Australian Fat Studies Conference: My Paper

Published September 10, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

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.


18 comments on “Australian Fat Studies Conference: My Paper

  • You’re amazing. *hug*

    I wish more people would share their stories like this so others could see what it’s really like to be fat. Personally, I have a hard time with food. Not eating too much, but eating enough. But I still weigh 144kg. For over a decade I’ve been eating between 600 – 1200 calories per day, but my doctor still asks if I’ve considered lapbanding. I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d known about FA & HAES when I was a teenager. I’m sure that you & those other awesome FA women are saving lives by standing up and speaking the truth.

  • Thank you so very much for standing there and saying these most important words. You represented each and every one of us who are going through absolute hell trying to be like everyone else.

    So many of us have given up everything just in an effort to be thin – our friends, our families, our careers, fun, life, etc. You are right on target with this. We can take it back!!!

    Thanks again – hope you have a great day today too!

  • The fourth paragraph totally made me cry. Yes, this fucking madness needs to STOP! I’m so tired of seeing wonderful human beings just being reduced to nothing but numbers in this media-whoring “zomg obesity crisis!1!11” that does nothing but shame people, when there are fucking legitimate social justice problems in the world– like how the poor get stuck paying for everything despite the claim of how many taxes the rich pay, urban food deserts, rich/middle-class assholes who bitch about poor peoples’ eating and exercise habits when they’ve never been poor and don’t know what it’s like, employers locking us into shitty dead-end jobs with 70+ hour work weeks, the government letting big corporations put crappy food with questionable ingredients that get recalled onto our shelves because god forbid they lose campaign funding than give a shit about the people…and of course the biggest one I can think of, how the American healthcare system is in the toilet and anyone who thinks it works is clearly living in a fantasy world and never had to file for bankruptcy because the hospital billed you for a goddamn Upper East Side penthouse; or always had money/access to a good plan and doesn’t have a concept of what it’s like to only see a doctor if they’re about to die.

    These things affect people of ALL sizes.

    But this so-called “war on obesity” is just a practice in shaming, infantilising, and dehumanizing. If these media whores really gave a shit about people and HEALTH problems regardlss of if they’re linked to weight or not, then they’d write about the problems I mentioned above.

    But no, shaming a person for being fat whether they were born that way, got that way, or what have you, is just easier because it gets more attention and is the perfect scapegoat for these problems.

    We have to stop this “war” perpetrating self-hate and bigotry…you’re right, it’s totally no different than the so-called “war on terrorism”: same invisible “enemy”.

  • I had to take a moment to let myself cry after reading this…tears of joy because we both made it out alive and tears for all the pain we endured before we knew there was a better way. I’m so touched by your words and so so lucky to have you as a resource. You’re brilliant in every way and just make me more and more inspired every day ❤ ❤ xoxo

  • Thank YOU all for your kind words, support and sharing. I could never have got to the point where I could talk about such a personal, defining moment if it wasn’t for those of you who read my work and comment, tweet, email and such. You are all the reason I do this, and that includes you, silent reader who takes it all in but keeps to yourself.

    I am very tired tonight (boy has my brain, body and soul got a workout over the past couple of days!) but I will respond to you more directly later, and will blog some more about the conference as well.

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