disordered eating

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Unruly Bodies

Published June 24, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

Ever since I was born, my body has been unruly.  It has never done what bodies are “supposed” to do.  From a newborn, my body has always rebelled against the world around it.  From allergies to everyday baby items like soap, lambs wool, and lanolin which left my tender skin covered in eczema and hives to the big birthmark that graces my thigh, I was untidy from the get go.  Through childhood when more allergies had me a sneezy, snuffly, itchy hayfever sufferer.  I was never the kid that could run fast, it took me forever to learn to swim, I couldn’t catch a ball, and have always been a klutz.  Then puberty hit… and I became fat, the thing considered by society in general the unruliest thing of all for bodies to be.  As well as being fat, and allergic, and uncoordinated, I had a head full of enormous hair that has never done what I wanted it to.  I couldn’t afford cool clothes, but even if I could they are denied to fat people.

From my teens I started doing all sorts of things to myself to try to get thin, which my body rebelled against even further.  Years of disordered eating, exercise bingeing and ridiculous diets wreaked havoc on my body.  In my 20’s I went through stages of self harm.  Everything I did to myself to try to make my body conform to what I was told it should be, just made the problem worse.  Yo-yo dieting gave me stretch marks.  Purging damaged my teeth and my skin.  I scarred myself as punishment for being fat and unworthy and to escape the emotional pain.   The more I fought my body to be tidy, neat, contained, the more my body fought back.

Of course, by the time that one is 35, most people see the signs of aging.  The body continues to be unruly.   Hair starts to go grey.  Wrinkles and lines appear.  Collagen reduces allowing gravity to do it’s job.  So the body continues to be unruly.  And again, I’m still fat – the unruliest thing of all.

It wasn’t until I was 35 that I stopped fighting my body.  I found fat liberation and feminism, and realised that my value is not in my appearance, that it is in who I am as a person, and no matter what a person looks like, they are worthy of dignity and respect.

Part of fat liberation is finding the way to appreciate the unruliness of your body.  It is finding the power in your body.  It is seeing the unruliness as the history book of your body.  I look at my body now and the very things that I once loathed are the things that I am finding are my strengths.  The soft warmth of my round, generous body.  A small child once called me “The huggiest lady in the world!” because she enjoyed cuddling up to my big body.  The strength that I have at my disposal just by putting my weight into movement.  The space I take up, full and abundant.  I see smile lines, scars that tell of great adventures, stretchmarks that tell of changes I have lived through.  Soft skin that is a canvas for beautiful art.  Even my enormous, untameable hair is a pleasure now – I just dye it hot pink and let it go crazy.  Sure I’d love to get rid of the allergies – but they are a small price to pay for a big, soft, warm, bountiful body that carries me through life.

But another thing happened… I started to notice that while I had all these things about my body that were unruly, untidy, awkward, there are also a lot of things about my body that are amazing and have always been there, I just never appreciated them when I was spending so much time focusing on the things I couldn’t change.   I never could run fast, but I’ve always had phenomenal endurance.  It took me ages to learn to swim, but once I did, I could swim long distances with ease.  I might not have been able to catch a ball, but I have a shot like a cannon and can split tennis balls and golf balls with my strength.  While my hair may be big and wild, it’s also thick and shiny.  My body is fat, but it’s also soft and warm.  I may have allergies, but I’ve also got a fine sense of smell and taste.

I learnt that instead of focusing on what my body is not, I need to focus on what it IS.  And what it is, is wonderous.  Flawed and weird yes, as are ALL bodies, but also amazing.

Why must women be small, tidy, contained, unobtrusive?  Why must we spend our lives trying to disappear, be invisible, to not take up any space, to keep out of everyone’s way?  Why can’t we inhabit our bodies as they are, find comfort and joy in them?

Let’s start here.  Before we go further, I want you to sit up straight, or as straight as you can.  Put your shoulders back.   Lift your head up and look straight forward.  Take a deep breath and expand your lungs, and then let that breath out.  Take up the space you inhabit.  Now think about the things your body CAN do.

