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Where’s The Acceptance Already?

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Hey! Here’s me! It’s been a while since I posted anything here. A long while. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been so busy, but truthfully 2013 just wasn’t such a great year for me. Mentally, I spent a lot of last year depressed, in my pj’s, wallowing through brain sludge.. and it’s very bloody hard to write positively when you can’t even remember what positive feels like.

So today is the first day of 2014. A new year. This is supposedly the time of year where somebody makes a bunch of promises about improving themselves, but I don’t really feel like disappointing myself in three months time so I’m not here to do that.

I’m here to remember. I need to remind myself why I decided to start writing about fat acceptance. Why I became a fat positive blogger.

I try to surround myself with fat positive people, and there are soooo many strong voices that help me to feel uplifted every day. What I really want to see more of, and what I will be talking more about this year, are the larger fat people. People over a size 24. People like me. There is an overwhelming lack of representation for people with a body like mine. We are people who often end up pushed aside in mainstream fat acceptance.

If it feels like I’m saying ‘people’ a lot, that’s deliberate. The world seems to have forgotten that that’s what we are. Our humanity is being stripped from us. You forget that someone like me is a whole person, with lived experiences and a wide variety of  interests. We come from different backgrounds and cultures. We have differing levels of ability and mobility. We exist at every point on the sexuality and gender spectrums. We have careers, we raise families, we study, we fall in love, we have sex, we have goals and ambitions, hopes, dreams.. Our bodies are part of who we are, and cannot be separated, but we are so much more than a fat body.

We are all these things, yet we are judged unfairly for daring to give our bodies the nourishment they need. Why?
We are at the mercy of a growing fatshion industry that still hasn’t quite grown enough to think we can be fatshionable. Why can’t we look good in your clothing, too? Why do you not want our money?
We apologise for the space we take up, and try to make ourselves as small as possible. Why? Why are we trying to make ourselves less?

Why do we continue to apologise for our bodies as though a body is something to be apologetic about?

Why must we remain invisible?

I really don’t have any interest in discussing whether or not fat people deserve to be treated with respect, we have a right to exist. These are not points to argue about, there’s no discussion. Nor am I interested in talking about health as though it’s this moral pinnacle that everyone should be striving for, and those that don’t make the grade are just lazy ol’ fatties and undeserving of basic human decency.

I’m also not interested in adopting HAES as a substitute for diet culture. Your life is your own, you can eat what you like and do what you like, but you do not get to call yourself better than anybody else who doesn’t choose your path.

So, this year I will strive to write more often. I do use tumblr pretty regularly, for anybody that’s interested. Mostly things I find online, quotes, fat bodies, and the odd funny comic. This space? Well, what I say may not always be sunshine and sparkles.. But that’s life, isn’t it?

Fat Fox – Sometimes Things Go Right

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The other day, I was talking with Jodie and asked her if I could write a blog about the things I’m thankful for in my life. I was worried that taking the time to sit down and write solely about the things that have been a blessing in my life would seem too self-serving. Jodie kindly encouraged me to go ahead and write the post. Prior to this I’ve written a lot about my struggles with fat and chronic illness. Today, I want to write a little about what has gone right.

To recap, I am 5’9 about 355lbs (current estimate though I don’t keep a scale at my house). I have a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, Hypothyroidism, Hidradenitis Suppurativa (stage 2), benign 3cm lump on my right thyroid nodule, Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, and PTSD. This blog post is not a complete and 100% account of everything I’m grateful for, but it is a few things that I wanted to share.

Doctor & Pain Medicine –
On the message boards about Fibromyalgia, I have found literally hundreds of posts about people who cannot get adequate pain medication. Doctors who refuse to prescribe opiates or who do prescribe them and then turn around and rip the rug out from under the patient leaving them in horrible and traumatic withdrawals. When I say horrible and traumatic – this is nearly an understatement. If you haven’t been through opiate withdrawals just google it. It’s a veritable shit-storm (pun intended) of horrifying symptoms. Having said that, I have been extremely lucky to find a doctor who not only believes me when I talk about my pain, but also has been willing to prescribe an appropriate level of pain medication. This is incredibly unusual and even more unusual for a fat woman with Fibro to find. My doctor has believed me when I have burned through all the “normal” fibro treatment drugs and failed horribly because of the side effects. So far – heavy duty opiates are the only thing that has helped me at all. . . and I am DAMN LUCKY to have a doctor who works with me on that.

