I just had my 55th birthday. I’ve maintained my weight loss for going on a decade now. What I think about the most often is how grateful I am that I am not dealing with a weight problem at my age. I think about the state of my health when I was 44 and I can’t imagine what my life would be today if I had not lost weight. I would probably be full-blown diabetic (I had become pre-diabetic and was on medication). My asthma and night wheezing might have advanced to sleep apnea (which will either kill you or doom you to sleeping with an air hose clamped to your face). The joint pain in my knees and hip that was limiting my mobility might have narrowed my life down to a few select confines and extensive compensation for taking care of even basic errands and tasks.
When I was over 300 pounds, I simply never felt good. I never had any energy; I was always tired and uncomfortable. I can remember even feeling uncomfortable when I laid down. I remember reaching the ultimate level of lethargy when I wouldn’t even walk downstairs to the grocery store in my building for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I would take my car to the grocery store that is about one-tenth of a mile down the street.
I was on seven prescriptions for asthma, joint pain, blood sugar, blood pressure, blood triglycerides, and hormones thrown out of whack by the amount of adipose tissue I carried. Losing weight would clear up everything. And it did.
There was never a time in my life when I was willing to “accept” being fat. It always represented an obstacle to be conquered and as I got older, I developed a sense of desperation to relieve myself of the burden of my fat body. There is NOTHING to like about being fat. NOTHING. It limits your life and your abilities and makes you feel like shit. For a lot of years I was “healthy” by the numbers. I had a normal blood pressure but I could not climb the stairs at a Chicago EL train station without turning purple-faced and gasping by the time I reached the platform. My blood sugar was in a normal range throughout my twenties and thirties but I could not spend a few hours wandering among the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago. I wouldn’t get an asthma attack unless I caught a respiratory infection but I live on Lake Michigan and I could not stroll the fabulous lake shore park that stretches the length of the city even though it is literally right out my back door. If I couldn’t drive somewhere, I didn’t go.
I can understand why people want to reject being shamed for their body size. I didn’t want to be judged either. But I did not pretend that I was proud of my fat body. The fat body that was forcing more limitations on my life year after year, the fat body that would start to break down when decades of overweight had taken its toll.
I look at the blogs of “body positive” activists and for them, it’s all about aesthetics and politics and insisting that a fat body isn’t an unhealthy body. That’s real easy to go along with when you’re 25 or even 35 and your biggest concerns are finding the clothes you’d like to wear and bitching about fat haters who really are extremely horrible people. Sure, I get that.
But I often wonder if certain people have started experiencing the effects of long-term weight and know they have to keep it a secret. People like Marilyn Wann, Fall Ferguson, Charlotte Cooper, Marianne Kirby. Do they keep walking when their joints ache and their ankles are swollen to prove how much they love their bodies just as they are? Do they arrange to get blood pressure and diabetes medications through the mail? Do they avoid stairs so they’re not seen gasping for breath? Do they carefully arrange their lives around their limitations so the status of their political positions are not challenged?
Fat acceptance is for young women. Because while they’re young, they can still love the body that will eventually betray them. It may take decades but it will happen. The chances are very small that they possess the truly superior genes necessary to escape the effects of 20 years or more of lugging around more fat than the human body is intended to endure.
I did not want to be judged by my body size. No one deserves to be treated that way. I knew my body size indicated nothing about my character. I never hated myself; I hated feeling physically limited and weakened by my size. If fat acceptance activists really did believe that body size did not define them, they wouldn’t wrap up their identity in it.