Well, day one of the Australian Fat Studies Conference down and one more to go. I have no words for how awesome it has been – but I will attempt to find those words once I’ve been home and been able to think about it.
Instead, I am going to share with you my paper, which I presented this morning to the conference. I feel it went well, though I was very nervous!
So here you go:
Collateral Damage in the War On Obesity
A perspective on how the “War on Obesity” affects someone who is obese, and whether any of those effects are of any use to the obese person.
I need your help. I can’t live like this. No matter what I do, the weight keeps coming back. I know, I know, I’ve lost 25 kilos already, but it won’t stay off. It just keeps creeping back. I exercise every day for before I go to work, then again during my work day at the office gym, then again for a couple of hours at the local pool when I get home. All I do is exercise. I have no life. My friends won’t talk to me any more, because all I talk about is the gym and dieting. I don’t go out or socialise or anything anymore. All I do is go to the gym or the pool or walk around my neighbourhood by myself. I keep getting in trouble at work because I can’t keep up, I can’t concentrate, I forget things and I cry all the time.
My doctor gave me these pills, but… they frighten me. I took them just like he said, and all it did was make me crazy. I haven’t slept for four days. I haven’t eaten anything in four days. I keep forgetting to even drink water. These pills, they make me climb the walls, all manic and hyper. The doctor keeps asking if I’m lying in my food journal, if I’m not writing everything I eat down. I have been lying. I’ve not been writing all of the exercise down, and I’ve been writing food in there that I didn’t eat. But the weight keeps coming back, no matter what I do.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to live if this is living. Please. PLEASE, I need help.
“Hmmm… do you think you could add another half hour of exercise in the evenings? You just need to ramp it up a little to get over the hump and lose some more weight.”
That was me begging for help. The response was from my psychologist at the time. Over 5 years later I still don’t have any words for how I felt at that moment. But I went home. I filled my water bottle, I took this packet – this is the packet for the Duramine, the prescribed amphetamines for appetite suppressant, I still have it – and I sat on my bed, with the pills in one hand, and the water bottle in the other, and I decided that this would be the end of all of this. I sat there, with the decision made that I was going to stop this life, that I was going to end it because I couldn’t live like this any more. The world didn’t want me, a fat woman, to be in it. I was meant to be invisible, to not exist, unless I could be thin. So I was going to just kill myself, because what better way to lose weight and keep it off, than to be dead.
Just as I popped the pills out of their packet and put them in my hand, my mobile phone went off with a text message. I looked at it, a message from one of my oldest and dearest friends, and it said “I’m worried about you. We haven’t talked in a long time. I love you, call me.” It saved my life. It reminded me that someone cared about me, that someone had loved me for so long, even at my fattest, I was loved by ONE person in the world, and it would devastate him to lose me to suicide. That one message made me decide that life was worth far more than spending it trying to be something I simply was not, and that’s the moment I walked away from the War on Obesity. The war on myself.
None of us can miss the “War on Obesity”. It’s in the media every day, splashed across headlines and the lead item on bulletins, it sells tabloids, books and magazines. Studies are released with regularity that are then tweaked into news items, telling us how obese people are to blame for global warming, rising health care costs, the high price of airline tickets and even the failure of the American mitten industry.
But in this war, it’s foot soldiers are not those who volunteer for duty. The troops drafted involuntarily into the war on obesity are those who live it. Who get up every morning, look in the mirror then to the newspaper or radio bulletin to be reminded that not only are they the ones expected to fight the hardest and bloodiest in the war, but in fact that the war is on them, the obese.
Like most wars, those that give the orders are rarely the ones at risk of becoming victims of the war themselves. In the case of the war on obesity, where the ranks are fighting their own bodies, how can there ever be victory?
Instead, the troops are going to the grave earlier than they should be because of self loathing, depression, self harm and avoiding seeking medical treatment out of shame. Even those who survived are permanently maimed – be it damaged bodies from eating disorders, yo-yo diets and weight cycling or the post traumatic stress of having to live their lives in a war that they never asked for.
Today is International Suicide Prevention Day. How many people have to opt out of the War on Obesity by the only means they believe is possible, which is to opt out of their lives all together, before we end this madness?
We need to end the War on Obesity before one more person dies needlessly. Just like the “War on Terrorism”, the terror isn’t out there, for us to fight. The terror is here, right within us. The terror isn’t fat, it’s hate.
As Professor Paul Campos says in the introduction to his book “The Obesity Myth”:
Nothing could be easier than to win this war. All we need to do is stop fighting it.