"I'll tell you how to not be fat anymore. Stop shoving food in your face. Want to lose weight? Eat less. Don't be lazy." A well-meaning woman at one of my churches once said this to me. You might imagine I didn't receive that well. Though my role as pastor had conditioned me to simply nod and smile politely, inside I was seething. I am NOT lazy. Obviously, I am not a slender person. My BMI and height to weight ratios put me squarely in the "obese" category. But I am not lazy.
There is a widely held misconception that FAT equals LAZY. I've experienced the consequences of that perception (rude comments that have hurt my feelings, not being hired for a job where I was told I was the most qualified applicant, but was too "heavy," a doctor who told me they couldn't treat my ailment because it was most likely weight-related - no matter what the ailment was!). Most of my life I have been fat (heavy, chubby, obese, whatever you want to call it), yet I made a decision early on to embrace life as a person, not as a fat person. This decision has allowed me to do everything I've wanted to do (except bungee jump... I'm not quite there yet!) I decided to simply be a girl who is fat, not a fat-girl.
The truth is, there is SO MUCH more to obesity than someone who hasn't struggled with their weight often understands. It is not always about what you "shove in your face." It isn't always about what you know or how much you work out. My life is a testament to that: I carefully count my calories, make healthy food choices, control my portions and refuse to eat anything that someone down the line has said "makes you fat." I drink water by the gallons. I engage in cardio exercise for at least an hour at least six times a week. When my schedule lets me, I turn that 60 minutes into 90 and I add a half hour in the evening too. I do strength training with a personal trainer, and I have for years. I am strong and flexible. I have tried every imaginable "diet" for years at a time--low carb/high fat, weight-watchers, sugar busters, low fat/high protein, super-calorie restrictive, higher calorie/higher exercise.... not for a few days until I got frustrated but long enough to honestly say my body does not react to it. I have read absolutely everything I can get my hands on about metabolism, weight loss, weight gain, exercise, and health. You might say I am OBSESSED with weight loss. But, weight loss eludes me.
I work hard. I've even consulted experts. The dietitian's response? "Huh. I don't know what to tell you. You know more about food than I do and you're doing everything right. I really can't help you." My doctor's response? "Weight loss isn't an exact science. Your cholesterol is low. Your blood pressure is normal. You are healthy. Keep doing what you're doing and don't sweat it. People die from obesity-related diseases. No one dies from just being fat." My husband's response? "You're beautiful. I don't care what your size is." My dad's response? "I guess I never really thought of you as being fat...." And still I keep up with the struggle to lose weight, to find the magic formula between calories in and calories out, working my butt off (figuratively, obviously) every single day in an attempt to reach my goal weight. I have some contributing health issues too. I've been diagnosed with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which brings with it hormonal imbalances. I have hypothyroidism. I have a propensity for developing blood clots due to a genetic disease that runs in my family.
All this means that, truthfully, I will probably never reach my goal weight (which is not the 165 that generic charts tell the world I SHOULD weigh, but a much heavier 220 lbs that is the actual "perfect ratio" that my particular makeup of skeletal weight and lean mass would be at its healthiest, according to legitimate metabolic testing that led the doctor to tell me I actually have a really HIGH metabolism--I just burn sugar instead of fat! ) Regardless of whether the numerical value of my gravitational pull every reaches 220 pounds or below, it has no bearing on who I am as a human being. I'm a good person. I go the extra mile. I'm intelligent, well educated, generally kind and helpful and generous, and I AM NOT LAZY.
I read an article on NPR about fat-shaming that really riled me up because I have spent the last 30 years or so (I'm not sure I was ever really fat before I hit 2nd grade) experiencing firsthand the negativity of fat-shaming. I've heard people I know, love, and respect tell me that I'm not worth as much as other people because I'm fat, that I'm a sloth who doesn't take care of herself, that if I'd just try this, that, or the other thing I would lose weight easily, that I shouldn't sit on a particular chair because it's "fragile," and.... the list could go on.
I share my story for two reasons. 1) I have a lot of fat friends. Some of you hate yourself because you look in the mirror and see a body that the world says is too big. I want to tell you to STOP. Your worth, your beauty, and the wealth of amazingness you have to offer this world have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you're fat. You have to learn to ignore the chatter and love yourself, because honestly, you're the only one who has the power to change how you feel about yourself. Don't be one of these people whose lives are cut short because of the negative effects of being shamed because of your weight.
And, 2) if you're someone who looks at someone like me and wonders, "Why don't they just lose weight?"... get over yourself. You have no idea what it is like to walk in my shoes. You have no idea how hard I work every day to be healthy and fit. Fat does NOT equal lazy. But fat-shaming DOES equal inhumane. And finally, you can be fat, and healthy, or skinny and healthy. You can be fat and unhealthy, or skinny and unhealthy. I challenge you, whatever your weight, to begin to make healthy life-style choices, because the trade offs (energy, self-esteem, increased endorphins, longevity) are well worth the time and energy you have to expel in the process.
Anyway, this isn't a rant and it's not a plea to have you pat me on the back, or-worse-give me advice. It's simply me saying, there's more to me than being fat. And there's more to you, too.