What are the things that are amazing about your body?

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Stop! It’s the Holiday Season Food Police!

Published December 25, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

It’s that time of year again.  The “let’s be a jerk comments about food” time of year.  I don’t know about you, but I’m quite done with it already and it’s only Christmas Eve!*

Eating while fat at any time is a fraught exercise.  I just read a great post over on Shakesville by Aphra Behn on the weekend, take the time to go read it if you haven’t already.  But come the holiday season, and that really can extend any time from about late October through to oh, February, depending on where you live, it really gets intense.  So many people turn into the food police.  I don’t know about you, but when someone drops a food police bomb on me, more often than not I’m so taken aback by it that I can’t respond in the moment.  I’m already traumatised by food thanks to a lifetime of dieting and disordered eating, without having someone be a jerk over it.  Even though I’m well seasoned (see what I did there?) in dealing with food police.

So I thought I might drop a few examples with useful responses here that we could all use, and if you have any good ones you can put them in the comments.

“Oh, my diet is going to be SO ruined by this!”

“Well, you don’t have to eat any of this, we’ll understand if you choose not to, but we plan to enjoy it.”

“I didn’t realise that eating this was compulsory.”

“Like your diet isn’t going to be ruined by the fact that it’s an unsustainable way of feeding yourself in the long term.”

“That’s probably a good thing, it’s a well established fact that 95% of diets cause you to gain more weight in the long term than you lose.”

“This pie is SO sinful!”

“There’s a church at [insert nearby church address here] – I’m sure they’ll take your confession.”

“I’m more worried about the three firemen I shagged last night blotting my virtue.”

“I love the smell of brimstone in the morning!”

“It’s just pie, it’s not the anti-Christ.”

“Are you sure you haven’t had enough to eat already?”

“Are you sure what I eat is any of your business?”

“No.  I think I’ll have some more.  Thanks for checking in with me.”

“Why – is there more food somewhere?”

“Clearly not, or I wouldn’t be preparing to eat this.”

“That can’t be good for your health.”

“I didn’t know you’d gone and got a medical degree!”

“That’s so nice of you to worry about my health.  Would you mind looking at this rash I have… *zip*… down here?”

“Worry is worse for your health, so you take care and stop worrying about what I eat.”

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!”

“I’m not smearing it on my arse.”

“How about if I chew it REALLY slowly?  Will that be longer than a moment on my lips?”

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime of embarrassment for making such a stupid statement!”

“Oh, no, I’m watching my weight.”

“That must be boring viewing.”

“Why, does it do tricks?”

“I’m going to get SO FAT after all of this.”

“I’m fat, what’s wrong with being fat?”

“So you don’t want to be like me then?”

“Probably.”  (this one REALLY sticks in their craw!)

“We are all going to have to get on the treadmill tonight!”

“I don’t have to do anything of the sort, you worry about your body, I’ll worry about mine.”

“You do realise that human beings are not combustion engines right?  Bodies are far more complex than calories in/calories out.”

“If you want to be a hamster on a wheel for your evening entertainment, go for it.  I’ve got better things to do.”

*Stares at your food/plate*

Grab something off the plate and lick it and then put it back on the plate.  Say “There, now steal it.”

Take a fork/spoon full, raise it really, really slowly to your mouth, eat it really sexily and roll your eyes and make orgasm sounds.  Add a “Damn this is good!” for effect.

