weight but as a way to enjoy your body and what it can do, since I’ve heard from many people that this is a good way to help you feel better about yourself. That could be intense like running or long bike rides, or just a daily stroll around the block or an evening stretching session. Just something to help you live in your body and appreciate it for what it can do and not just what it looks like.

    (And as with all advice, if this doesn’t help then just ignore. )

    1. Yes, my exercise goals are more like “able to dance X number of minutes at a party” rather than “change X amount of weight”. And, likewise, I’ve found that sometimes focusing on preferences rather than categories helps my relationship with food. I like raw carrots, but I can’t digest bell peppers. Chocolate is okay, but a good lemon bar is AMAZING, and I hate peanut butter.

  66. LW, I totally get it. As a fellow fat woman, I’ve been there. And keep looping back every so often–I find that body image/self confidence is a bit of a cycle for me (which is super annoying. Can’t I just stop at the peak and hang out there?). I have some tools for breaking into a slightly kinder-to-myself mindset now, though, which I hope will be helpful to you too!

    – I spent about a year obsessively reading several fat-women-being-gorgeous blogs. The ones I followed had a variety of body shapes and sizes, which I think helped me. I don’t do this much anymore, but doing it for a while helped me recalibrate my idea of beauty to include a wider range of people than usually get featured in magazines and TV shows and movies.

    – I got more interested in fashion. By fashion, I don’t mean like, catwalks and magazines and trends (though there’s nothing wrong with those things). I mean that I started putting time into finding clothes that I really liked, putting them on my body intentionally rather than just defaulting to jeans and a t-shirt (nothing wrong with jeans and a t-shirt either, but it became my uniform for a while there so I didn’t have to think at all, and I needed to break out of that), and making sure to wear some kind of accessory–a necklace, earrings, a belt, whatever–that went with it. Picking out clothes that made me happy to look at in and of themselves, and taking the time to really look at and appreciate what I was wearing, made me happy to look at myself. At first I was just happy to see the clothes and kind of felt like my body was detracting from them. But over time, the distinction wore away, and feeling happy when I looked in the mirror made me start feeling happy about my body’s appearance too.

    – By that same logic, the days I’m feeling the worst about myself are the days where I need to doll up a bit. I can get away with sweatpants and a t-shirt when I’m feeling good, but when I’m already feeling like I’m gross and ugly and unlovable, letting myself hide behind comfy-but-not-very-nice clothes will just make me feel worse about my body. Wearing something pretty and floofy and bright will give me some element of how I look that day that I take delight in, even if it’s just my skirt and not my body. That helps me reset my emotions a bit.

    – I got involved in a community that happens to have a decent number of larger-bodied people in it. It’s amazing how much of a difference it made to be around people who shop in the same stores I can shop at–not to mention, who get the struggles with airplane seats/online dating/finding clothes at all/existing as a fat person. I love my friends regardless of body size, but when I’m in a group of only smaller-bodied people, it can be easy to feel like I’m not a part of the same world. I find it easier to feel at home with myself when I know at least some people who share my experiences–I’m not weird, just part of a slightly different group!

    – I started to recognize the parts of myself that are lovable and have nothing to do with my appearance. Even if I were the ugliest, least attractive creature ever to exist in the history of the universe, I would still be empathetic and compassionate and smart and funny and adventurous. I would still be able to talk about the Lord of the Rings with you in far more depth than a casual conversation really warrants. I would still be politically active. I would still come with a cat (which ups anyone’s lovability factor by, like, 10x as far as I’m concerned–who doesn’t want to have a romantic relationship that comes with a bonus cat???). I would still like to snuggle on the couch. And there would probably still be someone on the planet who would want to date a person with those qualities. Love isn’t just about physical attraction, after all! (If we’re looking at this from a logical perspective, we should be acknowledging that fat people are attractive and we can find dates who like how we look. But when I’m in that brain-space where I can’t believe that true-yet-sometimes-hard-to-viscerally-believe thing, reminding myself of all the non-body things about me that are lovable is really helpful.)

  67. That dating advice is rock solid. It’s pretty much exactly what I figured out on my own as a relatively average-size person — it’s about valuing your own damn preferences and requiring that potential dates treat you with respect. I’m pretty tough, and it’s still not always easy for me to do that; I’m sorry our crap heap of a culture makes it so much harder for you. But it’s worth it. Self-worth lets you cut through the bullshit like a hot knife through butter, and leaves you so much more time and energy to spend on yourself and rewarding, attractive people instead.

    And just like the rest of your recent (amazing!) progress, you don’t have to wait until you believe it 100% to start doing it. If you can’t muster that confidence right away, you can fake it. Online dating got better when I consciously decided to date “like a guy.” Every time I felt shaky (“Oh, maybe I should give this bland rando a chance”) I’d think of every time a guy friend would justify anything dating-related with “I dunno, I just wasn’t feeling it,” and it got a lot easier to swipe left, decline or cancel a date, or delete a message, and message someone I *actually* found attractive instead. Nowadays, hell, if guys overlook that “leave me alone if the only books you list are old white-guy science fiction” bit in my profile to message me, I feel fine shooting them down, because I’d rather eat all nine hundred million zillion pages of a Neal Stephenson book than discuss it, and *my preferences matter.*

    1. Yes! *Your* preferences matter.

      LW, all I can speak to is the dating, as another person who spent 10+ years not dating and recently gave it another go. The best two pieces of advice I can give are:

      1) Don’t feel like you have to stick with Tinder or OK Cupid. There are loads of dating apps and websites – some very specific – and there’s bound to be one out there that feels right for you. Internet reviews are a wonderful thing.

      2) You deserve to be picky. What you want *matters*, regardless of what society tells you about your body or even how you feel about your body at any given moment. I’ve been known to stop seeing people because they text too much. Seriously.

      I wish you the very best of luck in your dating adventures, and send you Jedi hugs if you would like them.

  68. LW, thanks for putting this all into words, and Captain, thanks for answering so kindly. I was a longtime Shapely Prose reader many years and many pounds ago, and those words are often in my heart and on my mind when I look at my older, larger body. But it’s definitely true that body acceptance is a practice–a constant one–and I am straight up out of practice, so I’ve been having a hard time. I’ll be returning after work to read all your commenter stories and click a bunch of links and re-teach myself how to think. I LOVE Ijeoma Oluo’s piece about body neutrality. That hit just the right note for me today.

  69. It’s great that therapy is a tool you’re using, LW! I want to add a word of warning (and to vent)… I spoke to a therapist about my history of disordered eating, how I feared a realitive was killing themselves with the same disease, yet I felt myself slipping towards it and heeeelp.

    She responded by recommending one of those diets that’s dressed up as a “lifestyle change”. This was WAY out of the blue, and super-awkward, because she like… knew all my secrets and was now attacking me???

    Anyway, I tried it, and immediately gained (some amount of weight), which luckily for me, snapped me out of it: the therapist was ridiculous, diets are stupid, and I could treat my body better by listening to it than by subjecting to “lifestyle changes”. And never spoke to that therapist again, the end.

  70. One thing that helped me was to get very very picky about the types of media you consume. This happened to me accidentally after my children were born. I went maybe ten years without seeing any television, watching any movies, or reading glossy magazines. When I was in a position to start watching again (yay!) I was shocked about how little the people there reflected the types of people I saw around me every day. Also what had happened in the meantime is that my personal self-esteem skyrocketed. There was no one to compare myself to except the people I actually saw every day. It turns out I’m very close to average! It turns out that the way I look is a reasonable way for people to look!

    There’s a lot of good television out there. There’s no need to subject yourself to media that doesn’t reflect your values. I realize that’s a religious idea, but it’s true. If any media doesn’t treat you as worthy, please please please ditch it. For your mental health.

  71. Dear LW,

    I, too, struggle so hard with this. I don’t have any ironclad answers, by a long shot, but I try to talk to and about myself the way I would talk to a friend, and treat my body, again, as a friend. I know that may sound quite odd, but basically, I had broken my body’s trust with how I treated it, and i am still trying to build that trust back up by responding compassionately to my body’s pain and requests, the way I would for a friend. This means wearing clothes that FEEL good on me in terms of fabric or fit, it means taking the time to get fitted for bras and spend the money for ones that don’t hurt (because why would I treat a friend like that? I would never tell my friends to be in the constant pain and discomfort of ill fitting clothes). It means buying lotion in scents I like and being kind enough to put it on my body because my skin needs to be taken care of and it’s okay to be naked. It means buying the color of lipstick I want and telling the voice in my head that says that people who look like me don’t get to wear that, “I’d never say that to a friend. That’s not a nice thing to say. I get to choose to wear whatever I want. Wanting to wear it or try it out is a good enough reason.” It means moving my body in ways that don’t court injury, and giving my body water and sleep and food when it asks for them.

    It also means trusting my partner when they say and show that they are attracted to me. Part of me rejects this, and if I am not careful, it begins to play games with my mind, leading me down the always-unhelpful path of disbelieving what people say and trying to parse an alternate meaning out of their words. That path leads straight to stress and unhappiness. (Of course, if there’s someone who is persistently saying one thing and meaning another, maybe … limit contact with them. But in general, I try to take people at face value for my default, instead of mistrusting them for my default.) When you find someone who you are attracted to, who is attracted to you, it may be hard to accept their attraction. It may be freaking terrifying, in fact (it is for me, anyway, that’s all I know).

    The idea of having better self esteem is … kind of too big for me to tackle most of the time, honestly. So I try to be comfortable moment to moment, treating myself well, and I find that this has become a tentative habit, and the old patterns of self-loathing are easier to shed each time they try to creep back.

    I hope that this pain disappears from your life, disappearing bit by bit (with the occasional large chunk vanishing all at once) and not being replaced, until one day you look around and realize you’re doing really well, and you’re really happy. I wish you many mornings of waking up comfortable in your own skin. I wish you a full heart and a wardrobe of clothes you adore and a home that is a wonderful refuge for you.

  72. Just a quick comment for anyone afriad of confrontation (like me) who gets fat-shamed by doctors instead of actually addressing their real illnesses–they know what they’re doing. And they know it’s inappropriate.

    How do I know? Well, I’ve been dealing with it for years (because if at my height and a DD I was over the BMI even in ninth grade) but it’s been much worse since I stardted taking antidepressants. And after a truly awful winter I’ve gained some weight again. So when I went into for my routine OBGYN, of all things, and -she- started in on my weight (which has never affected my health in any way), instead of dancing around the subject like I usually do, because I was tired as all heck I looked her straight in the eye and told the blunt truth. “Month was hell and I could comfort eat or cut myself, and I know which my family prefers for a coping mechanism.”

    A good doctor, with depression listed in your chart, would express some concern and follow up. A nots-o-good doctor who honestly thought fat was a problem would continue addressing your weight.

    My doctor went silent, then changed the subject and proceeded with the exam as if the topic never came up.

    TL/DR: Most doctors know fat shaming is bad. But it’s socially acceptable. If you call them on it, especially with something that would not be socially acceptable, they will shut the eff up.

    1. Edit: Just realized that could sound like I was in danger–I’M NOT. I’m being treated, my mood is fine, that one particular month was just extremely stressful and I have limited coping skills for extreme stress. The fact that I realized I was approaching that place is actually a really good thing, and part of my progress from the last several years.

    2. Glad you are okay.

      I had a problem that wasn’t exactly fat shaming, but it was fat *blaming.* Despite my reporting biking 3 times a week for 25 miles each, my sudden and persistent shortness of breath and wheezing was met with “lose weight. Exercise.” I went to my primary care doctor 6 times, and landed in the hospital. Even then, I was told, follow up with your primary care doctor. At that point, I went into NYC for medical care, and immediately was taken seriously. I had lung cancer. It took SEVEN MONTHS to get a diagnosis of lung cancer. I’ll bet if I wasn’t plus-sized, they would have ordered the darn chest CT sooner.

        1. Thanks for asking. I’m doing well, and seem to be cancer free after one of my lungs was removed. I have some other issues, including an injury leaving me (hopefully temporary) disabled, which was caused as a side effect of the unnecessary meds I was given when my doctors were throwing drugs at me instead of doing simple tests.but, all in all, I’m really lucky. it didn’t metastasize, and I have a good prognosis.

      1. Oh my god…that’s so scary. I work in a health-related public sector office and we have a poster up right now that says ‘tell your doctor if you experience [the symptom you describe], catching problems early makes them more treatable’. Every. Single. Medical person. should know this is a symptom that should not be ignored, no matter what weight the patient is. I saw below you have a good prognosis and I’m glad to hear it but so fucking angry that this happened to you, fat hatred is a hell of a drug that all doctors should be actively fighting against to prevent them doing this kind of shit. >:|

        1. Yeah, it was pretty awful. They didn’t even refer me to a pulmonologist…I finally asked for a referral, and they gave me a list of names. The pulmonologist didn’t have an appointment available for 4 weeks. I had to go to the emergency room well before that.

          Lessons learned: know your body well, and advocate for yourself (which is not always easy when you feel like you are dying).

  73. Hey LW:

    I’ve been in a similar situation, yo-yo-ing up and down periodically. I’m working on being happier where I’m at and liking what I see in the mirror. My secret: I sleep naked. At first, it felt really transgressive and weird, like “I’m fat and I shouldn’t be doing this,” even though I was sleeping alone. Now, I walk around my room naked, sleep naked, and try to enjoy the glances of myself that I get in the mirror. In addition to sleeping better (I often get too hot at night) I’m feeling better about myself. I also swim as exercise, which has lead to a weird situation where I don’t feel self-conscious swimming or walking around the pool in a swimsuit, even though I do feel self-conscious in outfits that have more coverage. I’m not sure how it came about, other than being forced to sit on pool decks for swimming and water polo in a suit for hours, but I’ll take what I can get. Is there a way for you to find exercise that you enjoy and acquire some cute clothes to do it in? I love these yoga pants I got that have a subtle shiny print on them, and wearing them while working out (or sitting on the couch, TBH) makes me feel amazing because I think they’re so stinking cute.

    Internet hugs!

    1. Want to second hanging out naked as a tool for self acceptance. It helps greatly to just be able to say “yep, that is my naked body. that’s what it looks like. neat!”

  74. [Cap’n, that photo made me actually teary. Your expressions are priceless, and even though I don’t know you IRL, I had a very strong feeling of “look how happy my beautiful friends are!”]

    LW, my sister used to have access to a private beach on Lake Tahoe and she would invite me up every summer. “I don’t have a bathing suit” was always my excuse, except that “I feel uncomfortable in a bathing suit” was what I really meant.

