There’s a smile when the pain comes, the pain’s gonna make everything alright…
– The Black Crowes
Fat in our society is generally heavily scrutinized and considered disgusting. People who are seen as fat are often judged as being lazy and apathetic, with many people looking down their noses at them for “letting themselves go.” Even healthcare professionals can be demeaning to those who are overweight or obese. As a woman who has struggled with being and feeling fat, overweight, and sometimes obese, for most of my life I want to share with you how I viewed myself.
“Why didn’t you just diet or work out more?,” you might be asking.
Diets don’t work and exercise alone did not do the trick. The “trick” was for me to love myself, truly. Not a pretend “fake it until you make it” love. I mean really love myself (sometimes even doing Heart Meditations just for my fat, or the fat girl within, who was starving for attention). Part of this healing took a “fucket” I don’t care attitude, too, regarding how others viewed me and mostly my overweight fat ass. It’s not easy. Especially when you’re a health care professional who works with many thin, beautiful women.
So, yes, I did do many fad diets. The longest I was able to stave off the fat suit was about 2 years with Weight Watchers. It required an almost OCD attention to every goddamn thing I ate. I quit dieting right before I started Physical Therapy School because I knew with 20+ graduate level credit hours with the hardest courses I’ve ever taken (as it should be), that I was not going to have the time to meal plan and cook meals to keep my weight off.
And, even though I was an “ideal 165” for my body type/height (the highest on the BMI chart for females for my height), the self-hatred and self-loathing was ever present. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw myself as fat. My body image was distorted (well, still is to some degree). Once I stopped obsessing over each morsel, the fat woman who was still inside reared her ugly head with much dread. Quickly, my weight returned and I just poured on more; with a fucking vengeance. The result: I hated me even more. Can I have hatred with a side of self-loathing? Great! Can you add a dollop of disgust, too? Thank you! [proceeds to eat…and eat…]
You’re probably wondering how big I was…
My non-pregnant body had a peak weigh-in at 233 pounds following the birth of my son. That is me in the cover photo at about said weight. Even being a 5’8″ woman with a somewhat muscular frame (more than most women, less than female athletes), 233 pounds is a lot of fat to shake a stick at. My BMI was considered obese and I wore a size 18/20.
When my weight peaked, so did my self-hatred. Really, I fucking hated myself; to the goddamn core. There was little love inside of me and I wore my fat suit to protect me from me; and from you. I now believe it also protected me as I held a lot of sexual shame until very recently (still working through it, and it’s far less than ever before).
From a physiological perspective, fats are required for our bodies to function properly. For starters, each cell has a phospho-lipid bi-layer that contains fat (lipid = fat). Fat is required, too, for our body to manufacture oils and other lovely secretions. Without enough fat, a woman cannot conceive or breastfeed. Fat is a form of fuel storage (energy) for the body. Finally, fat is also an insulator and a protector (fatty pads are found throughout the body to reduce friction and to protect sensitive tissues and organs). So as much as you may hate fat, it is part of every cell of you. So why are you going to continue to hate yourself so much, again?
What purpose (outside of physiology) did my being fat serve for me?
My fat was my way of not feeling. Both my feelings as well as the energy of others. The food I consumed helped me to swallow my words and feelings; basically to numb me. Both of these kept me stuck in my negative self-loathing, self-hating, self-depreciating feelings. Similar to Sylvia Plath’s “Bell Jar,” I trapped my pain inside of me with no outlet for escape. Basically, I gave myself no quarters from my own personal hell.
Even with an advanced professional degree, a doctor of physical therapy, I told myself I was stupid, worthless and a fake. My self-hatred and need to control myself through perfectionism (yes, seems ironic, I know), is evidenced in “Letting Go of the Hot Coal,”a post from last fall. I called my inner tormentor “The Punisher.” Eating helped me to soothe the pain of my punishment, and sometimes the food itself was a punishment. It also made me feel more protected from most sexual advances that I did not want (a side-effect of sexual abuse).
My scream got lost in a papercup, I think there’s a Heaven where the screams have gone – Tori Amos
My fat protected me from me
Like a spring that is compressed, I was storing fat while not moving forward into the exploration of my greatest potential, on all levels. I was afraid to feel my own greatness. I feared the responsibility it would bring. In some ways, I still am afraid. And the difference? I’m moving, I’m on a roll, fear rarely ever stops me. Over time, I have learned to move my body and most importantly, how to love me.