Pick up something small from your plate and throw it at them.

~~~@~~~

How’s that to get you all started on dealing with the food police?  Again, if you have any good ones, leave them in the comments so that we can build up an arsenal against the jerks out there who think they have a right to comment on our food and eating.

*I had this all ready to post last night but I spent too many hours having a beautiful roast chicken dinner with cheesecake and plum pudding with friends while we drooled over Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and didn’t get home until midnight, so it’s going up today.  Merry Christmas!  Or if Christmas is not your thing, I hope you’re having a fabulous holiday season of your choice!

Reindeer Games

Fat Stigma, Healthism and Eating Disorders

Published May 23, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

A little housekeeping first – the zine is still trucking along nicely, thank you to those of you who have already submitted contributions, (I’ll be in touch soon if I haven’t already) and to those of you thinking of submitting something, please do!  I particularly need artwork, even just small pieces to fill in around articles and break up the text.

Trigger warning on what follows: discussion of eating disorders, prejudice against fat eating disorder sufferers and rampant healthism.

Photo by Isaac Brown for Stocky Bodies.

Photo by Isaac Brown for Stocky Bodies.

Now, on to the actual topic of this post!  As you know, on Tuesday night I was proud to present at the UQ Women’s Collective Diversity Week event.  One of my fellow speakers was a representative from the Eating Disorders Association Inc (EDA) and she spoke on what eating disorders are, who is most likely to be affected by them, and what methods of treatments there are.  We had some robust discussion during the Q&A portion of the event in response to audience questions.  I only wish we could have answered more audience questions, but alas, we ran out of time.

Since then, I have had a LOT of thoughts swirling around my head around eating disorders and how they relate to fat people.  As you would have seen in my last post, I have been an eating disorder sufferer for most of my life, however I was in my 30’s before I was finally officially diagnosed with EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), which technically means an eating disorder that for some reason does not fit under Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder (which has only this week been classified officially as an eating disorder).  In personal terms, for me it means that I have an eating disorder… but I’m fat, so I am excluded from being diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia, despite meeting almost all of the other criteria.  Yes, just being fat disqualifies you from having anorexia or bulimia regardless of your meeting all or most of the other criteria.

So it’s probably no surprise to any of you that I have issues with how the health care industry, most eating disorder support organisations and the general community of eating disorder sufferers treat fat people.  Particularly as it is mostly assumed that fat = binge eating disorder, which is nothing short of bullshit.  Can I put that in any plainer terms for anyone?  BULLSHIT.  Fat people are assumed to just be overeaters or binge eaters by way of being fat.  It is often believed that it is impossible for a fat person to have a restrictive or purging eating disorder, or to be involved in disordered exercise behaviours.  Even as much research (and anecdotal evidence/lived experience) there is out there showing how many fat people have engaged in these forms of disordered eating/activity, the medical profession and most eating disorder organisations still do not recognise it in fat people, and instead suggest that “denial” is one of our symptoms of what must be binge eating disorder.

What regularly happens to fat people who present with all of the markers of restrictive/purging/exercise mania is that we are told to “keep up the good work” instead of having our illnesses recognised.  Behaviours which are widely recognised as destructive, disordered behaviour in thin people, are considered a “positive lifestyle change” in fat people and actively encouraged.  It certainly was for many, many years through my suffering.

And it seems that hasn’t changed much.

So fat people are being failed by most eating disorder support organisations, the medical/health care industry and the general eating disorder community still.

The first question to the panel on Tuesday night was asking how we respond to the “But what about your health?!” demands.  As the fattest person in the room, it meant a lot to me to make it clear that my health, and in fact anyone’s individual health, is nobody’s business but their own.  That it’s not a subject up for discussion unless the person themselves wish it to be so.  You know, the “If it’s not your body, it’s not your business.” mantra.

