I am obese.
That means I live my life surrounded by people giving me side glances and snide remarks. The ‘helpful’ people give me constant diet advice: did you know that to lose weight you need to eat less and exercise more? What? Really?!
On public transport, people visibly bristle at the thought of sitting next to me. I wore yoga pants in a bar the other week (I was going to yoga after meeting my friend) and was subjected to barely concealed looks of disgust that I had showed my wobbly legs in public. On aeroplanes, cabin crew hand me a seatbelt extender, that I’ve openly asked for, like we’re conducting a drug deal. My body elicits shame, horror and disgust.
I’m not an idiot. I’m not obese because I am unaware of what I am putting into my body. I’ve always been someone who likes food and over-indulges, even as a little kid. But as a teenager, I turned to food to seek comfort when my home life was confusing and my brain was a mess. Some habits are really hard to break.
Ten years later, I am in a constant battle to do ‘something’ about my weight, to break my bad habits. I see a personal trainer, who is the most patient woman in the world. I’ve seen psychologists, dieticians and psychiatrists. I went on medication for my binge eating and was unable to move for weeks from the arthritic side effects.
Progress seems painfully slow. On the scales, it doesn’t even count as progress. I have not lost weight in a very long time. But I also haven’t put any on at the rate I used to in a very long time. That, for me, is progress. Most times I want to binge, I can avoid it now. I still eat too much and not particularly healthily, but I don’t do it in binges as much as I used to.
As a confident, fat, feminist woman, I am told I should believe in the ‘body positivity’ movement. The idea that my body should be loved and respected, regardless of my size. But I can’t.
I rarely see people like me reflected in the body positivity movement. Firstly, that’s because the most prominent advocates are ‘Lane Bryant fat‘ (all hail goddess, Roxane Gay).
But more importantly, I feel like they are rarely open about the struggles of being a fat person like me. I’m not talking about the shit that other people give you, but my own internal struggle. I can’t celebrate my body, because it is a direct result of my mental illness. I might feel more able to manage it now, but even as I manage my illness, I am still fat, and reversing that process will take a long time. I am not comfortable being like this: I look in the mirror and see my past traumas. (Also I’m rarely literally comfortable…seriously, the world is not ergonomic for fat people.)
So I’m all for the body positivity movement in the sense that people shouldn’t be dicks to one another. No one should ever make me feel less valuable as a person, even as they try to ‘help me’. But I am uncomfortable with a movement that tries to get me to accept something that is fundamentally unhealthy for me, both physically and mentally.
Image credit – The Awkward Yeti