For as long as my age began with a two, I was on the lower edge of normal weight on the scale. But since I turned 30, my weight has been steadily rising every year. I’m unhappy with that and the way I look.
As a sociologist, I’ve been wondering why that is, since I don’t care about the first wrinkles I’ve got, either. Why are kilos different? One could think that they are also a part of life.
The pressure to have a skinnier body comes from society, of course, but another big reason is my family background. Looking back as an adult, I’ve realized that my dad had an eating disorder. It took its toll on the whole family. We had these conversations at the dining table about how much each of us had eaten during the day and how much we were eating now.
My dad would also judge my mom’s weight in an unpleasant way. It feels especially bad because I look a lot like mom these days.
It’s only in recent years that I’ve had to get face to face with this issue. I notice myself asking my partner what he’s eaten during the day, and make a remark like “there must have been quite a few calories in that sauce”. It’s horrible behavior of course, and I’m trying to quit doing it. But it comes from somewhere inside me.
At the point when I started gaining more weight, I spent a lot of energy on observing other people’s reactions. Is that person looking at my waist? Are they going to say something? I feared that people would consider me lazy and sloppy because of my weight – an inferior woman, citizen, and human. Rationally, I know that’s not the case. But on an emotional level it affects me.
In spite of that and because of that I try not to start dieting. I feel like it would be giving in to the existing norms. I don’t want to shoot for some ideal image, I want to learn to like what I see in the mirror.
Being unhappy with my looks is a double-edged sword in a way. On top of being dissatisfied with my weight, I scold myself for being dissatisfied. Like why do I fail even at accepting myself?
I think the fat activism that’s arrived in Finland in recent years is a good thing. If norms shift even just a little, that’s great. Still, I’ve felt sad following the discussion on it. I mean about how the opponents of fat activism always bring up health. Even though being fat clearly threatens some norm in our society, they won’t say it, instead hiding behind the health shield. Anyone who’s ever gotten familiar with discourse analysis can see how thin their arguments are.
Appearance also has more and more to do with class division. Perhaps people don’t fully see it in Finland yet, but on my recent summer vacation trip to the US it was already evident. And often their norms come here after some time.