The Power of Words

[TW for fat hatred, depression.]

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will forever haunt me.

About two weeks ago, I was at my mother's and step-father's house when my step-father, during a discussion of the (horrible) show Biggest Loser, abruptly said, "I hope you're not using this new interest of yours [HAES] as an excuse to stay fat."

It's not often I lose control of my jaw muscles, but this was one of those times. I was paralyzed. My mind went totally blank. I wanted more than anything else to refute the shame that had been foisted upon me; to counter the ugly enthymemes within that short sentence, but no words came.

Things were heading downhill before my step-father said this, and went further downhill afterwards (ending in being fully silenced and prevented from defending myself), but that sentence sticks in my mind as the most damning. I've blogged before about why I'm ardently dedicated to the fat acceptance movement. I am sad to say that in the two weeks since this encounter, I have slid significantly backwards; reverted in many ways to the way I used to think. The cognitive dissonance and the unmitigated hurt have been nearly overwhelming. When I read articles or blogs or research about obesity and health, I find myself questioning the conclusions that one can be both fat and healthy.

I've gone through that single sentence and ripped it to shreds in my mind, over and over, and yet, I still wonder. I am learning, I am growing, I am still dedicated to fat acceptance, but my foundation of surety in the message has been shaken. In my head, the battle looks something like this: "The basis of that statement is that fat is bad." "It ain't exactly good, though." "Fat just is. You cannot divorce me from my fat - I am not a person despite my fat." "No, but you can certainly lose that fat if you weren't so lazy." "Weight doesn't matter!" "Of course not, but fitness does, and if you just took a twenty-minute walk around the block a few times a week, you'd lose plenty of weight." "I already do that." "It's obviously not enough." "But he implied that this whole thing was just an excuse to stay fat!" "Well, isn't it?"

This, from one sentence. From one instance of concern trolling. Because it came from family, and in a form more concentrated than I'd ever experienced from that direction.

I know the italicized voice is wrong. I can verbalize precisely why it is wrong. But the new voice, the one that developed with my discovery of fat acceptance and HAES, is mere months old, whereas the voice of internalized self-loathing has been strong throughout my life.

The road to fat acceptance is a journey that involves confrontation of internalized misconceptions and a willingness to change. The willingness is there. The confrontation, ongoing. But I'm still walking this path, regardless of the occasional stumble.

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