Trigger warning: This post contains talk about diets, weight, and related topics.
As a fellow person who exists and operates within a society, I'm sure you realize that we all make assumptions about others based on their appearance. Implicit bias comes in all shapes and forms, from race to gender expression. This type of bias is at the crux of many social justice issues, so there is a lot to unpack here and I'm not about to do that at this very moment.
As a fat woman, I'm well aware of how much of society sees me. Maybe I'm rude, for taking up space. Lazy, because I must never move. Ignorant, because if I only knew better I wouldn't have ended up this way. Impulsive, because I can't see past instant gratification. Sexless, gluttonous, unhealthy, selfish; the list goes on.
I have a favourite as of late. It might seem obvious, but the more I look out for it the more I see it everywhere (isn't that how it always is?)
I must be fat because I don't know what it means to eat healthily.
As a fat, 27-year old woman in North America, I must not have been exposed to years of "helpful" advice from strangers, friends, family members, and the media. I must not have spoken with concerned doctors, tried countless diets, and obsessed over whether I'm eating "correctly" for the better part of my life. I just need to eat more vegetables. Control my portion sizes.
Welp, that's enough of that, because let me tell you where I'm at. Maybe I'll print this post out and keep it in my wallet to pass along for future "helpful" conversations.
Like many fat women, I've heard it all, and I've tried it. When I hit puberty at ten years old, I started struggling with food. Now, almost two decades later, I wonder if I wasn't just growing, looking for an emotional outlet, and hungry? Plus those Eggos tasted really good.
But so launched a many years-long battle between me, my food, and my body. After hitting puberty I covered myself in baggy boys' clothes because I was so uncomfortable in my skin. I grew curves, I got a little chubby, and I felt enormous next to my friends. Looking at old photos now, I feel so sad that I ever felt that way.
At 16, I gained a little more weight, and after researching the South Beach Diet for my health class, started going to Weight Watchers with my family. We all lost weight, and did learn quite a bit about incorporating more whole grains and veg into our lives, although we were pretty average eaters before then too. I got smaller, and became obsessed with being smaller. After a case of mono (heyoooo) I was at my lowest weight ever, but still found myself getting referred to as "voluptuous" and "curvy" - no matter what I was still bigger than my friends. I spent the rest of my high school years sometimes secretly eating, ashamed, and sometimes trying to eat less at school in the days that followed.
Next came university, an extremely difficult time for me and also a classic time to gain the good ol' Freshman 15. On my own, I often ate in extremes. I ate whatever I wanted, binging at the cafeteria, only to then go on the Master Cleanse, drinking lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup until migraines and fatigue took me down. After leaving school, I drowned my depression in food, trying to find a pocket of happiness or comfort in a confusing and empty time.
Over the next few years my weight went up, and I tried everything. I went back on Weight Watchers, I counted calories, I was vegetarian, I went to two doctor-referred weight loss clinics. I lost nearly 60 pounds on an extremely low carbohydrate, low fat, low sodium diet. I ate salads and burger patties, spent days forcing myself to eat chicken breasts. When I couldn't eliminate entire food groups anymore, I counted my macronutrients, joining Facebook groups of women measuring their daily intake of carbs, fat, and protein to the gram.
Don't try to tell me I don't know how to eat. I have tried almost every way of eating.
A few months ago I started listening to Christy Harrison's podcast Food Psych, and it has been a game changer for me. I found her at just the right time, when I was growing more comfortable in my own skin, finding more joy in my body, and feeling differently about what "healthy" might look like for me. I think I may now be leading a "healthier" life (a word which is very open to interpretation and also not a basis for which to judge or criticize others), obsessing less about food, keeping active, and passing medical tests with flying colours. My diet looks pretty similar to the thin people's around me, I walk a lot, and I push my body hard on a regular basis. And I'm still fat.
I'm still on my journey, and still figuring out what a balanced life and intuitive eating look like for me. I still struggle with binge eating from time to time, and hope to start exploring that in a less punitive environment. But Christy Harrison blew my mind when she pointed out that restriction and binging are just two sides of the same coin. So here I am, finding balance and pleasure and health in food, and looking to my body and life for cues on how to do it.
In the meantime, please, just let me eat in peace.