Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fighting the Fat

This blog post might make you uncomfortable.  If you aren't interested in reading about some painfully true issues, stop reading now. This was written over a year ago, but I can't say much has changed.

I struggle.  I struggle with my physical body all the time.  I hate its roundness and its lumps and bumps and dimples.  I despise the parts that sag and loathe the parts that jiggle.  I am embarrassed to be seen in a matter of fact, I don't own any. I have several swimming suits, but I won't put them on, even in front of my own children. My husband doesn't see me naked. I feel like a complete failure because of the pounds I carry on my body. None of my achievements stand up to those pounds. When you look at me, I assume you are disgusted. I assume you judge me.  I don't think you see my face or my talents or my personality, because the fat is in the way. I can't imagine how any positive attributes could possibly show through the layers of blubber that surround me.  I struggle mightily.

And I have good reason for this struggle, if you think about it. All my life, people have commented on my weight, even in benign ways such as..."You have such a pretty face" or "You'd be a real looker if you could just drop a few pounds." Those are from people who LIKE ME! Strangers, however, are not always so kind...just recently in a local bar/grill, a man said about me in front of my own children, "Check out that fat bitch." Even at my thinnest, a size 12, people commented on my weight...outloud.  "You look better than you did, but I hope you're not done."

Society, too, has its comments about the weight I carry. Look at the cover of any women's magazine, and you will read the messages loud and clear. "I Can Finally be Happy: I Lost the Weight." Oprah, with all her millions, all her accomplishments, all her charity, is still judged by the size of her pants. Young actresses are featured on the front of gossip magazines in their bathing suits, touted as either "Beach Beautiful Bodies" or "Bathing Suit Disasters". I listened to a radio broadcast the other day that was discussing a comment made by Megan McCain. The commentator dismissed her opinion and finished his assessment of her statement by slamming her for being overweight. Something to the effect of, how can you know what you are talking about when you are a fat pig. What does her weight have to do with her political opinion? Clothing styles are getting smaller and smaller...what used to fit a woman as a medium is now an XL. One young girl from my son's school posted the other day on Facebook: "Abercrombie, where the sizes are small, extra small, bulimic, and anorexic." In order to be fashionable, young girls have to be increasingly thinner.

The same prejudice is alive and well in so many arenas. Almost 4 years ago, I was involved in a car crash. The other driver ran a stop sign and hit me head on--I was going 50 miles per hour when we crashed. My knees were rammed up into the dash board of the car, and I was pinned into the car between the dash board and the transmission, which had come up through the floor board. Since that crash, I have lived with daily knee pain and I take close to 100 Vicodin a month. This summer, I went to court to try to resolve the lawsuit from the accident. The opposing council argued that because I am overweight, I am not entitled to any compensation for the pain I have endured since the accident. He argued that the pounds I carry are the cause of the  knee pain, not the 50 mph impact on them. He pointed at me and said to the arbitration panel, "Just look at her.  This is a BIG woman. She's immense. How can we believe that this crash caused her pain when she's so grossly overweight?" My medical records were entered into evidence clearly demonstrating that I had never been treated for any type of knee pain prior to the date of the accident. Can you guess with whom the arbitration panel sided? It wasn't me.  Their determination was that the evidence was "inconclusive" concerning the origin of my pain, and that in light of my obvious obesity, they could not award damages in my favor.

I've developed defenses to shield myself from this type of abuse..I use humor to deflect comments, and I am usually quite self-depreciating in an effort to beat others to the punch. I wear mostly black and brown because they don't show my flaws quite as readily. Almost every physical move I make starts with the can I hide? How can I make myself smaller?

You might ask, why don't you just lose weight? The short answer is that I have tried. And tried. And tried and tried and tried. When I am pregnant, the weight falls off me like leaves from a tree in autumn...40 pounds with the first pregnancy, over 50 with each subsequent pregnancy. When I'm not pregnant, my metabolism slows to the rate of molasses running in winter time. Regardless of how I restrict my diet, weight stays with me. If I'm lucky enough to drop a few pounds (I dropped 60 on a diet of 900 calories and 18 grams of fat a day, but I got very sick) on some ridiculously impossible weight loss plan, as soon as I resume a "normal" diet, it returns. I've given consideration to surgical procedures, but I am not willing to assume the risks that come with those options. I don't have high blood pressure, my cholesterol is fine, and my blood sugar is perfect, so co-morbidity issues are not a strong motivating factor. Recently, a young woman I went to high school with died.  Her death was a complication of gastric bypass surgery. A woman close to her begged her not to have the surgery, and told her of the death of her own cousin as a result of gastric bypass surgery. She told this woman losing weight was worth the risk to her...but I wonder if she thought that as she lay dying. Another woman I know had the same procedure several years ago and has had 25 additional surgeries to correct the problems associated with the gastric bypass. She still fights the complications every day, and will continue to fight them as long as she lives.

When I look at my life through an objective lens (which isn't easy, as you may have guessed from my opening paragraph), I can plainly see that it is a good life. I have accomplished many things; I have a fulfilling and rewarding career in which I daily make a difference in the lives of others. I have a wonderful husband who loves me and desires me. My children respect me and love me, and are bright and kind. I am active in my church, have many friends, and am capable of doing whatever it is I want to do. My weight does not physically keep me from doing much, with the exception of riding roller coasters and carnival rides, and being comfortable in a baseball stadium. So why do I continue to let my weight define me as a person? Why can't I factor that weight into the equation along with all the wonderful things in my life, to make it just a component of who I am instead of the sum total of my failure? I don't let my curly hair or short stature define me...why the weight?

I dont' want to have this struggle anymore. I'd like to accept myself, with all my lumps, bumps, sags, and jiggles, for who I am. I'd like to see myself as the total package, with my accomplishments and positive attributes getting the "weight" they deserve, and the weight getting less attention. I don't know how to correct this erroneous thinking in myself. But I can tell you this...I will do everything in m y power to build up my daughter for her strengths and internal beauty so that she is able to see her true self. I will fight like hell to keep her from defining herself based on her size. I will work day and night to help her be as healthy as she can possibly be, both physically and that she NEVER fights the battle I fight every day.

1 comment:

  1. Michelle, thank you. You have no idea what this means to me- well, actually, yes you do. Thank you!