Fat and All That is a new weekly column by Editorial Director Mickey Boardman in which he discusses his lifelong battle with weight issues and society's views on overweight people. He'll discuss fat-shaming, body positivity and everything in-between, while also taking us on his current journey to get healthy and find the ideal weight for himself.
An old friend of mine organizes fashion conferences and a few years had a meeting with me to ask if I would moderate a panel on Redefining Beauty. He thought that someone from PAPER would be perfect because we celebrate beauty in all its diverse forms. He told me that he wanted to panel to celebrate all types of beauty, except obesity, because that's unhealthy.
The irony of the situation is that I myself am obese, as were two of the panelists including a model who's appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. So the message was we love all types of beauty except mine.
My friend who said that is a great guy and I honestly wasn't offended. It was a great anecdote to throw out to start the panel. It's an interesting time to be a fat person. When I was young fat was bad. Period. If you were fat you either didn't care about your appearance or you had no will power. Accepting yourself as fat was tantamount to surrendering to evil. Shaming an overweight person was considered an acceptable way to get them on the right track.
Starting from those dark days of my youth, so much progress has been made. It's the politically correct thing to do to include people of different sizes in media. We're told that confidence is beautiful and we can have that at any size. Plus-sized models appear regularly on the runways of New York Fashion Week (not so much in other fashion capitals).
And still it seems like sometimes fat people are the last group allowed to be the butt of jokes in the public forum. Let's take former NJ governor Chris Christie, who has been obese for his entire public life and was open about having lap band surgery to lose weight. When he was in office, anytime someone shared a news piece about the Governor on Facebook the comments invariably included a litany of fat jokes. I'm not a fan of Mr. Christie's, but nobody deserves to have their appearance made fun of so relentlessly. And yes, that even goes for Donald Trump. Considering what a rotten scumbag he is, do we really need to resort to talking about his obesity or his spray-tanned skin?
Even though we have a long way to go on this topic, it's incredible that we have voices supporting body positivity out there. But for myself I think it's getting older and wiser that's made me embrace myself at any size. As a teenager I thought my life was ruined because I was 5 or 10 pounds overweight. Looking at photos from those days, I was a waif! But I spent so many years not fully enjoying my life because I thought in order to really enjoy it, I needed to lose those 10 pounds. Now it's more like a hundred pounds, and it's the fact that I've had an amazing life that makes me know my size doesn't matter. I've had a great career. I've worked with amazing people and had outrageous adventures. I've had romances with some real dreamboats. In fact, I've had the most incredible romances of my life when I was at my fattest. And I'm not talking about chubby chasers (although those are always welcome!). Does that mean every muscle-bound speedo model on Instagram wants to date me? No. Does that mean I don't sometimes look at photos of myself and obsess over the size and quantity of my double-chins? No. But it means my happiness and fulfillment aren't tied to the number that pops up on the scale.
And yet I'm on this diet and fitness program because I felt unhealthy. So, was my friend right who said we shouldn't celebrate the beauty of the obese because it's unhealthy? Fuck no. We should love ourselves and each other just the way we are. But we should also do what we can to make ourselves feel healthy and happy. Going to WW, I've lost 19.2 pounds since July 14. And let me tell you, it's easier to walk up the two flights of stairs from the F train platform to the street. At my fattest I nearly died schlepping up those two flights. So I'm excited to keep going. I don't have a weight-loss goal other than to feel good. I know that happiness doesn't come from the number on the scale but sometimes it comes at the top of the stairs from the F train.
Photo by Katie Levine