The representative from EDA then added that she saw the situation differently, and while she started positively with stating that the same health messages should be given to all people, regardless of their body shape or size (which I agree with), it soon devolved into a lot of deeply healthist and fat stigmatising rhetoric about bell curves of mortality rates in body sizes, BMI, “obesity epidemic” and “weight risk factors”.  I was at pains to point out that as someone at one end of that “bell curve”, most of this rhetoric is deeply problematic as it has a risk of demonising and othering those of us who fall at either end of that bell curve.  It also implies that we require intervention into our health, and ignores the fact that “risk” in no way equals “certainty”.  It perpetuates an assumption that people at the ends of the bell curve are by default defective, rather than just the natural extremes of a diverse spectrum of body types.  It also perpetuates the assumption that very fat people or very thin people by default are inevitably going to suffer health issues and/or shorter lifespans that they are only statistically “at risk” for.  This is not an accurate assumption nor is it a helpful one.

I was grateful that it was also raised by someone in the audience (kudos to Amy if you’re reading this) that BMI is both an inaccurate and ineffectual measure of anything (other than ratio of weight to height) and that it is deeply triggering to not just fat people but also to eating disorder sufferers in general (which was many of the audience – since it was an eating disorders event).  BMI is often the stick that people with poor self esteem and body image, and eating disorders beat themselves over the head with.

Unfortunately, I have found healthist rhetoric like this is alarmingly common from eating disorder support organisations, and while they may be well intentioned, are causing the exclusion of many people based on body shape and size, as well as level of health.  The reality is, many eating disorder sufferers have other health issues or may be people with disabilities as well as those caused by or part of their eating disorders, and these already vulnerable people are often made to feel that they do not deserve compassionate treatment and support because they’re hearing the message that health is the most important factor in treatment and support.

We need to keep repeating the message that not only is health completely and utterly arbitrary, but it is not a moral obligation either.  Moralising health is a deeply ableist attitude.  We need to keep fighting for our personal agency in health care as well.  Yes, occasionally there are people who are genuinely unable to advocate for themselves, these are in the vast minority and most importantly, that cannot be determined by either their weight or their actual physical health.  I believe the ONLY way to assess the inability to self advocate is through thorough and compassionate psychological assessment.

As long as we as a culture continue to define wellbeing and human worth by weight and/or arbitrary health measures, we are engaging in both ableism and fat stigma, neither of which actually help people build better wellbeing.  And it’s not just fat people/people with disabilities who are affected by this.   The fear of fat and stigmatising, ableist messages about health trigger damaging behaviours in people of all sizes and levels of physical health/ability.  As long as people are afraid of being fat or place moral obligation on health, they will be engaging in damaging and indeed unhealthy behaviours to avoid being fat or unhealthy.  It is a vicious cycle of direct cause and effect that we have to break for any progress to be made, and that needs to start with the very organisations who are in place to help break disordered behaviours.

What we need an entire cultural change around health and weight and I believe that eating disorder support organisations and groups need to be at the front of this cultural change, not being dragged along by those of us on the margins.  They have a responsibility to make effort to include and support those of us who are most vulnerable to stigma and bigotry, not marginalise us further.

Embracing our Bodies – University of Queensland Women’s Collective Event

Published May 19, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

It’s short notice, but I just got this great poster for the event I’m speaking at on Tuesday night. If you’re in Brisbane, and you can make it… come along!

Embracing Our Bodies poster

Embracing Our Bodies: A panel discussion and information session on eating disorders in Australia
Date: Tuesday 21st May, 2013
Time: 6pm
Location: UQ Student Union Complex Innes Room 2

Creating the Problem In the First Place

Published March 6, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

This morning I awoke to see a constant stream of retweets and shares for an article on a major Australian women’s online magazine (give you two guesses – I’m not naming or linking to it) about a woman who found a note in her 7 year old daughter’s bedroom, labelled “Diyet”[sic] and listing the food she ate (not much) and quite a considerable list of daily exercise.

Now yes, I agree, it is awful that a 7 year old child is making diet plans.  It is awful that a 7 year old child is obsessing over her body and diet and exercise already.  It shouldn’t be happening and I understand her mother being horrified that she would find this item in her child’s room, and despairing that her daughter is being influenced by this stuff already.  I find no fault at all with the author of the piece or the story she tells.