Spouse/Partner –
All my life, I was conditioned to think that a relationship was going to be predicated on my ability to look “hot” and find that guy. Chronic pain is far from glamorous. I’ve been married to my husband for 10 years now. He’s been with me through a painful separation from my family of origin, depression, PTSD, therapy, 100lb weight gain, eating disorder, and now a chronic illness. He has been dedicated to supporting our family while I go to school. He works full time but still does dishes and laundry when the chores are too overwhelming for me. And after all that he still tells me made up stories and gives me a cuddle at night. I have read so many stories on message boards of chronic illness causing divorce, anger, frustration, etc. We have had our challenges, it is by no means easy. But I am blessed to have a husband who is willing to stick with me. I’ve never worried that my husband is secretly posting to “my fat spouse” or planning a divorce because I don’t have dinner on the table for him when he gets home from work. All things that I’ve seen unhappy fibromites post on other message boards. I am damn lucky to have my partner.

Friends/Family – Another thing I witness on the forums is people whose friends are downright rude. Their friends and family accuse them of faking their pain/illness. They berate them for missing social outings. They steal their medication! My heart breaks to read some of the accounts of what people go through. But it also puts into stark contrast my experience with my friends and family. I have never been accused of faking my illness/pain. People call to check on me. When I travel to visit friends I am greeted with a comfortable bed, and the patient understanding that I can’t always keep up with their schedules. I have friends and family who listen patiently and validate my experiences when I need someone to talk to. Just last month I was discussing the possibility of needing surgery to remove the lump on my thyroid and the concern over the cost. My cousin looked at me and said “you have family who loves you. If we all donate a little at a time – it may take a while but we’ll help you out and get the cost covered”. AMAZING. I truly am lucky to have this level of support in my life.

These are just a few things that I wanted to put out there as being thankful for. Not just for me, but for others who may want a little bit of a non-doom & gloom look at life with a chronic illness. It’s not all bad. There are always things that are challenging both for the person with the illness and for the family, but there are still many wonderful, happy, and amazing things that happen and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some of these aspects of my life.

Please feel free to share any and all of your experiences in the comments!

Fat Fox – Drugs and Weight Loss.

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*MOD EDIT – PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE TRIGGER WARNINGS: This post discusses DEPRESSION, THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE AND SELF-HARM, ANXIETY, EATING DISORDERS (ANOREXIA), MEDICATION and WEIGHT LOSS.*

With all that.. Welcome back Fat Fox!
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Readers may have noticed a conspicuous lack of posts on my part. I apologize, and hope that this missive about the last two months of my life helps fill things in a bit.

Let me set the stage for this post, as the background goes a long way toward understanding recent events. Most readers are aware that I have Fibromyalgia and that I am super fat. Like – I totally have a fat cape and everything, super fat. The last two years of my life have consisted of being an at-home student through an online university, and learning to live with multiple-chronic health problems, and chronic pain. During these last two years, my weight reached my lifetime high of 375lbs. I am 5 feet 9 inches tall if that gives you any mental picture. About 3 years ago, I made a commitment to the HAES/FA movement, and quit dieting. Although, I had previously had years of Anorexic behavior, and even did a stint (3 years!) in Overeaters Anonymous. My history of weight-consciousness starts when I was about 5 years old and I have my grade school report card to confirm that I was already getting pressure from adults about being too fat.

So that sets our stage. Thirty year old woman, chronic pain/illness, super fat, tenuous grasp on the sanity that HAES/FA offers, but is grasping nonetheless. Now, cue Fat Fox suddenly getting a job. The job was in the same realm of work I had done before I started my recent stint in school. I was aware of the physical nature of the work – but not how my body would cope with it – since I had not worked a full time job since being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

I went to training, and had to take nearly 3 times the amount of pain medication that my doctor normally prescribed. Not wanting to sacrifice my liver to the god of Tylenol (which they mix with the main meds to keep you from OD’ing) I went to my doctor and asked for a more long-acting pain solution. I left the office with an RX for 100 mg Fentanyl patches. If you are not familiar with Fentanyl (which I wasn’t) then here is the quick tour – basically it is legal heroin. It is typically prescribed to cancer patients and those who need end of life pain control. It is prescribed for people with chronic pain like Fibromyalgia or back pain – but this is less common. To compare, I was previously on 10mg Percocet 3 ½ times per day. Fentanyl is equivalent to about 10mg Percocet every hour.
I smacked on the patches, and went to work. I was still experiencing pain (GO FIGURE?!) but it was tolerable. I was excited because I was finally sleeping at night, because the pain was so minimal. 

So shit was all rosy and great for about a month. Then came the down side. I started coming home on my lunch and feeling really sad. I would lie down next to my husband and cry. Fast forward another couple of weeks to the day I was at work and unable to help the customer because I was so close to bursting into tears. I asked a co-worker to step in the back with me so that I could explain that I think I needed to leave and see a doctor, only to burst into incomprehensible sobbing. The message was received; I left and went to the doc.

