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Sarah Thompson, founder of Resilient Fat Goddess, writes about body positivity, body liberation, and fat liberation at the intersections of gender, sexuality, and eating disorders. 

I Thought I Was Taking Back My Power

Every time I tried to lose weight, I thought I was taking back my power.


On an solo overnight trip to Seaside, Oregon, I documented my power. 

On an solo overnight trip to Seaside, Oregon, I documented my power. 

Every time I tried to lose weight, I thought I was taking back my power.

Every time I made a plan to make a lifestyle change, I thought I was taking back my power.

Every time I came up with a new exercise regimen, I thought I was taking back my power.

I really did think that each time would be different. I really thought that I would fall into the 5% of people that would be able to maintain significant weight loss long term. I wanted to be anyway. I did NOT want to accept that I was just your average person who couldn’t maintain weight loss over time.

Taking back my power meant that I would be able to have some control over my unruly body. Thank you, Dr. Roxane Gay, for this phrase. It meant that I would feel better about my body. It meant that I would be treated differently in the world. It meant I would be treated with respect. I wanted it to make me more dateable and loveable. I wanted to have a cute, little, sporty body like all the lesbians I admired on TV, in magazines, and in movies.

I wanted to stop being so invisible. I wanted to be known for something other being the biggest person in the room and having a great smile. I wanted to stop loathing my unruly body. I wanted to be free. I wanted control over how I ate, because of course this would control my body.

I, also, wanted to be healthy. Everywhere you look size is equated to health. I needed to be willing to do what it took to be healthy. I had to show I cared. I had to have power over my health. I wanted to be congratulated, appreciated, and praised for my dedication, hard work, and weight loss that undoubtedly improved health.

Do you know what taking back my power in these ways got me?

I experienced new levels demoralization and isolating shame with each attempt and subsequent failure. I developed an eating disorder.* I continued to gain weight every time I tried. The amount of weight I was able to lose became smaller and smaller. The amount of time that I could adhere to a diet, lifestyle change, or exercise regimen became shorter and shorter.

I continued to blame myself for not doing it right. 
For not cutting out enough food. 
For not cutting out the right type of food. 
For having terrible discipline. 
For having terrible willpower. 
For their being something wrong with my body for not being able to keep off weight. 
For not trusting my higher power enough. 
For not praying enough. 
For having something inherently wrong with myself.

I never gained power by trying to lose weight. Maybe I thought I did for whatever length of time I could keep the weight off for. Because it absolutely changed how I was treated in the world. I also think this type of control is often mistaken for power. Or at the very least a detrimental form of power.

I lost my humanity through trying to take back my power.

This process of conforming to the thin, white ideal through weight loss is assimilation to the default systemic dominant identity. It affects me as a fat, white woman, and can have an even greater impact on people of color, trans, queer, disabled, chronically ill, and/or neurodivergent folx. I am speaking to my experience here. I want to stay in my lane, and I need to acknowledge that this default to thin and white affects more than just fat, white, queer people like myself.

Assimilation is not power.

This is what I now know to be true. I will never feel the depth of my true power by trying to assimilate to thinness. Losing my humanity is not the path to true power.

Assimilation is not power.

*I think it's important to note I was already genetically at risk of developing an eating disorder. That combined with trauma and dieting created the perfect storm to develop one. If you aren’t aware, dieting and trauma are risk factors for developing an eating disorder. It's not only societal influences.


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