Monday, May 11, 2009

Self-loathing coated in butter.

How do you solve a problem like Kirstie Alley? She’s on the cover of People magazine this week, decrying the horror that is...well, her. Of course, she’s a horrible, disgusting human being because she’s “fallen off the wagon” and has gained 83 pounds as a result of de-Jenny Craigging herself in 2007. She’s at the shriek-inducing number of 228 pounds, which I haven’t seen myself since I was in high school, and so, like a good self-loathing fattie, she’s publicly deriding herself on a major magazine cover and on Oprah for being 58 years old and not looking like she did or weighing what she did when she was on “Cheers”...OVER 20 YEARS AGO.



There are comments on the article – I’d advise avoiding them, as it’s mostly the usual song and dance of “calories in/calories out”, “there’s no way she’s only 228 lbs, she must be 350 lbs.”, “embrace your size – but lose weight anyway!” and “it’s a lifestyle change!!!!” I swear to Christ, if there’s any cliche’d phrase I’d like to torpedo, it’s “IT’S A LIFESTYLE CHAAAAANGE!!!!” Say it in a really high-pitched voice to amp up the annoying factor. But at the same time, it’s an interesting microcosm of the hamster wheel so many people are stuck on. “I lost weight, it came back, and I lost weight, and it came back, and it lost weight, and it came back” is a common refrain among the commenters, but dammit, they are determined that this one last time, just this one...last...time, it is going to stick and stick hard and they are going to be the perfectest version of themselves that they know is hiding inside of them--! Oh, and the usual “I need to be around to see my grandchildren” gets dropped that I can so easily envision being said in a wobbly yet summoning up strength they had not known they had with tears dancing in their eyes sort of voice. This fat ain’t gonna lick me! No sir! I’m gonna spend my days counting my calories/points/eating my frozen NutriSystem meals/endlessly fretting about what I put in my mouth and one day, I’ll find me a man who loves me and get a real nice job in the big city and everything’ll be a-okay ‘cause I’ll be skinny and pretty and good!

Sorry – flight of fancy that probably should have stayed in my head. Though I do tend to have internal dialogues that wind up sounding like 40s melodramas. I’m not sure I have a point, exactly (and when do I, really), but when I read all of this horseshit I wish I had a scream as loud as an air raid siren so I could grab people’s attention but good and tell them that hating themselves is not going to be the magical key to weight loss and perfect health. Self-loathing is not a fucking character-builder. It doesn’t make you stronger. It doesn’t make you better. It’s just an ever-deepening, creepy-ass trap; a trap that is a huge moneymaker for corporations that do not have and never will have good intentions. You’re not disgusting. You’re not freakish. You’re not ugly. And you’re never going to be perfect. And holy shit, that is so okay.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, like no fat lady has ever survived to be a grandmother. There are no fat grandmas. Puh-lease....

Ms. Heathen said...

228...I remember 228. I could still shop in "plus size" departments. Kirstie is going on and on about how hyuuuge and disgusting she is, and all I can think about is how much clothing I could buy and wear if I were still her size. Or how much awesome fatshion I could buy now if I had her money.

I alternate between wanting to hug her and wanting to slap her.

living400lbs said...

I think the last time I was near 228 I was in high school and doing the "I Love NY Diet". Went from 260 to nearly 220 before I started regaining.

Ms Heathen, I hear you on the "plus size". I ranged between 260 and 280 in college and mostly wore size 24s. Not now!

Anonymous said...

I have a question that I've been wondering for awhile- I see on a lot of the message boards of FA sites references to "when I was 225" or "I haven't seen the lower end of 300 since I was 25" etc. But doesn't this contradict the idea of set point theory? The idea that "this is just how my body is supposed to look/weigh/be". If that's so, why do I see so many reference to women commenting about when they were 50,75,100 pounds lighter? Was this due to excessive dieting? I'm just a little genuinely confused as to how to reconcile these two things- fat acceptance, natural shape, etc., with how many comments I've seen of people mentioning gaining a lot of weight on top of the weight they already had? If that makes sense? Also, that People cover made me sad- especially when she said she didn't know how disgusting she was until she weighed herself :( Horrible message!

