Cue my first visit to a dietician. This was someone old-school. What do you eat? Okay, now you shall eat only half of that. My first proper, horrible, diet experience began. I clearly remember the hunger, especially in school in the afternoons. Or when it got to dinner time. I learned to appreciate the hunger in the following years. Because the hunger meant that I was in control.
It was probably a good thing I didn’t have any friends, so parties weren’t the problem, so to speak.
For about twenty years I kept this struggle going. Losing 10kg, gaining 15 (the numbers are estimates, I’ve not registered every single kilo I lost/gained) Lose 20, gain 25. Don’t buy the cute clothes. You can do that when you’re at your goal weight. In fact, don’t do anything now. The experience will be so much sweeter if you’re not fat anymore.
And along the way: If I gain more weight, I won’t be able to find any clothes anymore, at all. Plus size clothing was a rarity. I’ve always been ahead of my time.
Meanwhile, the support for this journey was strong. Everyone was willing to add their support, their advice, and bestow upon me their knowledge. If I would just… Because clearly, I was doing it wrong.
For twenty years I have lived with the notion that I was a failure, that I did things wrong. And probably even more, that I was a spineless, lazy, emotional eater. If people continuously give you that message, along the way you can’t help yourself but start to believe it.
Yes, I liked chocolate. I ate more than my fair share of it, and most likely everyone else’s too. That this was my body defending itself and trying to find nourishment never even crossed my mind.
Despite the fight, despite trying so many different diets, in my late twenties, I was still the fattest person I knew. I was no longer a chubby girl. I had become a very fat woman.
Very slowly the idea dawned on me, that maybe I was doing something wrong and it might not be the diet.
At that point, I couldn’t walk a single kilometre, felt weak, light-headed (due to low blood pressure), my entire body hurt. My stomach was constantly upset, I’d not had a period for six months, and I mostly lived on diet shakes. At that point not even to lose weight, but to get some nutrients. Any nutrients, because a proper breakfast or lunch made me nauseous and on more than one occasion involuntarily throw up. The fact that I barely ate was a good thing, right?
When addressing my GP about my (mental)health concerns the only answer I got was ‘why don’t you try and lose 20kg’.
Something had to give.
Previously I’d had dealt with depression, this time it was worse though. I remember sitting on the side of my bed, considering if I should end it all, or maybe finally begin living.
I decided the last. Not only did I decide to live, I decided to fully be alive. Internet was still in its pre-teens, there weren’t as many resources like there are now. So I had to find my own way.
I’d read something about eating what your body needs, what we now call intuitive eating, and decided to give that a try. Meaning that if I wanted to eat Willy Wonka’s factory in chocolate, I could.
Okay, I hear everyone think, a thing like that will kill you. It didn’t. I had to get my body to regain its trust in me. That I would feed it what it asked for. Whatever it asked for. After a while, my food-style (I do not want to use the word diet here) evened out. My body seemed to enjoy eating veggies, salads, and chocolate, and it was all fine. With time, I also found I felt better. I had more energy, felt less drained, the pain in my joints disappeared, and though I still had stomach trouble on occasion, it no longer prevented me from eating proper meals. Apart from mornings, my stomach still doesn’t like mornings.
Since then I’ve done things I never held possible. The things I had always put off until I was at a deserving weight.
I regularly fly(!) or travel abroad for conventions and concerts. I’ve stood front row at many shows, feeling a bit sore after all those hours on my feet, but happy.
I buy the clothes I like, whether or not they are flattering for my shape. Everyone has an opinion about how I look anyway, so I’m just going to wear whatever the hell I want.
I lead an active and full life, doing the things I enjoy.
My GP is still as fat-phobic as he has always been. During my job, I sustained a knee injury, and I am denied medical treatment for it. The fact that in 2018 weight loss is still seen as the treatment for most anything is saddening, frightening, and dangerous. How can I trust that anything truly life threatening will be picked up and treated if they can’t even provide me basic care for a torn meniscus?
