Fat acceptance saved my life by Chelsea Lincoln

by JL Fields, Editor @ Stop Chasing Skinny on October 10, 2011

Fat acceptance saved my life
By Chelsea Lincoln

When I made the conscious decision to accept my body, no matter its size, I had just written down my frustrations after a day feeling judged by others.  As a child, I had used writing to escape my reality, but this time, I was writing down reality to try and understand my life.  I’d hated my body for as long as I could remember and it was tearing me apart.  I was doing everything “right” with biking, being super active and eating a healthy vegan diet.  Weight loss has always been portrayed as simply calories in and calories out, so I didn’t understand why my body was not changing.  I was really fit, but I was still fat.

How many times can you slam your head against the wall before you truly hurt yourself?  I felt I was at a breaking point: If I continued hating my body, then I could never truly live.  I was miserable.  I spent too much time thinking I was an outcast and remembering all my memories of being bullied as a child. I started to see that my struggle with weight was ruining me, so I needed to take my life back.  This was not an easy decision, nor was it easy to implement.  The media is filled with images of thin models and fat stereotypes and no one ever showed me that accepting yourself was an option.

When I noticed that I was not alone in my struggle and, sadly, women of all shapes and sizes were insecure, it made me even more resolved to love my body.  I began proudly proclaiming myself “fat”.  I started vocalizing opposition to ads, campaigns, cartoons, and people who perpetrated fat stereotypes and spread body hate.  I gave talks about health at every size and respect for every body.  I wrote a zine, networked with others, joined FATASS cheerleading troop, and so much more.

I still struggle with body acceptance at times.  All the media and social conditioning can be overwhelming.  But then I recognize how ridiculous all this body hatred is.  I feel there is so much potential that is wasted on something as stupid as a few pounds. Beautiful people are all around me and I appreciate how diverse their bodies are. How boring our world would be if we all looked the same!  Luckily, we have the power to not take part in all the judgment.  Instead, lets fill the world with body positivity, and invest our energy to live a joyful and rewarding life.

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  • http://loveashley.net/ Ashley

    Great post! Always remember, no matter how bad the messages become out there, that there is always a crowd of people who are right here with you.

  • http://twitter.com/las_dos_ashleys Ashley N.

    Amazing post – I love your positive outlook and how you took something that was beating you down and turned it into a way to reach out to others in a positive way.

  • http://www.tiedyefiles.com Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles

    Empowering story. I love hearing about women who love themselves just the way they are!

  • http://www.structurehouse.com/blog Kelly@StructureHouse

    Wonderful message! You are right, it seems everywhere we turn the social “norm” is to be so critical of body size-and that keeps the cycle of self loathing going when we internalize that pressure into something bad about our bodies. Yes, there’s changing our lifestyle in order to become more healthy, but part of that overall picture of health includes our mental frame of mind. If we stay stuck in that pit of being super critical, we will never accept ourselves no matter what the number on the scale says. Keep going with your positivity-there are lots of folks out there ready to stand with you and support it!

  • http://veggieecolife.wordpress.com Sara (The Veggie Eco-Life)

    I especially love your last paragraph! This is so true. There are so many beautiful people out there, thinking they are fat or ugly, but they just aren’t. They are beautiful.
    I do think you are brave for leaving all the negativeness behind, there are many people who aren’t able to do that. Your story is an empowering one.