    One year, she offered to take me bathing suit shopping, and it changed my life. (We have both been a variety of shapes over the years, and at that time we were both fat. )

    She put me into the dressing room and said: “Stay here, I am going to bring you all the suits to try. You’re going to feel uncomfortable in all of them. None of them are going to make you feel like your boobs won’t bust out at any moment, so give up THAT dream right now. Your goal is to find one that fits, and, if we’re very lucky, one that is cute.” For some reason, what I heard was, “we are not letting discomfort getting in the way of you having a great summer at the lake, so commit right now to doing that.” And it worked. She brought me a ridiculous amount of suits, including string bikinis and that thing that Borat wears. It was so silly to see myself in things I would never have tried, that it was easy to be like “this one!” when we stumbled across something cute and functional. And it sort of forever broke through the idea that I couldn’t do something because of the shape of my body.

    While I can’t recreate that experience for you, if I can do for you what my sister did for me by changing the goal from “feel comfortable in body” to “have fun [at the lake],” maybe that will be helpful. Let’s go have a great summer!

    1. I love that. Clothes shopping can be so fraught – I love the idea of reframing it as “I need things to cover my body while I go do [thing], and I’m not going to let the wrong fit get in the way of that.”

  75. My wife is heavy. I honestly don’t know her weight, never having thought it an important fact to know.

    What I DO know is that, in addition to being an amazing, beautiful, sexy, smart, incredible person, she also works out regularly with a trainer, and frequently amazes him. Working out did not make her skinny. It has made her physically stronger and improved her stamina, and she enjoys it. It works for her.

    I hope you find many wonderful things that work for you. You deserve ALL the wonderful things!

  76. Hi LW,

    I grew up in a family that in many ways were supportive and lovely, and I’m still close to all of them (I say this because when I tell only the next part of this story, people tend to assume they are horrible abusive people, and they’re not at all, they just all drank the cultural Kool-Aid on this one). The way in which they were not supportive an lovely was the way they talked, and still talk, about bodies. Just not to me, any more. I grew up with this, thinking fat people were grotesque, and the worst thing one could possibly be, and I, being the bookish nerd who gets sunburn and is allergic to ALL OF NATURE in a family of golden, outdoorsy athletes, was very much The Fat One, and subject to much concern-trolling.

    It took me until college until I realised I did not _at all_ share their ideas about beauty. I remember describing a friend to my mum one day and I mentioned that she was really beautiful, which utterly confused my mum because I had also said that she was fat. She actually tried to correct me, and say I’d meant to say that Friend _would be_ beautiful once she lost weight, and I had to hold firm. “She’s beautiful now.” (I wasn’t quite at the “and so am I, so you all need to shut up about all of this” point, but I got there, mostly.)

    I joined a tai chi class in a local gym, which was in one of those mirror-lined dance studios so you could see if you were matching the instructors moves (helpful!). I was broke at the time, so I traded classes for blog posts for the instructor, and that gave me an extra motivation to go, and was good for me, as a person who starts enthusiastically and then has trouble maintaining commitment to basically anything.

    One time, I really, viciously did not want to go. I was having one of those days (weeks?) when I just HATED myself. Everything about myself, inside and out. I felt gross, and lumpen, like an ambulatory skin full of toxic waste. And the thought of that mirrored room and having to look at myself for an hour? Ugggghhhhhh. But, I dragged myself. And I looked at this spandex-clad heap of a thing that I called a body and was disgusted. And I looked at everyone else in the class and compared myself to them. The elderly lady with the severe arthritis who had difficulty moving was THINNER than me! lucky.

    I got through the class by not looking at my reflection at all. There’s a lot of centring in your body, and stillness, and gentle movement in tai chi, and by the time it was over, I felt better. And at the end of class, I almost didn’t look at my reflection because I didn’t want to spoil my mood.

    But then I looked, and I was beautiful.

    And now I have that experience to draw on when I’m feeling very negative about my body, and I do try to look at myself through those eyes that are calm and centred and not through the lens of whatever is churning around in my head, and it doesn’t always work, but that was a powerful moment for me, and I wish you (and everyone else here) the same realisation every time you pass a mirror.

    1. I too do a sport with mirrors to help you match the teacher and sometimes I get down on myself. Then I look around at the other students, some id whom have been my friends for years, and remind myself that they see this view of me all the time and love me exactly the same. And that has helped.

  77. On the topic of retraining your eye, I like these (both contain occasional mentions of dress sizes/body weight/intentional weight loss/eating disorders):
    They’re both collections of pictures of fat women getting married. (The first one is a general Fat Girls Doing Things blog which LW might want to browse through from the homepage if they’re interested, rather than just looking at stuff tagged “married” which is what I’ve linked to). I know that marriage isn’t even vaguely on LW’s radar! But I feel that a wedding is one of the big cultural ‘moments’ in terms of beauty standards and romance for women – there’s such a huge focus on brides being “beautiful” (read: thin), and seeing images on a regular basis that challenge that ‘loveable = beautiful = thin’ false equivalence is helpful.

    If LW’s experience is anything like mine, the first time she looks through these images her brain will probably be going “Well sure, she’s fat, but she’s also PRETTY, not like me” (or occasionally more horrible/mean things than that); but making these kinds of images a regular part of the feed of images that passes in front of you every day can make a difference to how you think over the longer term: and if you can demolish the idea that brides have to be thin, then the demolition of the idea that girlfriends have to be thin follows pretty neatly.

  78. The single thing that made the biggest increase to my happiness and comfort in my fat body was a good bra. I am in a *very* hard to find bra size (many of the places that people recommend for large cup size stop below me), and it turns out that the Glamorise Posture Back Support bra goes up to 58K, and I am included in that range.

    It’s a utilitarian style in a narrow range of colors, but holy heck it does AWESOME things for my tits, which turn out to be SPECTACULAR when they’re in a good bra. (I stumbled onto them on Amazon and they are not cheap but also not as expensive as some that I’ve seen. They have their own website too, and I think JustMySize carries them as well.)

    I’ve discovered a few perfumes that I loooooove, partly due to the way my friends group swaps around sample vials like they were baseball cards. Being able to smell my wrist and smile, or catch a little bit of scent when I move, makes me happier to be embodied.

    If dating seems Too Much right now, it’s okay to take it off the table for a little while longer. If you’re more likely to actually talk to that guy if you have a stated goal of seeing if he can be a friend, rather than seeing if he can be a date, try looking for friends. (I I seem to recall that OkCupid has a “looking for friends” setting; there are probably other sites that do the same.) Having a larger group of friends including guys has more opportunity for the “I’ve gotten to know her, and she’s pretty!” and “She is exactly my friend’s type, and I should arrange for them to meet!” as well as the “She’s so pretty and I need to know her!”

    I am recently partnered (with a wonderful gender anarchist who loves the art of a fine linkspam) and I did not meet them with the intention of dating. We met online (pour one out for LiveJournal) and decided we were mutually interesting and friendly. Then we met in person at an event of mutual interest some eight years later. HOLY PANTSFEELS, BATMAN. I had been prepared for the sharp mind and incisive wit, but I was bowled over by the kindness and lighthouse smiles.

    I was 100% absolutely abjectly terrified to tell my now-partner that I liked-them-liked-them. About a year later, I had decided that I needed to tell them so they could turn me down and I could stop having the terrible hope that we could be together which was making me act weird around them. I finally resorted to texting while we were sitting at the same table in a group of friends. One of our buddies asked if I was okay because I was so very visibly terrified. Spoiler: they did not turn me down. They had been convinced that *they* were unlovable…

  79. I’m another one 2nding the advice to retrain your eye. One thing that especially helped me (a heterosexual woman) was looking at pictures of fat men. I’d look at these pictures and eventually started imagining doing Adult Things with some fantasy version of those men, and imaging how good their bodies would feel to touch. Then I thought to myself “Well, it can’t be just me. If I like this idea, there must be other people out there who like it too. Some of them are probably men who are attracted to women and actually have adult relationship skills.” (I know this is a little into Notes from a Boner territory, but that’s what worked for me.)

    The other thing that helped was doing a lot of internal work to teach myself that beauty does not equal virtue. Naturally fitting into conventional beauty standards is a matter of luck, having interesting style is a matter of talent and work, but neither of those things reflect your worth as a person.

  80. LW, I want to give you so much love and support. One of the issues I’ve found with body feelings is that I often find myself falling into what I call “The Myth of Mutual Exclusivity”. Basically, that if I ever have negative feelings about my body, that means I don’t get to call myself body positive. Or if I can’t escape the RIDICULOUS amount of seductive and harmful messages about bodies and their value, then I’ll never be able to accept myself as I am. We can hold multiple (often contradictory) ideas and feelings at the same time.

    You don’t have to be the human version of a body positivity meme on FB to start taking steps (they can be so tiny at first) to loving and accepting your body. Wanting to feel sexy and beautiful doesn’t mean you’re betraying the idea that our worth should not be measured by the size of our pants. You contain multitudes. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Even writing into CA (which you know is an incredibly body positive and fucking awesome advice column) is something to be proud of.

  81. When I started exercising as a thing (rather than just walking to get places in the city), I specifically identified goals other than weight loss: not just the negative of “I’m not here to lose weight” but the active “I want to be stronger.”

    I had a gym membership for a while, and at one point a well-meaning staff member came over while I was working out and started on “If you want to lose weight, you should [change how you use that machine].” So I told him “this isn’t a weight-loss program, it’s a strength and endurance program,” and he said okay and went away: I was speaking a language he understood. If you decide to take up any sort of organized exercise, you might benefit from being able to state a goal other than weight loss, whether it’s “I’m working on my balance” or “I want to be able to climb a mountain.” (I’m using those examples because they’re less likely to be dragged into “if you only lost weight” than something about blood pressure.)

    1. Seconding this because it has worked so well for me! It turns out I get a hoot and a half out of being able to do pull-ups. I mean, I can’t yet, but there’s this great assisted pull-up machine at my gym. I like lifting heavier things than I was lifting a month ago. I like being able to run for 10 minutes instead of 5.

      (Also, and I mention this because I’ve spent a large part of my life terrified of the totally ripped people lifting 8 times as much as me, I’ve honestly found Gym Dude(tte)s to be insanely helpful. If I ask, “hey, what was that exercise you were doing?” or, “what was that term you just used?” they have always been very free with information. They’re like fandom evangelists, just for free weights.)

  82. Hi LW!

    Adding to the “retraining the eye/saying nice things about yourself” the Captain touched on, here’s a thing that I found helpful when I had body insecurity: Everybody has some body part somewhere that falls into the box of [current beauty standard] even if it’s just a fucking toenail. Try to find at least two body parts that you like. Maybe you’ve got great boobs or beautiful lips, a cute nose, perhaps your eyelashes are long or you have nice fingernails…anything. Doesn’t matter. Whenever you stand in front of a mirror or anytime you’re randomly thinking about this exercise: compliment yourself on these very specific parts. Look at (for example) your feet and say to yourself: I have really pretty toes. Establish it as a fact that cannot be argued with. No matter how bad you might feel in your body on a given day – your toes are objectively great, period.

  83. My issue with the “I’m fat” is the same one I have with being forced to say, “I’m an alcoholic” as “identification.” Both are some mysterious, forced mumble as a point of entry. I am a whole person, and tiny labels referring to my person do not define me.

  84. Retraining your eyes definitely helps.

    I’m the same size, give or take, that I’ve been for quite a lot of years, but I’m happier now that I follow feminist and plus size models/magazines/youtubers on facebook and Instagram because I see my size and other “odd” sizes reflected at me. I found love (twice actually), I have a kid, I have so many body positive friends: I do well.

    I know I wanna get into better shape soon but that has to do with my hyperactive toddler – not what size society might wish me to be. And I know I’m a great person. Even as a fattie. And I bet LW and others like LW are too. Start accepting yourself. Start believing you’re deserving. Because you are. And then go make your world what you want it to be.

  85. I love so many of the comments above. I also use some methods other people talk about:
    * Follow plus-size people on social media (like Instagram), and be amazed at how awesome they look. Try really hard not to zoom in on the differences between me and them and use them for self-flagellation.
    * Notice other people’s presentation, and compliment it aloud, when appropriate. I had a colleague who apparently was really unused to this, and so she thought I was weird and artificial at first (awkward), because I thought her shoes looked great… repeatedly. But we sorted it out, and got the chance to talk about lots of shared interests (makeup! shoes! Cute dresses that don’t cost a ton!).
    * Notice things about myself that I like, and don’t let my brain add a “, but…” to them. “Wow, my bangs look great like that”, “I love how these jeans fit”.

    Another thing that it made me a lot more confident about my entire self to get better at accepting compliments, and (related) sharing good things (whether or not I personally did them) with other people. Sometimes it sounds silly, or self deprecating – but I think there’s something about saying the words, and saying them out loud that really helps.

    So, like, my mom asks me a super easy to google question on the phone, and when she’s impressed that I google it, I’m all “Yes! I am a master google searcher.” Or a friend likes my lipstick, and I say “Thanks, it’s my new favorite!” My coworker wants help writing an awkward email, and really likes my suggestion: “Thanks, I’m aiming to be the valedictorian of communicating awkward things well”. This helped a lot. All of a sudden, I had tons of apparently-small, but valuable skills/traits. And it got easier to, when someone said I looked nice, or something, have my brain volunteer “Aw, thanks. I think dresses this length/shirts this color/bolo ties existing really suit me”, and then I … believed it. I still have times where someone says “I love that shirt” or something, and I’m like “Uh, I have literally seen more attractive feed sacks, but thanks?”, but I try to keep them to myself. I think there’s a lot to be said for being gracious when someone is being kind, and if I’m training myself to value the *choices* people make instead of some notions about ‘intrinsic’ characteristics, then there’s something to be said for choosing to say things that will have the more positive impact on both of us.

    I haven’t gotten to a place where generalized positive body self-talk is comfortable (e.g. “I am beautiful”), but I can get to “I like the way I look [in context]”, and be able to see how someone else could find me attractive. Maybe I will get there. But, in the meantime, I feel like I’ve altered my framework for looking nice, or having value, or being good to all be one that focuses more on intentionality, and trying to make good choices. 🙂

  86. I had two and a half things that helped me feel better about the body I’m in:

    – surrounding myself with images of beautiful fat people
    — and cutting WAY BACK on my intake of traditional media, for a longass time.
    – replacing my clothes that didn’t fit with clothes that fit. I’ve had excellent luck with thredup.com, which has name-brand, like-new clothes in sizes from “much smaller than me” to “much larger than me”.