Without boring ya’ll with lengthy details, the verdict (after several doctor visits) was that I was having a bad reaction to the fentanyl and it was called ‘dysphoria’. I think that term doesn’t even begin to cover the reaction. As I explained to the doctor, if someone had told me that every person I know, plus all the puppies and kittens in the world were dead – – then double that reaction times two and that’s how I felt. The prescription for this was to get off the patches. The doctor originally prescribed cold turkey as saying “it won’t be fatal”. Well – 30 hours later without a patch, I was really wishing it was fatal. Seriously people, google fentanyl withdrawal and then come back. . .yeah not “fatal”.

After I finally got off the patches, which took a week of aggressive tapering, I was still feeling rotten with anxiety and depression, my chest and stomach looked like I had been attacked by a square tentacle octopus, and I was suddenly 30lbs lighter. I had spent nights in bed actively praying (which is weird since I am an Atheist) that God would either kill me or cure me. As I started recovering from that ordeal, a new ordeal began. I was suddenly 30lbs lighter.

Another side effect of Fentanyl and Fentanyl withdrawal is anorexia. For nearly a month I couldn’t stand the thought of food. I had to force down 1 or 2 ensure drinks just to make sure I didn’t land myself in the hospital from dehydration/malnutrition. I did manage to avoid that – but my body shriveled up anyway to some extent. I went from 371lbs at my first doctor weigh in when I got the RX to 341lbs when they took me off the patch. It was only at the prompting of my husband to “tell them about the weight loss” that I even told the doctors that I had lost weight. The doctor (to his credit) asked if it was intentional. I said no. He felt that this was not a good thing. One point for the doctor for not just chalking it up to “yay fatty is losing weight!”

Anyway, that brings me to the crux of this post. 

As I am mostly recovered from the immediate effects of this medicine reaction, I am still struggling with the body change. Suddenly, I find myself fantasizing about going back on the patch – -because the weight loss was so easy! Amiright? I mean, who cares about the damage you do to your heart, or the mental and emotional toll. The weight was just sliding off because I wanted nothing to do with food! Then comes the next thought – – if I lost weight by not eating, then doesn’t that PROVE that I am fat because I eat too much? And then comes the crushing anxiety of OH MY GOD WHAT IF I GAIN IT ALL BACK AND THEN SOME!?!  Followed by another round of, maybe if I eat less, then I will lose weight? Maybe I can go back on the patch for just a little while. . . 

And there you have it folks, a sneak peek into the inner workings of Fat Fox’s brain. The thing is, I know these thoughts are insane, and I watch myself have them, and logically I can tell myself that what I went through was hell. My body lost weight because of the extreme duress it was under. I am conscious enough not to act on these thoughts. But I find it terribly distressing to be having them. Despite my immersion into fat positive space, it is clear that a lifetime of fat-hate still hides in the recesses of my brain. It’s like having a parasite. It feels gross and disgusting to know that it is wiggling around inside you. Slithering over my gray matter and whispering bullshit into my consciousness.

So while I am still battling depression, and anxiety, and other thoughts and feelings that I can logically dispel, yet they persist in the most annoying way, I can now add fat-phobia to the list. Like the times I’ve had suicidal thoughts, or thoughts about cutting and self-harm, there now lurks another specter of societal domestication that rails against my fatness. It is willing to destroy my life, my sanity, and my body for the possibility of weight loss. I may not have the power to make these thoughts magically disappear, but I do have the power to not act on them. I will not be starting any diets, cutting out any foods, restricting any portions, or otherwise trying to manipulate the size of my body. I certainly will not be asking the doctor to put me back on a medication that made me wish I was dead, just for the sake of losing a few more pounds.

Some people may be confused as to why I wrote this, so I think I will address that as well before I end. I am writing this not only for my own benefit, but also in hopes that anyone else who has experienced this or anything like it will read it and perhaps be a little kinder and gentler with themselves. I consider myself a staunch, dyed in the wool, fat-loving, pro-fat, pro-body-diversity person – – and yet here I am plagued by these thoughts and feelings. My own body and brain feel at war, with a tiny version of me standing on the sidelines frantically waving my arms and hoping to avoid an apocalypse. 

While I’ve gone through all this, I have spent hours and hours combing the web, looking for some understanding, some hope, and even some solidarity that I am not the only one. I hope, that if you read this, and you can relate, that you will find hope, solidary, and understanding that somewhere, there is a Fat Fox who understands.

Fat Privilege: A Troll’s Tale.

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I’ve been meaning to post for a long while, but life gets in the way sometimes. Apologies for dragging my butt and taking so long!

So, for some reason, whenever you decide to take your own little piece of the internet and use it to call out the shitty treatment of a marginalised group of people, there are always trolls who want to come into that space. People who feel the need to derail conversations, twist the arguments, carry on until we all bow to their opinion (regardless of relevance), and just generally flail their arms and shed their privileged tears all over the topic. 