  • Chelsea Lincoln

    Thanks for all your supportive comments. When I was first learning body acceptance, I faced a lot of misunderstanding, lack of support and even backlash, so seeing comments like this means a lot to me! It is great to see more and more people looking for health through body acceptance. : )

    • Xela_33020

      For years I have hated my body. Ihave done it all(starvation, purging…) Two years ago I had neck surgery for my spine. After 2 1/2 months of resting I decided that I was getting fat and that I should start running to lose weight. I called my doctor and asked him if I was ready, he said no. I chose not to listen and started running. I lost weight but the pain from my recent surgery started bothering me. I stopped for a couple months until again I felt the weight creeping back again. Once again I decided to go for a bicycle ride. I was careless and started speeding up and standing up whlile riding to work out my glutts. I was going so fast that I lost control and became air borne and landed in someone’s frontyard. I was in shock and I could not move. I thought, I am paralyzed!. I wasn’t but I did not realized that my humerus bone was sticking out my arm. I was so upset at myself that I did this to myself just to lose weight. I had to have arm surgery but the pain in my arm and neck are back. And all of this just to look skinny. No one in my life and I have had a difficult life. Not all the times my heart has being broken, no one has hurt me as much as I have hurt myself. Although it was and still is a hard way to learn a lesson. The only person who is important, and the only opinion that matters is mine. I have learnt to love me no matter what size.

      • Chelsea Lincoln

        Thanks for sharing your story. It is sad that most of us learn the hard way to love our bodies. I’m hoping as more body acceptance is shared and embraced, future generations can benefit. Hope you are feeling better and are able to exercise for your enjoyment, not to fit into any “ideals”.

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  • http://tweal.blogspot.com Tweal

    I absolutely love this! Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Alexandra1973

    Give me a break. I hate being fat so I changed my diet, and the weight is coming off, pretty rapidly I might add.

    Grass-fed meats, cheese, butter–that’s what’s helping, along with limiting sugars.

    It’s hard to accept someone who can break your furniture just by sitting on it. I have an obese relative who did that, broke our toilet seat half off.

    Then there was the time when I’d had ankle surgery and had a cast and crutches. I was going for one of the electric scooters at Lowe’s, and this fat woman snatched it, even though she saw that I was heading for it. I just shrugged, reached for a wheelchair, and figured at least I’ll be exercising my arms.

    Not hurting others, huh? How about being selfish? How about wearing out the motors on those scooters? How about health insurance?

    I’ll love my body when it looks the way I want it to look. I’m not going to sit back and be lazy and do nothing about it. And when I reach my ideal weight, I’m going to reward myself with brand-new clothes!

    • Chelsea

      I know there are people who question my experiences with being fit and fat. The fact that I use to bike over 15 miles a day, train for a century bike ride and other fitness routines while eating a truly healthy vegan diet and continued to live in a fat body is something people refuse to believe. The diet industry has done such a good job at telling people this is not possible, all while 95% of diets fail. This is not due to laziness, but because our bodies are more complicated than calories in and calories out. We live in a world full of body diversity and this is not a bad thing.

      It makes me sad that people are not capable of being open to other’s experiences, or to even find compassion and respect for other people. I choose to surround myself with friends who are supportive and don’t judge me, or anyone else, based on their appearance. Those who know me would laugh at anyone trying to call me lazy. I am extremely busy with full-time school, work, an internship, multiple volunteer gigs, being a mentor and trying to apply to grad school and internships.

      No matter what I say in response to mean-spirited comments, I recognize it won’t really have an impact on the person, since dialogue was not the purpose. I did want to address what was said, however, and let people know that backlash does happen when people speak their truth. I find strength in using my voice to speak out against fat hate and know others support me.

      • Alexandra1973

        There’s your problem. Veganism. Nuff said. Veganism is NOT healthy at all.

        As far as empowerment…it’s hardly empowerment to say “I’m fat, there’s nothing I can do about it.” Haha. What’s empowering is actually doing research, and acting on that information. Which I’ve done.

        What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting different results!

        • marxmarvelous

          You don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s just as baseless an assumption as those who say being vegan makes you skinny and weak. You’re simply making an accusation because it fits your argument. These myths ignore the wide variety of people out there who are vegan, including many successful athletes and bodybuilders.

          • Loba

            Alexandra1973 you might consider educating yourself before making public comments that show your ignorance on a topic. I would recommend that you watch the movie Forks Over Knives or do your on research about veganism. A plant based diet has actually been the foundation of recovery for numerous people with “obesity related” diseases such as diabetes (which skinny people get too). Cancer patients have also used a vegan diet with great success.