    Changing room mirrors can be unkind. I have had much better experiences getting my measurements accurately taken, and buying things online to try on at home, than I have going into a store, trying on a variety of things, and leaving with no clothes and more tears than I’d wish on anyone outside of an onion soup festival.

    I’m currently in love with a wonderful fat girl who I think is the sexiest thing alive (she thinks the same of me). You deserve a person who loves you how you are AND loves and supports you in how you want to be.

  87. This was me for so, so many years!

    To address the dating and “forever alone” side of things: after about a decade of dating actively, I am, at age 33, engaged to marry the most wonderfully kind, intelligent, and handsome man. I am near the top of the weight bell curve, with a pretty but not model-type face. I say this because when I was in your shoes, this is what I needed to hear; regular fat people find happy, non-“settling” matches. I probably messaged a thousand folks, went on a hundred or so first dates, a handful of second dates, and had relationships with four other people before I landed my dreamboat. (We’re an OkCupid couple; met all my matches there!)

    I’m sure being fat meant I got fewer initial messages, but then again, we all reject each other for so many reasons that it’s hard to say—having an MA, being vegetarian, being bisexual, etc. probably lost me many responses too. If you want to date, follow the advice about taking yourself and your standards seriously (my dating quality VASTLY improved after I did that; I read “Are you the one for me?”), and remember that we’re all funny shaped puzzle pieces, with many facets to fit together to find a great partner. There are a million things any given person will or won’t like about you; focus then on what you like about them.

  88. Adding enthusiastic endorsment to the idea of retraining your eye. For me there was definitely a disconnect between understanding intellectually that all this fat shame was bullshit, and really, fully believing it, particularly about myself. Looking at images of fat, happy, stylish, etc people was a huge part in bridging that gap.

    Also, Captain, I think we may have gotten married in the same dress!? I also got mine from Modcloth, and it looked a helluva lot like the one in your picture. Did yours have pockets? Whenever someone compliments the dress in the wedding photos I’m like well sure, okay, but did you know my wedding dress had POCKETS!?!? HOW COOL IS THAT.

    1. It had pockets! Glorious pockets! And I could wear a normal bra & underwear under it, which was on my list of requirements.

      1. Oh, the beauty and wonder of pockets in a dress! A “dressy” one at that! I love your outfit, your colorful bouquet, and the happiness that radiates off of you and Mr. Awkward!

  89. This is basic, but way back in my baby “okay maybe I’m fat and I’m gonna be fat and I can’t wait to start all the things until that stops being true” days, I did a thing that made a huge difference to me:
    1. I got rid of the scale.

    No scale! No number! No monitoring! After a few months, it meant an amazing thing: I did not know what I weighed, and could no longer quantify my virtue and lovability on a number line.

    After that, came some important steps:
    2. I stopped being weighed at the doctor’s office. (“Yep, I’d prefer not to be weighed, thanks!”) No one else could number line me either!
    3. I stopped trying to wear tight clothes. YMMV, but for me squeezing into things was always about looking as small as possible, minimizing my fat body just a millimeter more. So I stopped. (Years later, I am experimenting with tight-as-statement, not tight-as-camouflage – so I’m not saying that spandex is verboten! Just that the way I used fitted clothes was not about pride or comfort.)
    3, corollary: I started just wearing loose clothes. If I thought I wore a 1X, I tried on 2X and 3X sizes. I rocked belts over dresses that were “too big” and felt like a Grecian goddess. I took up some damn space, looked like the fat woman I had always been, and the world did not crumble.
    4. I got naked. I slept naked, I walked around naked, I walked in front of mirrors without faltering. Eventually, I got to know my body a little better, stopped only seeing it with sucked in belly and strategic “flattering” clothes. It stopped being a stranger. And friends you know are actually pretty easy to love.

    I am still fighting this fat-shaming, hateful miasma we breathe in all the time, but those changes were really world-altering for me. You are not a number. You do not have to make yourself small. You get to be seen.

    1. Okay…your #2 is a revelation to me. I mean, I know you can refuse anything your doctor wants to do, but it never, NEVER occurred to me that I could just say, “Nope, prefer not to be weighed.”

      1. It’s a frickin’ MIRACLE. It didn’t occur to me either before I read a bunch of Shapely Prose, transitioning from persistent ED to HAES thinking. And mostly, it is just no big deal. I have never been asked why or challenged about it, and I no longer deflate when I’m given my post-visit instructions and see irrelevant-to-my-visit next steps!

        I really can’t recommend it enough. DO IT!

      2. For all those people who are wondering why weight is a thing which is measured at doctor’s offices at all: sudden weight change (either up or down, greater than 1kg per month) can be an indicator of severe health problems in a few different situations. However, if you’re at the point where you aren’t either attempting to lose weight or attempting to gain it, having your weight measured every single time you visit the doctor’s office doesn’t actually determine anything other than the fact your doctor is gathering unnecessary information.

        Incidentally: this isn’t a Thing everywhere – here in Australia, the only time I get weighed at all by my GP is if I actually need to have a full physical check-up. Otherwise… well, if I’m rocking up to get a medical certificate for the ‘flu or similar, my weight is going to be immaterial to the diagnosis; ditto if I’ve rocked up to get my Mental Health Plan updated.

    2. “And friends you know are actually pretty easy to love.”

      This is so excellent. Thank you for putting into words what’s been happening to me over the past year and why it made such a difference. (Which, coincidently, also included forcing myself to spend some time looking at me naked.)

  90. Captain! You and Monsieur Awkward look amazing. 😀

    LW, do please try to be gentle on yourself. Le Captain speaks truth. Your life will be amazing.

  91. I’m sure I’m the umpteenth person to cosign, but can’t speak highly enough of The Fantasy of Being Thin. It actually did change my life.

    I am a fat woman with a fat teenage daughter – watching her struggle with the toxicity of our culture towards fatness is hard, much harder than it is to deal with my own feelings. But we do, together, many of the things the good Captain recommends, and we’ve both found a great deal of confidence and happiness in changing the self-talk around not only our, but other people’s, bodies. Neither of us has “sized out” of regular department store clothing lines yet (we’re in Australia, and there is a wide variety of sizing available), and we’ve found that buying clothes a size up from what we can squeeze into has also helped us feel more comfortable.

    A commenter upthread also picked up on something else we’ve found important, which is to celebrate the functionality of our bodies by doing something we really enjoy and can build skill in. My daughter does martial arts and debating, which helps reinforce that her body is supple and capable and that she can speak to a group with confidence. I go on hikes and do slam poetry, which has made my body (and mind) feel stronger and more robust to me.

    And I have to say as my last thing – Captain, that photo!!! I just LOVE those flowers. And that cardy. The dress. Mr Awkward’s suit. And the smiles on your lovely faces 🙂

  92. Captain, your wedding photo is awesome!!!

    Here’s one thing that worked for me in coming to terms with accepting my body. I always had a horrible time swimsuit shopping. It was totally humiliating. Then, in college, I met a couple of friends who were my body type – similar size, similar shape, proportions, etc.

    We three decided to go swimsuit shopping together. Now, I thought these ladies were beautiful, and I could see their beauty in ways that I could not see my own, and we all kind of decided that we all felt that way about each other.

    We went swimsuit shopping and here were our rules:
    1) Try on absolutely everything, because something that looks weird on a hanger may look awesome in person.
    2) If it doesn’t work, the thing we agreed to say was, “That’s not the best style for you, let’s keep going.”

    We all ended up finding swimsuits that we loved. It happened that one style looked really good on my friend, and then I thought, well maybe that will look good on me too, and guess what, it did.

    Ever since then, I’ve stuck to that basic formula and it hasn’t let me down, 20 years later. It was a first step of many, but it was a good first step.

  93. I play a Jedi mind trick on myself sometimes–when I hear myself making negative comments about myself in my head, I think, “If I had a friend who was exactly like me, would I say these things to her?” It reminds me that being mean to myself is just as nasty as being mean to someone else, and not who I want to be.

    You don’t deserve mean, critical comments from anyone, not even you. Give yourself the pep talk you would give someone else–be your own supportive, kind BFF.

    Hope this is helpful. 🙂

  94. What my artist wife did to train me to appreciate my body:

    1. She showed me a volume of classic art. She told me that every single woman in the paintings looked like me. This was, to my amazement, true! Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Five hundred times later, I actually believe her.

    2. She threw out five garbage bags full of ugly church lady/hippie clothes I had worn to conceal my figure.

    3. She took me to the flagship Macy’s in New York City and bought me a new wardrobe in my size. She showed me that I looked far better in clothes that flattered my curves and fit me.

    4. She introduced me to leggings, a blessing to big girls everywhere.

    5. She taught me how to wear makeup properly (I had never bothered to learn, because my mother had the most boring makeup collection in the world.) I had no idea wearing makeup could actually be fun! Glam and goth and glitter makeup is really cool, even at age 42.

  95. Commenting to say thanks so much Captain for mentioning the hourglass thing. This is something that has so long held me back from embracing fat acceptance for myself and not just others, that makes me feel often that the fat acceptance movement is not for someone with my body type. I can easily see beauty and sexiness in fat women who are curvy/hourglass. What is much much harder is finding attractiveness in my own body type, where all the fat accumulates in the belly. It’s something I still struggle with. So thanks Capn for acknowledging that different types of fat bodies have different experiences!

  96. Ooooh this is so tough. And the good captain’s advice is a+ spot-on, and so are a lot of the commenters (and kudos to the captain’s wicked monitoring of the comments, because this is such a great community to read).

    In terms of self-love and things that worked for me:
    1) being naked. Sleeping naked. Walking around the house naked. Not feeling like my body needs to be camouflaged. I grew up in a household where casual nudity was normal, and it helped.
    2) having clothing that fits and is comfortable and I like. I have the WORST time shopping for myself and feeling blah about things, and then I feel even more blah with clothing that is uncomfortable or that I don’t feel confident in, and… no. A pair of jeans that fits well is worth it.
    2.1) taking care of my body aesthetically. Getting haircuts that are adorable. Putting on bright red lipstick when I’m feeling it (my preferred look is stomps boots, androgynous clothes, and bright red lipstick). None of this “but it’s expensive and I’m fat and not worth it” bullcrap , even if thats how I’m feeling. Feeling like I’m looking good gives me a self-esteem boost, and it’s worth it. Also, figuring out what I was doing from social pressure that didn’t make me feel good, and stopping. The texture of stubble on my legs always made me feel hideous, but the texture of hair made me feel like a particularly pettable cat. So I don’t shave very often. Etc.
    3) taking care of my body. Enjoying sensuality. Taste good food. Moisturizing – the feel of smoothing cream over my thighs. Standing in a hot shower and feeling the hot water pour down my back. Bubble baths. Smoothing my fingers over silky dresses. Moisturizing my face in winter so that it feels soft. Sitting on a comfortable chair in front of a hot fire in winter. Good-quality toys and time alone with them. Yknow… things that make a body feel nice.
    4) focussing on the things I like about my body. I like how my old stretch marks shimmer over my hips and make me feel like I’m wearing dragon scales (and messing with dragons is a horrible idea, so then I feel strong and kinda mythical). I love my lips, my hands, how strong my arms are. My new stretch marks (2 pregnancies in 3 years…) look like trees growing up my body and trees are strong and organic and survive hurricanes. That kind of thing.
    5) i appreciate what my body can do. It can birth and raise and support and love 2 children. It can move, and lift things, and be strong, and yield when needed, and I appreciate all it does. I also get regular massages (bless insurance that covers it), see the physio when something starts hurting, etc.
    6) I tell people close to me to cut out food-shaming, body-shaming, and similar nonsense. And yes, mom, I know you weren’t commenting on MY food, but if you have to justify every calorie that passes your lips, I can’t eat with you, and will go to another table and meet up after lunch. It helped. So Much.

    And the captains advice for dating is a+, 100% backing it, and wishing I could send it back in time – 22-yesr-old me could have used that!

    1. Talking with a [weightlifting, muscle-y, guy] friend recently, he was lamenting how he’d “been slipping” and losing mass (I had commented on his quite-strong-arms) and how he had gotten all these stretch marks before and he NEEDS to get back to the gym soon and get that back and…it was really a shift in my perspective to hear him talk about these stretch marks that he loved and was super proud of! Definitely gave me some re-thinking on mine.

  97. LW, congratulations on getting to this place, that must have taken an enormous amount of work!!

    I highly highly highly recommend the looking-at-fat-people-on-the-internet thing. the point, for me when i was doing it, was to retrain my eye, not so i would think of fat people as hot or glamorous (i mean, we are but that wasn’t the point for me) but for fat folks to be normal. Like, fat woman wearing a skirt = thin woman wearing a skirt = woman wearing a skirt = i can wear a skirt!

    One thing i did which I also recommend – I wasn’t very active on Tumblr at all, so I made a tumblr account and followed *only* fatshion and fat-positive blogs. that way i would just have a feed of fat glorious humans to look at whenever. it was amaaazing.

  98. I found that my personal journey with self esteem took a turn for the better when I discovered a thing that my body was good at and felt good, and focused on the changes it made to my body that made it easier to be good at those activities. I struggled a lot as a youth with feeling like I had “thunder thighs,” but as I pursued mountain biking and trail running more, it became more like hell yeah! Thunder thighs! My legs are not smaller than when their size bothered me so much, but I now attach their shape to power and capability. A friend of mine that’s always been “stocky” (her words) got into Olympic weightlifting, and ain’t none of those girls thin. What they are is hella powerful and if snatching twice your bodyweight doesn’t make you feel like a war goddess, get outta town. My example and my friends’ are perhaps a little extreme as far as how dedicated we ended up to our sports, but we both started small, and as we fell in love with the ability of our bodies, the sense of love for our bodies themselves followed.

  99. One time I (a fat girl) matched with a co-worker on a dating site. We both knew that both of us had recently divorced/split with long-term partners, but neither of us knew that we were both dipping our toes back into the dating pool. He sent me an email at my personal address (which he had because we were friendly outside of work) and said “So, uh, I see we matched” and I replied with “this is hilarious and awkward!” and he agreed and then we agreed that we decidedly did not want to date, thank you, and that we would just un-match each other and move right along. He has since re-married and I also have a long-term partner again, and we are still friendly and good co-workers.

    So, yes, it is awkward to match with your co-workers, but it is often not the end of the world.

