I’m ready to acknowledge this and accept it after almost a lifetime of being this way. Most people, when I say this, are quick to respond with something like, “No, you shouldn’t say that.” Hm. They treat “fat” as if it is somehow a pejorative. I also sometimes say that I am stupid or lazy, but most people laugh at this. They know neither of those is true. I’m a hard worker. I have a string of letters after my name, so I don’t think I’m dumber than anyone else. But when I say I’m fat, my listeners are quick to defend me from myself. Hmmmmmmmm.
Because they know it’s true.
It’s not like I want to be fat. And there was a point in my teenage years where I was actually slim. If most people were given an option, they would choose to be thin—even the people who are all about that bass.
I’m also familiar with the dangers of being fat. I had a great aunt several years ago. She was diabetic, though she didn’t know. Poor and living in a rural area (Cuero, for locals), she considered doctor visits a luxury. However, she finally went to see a doctor when she lost feeling in one of her feet.
The doctor cut it off.
It didn’t do her any good, though. The diabetes had triggered liver cancer (along with some other issues) and, while cutting off the foot bought my aunt a little more time, she ultimately succumbed to the disease.
I was a child then and didn’t know her well, but sometimes I think about her. I think about what she was thinking or feeling, what it was like to lose a piece of yourself, to know that you are dying and that no one can save you. There are some photos of her at this time. A rotund woman, she seems deflated in these images and fatigue drags down the skin of her eyes. I don’t remember being there for the funeral.
I never really cared about what I ate. It was an epiphany to me when I realized that there are actual, real people in the world who treat eating the way they treat sleeping or flossing. For them, it’s just another banal activity, something to be done so that their bodies can function. Food has never been like that for me, and I bet it’s never been like that for any fat person or formerly fat person.
Eating is fun for me. It’s not just something I do to stay alive, it’s something I do to feel alive. It makes activities less boring. It’s a way to pass the time. I know now that many other people do not have this same kind of relationship to food, and I find that very interesting.
I didn’t choose to be fat. I chose to eat food jacked up on sugar and to lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle, which led my body to being fat. It’s not good or bad, really, it’s just the way it is.
So why do people treat “fat” like a swear word? They whisper it behind hands, behind backs, sneers on their mouths or pity in their eyes. Or when I call myself fat, why do people tell me not to call myself that? It’s the truth. I could say I’m short and have brown eyes, but neither of those are bad things. I suppose, perhaps, because I can’t control being short or having brown eyes.
But, to be honest, I don’t know that weight can be controlled either. Diet and exercise, they tell me, diet and exercise. Run for 30 minutes every day. Eat celery. Watch your calories. Drink kale. Lift weights. Do Yoga. Do Zumba. Get a gym membership. Get a better gym membership. Sugar is the devil. Drink more water. Drink organic water. Just eat lettuce.
For the record, I’m perfectly healthy. I just also happen to be fat. I exercise, but I don’t really diet. I think diets are weird. Eat raw meat for six months and watch your waistline shrink! Drink vegetable juice until your poop is liquid! Kale!
I just think it’s funny that “fat” seems to be a regular word that’s often used like a bad one.
Although there have always been overweight and obese people in the U.S., they were a small minority of people until fairly recently. In the 1950s, almost 10 percent of adults were clinically obese. In the 2000s, though, more than a third of adults in the U.S. were obese.
Childhood obesity has also steadily increased since the 1980s and, despite numerous government and Michelle Obama-led initiatives, seems to increase year after year. There are a variety of reasons for why obesity is constantly on the rise: mostly sedentary lifestyles combined with a diet that is high in processed fats and sugars. Some health experts don’t think exercise is as important as diet and others don’t think diet is as important as exercise. If someone is trying to lose weight, it’s very easy to get confused by all of the information out there. Even people who are trying to be healthy don’t always get it right. They might try replacing their soda with juice, but if the juice has more sugar than the soda (and a lot of them do), then that person isn’t doing themselves any good. “Sugar-free” items still rely on sugar alcohols for flavor, which is not exactly healthy. While there are diet plans (complete with diet meals made by those companies), those are not long-term weight solutions.
In short, there’s not an easy way to lose weight once you’ve gained it. There’s no convenient pill you can take twice a day (at least, not one that’s safe), no miracle food product that will improve your health, no magic exercise that will turn you into the sculpted Greek god/goddess of your dreams.
So why do people get so weird when they start talking about weight? If 30 percent of Americans are obese and the same amount are overweight, shouldn’t we be talking about this more? I don’t just mean how to fix it. What causes it? Is it the commercials? Half tell us to eat hamburgers and the other half tell us how to lose weight in just two weeks. Or is there any truth to those stereotypes we see in TV shows and movies? Are fat people fat because they’re just too lazy to go to the gym and too hedonistic to control their eating habits?
I think about my own experiences with weight loss. It came from walking a lot and eating less. Nothing dramatic or extreme. And I think about my weight issues now. I go to the gym 4-5 times a week and each session is about 45 minutes long. But I’m still fluffy. Weight loss isn’t a decision you make once and then act upon. It’s a choice you make every day. Each day is different. Some days I’m OK with my weight and how I look. Other days I’m not. I try not to beat myself up about it and to talk to myself the way I would talk to a friend about weight: openly, honestly, and with the desired outcome in mind.