Thursday, November 27, 2014

Body Politics: On Weight, Weight Lost, and Identity

I know that today is the big day for overconsumption in America, but there is a thing that's been on my mind and I want to talk to you about it:
Weight loss is weird.

Almost a year ago, I decided I was going to lose weight. It started as a practical thing; I had gained a fair bit of weight since moving back in with the parental beings and starting a job that actually paid a living wage, and my pants didn’t fit anymore. Then I overshot my pants fitting and ended up in even smaller pants.

I didn’t go on a crazy diet or start an extreme exercise regime. I just started going on walks at lunch, bicycling when I was able, and eating less crap. I stopped putting sugar in my tea and ate only until I was full. I didn’t have any goal other than my pants fitting (too late!) and whatever felt healthy to me.

Sometime at the end of summer I realized that I was down from a size 18 at my heaviest to a size 12, meaning that I was the smallest I’ve been since high school.

My Body as Vehicle for Clothing
The most difficult time I've ever had finding non-Lolita clothing, bar none, is when I dropped back down to a size 12/14. Suddenly, while I was still too big to find anything other than a limited selection in regular stores, I was unable to find anything that fit properly in plus size stores.

When I was hovering in that limbo, Lolita was the biggest blessing. Got a skirt that’s a little too big? Tighten the elastic or add some in the waistband. Dress fitting a little strangely? Do up the corset lacing. With the exception of one A-line skirt that I haven’t had the heart to take in or sell yet, my Lolita wardrobe has evolved easily with my changing size. Thankfully, I tend toward the classic and can wear pretty much all of my skirts to work.

My Body as Thought

The strange thing about my weight loss is that it hasn’t changed the way I understand my body. Even as my size gets smaller, I still feel heavy. I don’t feel like my body has gotten any smaller. Sometimes I end up feeling bigger, but that is the legion of body image demons weighing heavy on my brain.

I'm very much not into the "your body is who you are" thing. Our bodies inform who we are, like bad backs creaking with the weather or weight defining which social spheres are welcoming to us, but it is not who we are. I don’t posit myself as a plus size fashion blogger. I just blog about the stuff in fashion that interests me. Sometimes that’s plus size clothing and sometimes it’s politics and sometimes it’s just random bits of history.

However, I’m beginning to understand that my size has been a part of my personal identity, for better or for worse. I feel less and less like I can talk about buying plus size clothing, even though by most fashion standards I’m still a big girl. I still have to navigate those thoughts and figure out where I stand on me.

My Body as Public Space

The starkest realization I’ve had as I’ve lost weight has been that my body is regarded as public space. People feel like they have the right to comment on my size. Sometimes it’s positive: “You’re looking great!” Sometimes it’s hesitant: “Have you lost weight? Was it on purpose?” Sometimes it’s supportive: “Well, I thought you looked great before, but you’re still gorgeous now.” Sometimes it’s piecemeal: “Your legs are looking nice but I liked your butt better before.”

And this is the first time I’ve had such a wide audience feel the right to comment on my body. Sure, I’ve gotten catcalls regularly since I was 14, but that feels different somehow, an invasive and harassing action. This is the people I know and care about suddenly feeling that they have the right to comment on my physical appearance in a way they never did before.

Weight loss is a surprisingly public action, and, no matter how private I have tried to keep it, mine has definitely become so.

I guess that’s why I decided to talk about it here. If my weight loss is going to be a public action and impact the way I interact with clothing and the world, I might as well talk about it on my own terms.

1 comment:

  1. I like your approach, however if I was smaller 2 sizes I would feel definitely easier, which is sometimes an advantage