This isn’t just a fat thing either, it happens in all sorts of groups that are discriminated against. PoC, Trans people, LGBT rights, the list goes on (and on).. Please remember that if you’re joining in on these conversations and want to learn, you need to be aware of any privileges you have. Take a back seat and listen. It may be hard to swallow, but your opinion might not be needed or welcome in the discussion and you need to accept that and not talk over them, even if you don’t like it. 

Today I’m going to focus primarily on the trolls attacking the FA community. Some days they just make you laugh, and you can hit that delete button all day long. Some days it’s extremely frustrating and I know that I personally need to walk away. Because if I poke back, then I end up looking like the stereotypical angry fat bitch snarling at every commenter who may or may not be simply offering ‘helpful advice’.

I’ve recently noticed a wave of comments coming in to this blog (and I don’t know about anyone else, fatty bloggers?) discussing something they’re calling Fat Privilege. I’m assuming it’s a troll retaliation to the term Thin Privilege, and, if anyone hasn’t yet, you NEED to hit up ThisIsThinPrivilege AND READ. Basically, their blog ‘showcases examples of thin privilege in order to illustrate fatphobia and fat discrimination.’ It’s a great blog, and the mods there are among some of the most inspiring fat activists you could hope to meet and learn from.

But Fat Privilege? I can’t even.. I mean, where is this coming from? I can only stand over here under my giant flashing neon ‘FUCK YOU’ sign and laugh at all the thin little trolls that think they’re being oppressed by the big bad fatties. 

I had to wonder how on earth fat people had ANY privilege over thin people in this society that worships thinness as the epitome of health, beauty, and all that we should be striving to attain. Because it’s all for nothing if you’re gonna be fat, let’s face it. Beautiful? Healthy? Successful? Happy? Ha, no sorry! You don’t get to be considered any of those if you aren’t thin. 

But hey, perhaps I’m being too harsh, so let me just chill out a little and really think. Surely us fatties have some privileges?

Wait a second, I’m putting on my sarcastic hat.

Ah, yes.

Fat Privilege is not having to choose from thirty different clothing stores locally, because there’s only one or two stores that carry your size. Fat Privilege is also not having to choose your own personal style because the same prints and patterns have been in those two stores for the last twenty years. So it’s all knitted poly-blends, animal print, and stripes for you.. Lucky!

Fat Privilege is paying twice as much money for clothing that’s half the quality as those made for straight sizes. I love forking out cash for cheap fabric that’s held together with strands of chewing gum, how about you?

Fat Privilege is having weight-loss propoganda handed to you by helpful strangers in the street or by people at work. Not only is fat stigma all over tv and magazines, but it delivers now too! You don’t have to go searching for your daily dose of fat shaming anymore you lucky, lucky fatty!

Fat Privilege is never having to worry about what you eat, because NO FATTY EVER has had anyone judge them for their food choices. EVER. …ever.

Fat Privilege is getting a rare glimpse of somebody that looks like you on television. Nevermind that their character is a stereotypical representation and the butt of all the jokes, lacking any real depth.  Look! A fat person! 

Fat Privilege is having one medical diagnosis, no matter your symptoms. Ear pain? Fat. Broken finger? Fat. Headache? Nausea? Searing abdominal pain? Fat. Fat. Fat. Oh the convenience! 

Gosh, who knew us fatties had it so good?

If anyone has more examples of this fantastic thing called Fat Privilege, please join in. I’d love to hear from you.

Bottom line though, you can kiss the fattest part of my ass and I don’t care how much you cry about it because Fat Privilege isn’t a real thing. Sorry trolls, pack up your toys and go home. We’re done here.

Why I Will Never Advocate WLS.

[TW: This post mentions dieting, weight loss, surgical procedures and my state of mind prior to discovering fat acceptance. Please skip reading if you feel this may be triggering for you and I hope the next post will be better.]

 

This post on WLS has been swimming around in my head for quite a while. I have begun to write it many times before discarding it and walking away from my computer. I have considered never letting it see light, but as a fat activist I feel as though I am keeping a shameful secret.

 

WLS for those that don’t know stands for Weight Loss Surgery. The two most common types of WLS are:

- Gastric by-pass Surgery (cutting or sectioning off the stomach to create a smaller “pouch” and reattaching the small intestine, bypassing the majority of the stomach)

- Lap Band Surgery (often praised as being the “less invasive” alternative, lap banding creates the smaller stomach pouch by placing a silicone ring around the top of the stomach.)

Both are designed to restrict the amount of food you are able to eat.

 

I had Lap Band Surgery in October of 2007, at the age of 23.