C. Edwards said...

The grandchildren comment always annoys me. I'm 33, my mom's 50-something, my grandmother's 70 and change. I have 4 nieces and nephews and my great-grandfather died in 2006 at above 90 (and not happy to have lasted so long.) MY grandmother takes one nephew and one niece for two summer months each year -- on a working farm in the rural midwest. (The others are babies.) Yes -- a GREAT-Grandmother, willing, able and eager to look after 2 elementary school kids on a FARM. (Which aren't real safety certified for helicopter parents...) I, at 170 and 5'2", am the shortest and smallest of mom, sisters, grandmother (in part, no kids, in part, I live in an urban area and don't drive... emulating the migrant ancestors, I guess.) We're all healthy, active and we would be delighted to tell Kirsty to just suck it up and cash out of the limelight.

Maybe that's as much an addiction as we supposed fatties are addicted to food... She probably does have an unhealthy relationship with food, but it doesn't have to do with her weight -- it has to do with her brain and the fact that she's willing to deny something her body clearly needs. (Anybody else notice she's far more articulate, if more self-loathing, when she's getting enough to keep her brain fed?)

Anastasia said...

my grandma is fat!

glorious-spoon said...

Hey...I just found a link to your blog from Shapely Prose, and I just wanted to say...you know, I'm tall and thin and built about as close to the fucked up American ideal as you can get without Photoshop, and you know what? My life still isn't perfect. I still don't love my job. I don't vacation in Tahiti. I have relationship problems. It's so hard to read those 'my life will be PERFECT when I'm thin' comments because it won't. Some things are easier, I'm sure. Clothes are easier to find and random strangers aren't as mean, but the only thing you change with a diet is what you weigh (and often not even that).

I just wish there was some way for people to realize that they don't have to hate themselves for what the scale says. You can be a happy, healthy fat person and you can be a miserable unhealthy thin person. The lines just aren't that easy to draw.

wellroundedtype2 said...

Awesome post!
I have been grappling with the self-hate myself, but I have sufficient perspective to understand that it's not that I'm horrible, I just feel that way. If fatness were a valid reason to bathe in self-hatred, why would any not-fat women hate themselves?
A side note: I am going to need to blog about it but I was noticing, when reading a story about it to my daughter, that Cruella de Ville is very slender. As stereotypical as that representation is -- she wanted to kill puppies to make a coat. That's a good reason to hate yourself in my book, if you act on your desire to puppy-nap and slaughter 101 puppies to make a coat. (I eat meat so there may be some hypocracy on my part).
But it was a relief that Cruella wasn't represented as fat. (although if she had been, I suppose more puppies might have been required).

Sean said...

I'd love to be 228. I think she's lost her mind to want to get down to 148, much less 128, at 5' 8".

And looking at her picture, why does she say she's disgusting? Yes, she's heavy. But her curves can be played up to voluptuous, and she continues to have a truly lovely face (at 58! even if it's a face lift she's beautiful). Honestly, I think if she'd put on a decent bra and a dress that flatters curves, there wouldn't be any "schlumpy" in that photo at all.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Reading that article made me cringe - I remember hating myself that much, and it was pure torture. I can't imagine going back to feeling that way, and am so glad that I don't have to. Awesome post, thank you.

WickedOne said...

When are people going to freaking get that not everyone is meant to be skinny skinny thin and that it's OKAY?!?!?! I diet, I lose weight, I gain it back, I diet, I lose weight, I gain it back. And the lightbulb never goes on?

Nia said...

So true. Because what I don't see anyone mention, in blogs or in comments, fat-friendly or health-related or anywhere at all, is a message like "I lost 50 pounds and I still had the same job. People liked me more or less the same as they used to. I wasn't happier and no one gave me a prize. The only change was that now there were more clothes available to me."

It was such a surprise to me when, for health reasons, my weight went down that magical "five pounds and you'd be perfect". And guess what? Nothing happened. Nothing at all.

catatonickid said...

and holy shit, great post.

you know it's funny, the only times i've gained weight when i was trying to lose it were when i hated myself... funny that ;)

i think maybe there's a rule that the more forcefully you pour pure vitriolic hatred into your mind, the harder you're going to find it to be in the least bit balanced/comfortable on any level.

surely self-loathing has vastly more wide-ranging general ill effects on health than fat?

Beth said...

"a trap that is a huge moneymaker for corporations that do not have and never will have good intentions."

That's my favorite line. I just realized that I'm constantly told, by the media/advertisers, that I'm not good enough so that I will make them more money.

It ain't about me. It's about them getting more money from me.

And they WANT me to hate myself so that I'll buy more stuff in the attempt to make myself better. But I'll never be good enough so that they will stop telling me how much I suck. Because they still need me to buy, buy, buy.

Great post. After I read the article in people I had the same reaction but you worded it SO much better!!

azusmom said...