  100. I found out something new while looking into the relationships between weight, depression, and the immune system, using the reliable resource PubMed (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). Researchers – although not the web and most care providers – support “Health at Every Size” over weight loss.

    In a response to an HBO program on obesity, M Schwartz reamed the public health, scientific, and medical communities: “Why would both the show’s producers and leading health officials choose not to address what amounts to the single largest obstacle to obesity treatment? Perhaps they reasoned that acknowledging the inexorable recovery of lost weight would send a ‘‘defeatist’’ message in conflict with their advocacy of healthier lifestyle choices. As understandable as this decision may seem, it has several very negative consequences. First, the very public assertion that a healthier lifestyle is the solution to the obesity problem places blame for obesity treatment failure squarely on the shoulders of the obese, thereby sparing from any accountability the scientific community and health care providers, who have accomplished so little where nonsurgical obesity treatment options are concerned.” (An inconvenient truth about obesity”, 2012.)

    The Heath At Every Size approach is represented by Berman and colleagues’ 2016 paper “Uncontrolled pilot study of an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Health at Every Size intervention for obese, depressed women: Accept Yourself!” This approach, as you can guess, includes bupkiss about weight loss.

    Weight bias is also being recognized by the scientific community. “Weight bias is a form of stigma with detrimental effects on the health and wellness of individuals with large bodies” wrote Nutter in 2016. And those rogues Lee and Pause, in the intimate and forward thinking “Stigma in Practice: Barriers to Health for Fat Women” (2016), discussed “the recorded experiences of the two fat authors” in health care and the broader society.

    The physical and psychological benefit of HAES, and the psychological injury of fat-hate is well supported. Myself, I have lived many years at all kinds of weights, and can say that fat, skinny, it’s all the same – the good and bad times, the potential relationship people being interested in me. My best advice is to believe in the phrase “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on” (the horse part is important) and play that in your head, or say it loud, any time fat-hate and weight worries enter your realm.

    Your science- and pitbull-loving supporter, who is actually a Petra and not a Pete

  101. http://www.stylelikeu.com

    I’ve been trying to eloquently and succinctly explain why this resource is so important to me, but it’s too big for me to find the words. Their “What’s Underneath” series is so potent in breaking down societal bullshit about weight, age, race, class, ableism etc in such a beautiful and affecting way. They also have a “body image” archive too.
    Also, it’s a little off track but Charlie Kauffman’s BAFTA screenwriting lecture always fills me with such solace, hope and comfort.

  102. Thinking positive things when I saw other people out and about really helped me to feel better about myself – I negatively compare myself to the people around me A LOT. Like, if that person looks “bad” THEN I AM AN ATROCITY WHO SHOULD BE SHUNNED. So, even if I still think I look terrible compared to everyone else… if everyone else around me looks great then maybe I just look a little scruffy? (I’m now trying to reframe how I see myself to be in relation to my actual self, rather than an ideal/unreal self, or other people, or the cast of Star Wars.)

    I also counter my friends when they say something unflattering about other people (especially related to size). And most of them stopped doing it altogether, and some just talk to me less – both of these are wins imo. But cutting down on the judgement that the people around me put out really helped. Because every time someone said “well, that’s not really flattering her, is it?” I would assume that they were thinking the same things about me and just being too polite to say so, or I would see someone who looked perfectly nice and think that if their look wasn’t “flattering” then how could I ever possibly manage to look “maybe okay”??

    I’m seeing lots of good stuff recommended in the comments – I’ll be back later to read in depth. (And Captain, you wedding shoes are the cutest I’ve ever seen!)

  103. Just here to echo what others have said. I lost weight once and got down to my goal weight and looked at myself in the mirror… And I still hated what I saw. Since that moment it’s been pretty hard to convince myself to lose the weight I gained back. It isn’t the magic answer that fixes everything. I think for me, some therapy is going to be part of the magic answer. And, like the Captain said, some really deliberate thought-watching.

    LW – You aren’t alone.

    1. That happened to me once, too. I got to a weight that I always thought would be awesome, and I looked like I had been really sick. (I wasn’t intentionally losing weight, I was working 60-70 hour weeks at a job where I couldn’t eat at my desk and had to walk around the property a ton.)

  104. Haven’t read comments, but one thing I found in some dancing scenes is that many different people are out on the floor, and all sorts of varied bodies are out making beautiful movements. Separately, together, whatever. If you can find a dance class, especially one aimed at welcoming all ages and skills, you might find some help there. Even if your dance skills, like mine are … not super, just moving in a safe space is wonderful.

  105. I could have written this letter, almost word for word…just substitute the word “old” for “fat.”

    1. Oh, that’s super tough, especially in a culture that devalues older women. I’m working on that myself, (though im not yet done childbearing), as my body changes and some gray streaks show up and skin texture changes. My mother spent my formative years fighting aging like mad because she wanted to, in her words, “still feel attractive” – she dressed “age-appropriate” (read:boring and pastel). colored her hair religiously, did make-up every day because she wasn’t accepting changing skin tones, and still felt horribly about herself for over 30 years, and this started when she was younger than I am now, and I desperately do not want to repeat the pattern. Also I have no time for everyday layers of make-up and hair dye, I have a life to get on with!

      I’d actually recommend the Captain’s advice with a switch to older style blogs – I super recommend Linda Rodin, the model. She is… shaped like a non-plus-sized model, so problematic for fat acceptance imagery, but she’s got GREAT style – all silver hair and bright colors and bright lipstick and she clearly rocks it. (Also proof that older women can totally rock bright red lipstick if the rest of their outfit suits the look, and no mom, I didn’t need to put away my super red lipsticks when I hit 30…) Also the blog Advanced Style, which… ok, some outfits are not what I’d choose, but it’s full of super good-looking people who obviously wanna look sharp, and they’re older and of various shapes and sizes and grey hair abounds and it looks GOOD and they look like they’re happy and having fun, and it’s helping me normalize fashion and looking good as I grow older.

      1. Thanks! I got an anarchy symbol tattoo on the back of my neck when I was 62, and my grandkids love to talk about what it means.

  106. My parents gave me a lovely gift that I will be forever grateful for: My mom is fat and never talked negatively about her body and my dad was not fat and openly loved my mother and clearly found her beautiful.

    Reading through the post and comments reminded me of this, and makes me think about what a beautiful world y’all are creating for the children in your lives. The work we are doing to love ourselves helps more than just us.

    LW, I don’t know if this is remotely helpful, but I’m sending all the warmth I have to your lovable self.

  107. Hello LW! There has been some amazing advice here, and most of the people have covered the things that I have done to train myself to mostly love my body most of the time. But I also wanted to tell you a story of Dating While Fat.

    Many years ago when I was in college, I was Not Skinny and I had a boyfriend who was quite slender. We dated for just over a year and then he dumped me, claiming that the dumping was coming in large part because I was Not Skinny.

    It broke me up for many years. I had to do many active things (including therapy) to help to come to peace with my body again.

    I am now a good deal fatter than I was in college. My relationship with my body is almost as peaceful and accepting as it was when I was in college, although not quite. I am just over five months in to a relationship with a lovely man who expresses active appreciation about my body and its shape. He is kind and respectful. He cares most of all that I am not sad or self loathing, especially when I might be sad or self loathing about my body. We communicate actively about how he can talk about my body in ways that make both of us feel good.

    In addition, in the intervening years I have had tangential social contact with my college ex. What I have learned about him in this time is that he is a person of low moral character, in many situations that have nothing to do with me and my body. My body was not the problem in the relationship; the problem was his low moral character.

    My point is that there are people out there who will be lovely and people who are jerks. There are people out there who will appreciate your body for what it is and others who may make unkind comments. And those will deeply wound, and may set you back in your progress towards loving your body. But there is also the possibility of someone telling you that they are attracted to you specifically because of your body’s shape, who loves you, and thinks you are fabulous.

    In a related thing, this love story is beautiful, and the woman in the story does a lot of cool videos about fat acceptance on Buzzfeed:

    1. A note, because I forgot and then rewatched, the woman in the video mentions her swimsuit size at the end.

  108. Agree on the loveliness of the wedding photo. You two look SO HAPPY.

    LW: I, too, am overweight and have low self-esteem about my body — even though my wonderful partner tells me, often, how beautiful and desirable he finds me. Both of us could stand to lose some weight because both of us feel better when we’re not this heavy. Interestingly, I have no trouble with his weight but I have a hard time cutting myself any slack. Go figure. Working on being kinder to myself.

    I hope you can be kind to yourself as well. I think the captain’s scripts are wonderful and plan to use them forever (or, better yet, until I no longer need them to be happy with myself). Please remember that you are worthy of love.

    Don’t know if you’ve ever had a professional massage, but these help me tremendously — not just for the physical relaxation and relief of minor pains, but for the way I see myself when I get up off the table. Invariably there’s a full-length mirror in the room and I look at the nekkid late-middle-aged woman, with her relaxed countenance and slight smile and glowing green eyes (endorphins, man!), and think, “Yep, this is me. I’m a real-life woman, not an airbrushed fantasy.” So if you have the budget and the desire to get professional bodywork done, maybe give it a try? (You don’t have to be completely nude if you’re not okay with it; in fact, I wore my underwear during my first-ever massage. Plus, only one part of your body gets uncovered at a time — arm, then back under the sheet; leg, then back under the sheet.)

    Never had a massage therapist say, “I can’t work with a body type like yours. Get off my table!” As for doctors: My physician at Group Health in Seattle didn’t bring up my weight. I did. Rather than piling on and saying, “Yeah, you SHOULD lose umpty-eleven pounds,” she asked me how much weight I wanted to lose. Beats me, was my reply. “How much did you weigh 10 years ago? Would losing enough to get you back to that point be a good goal?”

    (Holy cow — you’re not nagging me! Are you SURE you’re a doctor??)

    Now I live in Alaska. The doctor here isn’t berating me, either. Both he and the other doc DID point out that if I lost even 20 pounds it might be possible to drop one of my medications (low-dose diuretic for blood pressure). But neither of them shouted for godsake LOSE SOME WEIGHT! And I actually do want to do this, because I’m 59 and feeling some joint issues. Being lighter would mean being kinder to my knees and ankles, which have taken a beating over the years. But it has to be something that I decide to do, not something I’m nagged into achieving.

    I wish you healing and happiness — and massages, if you want them.

  109. Letter Writer, I have all the feels for your circumstances. A few years ago I found myself full of complicated feelings about my post-pregnancy slightly disabled body. I was fat before I had my kidlet, and I had been a fat acceptance activist and HAES advocate and outspoken advocate for folks to be able to live their comfortable, wonderful, exciting lives at whatever size they were for several years. But my changed body combined with a change in my long-term relationship and a resurgence of complicated feelings about my gender left me suddenly in a place where I felt quite uncertain about whether it was possible for me to be attractive to others. This was true even though I knew I didn’t need to feel as I did, even though I hadn’t had any particular difficult with dating and had been coupled off and on for most of 15 years with only short gaps between, and even though nobody in my life had ever criticized my body. The fat-hate in our culture is toxic indeed.

    A few easy-ish/cheap things that helped me:

    1. Taking Ragen Chastain’s excellent advice about appreciating your body and all the amazing things it does for you (even when it felt weird to express the kind of appreciation she recommends): https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/

    2. Looking at the pics posted in the F*** yeah, VBO tumblr and appreciating those people and the self-love they demonstrated to me: http://fyeahvbo.tumblr.com/

    3. Seeing myself in the mirror exactly as I was and then (sometimes fiercely) telling myself that the person I saw there was the person that all of the people who loved me saw and loved when they looked at me.

    4. Calling out incidental fat hate/ignorance in organizations I did business with. Advocating for my right to be a part of my society and be accomodated just like everybody else. “Given that not everyone is comfortable in chairs with this kind of arm, I would recommend having a variety of chairs, some with arms and some without.” “When you were apologize for the luncheon being served late you suggested that any unintentional weight loss as a would automatically be seen as a delightful unexpected gift. That can be kind of off-putting and hard to hear for people who are fat, or who struggle with eating disorders. Could you be a little more thoughtful about how your words might affect others next time?” “I notice that your conference T-shirt size options only go to 2X. I love this conference and often want to wear my shirt and advertise it, but because it doesn’t fit well it constantly reminds me of how I don’t quite fit in society and so I end up wearing it less. I know that isn’t what you would have wanted to have happen. Some T-shirt lines go to 5X and since you’re printing on demand anyway, there’s no reason you couldn’t offer the full range of sizes. Do you think you could do that next year?” By advocating for myself and others, I tell myself over and over that I’m worth advocating for.

    And here’s one that I admit in advance is a little harder and requires more money, but that has also been helpful:

    5. Making enough money that I could start buying clothes and experimenting with clothes and feeling like I could finally figure out what it was that I wanted to look like, instead of relying on hand-me-downs/thrift store finds/clothing swap finds (which is not to say fat person clothing swaps aren’t AMAZING, because they definitely are, just that you’re limited to the kinds of clothes that everyone else at the swap likes). Having clothes that fit your body comfortably (not “just barely fit, as long as I don’t move the wrong way, sit the wrong way, walk the wrong way”, but REALLY FIT) can make a huge difference, because for one it lets you stop being reminded about how you look every minute of the day. For instance, I mentioned gender. I recently began identifying publically as genderqueer (I always felt this way, but we didn’t have the words for it when I was young) and more eagerly and extravagantly embracing playing with gender expression through clothes. I always struggled with femininity/androgyny/masculinity. I feel very in the middle/off-to-the-side in terms of gender expression, and so I never wanted to reject woman-ish clothes like skirts or dresses, but nor did I want to go all in on some kind of androgyny that was really masculinity/rejection of the feminine. For instance when I had to present at a tech conference recently I ignored any and all advice about looking “professional” and dressed entirely to suit myself, choosing clothes that fit me comfortably, that pleased me and made me feel gleeful, and that I enjoyed wearing. And because I did I knew that up on stage I was going to be able to relax, give my presentation, feel and look comfortable, and just enjoy myself (for anyone who cares: red cotton historical reproduction workshirt from Historical Emporium, black twill knee-breeches, black and white polka-dotted suspenders, red knee-socks, black men’s fluevog dress shoes, combined with my outrageous poofy rainbow hair). And then in the pictures that were taken all I see is a person who is rocking the house, who looks physically powerful (which I like in myself), and who looks happy in their own skin. Behold: https://www.flickr.com/photos/writethedocs/34591450821

    I wish you the best Letter Writer. Your brain is being a jerk to you about your worth and attractiveness, but you ARE worthy of love and affection and you need not feel ashamed for wanting it. There are plenty of folks who are attracted to and love fat people and you don’t need to compromise any part of yourself to find them.

