That famous fattie, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, has been slimmed down on the cover of Grazia magazine. Grazia is a UK tabloid and is now going through the typical tabloid day-in-life -- currently apologizing up and down for their tiny mistake to the media and the peoples. Sarcasm aside, it's clear that the tyranny of slim standards is nowhere near the end of its regime. And I bet you, most women (and some men) have some kind of a "fat" story to tell. I do.
It started when I was nine and lying on the bed looking at my legs. "I'm... fat?" I said to my friend testing the word and the concept but also worrying about my thighs. I just heard my (skinny) mother talking about having to lose weight earlier that day. "Then do some sit ups," my friend answered absentmindedly. So I was fat? I wanted to ask her more but I was too humiliated to speak. I pedaled my little legs in the air to do a "bicycle" which was the one of the few exercises I knew about. I hated the "bicycle" but I hated "fat" even more.
And then I was 13 and looking at my first glossy magazine where I was told that, being a girl, if by some miracle I wasn't exactly fat, I definitely had cellulite. The article compared it to the skin of an orange but not because it smelled like one, but because it was so ribbed, dimpled. And cellulite was a gateway condition to fat. There was no escaping it.
In the same magazine, a few issues later I read a story about a girl with an eating disorder and what she had done to achieve her ideal weight and how it almost killed her before she got better. I considered the sad story to be quite educational, actually, and soon found my own ways of keeping fatness at bay. I became a vegetarian. I consumed three food groups: green, pale green and dark green (I was not a very imaginative vegetarian). I added some excessive exercise, a sprinkle of bulimia on top and voilà -- I was desirably underweight!
Drunks can be charming and funny. Mentally ill can be mistaken for artistic, or, in turn, inspire art. Fat is fat. That's it. Overweight people are figures of fun. Fat guy falls, we laugh. Fat is uncool. "Sorry I didn't get on the plane, I got really drunk," sounds way better than "Sorry I didn't get on the plane, I had to pay for an extra seat."
I know, I know, there are plenty of Big Fat Beautiful and Fat and Proud groups out there. That's nice. But I recall exactly one magazine cover featuring a fat model (singer Beth Ditto on Love) and countless others featuring the skinny ones. The world is not exactly rushing to embrace the extra pounds.
In my late 20s and right before I got some help for my own struggle with the hidden "fat monster," I worked for a fitness magazine that built its empire on the notion that "fat" was evil and had to be eradicated. This magazine, still very much in existence, even comes up with an extremely popular annual issue called... Fat Loss. I joked that we should just call the issue Eating Disorder Special but that wasn't the catchiest name, plus I'm sure we weren't the only ones who deserved it. I contributed to causing the fat paranoia myself. I wrote, edited and read pages and pages that featured buggy-eyed fitness women who talked about how happy they were with their grueling workout routines and how awful pizza or chocolate was. They also talked a lot about "cheating" -- eating fat-causing foods, when they weren't supposed to -- and how guilty they've felt afterwards. It was the workouts and the sweating was what gave them the real joy! Packing their cooler with celery and broccoli! Doing 150 sit ups! Yes!
The truth is that these women (and others) are not happy. They may be thinner and but their entire lives revolve around denial, restrictions, guilt, and depression over failing... I know because although I never went that extreme, I'd been hiding my own fat monster behind heads of lettuce and had to appease it with Prozac and talk therapy. It's really freaking taxing to take care of it. Still, I suppose, I'd rather be sad than fat. I'd rather be drunk on a plane than fat. And so would you. And so would Kate Middleton, probably.
I've quit the magazine eventually but, of course, there's no escaping it, the "fat" struggle. It's everywhere. I'd once met a girl in rehab who was dying of her heroin addiction but insisted on being given Sweet'N'Low instead of sugar with her meals because she was worried about gaining weight. I know a woman who is 70 and truly beautiful with the bone structure of Katherine Hepburn, and who talks about being full after few bites, and who had voiced her concern for me when I wasn't losing my pregnancy weight fast enough (by the way, when I was pregnant, it was the only time when I ate french fries constantly without feeling as if I was committing some kind of a crime).
I know, I know, it's important to eat healthy and sometimes being fat has little to do with what you eat. But all I wish for is being able to just erase all the harmful lessons I learned from magazines and media... and I can't. I wish I could not think about food for one day without feeling some kind of angst. I don't think I'll ever get back the feeling of just enjoying what I eat and immersing myself in flavor, texture and smell. Because although the other British Kate, the model Kate Moss, famously had said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" she and I and you all know that, actually, nothing tastes as good as chocolate. And skinny often feels very sad.