*Disclaimer* These are my personal thoughts and ramblings and are in no way meant to be an absolute insight into the experiences of all fat women everywhere. Just me. Warnings for self harm discussion, and eating issues.
In the last few years, I've been reading a lot of blogs on feminism, self image, fat positivity, and a lot of other things that I had never heard of as a child, and wish that I had. I'm a fat lady who has had WLS surgery and lost almost 200 pounds from it, and regained about twenty of it off and on Even with that loss, I am a fat lady. By the doctor's standards for the surgery, I am likely considered a failed case.
I in no way regret doing it. I feel better, I can fit into a wider range of clothes and move better, and have a little more self confidence. It's not for everybody. It shouldn't be thought of as BEING for everyone, or as being necessary for everyone. But for my life, I'm glad I did. But still being a big lady after weight loss surgery is not an easy thing to be. In normal circles, you're considered a failure. ("You had SURGERY and are still fat? That's just irresponsible!") In fat positivity circles, you're someone who caved to pressure and had a surgery many of them consider horrific, which puts you on the outside of them. So trying to reconcile my mind to the idea that I will ALWAYS be a fat lady, smaller than I used to be, but still fat, and trying to come to peace with that and reorder my thinking to trying to be healthy and mobile is a difficult thing to do. I'm working on it (being mobile/active is very hard for me as my vertigo makes even walking without falling over hard some days, and the summer heat usually sends me into instant migraine if I exert myself.) But it has led to me thinking about myself and the genesis of a lot of my personal hurdles, lately.
What really prompted me to want to write things down was when I read numerous people linking to, and talking about this. These articles, amongst many others, talk about how there are obesity specialists advocating taking away fat children from their parents. And it hit home in a way that genuinely upset me, because had this happened when I was a child, this could have been me. It probably will never happen, but the fact that it's even considered is distressing.
I have been fat all my life. I am the child of two loving, wonderful, supportive parents who did everything in their power to give me everything I wanted. For the majority of my childhood, my mother stayed at home, or only worked part time. She cooked largely homecooked meals. I had healthy food. (Note that I am NOT implying that working moms don't feed their kids properly or anything like that, I'm just illustrating my personal experiences. My mother has worked full time for most of my younger sister's life, and my life from twelve or so on, and I still ate healthy.) I was, particularly when young, an active kid. I ran around on my bike all the time, and from the age of six or seven on, I spent increasing amounts of time at the barn, working outdoors and riding horses. I had severe asthma as little Dena, and was treated with steroids when I was two or three. I ballooned into a chubby kid after that, or so I'm told. I don't remember being three.
My mother was a dancer in her youth, and later in life she was a dance and aerobics instructor. She had to watch what she ate like most dancers, but she was active and thin and never had weight trouble, until later in her life. For the majority of my life, she was heavy, and always, always dieting.
My mother is wonderful. She loves me. She loved me from the day I was born and there's nothing I or my sister could ever do that would make her love us less. She wanted the best for me, and she wanted me to achieve all my dreams and she knew how much harder and/or impossible that would be while fat. She wanted me to be happy. (There are no fat lady riders at high levels of showjumping. There have been a few old veteran male riders who get a bit paunchy, but for the most part, they're thin and very fit, as most athletes are. To a horse, an extra fifty or even a hundred pounds on a rider doesn't make a terribly large difference, save perhaps at the highest levels of competition, but to judges, trainers, and everyone else, it seems to make a world of difference.) So she tried to get me to lose weight. She had me do her exercise videos with her (I developed a deep early hatred for Richard Simmons, let me tell you), she put me on diets, she bought largely low cal, low fat, or other variations of weight control food.
I was aware that I was fat. You can't NOT be aware of that. Looking back, I see that as my mother tried to control my eating - out of love - I started to try to think of food in terms of what can I get away with? I didn't think about what I wanted, or when I was full, or anything like that. At restaurants, I thought about what I could eat without upsetting my mother. How much could I eat without having people think I was a pig? (I was also so deeply ashamed of EATING that I could never order out at a restaurant. This is something that, to this day, I struggle with.) If we went to a buffet for dinner, I wouldn't look at anyone one else while I got my food and was hyper aware of every morsel I put on my plate, and what it said about me. I was allowed Weight Watchers fudesicles for dessert, so I would sneak four of them. Not because I really wanted them, but just. . . because? I still don't entirely understand it. I would hide the extra wrappers in my window and then feel horrible and guilty.