    1. (Can I just say I LOVE this pic! That red shirt and suspenders made my day but especially the way it plays off your Fire Hair SO GOOD.)

    2. fyeahvbo changed my life, actually. I’d forgotten about it until now, but it was pretty amazing to see people confidently wearing fantastic outfits that showed the curvature of their bellies clearly. I could not think about what looking “good” meant the same way afterward.

  110. Captain! That photo! Your shoes! The bouquet! How dapper and lovely you both look! Hot damn.

  111. This comments section and CA’s response and the wedding photos and links are all lovely. I’m tearing up; this is so amazing.

    I have a question for people who are savvier than me: are there any great fashion blogs or body acceptance blogs that have a lot re: intersection of being fat and disabled? Or disability-oriented fashion blogs that include a range of sizes as well as disabilities?

    I know of one fashion YouTuber who is a double-amputee, but I only watch YouTube with the comments hidden, so I’m not sure if she’s part of a broader community. Simple Googling, unfortunately, brings up a lot of “inspiration porn” or, er, actual fetish stuff.

    Ideally, something available that does not include nudity (although the blogs with nudity are great!) if only to share with some kiddos in my life who are also struggling with body image due to disability and size.

  112. Here is what’s helping me:

    1. Finding something physical to do that is expressly NOT about losing weight, but simply about breathing air, enjoying my life, and using my body to do fun, awesome stuff. For me this is walking to explore new places and beginner archery.

    2. A self portrait a day project. I started this July 5th of last year and it is hands-down the most positive thing I’ve done for my self esteem ever. It was so hard at first and I felt vaguely ridiculous, but i kept at it. I also kept it secret for a long time, just a special thing for myself, of myself, which gave me a lot of freedom with it. And along the way I discovered the patterns that make me, ME. I also quickly realized how easy it is to take a wonderful or shitty photo of yourself. Which went a long way toward realizing that “beautiful” and “ugly” are both subjective things separate from me.

    3. The self portrait project has morphed into more of an art project. How many different ways can I represent myself? How can I convey who I am today? What I feel today? What I lived today? In those moments I try to reframe it as my body being an expression of myself, rather than the definition of myself. This is slowly changing my mindset. My clothes are changing. For the first time ever I’m thinking of how I dress as almost a kind of performance art, a playful gift to myself to make my day happier. Which started as this weird game in my head, but as I write this I realize I somehow managed to accidentally dress for myself and no one else. Holy shit.

    4. Yeah so: dating dry spells. My decade-plus dry spell was the result of anxiety/depression meeting multiple physical/sexual disfunction issues. I was finally able to solve a lot of that medically, but the blow to my self esteem was still a buge barrier. Again, I finally tackled that through the selfie project. I began taking photos that explored that side of myself too. I didn’t show them to anyone, nor did I even keep most of them beyond the moment I took them. But it helped me explore those issues and that part of me in solitude where I felt safe. I am now at a place where not only is the dry spell broken, but I could actually see myself letting another human see a photo like that, much less the real thing in person. Considering where I was 18 months ago, that’s pretty damned astounding.

    It’s taken nearly 11 months of photos to get me here. But I kinda like myself now. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely progress, and it feels amazing.

    I wish you luck, LW.

    Side note: I also heartily recommend that self portrait article the Capatain linked to. It is fantastic and I’m so greatful she included it. I really needed to hear some of that.

  113. Okay, LW, here’s what worked for me:

    [possible caveat: I’m on the autism spectrum, and so is my partner; in-group / out-group thinking tends to strike each of us as needlessly complicating a life which is already complicated enough.]

    * I gave up “women’s” magazines (eg Cosmopolitan, Cleo, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day, Woman’s Weekly, New Idea, Family Circle, etc etc, etc – anything which is pretty much aimed at the “female” demographic without too much specialisation from there) cold turkey in my twenties. Oddly enough, when I stopped constantly exposing myself to non-stop messages about how horrible I was for being not-thin, and how terrible my body looked because I was not-thin, and so on, it was a lot easier to learn to like myself.

    * I use an ad blocker with my primary web browser (Firefox). It is not compulsory to look at ads on the internet (or indeed, anywhere else), and you’re allowed to basically say “no” to advertising. So I choose to say “no” to it all, on the grounds it’s boring, it’s mentally abusive, and quite frankly I do not need that in my life.

    * I don’t watch television (that one I gave up when I started using the internet on a regular basis – only so many hours in the day, and only so much of my attention to go around).

    * I stopped trying to meet the standards the world had for “normal”, much less “beautiful” (let’s face it, those standards are deliberately set to be nigh-unmeetable by actual factual human beings) and let my personal freak flag fly high. I concentrated more on things which interested me than things like how I looked or what my physical shape was.

    Oh, and one fattie’s story of finding love and acceptance: I met my partner through work – I was being trained at the office he worked at, and he made a Discworld reference in the staffroom at one point, which I pounced on. We became firm friends, and started going to movies together and so on. I eventually wound up leaving the particular employer we were working for (government department, toxic workplace; long story, not relevant) and in the aftermath of this I told him I was keen on him and wanted to have a relationship. We’re celebrating twenty years together around the end of July this year (not married – but over fifteen years living together, and still going strong).

    It is possible to be fat, relatively comfortable with your body, and in a happy relationship. However, I’ve found it really helps if you tell the rest of the world to fsck off while you’re enjoying those things – particularly the bits of the world which exist to sell things to others.

  114. Hi Captain! I just wanted to thank you for your post, especially about the “noting how many times you’ve been mean to yourself”. This really resonated with me, since this is something I struggle with a lot, even though it usually doesn’t have anything to do with looks (repeatedly calling myself a stupid idiot for being 10 minutes late to meet a friend, for example). Now that I’ve gained some weight, I’ve taken to using “fat” as a way to insult myself, in my head and out loud, not entirely realizing how toxic and harmful it is to myself and to others. I would *never* use “fat” as an insult to another person. I’d be horrified at someone who does. Funny how it’s ok when it’s me doing this to myself, huh? Reading this post made it all fall into place for me. I am truly grateful and will try my hardest to do better from now on.

    LW, I wish you all the happiness I’m entirely positive you deserve! Jedi hugs if you want them.

  115. What would happen if you started complementing yourself about the things you can do? Think of what you are good at and things your body can do. If you struggle with self esteem and body positivity, start acknowledging all that you are already.
    – Look at me, running all the errands. I must have knocked six things off my to-do list today!
    – My body is strong! Every time I stand up, I’m lifting [my weight]. That’s badass!
    – Damn. Look at my style. My eye for color is really good. I matched the [things I needed to match] from memory. I
    – Whew! Am I a good driver! My lightning reflexes saved me from that danger-on-wheels.

    1. I do this when I’m feeling down about my body. I try to remind myself why I like being ME: “My body may not be perfect but I love my singing voice and my silly sense of humor, and I wouldn’t trade those things for a skinnier/curvier/more attractive body.” It helps remind me that I am more than just my appearance. I have a lot to offer that has nothing to do weight or looks.

  116. Your wedding photo is breathtaking. You both look beautiful, yes, but there’s just something about your expressions that lights up my heart. It’s not just that you’re joyful, it’s that you both look like you know that you’ve found the person who is your forever home ❤

    Related to that, I had a question for the commentariat. Are there places out there where LW can find photos, blogs and stories of fat people dating, being in relationships, getting married etc? Or good movies and tv shows that show something similar? My thought is that, similar to the LW retraining her eye for her own body, it might also help her retrain her brain away from the "fat = unloveable" message it's internalised. It might be just that little bit easier for her to challenge that messaging if she's armed with plenty of examples of people being desired and loved while fat.

    It made me really sad reading this letter. My partner is fat, and looks a bit different because of a condition he was born with. He's so beautiful to me, but I don't think he'll ever see himself that way, at least not without years of therapy. Fat hate/shame/phobia can be so deeply wounding. It's awful.

  117. When I was about 30 it hit me: Wear a pretty dress and you announce to the world that you are a pretty girl. And the world just accepts that without question. I’ve seen it a million times and it always works. Substitute pretty shoes, pretty earrings, pretty anything. Just wear it and watch as the world collectively nods its heads and says, “Oh, I see. You’re pretty.”

  118. Just got to say, Tinder is probably the worst kind of dating site for this LW. From what I’ve heard, it’s got a lot more of the “meat market” mentality than most. Being old and long since off the market, I can’t really make any suggestions, but there have got to be better ones than Tinder to use.

    As a large (and healthy) big woman, I can only emphasize physical activity. That is what really makes the biggest difference, both to physical health and mental attitude toward one’s own body. Thin sedentary people are not any healthier than overweight sedentary people.

    Strength training in particular has an self esteem-boosting effect. I do it in addition to my favourite sports of swimming and cycling, mainly to avoid getting the osteoporosis that has plagued my mother for the last 20 years of her life, but it also has practical everyday applications. Just two weeks ago I bought a car battery and didn’t need any help from the shop clerk loading it into my cart and then into my vehicle!

  119. (a) I’ve recently put on and kept on weight, due to pregomancy, middle age, and genetics. Therefore, I’m going to bookmark this for later reading, because it’s probably gonna be super useful.

    (b) omg those shoes in that wedding photo those SHOES

  120. Man oh man does this post speak to me. I spent a loooong time doing the self-hating diet talk thing and was thoroughly convinced I was unlovable. My act of rebellion was learning how to sew my own clothes. It took me a long time, but doing things I “shouldn’t” have been able to do (college marching band, running, etc.) finally hit me with a clue-by-four that it wasn’t all about my size. It didn’t hit me until I started doing yoga and strength training things. I haven’t changed body shape, I haven’t magically become hourglass-shaped, and I still sometimes have days where I’m just not feeling it but for the most part? I’m loving how my body moves and how strong it is.

    So I guess +100000 to doing what feels right for your body!!

  121. It’s related to the “practice saying nice things about other people’s bodies” one, but something I like to do when I’m people watching (usually on the bus) is to try and make the people I’m seeing… change to me. I’ll ask myself “how would this person look to someone who loved them?” try to feel warm towards them, and watch my perception of them shift.

    Maybe their grimace turns into a look of intense concentration as they mentally prepare for an upcoming presentation, maybe an unusual nose turns adorable and unique, maybe that startling neon-green Hawaiian shirt becomes an old favourite that reminds them of a wonderful day.

    Because there is nothing objective about how any of us look, it’s all filtered through the feelings we have towards each other. It’s when I’m cultivating an attitude of compassion and admiration that I best see how absolutely beautiful human beings are.

    1. Once upon a time, I delicately mentioned to a (very close) friend (who had asked about my opinion of their color choices) that the combination of camel and neon green which they had worn some weeks back was not their most flattering color choice.

      They proceeded to giggle in delight, because that day their fashion goal had been “dressing to wound”, and when they didn’t have anything that would complement the camel shirt, they deliberately went for the opposite.

      Then we spent a cheerful half-hour trying to find ways to push that already startling color combination over the top. They declined my suggestion of bright purple pants. And now, every startling color combination I see people wearing makes me wonder whether they’re wearing that to see the reactions of those around them … and that gives me such a warm and happy feeling.

  122. I also suffer from body image and self esteem issues. I had an eating disorder for a long time and was able to get mostly past that with a good therapist but many of the same thoughts and feelings about ME lingered, just my thoughts and feelings about food changed. One of the main things that helped me was when my therapist and I sat down and sorted out what my “Core Values” are. Everyone’s are different, but mine are
    a) All humans have value; no humans are inherently more or less valuable than any other humans.
    b) All humans deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
    This was, and is, how I naturally interact with others in the world. It is how I choose what causes to support. Seems so simple, but I had always felt that there were different rules for me. I just needed my therapist to help me understand that I am a human and therefore my rules apply to me as much as any other human!

    Also, check out the blog Shakesville at http://www.shakesville.com. The main author does an amazing job. It’s full of useful, inclusive, fat-positive, feminist information on a variety of topics (CN: also discusses liberal politics).

  123. I don’t have much in the way of helpful advice but I just wanted to say that you are 100%, totally and unarguably worthy of love. I have pretty shabby self-confidence and struggle to feel ok with myself so I understand why you may think that and how hard it can be to shake off that feeling but you always have been and always will be worthy of love; even if self-love feels impossible at times.

  124. May I tentatively recommend the early seasons of TV series How To Look Good Naked (UK)? I think it ran from 2006 onwards and I remember watching it when I was younger and thinking it was really kind, body positive programming. It’s probably been all put online somewhere, it may even be still on TV but I’m reccing the early seasons as it’s all I’ve seen. The tentative recommendation is because it was a while ago so I can’t say for certain there is no problematic content, so please watch with care. It was a makeover programme with absolutely no dieting, weight loss or weight talk- no specific weights were named. (Specific sizes were mentioned, though, and they are UK sizes which read lower than US sizes.) It wasn’t a specifically fat acceptance focused program but in practice there were very few thin women on it because they are less likely to have extremely low body confidence. Some more your mileage may vary caveats: it focussed a lot on emphasising curves with the hourglass model, which is not everyone’s thing depending on how traditionally feminine you feel, and about sexiness of the body, sometimes to men though not in a gross way. Also makeup and clothing was highly emphasised, again not for everyone. Hopefully from that you can tell if you would enjoy it.

  125. One bit of advice: Don’t use “fat” in ANY negative sense — like “big fat lie”. It just reinforces the idea that fat is bad. Drop it from your vocabulary.

    For eye retraining, my friend Lindley does body positive boudoir photo shoots that are just absolutely gorgeous. (She specializes in underserved types of bodies, including fat people, people of color, and trans people. She’s also got a diverse stock photography site that’s pretty nifty.)

  126. I think this is an old trick, but it really helped me. If “liking your body” feels like an impossibly demanding task, start small! Pick one individual thing about your body that even your brain at its most hateful would give a grudging nod. For me, it was my nails. Maybe you have super dope eyebrows, or there’s this mole on your knee that kinda looks like a star. Whatever it is, think of it fondly and often, and it will help your mind learn to think nice thoughts about the rest of your body.

