Seattle-based writer Lindy West writes a lot about culture and feminism. She’s called out comedians for telling rape jokes. She’s shouted her abortion and she’s faced down many, many internet trolls. She’s written and thought a lot about her body. She went from feeling ashamed of being heavy – she usually uses the term fat – to accepting who she is, without hesitation.
She writes about what led to this transformation in her new memoir. It’s called, "Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman." Early in the book, she writes, “The knowledge that I was too big made my life smaller and smaller.”
Her negative view began to shift when she started seeing photos of people who looked like her online.
“There was a big boom, I would say, in the mid 2000s ... of a lot of fat women starting to make spaces for themselves online, and ... the most revolutionary thing to me — just women my age, some my size, some bigger and some smaller — just positing photos of themselves wearing clothes and being being happy and living lives — living complex, enriching, fulfilling lives,” said West.
Until this point, West had never thought this way. She says she had always viewed herself as a work in progress, as a before picture, as a broken thin person who had failed.
“When I started to see people whose bodies looked like mine, bodies presented in a normal way, that really, really, changed my perspective of myself,” she said.
One part of the journey of self acceptance for West was not being afraid to eat food in public. West says when you are large, eating in public can make you a target of unwelcome glances. She says if you are fat, you’ve probably had the experience of complete strangers walking up to you to tell you that what you are eating is not healthy, “as though it’s any of their business!” says West.
“This is what I hear most from almost anyone who writes to me,” West continues. “They say, ‘I haven’t ordered anything but a salad from a restaurant in 10 years.’ I mean, what a way to live. Food is so important to culture and family and celebration. Food is so politicized and I think it’s really important to de-couple it from politics and shame,” she said.
West is on a mission to get the message out that being fat is not inherently shameful.
“You can’t take good care of a thing that you hate. So, if you really care about people's health, you should want them to, if not love, at least accept their bodies as they are,” she said.