With each ounce of love I give back to myself, I swear I shed another lovely pound of shame off of my frame.
It was once I began to shed the pounds that I began to see how horrible my marriage was for my children; then I saw how bad it was for me. Perhaps fat also served me in not seeing my marriage was dead, because what mother wants to break apart her family? Not this one, that was for sure.
“So where are you now?”
I now comfortably wear size 12/14, with a weight of 183 pounds. So I am 50 pounds lighter, 50 pounds brighter and 50 pounds more free.
I’m not sure how much more I’ll lose. For one thing, I have not dieted since this weight loss began in mid-2014. Another thing is that since 4/2015, my workout routine has been erratic at best following a hip flexor injury. Yet, I have continued to lose weight.
I feel one of the biggest factors in my weight loss has been learning to truly love myself. In so doing, the foods I use to crave (then eat) are rarely being craved. If I do begin to desire sweets or “unhealthy” foods, I do my alchemy work or I generally have a smaller portion (usually 1-2 bites will do). I also find that I do not eat as much as I use to, again, all without trying or dieting.
Setting the record straight:
Now don’t get me wrong, the weight has come back on, and then off again, but the swing has only been about 5 pounds, max, even with the holidays. This is a huge improvement for me as I use to swing by 10-20 (or more) pounds at a time. I actually was at 48 lbs of weight loss last year, but I could not maintain it AND I’m more trimmed now than I was then at nearly the same weight (see below re: the differences between muscle and fat and why this may be).
“So how did you do this if you didn’t diet and exercise a whole bunch?”
In learning to love myself, I was able to stop hating myself and have been able to turn the tide in the opposite direction: I find more and more joy every day in my life, in myself and who I am today, as well as what I have to offer the world. My writing has blossomed, as well.
More specifically, I have used various emotionally healing techniques, previously outlined in posts found within categories such as Addictions, Alchemy, Meditation & Self-Love. I have found that not all tools work the same for different things. There can be trial and error in finding what works, just like you may find with any tool kit, spiritual or physical.
More physiology facts: Muscle is more dense than fat, meaning a cup of muscle weighs more than a cup of fat. Likewise, a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. Some people (like myself) gain weight on the scale with resistance training, while losing inches of fat off of the body. This is where the body weight shifts from more muscle to less fat. So weight is not always indicative of how fat someone is, for that matter, neither is BMI, as many professional athletes are considered to be obese!
How I hope this information helps you, the reader (and others that you may know):
I hope those of you who struggle with your weight can find some helpful information here. There IS hope for you! I lost 50 pounds in the year that I separated, moved out and divorced! And no, I never missed a meal as I do not do hangry very well…it’s beastly!
Likewise, I hope those who secretly or out rightly judge those with excess weight will do this less. As I can almost GD guarantee you that the person you see as being fat is living a personal hell, on some level, on the inside. Pointing a skinny finger at them does not help them in their recovery; it just reinforces it. I’ve experienced this indignation many, many times.
For people on either side, love is the answer. Love implies acceptance. Acceptance does NOT mean that you are okay with how someone (or you, yourself) looks or treats themselves. Instead it means that you love them in spite of how they look or treat themselves. Therein lies an important difference…
Choosing to connect, instead of disconnect, helps the healing process:
People who are overweight are often addicts; food is their drug (it does not judge, it just loves and then adheres as stored fuel to the body). As mentioned in a prior post about stopping addictions, those who have addictions are often seeking CONNECTION. So by disconnecting and judging, you are reinforcing the very feelings that lead to their addictive behaviors. (no, their behaviors are NOT your fault, but people can feel your judgments, trust me).
So please, the next time you see a fat person, whether or not in the mirror, imagine giving that person a little bit more love, this is an outward form of the Heart Meditation. Try to understand they are probably suffering the torture of a thousand hells from their own internal Punisher who haunts their world. So give a little etheric love, even if it’s not verbal or physical. People can feel your love, too!
May we all be free to love the skin we are in. And judge others less for theirs.
See also The Weighting Game.