On Being Fat

Posted: August 2, 2009 in Uncategorized

I’ve always had weight issues. I remember when I was in junior high and we’d have to go to the nurse’s office to be weighed; I’d always make up a story about this mysterious, rare disease I had that caused me to gain weight. I’m actually not sure anybody cared, but as soon as they announced that we were celebrating “health awareness day,” or some other ridiculous misnomer, I’d try to come up with any excuse to get out of it. And when that didn’t work (I wasn’t a very good liar), I found reasons for it. It was a genetic problem; I was big-boned.
Being heavy is a complex issue. It’s not just about eating too much or being genetically predisposed to a larger composition of fat, bone, and soft tissue. It’s not only about not getting enough exercise or being an interminable couch potato. And the solution is often more than simply trying to convince someone they need to eat better to reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. For some, overcoming obesity becomes much more than simply “getting thin.”
Sadly, I discovered a wonderful thing about being fat. Men tend to avoid fat women like the plague, and I’ve always looked for excuses to avoid men. While they’re wondering how anybody could love someone like me, someone who is the antithesis of the Barbie doll, I’m delighting in the fact that they are keeping their distance. When I was growing up, I’d had several encounters with older men that set my attitude toward all men for the rest of my life. There was the smarmy, greasy-haired principal with large calloused hands and penetrating eyes who couldn’t keep either off me in elementary school. In Calculus, the slow-talking southerner that taught class spent more time looking down his students’ blouses than at the figures on the chalkboard. And at home, I was constantly getting mixed signals about my role as daughter versus that of sexual plaything. Then, I remember when I was in high school, walking home late one evening, being followed by a group of boys about my age and learning the ultimate lesson.
“Let’s do her,” one of them said, loud enough for me to hear.
I started walking a little faster, and began thinking my friends were right about not walking alone at night.
But after a brief pause, one of the other boys responded, even louder and with emphasis, “Naw, she’s too fat.”
I think that short exchange confirmed for me consciously what I already believed subconsciously. Heavy, I was safe. And I would learn, over the years, that other women who had similar histories also found secret comfort in being overweight, and many would not discover until quite late in life (if at all) that it may not be worth the loneliness it enjoys.
It sounds almost improbable, but it was a man who convinced me to step beyond my comfort zone and begin connecting with a healthier me. Although he was happy with my size, he saw that I was not, so with his constant encouragement and positive attitude coupled with my strong desire to feel at home in my body, I gradually decided to make a lifestyle change by joining Weight Watchers.
I am greeted at Weight Watchers with kindness and weighed with discretion. Nobody shouts my weight for all to hear, or reprimands me for being too fat. And as I soon discovered, it isn’t just about how much weight I’ve lost or how many Points I’ve used for the day, although those are important in the program. It is about learning to develop good, healthy eating habits and add some activity to my daily schedule. They offer support there, celebrating small steps and helping sustain me through the setbacks. I am finally in a place where I no longer want to stay fat to keep me safe from the world, but I want to get thin so I can feel a part of it.

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Comments
  1. Juliann Wetz says:

    I really enjoyed this post. As someone who has also struggled with weight issues her whole life, I found myself relating to everything you said.

    The part about the principal and the boys following you home – wow! Powerful stuff. You really captured the intensity of it all in very few words.

    Thanks for sharing!

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