I didn't know when I was full. I didn't know what foods I liked. I just knew what I was supposed to eat, and what I wasn't, and thus I wanted those things I shouldn't have more. I wasn't allowed regular soda, so when we stopped at the convenience store after a session at the barn, I would get a big soda and fill it partly with diet, when someone was watching, and the rest with regular. (Note: Regular soda addiction is still a not good thing I have.)
As I got older, I also got less active, outside of the barn, where I spent as much of my time as possible. The days spent on my bike or playing outside vanished. Looking back, I think it was for several reasons. Activity became something I was supposed to do, not because it was fun or to keep busy or anything, but to lose weight. Be active! Lose weight! Eat less! It was a mantra, and I resented it, even while I felt constantly and overwhelmingly guilty that I didn't obey it, and it didn't work even when I did.
I also became less active as I became more aware that I was fat, and that fat was a bad, horrible thing to be. And that when you're fat, people don't want to SEE you doing things. A fat kid trying to play sports was subject to jeering. (I was, fat aside, fairly athletic. I could catch a ball, I could throw, I had good reflexes, I had fairly uncanny balance. As a fat twelve year old, I could stand on the back of a cantering horse, and would do entire lessons jumping and riding without stirrups.) Activity became a chore, but it also became humiliating, and I was self conscious, and I didn't want to go outside and be subjected to people seeing me. I was fat. Watching me ride a bike or play a sport was disgusting for them, and I looked foolish doing it. So I stayed inside more, when I wasn't at the barn. Everyone in the world when faced with a fat person tells them to move more, but the most vicious taunting I've ever received all happened in the space where I was in public, trying to do just that. Go to a gym, walk outside, try a sport - people will alternate between snickering between themselves at the fatty tying to be fit, or looked disgusted that you're there with your flab shaking in their face.
My time at the barn gave me something a lot of fat kids didn't have. I was still self conscious, and regularly driven to tears and humiliation because I wasn't LIKE everyone else. (Finding plus-sized clothes for riders is impossible, and the cause of stress. The first time I ever self-harmed, which I'll talk about more later, it was after we spent hours trying to find a pair of tall boots that would go over my fat AND very muscled calves. We bought the largest size we could find, and had them stretched while the shop owner looked dubious about them going big enough. I sat home that night and took a pair of scissors and dug them into my thigh. I didn't begin doing it regularly for years, but I vividly remember that first time.) But despite that, I had a place I loved, and something I was GOOD at. Despite my being fat, I was a very, very good rider. By the time I was eleven or twelve, I was the best rider at my barn, and when I left that barn to train with a different trainer (my first left the business), I was better than most of the others my age, and most of the adults who took lessons.
I was the go-to girl for getting a difficult horse over a jump. I did higher jumps and won at shows. (I won JUMPERS, mostly, which - unlike Hunter and Equitation classes - is judged solely on speed and how well you perform, with no judges opinions informing it. I did win some equitation classes as well, but generally only at smaller shows. Judges at big shows wouldn't place me more often than not - I was a short legged, fat girl. Riders are supposed to be slim and long legged, and in classes where judges rate you, generally I wasn't going to be placed, regardless of skill. To be fair, I also REALLY LIKED going fast and jumping high and had little interest in hunter classes.)
Having that to fall back on was a huge ego boost for me, and it was how I dealt with everything else. When random people mocked me at school, I thought to myself that I could clear an oxer with a five foot spread. When I took a clinic with a visiting, high-powered trainer and he told me that I should put down the potato chips, because I had talent, I tried not to let that get me down and focused on the fact that I was the only one in the clinic who hadn't been told they had horrible basic skills. When I felt like I had no one to lean on, I always knew that I had my horse, who was my partner and who, like me, wasn't built ideally. (He was a gray with big flat feet, a short neck and a slightly short stride.) We learned together, and by the time I got to the end of my show career, we were well known. It was where my esteem lived. It was the ONLY thing I was proud of.
I was in a small private school from the sixth grade until the day I graduated from high school. I was also lucky in that, because the school was small enough that, for most of it, I had the same classmates for years. I wasn't an outcast, I had friends. We were small enough that it was impossible to HAVE an in crowd/out crowd, but if there had been, I would have been in the in crowd. The most popular students were my friends. I had the car that drove them around. I eventually joined the volleyball team. I had it better than most fat people.
