My best friend posted this article: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-76779887/ Basically the gist of it is “making fun of fat people makes them feel bad and deters them from exercising.” Which falls into the category of those articles that say, “studies show that bullying makes people angry and sad.” But it should be news, because it’s amazing how many people don’t get this.
Reading the article reminded me of a time in college. I’ve always struggled with my weight and body image, but I had lost a great deal of weight and I feeling pretty good about it. I’ll never be skinny, but this was pretty close for me. A guy walked past me and yelled, “Hey! Hey, fat girl!” He blocked my path and said, “Are you pregnant? Cause you know, you’d be cute if you lost some weight!” Now, the ideal response would have been, Oh, thank you scrawny man with meth teeth! Your opinion is, after all, the only one that could possibly matter to me! But I was so shocked and hurt I couldn’t say anything. I went home, And I binged.
I have an eating disorder. It’s binge-eating disorder–think bulimia without the purging. Yes, I have one of the disorders that doesn’t make you thin, go figure. When I get upset or stressed, I want to eat, especially sweets, but I’ll eat anything if it’s bad enough. I tried purging once, but that just made me more miserable. Binge eating is the reverse of anorexia, but it accomplishes the same thing: control and comfort.
It took me a lot of therapy to understand it. I went to therapy for PTSD, and halfway through, the therapist said, “Are you aware you have an eating disorder, and a major body image issue?” I wasn’t. Because that what a disorder does to you–it makes your world “normal.” For me, it was normal to stuff myself when I was alone.
The genesis of the disorder was middle school bullying. I was so incredibly unhappy from sixth grade on that, under hypnotherapy, I discovered I literally had no memory of school from sixth to ninth grade. With EMDR therapy, I did recover the memories eventually. I was so terrified of school that I made myself physically ill to avoid going. I missed a ton of school from psychosomatic illness. I underwent an invasive medical procedure to keep up my illness–I remember thinking as I woke from anesthetic, Well, at least I didn’t have to go to gym. When I did have to go to gym, I’d race from my class to get ahead of the other girls and change, so they wouldn’t have a chance to point and laugh and call me fat ugly bitch which was apparently my nickname. I quit talking in class. I went to everyone: teachers, counselors, the principal and asked for help. But I went to school in the pre-Columbine days, and the answer was, “You know, they bully you because they have low self-esteem. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! It’s character building!” I had so much character that it took me thousands of dollars in therapy to undo it. Fuck their self esteem!
When I got home from school, I would make snacks. For instance, I’d take a fat free pudding cup (I was on Weight Watchers) and load it up with chocolate chips, nuts, etc, and sit on the floor and gorge on it. I couldn’t control the kids at school, no one would help me, I was embarrassed to tell my parents what a miserable failure I was–I felt so weak and small. Since this bullying seemed to be my fault–after all, that’s what the school officials were implying–there was nothing to be done. So I ate. Because THAT I could control. And there was comfort in it. It just feels good.
Walking hand in hand with eating disorders is body dysmorphic disorder. That is, being unable to perceive what I really look like. For years I couldn’t look in a mirror very long. I can now. Some days I fell okay about myself. Some days, the binge days, I’m so revolted by what I see that I get physically ill. I don’t actually know how I look–like a 90 pound anorexic who sees an obese person, I can’t tell how I look. I feel the same about photographs. People will say, “What a pretty photo of you!” and I think, I look like a vanilla moonpie with hair. I have ways of digging myself out, but it’s so hard.
there’s a third piece of this puzzle: I also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. In effect: I do not produce the requisite lipase to lose weight. Because I lack this chemical, my body does not process food correctly and over stores fat. the doctor said I could run on a treadmill for hours and not lose weight, because the chemical that does that isn’t there. I can induce this chemical by reducing carbs, eating 100 g + of protein per day, and taking an insulin inhibiting medicine. Once is was diagnosed and treated, I lost 30 pounds. PCOS also causes infertility, excruciatingly painful periods, excessive hair, fatigue, carb carvings (which lead to binge eating!) and can cause diabetes.
I’m in control now. You can’t cure an eating disorder or PCOS, but you can control them. It’s hard work. I struggle against it every moment.
There’s always some meddlesome soul who has to say, “It’s not hard to lose weight! It just takes willpower! People choose to be fat–here, follow my amazing simple plan and it’ll all be better!” And they grin at me like See, aren’t I helpful! Aren’t you motivated now! Get out there and exercise, fatass! and I mentally calculate how many calories I could burn by punching them in the face.
There are some well-meaning people out there who probably read this and think, “Well, how do I help?”
You help by not giving advice without being asked. Fat people know they’re fat. They know what they need. Maybe that person just lost thirty pounds and was feeling pretty good until now.
You know what motivates me to lose weight? “Hey, you look nice today.”
See how easy that is?