Owning Your Size
Earlier this year Joy Nash's Fat Rant took a big chunk of the internet by storm. The video was packed with empowerment and garnered tons of attention in the mainstream media. To me, though, one of the most important moments in the video was when Joy shared her weight with us. The numbers. Her actual weight.
We live in a society that encourages us to hide our weight, hide our size. Lots of people lie about their weight on their driver's licenses or other IDs. We lie to our friends about it. We lie to our families. We generally don't own our size unless we're losing weight. Then it becomes a real numbers game. ("I need to get down to 100." "I need to get to a 32" waist.")
This type of behavior has perplexed me in recent years but, thinking back, I lied about my weight in the past too. I remember that my Official Fighting Weight for a long time (high school mostly) was 150. Nice, even number. 150. Then I gained weight, and my OFW was 165. (Not too fat! Still close to 150!) Later, I gained more weight so my OFW was 180. Then 185.
When I moved a number of years back and needed a new driver's license, I was asked by the helpful person at the DMV if my weight was still 185. Of course it wasn't. I had just a tiny bit of pause when I gave my real weight at the time: 200 pounds. TWO HUNDRED, otherwise known as the First Level of Fatness.
This was a pretty big moment for me. I knew that was my real weight, and there it was. It was official. I was fat. It was actually? Pretty liberating.
It's really interesting how we make that number on the scale a part of who we are. It becomes way more than just a number and becomes a value judgment; it becomes us in a negative way. If you ask someone to pin a number on fat ("bad" or "unhealthy", in non-fat positive circles), chances are you'll hear an even number like 200, 250, 300, or 350 pounds. However this is a number pulled out of thin air (pardon the pun) as many people have a hard time visualizing that - so we go with something that sounds astonishingly big.
That's why, then, it was really interesting to watch The Rotund's recent series on her weight. The genesis was over at Shapely Prose, when sweetmachine implored us to own our weights. Soon thereafter The Rotund posted a full-body photo of herself and asked her readers to guess her height and weight. A day later we got the actual numbers. No one hit it on the nose, although some came closer than others. In advance of any other analyses of this data (including The Rotund's own,) I'd like to point out curiosities about the data. (And the disclaimer that I posted at TR's site applies here - I threw out any guesses that were weights only, heights only, or dress sizes; and she may have more reliable data than I do, etc. etc. etc.)
The most interesting thing to me was that the number of guesses over 300 pounds was only a third (33% on the nose) of all the results, and those guesses averaged 311 pounds. (Her actual weight is 314 pounds.) Elementary math shows that the majority of folks thought she was under 300 pounds. Interesting how it comes back to 300 pounds, eh?
At the other end, the First Level of Fatness, only three people (2.8%) thought she was under 200 pounds.
Setting those answers aside, the average of folks who thought she was between 200 and 300 pounds settled at 257 pounds. And when I look at the data, two numbers stand out to me: 250 and 280; lots of people responded with one of those two numbers.
So yeah, my ever-so-slight geekiness to crunch numbers is showing. What does it all mean? One conclusion I've come to, setting aside the question of height, is she could "pass" for nearly 50 pounds lighter. That's really something.
I'd like to hypothesize that our collective tendency to lie about our weights causes this type of underestimation. Now I'm not passing judgment on everyone who participated; I know and admit I'm terrible at guessing height and weight. But we've become so very divorced from our publically-known sizes that we have no idea what anyone's real size is anymore.
Part of that is inevitably caused by Those Darned BMI Calculators. I noted in a post recently that in order to get to the very highest "normal" weight in the world of BMI, I'd have to lose 80 pounds. (And the scary ass thing is that if I gained just 20 pounds, I'd be eligible for WLS.)
The other big factor is, again, not owning one's weight. It's important for us to claim our sizes as our own; The Rotund put it best when she said that she is what 314 pounds looks like.
When we lie about our weights, we are saying that our sizes are bad. We're saying that we want to be smaller. We're ashamed. We're passing judgment on ourselves, and claiming we aren't "normal". The truth is that we're all normal - people of all sizes - and the best way to demonstrate our complete and utter normalcy is to simply state our weights. As they are. Without BS, without hesitation, and without shame.
The parlay into fat rights? If more weights are seen as normal - no air quotes - more people may open up to the idea that, hey, this epidemic of fat hatred is affecting Actual People, and not some abstract Fat People Collective that's out there somewhere. Or, it's not just affecting fat people with mobility problems who are treated like circus freaks on TV "specials". Or, it's not just affecting fat people with eating disorders.
There is nothing abnormal about being fat. Those who will define you by your weight have small minds. Be proud of that number.