What It’s Like To Be ObesePosted: September 22, 2018
Huffington Post recently published Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong. The lengthy and thought-provoking article reveals how the medical community, along with everyone else (obese people included) wrongly places the blame for the obesity epidemic on personal shortcomings and lack of discipline. The distilled version would read, “doctors should stop blaming fat people for being fat and blame ultra processed food instead.” And it would also maybe be a good idea for people to stop being so mean to fat people in general.
It’s a sobering read about medical treatments denied, misdiagnoses, and higher rates of, gulp, death. No one will hire you. And, btw, you will be socially isolated as no one wants to ride the bus with you, you can’t find a good seat in restaurants, you better be mindful of what and how much you eat in public anyway, and good luck getting anyone (who is not going to treat you like garbage) to have sex with you. It paints a pretty dismal picture of being plus sized. On the one hand, I am glad to hear someone finally say what I could have told everyone years ago – diets don’t work. On the other hand, it makes it sound like the obese existence is barely worth having.
I’m happy to report I am a fan of my existence and like to think it is most certainly worth having. It strikes me that the article is a touch melodramatic. Maybe the hyperbole is meant to get readers to PAY ATTENTION since one of its main arguments is that there is no advocacy for the obese. Or maybe it is just to solicit more readers. In any case, I think the truth is more nuanced. Or maybe its not, maybe it is worse than I think. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself and far be it from me to challenge the experiences of anyone else. A better title for this post might be “What It’s Like For Me To Be Obese.”
I do have my challenges. Flying offers a fair amount of anxiety around whether the seat belt will be big enough. I have not yet had to get an extender, but I do think carefully about what I wear onto the plane and take a deep breath before inserting the flat metal end into the buckle. My experience varies by airline and by airplane. Alaska Airlines could use another inch on their seat belts and Delta has my appreciation for having slightly longer ones. On one occasion, I did require a deep inhale and Brian’s help to get fully ‘clicked in.’ That being said, I still love flying and haven’t let that stop me from traveling for both work and pleasure.
Visits to the doctor require that we have ‘the talk’ about my weight. I don’t love this conversation. However, I have discovered if I raise the subject proactively the discussion goes better. Maybe it removes the question of whether I understand the impact my weight has on my health situation. But I also think it allows me to provide context including my level of activity and the healthy diet choices I make. And, let’s be fair, as much as I hate the overlay that *all* health issues can be traced back to weight, there are a fair number of health issues that *are* related to weight. I have chronic GERD, aka heartburn, and it would most certainly go away if only I would lose 50 pounds (or, heck, even just 30 pounds). If only. I do not want doctors to be afraid to raise the subject of my weight when it affects my health. I think it is important to have these conversations, as uncomfortable as they may be. What I also want is for these same doctors not to judge me as weak-willed or apathetic. If only losing 30 pounds would cure me, I would love a doctor to turn that question on its head and ask themselves why I can’t seem to do that and not assume it is because I am lazy or undisciplined.
Whatever people think of my size, I don’t get a lot of commentary on it, although I was called huge that one time…
And it’s not like I don’t try to lose weight or eat healthier. I gave up soft drinks years ago. I stopped putting sweetener in my tea, and then I gave up caffeine altogether. I limit anything fried, including (alas) bacon. I do enjoy a good Manhattan, but my one Thursday night cocktail is often the only alcohol I consume in the week. My diet is far from perfect and filled with plenty of those ultra processed foods, but I am always amazed by the stories of folks who eat a whole pizza or an entire friedchicken. No judgments, but I have never had those kind of extreme eating habits. I am a faithful member of Weight Watchers. Per the Huff Po article, I appreciate that WW is a corporation out to make money by promising weight loss. They also advocate for healthy eating habits and are one of the few places where those who are overweight do find community. I may not be losing weight, but I am accountable and aware of my weight, and it’s cheaper than actual therapy.
I am an extrovert. I love people. I love talking with anyone, anywhere, and learning their stories. I love telling a story or two myself (often the same story repeatedly when I’ve had more than just one of those Manhattans). I have a small group of close friends and am lucky to have a husband who thinks I am beautiful inside and out. I’m not going to go into any more detail than that about our physical relationship, but I can share that he has told me on more than one occasion the only thing he finds unattractive is when I beat myself up. I am gainfully employed and have successfully navigated the job search process on several occasions. If I have lost opportunities because of my size, it hasn’t stood in the way of me ultimately getting job offers.
I am all of those things and I am obese. Do I think about losing weight? Yes. A lot. More often than I would like to admit. I work hard to put into perspective that this is a struggle I have, just like anyone else (we’re all a work in progress). This particular struggle happens to show on the outside. I have learned that being honest with myself, without being cruel, has given me some agency in my fate. This ‘truth with love’ inspired me to start being in photographs so I would have a record of my life. Turns out smiling improves almost all photographic efforts and I focus on the where, when, and with whom over the how-much-did-I-weigh. I’m not asking anyone to pretend I’m not overweight; I don’t. My hope is that none of us, me included, are judged solely on our size.