Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Reality of Fat (I Hope I Don't Regret This in the Morning)

I was going to post this as a tiny statement of some kind on facebook, and then I thought, no, this topic--crazy sensitive as it is--deserves a blog post. So I'm going to go all no-guts and no-glory, here, and call it out.

I just read an article on plus-sized models, and some of the hateful responses were enough to make me want to build some serious Voodoo dolls. This post is for all my peeps out there who have ever struggled with, specifically, life-long weight problems, who have known the bullying and castigation (one of the few types that seem acceptable in our society anymore), and borne it in silence. Just eat less. It's easy. You're clearly not trying, you lesser human being. *disgusted side glance*

Nothing is so cut and dry as some would ignorantly claim/believe. And weight has so many complex components, both physically and emotionally, that it's mind-boggling. So why do we continue to look down on people, harbor crazy judgments and vicious, egotistical thoughts simply because of the size of their waist?

The vapid arrogance of our culture just utterly astounds me, and what's more, the willingness to label and belittle without recognizing that this same judgment stems from a sense of twisted, immature superiority--a form of bullying based upon the "look how normal I am compared to you" tactic of Junior High days gone by. Those who have never struggled with a real weight issue a day in their blessed lives, thank your lucky stars. For the rest of you...

I'll just hang my own noose here and use myself as an example. Let me be absolutely insanely honest. Because if anybody gets it...I do. Plus, I'm a glutton for punishment.

I've been a big girl since I was, well, a little girl. It's all I've ever experienced. As soon as puberty started setting in (which was earlier than eight years old, for me), I started putting on weight. (Granted, this should have been a red light for people, but, for some reason they jumped right to mortification rather than logical empathy.) This was obviously a point of embarrassment for my skinny, appearance conscious family, and as a result, various members had me on formal diets as early as ten years old--years before any doctor (quite cynically) agreed to check my hormone levels to find that they were frighteningly screwed up. By that point, I was seventeen years old and I was in deep shit. I was fat. And not a day went by that I didn't feel totally wrong, wanting achingly to feel accepted by my own family, like I was good enough, hell, just plain enough. And I kept it to myself, took it with a smile on my face and a quiet voice. (Sound familiar?)

Had I been the type of kid who barely ate a speck, who didn't care for food, that might have saved me. But I'd been pretty typical in that department...just like my family, you see. And they were all thin. It was so miserably unfair.

I enjoyed eating, and I'm certain I didn't eat health food all the time...but my diet was right on par with the perfectly proportioned people around me. Just, for reasons only my body could understand, it all seemed to work against me very soon out of the womb.

My earliest critical memory is from five years old. Five. And it involves an uncle pulling my dinner plate away just before we'd begun our meal stating that I definitely could do without it. And so on, and so forth. I found a letter from another uncle written to my mom when I was only 2 or 3, warning her not to let me get fat, which floors me, because I was a toddler, for God's sake. Did they want me to be a runway model at 18 months? And the list just goes on. I've got lots of them. It's amazing what you remember, what sticks in your little heart as a kid and won't go away. And the really sad thing is that, once I was solidly into my teens, the damage was only just starting to set in. The shame of my appearance being the topic of many a thoughtless and humiliating family debate that encompassed everyone from my grandmother to my aunts and uncles...(right in front of me, as if I were invisible), plus the kind of childhood filled with more than a kid could handle anyway, and that is when I started to view food as comfort, my friends. That was when bad became worse. And the rest, well, I wish I could say it's history, but it's not. Our demons never really are...we just learn to back-seat them, if we're lucky, so we can take over the steering wheel.

Be careful with your children, well-meaning or not. Our culture does enough damage to their psyches. No need to add to it, because I can promise you, nothing impacts and solidifies us more than what we get at home.

How different would things be for heavy kids growing up were people wiser, more tactful, compassionate? If they'd cared as much about self-esteem and as they did about dress size? If they realized what they were doing? I'm betting we wouldn't be having this conversation, were that the case.

So now, here I am, a woman who fiercely acknowledges her innate, God-given, incredible self-worth, who has accomplished awesome things, in spite of what society seems to think I'm capable of. Every day I try to battle my demons, and some days I win, and some days I lose. I can be super disciplined one week, while others I burn out. I go to the gym, and some days I'm like a goddess up in that place, while others I can hardly get myself to even think about going. I never give up, all the while my weight is my most stubborn ghost--and a reminder of wounds I'm only now beginning to heal. I try, I fail, I try again, I succeed. I fail. I fail. I succeed. Etc. Etc. It depends on the day and it's an uphill battle. Fat Jen, trying to show herself some patience, some forgiveness, some DIGNITY and guidance that kiddo Jen should have been given. Fat kids often grow up to be fat adults who have no idea how they got that way let alone how the hell to reverse it. And it takes an incredible strength of will, love of self and courage to even begin the journey to recovery. So think hard the next time you feel your ego inflating when a chubby girl/guy walks down the street. Your lesser body size doesn't qualify you as a better human. Chances are they've known more agony in their life than you would in twenty lives. Chances are they're fighting their battles, chances are they're braver, stronger and more compassionate than you imagine, because one would have to be to put up with the criticism.