Even with that though, I was always aware that I was fat. No matter how badly any of those people would treat me, I never thought anything but that, deep down, I deserved it. I thought I was lucky that I had any friends at all, and that they tolerated me, because I was fat, and no one would want to be my friends. In a school with more girls than boys, I also came early into the idea that no one would ever be attracted to me, and I would never date. I never did. I went the entirety of high school without a date, or a first kiss, or any of the other things that movies like to make seem universal events. They were alien experiences for me, and I felt ashamed for even wanting to have them, because thinking about it meant forcing my fat, disgusting person on someone else who could, obviously and always, do better. If I was left alone with a boy for a moment while the other girls went to the bathroom or anything like that, I quickly made jokes at my own expense to assure him that they weren't leaving us alone ON PURPOSE and I wasn't trying to do anything horrifying like flirt. I was just sitting there. Being the ride home.
I continued to ride, and I escaped in books. I eventually found out I could write, and that became both an outlet, and another point of pride for me. I was good at it. I could write. My parents supported me in that too, and encouraged me, even when I went through the horrible stages of emo poetry and graphic violent horror stories. In a small school that was oddly full of smart and talented people, being smart and good with a pen wasn't something that was mocked, it was genuinely admired. I wrote the sketches for homecoming week, silly as they were, I wrote, essentially, RPF featuring my classmates and teachers as a joke to make them laugh and copies were passed around the school.
As I got older, the trainer I had moved to ride with and I began to have friction. I was the go-to girl, and when I didn't win, she was angry and resentful as she felt it reflected on her. She would bring up my weight more often, when no one was around. Showing - which I loved, being naturally a competitive sort - began to become something that felt like PRESSURE, instead of just the nerves and butterflies of competition. I started to freeze up during shows. Not often, but enough. As the classes got harder and the shows bigger, it happened more. My trainer, a gossip at heart, would stand around talking to the other trainers and talk about me when she thought I couldn't hear, putting the blame for my slipping performance on my weight. I would try, again and again, to lose weight, and fail, usually ending up heavier on the other side of my dieting, whatever method it was I tried.
It was sometime during this period of time that I also started lying. A lot. Not about important things, but just random, stupid things. I would do this again years later when I first discovered the internet, though then it was more along the lines of pretending to be a different person. At this stage, I just made up random things, constantly and without any real reason except I liked making things up. I liked thinking about what WASN'T real and trying to convince others it was, rather than focusing on what was real. I mostly did it to my classmates. I'm sure most of them knew half of it was bullshit, but most of them never called me on it.
A final confrontation between my trainer and my mother led to me moving to another trainer, one who I respected and who I had heard defend me against my former trainer. When I began riding with her, we talked frankly about my weight, and she said that I had to know it would make things harder, and that she wasn't going to hold it against me if I didn't lose the weight, but that my horse might. She meant it as a joke, and she is a wonderful woman. But in doing so, she gave me the notion that my fatness was betraying not only me and my family, but also my horse, my partner.
I've talked about my parents a lot, and I should. They are a huge part of my life. They have never failed to try to support me. I realized maybe two years ago that, despite that, I have spent the entirety of my life sure that, beneath it, they must be so disappointed and ashamed to have me as a daughter. I was fat. I was hideous. They loved me, but they had to. They must have wanted so much more. The same way I felt about every friend I had - that they were doing me a favor associating with me - was how I felt about my warm, loving parents who all those same friends wished THEY had for parents. Somehow, that didn't change how I believed my parents must see me, deep down.
As I begin to train with my new trainer, I was showing in a higher level of show circles. I ran into more old money and old attitudes. I still did well, a lot of the time, but I had lost something, some joy in doing it. I had a series of rough shows and falls and went to my trainer and said that I was going to quit showing for a while and focus on losing weight. I also had my first real, lasting crush at this time and was miserable with it, not because it was unrequited - I expected that and would NEVER have tried to say anything to him about it - but because I felt so damn stupid for liking a beautiful boy when I was what I was. As if my wistful crush-from-afar was disgusting, just for existing.
