Fat City–You Won’t Find It on Google Maps May 31, 2013Posted by J. in Genius.
Tags: body acceptance, change, diet, exercise, fat, fat acceptance, Fat City article, fat shaming, fitness, health, morbidly obese, obesity, sanity
This article by Karen Hitchcock called “Fat City” is currently making the rounds of my Facebook and is causing a huge uproar. I read it prepared to be outraged, but I am surprised to find that I’m not. Go on and give it a read if you haven’t already. I’ll wait.
As a fat person, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be angry about it. I am, but not for the reasons and rebuttals I see posted. I think I read it differently because I have 66 pounds of weight loss under my shrinking belt. But first off, here’s the truth: I’m still morbidly obese. I’m not Rubenesque. I’m not plump, or chubby. I’m fat. Fucking fat. Not just obese, MORBIDLY obese. As in “so fat you could die from that shit.”
I believe that fat acceptance has kept me obese for most of my adult life. I’m not saying that if you’re fat you shouldn’t love yourself. I’m not saying that if you’re fat, you have no self-worth. You deserve to be accepted because you are awesome. You should love yourself because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. But you are not your fat, and I am not my fat. But I didn’t always feel that way.
And I don’t write this to take on the Fat Acceptance movement. I know there will be angry responses to this post, and I don’t even know if I’m ready to see them. I’m not an activist. I’m a fat woman trying to gain some sanity, to come to grips with why I’m fat, not to condemn anyone else for the way they look or what their own beliefs on the topic are. I can only write what I know, and I have to say, as much as it hurt to read it, I think Dr. Hitchcock was spot on in her article.
You see, one day in the not-so-distant past, it dawned on me that my fat was not an asset, but the byproduct of some very fundamentally flawed thinking on my own part. And if I continued to accept and love my flaws, what impetus would there be for change? I speak for myself, but when it comes to fat, I believe in a nation where obesity has become the norm, we’ve taken to using excuses to blur the line between what we cannot do and what we choose not to do. And therein lies the problem. Or at least, it’s my problem. Or was.
I’m ready for change, and I’ve had to tear down every single thought process about my size, my appearance, my weight, and my health and rebuild from scratch, because when you strip away the excuses and the complacency, there’s not much left to work with. Learning the difference between that which I can change and that I can’t is really the hardest part, because sorting out the excuses from the obstacles and figuring out just how high the walls I have to scale are is the biggest challenge of all of it.
I make no excuses for my weight anymore. Hear me now: I’m fat, and what’s more, I’m fat by choice.
Let that sink in for a minute. I am fat by choice, because I am an intelligent woman and there are things about the human body that I know. These aren’t myths or lies. This is science, pure and simple. And some math, because behind every unpleasantness, there’s math waiting for me like a big old spidah.
First, I had to accept the simple truth that there is a limit to the amount of food any human’s body needs every day. Period. Every human. If you eat over that limit often enough, the extra fuel will turn to fat. It’s basic biology. It’s math. You can’t fucking argue with math, man. Believe me, I’ve tried. Math’s a right bitch, but it doesn’t lie.
The second simple truth that goes hand in hand with the first is that there are foods that are good for you and foods that aren’t, and like knowing the difference between the changeable and the immutable, knowing what every food does and measuring its benefit can be tricky. “But these are diet chips! And diet soda! I should be skinny as a rail!” They’re still CRAP, Poops! For Christ’s sake, just accept the fact that they are crap. Embrace the idea that they are crap, and that you’re feeding your body crap. It might be low-calorie, low-fat crap, but it’s still CRAP.
The third simple fact is that like a car, your body needs to be driven around. It’s full of moving, working parts that get no benefit from sitting in the garage. Muscles need to be worked to be healthy. Your heart needs to get revved up every single day to be strong and keep you circulating. You need to sweat. You need to breathe hard. You need to keep your joints oiled and your connective tissues flexible. Because if you don’t, well, it’s simple mechanics here. You’ll rust out and seize up. Oh, maybe not when you’re 20. Or 30. But 40? 50? Do you see many 300 pound women in their 80’s in anything other than wheelchairs or motorized scooters? I don’t. Not many, that’s for sure.
Can you be fat and healthy? Of course you can! Fat people exercise. I know because I do. I’m 292.4 pounds this morning and I workout like a bastard. I sweat like a whore in church. I do cardio and weight training at least 6 days a week. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in years. But as long as I’m lugging around the extra weight, I’m not truly healthy. It’s not like the fat is there for any healthy purpose.
Do all fat people eat nothing but candy and cake and pies and chips, bingeing and gorging themselves into oblivion with giant greasy pizzas constantly? Of course not. Not every fat person who is eating a salad is on a diet. Sometimes you just want a big bowl of something green and leafy. But you can eat too much good food just like you can eat too much crap. And you can eat bad food thinking it’s good.