I wonder how familiar this sounds to some of my readers. You think that nobody gets it? Well I do. Solidarity. Block out those voices that would chew you up and spit you out sooner than offer a compassionate hand, and take a deep breath and start again, and whatever you do, don't think you're alone. Try or fail, you're never alone. At the very least, I'm here, right? :)

Love you all,


Marian Vere said...

My uncle used to tell me, "Wow, look at those thighs, you are going to end up just like your mother!" And this uncle moved when I was 7, so it was before then.

They are all bastards, but you know what?... Who needs them!

Great post Jen, thanks!

Jen said...


I think people just act before thinking, dwell in a place of ignorance that makes them feel entitled to behave in such a way. They mean well, but unless you've actually lived someone's life, existed in their head/heart/body, you never truly have a right to judge them, because you're clueless.

Feather Stone said...

I know exactly how you feel though I come from the other end of the spectrum. I was skin and bones most of my youth and into my fourties (Fifties brought The Change, and weight redistribution -oh so fun!). I was 5'9" and only 110 pounds on a good day; if I got the flu I was down to 100 pounds. In summer I wore clothes that covered my arms and legs. Everyone had such cute nicknames for me like "Pencil neck". That was me, no curves, no boobs, and I hated myself for a long time. At some point I realized that no one likes their body or has some major complaint about it. It's easier to point the finger at someone else than acknowledge our own faults. What is important is that we are healthy and enjoy life, no matter what our measurements are. Thanks for sharing, Jen.

Jennifer Lane said...

Jen, what a wonderful post. It seems the last "acceptable" form of discrimination is against individuals who are overweight, and it is so hurtful and degrading for those of use with thrifty metabolisms. When thin people claim, "It's's calories in vs. calories out", I want to scream. Weight loss is NOT simple, and that statement fails to account for facts that genetics influence 80% of our weight and shape, and that 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost within 2 years.

Here's a great article talking about how damn hard it is for individuals to lose weight and keep it off. Their advice? Don't get fat in the first place. It sounds like your hormonal imbalances made that impossible.

As a former college athlete, I'm fortunate in that I love to exercise. I eat too many sweets so I'm larger than most women, but I've done a lot of work to try to accept that. It's very hard for some people, including my mom, to accept my weight though.

Keep fighting the good fight!

KarenG said...

What a beautifully written post. Well said and insightful and should be read by everyone, fat or thin. Will RT.

Jen said...

Feather...ANY judgment of character or assumption of understanding something you've never experiences that is based upon physical appearance is completely un-evolved. Thanks for sharing. Solidarity to you, too, my friend.

Jen said...

Jen Lane,

It's about time people starting sticking up for themselves and speaking their truth this world. Compassion is lacking--just look at the state of this planet. The sooner we understand enough to acknowledge that we don't have all the answers, that we can't conceive of other people's struggles, only our own, the better. And here's to sticking around long enough to see the amazing in people. Thanks for your always wise comments. xo

Jen said...

Karen, thanks for stopping by. Share away. No going back now, lol. ;)

Gelana said...

Thank you Jen! I am on board with you all the way. I, like you, have been fat from birth. It took until I was 40 before the doctors figured out I was insulin resistant which caused me to have Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome(PCOS) and now I can't have kids. Therefore, every time I dieted, I got fatter. How messed up is that?? The comment I recall the loudest was my grandfather telling me I should be 'pushing back from the table sooner than later'. That broke my heart. I was an active kid, outside all the time, playing sports all through high school and I ate normally. No outrageous eating habits and actually ate less take out then. The stigma fat people endure is just as uncomfortable as racial discrimination. Don't ever feel bad for speaking out for personal self esteem and self worth. I am glad to hear that I am not the only one thinking this way. Ok, now Im gonna have a piece of cake!!! LOL

Sharon said...

Hi Jen,

I just read your article on Ezine. I have to admit it wasn't the "category" I was in search of but it definitely caught my attention and decided to read it. I am so glad I did! I too have had struggles my entire life and heard many of the same things you talked about growing up. I'm 45 years old and just a few years ago lost 65lbs. I'm still not even close to being the "skinny girl" and despite my efforts I'm stuck and in a rut. I've recently decided that i HAVE to accept that this is who I am as impossible at that seems to me. Work in progress I suppose.

Anyway, I wanted to say thanks for taking time to share your very personal feelings and I wanted you to know you gave this old gal a little boost. Just being reminded that I'm not on an island will help defnitely keep me on track another day!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

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