I tried. I really did. I was in high school at that point, probably my junior year, though my dates are iffy. Diets, I had tried liquids, phen/fen, before it was illegal, atkins, jenny craig, weight watchers - every program you can think of, I tried. None of it worked that well. I would lose some, slowly, lose hope and then regain. (My body hangs on to weight like it's going out of style. If anyone else does a diet and loses a pound a week, I lose a quarter. Frequently at weigh ins, I would be accused of cheating because of it, even when I hadn't been.) I LOVED to ride. I loved horses and my trainer and the barn, and as I was now driving myself TO the barn to ride - and no longer showing - I would drive out there (an hour's drive) so many times and then just drive past, drive aimlessly around because I couldn't face going there, seeing my friends there (all long legged, skinny girls) or facing my horse or myself. I felt awkward on horseback now though, the one place I had felt most at home. I don't know if it was because I was heavier, or just because I had lost all assurance in myself.
Dieting is a strange animal. It's a group experience, most of the time, and you go to your meetings or your weigh ins, and you talk to someone who maybe had that magical experience of LOSING. More often though, you talk to nutritionists or doctors who maybe have never been fat. It's strange just how many people work in weight loss and seem to hate fat people. I went away from those meetings always feeling diminished. (Which is ironic when the weight wasn't, you know, diminishing.) Every speck of weight lost was just a drop in a giant pool of what you had left to go. Every time you failed to lose, you were expected to say what you did wrong. There's very little sense of triumph, and a lot of listing all the myriad of ways in which you failed. Unless you're one of those magical few who LOSE and KEEP IT OFF, it's impossible not to come away feeling like a failure. Every bite that goes in your mouth, you weigh against that feeling of failure and whether you need it, and when you eat it anyway, you then feel as if you've already failed.
With my former bastion of confidence - my riding - lost to me, I focused more on writing, but it wasn't enough. I had friends, I played Volleyball, but I was fat, self conscious, and always, always felt like everyone around me was tolerating me, not wanting me there. It was during this time that I begin to self-harm in earnest. I would take knives, mostly, or something sharp, and cut my legs, or my arms. Sometimes even my face.
My parents knew, but didn't know what to do. I was young and stupid and would claim to high heaven, when called on it, that I did it in my sleep and didn't know about it. They started to hide sharp objects, and ask me in halting, uncertain tones of voice if I needed to see someone, or talk to anyone. They blamed themselves for what was wrong with me, and saw my hurting myself as their failure. I saw their disappointment as further proof they would have wished for a better daughter, hated myself more for doing it, and then felt more need to actually cut. It was a cycle.
My instant answer was always no when asked about therapy. When you're fat, every doctor's visit usually ends in them wanting to test your blood pressure, your sugar, and someone asking if you're depressed. (Fat people must ALWAYS be depressed, in many people's minds.) I associated the idea of depression or anything else with being fat, and proof that ONE MORE THING was wrong with me, so I refused to ever entertain the idea. I still don't think I was depressed in the sense of needing medication. I just hated myself and wanted so desperately to be something that I wasn't, and somehow cutting helped me feel better, for short periods of time. I don't pretend to understand it or be an expert in it, it was just what I did. I wish that I had an answer for WHY I stopped. I don't know if I stopped needing it, or if it stopped working, but however it happened, I eventually stopped self-harming. I still get the urge to, sometimes, but it's passing. I think it wouldn't be a relief the way it was when I was young, anymore, which is why it doesn't hit me hard enough that I have to do it anymore.
At that point in my life, I was very healthy, aside from being fat. I had problems with asthma and respiratory things as a kid, but had outgrown most of it. I made my first friend who I felt was actually a friend, and she was heavy, like me. She was LESS heavy, though, and I felt she was much prettier and so I always still felt like the ugly friend, but it was more than I'd had. (My early childhood and teenage best friends had all gone on to grow up and be lovely young women and date and drifted away. In high school my best friend until my senior year was a beautiful and smart girl who ended up married with a child by the end of school. I, who had never dated, had no kids - obviously - felt like I had nothing to say to her that she'd care about hearing, and we drifted apart. I regret a bit to this day because I suspect SHE probably thought it was because I judged her for getting pregnant, but it was more that I had no frame of reference for how her life was anymore, and was sure that she wouldn't really want me in it, anyway, so I withdrew.)