These days we have the Fat Acceptance movement, HAES, and a multitude of people and groups, who not only fight to stop fat stigma, but also prove, with science, that the weight loss is not the solution it’s cracked up to be. That health is very personal, and no one should need to show their medical file to get respect. After about fifteen years it feels good not to have to wage this war on my own anymore.
Standing up and standing out is still hard though. So many people in everyday life who think they have a right to tell me what I have to do to become a respected member of society (aka ‘good fatty’). Yet, they dare call me rude when I call them out on their fat-shaming and decline any interest in their offered solution to what they think is my problem. Because this weight I have has to be a problem.
So here comes the rude:
People think that by no longer striving for the thin dream, I let myself off easy. It’s not, and I don’t. Because, believe me, very little is harder than fighting for what you believe in, against the stream of popular belief. It would be so much easier to keep on dieting, and exercising to attain people’s good opinions. To show and tell everyone ‘Look, I know I’m fat, but here’s what I’m doing not to be.’
Everyone who tells me that if I’d just lose a few kilos (or pounds), is basically saying that:
- I am uninformed at best, probably too stupid to do the whole diet and exercise thing properly, because why would I be fat otherwise?
- maybe I tried eating a salad once, but didn’t like it and kept on stuffing my face with fattening food. (not discussing good/bad foods here, all food is good)
- I am lazy
- I am spineless and can’t resist temptation.
- you invalidate everything I’ve been through on this journey, what I have experienced, and everything I have researched on the topic (it’s a lot more than the odd magazine article).
- you believe that I have tried to find studies that sustained what I wanted them to, when in fact they confirm what I have lived through.
- you wish for me to be invisible.
You may also think that:
- you are telling me something I’ve not heard before.
- you are honestly trying to help me. (believe me, you’re not)
- I am not concerned about my health.
- I am interested in what you have to say on the matter, based on either our relationship, your experiences, this friend you have who dieted/had bariatric surgery (and LOVES the result), or just the plain fact that I dare show my face in the grocery store, gym, anywhere really.
Keeping all that in mind, the things a fat person like me always has to remember is that:
- I can’t be a valuable member of society
- I’d better be off not leaving my house
- no matter what I eat; it’s the wrong thing (Eat a burger, oh look, fatty found her soul mate. Eat a salad, oh look, who does she think she’s kidding).
- if I do go to the gym I open myself up to ridicule, invite people to talk about my weight as if it is a public debate, run the risk of anyone taking pictures and fat-shame me publically. Or maybe even worse, have to accept the fact that people think that I’m such a good fatty for going, when in fact I enjoy the exercise.
- at work, I have to work twice as hard for half the recognition.
- I have to be grateful for people telling me they wondered if I were up to the job when they first saw me, but are in awe of what I can accomplish.
- I have to wear inconspicuous clothes, black preferably, because, well, I already stand out so much, would I really want to focus the attention on my hips, my ass, my boobies by wearing something sexy, short, floral, and colourful?
- the question if I’ve lost weight is meant as a compliment, not a worry about my general health.
- not being able to eat (due to nausea, stress or whatever) is a good thing. Actually, it’s best for everyone if I develop an eating disorder.
You know what, I’m done with it. Done with the fat-rules. I’ve chucked them out the window and will live my life, my way. So I’m not getting knee surgery. Maybe if I lost weight, my knee would be better. But all things considered, I don’t believe I’d be happier and healthier with depression, an eating disorder, messed up metabolism, the complications and lifestyle after bariatric surgery, or all other ‘nice’ things dieting has given me.
I’m empathic to fault. I know it’s not possible for a lot of people to accept the fact that diets don’t work, and thinness depends on so much more than we ourselves can control. What we can control is how we live life with the bodies we’re given. The possibilities, and impossibilities.
You can talk about weight and dieting until you weigh an ounce. Go to the gym and exercise until you purge, go vegan, only eat every other day, go on the doughnut diet.
If that’s your path, that’s fine with me. Just keep me out if it, please. Or as Cardi B so eloquently put it:
Let me fat in peace.
This piece is a reflection of my experiences, feelings, and opinions. Different people have different points of view. This is mine.