Thursday, 17 December 2020

The Problem With My Fat Body

Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to be thinner.

As a size 16 woman, the National average size, I hated my body and wanted to be thinner

I longed to be able to shop from the size 10 rack, and spent my time researching diets and exercise plans while perfecting the art of sucking my stomach in for photographs

As a size 8 woman - weighing less than 9 stone, I hated my body and wanted to be thinner

I wore the smallest size in the clothes stores at the time but it still wasn't enough - because my tummy wasn't flat. I spent evenings using my ab roller in my bedroom, staring at photographs of a bare-bellied Britney Spears for "thinspiration" and many a dark evening scrolling through pro-Anorexia blogs online picking up tips.

As a tall and gangly little girl often called "Skinny melinx" by school peers, I hated my body and wanted to be thinner

I loved it when adults commented on my skinny legs and wanted to be even skinnier so that I could win more of that approval and praise that I craved so much. I spent evenings at slimming groups with my mum, listening to the grown up ladies chat about how to make Mushy Pea Curry and Cauliflower crust pizza while they talked about how many "Syns" were in the food they really enjoyed but couldn't allow themselves to have.

All of my life, I have hated my body and wanted to be thinner. No matter what it looked like at the time.

But despite this entire lifetime spent in the depths of self-loathing....despite all of the knowledge of nutrition, diet and exercise tips I've picked up over the years from constant research....despite the absolute determination to be as small as I could possibly be....I have consistently grown larger and larger over the years.

I'm now somewhere between a size 20 and a size 24 (who actually even knows what size they are these days, given that they vary so greatly between issue in itself).

Given what I know now about the startling facts surrounding the diet industry (research shows that a mere 5% of dieters will keep weight off for more than 5 years, with most gaining back more than they originally lost.) this doesn't surprise me in the slightest. 

But it hurts to think of how much of my precious time I've wasted in pursuit of thinness....rather than enjoying it at all while I had it! Rather than realising that my body was never the thing I should have been focusing on.

I thought that being thinner would ensure popularity - instead I spent most of my life feeling that I never had a single true friend.

I thought that being thinner would guarantee me a happy love life - instead I found myself in an abusive relationship.

I thought that being thinner would at least equate to better health - instead I was diagnosed with auto-immune thyroid disease at 18 (whilst I was still a size 10), and a myriad of other chronic health conditions since.

Thinness never did deliver any of the happiness and success it promised me on the posters for various miracle weight loss shakes or low-carb diet plans. Like those deceitful boyfriends of my teenaged years, it cheated me every single time - always moving the goalposts, promising everything but delivering nothing.

So now here I am, living life as the very thing I always tried so hard to avoid being - fat.

With a broken thyroid, a body that requires steroid medication just to function, a host of chronic pain conditions and increasingly limited mobility - my body seems to be almost destined for fatness. 

After years of trying to fight it into submission, it was a relief to find the body positivity movement - to begin to learn how to love myself as I am, to begin to unlearn the lifetime of fatphobia I'd inherited. 

But even now, as a body positivity and self-acceptance advocate - it's not easy to exist in a body that society so vehemently despises. 

Fat people are the butt of the joke on TV shows and movies. We're rarely shown in a positive light, unless we're made to be sympathetic characters deserving of your pity - usually resulting in nothing but self-loathing, unloveable and clumsy fat characters who spend their screen time discussing their desperate struggle to lose weight.

We're used as the poster child for everything society doesn't desire - for example, did you know that PETA once used images of fat children on billboards alongside the caption "Save The Whales" to encourage a vegan lifestyle? In Fact this rather disgusting PETA billboard below was from as recently as 2014.

You could argue that things are getting better as times goes on - we're starting to see some more diversity in TV shows with the likes of Shrill hitting our screens, and mainstream stars like Lizzo surging in popularity.

But I can tell you first hand that it's still impossible to exist in a fat body without being subject to constant harassment, judgement and shaming.

If, as a fat person, you dare to post a photo of yourself online - you are likely to receive comments from people telling you that you need to lose weight. 

These people will usually insist that they are "just concerned for your health" ...but without having taken a second to find out what your history is, how can this be true? My poor health has contributed a great deal to my body shape and size today - there are also countless fat people in eating disorder recovery or struggling with poor mental health, if you are truly concerned about our health then why would you disregard these things?

My experiences are not just limited to fat shaming from Joe Public - the very worst experience I had was at my GPs office.

A few years ago, when I was still in despair about my size following my thyroid diagnosis and was desperately trying everything I could to lose weight, I went to see my GP for help and to raise my concerns that perhaps something else was wrong with me... as no matter what I tried, the pounds were not shifting.

Instead of offering me any support or advice, she allowed her own fatphobia to take over - she told me I clearly wasn't operating at a calorie deficit. I told her that I was...I tried to explain exactly what I ate, to show her my food diary, how I measured my calorie and fat intake - she wouldn't listen.

Not only would she not listen, she SHOUTED over me...rolled her eyes at me when I tried to speak...treated me as though I was ignorant and beneath her. Insisted I must be lying about my food intake, as she banged her fists on her desk aggresively.

She then made me lay on her examining bed, while she roughly poked and prodded at my stomach and commented loudly over and over about how much fat I had. Then she told me turn over and pull down my underwear, and proceeded to perform an internal examination as she continued talking about how fat I was, while I lay there crying silent tears. 

Her final verdict? - there was nothing wrong with me, I was just over eating and lying about it.

At the time I had put myself on a liquid only diet and still wasn't losing a single pound. 

I left her office that day feeling violated, shamed and mortified.

I felt less than human.

She treated me in a way that would be unfit to treat an animal.

Yet despite that, I know without a shadow of doubt that there WILL be people who read this and still think "Well she was probably right, if you're fat you MUST over eat. You must be doing something wrong.You must be lying. It has to be YOUR fault. You are flawed and therefore you are not worthy of my respect"

Because the truth is, that's how society tends to see fat people - as less than human. Less deserving of basic respect. Less than intelligent. Less than. Less than. Less than.

It's apparent in so many ways.

You only need look at who the most successful body positivity activists online are - the ones who sell the most books, the ones who have the most followers and likes on Instagram, the ones who the most people share and fawn over - they are usually thin or average sized at best.

People LOVE to hear the "accept yourself! Love the skin you're in! We are all beautiful and worthy!" message....but rarely from anyone over a size 18. Only from people who look a certain way. Only from people who are still attractive, still aspirational, still worthy....only from those who aren't truly fat.

This is the reason I stopped posting about body confidence online for over a year - because it's just not something people want to hear from people like me. They want it from my size 12 and 14 friends, it's easier to swallow that way. Because they're easier to respect and admire than a fatty with no self-control, right?

I am grateful for one thing, though.

Over these last few years, I've finally come to realise that the problem with my fat body is not's not my diet, it's not my poor health, it's not my shape or how I carry it, it's not my inability to be a stronger minded person.

The problem with my fat body is the way society judges it.

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