My dreams as a kid had always been grand. Olympic rider by 18! Best selling author! As I got to the end of high school, I pulled them all down. I rejected the idea of going to college, in theory because of my horse and riding, but really because the idea of going away from my safe space of family and few friends terrified me. I altered my dreams. I would breed horses! Train them and sell them and show them, once I lost the weight finally. My parents, who loved me, moved the family to a rural part of Florida, bought ten acres, and begin helping me put together some mares for foundation mares. I went to community college and dicked around, dropping most of my classes the first two semesters, enamored of the idea of no one caring if you showed up to class. I went with my then best friend. We took all of our classes together, save my writing class. I didn't talk to anyone else. I kept my eyes down. I skirted around people and tried to disappear into the scenery. I still cut, but less than I used to, eventually stopping altogether.
I didn't lose weight. Most of my life, I measured everything I did by that sentence. It didn't matter what else happened, all that mattered was that I was still fat. Still a failure. Still repulsive.
I had discovered the internet and chat rooms during the last years of high school, and spent more and more time on the computer. I was the cliche image of the fat girl who sits behind a computer screen and flirts, and I was always aware of the fact that if any of those people I spent late nights talking to actually SAW me, or knew anything about the real me, they'd be disgusted. My early habit of lying came back, and I would compulsively make up new identities. I learned that I was sort of witty and funny, more than I'd realized, because I was always too embarrassed in public to really speak up. (I was known as a wise ass at school, by the end of high school, just because I'd known those people for YEARS so I came out of my shell some, but I was still very different than I was online, or from how I am today.)
My second year of community college, I had just begun to finally settle into actually doing classwork when I began to have migraines. This post isn't about my health in that sense, so I'll very quickly gloss over it. Over the next few years I would begin to have chronic, daily migraines. Short hour or two hour migraines at first. One or two a day became four. Eventually it would shake out to longer headaches with less of them. I had two four hourish migraines most every day. They called them "confusional cluster migraines". During them I can't tolerate noise or light or most strong smells. I also don't usually understand what's being said to me. I have trouble speaking at all, or walking. In the early days I frequently threw up and had nosebleeds during them as well. I dropped out of classes as I couldn't plan my days with the headaches rarely arriving on the same schedule at that point, and causing me concentration and reading problems.
We started what would be many, many years of doctors, pain management, and testing. Time after time the doctors couldn't figure it out. I was accused of making it up, of not taking the meds when they didn't show up in my blood tests (my mom would WATCH me take them. I just have a bizarrely overactive liver or something.) In the end, when they couldn't find answers, it all came down to weight. Left with no other reasons, they blamed the weight and that was that.
Losing weight had become even harder with the onset of migraines because of the severe vertigo that came with it. I fell over. A lot. I was constantly on and off meds. I tolerated noise, heat, light, crowds and everything else increasingly badly, so I withdrew more and more into myself. I couldn't ride anymore, and the horses I loved and that my family had sacrificed so much to help me have became large lawn ornaments. I usually couldn't even work safely around them on the ground because I had no center of balance and fell down so easily. Writing and the internet became the largest part of my life. It still is, but at that point I was only just starting to finally be MYSELF. Even the earliest parts of that, I lied a lot. Because I was terrified to just be myself for fear of rejection, but also because my life became a never ending cycle of headaches-doctors-treatments-repeat, and I didn't want to be that. I didn't want to be boring and limited, so I would make shit up. Eventually, I outgrew that, and made some genuine friends online, some of whom I later met in real life. Some of them have since gotten to know me, and probably know that a lot of that early stuff was BS, but are gracious enough not to mention it.
My best friend, who had lived with us for years, drifted away amidst a lot of trauma and betrayal, and that was my last real, non-family anchor in my every day life. I was a hermit, and didn't know how to make friends any more. Most of me was still certain that anyone who actually SAW me, physically, day to day would never want to know me. (Fat and hideous, still, remember.) I tried again and again to lose weight, and never did. I eventually did have to see therapists as part of my pain management programs, and I learned to be cheerful, to lie, to put on my best face, because if it seemed that I was depressed, then the idea that I was making up my headaches was much, much more likely to be mentioned. There were great swathes of time when I was too doped up on various headache meds (and depression drugs, which were prescribed FOR the headaches, not for mood altering) that I couldn't write or hear character voices or even really follow complex storylines on TV.
