Comfort and Joy: Inhabiting our Bodies with Love in a Fat-Phobic Culture

comfort-and-joy-5Recently, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought of Santa Claus. Call me crazy, but in my half-awake, half-asleep state, I actually found myself happy that Santa was fat. Then my thoughts shifted to pictures of a plump baby Jesus, and suddenly the few extra pounds I’ve put on this holiday season didn’t seem so terrible. I smiled.

On Thanksgiving morning, I received a rather distressing phone call as I waited outside the train station for my ride. I found myself a corner and wept as silently as possible. As I leaned into the pillar, shoulders shaking with sorrow, a transit employee walked by. He stopped and addressed me in a tender voice, asking me what was wrong and if there was anything he could do for me.

Eyes swimming with tears, I asked him, “Can I have a hug?” A complete stranger, he opened his arms to me, and I fell into them weeping. He held me there until my tears abated. I could have stayed there for a while longer. His name was Clark and he was so soft — pudgy in all the right ways at that moment. What a sight we must have made: A small white woman and a large black man hugging it out for any and all transit riders to see. I will never forget Clark. He mothered me well that morning.

Ask any small child, and you’ll learn that the long embrace of a sexy marble statue is much less comfortable than the soft squeeze of a loving caregiver

We live in a fat-phobic culture where rock-hard abs and firm thighs are the fantasy archetype — advertised every holiday season in new commercials with Victoria’s Secret Christmas “Angels.” But ask any small child, and you’ll learn that the long embrace of a sexy marble statue is much less comfortable than the soft squeeze of a loving caregiver.

When I think of our Christmas symbols — religious or otherwise — I think of chubby, jolly, generous, life-bearing, gift-giving characters who inhabit their wide and round bodies with joy and bring comfort to the human race, in desperate need of a soft place to land. It’s what makes Santa’s knee so comfortable, and baby Jesus so snuggly, and the Virgin Mary so approachable — comfort and joy.

I’m coming through a very difficult season of life and have put on a few pounds due to some emotional eating. Though an intuitive eating counselor, I’m still learning to practice what I preach. Therefore, my breasts are larger and rounder and my stomach and thighs are softer than I’d like them to be. It’s tempting to body bash myself and hide under the covers until the extra fat miraculously disappears, but that’s not the recipe for health and healing.

Instead, I’m praying for the strength to embrace my softer, rounder self. I want to be a woman who inhabits her body with love and joy, whatever its size, and brings comfort to those within my arms’ reach this Christmas season.