            As far as you comments about obesity I would suggest to you that your experience is your own and that not everyone shares your experience. I personally find people that are fat and thick to be far more attractive than skinny people. And I am not an obese person. I am not skinny either and I am good with that. I am a healthy weight according to my doctor and more importantly myself.

            My biggest feedback for you is to NOT BASH OTHERS FOR CHOOSING TO LOVE THEMSELVES! There is enough bullying, hate, and self-loathing in the world we do NOT need more.

            Chelsea, I support you whole heartedly for loving yourself. I need people in my life and this world needs people that love themselves. I have heard it said, and experienced it for myself, that you can’t give love away to another until you give it to yourself. Thank you for doing just that.

        • Elizabet TresCosas

          Whoa. Lady, you need to learn to curb the hate; it might improve your life. You might also do some research on veganism. It’s an extremely healthy way of eating, but I don’t see what it has to do with you leaving such rude and malice-filled comments on such a personal and heartfelt blog post. Why not try having some compassion with people—your family. That person that broke your toilet probably felt pretty terrible about it and instead of your nasty reaction why not try to treat them with some kindness?

          Sure, they may change their diet and lose bunch of weight and that’s great. Or they could be like me. I changed my diet 7 years ago. I totally cleaned it up, continued to exercise and feel great! And I’m still considered overweight; it’s just how my body does things. Back in ancient times, maybe I would have survived a harsh and lean winter because of extra fat. We come in all shapes and sizes but more importantly we need to not make people feel less than human for not fitting in a mold.

          I wonder if you life is very good or has much happiness and acceptance in it. It doesn’t seem so from what I have seen you write. I feel, in all honesty, sorry for you.

          • Alexandra1973

            It’s not hate. I guess having a differing opinion is called “hate” nowadays, is it?

            And I am working on myself, RoBo.

            BTW I never got on said relative for breaking my toilet, guess you didn’t know *that* part. We just shrugged and bought a new seat, is all.

            I just don’t like when people expect special treatment for something that *can* be helped.

          • Liene Verzemnieks

            I have a bigger problem with average-sized people who are woefully unhealthy than fat folks who rock the athletics and nutrition.

            Conversations about size so often devolve into a nutty “fat people are always incapable of moving” tirade, and while I know that is the case for some people — and while I also know this is going to sound super-cheesy — you cannot tell what’s inside just by looking. As tempting as it is.

            What do we have to lose by focusing on physical ability over size, anyway?

          • Elizabet TresCosas

            I retract the word ‘hate’ and will identify it more appropriately: uninformed, judgmental, rude and mean-spirited.

            Shame on you.

        • Ro.Bo.

          You know what, I’m loosing weight too. I’m also vegan. I also love myself as I am now, as I was, and as I will be. I’m also going into this with eyes open. You know what I don’t do? Talk sh*t to people who I do not know and whom I know nothing about. You’re not coming off as superior, you’re coming off as someone who hates themself so much the only way you can make yourself feel better is by pushing other people down, instead of pulling yourself up. I’d feel sorry for you, if you weren’t such a vile person. Leave other people alone and work on yourself.

          • Elizabet TresCosas

            Excellently put.

  • Liene Verzemnieks

    You’re an inspiring woman, and I love that you speak to the truth you’ve found — that fitness and a healthy mindful diet are available to just about everyone, and that we can’t know someone’s inner health just by looking at them (I have known plenty of people with “athletic” bodies who ate pretty crappily and never intentionally exercised — heck, I was like that when I was younger).

    You’ve honestly done a lot to change my personal perception of rad fat ladies. You physically kick a lot of butt (people think I’m a crazy cyclist, but you bike a LOT more miles than me!), and it’s clear.

    The joy and hope you radiate never fail to make me smile. And also the pictures of birds you meet, regardless of their size. :)

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