Finally, after years and years of that cycle, I had a gastric bypass. All of my doctors uniformly thought it was a great idea. Getting it paid for, approved, getting me in for all the pretesting was a NIGHTMARE. You have to be on a liquid diet for a certain period of time beforehand and are expected, but not required, to lose a certain amount of weight. My mother, who had the surgery before me but went through the pre-surgery stuff at the same time - lost something like fifteen pounds. I lost seven, and was made to come back to do another few weeks of prep and was accused of lying. The DOCTOR who did my surgery and his office were wonderful, but the pre-testing were all done through another agency who threatened to deny me as a candidate at all. Because I was clearly lying. (I wasn't. I didn't cheat on that damn liquid diet ONCE.)
After surgery, there's a grace period. You're losing weight! People tell you that's great! You tell them you had gastric bypass, and suddenly you're more acceptable to them, because you're FAT, but you're fixing it, obviously. Now two years out, that grace period is gone. If you mention you had surgery, most people look faintly disgusted. Not that you had it, but that you had it and are still clearly lazy enough that you're STILL fat.
It was during that period that I began to look into Healthy at Every Size in earnest, and then read fat acceptance blogs. I also began to accept the fact that maybe I am depressed, and maybe I do need to think about looking for help with that. (Being fat didn't make me depressed. I didn't accept that because I was sad, I accepted the idea had merit when I realized that I'm NOT sad. I'm also very rarely happy, or angry, or anything. I read an interview with Hugh Laurie where he talked about his depression, and how he realized it while driving around a test track where things were exploding and feeling NOTHING - not excitement, just nothing. Evenness. And that's where I usually am. Things don't break through to me very often any more. Which is probably why I'm writing this, because those articles DID hit home hard, and so little does that for me.)
A lifetime of hating everything about yourself, because even the GOOD parts of yourself are made less by the fact that your'e fat, in your own mind, is hard to overcome. I'm not sure I ever really will, but I'm starting to try. I let go of my horses and the last chapter of my life and hope to move to a new place and maybe start over myself, in some ways, as being accepting of who I am and making the best of it instead of living for a day when I'm someone different, and that day never coming.
I didn't write this with the idea that anyone should feel sorry for me. I am, I firmly believe, LUCKY, compared to many, many fat people. I went through school without being either physically or verbally abused, most of the time. I had parents who DID love and support me. I had things to fall back on and the privilege that comes from being a white middle class girl. There are many, many people who don't have any of those things.
I wrote this because I thought about all of those things I did have the benefit of, and how I still grew up believing the way I did about myself. And I think about what could have happened if, during those early times when I knew that I could run into my dad's arms for a hug or cry myself out on my mother's shoulder, I'd instead been taken away from them. I would have taken it as another sign that I was too fat for them to want. Another proof that there was something wrong with me, that I was too hideous to be left with my family.
And then I think about my mother, and what it would have been like for her if that had happened. She was heavy too, and couldn't manage to lose weight. Would they not have let her have me back unless she was thinner? If I lost weight in their foster care program, but regained it - as I always did - would I have been taken away again?
I am the product of two loving parents and a supportive home, and I still grew up hating myself because the world teaches you to hate yourself if you're fat. If I hadn't been with my family, I'm not sure I would have survived past my teenage years, and I mean that in a literal sense, not a dramatic once. I bordered on suicidal but was never quite there. An environment in which my weight could lead to me being taken from my parents would have pushed me over the edge, I believe.
Childhood obesity is an epidemic. A disease. I see that talked about EVERYWHERE. The first lady wants to lead the war on it. But I don't understand what they're doing. They shouldn't be trying to single out and humiliate fat kids with weigh ins and dictated weights. Instead they should teach them to play and dance and play sports or walk or run or anything else that's moving and fun and that it doesn't MATTER if their fat tummies bounce or their body jiggles.
Maybe instead we should look at the idea that thin=healthy and fat=unhealthy isn't quite right.
Maybe we should rethink our ideas of what a healthy body is. Maybe we should tell the incredibly lucrative dieting industry to fuck itself, and to stop selling the idea that if we're not toned with flat abs and a firm ass, we're nothing. Maybe we should start putting unphotoshopped pictures of healthy men and women of all sizes in movies and on TV and in magazines.
