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Fat People Are People, Too

June 20, 2012

I hear you’re losing weight again, Mary Jane
You ever wonder who you’re losing it for?

I’m going to touch on something that is personal, political, and even has relevance in writing.

Weight.

Let me start by saying that until I was about eleven years old, I was thin as a bean stalk. Mum had to tie my clothes on me. But, I got my period when I was eleven, and within a year, I’d gained sixty pounds. Nothing about my life had changed. I was still active, playing with my friends, walking around my neighborhood, swimming. Nothing changed except my hormones.

The funny thing is? I remember being eight years old and Mum putting us on a diet. My brother and I were active kids, riding our bikes to and from school every day, playing in the neighborhood, PE every day, recess, dance classes… I’ve never been able to figure out why Mum did it, but we were on a pretty strict diet. I remember lunch being steamed potatoes, onions, and carrots and ‘dessert’ being ice milk.

I don’t know, but very early on, I was made aware of weight. Of how weight mattered to those around me. How my appearance made me a good or bad person. When I was twelve, Mum took me to a doctor because my weight had exploded and she knew I wasn’t eating more than what she gave me. The doctor told her I had to be sneaking food, stealing it from friends’ houses. Wow, really? I was humiliated and devastated. My body was doing something I could understand, but it was somehow my fault. I decided, if it was the food that was the problem, then I just wouldn’t eat.

And I didn’t.

I got good at hiding that I wasn’t eating. If I had to eat in front of people, I quickly excused myself to go to the bathroom and purge. I spent most of my teen years binging, purging, and starving, ruining my body because someone I trusted—my doctor—told me I was fat and shouldn’t be.

When I was twenty-two and unable to become pregnant with my husband, I went to see a OB/GYN specialist. He told me I couldn’t get pregnant because I was fat. The thing I wanted most—to be a mother—was denied me because I was fat. Didn’t matter I was barely eating 800 calories in a day, I had to be doing something wrong. I went from doctor to doctor, but I got the same line over and over. One OB/GYN even told my husband, while I sitting right there!, that I had to be lying to him, to my husband, and to myself. There was no way I wasn’t consuming 5,000 calories in a day. He prescribed me diet pills.

Here’s the second thing I’m going to part with: I self-injure. I started as a teen to deal with stress, and it carried over into my adulthood. During this time of my life, I was terrible to my body. Cutting it, denying it, hating it. I miscarried seven times. I never had the family I wanted, and I believed it was because I was fat. Doctors, friends, family, and the world at large had convinced me I was a terrible person with no control.

Why is all this coming up now? Because there was an author who said some very callous things about what other authors looked like and how it affected their enjoyment of the authors’ writing. If they were fat and ugly, the author didn’t want to know or else they couldn’t read their work. That was like a punch in the gut. Such harsh judgment! It brought up every bad feeling I had about myself and made me feel small, feel as if my worth was—once more—only in my appearance.

When I was twenty-five, I was directed to a Reproductive Endocrinologist who did a lot of uncomfortable tests. As I was laying on his table, the sonogram screen tilted to me, this man pointed out my ovaries. He showed me all the cysts littering them. I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and had since I was eleven or twelve. PCOS is a genetic disorder of the endocrine system. Genetic.

I won’t lie.

I cried.

I laid there on that table and I cried.

There was a name for the string of symptoms I had. There was a source. A reason. I thought having that, I would see myself differently. Maybe I did, but the world didn’t. People still stopped me in the grocery store to tell me I should have gastric bypass done. STRANGERS told me this! The audacity. And me being who I am, I smiled, blushed, and felt such humiliation, but I let them do it to me. I let them say their horrible, uninformed words to me.

I also discovered I had insulin resistance (a sister issue to the PCOS), an underactive thyroid, a low immune system, and a host of problems my years of starvation had caused. In the pursuit of being thin and beautiful, I had ruined my body. I can’t have children on my own. My body stores fat because it’s starved for so long. My heart developed an irregular rhythm. Because I was told at twelve I was fat because I was stealing food, I spent the next fifteen years starving myself in one way or another. If the doctor had simply said that the PCOS could be managed with some minor medication and the reduction of carbohydrates, I think I’d be a much different woman.

