Imagine wearing an overly padded suit. It’s soft and fluffy, but it surrounds your arms, legs, core, and butt. It is so hot in the suit that at times you feel you’re almost suffocating. Every time you walk it takes extra work because the padded suit restricts ease of motion. You’re uncomfortable, you’re sweltering, and you can’t move as fast as you’d like. Now imagine everything you’ve ever eaten is attached to the padded suit. Anyone can see the nachos you ate when you were bored, or the donuts you ate in a hurry on the way to work. All the disastrous food choices are in plain sight.
This is what it’s like to be an overweight woman with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). All of the doctors’ concentration is centered around your physical symptoms. Others focus on your “outside” health over your “inside” health. Strangers assume you are lazy and unhealthy; you probably lay around stuffing your face with pizza and tacos all day while being sad and friendless. You clearly smell like sausages and despair.
I should say that that’s what it was like for me BEFORE I changed my whole lifestyle….hold your horses; I’m getting there.
Before you accuse me of being judgmental, let me make it even clearer that I’m still an overweight woman with PCOS. Before you accuse me of whining, let me remind you that like every thin person on the planet, overweight people have their stories too. Sometimes our stories are rife with self-hatred and isolation, but sometimes our stories are a continuous labor of self- love and the start of a victorious journey. Mine is the latter. Not whining, just owning.
My first diet began at the age of eight, when I had started to get a little chunky. My mother introduced the whole family to the “Stoplight Diet.” I learned all about green foods (go, go, gooooo), yellow foods (caution, young grasshopper), and red foods (avoid at all cost or your body will implode). I lost a grand total of eight pounds; it doesn’t sound like much, but it was. I kept the weight off through the rest of elementary and junior high school. Though you wouldn’t have known it, due to the best efforts of a boy I’ll call “BS” (Body Shamer, not BullShit–though he was full of it). BS decided, all evidence to the contrary, that I was a porker of exceptional proportions and that I deserved to be tormented to a maximum degree. At about 5’2” in the sixth grade, I weighed around 100 pounds, which is quite normal. Inspired by Judy Blume’s book, BS decided to dub me “Blubber” because clearly I was a whale. He spread the nickname like wildfire. I didn’t understand why he was being so mean to me. I began to hate myself and not want to show my face at school. I avoided talking to my parents about it, but began to eat less and less of my daily lunches, throwing larger portions away. A teacher began to notice, and spoke to my mother (also a teacher at the school) about it. By the end of the sixth grade I must’ve lost 10-15 pounds. My body image was tanked, but I still held out hope that junior high would be better. My parents tried to let me fight my own battles; when the nickname and worse names followed me to junior high, my father had enough and spoke with the principal. Eventually the nicknames died and I reached an uneasy truce with BS. I didn’t really see him much after the 9th grade. Still, the impact of that experience had a lasting effect on me. I chose to wear big, baggy clothes that hid my body. I didn’t want any more emphasis on my body. Good or bad.
A rollover accident I was involved in kept me confined to a wheelchair in the spring of 1996; the lack of exercise plus bad food choices provoked the onset of what I know now is PCOS. A classic symptom of PCOS is insulin resistance, which causes rapid weight gain. It’s a situation I constantly think about as “if I’d only known.” I continued to gain weight through college—fast forward to 2003, when I was actually diagnosed with PCOS. I freaked out about the fact that I may not be able to have children more than actually finding out about its effects on my insulin and body weight. Blah, blah, blah insert time of self pity. Fast forward til 2011– insert walking/jogging, good stuff with the exercise. Fast forward a few more years — aha. Now. 2019. Insert a whole new lifestyle that I’m still working on.
I have given you a really abridged version of my fat story. So many parts of it are standard fat girl repertoire and yet other parts just don’t need airing. My journey dragged me through the depths of self hatred. It took me through a series of continuous bad choices. It taught me to isolate myself and not trust other people; if I hated myself, shouldn’t they hate me too? However, my story also brought me to experiences I thought I’d never see–physical challenges I never thought I’d accomplish. I no longer see myself as Blubber. I see a strong, successful woman who is worth more than what her body looks like. She is the content of her soul. She can participate in 10K races, she can sing karaoke at the top of her lungs; she is musical, talented, hilarious, real, generous, dramatic, loyal, silly, beautiful, stubborn, and can love like no other. She is fat, yes, but in the words of J.K. Rowling: “Is fat really the worst thing a human can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel? Not to me.”
What defines a perfect body? One that you love unconditionally. My body is strong, capable, AND according to recent blood work/weight/body measurements–healthier. Sounds like a good start to me.