The body is such a wickedly complex thing. Different people have different metabolic rates, and you can adjust your metabolism. No really, it’s science again. You can! You can eat foods that rev it up, and you can do things that slow it down. Fad diets and crash diets, if you do them often enough will screw you up. The type and duration of exercise you do vs the fuel you take in can affect it. Sleep patterns can affect it. Medications affect it. Age affects it. Allow me to reiterate that these aren’t myths. This isn’t stuff your doctor made up off the cuff. It’s science, and it’s really complicated. I do a lot of homework these days in an effort to figure my body out.
And man, that’s just the actual physical side of things. Knowing about food and how it works, learning all that…it’s a full-time job these days! What to eat, what not to eat, when to eat it–it’s like a master class in nutrition for me every single day. There’s homework, and a ton of it. Knowing how to work out–what exercises do what and how it affects all the parts of this very complicated machine that is my body is a full-time job. Again, more homework.
What’s been hardest for me is changing my feelings about it. It’s easy to be hopeless. “I can’t lose weight because I’m over 40 and menopausal and have PCOS and my medications and crash dieting in the past have screwed up my metabolism.” That’s a lot of hurdles to get over right there. And letting them be insurmountable challenges is not much of a stretch. It’s not much of a change to say, “My metabolism is fucked because I’m over 40 and menopausal and I have PCOS and have screwed the pooch by chugging Slim-Fast in my 20’s and injecting pregnant rat urine three times a week, but I can fix that” but it’s a damn sight harder, because that right there is where the change occurs.
And it’s when you realize, or at least I did, that I was using excuses to cover the fact that losing weight is hard, and it was not serving any good purpose in my life.
I can fix that.
It’s 90% mental, and since it’s the hardest part, you can bet your ass it’s a lot of work. WORK. And the moment I heard myself admit out loud that the reason I really haven’t managed to ever get my ass into shape and maintain that health is that I just didn’t want to work that hard…I didn’t feel so good about myself. I made excuses because they hurt a lot less than admitting that I didn’t want to work out because I’m basically lazy and hate to exercise. It’s so much kinder to blame my weight on genetics or illness than it is to fight against those things. It’s easier to accept that this is the way I’m made. I’m a flawed person, and I love myself anyway. It’s harder to admit that I’m a flawed person, and be mindful of my flaws and work on fixing those flaws. Being aware of my own shortcomings as a person makes me uncomfortable, to say the least. But the feeling that comes when I fight against my own instincts–whether inbred or conditioned–is beyond description. That feeling of being better than I was. Stronger. More confident in my own abilities. Feeling freer, like the fears that kept me tied down are gone and where I can go…I don’t know. I feel like I have no limits anymore.
I can fix that!
But back to the article. The author is a bit of a cunt, if you want to know how I feel about it. Her tone can be snotty and condescending, and it rubs me the wrong way when someone who’s never walked a mile in my plus-sized pants tells me what’s wrong with me. Maybe she’s right, but she lacks empathy because she simply cannot know what it feels like to live with fat. But I’ll tell you this: I’ve now read every word of it three times and it’s absofuckinglutely true.
Last June, I’d have RAGED against this. How fucking DARE SHE? You don’t know my struggles!
But she does. It’s about how we accept fat, and in doing so, give approval to the things that make us fat, because we don’t want to address the mental and social issues that stand in the way of being not-fat. I won’t say “thin” because not all thin people are healthy and not all fat people are sick. But I don’t know a better word to use to describe the body at its optimal weight.
I know why I accepted my fat as a given. I know what was behind my own thinking. I can’t speak for every fat person in the world. I know I didn’t want to “diet” because I couldn’t stand the idea of a life without all the yummy things in it. I wanted the pleasure of eating, of laying about, and accepted fat as the consequence. I chose it, because wanting the food was a bigger priority than wanting to be not-fat.
Nothing tastes as good as thin feels. I wouldn’t fucking know, man. And this big ass slice of cake feels pretty damn good.
I guess what I’m getting at is that there was a time I’d have fought everything she said simply because of how she said it, but more deeply because she makes me see as a person how I’ve failed myself. She knows it’s hard and writes from the perspective of someone who wants to help, but is limited to what she can do. She has her own frustrations. I write from someone inside a fat suit I built myself, so my perspective is different than hers, but I’m seeing the same thing, just from another angle is all. I agree with her: this shit I’m doing is HARD. And anyone who says doing it is easy should be kicked in the crotch. If it was easy, there would be no obesity epidemic. No one would be reaping untold fortunes from diet pills and supplements, and eating plans that cut out whole food groups or make you inject weird shit into your body. No one would undergo surgery to alter their body just to gain that bit of control.
I say I’m fat by choice, but I also believe that today I’m less fat by choice, and will some day be at a healthy weight by choice as well. The notion that it’s all out of my hands for any reason is part of the excuses that kept me at 360 pounds. I reject all excuses I’ve ever made and have reworked them so that they are nothing more than challenges to be overcome. Period. And I will overcome them. There will be a day when I am not a fat person. It’s not today. But it’s coming, because I reject the idea that my fat is normal, healthy, or good in any way. The only thing about my own fat that I accept today is that it is temporary, and for my own well-being it has to go, because it serves no positive purpose in my life.
I can fix this.