As it is, I’m an overweight woman who hates food as much as she loves it. I don’t eat in front of people, and rarely eat in public. I don’t go to restaurants. I think everyone is judging me when I eat. I don’t even know what hunger is anymore. I just don’t. I get a headache and nauseous. That’s what tells me I need to eat. No hunger pangs. Those were lost after the first year of starvation. I have to be pushed to have meals. I won’t eat if those around me aren’t eating, too.

What does this have to do with anything?

If you’re one of those lucky people who are thin because genetics loves you, recognize that blessing for what it is. If you’re thin because you workout every day, recognize your hard work. But please, don’t look at a fat person and think their experience is your experience. I have exercised, starved, fought, and hated for years. I will never be 165 pounds. And losing weight isn’t easy. The healthy food is expensive and time consuming. Sometimes, it’s just easier and cheaper to make a hotdog than to cook a breast of chicken, steam some veg, and make some brown rice.

Society needs to stop making those of us not within an unrealistic norm feel as if we’re disgusting monsters. We need to stop saying that size 0 is the goal. We need to stop judging people for their weight, appearance, gender, sexual orientation, or sexual identity. We need to stop judging.

How does it tie into writing? Well, next time you start writing, ask yourself if your hero or heroine has to be 130 pounds and buff? Does she really have to be 5’2″, slim, and busty? Does he really have to be 6’2″, muscled, and trim? No, they don’t. They can be pudgy, portly, or curvy. Maybe it’s time for the fantasy to come closer to reality so that all kinds can be found in fiction.

Just because someone doesn’t fit your ideal of beautiful doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful. I’m a loving, caring, devoted person. I’m deeply emotional, highly imaginative, and I matter. I am a person, even if I’m overweight. I’m beautiful, even if I have fat rolls. I am more than my weight.

I am me.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2012 9:35 am

    Even more, if genetics suggst you should be fat and you have thrown your system off-kilter by trying to diet, there simply is NO WAY IN HELL you can lose weight lastingly in a manner that buys you society’s approval. Eating healthy and exercising will just make you feel better and enjoy life more. Blaming everything on TEH FAT is a) outdated b) conter-prodcutive and c) only perptuates suffering and supports as the 60 billion dollar weight loss industry in the US alone. For scientific work on how that is so, google ‘Linda Bacon’, for ways of dealing with these issues in a personal, meaningful and empowering way that goes beyond the weight loss ideology, google ‘Golda Poretsky’ and ‘Ragen Chastain’.

    ((Yes I know you know all that and have the context — this is for your readers and followers to follow up on, as I think one or two people might find their first taste of liberation from this post of yours. I still remember the LJ post that gave ME the first taste, the first inredulous ‘It ain’t necessarily so!’ of Fat Acceptance and Health At Every Size (HAES) — again, providing words to google for for your readers! — at some stage in, when was it, 2008? I have wasted SO MUCH LIFETIME on dieting and believing that everybody ought to be thin, that every body CAN be thin, and that every fat person WANTS to be thin, it’s not true how many much more creative and constructive things I could have done with that time and energy!))

  2. June 20, 2012 9:44 am

    The judging is hurtful. Women should do this. Fat people shouldn’t do that. Gay people shouldn’t be this. POC shouldn’t be that. It’s… depressing. Incredibly depressing. People are more than their religion, sexuality, or size.

    I dread going to see my GP now. Every time I go, I get a lecture on my weight. I am told I need to just eat salads (ask K, I eat too many of them already). Both of my parents are overweight and have been my whole life. My grandmother was overweight. My brother has managed to not be overweight by denying himself, drinking a lot of water, exercising a lot, and smoking.

    I will say, I lose weight when I reduce my carbohydrate intake, which is on par with the PCOS/IR issues. However, I tend to only ever lose 60-100lbs, and that’s NEVER enough for my doctors or society. It’s hurtful, painful, and I dislike being treated as if my weight is a social disease to be stamped out.

