Really. The truth is, if I hadn’t had 80 percent of my stomach removed almost three years ago, I still would be eating myself slowly to death.
I have arthritic hips. Hips that, upon close, internal inspection via MRI (or maybe it was a CT scan. I don’t know. Something that took pictures of the insides of my hips.) look like they belong to a much older woman.
Cancer runs in my family. Strongly. Both of my parents and all of my grandparents either did from it, except my dad who is a cancer survivor. Weighing nearly 400 pounds increased my already increased chance of cancer and made it nearly impossible for me to get good screenings for the type of cancer I’m most genetically prone to: breast cancer.
I’ve never had diabetes or heart disease or high cholesterol — but I hurt. All the time. And I couldn’t do everything I wanted to. I sat out on all kinds of things I desperately wanted to do, because I physically couldn’t do them.
I had to find a way to feel better, and it wasn’t coming from the multitude of efforts to lose weight I’d tried since about age eight.
Yeah. Body acceptance saved me. Thanks to the body acceptance community, and finding a place in it, I learned about . . .
- Not being ashamed to take up the exact amount of space my body needs at any given moment.
- Not apologizing for my body. Ever. To anyone.
- Being able to look in the mirror and really see me, exactly how I am. Not grotesque. Not disgusting. Just a human being, like any other human being.
- Forgiving myself for all of the self-hate I dumped on my body over the last forty years or so.
- Learning to live where I am now. Not where I think I should be. Not where I used to be. Not where I would be if I wasn’t such a gluttonous asshole who can’t control her eating. Not the athlete I was when I was a kid. Not the lonely single-mother I was when I was in the my 20s. Just me. Right now.
And, strange as it sounds, learning to accept my body led directly to drastic steps to feel better and regain mobility I was losing by the day. There is a direct line between my experience in the body acceptance community — and my weight loss surgery.
Because learning to accept my body was a direct path to wanting my body to feel good and live a long time. When I got to a point where I couldn’t deny that my weight was severely affecting my life — I couldn’t breathe and sleep at the same time, my mobility was declining — accepting my body meant getting it some help.
The fact is, it’s hard to love a fat body. Anyone who says anything different is lying. It can be done, but nearly anyone who is fat and loves their body has had to work hard to get there.
Hell. It’s hard to love your body, no matter what it looks like. For whatever reason, Western civilization has evolved in a way that’s made it so that hardly anyone is really satisfied with their body at any given moment.
In retrospect, when I was a teenage athlete my body was a goddamned miracle of nature. But when I was a teenage athlete, I felt like a 5'9", 150 pound Goodyear Blimp. Everything was wrong. My hips were too narrow, my waist was too thick. I had this weird handful of fat on my lower stomach that wouldn’t go away, no matter what I did. My neck was too short. My hair was too weird. My arms were somehow attached backward at conception or something — so my hands face backward like a gorilla’s.
Body Acceptance, for me, started with getting to a place where I could believe that my body was a goddamned miracle of nature — right now, this minute, exactly how it is, TODAY. And then doing the things I needed to do to treat it as such.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nationand the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.