Jenna

Friends and Sundry

My best friend of 5 years is beautiful. She is a size 16. Men are constantly, I mean CONSTANTLY hitting on her. She is not for lacking in the looks department in any objective sense of the word. Not that she sees it, though, She only ever, EVER talks about her weight. We used to do that together, it was a common theme. But I stopped. I got better. I am healing. I tell her about Heath at Every Size. I tell her about Intuitive Eating. She joins Weight Watchers (for like the 5th time in as many years), “oh this time they don’t even COUNT fruits or vegetables… you can have as many as you WANT.” I tell her I don’t want to talk about dieting. She keeps talking about dieting. We go out for breakfast. She tells me she doesn’t want a mimosa (I’d rather save my points for eating). But as always happens when you starve yourself you play games, later she orders a bloody mary. Maybe the tomato juice doesn’t count? So anyway.

I feel like I have left a sick and sadistic cult, a cult most of my friends and family are still in. I now look in from the outside and see it for the depravity it is I try to tell my loved ones but they aren’t ready. I’m afraid of losing my best friend over this.

My best friend is a photographer and she is getting pretty good, too. Her pictures though are of all rail thin models with big boobs in bikinis, empty eye’d and two dimensional. She invited me to a shoot one day but I told her, “You know, I am really working on body diversity and size acceptance and to watch you and all those other photographers (the rest of which are men) would not be good for my development at this time.” I want to tell my best friend how her hobby is hurting her, too. I want to tell her she is beautiful and she should photograph women of all sizes and ages like her, like us. I want to tell her I am disappointed in her choice and that I thought she was different. I am struggling with judging her over it.

It is like she is unable to hear me. She is unable to really HEAR what I have to say. I have noticed that about a lot of people in my life when I talk about these topics. It is like we left the cult and we try to make our loved ones see… but they are so brainwashed it is like what we are saying is so out of the realm of their experience or understanding… it is as it they are physically incapable of hearing us.

I keep telling her I cannot listen to diet talk but she persists. Its like a contest of needs. Can I surpress my triggering and listen to her when she wants to engage in diet talk? It feels like a battle of wills and I really do not want to play anymore. These boundaries are so intermingled I am not sure how to negotiate this and it is hard for me, I’ve done a lot of GREAT progress in body acceptance this year and the results in my psyche have been amazing. But I’m not there yet.

I feel like a person who goes to AA who just cant hang out with drinking friends yet. That. yes that is how it feels.

Except the BIG difference being that people in AA are accepted and celebrated for getting clean and healthy. While we who give up dieting are looked at with derision, disgust and misunderstanding, it is not seen my the greater world that this too is a health choice. a sanity choice. .  Except here in the fatosphere… otherwise forget it.

Please keep working. Keep trying. I need you, too.

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  • Anonymous

    Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I recently had a huge blowout with my oldest friend (of more than 20 years) because she derided Fat Acceptance (about which she knows nothing because she refuses to even talk with me about my experience) on a weight loss blog we once shared. I was the owner of the blog, so I just deleted it, and after a few months we were able to reconcile (somewhat). While I work on Fat Acceptance she continues to “struggle with her weight”. It makes me sad.

  • zarischka

    Wow. Fantastic post – so thought provoking, clever & well written! THANK YOU for daring to be YOU and not trying to conform into boring unity all the time. ♥

  • Kirsten

    Sometimes, it’s a slippery road to walk down. When you finally just have had enough and leave behind that which makes you unhappy/insane/unhealthy, yet the people you have surrounded yourself with for practically your whole life aren’t ready to leave it…..so they certainly aren’t ready for YOU to leave it. You know….safety in numbers, birds of a feather, all those quaint little sayings. That are true on so many levels.

    If it’s getting to the point that it’s affecting your personal progress you will have to exercise some tough love. It’s sad, it’s unfortunate, but you can’t “help” those who won’t help themselves. I think you’re going to have to throw out something like this: “You’re going to have to find something else to talk about with me other than weight, weight loss, and dieting, or find a new friend because at the very least it’s boring. I’m not interested in those topics anymore, and quite frankly, that you don’t seem to take the hint is insulting to me because it says that my point of view is not important to you. And that is not what friendship is about.”

    Harsh, I know. But people who are so brainwashed only seem to hear things like this. They are blind to subtle cues, changing of subject, and other tactics. You have to be straight down the line with them. And then you have to stand behind your words. I have lost a few dear friends over similar situations, but at the end of the day, you have to decide what is more important: maintaining a relationship that is no longer healthy for you simply for the sake of the relationship, or letting that relationship go for the good of your long term mental and physical health.

    Good luck with it and I hope you manage to find a way to keep the friendship and lose the weight talks. :)

  • EC

    I really liked this post, because it talked honestly about having to deal with a specific person who is still in “thin culture”. All over the Fatosphere, people talk about how it’s not individuals who cause the problem, it’s the culture, and while that’s true, it’s still individual people who we have to deal with on a daily basis. Why should we have to direct our anger towards the culture and not the person? Sometimes it takes a little voiced anger to get the message across.

  • Venus007

    Yes, I so know what you are talking about. I feel like my body acceptance and my fat acceptance is just this fragile little bird sometimes that will take off easily. I know that this path is best for me but sometimes the outside triggers just get under my skin and I feel awful. I come to recover my resolve and back to my place of stillness and sanity but it still sucks when I get pulled away by something I see or someone says. Keep the faith sistah!