  127. Captain, you and your fellow are a hell of a gorgeous couple!

    This may be cold comfort to the LW, but I am a thin woman, and I spent a little over two years online dating, and it fucking sucked. It sucked for me, it sucked for my thin friends, it sucked for my fat friends, it sucked for my beautiful friends, it sucked for my friends who are not conventionally attractive. It may have sucked less or in different ways, and I personally didn’t have to deal with people rejecting me for my weight (as far as I know) but it still sucked. I’m also much more (physically) attractive than I used to be thanks to plastic surgery, so I had an extra layer of being suspicious of everyone’s motives/knowing that people were reacting to me way differently than they did before I got a nose job and fake boobs. Seeing that my naturally beautiful friends were ALSO meeting shit people made me feel a little better – shit people are gonna shit people, you know?

    I met some nice people but on the whole people were judge-y, boring, flaky, overbearing, harrass-y…just all kinds of gross stuff. I really wish I’d had the Captain’s advice above when I started online dating, it’s great advice!

    Having struggled with some eating disordered-related stuff, I found that ditching things that made me feel bad about my body really helped. I don’t consume a lot of media, but I stopped reading any women’s magazines, stopped looking at websites that made me feel fat and poor, etc.

  128. In addition to relentlessly disabling ads about weight loss and beauty products as suggested by some commenters above, I also relentlessly up-vote ads for plus-size clothing companies. This works great for ads on social media sites, and also some websites like Gwynnie Bee have ads that will follow you around the rest of the Internet (annoying, but much better than seeing a microwave on Amazon that’s similar but not quite the same as the microwave you just bought). I also up-rate ads with depictions of thin women that I like for whatever reason, so the net result is that my internet experience is accompanied by images of beautiful, confident women of all sizes.

  129. Hi there. First time reader; first time commenter. I’m recently divorced and I’ve been BMI-obese for about 6-7 years. I wasn’t fat when I got married and so I’ve never been single and fat. I don’t know how to date men as a fat girl. I like your tips on the online dating stuff. I actually met my ex-husband online way back in 2005. I think it would be much easier if I weren’t fat and I tell myself that all the time. “Alison, stop being fat. Stop eating. You could actually date if you weren’t fat.” It’s so sad. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t date again until I have all this emotional crap figured out. But I also hate being alone. I miss being married. Other than being fat, I think I’m great. See? Terrible.

    1. I hope you can make some peace with your body and “emotional crap” (<3) over time.

  130. I am fat. I am the fattest of my friends and I always have been. For a long time, this made me feel bad. Sometimes, it still does. Appreciating my body has been a lifelong struggle for me, and it’s recently gotten better because I banned all focus on how my body looked and started focusing entirely on how my body felt and what made it feel even better. I realized I was hating my body and as a result I was treating it like garbage trying to punish it into being something else. I never did make my body the size or shape I wanted doing that routine, but I did make it tired and hungry and anxious.

    I started focusing more on making my living space work for me – figuring out how to control the clutter and investing some time and energy into making it a place that felt good to be inside. I donated a lot of old things. I found some cool art for the walls. I made some window planters. I got a pet.

    I looked at how I was fueling myself – food, sleep, etc. and realized I was really hung up on what I “should be” eating and how much I “should be” sleeping but the result was just a lot of anxiety about my choices. I did a lot of trial and error. I realized I’m a morning person! And I like to get up early and feel most energized in the morning. I also realized I tend to feel bad if I stay up too late even though I was doing a lot of that – because I just assumed I wasn’t a morning person because most of society is all like “omg coffee I hate mornings etc.”

    I also realized I like to cook, and I really like working my way through cookbooks. I took note of what foods made me feel good – I love making bread! I like to bake. I really do like to try to eat seasonally; the nerd in me gets a kick out of figuring out what’s maximally seasonal and trying to cook it. I cooked and ate and ordered only what looked yummy and made me feel good. I banned any kind of anxiety over what I “should be” eating – because it drained all the joy from what I did end up eating and also led me to try a bunch of diet food that made me feel like garbage and tasted bad while completing the triple whammy of making me feel bad about myself. As fat people, we’re told we should only enjoy food apologetically or in secret or that we should make certain choices to prove we’re not fat on purpose. False! You should eat things that look beautiful and appetizing and make you feel nostalgic and nourished and good. I found that cooking my own food more often really helped me tap into the smells and textures and flavors without all the baggage – because I made it! I was proud of it. And it was yummy.

    I found a few activities I enjoy that help me focus on what my body can do vs how it looks. I never hiked before because I didn’t grow up doing it and was intimidated by all the gear, but I joined a meet-up that went hiking. I realized that I liked being outside and felt confident and happy exploring trails. I joined a running/walking group because the moving meditation aspect helped my anxiety. I looked long and hard and found one that did zero weight and size talk and included folks of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. I do these things when I like to and when I feel energized by them. I don’t do them when my body is feeling depleted. As fat people, we’re told that those spaces aren’t for us. But some of them – many of them! – can be. And nothing helps me feel better about my body than knowing that I hiked [x] hard trail or ran [x] hard race. I like challenging peoples’ assumptions about what someone my size can do – including my own.

    I got a subscription clothes service that carried my size so I could always have something to wear that made me feel good but didn’t have to deal with the anxiety of shopping and maybe not finding anything. Malls make me feel bad so I don’t do malls!

    I tried a lot of things and groups and events. Some I loved (volunteering for animal shelter!) some I did not love (I am not a successful slam poet). But I tried to find cool experiences that made my world seem larger and put me in contact with lots of new people. Some I really liked (met lots of cool folks through animal rescue) and some were not a love connection (found that I didn’t really fit in with the book club I joined). Going out and doing new things is a great way to broaden your social circle, which can be a great way to meet potential folks to date. It can also help build your confidence out in groups and give you a social base.

    I am still fat, and I still have really awful days where I make the mistake of reading the wrong blog or trying on something crazy unflattering or someone posts a photo of me and it doesn’t match my expectations of how I looked that day. But I also can say I feel good, and I treat myself well. I have a full life, and I do things that are fun and fulfilling. Your body deserves to feel good, and if you’ve never done much thinking about what makes it feel good vs. what “should” make it feel good then that’s all good information to start gathering. Go out. Have fun. All my love; sounds like you’re already doing great!

  131. Captain, this reply is so so so good. Thank you for all these links and resources and for shutting down in advance so many of the aggravating threads that can sometimes pile on to this kind of discussion.

    LW, I just want to emphasize a thing you are doing right, because it really helped me and still helps me, and that is: building a solid core of friendship with people you like and trust. For me, the more I made trustworthy friends with whom I could yell about the world, the more I was able to feel like loving myself in defiance of that world was possible. Holding on to other people — especially other fat people!! — has gotten me through so much self-hatred and so much frustration. I’m rooting for you, LW. Loving yourself while a fat person is a radical, terrifying act, and it happened to me in fits and starts and is STILL a process, and it will change your life.

  132. LW, I’ve been there. I occasionally still drop by for a visit. While I haven’t conquered the body shame (I still live too much in the avoidance category) things have been getting better. Things that have helped include a lot of what has been mentioned above including:

    1. Walking around naked.
    2. Buying clothes that fit properly and make me like my shape. I’m short and fat which makes that a challenge. So, the white dress that everyone really loved when I wore it a year ago? It went to the charity house because I felt terrible wearing it.
    3. Enjoying what works about my body.

    And, on the really rough days I remind myself I haven’t talked to a single woman about their body that hasn’t had some type of struggle accepting the form they walk around it. It helps to lock in the idea that my issues with my image are felt by all the peoples and not just me. And not being alone in that is comforting.

  133. When I was starting out with body acceptance, and “I’m beautiful” or similar affirmations just made me sad and angry, I started at “I don’t have to be beautiful to be worthy. Pretty is not the rent I pay to live in this world.” It helped, very slowly.

    1. Sometimes “body neutrality” is what I can do, too. And we don’t have to be pretty to be worthy, that’s a good reminder.

  134. Captain, i absolutely mega love the standards you set for yourself in what kind of person you would date. I love how self-assured (not sure if that is the right word) you are in knowing that you are worth someone that wonderful who does not have all those horrible traits (and that you are able to verbalize it, not just have vague thoughts), and only wish that every woman on earth could set the same standards for herself so all the unworthy men would find themselves shunned thereby either needing to shape up by getting tons of therapy for themselves or finding themselves alone and fuckless forever. And it has obviously worked for you as Mr Awkward looks like a lovely man and you are both gorgeous in your wedding photo.

    Your advice to the LW is perfect as always and as i am in a similar boat to the LW I am going to screen shot your advice to have it to read over and over. You have done amazing work getting yourself to such a high point that i would never have though possible. It has changed my attitude towards myself.

  135. Wow, am I late to the party, but with a hopefully good suggestion: one of the ways I’ve gotten comfortable with my Venusian figure — and commenters up there who recommend looking at classical art are totally right, DO IT — is by following Go Fug Yourself. Body-shaming of any kind is absolutely not allowed; what we discuss are outfits. You can actually learn a lot from that site over what sorts of clothes work on what sorts of body-parts-shapes. Everybody who comments there seems to be a well-educated and fun individual, there are tons of great one-liners and puns, and then there are book giveaways and “what are you reading?” “what are you cooking?” posts

    It’s really, really fun to be able to take potshots at some crackballs outfit somebody is wearing, while at the same time not body-shaming, not calling the PERSON ugly or stupid or anything else unfair. More to the point, it’s nice to see pictures of women of virtually all shapes and sizes. It’s fluffy, but sometimes I need some fluff to counteract all the other blogs and news I read.

  136. Captain, I just had​ to drop a line to express how much love I feel for you after reading this post. This will be one that I save to go back to again and again, and I wanted to say thank you.

    LW, I still am on my body acceptance journey, but one thing that has helped me is spending more time naked. I know that’s not everyone’s jam, but for me, being in the presence of my body and seeing it naked in a non-sexualized manner went a long way towards me feeling better about it.

    And I also love the Captain’s advice about thinking good things about other people’s bodies. I’ll sometimes play a game on my commute where I try to think about one thing I like every time I notice a person (inspired by my constant musings that someone might be a mind reader), and it really does change the way I feel in that moment.

  137. LW – like so many others, I have been where you are. Although I am now married to a wonderful guy (he even cleans the bathroom!) I still have moments of self-doubt.

    I echo the many who recommended being active and taking pride in what your body can do. I kept thinking about your post at the gym today. If you have never gone to a gym, consider giving it a try. Most gyms will offer a one time free trial. Be warned -finding the right gym is like finding the right person, therapist, etc. I went to four others in the area before I found mine. There are lots of people there who want to be healthier. We bond while sweating on a bike watching HGTV or sports, etc.

    If being active is too physically painful, investigate if your doctor can prescribe some physical therapy to get you started.

    It is very satisfying to track how much more I can lift over the years and how much faster I can do a mile on the elliptical. And I must brag that I can leg press over 400 pounds!

    Best wishes to you LW.

  138. I’d like to offer a counterpoint to people’s (awesome) idea of spending more time naked in front of mirrors, in case others are finding that that is something that doesn’t work for them. I actually have my bathroom mirror (the only mirror in the house I could see my torso) covered up except for a small section off to the side. Due to my bathroom morning/evening routines generally being where I am not fully clothed, I was, every time I was in the bathroom, criticizing my appearance. It was constant and exhausting. Covering the part of the mirror where I stood in front of the sink meant I was choosing when to see myself, and doing so more thoughtfully. For me there have been many steps to body acceptance but I don’t think anything was able to be quite as effective when I was doing so much tearing down of myself, whereas stopping the constant criticism allowed the other positive things to grow.

  139. I scrolled through comments and loved so many of them! But didn’t manage to really read every single thing up there, so I have the -impression- that this hasn’t been mentioned. If it has, apologies for unnecessary repetition.

    One thing that’s really helpful for me in moving through body acceptance, and has been helpful for many of the youth I work with (as a volunteer, not a pro), is to try to realize that the things you see about yourself (body, actions, words, even art) are -really often not noticed by other people-. Sometimes finding ways in which you know this to be true on things -not- related to things where you experience social anxiety can also help you realize that it can also be true for the things where you do experience anxiety.

    For example: one of my object lessons in “other people don’t notice All Your Stuff” was around making pysanky, intensely decorated easter eggs using traditional Polish tools: other people would gush over them, I’d thank them and point out whatever massive mistake was on that egg, and they would’ve -not seen it at all-. Sometimes I was overestimating the impact of the mistake, but sometimes once it was pointed out, they’d go, “Oh gosh, yeah, that is kind of huge. But it’s still really pretty!”

    Parallel with more social stress built-in: when I was younger, I used to be -really- self-conscious about wearing shortish skirts, because I have scoliosis, and skirts hang crooked on me. I basically didn’t ever wear them because OMG I looked SO weird! The crooked has not changed: if I put on a knee-length straight skirt that fits well and stand neutrally, the hem is uneven, and my legs are closer to the left hem than the right. As I got older, and less self-conscious generally, I started wearing knee-length skirts more often, and have sometimes pointed out the unevenness to friends, and they go “Oh, wow! You’re right! I never noticed!”

    Key: they never noticed.

    Things that you’ve invested a lot of time and attention into have features that are going to seem really big (and if negative, glaring) to you. Your body is one of those things. While it’s true that weight and appearance are things that other people do notice, they are rarely noticing them in as detailed and critical focus as you are. And while it’s also true there are -some- people who really do invest a lot of energy in judging the appearance of random strangers (and sadly, sometimes communicating their judgments -to- the random strangers), I think a lot of people (including most of the folks here) would agree that those judgey people are maybe not super-awesome, and likely have Issues Of Their Own To Work On.

    1. This is so important.

      One of my major steps towards feeling happier about my body was actually when other people started seeing it.

      I began dancing with a phenomenal group of women. And let me tell you, these women are excellent about reminding one another of this–how little other people notice the huge flaws you perceive in yourself.

      They’re also great at interrupting negative body-talk. When one of us says something about how we hate our thighs, our butts are too big/flat/lumpy, our bellies are too round, etc.–

      “What? No! You look amazing right now, that part in the number where you did [X], you looked so hot I wanted to die!”


      “Are you kidding? No one else here has your look! You can shake things I didn’t even know it was possible to shake, it’s incredible!”


      “You are so beautiful and graceful doing this choreography, I can’t believe you’re worried about [body thing]!”

    2. Agree that people notice their own perceived flaws, and do not notice the “flaws” on others.

      In college I had a roommate who refused to wear dresses or skirts or shorts. Why? She thought she had thick ankles. She was a thin, blond-haired, blue-eyed, conventionally beautiful 19 year old. If you put me in a room with her with a search light for 100 years and asked me to figure out what her perceived flaw was, I would not have found it. 35 years later, and she’s still never worn a skirt.

