Self-acceptance and HAES

I realize that I was familiar with the idea of health at every size (or HAES) long before I encountered the term for the first time on the fatosphere.

In fact, my first exposure to that principle came from my first boyfriend of sorts. I was 18 at the time, and was still very uncomfortable with being fat (even though I was a bit smaller than I am now). I still lacked the self-confidence that I was to gain later.

One day, I was whining to Ricky about my weight (he himself is a tall, skinny man), and he replied, “What would you rather be: fat and in shape or skinny and out of shape?”. I know that most people would have answered “skinny and out of shape” without hesitation, but as an active tomboy, that answer made me shut up.

Looking back, this conversation was a turning point in my life, the defining moment where I began that long journey towards self-acceptance (this was back in 1993, so the Internet wasn’t widely available yet). My relationship with Ricky might have never bloomed the way it should have (for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with me or my body), but his role in my personal history is still highly important, as he made me realize that I could be loved as I am, and that it is okay to be fat. His Spock-like logic might have driven me mad sometimes (he’s a true Virgo!) but that day, it made lots of sense.

How about you? Do you have a self-acceptance defining moment?



  1. Twistie said,

    August 13, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    My big moment came just shy of three years ago. I was thin as a young woman, but later blossomed into who and what I am now. Three years ago, though, I had hit bottom in my self-esteem. My husband and I had had a lot of financial problems, we’d both had long bouts of unemployment, we’d lived literally under seige from a downstairs neighbor for the better part of a year…followed by a stressful move a few weeks after my husband had a triple bypass and his mother died of lung cancer. IOW, I’d been through a lot of stressful, depressing stuff. Unfortunately, the only way I could find to cope was to sit in front of the television or computer all day eating. I didn’t go anywhere, I binged on junk food, I stopped communicating with anyone, losing several close, long-term friends…I was in a complete mess. I hated myself.

    So, November of 2005, I was depressed and couldn’t see any beauty in me, inside or out. One day some friends took us to the Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco. I walked into one of the booths, where there were all sorts of gorgeous, fantasy clothes in velvets and lace and gloriously sumptuous braid…they were spectacular. Looking at those gorgeous clothes was almost making me more depressed because I knew I could never wear them.

    One of the salesgirls came over and coaxed me into trying on a fabulous velvet cloak with an amazing trim that looked like half fur, half feathers, but was completely cruelty-free, as it turned out. When I tried on that cloak, it was like I started seeing me again. I stood taller, and felt better about me. Of course I figured nothing else in the booth would fit me, but the salesgirl started bringing over clothes. They fit me! They made me feel beautiful!

    The booth owner, a wonderfully generous Santa Claus of a man called Steven Overstreet kept telling the girls “pull this out, I want to see her in this, have you tried on that yet?” and I stayed all afternoon trying on beautiful clothes long after I confessed there was no way I could afford anything they had for sale. It didn’t matter to them. One of the best moments in my adult life came when Steven told me I reminded him of Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter.

    The very next day, I started making big changes in my life. I started getting off my butt and paying better attention to when I was and wasn’t hungry. I started talking to the people around me again.

    Yes, I did happen to lose a lot of weight. That wasn’t the specific point, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t happen. More importantly, I’ve got more energy, more faith in myself, a better marriage, and it all sprung from one man reminding me that I’m worth dressing up.

    For the past two Dickens’ Fairs, I’ve worked for Steven. Now I own some of his gorgeous clothes. It’s easy to sell his dresses, etc., because I know how much of a difference they can make. And it doesn’t hurt when I can point to my size 18W self and tell women that I’m wearing a small, so there’s definitely something in the booth that will fit them, too.

    Last winter, I showed a girl some of the clothes. She shuffled into the booth and sighed as she fingered the clothes. With a touch of coaxing, I got her into one of the changing booths. She didn’t spend a cent, but she walked out a good two inches taller than she walked in. I know she’ll be back. Even if she doesn’t come back, though, and even if she never buys anything of Steven’s, she’ll carry that moment with her for a long, long time. I know. Those are the moments I treasure; the times when you know you’ve actually changed someone’s mind about herself and given her permission to be as beautiful as she is.

    But probably the best – and worst – moment was when I saw three conventionally really beautiful women (mid-twenties, blond, tall, thin, elegant) looking at the clothes. Just as I started to approach to see if there was anything I could tempt them into trying on, one of them sighed and said “I’d try something on, but there’s no way I would look as great in these as she does” and pointed straight at me. 5’2″, forty-five-year-old, fat little me!

    The funny thing is, as long as that’s what she thinks, she’ll be right. And I have to feel a little sad for her.

  2. Kate said,

    August 20, 2008 at 2:36 am

    I actually got really lucky and had my Big Moment really early — I was about 16.

    When I was in high school, I started freshman year at about 150 — I wasn’t fat, but I was… solid. Cylindrical, really. I dated a French chef sophomore year. Junior year… I took up with someone who was really really bad for me. I lost a *lot* of weight (read: 150 to 125 in about three months almost totally by accident). One day I was standing in front of a mirror in the changing room of my tae kwon do studio, and I realized that I had a poochy belly. 20 lbs. underweight, doing a zillion situps a week (3 TKD classes a week with situps at warmup and cooldown), and I still had a poochy belly. At which point I realized that it just *wasn’t worth worrying about*. It wasn’t going to go away, no matter what I did, no matter how much weight I lost, no matter what kind of exercise I was doing. Amazingly liberating.

    I have the (mis)fortune of being an in-between size. I’m a smidge too small for Torrid and Igigi, and a smidge too big for almost everything else, but I’ve never worried about my poochy belly again.

  3. S said,

    September 4, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Wow Twistie your story almost made me cry it was so beautiful.

    I didn’t really have a “moment” myself but I think a small click inside went off once at a party. I had lost a lot of weight and got down to a conventional size (not quite slim but smaller) but I was kind of upset that loads of people who had previously been snotty about my fatness were now being friendly. As if my being overweight previously had hindered them from becoming friends with me. One of them said to my best friend (who hadn’t commented at all on my weight loss) “Doesn’t she look great now she’s lost all that weight?” and my friend said “To be honest I hadn’t noticed; she’s my best friend and it doesn’t matter to me what she weighs”. At that point I thought it was really great but now 7 years later (and she’s still my best friend) and I have gone back to my natural fat size I really see it for how important it was.Since then I have been much more ruthless in what I hear from others about my weight or size and what I will allow to affect me. It still took me until this year and through many events to fully accept myself though.

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