You Don’t Have To Love Your Body To Love Your Life

My physical appearance isn’t so important to me that I can’t be happy in spite of it.

I’m fat.

The kind of fat I am depends on what side of fat you’re looking at me from. If you’re a thin person, I probably seem very fat. If you’re a very fat person, I might seem average to you. To me, I am fat. I am in a fat body that is not particularly comfortable to live in.

I am also happy. Not with my body, but with my life.

I’ve been all different types of fat — and thin, too. I’ve been bigger than I am now. I’ve been smaller than I was in high school. I’ve been everything in between.

Right now I am fat; I don’t love it. In fact, I don’t like it at all.

Because I know what it feels like to be smaller (and larger), I know that my body feels better smaller. I appreciate the wider range of motion I have when I’m smaller than I am now. I know that smaller me has less foot/ankle pain. I remember what it’s like to get up and down off the floor as a smaller person; I remember that it’s easier.

And I like that.

If you’re a thin person who has always been thin (or you’re a formerly fat person who worked your ass off to be thin), you’re probably thinking something like “if you’re more comfortable smaller, why not work hard to be smaller?” Eat less. Move more. Etc. Etc.

If you’re a fat person, you might be thinking “me, too,” or alternatively, you might be thinking “there are ways to feel good without being smaller.”

You should know that you are both right. And also, I already know both of those things; I’ve done both of those things. I’ve chosen different paths to wellness with my body.

I have worked to lose weight in a safe and healthy way and been fulfilled and proud of that.

I have eaten cake with reckless abandon and not cared about the upward movement of the scale needle. (And I did watch it move.)

I have been obsessed with weight loss.

I’ve lived with, and recovered from, an eating disorder.

I’ve been miserably fat.

I’ve been miserably thin.

I’ve been neither fat nor thin nor miserable.

What I am now is the product of a lot of years of self-loathing, a few years of self-loving, and 43 years of being a human being.

What I am now is OK.

I am fat, fatter than I’d like to be. And I am not choosing to make changes to lose any weight. I do not love the way I feel in my body right now, but I do love my life.

I do not think these things are mutually exclusive.

For most of my life, I have believed that I only needed to accomplish X to be fulfilled. X might be being thin or having money; it might mean being married or divorced, living in a home or traveling abroad. I have accomplished many of the X’s, and I have been proud of those accomplishments; I have been happy with those choices, but ultimately they have never made me happier in my life.

I believe now that you are about as happy as you make up your mind to be.

I read that somewhere, but I think, to a large degree, it’s true. There is a threshold past which you just can’t get happier. If you have food and clothing and your other basic needs met, the rest of the stuff isn’t paramount to your happiness; it’s just accouterment.

I thought that being thin was the answer to my happiness, but it wasn’t. It was the answer to some things — more attention, a wider range of clothing options, fewer sideways glances from my grandmother over the gravy boat — but there were many things being thin couldn’t fix.

The problem is we don’t know thinness is not the answer until we’ve seen it firsthand because everyone around us is telling us it’s the answer.

Because I have been thin, I know that If I were thinner, I would feel physically better but I would not be happier. Because I’ve already discovered first hand that all the ways I was unhappy had very little or nothing to do with my size, I know that my weight is almost irrelevant.

So I am choosing to stay fat.

My fat is not holding me hostage; I could change my body, but I don’t want to right now.

The reasons I am choosing not to make any changes are both simple and complicated.

I have plantar fasciitis, and I don’t feel like walking. Walking is an easy way to feel better in your body, but my foot hurts, therefore walking hurts. Yoga does not hurt, so I’m doing that. Walking might result in weight change, but I’m not really thinking about that right now. Instead, I’m focused on healing my foot.

I love to bake, and the holidays were the time of year for it. It was not the time of year to feel guilty about the excess sugar I will inevitably be eating. If I start thinking hard about what I’m eating, I will definitely conclude that I am eating too much sugar. I don’t want to spend the holidays thinking about that and then feeling like shit about it. It’s a somewhat naive approach to wellness, I am aware, but it’s also a conscious choice I am making which makes it less naive and more calculated.

My health is overall excellent.

There are no pressing physiological issues. My blood pressure is great; my cholesterol is fine. It’s been awhile since I had my thyroid checked but I’m taking meds for that, and they seem to still be working. I have no compelling health risks motivating me to change my body.

My mental health is stable. I am med compliant and have been that way for at least a couple of years. I haven’t had a suicidal ideation in over a year (18 months next month). I know that making any dramatic changes to my diet/exercise has a potential to throw me headlong into a black hole of OCD (even with lots of Zoloft).

I’m focused on my root health. I’ve been working with Carrie on Ayurveda for a couple of months now. I’m working on healing my body from the inside, using a combination of spiritual, mental, and physical changes.

I am not working on changing my physical body because ultimately my physical body, while important, is less important than all of the other things I’m working on. Working on being less fat would make me less fat, but I know from vast amounts of personal experience, being less fat is not a thing that will make me happier than I have the potential to be on any other day.

I’m not so fat that I’m physically miserable. I can still accomplish all of the things I’d like to: I can ride my bike, do yoga, chase my kids, run up and down a mountain and along the beach.

Any attempt at weight change, right now anyway, would be rooted in aesthetics.

The expectation for me to be aesthetically pleasing is one that I won’t surrender to, because being beautiful isn’t that important to me. It has historically been very important to me. But when I investigate the core drive behind wanting (or feeling the need) to be beautiful, it all really boils down to getting (and keeping) a man and/or the rest of the world thinking I’m pretty.

We have been taught to value pretty above all of the other things we can be and are: smart, funny, generous, compassionate, kind, caring.

But I am not young, and I am not a fool. I know two things:

1. Beauty is fleeting.

For all the work women (mostly) do to achieve and sustain our beauty, our bodies will remain in flux. The thing you make beautiful now will sag next year. I cannot prevent the varicose veins, the wrinkles, the stretch marks. I cannot stop the hands of time from becoming wrinkled. I will not waste my time trying.

2. The kind of people who care if I am beautiful are not the people I care to be around.

If my partner one day told me that he thought I wasn’t beautiful and therefore was no longer interested in me, I would have to tell my partner to get screwed. I don’t want to be with someone who values beauty above my intellect or my kindness. I’m not interested in that kind of relationship.

I am not super comfortable in my fat body right now, and I am not entirely pleased with how I look physically.

But I am comfortable enough to spend what limited amount of free time I do have doing other things that are more important to me than concerning myself with how many cookies I am eating or how many steps I am taking a day. My physical appearance isn’t so important to me that I can’t be happy in spite of it.

Someone emailed me recently and said she’d read something I wrote a few years ago about being fat. She wanted to know if I was still “fat and happy.” She wanted to know how to let go of the need to feel thin but also find joy. She wanted to know how I found peace in my body. I don’t email everyone back, but I emailed her back because I had something to say I thought she would find valuable and that I needed to hear, too.

The answer isn’t that I found peace in my body, it’s that I found peace in my life. Once I located that peace, I realized that the turmoil I felt around my body wasn’t stronger than the joy I found in everything else.

Joni Edelman is a body-positive intersectional feminist. BP Type II. Diet industry dropout. Wife. Mom of 5. Bibliophile. Cake aficionado. Editor In Chief @ Ravishly. Types 17 WPM.

This originally appeared on RavishlyFor more, check out I Wish I Had A MotherStop Saying ‘It Can Be Difficult’ And Tell The Truth About Parenting, and Why Didn’t Someone Remind Me How Hard The Toddler Years Are?