      You know what I think about people who possibly look at me and judge me about my weight? I don’t.

  140. Dear LW,

    Let me first send you many warm virtual hugs from the far north. The thoughts which you are struggling with are very familiar to me, too. Right now I am in a much happier place, thanks to lots of therapy and working with my own thoughts – and the love and support of my beloved family. I wish I had a magic wand or something similar so that I could give you right away the thought patterns I have learned the hard way, but alas, I do not have that. You are on a very good path: you wrote your letter to The Captain and you seem to be aware of the anxiety inside you. I hope that you will gradually get over the anxiety. I struggle with social anxiety, too; it is different for everybody, but for me going to movies with friends or family members helped a lot. I wonder what would help you – and could you take small steps for that direction with your friends?

    The Captain gave fantastic advice. Your body _is_ awesome. It is wonderful. With it you wrote your letter – and I am quite sure you will be doing so many fantastic things in the future that they cannot even be measured. Every body has its own features; capabilities and limitations – and every body is worth of love. Maybe at first there will only be very short moments when you feel happy about your body. Perhaps, at first, you only forget your body. That is a start. Just like The Captain I also believe that when people see you, many of them think positive things about you. There are countless details in any body, countless different ways to be beautiful and to sense that beauty. For me beginning to love my body took a long time and I wish I had found the thought of body positivity much earlier.

    You wrote a lot about your weight and body image – but what I wondered most is: what do you like? Do you like reading? Nature? Art? Star Wars? Swimming? Dancing? Playing piano? I do not know – and I wish I knew because all of those wonderful things are things you enjoy with your body. For me concentrating to my favourite things was also how I found my spouse. The things I love also helped me avert my attention from my body when I was struggling hardest. That is completely acceptable. Sometimes there are days that truly suck. When a day like that comes, it is fine to do something soothing, whatever that is for you.

    I completely agree with the advice The Captain gave you on dating. In my culture dating is a new thing, so, despite having been in a relationship for all my grown up life, I have only gone to two or three dates. In here people usually just meet, begin talking to each other, get to know each other and then they might find out they like each other. Our dates are not very formal, usually just people meeting, talking, perhaps doing something together, something everyone involved like. When I met my spouse we spent the first date just walking around our home city, for hours. That is a thing we both like; what works for other people might be something completely different. The next time we met we went looking for some rare insects so that even though years have passed my spouse still jokes about taking me to dig through cow poo. Still, that was the best date ever, for me.

    I would so much love to invite you over for a cup of tea (or coffee – or whatever you like) and to ask you: what do you like? What do you dream of? What do you like in another person? Your wonderful body clearly holds a good mind inside it – or as a part of it. You truly deserve a good relationship – and I am completely sure there are people who will really like you, find your body (and your personality as a part of it) the most wonderful thing in this world.

    Perhaps start by looking the absolutely fantastic wedding photo The Captain posted – and then the pages. Oh, the skirt The Captain referred to, how good it looks! For me adjusting my eye was an important part of the process. Back then I was more active in social media so I began following people whose style and pictures made me feel happy. When one’s feed begins to fill with lovely, inspiring pictures it truly helps.

    I have always been ridiculously positive in the way how I think about others and that helped me. Whenever I go out of my home and see people I look at them and see beauty: perhaps a person with meticulously chosen clothes, beautiful makeup, really nice glasses… My culture is a culture of silcenc, so we do not often speak to others – but I began to break that. I decided that if I see something I truly like I will tell it, in a way that makes the compliment sort of free of charge: so that the compliment does not mean that the complimented person has to go on chatting with me or that I make it clear I do not want nothing in return, not even thanks. For me it has developed into a sort of a game when I am always looking for positive things even though a good opportunity to compliment someone aloud does not rise that often. It has also helped me see new details in my own body and the way I dress. If this is suitable in your culture and when your anxiety allows it, I warmly recommend this exercise.

  141. http://chubby-bunnies.tumblr.com/ is a great resource for images of fat women of all shapes, sizes, races, and walks of life. These are self-submitted and are sometimes NSFW, just a heads up. For me it’s awesome to see these women posting pictures they like showing the way they like to look and things that make them happy about their appearance, because not only is it helping me retrain my eye away from the body type promoted by the mainstream fashion and beauty industry, it’s also helping me retrain my eye away from an externally constructed image of what women should look like and toward a self determined one.

    I’m trying to remember where, recently, I read the advice that you don’t have to find yourself attractive because you don’t have to be your own type. That doesn’t mean you’re not someone else’s type. It’s hard to really internalize that but I think it’s really important.

    1. slythwolf, whoa! Thank yo so much for that awesome link! I *love* those pictures!

  142. Late to the party, but I just want to jump in. (First-time commenter, I think?)

    I’ve been fat my whole life, and it’s always been a struggle w/r/t my self-esteem, so I really feel you, LW. I understand.
    I haven’t read all the comments, but I saw a few that suggested you should buy clothes you like without shame – and I totally agree with this, and want to add to it.

    For me, my first big leap forward in the journey of self-love was wearing clothes that *actually* fit me. For years I always wore things a size or two too small, because I tricked myself into thinking, “Oh, I’ll fit into this in a few months once I start losing weight.” (Spoiler: never happened.) Acknowledging my true size was always painful to think about, because it felt like giving up. It felt like resigning myself to be at a size I hated, instead of holding out hope that I’d magically shrink.

    But one day, even though looking at the number on the hanger brought me shame, and bringing it to a cashier who was half my size was humiliating, I bought some clothes that fit me. Clothes that fit me as I was at that moment, not clothes that fit an imaginary future me. When I wore these new clothes outside, I felt comfortable in public for the first time in my life because they fit me properly. Physically, I was more comfortable (no more too-tight jeans slipping down), and emotionally I felt incredible because I looked and felt well put-together.

    LW, I don’t know if ill-fitting clothes are in your wardrobe, but I wanted to share this advice just in case someone somewhere would like it.
    ***Though, if you wear clothes that are smaller (or larger) than your measured size and enjoy it, please continue doing so! I just think physical comfort of well-fitting clothes goes a much longer way than some realize.

    1. This is also super good advice. I know that I have had to relearn how clothes should fit since some medication changed my body size and also where I carry my weight. Also, if you’re not shaped the way the fashion industry thinks is the “average” proportioned figure, I definitely recommend either getting stuff altered (if you can afford that) or learning to do it yourself (if you have the time and can learn crafty shit).

    2. Yes to this. I started making a lot of my own clothes again because it’s so hard to find anything that fits me off the rack – I’m an extreme pear and most plus size clothes are made for a more top-heavy body.

      If something almost-but-not-quite fits, find a good alterationist or tailer. It really is amazing how much more easily you can move through the world in clothes that truly fit. For me, that means stuff taken in at the back waist so that it isn’t sagging downward if I buy to fit the hips and thighs.

  143. There are so many wonderful resources listed here. I want to add my favorite, too.
    When I feel down about my fatness, I like to rewatch Melissa McCarthy in “The Heat,” and “Spy.” Some of the works she’s been in play the fat-as-embarassment card, and I don’t enjoy those. But in these two movies especially, she is fat, successful, empowered. And sexy in the world she’s moving through. For me it really helps to spend a couple hours seeing a world I’d fit in and enjoy. It helps me decide that’s a life I want, that doesn’t depend on my losing weight.

    Just one warning, the first 20 minutes of “Spy” are painful set-up and can be triggery. If you’re not enjoying the opening, you can fast forward to the one-to-one meeting with the CIA director, and catch the early bits later if you want.

    I wish you the best!

  144. Is it too late to suggest that one website where I learned a lot about fashion for various body types is Tom and Lorenzo — http://tomandlorenzo.com/
    They are fashion bloggers who comment on all sorts of famous people — most of whom aren’t fat, of course, but some who are, and it makes no difference to Tom or Lorenzo — they look at whether people have made the best choices (or not) for their own unique style and for the occasion they are attending. Melissa McCarthy gets reviewed just about as often as Princess Kate.
    Just reading this site made me appreciate that it would be possible for me to dress in a way that was flattering to my body shape. Also, it is fun to look at their runway posts and their fashion week coverage, just to see what is going to be next in the stores sometime soon.

  145. This is all good advice, and doing similar things has helped me a lot with accepting myself and my body. Another thing that’s helped is medication. Obvi I don’t know your situation, what you’ve tried and what you haven’t, or what you’re open to trying, but if you try all these good mental habits and still need some help, it might be worthwhile to talk to a psychiatrist or a psychopharmacologist and see if they can give you something to help manage intrusive thoughts. For me, it’s been the difference between night and day.

  146. “Something that helped me” message:

    I spent my teens and twenties burdened with ultra-unhealthy messages about bodies, attractiveness, and food. For most of that time I was perceived by others as “not fat” but the anxiety of trying to keep it that way (because any squishiness anywhere on my body would render the entire body ugly and useless) was ruinous.

    What fixed it for me was FetLife, the kink website. I found my way there for other reasons, and for the first few weeks my only reaction to half the images was “how can she post a picture where we can all see her stomach/thighs/butt like that?” But the women in the pictures just kept on being sexy, and flaunting their sexiness, and having sex, and in relatively short order they retrained me to read women’s bodies as bodies– varied, useful, and pleasurable– rather than as a collection of flaws and problem areas.

    I went from seeing other women and assuming they must be ashamed of their bodies (because I was ashamed of mine) to seeing other women and wondering how they were enjoying their bodies (because I had seen so many of them doing it, because I wanted to do what they were doing, because I wanted to be like them.)

    FetLife isn’t for everybody– “I wanna lick that!” is a standard unit of polite discourse there– but I think I’m really just restating Captain’s message. Find the places where fat women are living happily in their bodies and doing the things you aspire to do. As you point out, cultural messages matter; you can’t stop consuming our dominant culture, but you can start spending more time in a healthier place for you.

  147. Holy crap there are a lot of awesome comments!

    LW, if you are still reading, I will share my experience.

    I found that I was (better) able to accept my larger-than-generally-socially-acceptable size by working out and being fit anyway. I do better when working towards a specific goal, so I found this http://bataanmarch.com/
    It is rather liberating to realize that despite being obese by medical community standards, I can still perform amazing physical feats.

  148. Thank you for this! I have been spending a lot of time lately reminding myself that body size is neither a moral success nor a moral failure. Everything about this was wonderful and helpful. Sending lots of appreciation at you!

  149. “Our culture brutally hates fat people.” This is true, and as a result the culture gives us all kinds of scripts for shaming fat people in both over and covert ways.

    BUT: I don’t hate fat people. And I’m one in a million, so that means there are at least 7,000 other people who also don’t hate fat people. And Captain doesn’t hate fat people, so now we’re up to 14,000 people. We non-haters are lurking everywhere. We just don’t have convenient scripts passed down from the culture to announce ourselves to you all the time.

    So even though you see and feel the fat-shaming scripts all around you, know that there is a huge, thriving silent support group out there.

    Jedi-hugs if you want them.

  150. Hi, Rockin’ World! Hi, Captain!

    I just wanted to poke my head in and say that the advice the Captain has offered is really, truly solid stuff about fat acceptance in general. It’s also stuff that you have to actively work at and sometimes it’s so frustrating and exhausting. Fat acceptance, particularly around allowing yourself to own sexual desire/attraction is kind of a constant battle because we’re always taking in messages that deny us any sort of desirability.

    So when you have your moments – and you will definitely have those moments – please don’t take them as a sign that you are doing something wrong.

    Just wanted to get that out there.

    But also, I have a little advice when it comes to the specific topic of fuckability and FEELING that, actually, yes, you are worthy of sex and sexual pleasure and sexual desire and being desired.

    1. Masturbate.

    I mean it. Figure out all the things that make your body feel FUCKING INCREDIBLE and then practice. Learn the ways in which your body is a physical thing that can and will bring you pleasure. Spoil yourself. Take your time with yourself. Treat your body like it is an object of your own desire – because this isn’t that old chestnut about no one loving you until you love yourself; it’s an entirely new chestnut about how when you know how much fun you are in bed, you often feel a lot more confident around sexual situations in general. Bang yourself like a screen door, Rockin’ World! If absolutely literally nothing else, you will enjoy the orgasms.

    2. Examine Your Own Desires

    What do YOU find fuckable? When you think about the people to whom you are sexually attracted, does that include fat people? If your “I’d Totally Hit That” list doesn’t include other fat folks, consider how that might be influencing how you view your own body as a sexual object – or, rather, how you aren’t! Obviously it’s not great to objectify people – but I think there’s a difference between objectifying people and denying them agency as real people and enjoying the way other people look in a way that makes me wish I were doing bedroom things with them. This also goes back to “normalization” and retraining your eye – there’s so many different ways of being sexy, of performing sexiness. If you can consciously explore what’s going on with some of your unconscious processes here, it will help, I promise.

    3. Divorce The Concept Of Pretty

    Back in the day (I love being old and saying that), one of my very favorite blog posts was from Dress a Day and it is still here: https://dressaday.com/2006/10/20/you-dont-have-to-be-pretty/

    The premise, which you can probably tell from the URL, is that you don’t have to be pretty. And you don’t. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Pretty is a tiny little box that society is trying to cram us into; it’s the box inside the “you must not weigh more than x pounds” box. To be real blunt, Rockin’ World: fuck pretty. That doesn’t mean you can’t look nice, as the Captain has mentioned. But pretty is such a bland and innocuous thing to be – it is unthreatening and safe. And you, dear Rockin’ World, you are meant for better things than bland!

    It’s so easy to look at people who ARE mainstream attractive and find ourselves lacking. When you feel the impulse towards that, find something about yourself that you love, whether it’s the feel of your belly, the weight of your ass, the sensitivity of your side fat. (My side fat is particularly ticklish but your mileage may vary there!) That something belongs to your body and no one else’s.

    Dating while fat is hard – I’ll also mention that getting laid while fat is actually a whole lot easier. Casual sex is very distinct from dating and it’s something that I enjoyed a whole lot because I learned a lot about my body and about what a damn lie it is when people say no one wants to fuck a fat person. *laugh* Try to remember that other people’s damage around dating fat people is THEIR damage – it reflects nothing about you. It hurts, because rejection hurts, but it doesn’t ultimately provide any commentary about your worth at all.

    You’re awesome, Rockin’ World. I hope you can see that.

  151. Long-time reader, first-time commenter. I also have self-esteem problems – not because of weight, but severe acne. The advice is great and I will use bits and pieces for my own self-care routine. Thank you so much Captain ❤

  152. LW, this is going to sound kinda counter intuitive, but one thing that actually really helped me feel better about my own body was just… accepting that to a lot of people, I’m not attractive.

