What They Don’t Tell You about Being Fat
I was always thin as a child. As an adult, I ranged between extremely thin and height/weight proportionate–until I experienced a psychological meltdown. I went on psych meds upon my doctor’s advice. The main effect of the pills was that I began to rapidly gain weight. I switched from one pill to another trying to stop the weight gain but the pounds just kept piling on.
I went on a rigid diet and worked out 2 hours a day, 5 days a week but I couldn’t lose the weight. After years of dietary denial and exhausting exercise, I finally gave up and decided to just eat whatever and whenever I wanted. What was the use of all the special food prep and sweating if there was no measurable result? Eating became my primary stress-reliever. As years went by, my weight crept up until I was 100 pounds overweight.
Of course I hated myself. This culture is not kind to fat people, especially women. I’d been socialized to believe that fat people deserve to be the butt of jokes because they are weak, greedy, out of control, disgusting, ugly and unworthy of nice-looking, well-tailored clothes. I, like everyone, had heard a million times about the risks of being fat: high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, etc. and I felt guilty for ruining my health when there were people depending on me.
When I was thin, I was as judgmental as the next person. I had no sympathy for overweight people; they chose to stuff themselves so they should bear the consequences. Now from the other side, along with the weight, I have gained some insight. There are a lot of things about being fat that no one writes in the magazine articles.
- Not everyone who is overweight is a sedentary, bottomless pit for junk food.
- Some people are just heavy for no discernible reason.
- Some have a genetic predisposition to carry fat.
- Some have physiological imbalances that make it nearly impossible to lose weight.
- Some are so sad, depressed or stressed that cortisol literally forces them to store fat.
- For some, eating is the only comfort that works for them.
- There are as many reasons as there are overweight people. Virtually NO ONE wakes up one morning and says, “I think I’ll eat like a pig and get fat–that sounds like fun!”
- Being fat is physically painful.
- As I sit here typing this article, the roll of fat that’s mashed between my breasts and my rounded stomach is being compressed, and the circulation to it is restricted. As a result, it tingles and hurts, and the muscles in the area sometimes spasm painfully from lack of oxygen.
- I cannot get comfortable in bed. The weight of my own body presses down on my joints, causing them to ache. My limbs have a tendency to go to sleep. I wake up several times a night to re-position myself (even rolling over in bed is awkward and difficult) so that whichever limb is numb or tingling can get some circulation.
- My knees are shot. When I climb up a flight of stairs (which I avoid if possible), I actually lean forward and walk my hands up each step in front of me because that takes some of the weight off my knees. Otherwise, it’s agony.
- Getting dressed and grooming is a whole new ball game.
- Being morbidly obese throws my balance off. I cannot wash my feet with my bath puff in the shower because not only does it hurt to bend over, I don’t trust my balance to keep me from falling. I usually wash one foot by rubbing it with the other.
- Since bending over is so uncomfortable, I quit shaving my legs.
- If I don’t wash thoroughly enough, the folds of my fat can develop a fungus that burns and bleeds during hot weather because a moist, dark environment is ideal for fugal growth.
- Fat people generally sweat more than normal-sized people, so I’m sort of paranoid that I smell bad all the time.
- I let my toenails grow into talons before I’m willing to contort myself to trim them.
- I cannot put on my underwear, pants and socks while standing as I used to do. I have to sit down or risk falling over.
- The world is made for thin people.
- I don’t sit in armchairs anymore. It’s a lot easier sliding my fat into the chair than trying to pry myself back out.
- Those contoured seats in buses are so uncomfortable cutting into the backs of my thighs that I’d rather stand up.
- I spill into the adjoining seat in airplanes–super-awkward when all 3 seats are occupied.
- God help anyone who gets in the same compartment with me in a revolving door.
- I work in a cafe and the space between the coffee counter and the wall can easily accommodate 2 people–unless I’m one of them.
- I don’t even bother going into clothing stores anymore–“Plus-size” mostly means “not emaciated.” When I do find clothes that are large enough to fit me, they resemble bags in various colors, prints and fabrics. “We have the LARGEST selection of colorful tarps here at Blubberly Love!”
- Exercise becomes difficult if not impossible the heavier you get.
- I had to quit my yoga class because a) it was too hard getting up and down from the floor. b) the shape and weight of my body made some of the positions impossible for me. c) my muscles weren’t strong enough to hold up my own body weight. d) even if I’d wanted to overcome these challenges, it just hurt too much.
- I had decided to take a walking class but my weight had caused my arches to fall and I developed plantar fasciitis, making each step feel as though a knife was being driven through my foot.
- I took a weightlifting class and although I finished the class, I couldn’t fit into some of the elliptical machines, which was super-humiliating. Also, I lost zero weight and didn’t look any different at all, so it didn’t feel like a win.
- My trainer has given me a set of simple exercises to do using my own body weight, but I have to modify them because my body weight is too much for me to handle and because I can’t get up and down from the floor.
- Miscellaneous dismaying things about being fat:
- I feel unsafe coming down a staircase because my belly makes it impossible to see my feet.
- I slipped and fell in a snow bank once, and I couldn’t get up. My co-worker had to pull me up. Humiliating.
- I hate eating in front of others, concerned that they’re judging me.
- I knock things off counter tops and tables with my hips and butt. My butt should have yellow warning lights, and probably its own zip code.
- I’m virtually invisible on the street. People look past me as though I were a lamp post.
- My intelligence and skills, as well as my potential as a possible date, friend or conversational partner are underestimated or dismissed based on my appearance.
- Going out to “have fun” usually means either eating, getting tired or being unable to participate, so I decide to stay home.
- I’m ashamed to be naked in front of ANYONE–doctor or lover, it doesn’t matter. Those x-ray machines in airports are torture for me.
These are just a few of the experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned from being fat. Although I would prefer to have never been 100 pounds overweight, I’m a more accepting person today than I was 10 years ago. Honestly, the hardest person to accept these days is myself. If thin people find us fat people disgusting, unsightly or inconvenient (like in airplane seats), they can consider themselves lucky that they only have to put up with us for a few minutes or hours, because many of us experience ourselves as disgusting and unsightly, and find being fat extremely inconvenient 24 HOURS A DAY. Believe me, if we thought we could change, we would!
One important lesson I’ve learned is that people act as they do and make the choices they make and end up in the circumstances they’re in for all kinds of reasons that we know nothing about. Each individual has value in the world. Each has something to offer. Each deserves understanding and support and compassion. Anyone, regardless of shape, size or appearance, can be talented, interesting, colorful, smart, funny, worthy of notice. You don’t have to be thin to be lovable. And that’s another thing they don’t tell you about being fat.
This article was anonymously submitted by someone who wants to share the realities of their experience. Your perceptions and experiences may differ, and that’s OK. It won’t be the same for everyone. But just know, If you are struggling with your weight you are not alone.
If you are suffering from depression due to your weight we encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional. If you want help losing weight consider hiring a coach, or seeking out support from Overeaters Anonymous.
Photo © Marjan Lazarevski