 

I have always been fat and have never really let it bother me too much. What did bother me, and what I couldn’t ignore, was the way everybody else felt about my body. I remember being taken to Weight Watchers meetings in the fifth grade (I was 11). I grew up having to count calories and account for every piece of food I put in my mouth. I developed very unhealthy attitudes towards food, I loved food but felt I needed to hide it. I would eat when I got home from school because I was ashamed to eat lunch in front of the other kids. I hid sugary snacks around my room because I wasn’t allowed to have them. I felt judged depending on the food I ate when I was given the choice (say between an apple or a cookie), like I’d been tested and failed. I learned quickly to never speak up for what I wanted, but to accept that other’s knew better.

 

This learning stays with you as you grow up. In my late teens I was easily manipulated into doing what others wanted because I didn’t want to displease them by saying no. I accepted criticism of my body from people I called family. I dieted not because I wanted necessarily to lose weight, but because I wanted to make people happy. So they could see that I was trying to be acceptable enough to deserve their approval. This is why I agreed to see a doctor about WLS.

 

Seeing the doctor was a bit of an underwhelming experience. I was weighed and at 172kg (351lbs) I more than met the qualifications to undergo lap band surgery. To add to that, given my young age I was bumped up the waiting list for Medicare funded surgeries. So, rather than having two years to consider my options, I had three months. I was handed a pamphlet briefly outlining the procedure, told to read it and to ask any questions I had, only I didn’t know what to ask. I was focusing on finally making everybody happy and silencing the fat-shaming commentary that had become the background noise of my life. The carrot had been dangled in front of my nose and I wanted it.

 

Cut to three months later. I’ve been living on three low calorie, dietary supplement shakes a day and a cup of steamed vegetables at dinner for four weeks (minus the day I caved in to starvation and ate that burger and fries) to lose as much weight as possible before the surgery (am now 168kg),  and, armed with next to no information about what I’m about to go through, I undergo lap band surgery. It is a success (spoiler alert: I didn’t die), I wake up to excited family and friends telling me how proud they are, that it’s going to make such a difference to my life. The pain in my stomach is mild but I am on some form of pain medication. There are five small incisions across my stomach, the largest of which is about an inch and a half wide (I forgot to mention they weren’t sure whether it could be done via keyhole or not so that scar was going to be a surprise when I woke up!) and all in all, the surgery itself was not so distressing in my personal experience.

 

They tell you that you almost certainly will lose a great amount of weight in the first few weeks of having WLS. Let me tell you why this is. Week one is a clear fluid diet. After they make sure you are awake, able to walk and swallow a small sip of water, you are free to go home and live on water, low calorie jell-o, boiled water with a stock cube dissolved in it (if you feel like spoiling yourself). Week two you can incorporate milk or yoghurt. Week three is pureed food week, never was I so excited to see baby food in my entire life. Week four you can let loose and slowly start to add soft foods. So it’s a month of having very little to eat, living with being absolutely starving but not able to rush it because you’ll just throw up if you try to eat anything.

 

I’ll sum up the rest of the time between then and now by saying this. I was 172kg (351lbs) before going through with WLS. I lost a grand total of 10kg in the first month or so, and gained it back within the first year. It is now 2012, and five years later at 28, I am still 172kg (351lbs). I know that is a remarkably unremarkable result, and many have lost far more weight than I. But there is a lot I have learned about WLS.

 

Five years later I am still unable to eat bread. I cannot eat red meat unless it comes out of a slow cooker and even then, I have to be careful. Pasta is touch and go and I throw up regularly because my body has learned to fear certain textures of food, they get “stuck” and it is completely involuntary when I bring them back up. Whenever I go out to eat, I make sure I know where the bathroom is first in case I have to run. I have to take multivitamins because I do not get enough from the food I am able to digest. I was losing my hair at one point from malnutrition, thankfully it’s growing back now. I have also developed an intolerance to gluten, which is a side effect of many weight loss surgeries that nobody warned me about, or fully understands why it happens.

 

I am deteriorating slowly, unable to process the nutrients my body needs because I have mutilated my digestive system in the effort to be thin. I have looked into having it removed, but while they were more than willing to put the band in, they will not cover the far riskier procedure to take it out. It will only be removed once it causes “complications” or begins to deteriorate. I have to wait it out while it may potentially kill me. This is why I will never advocate weight loss surgery. I’ve been through it, and there is far too little information given to individuals considering it as an option. I don’t sit here saying DON’T DO IT because I am bitter that it didn’t work and I’m still fat. I have made peace with my fat. I don’t want anybody else to regret their decision.

 

Truths that nobody will tell you about WLS are:

- That people die during the procedure.

- That your body may slowly starve to death.

