It’s a good time to be plus size. At least the interwebs says it is. I have seen a plethora of stories about us larger ladies and all the amazing things we are doing these days like running marathons, modeling swimsuits, getting married, even making it to the cover of magazines. There is a big part of me (no pun intended) that thinks, “Finally!” Finally, people are noticing that the heavy-set does all kinds of things you normal-set people do. Heck, we might even (gasp) be normal people.
But I have to confess I feel somewhat conflicted about the isn’t-it-great-to-be-fat movement online. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, so I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to live in the skin of the women featured in the posts I referenced. Here’s the thing, I don’t want to be judged or ridiculed because of my body size. I don’t want my weight to be a measure of my intellect. And I think brides should feel beautiful, and sexy, and loved on their wedding day. If you want to wear a bikini in size 22, more power to you. And, as a runner myself, if you want to run ultra marathons at 250 pounds, I will be the first person to cheer you on. I want to be treated like a person.
However, I want to be treated like a whole person, and my weight is a piece of the puzzle that makes up who I am. I am an active person and generally in good health, but I could weigh less and be healthier. Losing weight would lower my risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer – or at least get rid of my chronic acid reflux… I don’t have a glandular problem, I don’t have some past trauma hanging over me. I simply eat too much. Some people smoke, or drink, or gamble. My personal challenge just happens to show on the outside more than other people’s problems.
I used to be very judgmental of people who smoked until I worked on a team filled with smokers. I watched them repeatedly try to quit. They would quit for their birthdays, make New Year’s resolutions to quit, quit on the Great American Smokeout day. They would make pacts to quit together. I saw smokers try Chantix or get nicotine patches, or gum, or e-cigarettes. I honestly never saw a group of folks try harder at anything over and over again. The experience was eye opening. Before, I thought they just didn’t want to stop that much, but I came to appreciate that the addiction of smoking is powerful and I was grateful I never happened to take it up in the first place.
That’s how it is with me and my weight. I have done any number of things to end my unhealthy eating habits. I buy fruits and vegetables (that I don’t finish and go bad in my fridge). I find new and interesting recipes. I train for half marathons. News Flash: you can train to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles and gain weight doing it. I make pacts with myself to cut out sugar, or alcohol, or processed food. I am a member of Weight Watchers and think I may have a record going for most years on the program without losing any weight. Sometimes I lose a few pounds. Generally, those pounds come back and bring a few friends along for the party. Maybe I don’t want it enough to make a lasting change, but please be rest assured I *try to lose weight* over and over again.
What do I want for my efforts? I sure don’t want to be tolerated. Tolerate means to “allow the existence.” I already exist and I don’t need anyone’s permission to keep on existing. Should I be celebrated? I love being the center of attention and who doesn’t love a good celebration. However, I don’t want to be celebrated for my plus-sizeness. Celebrate me for being smart, or a good friend, or maybe even (I hope) a good writer. That leaves acceptance. Accept me as a flawed human on this earth, just like all the other flawed humans – even the skinny ones.
Acceptance is not love. You love a person because he or she has lovable traits, but you accept everybody just because they’re alive and human. ~Albert Ellis
For me, truthfully, the answer is often no, I don’t really realize it much of the time. I am generally happy and healthy, I am an active person who does the things that are important to me (like a marathon in 2010). I have a husband who thinks I am beautiful and sexy regardless of my size. I have a good community of friends. I have a job that I enjoy and where I am professionally well-respected. My “numbers” are good – as in I don’t have high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, my cholesterol is perhaps a little high but I don’t take any medications for anything. Generally speaking, I can function pretty well in a bubble of oblivion about my weight. Most of the time.
But there are reminders that burst that bubble. After I went north of the 200lb mark, I pretty much quit standing on the scale, so there is one rather scary number I already know is not good, but I still don’t want to face. Anytime I have to buy clothes, I am painfully aware of my current weight. Any remaining delusion about my size or the size of the clothes was lost now that I can only fit into Women’s sizes. I saw a cute marathon jacket at the pre-race Expo in June, but their largest size was still too small. I didn’t like buying jeans or pants back when I wore a size 12, and now that those digits are reversed the experience is mostly an exercise in self-humiliation. Photographs are another touchy subject and when I look at them I am often shocked by what I see and wonder if that is really what I look like “in real life.”
And while my numbers are technically good, there have been impacts on my health. I have a chronic hip joint injury from that infamous marathon I did and while my weight may or may not have contributed to the injury, I know that my recovery would have been greatly improved by losing weight. I also have occasional issues with indigestion that didn’t exist when I was thinner that I am quite confident are weight-related.
I am constantly thinking that I am going to start a new diet, go back to Weight Watchers, start journaling, start this or start that. Just this week, I was looking for some paper to jot down a note for work and I found a page in the back of my notebook that I had written almost exactly a year ago. On it, in writing, were the same goals I told myself this weekend that I was going to commit myself to – being more active, eating smaller portions, eating more vegetables, and eating less sweets and junk food. And I even had some specific milestones to hold myself accountable. Why didn’t I follow through? I don’t really know. I could point to any number of changes in my life that may have triggered the initial downfall, but the slide seems to now have a life of its own. I was particularly moved by the sentiments expressed by Kara Curtis in One Woman’s Struggle to Shed Weight, and Shame:
“It’s a very schizophrenic relationship we have with obesity,” Curtis says. “I understand it as addiction, but then there’s also this other piece of me that knows that there is a lack of willingness on my part. So really, who’s to blame for that?”
I have been successful in losing weight in the past and so I know I have the tools to repeat that success again in the future. I am not sure what will turn the tide for me from contemplation into action, and perhaps this post will be a small step in the right direction. Or at least it’s a reminder that I still care enough – to care about trying.