    (Disclaimer; I’m agender, & try very hard to look androgynous, as much as I can when I am built like a fire hydrant that was gifted up front & has hips).

    Sometimes you will be ugly. It’s part of life. Sometimes you will be sick & puking, or crying so hard that your eyes are red & your nose is running, or when you’ve been up for forty eight hours.

    Society programs women (& people it thinks of as women) to always have to be pretty. Always be attractive, always wantable. I realized, a long time ago, that I’m never gonna be what society wants, what with being fat, being nonbinary, being autistic, & a whole load of other things.

    I’ve found that since I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m never going to be what society wants. I’m never gonna be pretty, that I’m never gonna be the person that’s on magazine covers, except maybe as an example of all that is wrong with America’s youth, I’ve been a lot happier.

    Once I stopped trying to fit into whatever mold I was supposed to fit into, & I accepted the fact that I probably never would, I became a lot happier.

    I’m sorry – I’m worried that this is coming off as super harsh.

    I just have a lot of strong feelings on this kind of thing. If i ended up wording it wrong, I can do my best to reword it.

  153. I am also plus size as a plus person I thought the same as you for about the same amount of time it will help you to look at other fat people there are lots of fat bloggers I like glitter and lazers on the you tubes and other web places she is awesome
    I second the advice captain is giving don’t wait until you are a certain size to start living and making friends and don’t settle for people who treat you poorly not even if they are family
    Buy nice clothes now stop waiting to get nice things until you lose x amount, It doesn’t have to be mainstream acceptable clothing either if someone is going to talk about how you dress they will do so whether you are dressed “acceptably” or not so wear something that makes you feel awesome if you can’t afford it right away start a small savings
    If you are into make up wear it
    Start meeting people in low pressure situations like take a class (I took ice skating to start ) Make friends or acquaintances
    If you can to the extent you cant stop worrying about your size if someone has a problem with it you do not want to know them anyway
    If someone start saying you would look so nice if……… stop them say I look nice now
    I don’t 100% love my self all the time but as much as I hate the phrase fake it until you make it this is psychologically proven when people act like something is true eventually they believe it, In this case it is true fat people deserve to be happy , to take up space to love and be loved

    Do NOT for the love of all let someone tell you that you are too picky when it comes to dating or even friends You deserve to have someone who wants to be with you that You also enjoy and want to be with being miserable with someone is not better than being alone
    Also do not accept sub par sex if you don’t know what you like find out dont let someone believe you need to satisfy them but they dont need to return the favor because that is BS

  154. I like to go to the mall and watch all the people walk by. The vast majority are appreciably outside the Hollywood standard of beauty, and they’re all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, abilities, and every permutation you can think of. And a LOT of them are couples holding hands. I tell my daughters if they ever feel like they’re too [fill in the blank] to find love, we should go to the mall and people-watch.

  155. What helps me is to think of my body as this loving faithful dog that has been with me since before I was born, and will be with me till I die. It helps me care for it, feed it, and love it like I would all my creatures. The thought of my faithful body sticking with me through thick and thin, winter and summer, bad days and good makes me want to treat it better. I think of all the things it does without me asking–breathing, heart pumping, temperature regulation, waking, sleeping and dreaming. Over the years, it has lost some of its abilities—doesn’t see so well and moves slower— but I would no more shame it than I would my old [real] dogs for being old and stiff. I try to accommodate it like I would them. Cherish this living thing that is wholly and completely devoted to you. Hope this helps.

  156. Hi LW, long-time lurker here, first time commenter because I’ve definitely been where you are and I empathize a lot. I hope you’ve got people IRL who see how awesome you are and affirm you on days when you’re having a harder time loving yourself. Here are a few things that have helped me make peace with my body.

    1. Fashion. I know that this is somewhat income dependent (I grew up in a family where money was tight, and my thrift options were…not great), but to the extent that you can afford it, find some outfits that you really love: colour, fit, comfort, the whole deal. Even if you need to save up for a bit, if you can afford it a confidence-building piece of clothing is super worth it. This is my most recent “makes me happy” wardrobe acquisition: https://twitter.com/christinaemoss/status/866413560410370048. As a bonus, I’ve found plus-size store dressing rooms are some of the most body-affirming spaces. Compliments all around, from sales associates, from other customers, and you can tell the first-time customers who are seeing themselves in the mirror and actually liking what they see for the first time in awhile.

    2. Finding ways to move your body that you genuinely enjoy. For me, I’ve enjoyed taking (community based, not too intense, size diverse, and focused on fun rather than perfect performance) exercise classes, like zumba or aquafit. It’s been a way to figure out things I didn’t know my body was capable of and to learn to see exercise as a way to enjoy living in the body I have now, rather than part of the endless quest for the body I feel I ought to have. I hear there are also some fat-positive hiking groups forming across the States, if you enjoy nature.

    P.S. Love the wedding picture, Captain!

  157. This is the letter that’s encouraged me to comment on CA because this letter speaks to so many ways I’ve felt about myself for years and years and years. And so many of these comments are messages I wish I’d heard years ago, when I was avoiding going to the beach or crying after swim practice or what have you.

    Something that I have found extremely positive is centering fat people on my social media. My instagram feed is full of all the goofy shit I look at, but almost all the humans that pop up on it are fat and fashionable. I will never be as fashionable as they are, but seeing glamorous photos and selfies of fat women basking in the sun, walking their dogs, reading in public — these really bring a lot to my day. I’ve spent more than *half my life* getting better at loving the parts of my body that are squishy or stretch marky or hairy in ways they’re not “supposed to be.” Some days are just not good body love days, but a lot of days can be.

    Anyway, this isn’t a whole lot of concrete advice. I am thinking a lot of good thoughts in your direction, LW.

  158. I hope that this comment falls within the guidelines. If not, I apologize and please feel free to delete. I am a fat girl with truly lousy knees. I’ve been dealing with both for most of my life, but the knees have deteriorated in the last couple of years to the point where I get around on a cane these days. I found an exercise routine that works for me about a year ago (It is water based) and it has made me much happier. I am not advocating this as a weight loss tool, in fact I haven’t lost any significant amount of weight. It feels really good though to be able to comfortably move my body. I can feel so graceful and free in the water. It has gotten me in touch with my body in a way that I wasn’t before, and as I become more flexible and gain core strength I have gained confidence. Also, the next time someone concern trolls me about my “health” I can say, “I go to the gym three times a week. How about you?” If you can find a way to enjoy using your body and have fun, it is a helpful thing. I started going because I was afraid that I would lose my mobility. Now I go for the stress relief and because I love being in the water.

    Also, try to be as kind to yourself as you would be to anyone else. I say things in my own head sometimes that I would never tolerate hearing one person say to another. A line that has helped me: “How dare you say that about Mary! I love Mary! She’s a good person and you are just being mean, now stop it!” spoken to myself whenever I need to hear it. Deciding to work on finding acceptance within yourself is the first step toward finding it. Good for you! I wish you happiness and peace.

  159. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone bring up my strategy yet? Instead of retraining my eye, I switched senses. I’m also fat and struggle with conventional attitudes on the subject. What’s worked for me is to switch from vision (the outside perspective: how I look to others) to touch (the internal perspective: how I feel to myself). In my case, touch and prioception (internal sense of how and where my body is) seem to use the same channel, so I lump them together as external and internal touch.

    I’m on this side of my eyes; I don’t see myself most of the time. Even other people only look at me intermittently and not often with great attention. But I’m always feeling what’s going on with myself. So it only makes sense to use the most-common sense as my lens for self-perception. In other words, what I look like doesn’t bring me much pleasure, because mostly, I’m not looking at myself (even in the mirror, it’s too parts-focused). What I feel like, though, that brings me great pleasure (or discomfort, depending) all the time.

    Plus, touch is the least standardized sense, socially. We say something looks or sounds beautiful, or tastes delicious. But what does it mean for something to be beautiful to the touch? So I am much freer to say that, I really really like how I feel — that I am beautiful to the touch — and have it fall under “There’s no arguing about taste”. And when I’ve been asked to name what I like about myself (specifically the non-brain parts), I can rattle off a bunch of touch-related things, but I struggle to come up with even three vision-related things.

    Getting there, well, I’m still working on it, but a lot of it just involved pulling my attention inward and noticing, I guess? And then consciously prioritizing. So, like, instead of looking at my legs and searching for hairs the razor had missed, I started also noticing how my legs felt kind of chapped and raw-ish afterwards. And gradually, as leggings have come into fashion, I started wearing them instead of shaving (because that’s one fight I’m not going to pick with social beauty standards), and going “Eee! I like how they feel”. Likewise, ponytails aren’t the most visually pleasing hairstyle on me, but I really like how they feel: just a little bit of pull on my head. So I’ve adopted ponytails as my go-to style, anyway. And so on… (I really like how a big, full skirt swings).

    So anyway, if you don’t like how your body appears to the sense of vision, maybe it’d help to perceive it though another, less socially-fraught, sense and set a baseline of self-perception from it. Touch is my favorite, but yours might be a completely different. It has helped me, anyway, and might help some others.

  160. Someone else may have mentioned it (I’m tired and not functioning at 100%) but for me, one of the big things that helped me come to grips with my body was to remember every time, how many white men make money from me hating it and just think ‘screw them’

    Why the hell should I let these people tell me what I should look like, make me feel shit for not looking like that and then sell me products to make me look more like what they think I should (be that shapewear, diets, exercise plans, make-up, shaving etc)

    It’s not an instant fix but every time I look at myself and see all the things that society says is wrong with my body, I remind myself that somewhere there is a white middle age man loosing money because I refuse to allow them to sell me products based on the hatred of my body. I still do the stuff that I enjoy (make-up for parties, exercise that I actually enjoy like swimming) and more often than not these days, I look at my body and I am proud of it, because just to live happily, without hating myself, is an act of resistance against the society that profits from our self-hatred

  161. Dear LW,

    Here is a little snippet of experience that might resonate for you. I am also a woman with body and esteem issues, and for a number of reasons very dwindled resources in terms of friends or family. After the worst of many periods of depressed isolation, I forced myself to join a singing group. Although I found it frankly painful to mingle during the mid-session recess or social activities around the group, I doggedly persisted in going for the first year because the act of raising my voice in song was the one thing in my life that I could do on a weekly basis that reliably left me uplifted. After the first fourteen months or so, I realised I had broken through some kind of barrier and felt I genuinely belonged in the group and its membership, developing a range of closer and more collegiate friendships. I also discovered that someone I liked enormously liked me very much indeed when he let go an unguarded comment. Now, this man is not available to me as he is married with a number of children – don’t wanna go there! But am I downcast? Trying not to be! My thinking is that if someone I like so much is also attracted to me, then it might happen again, and maybe with someone who could actually be a partner. This whole singing thing worked out well for me because it is something I can do with others that is structured enough that I’m not left to socialise ‘naked’ without any place to hide; most of the time we are busy singing. I get to know people over time, without the pressure of ‘ready, steady, date/befriend! Do we like each other? Make a decision now!’ which suits me fine. Might a social pastime based around a structured activity suit you too, and be a way to be with people without a lot of pressure?

    Sending you peace, warmth and acceptance, whatever, whoever and wherever you are.

  162. I had no idea how liberating it could be to not have a scale in the house!! It’s totally awesome!! A few years ago, the battery on ours ran out, and instead of buying a new battery, we just got rid of the scale. No more am I a number! I now go by how I feel and how I move! If clothes no longer fit, time to buy new ones! I eat what I want-some super healthy things, some things super unhealthy, but sorta aim more for portion sizes. I try and move in a way that is fun for my body. That’s the only goal. Because I figure the world has more than enough negative comments/thoughts on how I look. I don’t have to add to them. It has been a very long journey to overcome the self-loathing that happens when your fiance breaks off your marriage plans because you just happened to get an auto-immune disease that sorta causes your face to look not normal. Still working on it all……

  163. Love to you, LW. It’s so hard to get out of our own heads sometimes.

    I have recently crossed the line from in-between to definitely-fat, and I’m mostly okay with it. Not always, and some days it takes work to reach “mostly okay,” but I’m doing it. All the above suggestions have worked for me, including staying away from Cosmpolitan and its ilk, searching out the HAES community, and speaking positively about myself and others. “Fake it till you make it” can also be a valid strategy if it works for you!

    I also make a point of dressing for the body I have, whatever it looks like at the moment. I just found the awesome website swimsuitsforall-dot-com. Their customer image gallery is amazing. It’s filled with beautiful non-models, many of them fat, and all of them looking beautiful in their swimsuits! The suit I ended up buying was a capri-style, and I wore it *every day.* Can we talk about how great it is to not have thigh rub while you’re on vacation? It’s life changing, honestly.

    Finally, I try to seek out positive representations of fat people as much as I can. I recently read the book Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, in which the main character, who is fat, finds herself in the middle of a beauty pageant and a love triangle. It’s delightful, and so refreshing to see a fat person who is the main character and not her best friend, who is not cast as goofy or obnoxious or someone who eats all the time and never exercises. And crucially (minor spoiler ahead), she does not try to lose weight!

    It’s a long journey, this self-acceptance thing. And I don’t think many of us here have woken up one day and gone “woo hoo, I am so totally happy with my body, now and forever more!!!!” Some days are better than others, for sure. But as long as you can do one small thing – dress in something that makes you feel beautiful, think a positive thought about your body – every day, then you’re doing great. And if you can’t do it today, you can always try again tomorrow. You’re definitely not in it alone, in any case!

  164. This is just to say
    I have deleted the comment
    about how “morbidly obese”
    you used to be
    before you discovered diet and exercise
    that you probably thought
    was going to blow our fucking minds
    forgive me
    it was so predictable
    so predictable and tired

    1. This is awesome and deserves a haiku.

      “Eat less, move more!” chirp
      the concern trolls, smugly. Great
      Cthulhu eats them all.

      (How many syllables does Cthulhu have? 2 or 3? Eh, not like it’ll matter when he wakes.)

  165. So, I searched “podcast” in this comment thread and found none, and if you like listening to podcasts like me, I really love “Food Psych”. Christy Harrison started the podcast with a rather conservative approach, but then had Virgie Tovar on the show, who really changed her views! So the podcast is now focusing on intuitive eating and fat positivity 🙂 It’s not just food-related but also talks about fat hatred and weight stigma, and there are so many awesome guests! I really adore the last episode with Ijeoma Oluo today.

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