- That it doesn’t cure you of your desire to eat, or stop the disordered way you think about food. If anything, it makes you consciously aware of everything you eat 24/7, the second you forget it’s there, you throw up what you’re eating.

- People will congratulate you if you tell them you have it, but nobody can see it and those you don’t tell will still think you are a worthless fatty until you lose weight.

- Your body is amazingly resistant to losing weight and will no longer trust you if you starve it. It will hold onto any fat it finds and store it because it cannot rely on you for nourishment.

- If you DO lose weight, you will be left with excess skin that no amount of exercise will remove and you will not feel any better about yourself when you look in the mirror. Excess skin will rub, sweat, make you believe you are still fat and require painful surgery (at your own cost) to remove.

- You may lose your hair.

- You may have no energy.

 

People die having this procedure.

 

People die from complications following this procedure.

 

YOU MAY DIE! THIS IS REAL!

 

If the laundry list of complications is worth being thin for you, then I won’t stop you. Your choices are your own to make. But I urge you to look online, read EVERYTHING you can find. Ask every question that pops into your head. Be informed about what you’re about to put your body through. I was healthy at 23, just fat. Now I am still fat and worry constantly that I have made myself sick. Even though I felt pressured to undergo this procedure, and was too scared to speak up, I made the call. I chose to do this to my body and I wish I had asked more questions. I wish I had been brave enough to put my foot down and say NO. I wish I had been able to see that I was enough, exactly as I was.

 

I’m not outing myself for sympathy. I live with my decision and I make the most of the way it is. I work around my body’s limitations and do as much as possible to limit the negative impacts my choices have upon it. In sharing my story, I am not saying that everybody who has had weight loss surgery (be it “successful” or no) needs to speak up and tell the world. Bodies are intensely personal things and you do not need to defend your body to anyone.

 

This is my horrible secret. I wasn’t always a fat activist (there’s a lot of hard work that goes into loving your fat and appreciating your body for what it is) but I believe many of us have all gone through a period of hating ourselves, listening to people who told us we deserved to die, believing we were worthless. We work on how we feel about ourselves rather than listening to the voices that tell us we’re second class citizens because we are fat. My hope is to spread awareness. Weight loss surgery is not a miracle cure for fat, it is dangerous and potentially harmful body mutilation disguised as hope for desperately unhappy people. Whether you lose weight or not, it is not the answer to all your body issues. Harming your body to make it thin does not make you any less ashamed of being fat. It doesn’t stop the fear that one day that fat will all come back (and it very likely will). How can you expect to properly care for your body if you hate it? The only thing that will stop you being ashamed of your fat is accepting it, embracing it, and eventually learning to love it.

Fat Fox – Get Thin or Die Trying: You Know, For Your Health!

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*Today’s post is written by guest blogger Fat Fox.*

I have been thinking a lot lately about how fat stigma and fat shame is often linked to concerns for people’s health. This is a very intimate topic for me because I am a fat person with a chronic illness. Returning readers will be familiar with my previous posts about Fat and Fibromyalgia. Today, however, I want to talk specifically about the negative impact that our fat-hating culture has on my ability to take care of my health. This negative impact seems oh-so-contrary to its often referenced concern for ‘health’.

Let me first start with a definition for one of the conditions that I have, which is Fibromyalgia:
According to the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain association, fibromyalgia is:
“A central nervous system illness that is characterized by chronic widespread pain, multiple tender points, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and can be accompanied by psychological distress that comes with all chronic illness. For those with severe symptoms, fibromyalgia can be extremely debilitating and interfere with basic daily activities”.

I was fat before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I often am asked whether my fat affects my Fibromyalgia. I always give the same response: no. Despite the fact that I am 5 foot 9 inches tall and weigh 370lbs, without fibromyalgia I am an active, happy, and energetic fatty. This is still evidenced by the fact that when my pain is sufficiently medicated, I can still participate in most activities enjoyed by people half my size.

However, Fibromyalgia pain is difficult to treat. Despite the use of opiates, I still average 6 or 7 out of a 1-10 pain scale most days. Daily pain is exhausting. It makes sleeping difficult. Most days, a shower is a difficult feat to manage that requires several hours of recuperation afterward. Going to the grocery store requires at least a day to recover.

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with fat shame, and that is the point I’d like to get to. The difficulties that I have with fibromyalgia often manifest as stereotypically fat behavior. I walk slowly, I need frequent breaks, and I am exhausted by very little activity. Sometimes brushing my teeth results in a searing, burning pain in my shoulder that reminds me of the muscle fatigue one gets when lifting weights.