But seriously, for this particular online women’s magazine (let’s be honest, most online women’s magazines and most mainstream media) to be clutching their pearls over children dieting is a bit fucking hypocritical if you ask me.

This shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  These same media outlets publish story after story beating the “obesity epidemic” drum, and wringing their hands over “childhood obesity”, and then wonder why children obsess over their weight from a ridiculously early age?   These media outlets crap on about being “healthy”, which is just diet-talk reworded with no actual conscientious addressing of holistic health of all people, and then they get all up in arms about children dieting?  They allow the most hateful, bigoted crap about fat people to be published in the comments and call it “opinion”.  Not to mention that every single time I go to a mainstream media site, women’s or not, I am bombarded with ads for weight loss.  Where do they think kids, and their parents, get all of this stuff in the first place?

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother dieting.  From as early as I can remember, there were stories in her magazines, and on the TV my father always had on, and in the Sunday paper, talking about the latest, greatest diets, the importance of being thin and how fat was “bad” (think of lazy, fat, beer drinking, old Norm in the Life: Be in It ad campaigns, fellow Aussies of a certain age).  Even if I hadn’t been told I was fat from my earliest memory (I wasn’t fat for most of my childhood) by my family, all I had to do was pick up one of the women’s magazines laying about the house, or sit and watch TV with my father and I was getting those messages.  Right from my earliest memories, I was hearing that fat is bad and that I should do ANYTHING to avoid being fat.

So what did I do?  I was put on my first diet at 11.  But I had already been experimenting with dieting and exercise regimes some years before that.  I was maybe 7 or 8 the first time I put myself on a “diet”.  I was very good at sneaking the various diet products that my mother had about the house, and I was an excellent reader, so I just read the magazines and followed the diets in those.  I was 13 the first time I was put on meal replacements (powdered shakes that were VILE).  Soon after I started engaging in purging after an older girl taught me how to do it.  I also started stealing laxatives and worming medicine because I’d heard those helped you lose weight too.  Once I got busted for stealing those out of the medicine cabinet at home, I started stealing them from the local chemist.  I can remember watching an article on one of those current affairs shows about childhood obesity when I was in Year 8, and this was in 1985 – long before the current obesity epidemic hysteria kicked off in the 90’s, which has magnified the situation hundredfold.

It has to stop.  The media are never going to take responsibility for the shit they publish, so we have to stop supporting the media that publishes shit.  Even when they do publish something that is worthy, like the story I mentioned above, we have to view it through the lens of the other stuff they publish as well and call them out on it.  We need to promote outlets that share the worthy stories without all of the fat shaming and stigma.  If we are worried about what our children are being exposed to, perhaps it’s best to start by examining what WE are exposed to.  Because if you think kids aren’t seeing this stuff, you’re seriously delusional.  Even if you don’t give it to them directly, if it is around, they find a way to get to it.  Or they hear a second-hand version from other kids at school.  We need to teach our kids critical thinking.  But first we have to learn it ourselves.  To question the source of information and to ask what their motives are.  We need to discuss these issues with kids and teenagers and each other, openly and critically.   We need to look at the ethics behind these outlets and their sponsors.

If these media outlets come up lacking, we need to stop supporting them.  We need to walk away and not give them clicks, not give them airtime, and not signal boost them.  Instead, find alternative outlets that take responsibility for the messages they are sending and don’t engage in hypocrisy.  Or that at least TRY.  If you know that an article that people are sharing from a media site is a cross post/re post from a blog (most of them say so somewhere on the article) – share the original version, not the re-post in the dodgy mainstream media.  We need to tell our stories and have them untainted by fat shaming that undoes the message that we are sending.  Want some suggestions?  Try here, here and here.  You’re welcome to share others in the comments that you like.

I dabbled myself with writing for mainstream media (was also offered a regular writing gig at several of them) and was burned more than once by them selling me out to some disgusting fat shaming story as a “follow up”, so I decided that I would rather tell my story here and keep it’s integrity than taint my readers with contradictory information.    It might mean I reach fewer people here and now, but the message gets through clearer and un-sullied by shaming to those it does get to.

