If you’ve ever been fat — classifiably overweight, damaged by the teasing, told, even without words, that you are too big to be part of the elite thin — you know that losing weight doesn’t change the way you see yourself. Not holistically. Not overnight. And certainly not without a lot of work. Today, I wore shorts to go running. Simple task. Put on a pair of shorts and do the same thing that you do in leggings, right? Toes on the ground, core active, gps in hand, and you move just like you always do, one foot after another, fast.

But that’s not quite it.

It’s more like this: put on the shorts and wonder if you’ll fit inside of them. And not because you’ve been eating all that badly, but because you’ve trained yourself to brace against clothes, to resist them, to anticipate the worst about yourself.

And you stand in front of the mirror. If you pose in just the right way, you won’t see the little tire around your waist. You won’t see the millions and billions of images you’ve consumed over your lifetime: This is how a woman’s stomach looks, and yours does not fit. It literally does not compute with the understanding you have of bodies. Who ever told you that stretchmarks happen to skin, all skin? And that pooches are part of biological existence? Who ever told you that your body was good enough even if it’s not sexy? Nobody, well, not enough of anybody to defeat the deafening holiness of thin. So you look at your body and you hope to be different than you are.

When it’s okay to leave the house, when you’ve mastered the pressure, you pull on the edges of your shorts. There are people everywhere. Driving, sitting on steps, shaving their heads on porches, grilling burgers. It doesn’t matter that they don’t look (and they probably don’t), but you feel like they do. You’ve been told that your worth is intrinsically tied to your body so you fear that somebody is always, always watching.

You start running and you worry about your thighs, even if your thighs are smaller than they’ve ever been — you worry about their flapping and wiggling and movement because you’ve never been told that thighs do that. It’s okay that your thighs move in waves. Every movement is harder and slower when you’re so self-obsessed that you can’t let go. Accept. Embrace.

Today I wore shorts to go running and I felt all of those things in full force. The madness that’s gifted to us by living in the commercial West. The gift of wealth. I felt those things, deeply, at the root of my reactionary self, but I choose to look at those thoughts and turn them over in my hands and I choose to reject them. I choose to run in shorts, and I hope my flabby thighs offend somebody.

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