  • Kern

    I understand completely from where you’re coming from and also from where you’re friends coming from. As a best friend, we hate seeing our loved ones emotional hurt themselves when we know they are beauitful no matter what. I’m actually a photographer myself and a size 16. Mmm wierd. Anyways, i think diversity is a great thing and thats why there are plus size models. Its just too bad the general “high fashion” world needs stick thin models to wear their clothes.

    In your friends defense its probably just lots of uneeded pressure because she’s surrounded by these thin models all the time. its hard not to compared yourself. I think losing weight for health reasons, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact you should probably support her with it. But if its because of image/peer pressure wanting to “fit in” well all we can do is remind them that they are awesome as they are and hope they HEAR us. I mean its like when my skinny friends complain how “fat” they are. And i’m like really…? All i can do is remind them of their attributes and how awesome they are and they get over it.

    I like your example about being in AA. I mean there are plenty of women out their embracing their bigness and nothing wrong with it. I’m sure you’re friend will come around. Try suggest her to shoot plus size models as a side project (add to her portfolio) won’t do any harm and hey maybe through her lens (figuratively and literally) she’ll see the beauty in being plus size and womanly. Which…haha in fact i think i want to do that too. As artist we are always. ALWAYS looking to add diversity into our portfolios.

  • Mulberry

    If skinny people are complaining to me about how fat they are, I think either a) they are deliberately trying to insult me, or b) acting like I don’t exist. It’s patronizing and rude. I would hope, Kern, that your friends are also quick to remind you that you are awesome – not because of being fat, but not in spite of it either.
    Jenna, lots of us have had similar experiences to yours; my name for it is speaking Martian. I speak words that seem English, but people react to me as if I were talking gibberish. Or they ignore me altogether. Since I grew up as the youngest in my family, this is nothing new, and it surprises me more sometimes when people do occasionally listen than when they don’t.
    For your friend the photographer, you may want to get a copy of Women En Large (see the website http://www.laurietobyedison.com/womenenlarge.asp ). It is full of beautiful images of fat nude women. Tell your friend that images of thin models have been just about done to death and beyond, and it’s time to explore the road less traveled.

  • Anonymous

    I feel like I am on one side of a canyon and my non FA friends are on the other.

    The other day while out with one friend, she pulls out her brand new iphone, which has a calorie tracking app, and figures out that she’s only had xxx calories that day, so she could have a little pot of tea. (And this was after dinner, and the number really was in the triple digits. I just didn’t want to specify so as not to be triggering to people with EDs.)

    Or another friend, who, when we suggest places to go for dinner, is like, “I can’t go there, I’m off carbs.”

    Another friend is detoxing from sugar and carbs (for weight loss) and can’t eat white or beige foods until a certain date, and on that day, she gets to eat whatever she wants. And she’s so excited about that day, but it’s like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you always could, all along.

  • http://www.axisoffat.com/ Jenna

    Kern, Yeah totally there is no need to defend my friend I love that biyatch, and I know that it is unintentional and its her process and alll that… And I want nothing more than her to be happy and love herself. What the struggle is is that there is a significant clash of boundaries; 1. her need to talk about her dieting process (which is NOT easy understandable) and looking for reassurance, strength, understanding, etc. And my absolute opposite need to no longer talk about or engage in diet talk as it undermines my very different way of handling the same “problem”. Then I react to her needs and she reacts to mine and damn it all gets so terribly complicated…

    But you are right I should get her to look at some photography that embraces more diversity and maybe get her to do a shoot of some sort. thanks for the advice.

  • http://www.axisoffat.com/ Jenna

    ahhh hahaha hilarious! LOVE it. Wizard of Oz!!!! If I click my heels three times do I get a croissant? “theres no place like carbs. theres no place like carbs. theres no place like carbs”

  • Julie

    Yeah…as a vegetarian (who believes in it for ethical reasons) I’ve seen former veggie friends throw their ethics out the window for diets…or near vegetarians becoming heavy carnivorous beings just to avoid those evil nasty “carbs”…as if all carbs are the same, and as if people haven’t been enjoying dessert for a lifetime. My favorite blog post ever from years ago was from a woman whose family emigrated to California from Scandinavia, and the local paper boasted with pride that EACH member of the family was OVER 200 LBS!!! That was a GOOD thing…because they had FOOD. If those on the diet circuit would feel gratitude that our worst problem might be having too much food…living in a land of plenty. Geez!!! :D

  • Anonymous

    Ha! “Pay no attention to the Carbs behind the Curtain!”

  • http://www.axisoffat.com/ Jenna

    mmm Julie you make me think of anotehr scenario… I, too, am an ethical vegetarian and I do not force people to my point of view as long as people respect my choice but if asked I will talk about it. People who are dieting always talk about it whether you want to hear it or not… even after you have said you dont want to talk about it. I cannot imagine talking and talking about the evils of a meat diet after one of my friends told me it upsets her and she doesnt want to talk about it because it makes her self destructive… if I did that I would lose all my friends pretty quickly. Why is it ok if thye topic is dieting???

  • kate

    wow such bravery! dieting is so seductive….but there is no science to support its worth…hold on to your hat and good luck xxxx

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