Am I Too Much? Messy, Dif­fi­cult, Lib­er­at­ing

Ev­ery­thing Iknow about Obe­sity is Wrong

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Claire Gre­nier The Mcgill Daily

con­tent warn­ing: fat sham­ing, eat­ing dis­or­ders

Iam fat. Sit­ting down to write this ar­ti­cle, my first in­stinct is to start by say­ing “I’m not that fat.” I am shrouded in shame about my body, mak­ing ex­cuses for my size be­fore I’ve even made my first point. Fuck that. I am fat. My doc­tor cer­tainly thinks so and has told me re­peat­edly through­out the years. Since I was thir­teen. Since I weighed 50 pounds less than I do now. Fuck that too. I try to em­brace my body: I get told I’m beau­ti­ful, not fat. These things do not have to ex­ist sep­a­rately, and yet that’s all we know. If any­thing I am told to fo­cus on my health, and weight will fol­low suit. Fuck that in par­tic­u­lar.

Last week the Huff­in­g­ton Post pub­lished a re­port by Michael Hobbes called “Ev­ery­thing you Know about Obe­sity is Wrong.” The ar­ti­cle is as­tound­ing, de­tail­ing the hor­ri­fy­ing and po­ten­tially life- threat­en­ing treat­ment many fat peo­ple have gone through. “I have never writ­ten a story where so many of my sources cried dur­ing in­ter­views, where they shook with anger de­scrib­ing their in­ter­ac­tions with doc­tors and strangers and their own fam­i­lies,” he says. The ar­ti­cle de­tails crash di­ets, of­fen­sive doc­tors, un­so­licited ad­vice, and, of course, shame.

Physi­cians, Hobbes points out, are usu­ally in good shape and this in­flu­ences how they view and treat fat pa­tients. Some also “sin­cerely be­lieve that sham­ing fat peo­ple is the best way to mo­ti­vate them to lose weight.” Emily, one of the in­ter­vie­wees, talked about go­ing for an MRI scan be­fore get­ting an ovar­ian cyst re­moved, only to be shamed by her doc­tor. “Look at that skinny woman in there just try­ing to get out,” he said. An­other woman, Corissa En­nek­ing, was equally mis­treated by her doc­tor when at her light­est weight. He con­grat­u­lated her on her eat­ing dis­or­der be­cause it had caused her to lose weight.

“Ask al­most any fat per­son about [ their] in­ter­ac­tions with the health­care sys­tem and you will hear a story, some­times three, the same as En­nek­ing’s,” Hobbes com­ments.

I re­mem­ber get­ting my yearly checkup from my fam­ily doc­tor when I was 15, with my dad in the room, be­cause I was a mi­nor. My doc­tor read aloud my weight and height, pointed out that I was in the 90th per­centile for both. How this meant I was obese. He told me to lose weight, maybe watch what I eat. That was all the ad­vice he had to give me. I also re­mem­ber try­ing to hide how dev­as­tated I was for the rest of the ap­point­ment. My doc­tor did not ask me what ac­tiv­i­ties I was do­ing — at the time I was on my school’s rugby team, prac­tic­ing ev­ery day and play­ing twice a week — or com­ment on my per­fectly fine choles­terol: he saw my body as un­healthy, so I was un­healthy.

I am em­bar­rassed of how I look most of the time. In pub­lic, I en­joy my­self un­til I can’t any­more, un­til I’m eat­ing and get wor­ried some­one will think it’s too much, and maybe it is too much, maybe I should eat less. Maybe to­mor­row I won’t eat at all.

I’m wor­ried about the space I take up. I’ve al­ways been the big­gest of my friends, and one of the most bois­ter­ous. Is it too much? Am I too much? When I have to awk­wardly squeeze into ev­ery desk and con­stantly shift be­cause I am never com­fort­able, but then spend the en­tire class with my hand raised, do I make peo­ple un­com­fort­able? When I was on the rugby team, or when I was box­ing, or when I was do­ing dance num­bers in the­atre, did peo­ple laugh at me? Think that I was ei­ther the poor fat girl try­ing to lose weight, or that I was just brave for liv­ing my life?

