Guest Blog by Alex McGillivray
It’s been a magical thing to connect in new way with folks through my work. In 2020, I was fortunate enough to connect with Alex McGillivray, through Instagram and GoodBodyFeel. Right away Alex radiated a warmth and a familiarity, and when we met IN PERSON for the first time this summer at one of my outdoor classes, it felt like we had known each other for years already.
Alex sent me a draft of this blog post months ago. I thought it was open, vulnerable and relatable. These are the kind of stories I want to use this space for, so when I noticed the post was not yet published on her blog, I sent the little push to ask… can we do this together?
So here it is, my first guest blog, “Sharing, Healing & My Journey with Body Liberation” by my remarkable friend Alex.
*photo of Alex by Alexa Studios
I’ve been stressing about hitting publish on this post since August last year. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, but I’m feeling more confident and finally ready to share it.
I first started blogging seven years ago to document my new journey in running as a way to keep myself accountable. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t rooted in an attempt to lose weight and to find my self-worth. I would also be lying if I said that I wasn’t ashamed of who I was or of my body, because I absolutely was. In fact, I missed out on many opportunities to celebrate size inclusivity because I was too ashamed of my own size to fully embrace it.
It’s taken me a long time to confidently say this, but I’m really proud of myself. I’m proud of how I keep showing up for myself no matter what life throws at me. I will always be a work in progress and truly believe my desire to keep learning is one of my greatest gifts.
Maybe this isn’t news to you, but maybe it is. When you live in a bigger body, society often writes off what you are capable of and then slaps you with a bunch of negative labels; the primary one being you are unhealthy. This is such a significant and sensitive topic for me because it is so deeply entrenched into my lived experience.
Before I dive into that, I want to call attention to the roots of diet culture and fatphobia being an integral part of white supremacy. I’m still learning everyday, but the simplest explanation is that fatphobia was specifically created to further oppress large and black female bodies by wielding power and “desired” aesthetics over them.
The roots of this oppression later sparked the body positivity movement which was originally championed by Black women for fat, queer, femme, trans, and BIPOC communities. It has since been co-opted and white washed by the diet, beauty and wellness industries by bringing aesthetics back into the forefront. Check out these resources for learning/unlearning:
I’m no stranger to body image/size as a systemically learned issue. From a young age, my body was always bigger. I was always taller, larger, and had a more muscular frame. Because of this, my body was also a topic of debate. My family was fortunate to have a family doctor who accepted my body as it was. I was an active and, more importantly, happy kid, but I often wonder how different my story would have been if I had a different childhood doctor.
I don’t remember how old I was when I went on my first diet, probably because I was too young to remember. What I do remember is my sense of self worth being directly tied to my weight and appearance because of people’s hurtful comments. So began my journey into people pleasing as a form of armour and feeling seen. No one can hurt you if you just work hard to meet everyone’s expectations and make them happy right? No one can hurt you if you are mean to yourself first, right? Wrong.
I remember being called “wide load” at my thinnest in middle school for having a big bum. The name calling was often followed with beeping noises to indicate a truck backing up. I remember being told I could never be the lead in a ballet because of my size, despite being the best dancer at auditions. I remember hearing about a girl in high school calling me the fattest, ugliest girl she’d ever seen, and how every time she saw me, she wanted to puke. I remember a guy who was a friend of a friend telling her I was cute, but that I’d be so much hotter if I was skinnier. I remember someone wildly flailing their arms and screaming, “lose weight you fat ass!” out of a car window when I was a teenager walking down the street with a friend. The truth is, I remember a whole lot more.
As much as I played it off and kept this a secret from my family and friends to avoid burdening them (some of them are probably learning about this for the first time now), these experiences hurt me deeply and have stayed with me as a trauma that I’ve held onto for a very long time. I don’t think I really started processing this or finding my worth until I started my journey with running. Even as I type this, I can still feel my heartbeat racing and my body clenching because of how uncomfortable it makes me.
Growing into adulthood hasn’t been much different except I can now add, “encounter with fatphobic doctors”, to my list of experiences after the emergence of some reproductive health issues. After reviewing my chart, and not running a single test, I was told by a fertility specialist that I am too fat to have a baby. Not because of the massive fibroid that went undiagnosed for years. Not because of the surgery to remove it, and definitely not because of my depression or irregular cycle after the surgery. It was very clear to me that in her “expert opinion”, my inability to get pregnant was because I was fat.
After firmly explaining how active I am (which was a knee jerk reaction because worth isn’t tied to exercise), and aggressively stating how uncomfortable she was making me, the specialist went on to tell me that I should just join Weight Watchers, and continued making me feel like I was lying about my lifestyle. To this day, I still feel like I have to prove my worth and health to her even though I don’t owe anyone an explanation…
To read more, head over to Alex’s blog
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