If you haven’t read it, go do that now. We’ll be here when you get back!
Done? Awesome. Let’s move on.
When that piece went up, I got lots of wonderful support and a few predictable notes of “concern.”
“You forgot to mention that being fat will kill you!”
“Maybe you should try going on a diet.”
“Have you tried [insert any one of half-a-dozen diets here]?”
“Don’t think you’d feel better if you lost some weight?”
Oh, the thousands of assumptions embedded in those statements! Chief among them is this: people who have a “healthy” weight have willpower; people who are fat do not.
It amazes me that people don’t realize how ridiculous that is.
Even more amazing? I don’t realize how ridiculous it is. Or I do realize it, but I forget, and I forget often.
I certainly know the effects that my weight is having on my body. There’s the bulging disc in my lower back that causes constant pain. There are the metformin pills I take to combat insulin resistance. There’s the fact that so many of the ordinary activities of life leave me breathless, my heart hammering in my chest.
How could I be unaware of the many ways I would feel better if I lost weight? I would have more energy and I could sit on the floor without wondering how I’m going to manage to get back up. I could go to any theaters and restaurants I chose without considering whether or not I will be comfortable in the seats. My arms wouldn’t go numb when I sleep on my side and I would be able to cross my legs.
And the diets. Oh, the diets. I was a very successful dieter with a lifetime weight loss in the neighborhood of 1,500 pounds. I’m good at dieting. Damn good.
I’m not going on another diet, ever. I can’t think of any other thing I could do that is more self-destructive than to go on a diet (And if you call a diet a lifestyle change? It’s still a diet.).
Nope. A diet is only good for punishing myself, and I’ve done enough of that.
If I could change myself through punishment, self-hate, and general unkindness, I’d be a perfect person by now.
Of course, the other way I punish myself is with food. I eat things that are not nourishing and make myself feel sick, fatigued, and depressed. I eat too much food, which is how I’ve become fat, and being fat is a pretty big punishment.
When I lose weight, I’m always thrilled to be thin, but I don’t like myself any better than I ever did. I feel like being thin is the least I can do for a world that is disgusted by my fat body; that delicious food is for other people and diet food is for unworthy and unattractive me. A diet feels like penance and a thin body like something I did to earn my right to live in the world instead of a gift I’ve given to myself.
So I start to eat again – cupcakes and pizza, cookies and chips. More punishment, more self-hatred, the weight comes back (and more), and around and around I go.
Five years ago, a man at church was giving me a blessing and he told me, “When you know down here [he touched my stomach] that you are a daughter of the creator and you don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love, everything will change for you.” I’m stepping out in faith that love can do for me what self-condemnation has never accomplished.
I don’t know where taking care of myself is going to take me. I don’t expect to become thin, but I hope that my body will become a healthier, more comfortable one. Most of all, I hope I will learn that I am worthy of the air that I breathe and the space that I occupy.