Well, yet again the amazing Marilyn Wann has inspired me. She shared this article on her Facebook page and of course I popped over to read it. It’s an excellent piece on the damage caused by fat stigma and the responsibility the medical profession has towards it’s patients. I was reading the comments and I was just struck with the desire to tell my story as a fat T2 diabetic to members of the medical profession. I started to type a comment to the article, and what happened is I found myself writing a letter to medical professionals in general. I have submitted it as a comment on the site (it’s awaiting moderation over there), but I decided I wanted to copy it and share it with you here.
It is of course nothing we haven’t all been saying in the Fatosphere over and over again, and it’s nothing I personally haven’t said before (repeatedly!), but I believe that we really do need to be telling our stories over and over and over, we do need to be addressing all kinds of different audiences about our experiences and perspectives, if we’re ever going to get real change in our culture towards fat stigmatisation.
So, without rambling on any more, here is my letter to medical professionals (any that care to listen).
Dear Medical Professionals
My name is Kath and I am fat (by the pointless BMI standards, I am morbidly obese at around 300lbs, but I prefer the term fat) AND I have Type 2 diabetes. I am the one so many in the medical profession use as a cautionary tale against what happens to “bad/lazy/greedy” people who don’t live a “healthy” lifestyle. Until I found my current doctor, not one health care professional would believe that I was not a sedentary glutton, and as a consequence I developed an eating disorder from about 13 years of age until my early 30’s, and was suicidal during that time as well. I was starving myself and abusing both prescription weight loss drugs and other substances to try to lose weight. Medical professionals I went to praised me if I lost weight, but chastised and even bullied me if I gained. I always gained eventually, always what I had lost, and always some more. When I confessed disordered behaviour, several health care professionals actually sanctioned it, and encouraged me to continue, since it was “working” (albeit temporarily). I was rarely asked as to what I was actually eating and what exercise I was doing, but if I was, it was met with disbelief. After all, calories in, calories out right? How can one be fat if they are consuming less than they are expending?
In my mid-30’s, I decided that if nobody would believe me, and I couldn’t be thin and therefore worthy of space in this world, I would end it all and relieve myself and the world of suffering. Thanks to the love of a good friend, I didn’t succeed. But it was at that moment I opted out. Opted out of the constant barrage of hatred that is poured towards fat people. Opted out of dieting and employing any other methods of attempting weight loss. I didn’t know where I was going at first, I just knew I couldn’t live that way any more, and I wanted to live, but not like I was.
Eventually, I stumbled across the concept of Health at Every Size (HaES) and my world was changed. First step, find a doctor who listened to me and treated me as a human being, not an amorphous blob of fat to be eradicated, cured, prevented. Second step, find a decent psychologist to help me heal the trauma of the stigmatisation I lived all my life just for existing in a fat body. Third step, learn to eat again. And when I say learn to eat, that means both for nutrition of my body AND for the pleasure food can give. It means listening to hunger and satiety cues. It means feeding myself what I need, and what fits within the life I live. I still struggle with some disordered thinking and behaviour, but I will keep working at it until I have it beaten. I also reclaimed my right to appear in public as a fat person, which has enabled me to do things like swimming at the beach and riding my bicycle, despite the fact that I am still ridiculed and shamed for daring to be a fat person who is active in public.
It has been about 5 years since the moment I opted out, and in that time I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I should have known, on my maternal side, my Grandmother is diabetic, on my paternal side, two aunts, an uncle and several of my older cousins (all T2). I am built like my Grandma and my aunts, as are my female cousins, but the male relatives with diabetes are all tall and thin. Nobody has ever shamed the men with T2 diabetes in my family, but all of we women have experienced shaming for it.
On diagnosis of T2 diabetes, I became even firmer in my resolve to practice HaES. Since my diagnosis, my doctor and I have worked together and with HaES and appropriate medication, my blood sugar levels are in the normal range. I am still fat, but all my vital measures are within the robustly healthy range.
I was far more a drain on society when I was trying to get thin than I am now that I live a HaES lifestyle. I’ve gone from suicidal, frequently unemployed due to depression and the damage I did with my eating disorder, and constantly needing medical care. Now I have a successful career in a field that I am passionate about and contributes to society. I am a passionate campaigner for social justice and inclusion, and I contribute strongly to the public coffers via taxes, my private health care and the work I do in social justice and inclusion.
My point in telling my story here? “The Obese” are not a disease to be eradicated, prevented, cured. We are not some disgusting medical condition that is costing society millions. We do not sit at home on the sofa eating cheeseburgers. Nor are we stupid or liars.
We are people. We are human beings with lives, loves, emotions, needs, aspirations and value in society like any other human being. We deserve to be treated as such and allowed to advocate for ourselves.
Please remember that.
Thank you for your time in reading this.