What's really scary is that she has kids. Including, I believe, a daughter. That girl is looking at a lifetime of disordered eating, self-loathing and self-abuse. I'm sure that's not what Ms. Alley intends for her kids, but it will be the result, regardless.

Anonymous said...

Aren't grandmas supposed to be fat? Isn't that the last bastion of acceptable fatness?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the very thought-provoking post. I think that Kirstie Alley reflects exactly what millions of women go through in our society. I've certainly gone through it myself (including the yo-yo weights). Sadly, my bottom-line conclusion is that it is nearly impossible to feel equally good about the fat version of yourself (whatever fat means to you -- 180, 220, etc.), compared to the thin version (again, whatever thin means to you). It may be possible to get there, but unfortunately I haven't done so yet. And I'm in my 40s and have done a heck of a lot of work trying. I don't hate myself when I'm fat, I have a husband, I have friends, I have a professional life. And being thin doesn't solve all my problems. But the bottom line is that I just feel better -- psychologically and physically -- when I am at a thinner weight. Moreover, I think is truly unrealistic for us to expect the mindset of society to change (at least in our lifetimes) to judge fat people as equally "good" or "acceptable" as thin people. We can complain that societal perceptions are unfair, should be changed, ignore them, and/or work to change them. But the reality is that the change is not going to happen. It's really hard to live life when you are judged as "less than" other people.

That leaves the fat person with (at least) three options: (1) to continue to struggle to try to achieve a "normal" weight (problem: weight maintenance is very hard and may be impossible), (2) to try to accept herself as being fat (problem: it's hard to live in a society that looks down on you, and it's hard to check out); or (3) to feel depressed and miserable and self-hating and paralyzed (problem: awful way to live one's life). Of these options, No. 3 is clearly the worst. Anyway, no real insight here, just some reflections.

windy city girl said...

Thank you for this blog. I have been trying to articulate why I've found Kirstie Alley's mea culpa tour so loathsome. You nailed it. What does she have to apologize for? It's enough to drive a person batty.

Fat Chick said...

You know, for the most part I'm a straight gal. But I have to tell you, seeing Oprah and Kirstie together.... Personally, I find them both GORGEOUS as fatties, and I'm glad they gained the weight. Questioning your sexuality can be fun, kids!

I only wish they - and the rest of the world - could see how beautiful they are all curvy and delish.

oreowriter said...

I think the real problem with self loathing is loathing the self loathing. We all have a little bit of it. Whether it's about something tangible like our weight or race, or about behavior patterns we just can't seem to change, most of us probably wish we were a bit different than we are.

I say take it on the chin and celebrate that which disappoints us about ourselves.

Jane said...

Anon @ 8:21 p.m. wrote:

I have a question that I've been wondering for awhile- I see on a lot of the message boards of FA sites references to "when I was 225" or "I haven't seen the lower end of 300 since I was 25" etc. But doesn't this contradict the idea of set point theory? The idea that "this is just how my body is supposed to look/weigh/be". If that's so, why do I see so many reference to women commenting about when they were 50,75,100 pounds lighter? Was this due to excessive dieting? I'm just a little genuinely confused as to how to reconcile these two things- fat acceptance, natural shape, etc., with how many comments I've seen of people mentioning gaining a lot of weight on top of the weight they already had?Anon, I think a lot of us - well, at the very least, I do - tend to make comments like that to illustrate just what kind of toll dieting throughout our years has taken. Dieting just jacks the holy hell out of your body and your set point. I was never going to be thin - the Nolan DNA guarantees that. But my set point would probably be different than it is now had I not wound up going down several trillion (it feels like) diety roads.

Arwen said...

Chiming in for Anon - Dieting makes those in my family (portly to begin with), much fatter. At least 10 pounds each.

But set point doesn't mean you lock in at 18 and you're done. Human animals (even thin ones) generally gain some weight in their 30s and lose some in their 60s, although these things are easily messed with.

Medications, hormones, illnesses, and pregnancy all can change a person's set point.

And dieting, man. Dieting fucks me to the wall, and like most kids in this society, I was introduced to dieting first at 10. I've spent 16 of 34 years on diets.
Each diet puts at least 5 and usually 10 on me, often without me going off the diet.

I had to stop dieting.

So I remember lots of sizes.

jessikanesis said...

Seriously... Kirstie (and yes I know she won't see this), I'm 148, your "goal weight," right now, and guess what? I still hate my body. I don't consider myself perfect, gorgeous, or even thin, actually. People still make comments, or assume that I'm on a diet, or try to give me "tips" on how to be "healthier," even though I am more physically fit now than I have ever been in my adult life (yet, incidentally, heavier).
The number has nothing to do with it. You and I could both weigh 110 and we still wouldn't be caught dead at South Beach in bikinis. Because we're insecure. But at least I'm not rediculous enough to think that my insecurities are valid.