I am not healthy. I'm not active enough, though I eat relatively well. I don't drink enough water and I drink too much soda. I am in no way the idea of anyone's ideal, and I don't claim to be. But I've also come to believe that even if I GET healthy, even if that led to losing a few more pounds, I would still always BE FAT. I will never be reed thin. I will always have big thighs and hips and a belly. It's who I am. Maybe there's not anything wrong with that.
Being fat means that you spend your entire life being judged by this one thing that you are. For most people, I think it becomes one thing they FAILED to fix, in their minds. I know that's how it is for me. An always-present sign of how they weren't good enough/disciplined enough/dedicated enough. Look at any successful fat person and look at a message board where they're talking about that person. Bestselling author fat? There will be entire threads devoted to "lolz, fattie writes hot characters because she can't get any". That rare plus sized actress who makes it to the big time? There will be articles and pages devoted to how they're perpetuating an unhealthy lifestyle. Everywhere I go, and everything I do, I am always and foremost seen as fat. Everything else becomes secondary, and for most of my life, that's how it's been in my brain too. Every success, no matter how big or small, I berated myself for because when it's a fat girl doing it, it's pathetic, not an accomplishment. That was how I felt. Some days, I even felt ashamed being a part of fandom online because when people MAKE FUN of fandom, it usually comes down to "lolz, fat girl on the internet", and that's what I WAS, so I felt like I was contaminating the idea of fandom by being the lowest common denominator.
Being fat means that every doctor you see will mostly likely tell you to lose weight. It doesn't matter how perfect your blood pressure, how active you are, how good your vitals and cholesterol and heart are, they will threaten you with vague future health threats. There's a good chance they will be incredibly cruel doing it, because when you're fat, you're somehow less deserving of sympathy than anyone else. All health problems are Your Own Fault. If they can't figure out what's wrong with you, they'll blame it on the weight and dismiss you. This isn't a rarity, it happens to thousands of fat people every day. When I was eight, I had ulcers at one point because in the course of a year, my grandfather had gotten sick, my mother had a miscarriage, two of my dogs died, I lost my best friend, my cat was brutally killed by dogs in front of me, and a lot of other things happened. I stressed myself into an ulcer. The doctor examined me, and then turned to my mother and told her that I was fat, and that she was killing me by letting me be fat. That doctor was head of pediatrics at a major hospital for her specialty for YEARS. It doesn't matter if you go in for a broken finger or a sore throat, you go in knowing that it most likely will come up. Most fat people I know come to dread the doctor and avoid it at all cost, which just helps them be more unhealthy and go longer without treatment for preventable things.
Being fat means that people assume you're lazy. It means that whenever you see yourself represented in media, it will be as a lazy, pathetic parody for the most part. (This is something that is not exclusive to fatties, by any means. Pretty much every group that is NOT mainstream white-straight-attractive Hollywood ends up marginalized in media.) It means major characters can wear "no fatties" shirts and people will laugh. It means that your major fashion advice from most outlets is all ways to minimize yourself. Look LESS fat. Be LESS visible. When I was 18 and had just moved to my current house, I went to the grocery for my mother. I had a long list of typical things and was dutifully getting them. A couple in their thirties followed me around the store, snickering and throwing junk food into my cart. The woman picked up a large vegetable (my brain won't remember if it's a carrot or cucumber, though I think the later) and tossed it in telling me with a giggle that it would help since I couldn't get a man (or something to that effect). I was just out of high school. I couldn't go to the local grocery store for years without wanting to cry. It never occurred to me to tell any of the store's staff because I was so busy being humiliated and hating myself for being fat enough that it attracted attention.
I have never gone to a store and shopped freely for clothes based on what I thought looked nice, I have always shopped by what little would fit me. It was a running joke when I was a kid that I could find the plus size department without reading signs - just look for the ugliest clothes. I wouldn't wear shorts after high school. I wouldn't cut my hair short because when I was young, a hairdresser laughingly told me, when I asked for it cut, that I didn't want to cut it that short, since I'd look like a weeble-wobble. When I played volleyball in school, the athletic director came up to ask me how big I needed a shirt, in front of my entire class, and when I was too flustered to answer, a friend discreetly peeked at the tag on my neck and held up her three fingers to him, after which he snickered and said they only went up to two, and I'd better start running and watch what I ate, glancing significantly at my food in front of me. (It was lunch. I had a diet soda, a sandwich, and a cookie - which was a low calorie part-of-a-diet-plan cookie, not that it matters.) I haven't dressed up for Halloween, or cosplayed, or done anything geeky and fun or girly because I was fat, and I know how people hate to see fat people dressing up and ruining their fandom characters.
