combatting fatphobia

I wish my new partner wasn’t overweight. How do I combat my fatphobia?

Anonymous asks:

Do you have any advice or resources to help me further combat my fatphobia in the context of a new relationship? I want to ‘get over’ the (most-subconscious) thoughts and feelings about my partner being a bit overweight that might undermine the success of our unfolding relationship.

I’m super attracted to him in lots of ways and the chemistry has been good. I feel sexy around him, we flirt and laugh, there’s comfortable and honest communication, I’ve been fantasizing about him, etc.

The issue at hand: I have found myself wishing that he wasn’t overweight. He’s hot and I am falling for him and I want to fully accept him as he is, not with some shitty, judge-y hope that he’ll lose some weight in the near future. I’m trying to be curious about where my fatphobic shaming crap comes from and how I can shift my attitudes. I reeaaaallly don’t want to have negative perceptions about his body size/shape.

I think I’m wanting to control my attraction to him (force myself to find his body unconditionally attractive instead of seeing how I feel as we explore our bodies) because it feels like high stakes. I really want this person to be my person for the rest of my life and I’m anxious for everything to be compatible. I guess I’m questioning  how much should I trust my natural attraction ‘meter/calculator’ (which ultimately might not perceive his fat naked body as attractive) vs challenge this assessment knowing it’s biased and based on social/gender constructs.

Anonymous,

Thank you for your courage in asking this question and being willing to do the work around your fatphobia. Awareness and reaching out are great first steps.

Now that you’ve identified this as a problem, you can start to shift your attitude.

First, remember that no two people are absolutely compatible. Successful relationships don’t require you to love every single thing about your partner all the time. Yes you should know your core values and deal breakers, but beyond that, there is room for negotiation, growth, and change.

Secondly, remember that you aren’t entitled to a partner whose body looks a certain way. Everyone deserves someone who sees them as desirable and loveable, not someone with a specific body, or anything else. If you can’t get past this, consider that this might not be the right relationship for you right now as you continue to work on your fatphobia.  

Thirdly, you already are challenging your fatphobia. This is the work! Asking questions, reaching out, researching. To that end, here are a few additional steps you might want to consider.

Change your thoughts to change your mind

Now that you’re aware of your thoughts, start to shift them. You can do this mentally, but I recommend starting by writing them down for at least a few weeks. Keep a small notebook with you at all times, and whenever you have a fatphobic or body shaming thought, write it down. Next to it, write a subtle shift to that thought. You aren’t looking to jump from hate to love here. “I wish he wasn’t overweight” becomes “He has a body.” Once the new thought becomes the norm, you can level up. In this case, “I like his body.”

Write it out

Sarah Thompson, a coach, consultant, and writer focused on body liberation, fat liberation, and body positivity, encourages you to ask questions and write without reserve. She notes:

We all have implicit biases even if they may not align with our conscious beliefs. We also tend to favor the group that we share an identity with. So, thin people tend to favor thin people, tall people typically favor tall people, etc. We do not know that we are being affected by our implicit bias which makes it really challenging to change. Especially when our biases go against what we consciously say we believe.

Change is possible though. Our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs are changeable which is why expressive writing prompts are so useful.

Asking ourselves questions and writing without reserve can help us uncover what is not yet in our awareness.

Use the prompts in  this blog post to challenge and navigate your fatphobia and weight bias.

Forgive yourself for your false beliefs about fatness

Once you’re aware of your beliefs, use this meditation to let go of and forgive yourself for these misunderstandings. It’s a fabulous tool for releasing implicit bias and working through shame and shoulds.

Explore whether you’re using his weight as a scapegoat for another issue

It’s easy—and socially acceptable–to use weight as the reason to avoid a relationship. Is there something else that you aren’t happy with? Is there a deeper issue, unrelated to weight, that you’re trying to avoid or ignore? Is there something in you that you dislike or is going unexpressed or unwitnessed?

Rebecca Scritchfield RDN, EP-C, author of Body Kindness, notes that fatphobia can be reflective of your own struggles of self-esteem and self-worth. She sees this often with her clients. Which leads to…

Think you’re combatting fatphobia? Work with someone

If you don’t already have a therapist or coach, this could be a good time to get one. In addition to exploring these topics in a safe space, they can provide feedback, adjust your expectations, help you communicate effectively with this new partner, and help you set up this relationship to succeed. In this case, that involves doing the work to unravel your fatphobia and whatever is underneath it, whether that’s negative self-image or something else in him that you might need to address.

Reorient your pleasure map

I love that you’re fantasizing about him! Here are some ideas to take that one step further.

JH recommended you concentrate on your other senses. They wrote:

Fat people feel wonderful, cushiony and soft and billowy. Also, do some self-examination on your desire for partner-based status: many people (consciously or unconsciously) feel that they may be judged for their connection to a fat partner.

Meanwhile, Sex Nerd Sandra recommends checking out Jack Morin’s The Erotic Mind for “skill development around mining fantasies for specific turn-ons.”

Books like Curvy Girl Sex  and this Scarleteen article provide oodles of ideas to make sex enjoyable.

Change what you see

Fill your feeds with fat-affirming, healthy at every size, and anti-diet media. And not just those who are acceptably fat (aka hourglass shape) or who preach #bodiposi but are straight sizes. Find people who challenge your idea of health and beauty. Add them on your social platforms. Read their books and blogs. Subscribe to their Patreons. When you see this media, look at them, find beauty, and speak it: “s/he/they are beautiful.”  

I’ve sprinkled resources throughout this article, but here are some additional faves.

On Instagram:  Adipositivity, Sassy Latte, Sonya Renee Taylor, and Glitter & Lazers

Blogs: Chubstr and Melissa Toler

Podcasts: Fat Chicks on Top, Fearless Rebelle Radio, and Food Psych

Books: The Body is Not an Apology, Big Big Love, and The Fat Studies Reader

I also highly recommend checking out my friend Dawn’s Explore More Bodies Summit and the associated Resource List with a ton more suggestions.

Keep it up

My friend and colleague, Dawn, says in this episode of her podcast, Sex Gets Real:  “It takes active, ongoing, constant work to confront fatphobia.” Each day you may feel like you aren’t making progress, but if you take the long view, you’ll see how you’ve let go of many harmful beliefs.

Kait xo

Have a question for Kait about sex and/or intimacy? Shoot her an email with your question at askkait@cora.life. 

Featured image by Lucaxx Freire
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