Lazy Daisy said...

Bless her heart. Kirsty is employing the oldest fat kid/lady/guy trick in the book: "I have to go on and on about how disgusting I am before someone else does. Otherwise they'll think I'm disgusting, lazy AND stupid - for not seeing how disgusting I am."

Because there's nothing more offensive than someone who dares to be fat, doesn't hate him/herself and refuses to diet. We just can't have that.

And just think, we have another public outburst of self-loathing to look forward to from her J. Craig comrade Ms. Bertinelli in a couple of years when she "fails."

So awful. So unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

"The only thing you change with a diet is what you weigh (and often not even that)." Brilliant, Glorious-spoon! That belongs on a t-shirt.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the answers ladies- that makes a lot of sense :)

Dianae said...

What a breath of fresh air this column is! Owning up to who we are is the first step away from self loathing. Thanks for helping to clean the steam off the mirror.

Brady said...

I was directed here through loaf (10 foot)...and I have to say I love your writing about self-loathing. It can be hard to be constantly shaking the system just by living happily without its judgment. It can be hard to feel the consequences. It is wonderful to feel that there are other people out there.

Thank you.

Interrobang said...

I don't diet; I lift weights instead. That endorphin rush does wonders for one's organic depression. The down side of course is all these reactionary people who say, "Oh! You'll get muscles!" like that's a bad thing or something. (Where did this come out of hiding from again; I thought the "good girls don't have muscles" attitude was as dead as cylinder phonograph records!)

The moral of the story is, under patriarchy, if you are a female and own a female body -- heads, tails, edge-on...you lose.

Vanessa said...

I just saw an excerpt of this post linked to at 24 Free Dinners, and I had to come read the rest of the post. I have been annoyed with the whole Oprah/Kirstie mentality for awhile. I'm pretty sure I mentioned it on my own blog briefly. I hate that they feel the need to go around apologizing for gaining weight like it's some kind of crime to be big. Honestly, they say things about how when they were thin they were inspirational to other women who wanted to lose weight, too. You know what would be more inspirational, you two? If you went on TV and said you gained the weight back and IT'S OKAY.

Same old song and dance, I know, but a few years ago I lost about 30 pounds-- size 4 jeans and everything. I was never satisfied then, and now that I've gained all that weight back, I wish I'd appreciated it. But I've also realized it's such a waste to hate on myself. Being healthy is important, but that doesn't mean being thin at the expensive of my sanity. I like cheesecake.

The thing is, nowadays I feel more attractive than I ever did when I was a size 4. The boyfriend I have no adores me exactly how I am, unlike that ex who (when I was that size 4) would grab my lovehandles and suggest we go running. It's not as if I don't feel gross some days, but I'm truly on the way to loving me no matter what my body looks like. If Kirstie and Oprah want to be role models, they should consider THAT kind of attitude.

ArwenIvy said...

Also, let's remember that Ms. Allen is a Scientologist, so it's not as if her critical thinking faculties are that sophisticated. And she was always so smug in those Jenny Craig ads. Self-loathing and smug...two sides of the same coin? Hmmm...

Anyway, I found a link to your blog from Daddy Likey, and I want to say that I am 4'11" and 86 lbs (due to a high metabolism and genetics), and it's just as impossible to find clothes that fit when one is tiny. I hoard clothes like a fiend when I can find them, because when you don't fill anything out and clothes hang off you, that's not too flattering. And being skinny does NOT solve all your problems, clothing-wise or otherwise.

So I agree with the poster who said she was thin but stated, "My life still isn't perfect. I still don't love my job. I don't vacation in Tahiti. I have relationship problems. It's so hard to read those 'my life will be PERFECT when I'm thin' comments because it won't."

I've considered myself unattractive all my life, for having a big nose and skinny legs and a flat chest and general awkwardness. Guys wanted nothing to do with me, and I thought I was hideous because of it (although it was probably just the not-having-boobs-and/or-confidence thing that made most guys ignore me). So it's not about weight. It's about having a positive attitude toward yourself and developing yourself as a person.

If you focus on and play up what you like about yourself, you will like the way you look more, which will encourage you to do more for yourself in a positive way instead of a negative one. Instead of internalizing mean thoughts about yourself from without, you help yourself more by actually finding something that you like about yourself. I wish Kirstie Alley would figure that out.