When I go to the Fibromyalgia message boards, the Mayo Clinic website, or any other place where I should be able to get help and find comfort, I am inevitably met with weight loss discussion. This baffles me. We are dealing with a central nervous system issue. Yet, many people feel that fibromyalgia can be helped by weight loss. Even doctors! The idea behind this is that you won’t hurt as much if you don’t have as much mass to haul around.

There is much discussion about what to eat, what not to eat, how to work out, etc etc. This can be an extremely daunting concept when you are in a physical position where lifting your arm to wash your hair or brush your teeth results in exhaustion and agony.
So how does this affect my ability to take care of myself? The constant drumming of weight loss, and diet, and exercise completely ignores my reality. I think to myself – “well, if they got better because they lost 15 lbs, maybe that means I would?”  Or when the voice creeps into your head that tells you that Fibromyalgia is made up and it’s just an excuse to be a fat lazy ass. I end up lying in bed at night thinking “what if I’m really not sick. What if I am just really out of shape?” This question is inevitably followed by the reminder that I have brushed my teeth religiously 3 times a day since I was 11 and got braces. Exactly when did my tooth-brushing muscles atrophy from lack of use?

And there, my friends, is the crazy making bit. Even when a person is acknowledged to have a syndrome that causes unrelenting pain and affects the central nervous system, they are still encouraged and cajoled about weight loss. Weight loss is the answer! It’s the panacea! It’s the key! This is extolled by both doctor and patient alike. Fibromyalgia is not a uniform disease. It does affect people differently. There are people within the FMS range who do benefit from exercise. There are those of us also, who are completely intolerant to exercise. However, this last category is hardly ever spoken of. After all, we don’t want people getting the idea that they don’t need to exercise!! Amiright?!

It is difficult to live in a culture that is obsessed with weight loss when you inhabit a body that visibly represents everything that is found to be abhorrent. It is difficult to come up with ways to take care of yourself, when there is a never ending chorus of voices saying that your fat ass is the only problem. I find that when I get enough pain medication, and I feel a little more ‘normal’, my first thought is always that I just need to pull up my boot straps and show no mercy! Lose that weight and get that body in shape. That I’m a weak, fat, lazy bum who is just out of shape from sitting on my ass. These thoughts are reinforced by the anti-fat rhetoric that is all around us, day in and day out.

That is how anti-fat rhetoric is damaging to my health. It is crazy making. It seeps into my brain and tells me lies about my body. How can I be convinced to be gentle, to take care of myself, to move in ways that are good for me, when the messages around me are that my body is a direct display of my failure? The assumption that my Fibromyalgia is BECAUSE I am fat, not that perhaps, I got a bit fatter (I started out fat) because of the limitations of my Fibromyalgia. There is a constant flow of messages to do things that are hurtful to me, in the name of ‘health’. I am told that if I treat myself with care and tenderness that I am hurting myself. I am making myself worse. I will die from my fat unless I go for a scorched earth regimen to rid myself of it. How can that possibly be ‘good for my health’?

On Fat Shaming and Food Courts.

*I want to start first by thanking everybody who commented on my last post regarding fat stigma, it was great to have so many of you share your stories with us and the experience really gave Fat Fox and myself a good idea of certain areas within fat acceptance that we need to bring up in posts that will be coming very soon.*

Today I want to talk about shame. Fat shame, the kind of shame that is fed to us for no other reason than because we just happen to live in fat bodies. I was very recently asked on Twitter (where I pretty much live) what fat shaming is, and, as it’s a term we use a lot in fat acceptance, I feel obliged to shed a little light. It required more than a 140 character response, so I will answer this question here.

I’ll start with a little story.

I had an interesting altercation today at the local mall. I live in a small town with a one-level mall (whose largest store is a k-mart), that has a food court at one end. I say court, but really, it’s five different food places with a bunch of tables and chairs in the middle. There’s not a lot of selection but it serves its purpose and I suppose you could call it “court-esque.” Anyway, I stopped for lunch, grabbed myself a plate of Chinese food, found a table and sat there quite happily, reading my book and not bothering anybody. Anyone who has dared eat in a food court can guess where this is going..

“Whoa, mate!.. think there’s any food left at (insert restaurant name)?”

One guy. One puffed up, smug little skidmark of society just HAD to pipe up and let it be known that a fat person had dared to eat in his vicinity. The nerve of me! Many of us are no stranger to these not so subtle jabs. They come in the form of disapproving stares, glares, sub-level mutterings, whispers, indirect comments mentioned a touch too loudly between friends as they pass by, and then you get the occasional fuckwit who thinks it’s hilarious to shout to all and sundry that “FATTIES BE EATIN’ Y’ALL!” No shit. You’re a freakin’ genius, bub. Seriously, your brilliance astounds me, clearly my fat-affected brain is no match for your quick wit.

