A few weeks ago, I announced on my (personal) Facebook page that I’d lost another TWO clothing sizes since the last time I’d gone jean shopping. It was a very exciting moment for me.
I was touched when so many people responded to that Facebook status. Here is a sample of the comments:
Friends asked what I’d been doing, how I’d lost weight. I couldn’t answer all of the questions thoroughly on Facebook. And I didn’t want it to sound like I’d been dieting or that this had been a quick thing. The truth is that I changed my whole lifestyle over a year ago and lost a bunch of weight over time.
I promise I will write about the weight loss. But before I go there, I need to write about what it’s like to be fat. And let’s be clear; I’m not talking about I’ve-got-an-inconvenient-muffin-top-in-my-size-10-jeans, fat.
I’m talking your-doctor-warns-you-of-the-risks-of-obesity-at-every-check-up, fat.
I’m talking chronic-back-pain, can’t-walk-up-a-flight-of-stairs-without-heavy-breathing, avoiding-cameras-at-all-costs, fat.
Let me tell you – that kind of fat comes with a loneliness that is hard to describe.
I hit my highest weight at 29 years old, a few months after giving birth to my daughter, Peanut. I had been heavy for a couple of years and had gained a bunch of weight right before getting pregnant.
My first reaction to that positive pregnancy test was utter joy and jubilation. My nearly immediate second reaction was deep shame about being pregnant when I was already so heavy.
I could write a book about WHY I gained so much weight. (Maybe I will!) It wasn’t because I loved to eat. It wasn’t because I was pregnant/nursing/tired/stressed. It wasn’t because I was letting myself go. Yes, all of those were factors but not the real reason.
The truth was much simpler. I just didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin and I ate to quiet the discomfort.
I had used food, on and off, for many years. Even as a kid I struggled with weight. And there were so many moments of shame during the fat years. Too many to list but here’s a highlight reel:
- I was a member of Weight Watchers as an elementary school kid and once had to weigh in next to my PE teacher.
- When shopping in the “women’s” (i.e. plus-sized) section, I often found myself in dark, abandoned corners of department stores, next to the hardware department. I sometimes had to move tool boxes and power drills out of the way to get to the single rack of overpriced women’s clothing.
- While spending the day at Busch Gardens, I painfully squeezed myself into a regular roller coaster seat so that I wouldn’t have to tell my sister in law that I really belonged in the “passengers of size” row.
- I didn’t look really pregnant until I was 7 months along, maybe later.
- I once had to force a whole bridal party to return their bridesmaid’s dresses because the largest size didn’t fit me. (The bride, I will note, was ever-gracious. She never so much as lifted an eyebrow at me and her entire 100-lb frame stormed out of the department store yelling about how “ridiculous” it was that they didn’t carry “normal” sizes, even though we both knew I wasn’t a normal size.)
But if you want to know what those years were really like, read on….
What it really means to be fat…
- Being fat means that you never go clothes shopping with your girlfriends. unless I was buying shoes, scarves, or handbags, you didn’t find me in stores like The Gap, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic .
- Unlike other afflictions, you can’t hide fat – especially once you hit sizes that start with a “2”. Heavy people may hide their eating, but the fat is always there. It’s like physically wearing your deepest vulnerability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- You don’t look forward to family events. Instead, when you get a wedding invitation in the mail, you start calculating EXACTLY how many pounds you’ve gained since the last time you saw that side of the family. Then you obsessively worry about what to wear and head to the department store hardware women’s section to find an overpriced black tent.
- Worst of all, being fat means avoiding cameras altogether. I forced myself to look back at pictures of me during my heaviest time to prepare for writing this post. Turns out the most painful part about it is the shocking lack of pictures. We took hundreds and hundreds of pictures of Peanut her first year. I’m in maybe a dozen, half of which are candid (when I had no idea a picture was being taken).
Of the dozen pictures, all of them are taken in a way I was told was more flattering to “full faces”. I either made sure the picture was taken from a bird’s eye view:
…or with my mouth slightly open:
Many think that fat people are lazy; this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it is terribly hard work to get and stay fat.
Case in point: next time you are at the grocery store, walk around with a 10- or 20-lb sack of potatoes. Better yet, walk around all day with 50 pounds of potatoes on your back. There’s nothing “lazy” about carrying around that much extra weight.
When I made a decision to change my life, it was largely because I hated the way I looked. But even more, I hated the way I felt. It wasn’t like me to avoid family events or refuse photos with my newborn daughter.
I didn’t feel like myself in my body. And something needed to change.
<Stay tuned next week when I’ll address how I am losing the weight.>