  3. June 20, 2012 11:34 am

    *hug* This was a beautiful post. I’m sure painful to write, but well-said. And I wish I knew who that author was to whom you are referring because _I_ don’t like reading the works of people who are judgmental jerks. That affects MY enjoyment.

  4. June 20, 2012 1:01 pm

    *hugs* I can’t imagine how difficult these issues are for you. Strangers commenting on your appearance is *shakes head*. Rude. It’s just rude. You are a sweet, talented person with an amazing work ethic and fabulous personality.

    I feel like doctors like to blame weight for everything. My aunt had a tumor in her uterus, but the doctor *assumed* the constant heavy bleeding was due to her weight (she is *not* overweight by any standards, but she felt terrible because she was told she was fat). An eventual 2nd opinion, and, you know, actual tests, thankfully led to a real diagnosis and immediate surgery. A friend had a messed up knee, but the doctor wouldn’t consider anything other than weight as the problem until she had lost 50lbs, only then would he consider that maybe there was really something wrong with her knee. These sorts of behaviors and the ones you’ve described really harm my trust in medical professionals.

    I’m glad you appreciate yummy food. You have some of the best recipes and I enjoy your meal reports. Today I have an odd craving for onigiri (with pickled plum). I can’t imagine where this yearning came from. 😉

  5. Carole-Ann permalink
    June 20, 2012 2:47 pm

    I’m aghast that another ‘author’ had the temerity to comment!! Please ignore!

    I’m an example of weird weight things 🙂 Until my first daughter, I was one of those eternally thin, well-shaped figures who could eat anything without weight gain – 5ft 2in, 110 lbs, 22 inch waist 🙂 Second daughter came along relatively quickly, so I had no chance to lose the first pregnacy gain. I went from a size 10 (UK) to size 14 in the space of 18 months. Didn’t bother me too much ‘cos I’d gained ‘curves’! Third daughter 5 years later didn’t help, so by the time I was 40, I was pudgy and ‘slightly’ overweight – and I’m still that now in my 60’s!

    But this isn’t the point. My 3rd daughter has large bones, so by the time she was 5, she was considerably larger than her contemporaries. By 7, I was taking her to dieticians, trying to find out why she was ‘large’. We went through so many diets (!), regulating her carbs or E-number intake, tried everything the doctors said; religiously followed good-food regimes, but nothing worked!! She eventually had a gastric bypass and still eats well and little; but she is still a ‘big’ girl.

    I cannot fathom the reason why she is so large; but we have accepted that she’s not ever going to be ‘normal’. The important people still love her for who she is, not what she looks like; and this is it! We accept a quirk of fate (or genetics); and so should others. I have no time whatever for people who think ‘looks’ are important. They’re not!! It’s the person inside who is invaluable!!

  6. June 23, 2012 3:00 pm

    Beth — Thank you. It was hard to write, difficult to put it out there, but it needed to be done. I’m so tired of being made to feel like I’m a disease that needs to be eradicated.

  7. June 23, 2012 3:01 pm

    Evie — It’s humiliating. Strangers walking up and telling me what I should do about my weight, as if I’m not worth anything until I’m thin. The worst is when someone who has lost weight approaches me and makes it seem as if all I need to do is restrain myself.

    My doctor, every time I see him, asks me about gastric bypass. He keeps insisting I need it. No, I don’t. I don’t need to spend $20K for what is essentially surgeon-sanctioned anorexia. I can starve myself without it. The one-size-fits-all aspect of the medical profession really gets to me.

    Glad you like my recipes! 😀 I love to cook. I really do. I wish I could eat without the feelings of guilt, but I’m making small strides in that direction.

  8. June 23, 2012 3:01 pm

    Carole-Ann — It’s sad that anyone would allow someone’s appearance to have any sway on their enjoyment of the art the person produced. 😦

    My whole family is large, and I have serious health issues that contribute. I eat well. I am active. Why can’t I be healthy and just be big, you know? Acceptance is should be for everyone no matter their size, shape, color, or identity. 🙂

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