Sarcasm aside, I would actually usually tend to ignore these digs at my self-esteem. That is to say, I’d pretend that they didn’t hurt, and that I didn’t feel completely self-conscious eating in public (even though I am only eating the same thing as everybody else). That I didn’t feel like all eyes were on me, watching every forkful I put in my mouth as though they could see the calories joining forces to settle in somewhere on my already ample frame, no doubt to form yet another fat roll. And to people who do look at fat people and think these things, I have a question. Does it feel good?

Is it richly rewarding to feel as though you lord it over us fatties because you just “know better”? Does judging us for doing THE EXACT SAME THING YOU DO IN A FUCKING FOOD COURT appeal to your smug sense of superiority and help you get through another day where you can feel like “my life may not be perfect but OMG at least I don’t look like that person over there.” Is that what it is? Or are you just so completely unaware of how deep down your fat phobia runs, that it’s easier to judge me than come to the realization that you just may be shitty at the whole human being thing. Could that be it?

Having recently being freed from my fear of eating in public (thanks to the fabulous world of fat acceptance) I couldn’t let this punk walk away without so much as saying a word. Nuhhuh, not today. I flew. I looked up at him, glared at him so hard that had I any super powers his face would have melted clean off, and let him have both barrels of my extremely fat outrage.

How DARE he feel it appropriate to harass me while I am minding my own business. How DARE he believe he can get away with being so disrespectful towards fat people. How DARE he try and make me feel guilt for eating ANYTHING as though fat people don’t deserve to eat or have to EARN THE RIGHT. How DARE he stick his face in my business and try to belittle me for simply existing. How DARE he breathe his fatphobic hate-filled vitriol in my direction. HOW DARE HE!!

I spat all this out in the middle of the court, standing up from my table, yelling and attracting the attention of all around me, only it was said with a lot more fucks thrown in. I’m sure I offended at least one older lady, but I was so furious that it no longer mattered if I was the fat girl making a scene in the middle of the food court. I just didn’t give a damn. In the middle of my tearing strips off this guy, a security guard appeared and stood quite close to us and I thought “oh, shit..” but when I had finished he just stood there, and the guy who had made the original comment (who was standing there looking very much like a stunned mullet) simply sniffed, flexed his pectoral muscles (maybe I imagined that), cracked his neck.. and walked away. I noticed that the court had gone very quiet, but as I sat back down, everybody went back to their meals and various conversations. The security guard asked me if I was alright and I apologised for creating a scene. His response was:

“Lady, I was ready to drop him if he even so much as tried anything.”

SCORE FOR THE AWESOME SECURITY GUARD!! If you are ever in my town, make sure to stop by the mall and high five this man!

So, why have I shared this story? Because it’s about me refusing to be shamed. We face so much oppression as fat people. We have people who tell us we shouldn’t be fat, we need to diet, we’re going to die, we need to look after our health, we don’t deserve health care, we can’t wear that, we have no right to expect the world to accommodate us but rather we should adjust ourselves to fit in the world made for everybody else.

We have people crying about the dreaded epidemic that is fat people taking over the world, fat parents being told they are failures for having fat children, fat people who are not allowed to adopt children because we are unfit to parent. We are told we are the reason the world is in recession, we are eating the world’s food resources, we are sucking up people’s tax dollars because we bring the big fat bag-o-diseases upon ourselves and don’t deserve the care offered to others without thought.

We are told by medical professionals that our only health issue is fat, the only diagnosis is fat, the only cure for every medical ailment we have is to lose weight. We have fat people dying while doctors fail to provide proper healthcare because they can’t see beyond our fat to treat our very real diseases that are NOT JUST FAT. We are called lazy, told we smell, are useless, and there are people that want us ERADICATED FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

THIS IS FAT SHAME. The constant live stream of horrible, hateful messages we hear from everyone, even (and this can sometimes be the most hurtful) from those that claim to love us. The messages that tell us we DESERVE to be hated, we SHOULD hate ourselves. Messages that say we are unacceptable and ought be abolished, or hide ourselves away so that nobody has to be reminded that we are more than our fat, we are people.

I’m calling bullshit. I will no longer stand for being told I am not worthy of a happy and fulfilling life. I refuse to live my life in shame because anybody else says I should. I reject your fat shaming bullshit, fatphobes. I will stand up, spit in your face and tell you to fuck off without batting so much as an eyelash because I have spent too long listening to the internalised soundtrack of your hatred filling my head. My fat is not something I am ashamed of and it is not something I will let you use against me. This body is mine, you have no say over what I do with it or how I feel about it.

Fuck anybody who thinks they have the right to tell you how to feel.
Fuck anybody who thinks they have the right to tell you how to live.
Fuck anybody who wants you to feel as though you deserve their hate.

FUCK FAT-SHAMING!

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