Can I be real a second? I have to tell you what life is like as a fat person. It’s been on my mind and it finally boiled over today when I was reading the comments to a question I had posted on our local “find and refer” Facebook page. My question was this:
Do you know anyone who will prescribe medication to assist in weight loss?
It’s not a particularly tantalizing post. I’m just looking for a doctor. What I got in return is a perfect example of living life as the overweight person in the room.
First, there is a general misunderstanding that my weight is a topic of conversation between us. Now, I realize I write about my life. I have kicked over every rock and shone light on every ugly worm. It is no secret that I make my physical journey part of my story. I am not talking about people who want connect with me about my writing and my life story. I never want anyone to be afraid on that. I am an open book.
However, there is a subset of people who want to talk about my weight in a way that is completely disconnected from my story or getting to know me. Instead, these people see me and immediately alarm bells go off for them. They think, “She has no idea how fat she is. She must have no clue how unhealthy it is to be that weight. She probably doesn’t think about it and needs my help. If I just talk to her and describe all the health risks and the solutions I’ve found, maybe she will be able to change. She will definitely be so glad I came into her life.”
Okay, so, no. Just, no.
There is not a millisecond that goes by where I don’t think about my weight. I think about it when I wake up, through every physical movement I make through the day. I scrutinize every hunger pang. I calculate my energy savings to see if I can make it through a workout and my obligations for the day. I berate myself for craving the croissant and (sometimes) choose the apple and still end up feeling guilty. Sometimes I eat the croissant anyway because I am a human who gets hungry- and then feel even worse. I feel the discomfort of my clothing, the way my pants push into my stomach, how my shirts restrict my arms. I feel the pain in my body of trying to live while carrying around an extra 90 pounds. So yes, I am aware that I am overweight.
I am also acutely aware of the health hazards. In fact, I probably know them better than my skinny counterparts. Want to know why? Because they are my health hazards. I get to worry about them. Thoughts of heart disease, cancer, bone loss, blood clots and pulmonary issues float through my mind on a closed loop. Not to mention the worries about extra skin and the evolution of time and the worry that I will never have a body that I am comfortable in again, even if I am thin. The guilt associated with doing this level of damage to my body is as heavy as my weight issue itself is.
The idea that I am not aware that I am fat, or that I need help understanding my fatness has finally reached a tipping point for me. My weight is not a secret I am keeping. My shame isn’t hidden in a closet. I know I am fat. I know it isn’t good. I would give almost anything to change it.
But that journey is mine. It really is. My fight to reclaim my health can only be won by me and me alone.
Unless you have been fat yourself, you have no idea how differently fat people are treated. People are so ashamed of us. We are both revolting and challenging. People want to fix us, but they don’t want to love us. If that sounds harsh, consider the number of times my weight is addressed by the people around me. It’s basically the main topic of conversation. They love me, sure. They would just love me a little more, or maybe it would be easier to love me, if I weren’t so fat.
It’s a hard world to straddle, feeling like I take up so much space and also feeling so incredibly small. I am the girl you get nervous about on the plane. I see your faces as I walk down and the relief you realize when I’m not in your row. I actually had a woman openly murmur “Oh great.” when she realized we’d be aisle mates. Yeah. That kind of stuff happens.
I now know what it is like to be ignored. People clearly see me, but they don’t want to see me. They are so disgusted by my fatness that they can’t look at me. I know because I used to be thin and pretty. I know what it was like to have people look at me in the eye and smile. I have even seen jealousy on their faces. The difference between existing as a thin person and as a fat person in those same spaces is intensely and heart-breakingly different.
I don’t hold the same clout I used to. Now, my body gets in the way of my purpose. I am easily brushed off or not taken seriously because of the sweat line that soaked through my shirt because I’m always hot, or because I can’t slide effortlessly between the rows at a conference. A group of women whom I wanted to get to know at an event a few weeks ago would barely give me the time of day. That has never happened to me before. It is happening to me now because they don’t see me, they see my body. And the spark of conversation just doesn’t get started on that judgment soaked kindling.
It is important to me that I share this with you so you can understand both my place and your place in the world. My body is not something you need to concern yourself with. I don’t need the unsolicited diet tips, I don’t need to be pitched any products. If I come to you asking, or if you really feel you want to share, ask me if I’m up for a chat and when a good time would be. Just so we are clear, in front of several people, whether it is in person or on social media, is not the time nor the place.
I am okay with what happened in my life that has led me here. To the point where I weigh almost 100 pounds out of my comfort zone. I miss the person who could go for a run or a hike or train for any event I wanted. But I know what happened to me, I know how hard it was to deal with, and I don’t need anyone else’s judgment to get in the way of my goals. I’m not willing to carry around someone else’s personal issues along with mine. If you think I’m ugly and gross and a burden on society for the way I look, that’s on you.
If you want to know the real me, the survivor, the warrior, the total and complete badass, you’re going to have to look beyond the 1x labels at the moment. You’re going to have to put your own shame aside and pull back the curtain on mine to see the tireless heart that keeps beating with strength and courage to fight another day.
Give ‘Em Hell