The mainstream media is never going to change until we walk away from it and stop giving them the clicks, the reads, the purchases and the support.  Give that support to those who don’t perpetuate bigotry and hate while then decrying the state of the world that THEY created.

Dear Medical Professionals

Published November 9, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

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.
Kath

How Does Dieting Benefit Our Health?

Published September 29, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

**Trigger warning, topic is about weight loss diets and disordered eating.**

I got a fantastic question on my Tumblr yesterday, that got me thinking a bit about diet culture and the constant calls for fat people to go on diets “for their health” and “take care of yourself”.

I was thinking about my own life of dieting, and how I felt all those times, and what my own health was like in those years.

When people say fat people should go on diets “for their health”, they’re not factoring in a) how dieting  affects the body and b) the mental health of the fat person.  Even if they are genuinely concerned for someone’s health and not just using concern trolling to police fat bodies because of their appearance, how much thought do they give to what dieting turns people into?

Now let’s just establish here that we know that fat people aren’t lazy gluttons and that we’re not all stuffing our faces 24 x 7 and that “dieting” doesn’t equal “just eating healthy”.  I know that’s the rhetoric that is spouted at us all the time, that we just have to “Put down the donut/cheeseburger/whatever.”  Let’s make it nice and clear that I’m talking about food restriction or replacement, rather than the mythical “just eat healthy” that the anti-fat seem to think we are not doing already.  When people say “Just eat healthy.” they don’t actually mean that, they mean diet, because hey, there’s no possible way a fat person can already be “just eating healthy”.  I’m talking about weight loss diets.  Calorie counting, no carb, no fat, no sugar, cabbage soup, replacement shakes, Atkins, South Beach, Pritikin, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, grapefruit, high protein, high fibre, high cardboard… whatever the fuck diet we were on at the time.  And this includes any of the disordered eating habits too – bingeing, purging, starvation, laxative abuse, diet pills, exercise bingeing, and even weight loss surgery.  Anything that is designed to restrict, reduce or purge for the supposed purpose of making us thin.

Can I ask… have any of you ever known a person, fat or thin or somewhere in between, who has been on a weight loss diet/programme, who is/was actually HAPPY while they are doing so?

*crickets chirping*

I know I was never happy.  I always felt like shit.  Having to measure every bit of food, count points, calories or grams, having to think about what I was going to eat every minute of the day.  I couldn’t just relax and spend time with friends, because I’d have to think about what foods met my diet.  Organising lunches for work was a headache and I was always on my guard for people questioning my eating habits (or lack of them).  Grocery shopping was even more nightmarish than I find it now (and I hate it now, thank God for online grocery shopping!) because almost everything was “forbidden” on whatever diet I was on at the time.  I was always hungry.  When I did get to eat, it was shitty.  Either it was really bad food (cabbage soup?) or it wasn’t even food at all, it was some powdery substitute or rubbery/cardboard diet version.  I never wanted the things I was “allowed” to eat, and yet I was so unbelievably hungry all the time that I had to eat them when I could.

Physically, my body fought me all the way.  I was constantly sick with every cold and virus that came around.  My skin was bad.  My teeth were terrible.  I constantly had to fight bad breath and diarrhea.  I had constant hayfever and headaches.  I never had any energy and never slept properly.

Emotionally, I was depressed, anxious and obsessive.  Depressed because I hated being hungry all the time and having to eat things that tasted like cardboard or rubber, depressed because no matter what I did, I could never lose weight and keep it off.  Anxious because I never knew where I could get “suitable” food, and I hated anyone knowing I was on a diet.  Anxious because my blood sugar was always low and I was shaky and couldn’t concentrate.  Obsessive because food might actually GET me, if I let down my guard.

Yet all of this was supposed to benefit my health?  How?

We all know that diets fail on the long term in 95% of cases, with weight regain plus more, but we never talk about how bloody miserable dieting is.  How nobody is actually happy while they are dieting, and because 95% of them find diets fail, they’re not happy in the long term either.  The whole diet culture just sets people, particularly women, up to be miserable all the time, both during dieting and then when it inevitably fails.

And this is supposed to be for our health?  This is supposed to be “taking care of ourselves”.

I call bullshit.

Instead, we can put all that crap behind us, re-learn to eat to nourish us, let go of exercising as some kind of penance and learn to find activity that we enjoy and live our lives to the fullest no matter what our weight.

I know which sounds like taking care of myself to me.