I read about feminism, about rape culture and all of the other social change issues and I support them and love learning more about them. I love learning about my own ingrained prejudices, even when it's hard to acknowledge them, because I believe it makes me a better, more rounded person. And yet when women talk about their issues, I've often felt as if I have no RIGHT to speak on those issues. I'm fat, no one wants to sexualize me. No one stares at my tits instead of my face. I don't have to fear rape, I'm FAT. (Yes, I know that's not rational or accurate. It's how I've felt in the past, not a fact but an emotional response.) I felt like a fraud, and kept myself outside even of a grouping I had a legitimate right to be in, since I AM a woman. Because I don't think of myself as a woman. I think of myself as fat, and that supersedes everything. (It shouldn't. It's just one of those things I've only come to understand about how I see myself fairly recently.)
The focus on obesity, on fighting it, on how wrong it is - all it does is show these kids that the world doesn't want them. No one wants them as they are, they want them to CHANGE. If they fail to change, they're wrong. Healthy eating should be taught and encouraged. So should activity. But why do we have to do it in a way that guarantees that kids growing up today hate their bodies for not being the way people believe they should be? Take them away from parents is most likely taking away a source of love, and teaching them that fat people don't deserve/aren't able to be loved. Maybe there are kids who wouldn't take that message from it, but I know I sure as hell would have.
I don't have answers, but I know that this isn't the way to do it. My relationships with food and dieting and my body were formed early, and are now things I will carry and struggle with for the entirety of my life. I don't blame anyone for my being fat. I made my own choices, my body is my own, and I am what I am. But if I hadn't been taught to hate it so much, so early, I wonder if maybe I would have STAYED an active kid, instead of learning to hide away in shame, and maybe then I wouldn't have gotten to the levels of unhealthy that I did.
I will probably never have kids. I still don't date and probably never will, and view myself largely as asexual, in that while I may be heteroromantic leaning, I don't actually want to have sex or physical contact with anyone. This is, I know, largely a part of my own relationship with my body. (In my case. Not in all asexual peoples' cases, of course.) I doubt I'll ever be able to see myself as attractive or have the kind of courage it takes to open up to anyone else, and I don't feel capable of raising another person. But if I did, I would be TERRIFIED of the idea that they could be taken from me if they were, like me, fat, and like me, couldn't seem to change it.
I feel like I should have something stronger to end this on, but I think my thoughts are all puttered out now. So I'll just say - one of the slogans on the blogs I read is that "there's no wrong way to have a body". There are ways to be healthier, but even if you aren't. Even if you gain weight. Even if you eat the wrong thing or don't have a lifestyle that you feel like people would approve of - I think everyone has the right to be loved, to have dignity, and to be happy. I think people can be beautiful at any size. I think there is no absolute wrong way to BE - fat, thin, fit, flabby, white, black, asian, gay straight, asexual - NOTHING is wrong and deserving of being bullied, being hated, or being ostracized for. The only real wrong, to me, is going out of your way to hurt other people for being different than you. (And no, I am not lumping in racism with weight prejudice, or homophobia with it. They are all separate issues, and I don't believe that I, as a straight (if mostly asexual), white, cis-gendered female have any right to claim the kind of prejudice that members of those groups and others have to face on a daily, systematic basis. But I do believe that the ideas of tolerance and acceptance are, at least, something that we have in common?)
I also think that just believing that doesn't change how very difficult it is to love yourself, flaws and all. There are fat women (and men) out there who are beautiful, confident, love themselves, and love their lives. I admire them, and I envy them. My goal for most of my life was to be THIN. And then to live a different life. Now, I'm trying to make my goal to be like those people - learn how to be happy in my own skin. It's slow, and maybe I'll never get there, but I hope that I'll be happier for trying than I ever was trying to become something I'm not, and hating myself for not managing it. I'm tired of being ashamed of everything I do because I do it while fat.
And I'm done. Apologies for length to anyone who struggled through this. I'm debating whether or not to make it flocked, so if you see it go locked and unlocked, that's probably me, flailing. These are all, again, just my opinions.
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