As you may have read yesterday, Daily Mail contributor Samantha Brick of the infamous "Why women hate me for being beautiful" article in 2012 trolled us with a new article in which she says, “There is nothing in life that signifies failure better than fat.”
I’m sure you can imagine the xoJane editors’ reactions to her claims that “Any woman who wants to stay beautiful (like me!) needs to diet every day of her life.” Even I, who many of you consider a “fat-shamer” (even though I disagree) found the article preposterous.
Statements like, “The logic is simple and irrefutable: any self-respecting woman wants to be thin” and “My husband of five years frequently tells me that if I put on weight he will divorce me” read like something written by a woman who doesn’t mind exaggerating in an eager attempt to get clicks. Something perhaps not even worth responding to as it seemed like a retort might be exactly what she wanted.
But then I kept reading. I read about how Samantha Brick once fainted from hunger. How she ate only a pack of mints for breakfast and lunch. How she chose her vacation locations based on the type of foods they served and portion sizes. How she once rented a house without a kitchen to avoid “culinary temptation.” But how being thin was all the reward she needed to justify those sacrifices.
And while a part of me felt sad for her, another part of me was nodding along in total understanding.
Let me say this before I go any further: My feelings about weight and those who may carry more of it than others are complicated. I do think our country has a problem with obesity. I do think many of us tend to make unhealthy choices that are not good for us inside or out. And I do think that, in most situations, if someone is so obese she can’t walk up the stairs without getting winded, that she is, on some level, unhealthy. I know that is not a popular opinion here, but it’s how I feel and I haven’t lied to you yet, so I’m not going to start now.
That being said, I also don’t think it’s any of my business. Although truthfully? When I see someone who is so obese that it is obvious that he or she suffers physically, socially, or emotionally, it makes me sad.
And sure, maybe it didn’t bother that guy in my class in college who couldn’t put the top of the desk down because he was so overweight, but I have a hard time believing he didn’t wish -- at least once -- that he could fit in the chair just as easily as the rest of us. And sorry if this annoys you, but watching him crammed in that chair with no surface on which to write, his body clearly uncomfortable: It broke my heart.
Call me a fat-shamer, if you will. Tell me I shouldn’t assume how people feel; I don’t care. It makes me sad. But I keep that on the inside because life’s hard enough without someone feeling unnecessarily self-conscious or ashamed.
OK. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get back to the part where I’m a total sicko for feeling like, as poorly put as it was, Samantha Brick had a point.
In the last few months, I’ve had some (we think) medical issues that have caused extreme fatigue and lethargy. I’m constantly tired and have zero energy. The doctors have run test after test after test, but we can’t figure out what’s wrong with me. As you can imagine, it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because all I want to do is lay around and read. It’s frustrating because I’m too exhausted to go snowboarding on the weekends. It’s frustrating because the idea of getting up and putting on my sneakers and going for a run feels impossible. And it’s frustrating because, as a result, I’ve gained weight.
I’m lucky in that if I’m moderately active, I can pretty much eat whatever I want without too many “consequences.” And by “whatever I want,” I mean mostly healthy things, but the occasional cheeseburger or cookie. And by “consequences,” I mean weight gain. I love decadent dinners and I claim butter as my favorite food, but I’ve never been a huge eater or a “finish the entire pint of ice cream” kind of girl. And so, without much effort, I’m usually a pretty average weight.
But in the last couple of months, since I’ve been more and more sedentary, my jeans have gotten tighter, as have my jackets and sweaters. A few weeks ago, I went to put on a dress I wore last summer and I couldn’t even zip it up. And for me, that means I am failing. That I’m screwing up. That I’m not as healthy as I should be. Or as attractive.
The other day I was snowboarding (I find the energy sometimes) in a banana costume and I walked outside to a group of my guy friends, motioned up and down at my outfit, and said, “This… THIS is why I never get laid.” And while it’s probably true that most guys don’t find a girl in a banana costume fuckable, I also think (even if it might not be true) that no one finds me attractive right now because I’m heavier than usual.
The thing about these things is that: it doesn’t matter WHAT the truth is (probably that I’m not even trying to get laid which is a whole other story for another time) because what I feel becomes the truth. My truth.
I don’t think Samantha Brick has the answers in that it sounds like she’s living a very unhealthy life. In fact, it would probably be healthier for her to eat more and not starve herself, even if that meant putting on a few pounds. And I don’t think she’s right in saying that “ANY woman with self-respect should watch her figure.” But I do think she's right in that if I personally want to have self-respect, I need to do just that.
It’s complicated and hard to write about these issues because I’m anticipating your comments attacking me. But worrying about my weight, feeling like thin is “better” for me, and wanting to have a body that’s, if anything, average and not worth mentioning (and fine, maybe on the skinnier side), those are real things I think about.
Not a lot. Not all of the time. But enough. More than enough, probably. And again, it’s not just because of appearances, but because of how I feel. I am “lighter” in so many ways when I weigh less. My clothes fit better. I feel AND look healthier. Some people may not notice a few extra pounds, but I do. They weigh me down. Literally and metaphorically.
So, no, I don’t think it’s okay that Samantha Brick gave her friend a stare of “ice-cold contempt” when the friend gave her hand-made French chocolates as a hostess gift. But I do think it’s okay that at the end of the evening, she threw them away in the garbage and covered them in coffee dregs. Because while many people don’t chose to forego guilty pleasures and are fine with the outcomes of that decision, many people aren’t. And that’s okay, too.
It’s okay to be okay with being fat. It’s also okay to not want to be fat. I just happen to fall in the latter category.
And so after reading Samantha Brick’s article, I realized that if I don’t want to gain weight during this period of lethargy, I can’t eat without thinking. I can’t eat without consequence. I need to have more self-restraint. More self-control. More self-esteem. I need to throw the chocolate into the garbage.
No one should ever say, as Samantha Brick did, that being overweight is never attractive. It’s not anyone’s place to decide for everyone else what’s attractive and what’s not. I can, however, decide what’s attractive for ME. And if, for now, it means depriving myself of a few of the foods I love until I can fit into my skinny jeans again, that’s okay.
I’m confident that slipping back into those jeans will give me more satisfaction than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg ever could.