I’ve never owned a bikini, only a one-piece swim­suit, that I rarely wear be­cause go­ing swim­ming means ex­pos­ing my body. I saw a pic­ture of my­self in a bathing suit two sum­mers ago and didn’t dare go swim­ming for an­other year. I never wear sweat­pants be­cause I don’t want to be la­beled as the stereo­typ­i­cal lazy fat per­son. In­stead, some­times I wear con­trol top tights un­der­neath my jeans; I have had a corset in my Ama­zon shop­ping cart for six months. I do not live a day where I don’t wish I could change my body.

I’ve only re­ally been called fat by other peo­ple in ele­men­tary school. When I was 12, a boy told me I could win a fight by sit­ting on some­one and suf­fo­cat­ing them with my weight. I won­der if peo­ple no­tice my dis­com­fort, how I move back if my stom­ach roll touches a table. Or how I lift my chin to avoid any fat gath­er­ing there if I think some­one is watch­ing me.

“This is how fat-sham­ing works,” Hobbes says, “It is vis­i­ble and in­vis­i­ble, pub­lic and pri­vate, hid­den and ev­ery­where at the same time.” And it has ab­so­lutely hor­ren­dous ef­fects. Hobbes men­tions a 2015 study on weight dis­crim­i­na­tion and mor­tal­ity which found that fat peo­ple who face dis­crim­i­na­tion based on weight have shorter life ex­pectan­cies than fat peo­ple who don’t. In its con­clu­sion, the study stated the pos­si­bil­ity that, “the stigma as­so­ci­ated with be­ing over­weight is more harm­ful than ac­tu­ally be­ing over­weight.”

I have bi­ases against my own body, even against oth­ers who have the same body type. I have con­soled my­self by look­ing at an­other fat per­son and think­ing “well at least I’m not that big!” Or I be­come scared that I could get that big. It’s vi­cious. I don’t want to think this way but I can’t help my­self; this is a trend in other fat peo­ple too. Erin Har­rop, an eat­ing dis­or­der re­searcher, says this is be­cause “fat peo­ple grow up in the same fat-hat­ing cul­ture that non­fat peo­ple do.” Un­like other marginal­ized groups, fat peo­ple don’t meet up. Fat peo­ple “never get a mo­ment of declar­ing their identi- ty, of mark­ing them­selves as part of a dis­tinct group,” Hobbes no­tices. “They still live in a so­ci­ety that be­lieves weight is tem­po­rary, that los­ing it is ur­gent and achiev­able, that be­ing com­fort­able in their bod­ies is merely ‘glo­ri­fy­ing obe­sity.’” An­other in­ter­vie­wee, com­mu­nity out­reach di­rec­tor for the Na­tional Fat Ac­cep­tance or­ga­ni­za­tion, Ti­gress Os­born, sum­ma­rizes that “you can’t claim an iden­tity if ev­ery­one around you is say­ing it doesn’t or shouldn’t ex­ist.”

I doubt that Hobbes’ ar­ti­cle, while a breath of fresh air, will ac­tu­ally change any­thing. How­ever, he still did some­thing more pow­er­ful than just re­port­ing the story. He asked his sub­jects how they would like to be por­trayed and pho­tographed them in that way. Some were em­pow­er­ing like Erin Har­rop’s, who was pho­tographed play­ing a su­per­hero game with her son. “I like that I’m sweaty, dirty and messy, [...] that I’m not hid­ing my stom­ach, thighs or arms. Not be­cause I’m com­fort­able be­ing pho­tographed like that, but be­cause I want to be – and I want oth­ers to feel free to be like that, too,” she said of her por­trait. And Joy Cox, an­other in­ter­vie­wee, said, “be­ing de­picted as a fe­male CEO — one who is also black and fat — means so much to me. It is a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the recla­ma­tion of power in the board­room, class­room, and liv­ing room of my body. I own all of this.”

For my pic­ture I wanted to show my­self re­laxed, just liv­ing. Not pos­ing for any­one, or try­ing to hide my body. I’m tired of be­ing made to be­lieve that I have to be smaller to be happy.

I’m wor­ried about the space I take up. I’ve al­ways been the big­gest of my friends, and one of the most bois­ter­ous. Is it too much? Am I too much? [...] Do I make peo­ple un­com­fort­able?

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