Recently, there was a video posted by Youtube girl Nicole-something in where she was basically trying to claim that fat-shaming isn’t a “real thing”, and that all overweight people are unhealthy and just need to get their asses off of the couch and do something about it, and if shaming them insulting them gets them to do something about it, let the insults fly because in the end you’re “helping them face reality”
As a “fat person,” I have some things to say about this.
I have struggled with my weight my entire life. Or, more accurately, since the time I hit puberty. I was shamed for this, not just by society but even by certain members of my own family, when I was at a very vulnerable age. A twelve/thirteen/fourteen year old female is already swimming in a heavy ocean of societal influences designed to destroy her self confidence and erase her self worth. I’m not saying teenage boys aren’t under pressures too, but as a female, I can personally speak to the pressures I felt I was under.
Completely aside from my weight, I carried a lot on my shoulders that a child of that age never should have had to because of my family situation. This isn’t about resentment or blame, I only mention it because I will freely admit that as a teenager, I did turn to food for comfort which obviously didn’t help my weight situation. But I remember the shame I was put under for it, this isn’t about naming names but its about the way those words influenced the way I felt about myself. “If you eat that pizza, you’re going to gain another five pounds.” “I’m not buying chips anymore because they make your thighs even fatter.” “You’re never going to be asked to a school dance if you keep gaining weight.” “You won’t be able to shop for normal clothes with your friends.” And countless more comments that hurt me a lot more than that extra handful of chips did. Those comments… they did not shame me into dieting or losing weight, they helped spiral me into depression. What did I do when I felt depressed and alone? I turned to food for comfort. Is the cycle apparent yet? Do you see where shaming makes the situation worse for that person, and not better?
I wasn’t just being told that eating food made me fat, I was being told that being fat meant I wasn’t worthy of things like cute clothes or boyfriends or anything else. I was told that being fat meant I had less worth than the pretty girl next to me. I was being told that if I didn’t lose weight, I wasn’t worthy of being loved, or even being accepted. The thing about teenagers is that even if they don’t want to, they believe the things that others tell them, especially if the people saying these things are close friends or even family.
In my very early twenties I went through a devastating breakup and although that breakup didn’t have to do with my weight (at least I don’t think it did) I couldn’t stand looking in the mirror anymore and I decided the only way I could get through what I was feeling was to lose weight. I did the Adkins diet. I stopped eating all carbs cold turkey and shocked my body into ketosis. I did this for eight months. It went from eating no carbs to sometimes not eating at all. Some days I would eat nothing more than a slim jim. While I lost quite a bit of weight, I also ended up in the hospital eight months later with a severe kidney infection. I hadn’t educated myself on the diet enough to realize that by partially starving myself and keeping my body in ketosis for so long, I was literally destroying my organs. So long story short, I had to quit the diet. Almost immediately, the weight started piling on again just because I was eating again. I was not piling food into my mouth, I was not ordering two large pizzas every other night, I was just eating two actual meals a day, and no longer cutting out carbs.
Then, I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition, as well as hypoglycemia. The thyroid condition presumably has been active since puberty which would explain my sudden weight gain at that age and why my body does not metabolize food like it is supposed to, and the hypoglycemia is likely a result from having put my body in such a prolonged ketosis.
I’ve never had a healthy relationship with food, whether it be comfort eating as a teenager or practically starving myself to try and diet. I don’t even understand my own hunger cues. I know I need to eat when I get nauseous, which means my blood sugar is low but as for being hungry, I never know if I’m actually hungry or just bored. When I eat, its hard for me to tell how much I should eat. I rarely ever crave sweets such as cupcakes or candy, but I do like salty things.
What do I mostly eat these days? I try to watch what I eat, but I don’t torture myself with diets. I allow myself to have the foods that I like, just, in moderation. I’ll eat pizza once or twice a month because YUM. I’ll eat chips once in a while, but I usually refrain from buying a large bag because I will lose track of how much I’ve eaten. I love Caesar salad. I love chicken; boneless skinless with some onions and hot sauce – YUM! I love fruit, but I hate vegetables. Do I eat healthy? Sometimes. Could I eat healthier? Of course. Could I eat more unhealthy? Yeah, I think so. I don’t gorge myself several times a day like I did when I was a teenager and I haven’t in years.
My goal here isn’t to bore people with the details of my life that they don’t give a crap about. My point is that I have a history, a story, a relationship with food and my body and physical, psychological, and emotional reasons that contribute to both my appearance and my own view of myself.
And so does every other person on the planet, no matter what they weigh.
You cannot look at an overweight person you don’t even know and say, “You’re fat because you’re lazy and you don’t give a shit about you health.” You have NO IDEA why they are overweight. You don’t know about their medical history, or their psychological history. You don’t know if they’ve accepted their body and feel comfortable in it, or if they look in the mirror every single day, hate who they are, starve themselves and are STILL overweight anyway. And most importantly, a person’s weight has NOTHING to do with their worth. If you are uncomfortable about someone’s weight, you might want to take a step back, examine your own life, your own history, your own body image and figure out what it is that makes you think its okay to pass ill-informed judgement, and assign a lower self worth, to another person based on something as silly as how many fat cells are inside of THEIR body. If you are genuinely concerned about someone’s health, maybe offer them some encouragement, but do NOT shame them. EVER. It has taken me a very, very long time to unravel the psychological damage that the shaming I went through did to me. I’m still not where I’d like to be with my self image.. I’m working on it, but like all things in life, it takes time.
Guess what? I’m still overweight. Am I okay with my weight? Not really, but I also know its not worth destroying my organs and ending up in a hospital just to weigh less. I wish I was thinner, but I don’t want a negative body image to consume my entire life, nor do I want to allow society to assign me a lower value just because of it. Every single day, I have to close my eyes and push those voices of my past away from me. I have to remind myself that who I am has NOTHING to do with what I weigh. I have goals, I have a big heart, and I don’t want to allow myself to believe that I’m not worthy of things based on my BMI.
Nicole Whats-Your-Face : You do not look overweight in your video. I can’t really imagine what possessed you to make a video you hoped would go viral that shames people for their weight. I don’t know you or your story, but if you need to push other people down to feel better about yourself, well, that’s a problem you need to work out for yourself instead of trying to use “fat” people as your dumping ground.
As for me? I’m going to keep being me. Maybe in the future I will make more of an effort to eat even healthier and to exercise more, but I will not allow myself to use the struggles I have with my weight to assign a worth to myself that is lower than the model on the cover of Vogue. I will not allow anyone to be a part of my life who thinks they are better/have more worth than I do because of my weight. I may not have the best self esteem, but you know what? I’ve come to realize that there is no room in my life for anyone who doesn’t value me as an equal human being because of my weight, or any other reason.
If you want to feel better about yourself, try accepting others for who they are, try getting to know others. Their stories might give you a new perspective on things. Their feelings might make you realize you’re not as alone as you sometimes might feel. If you want to feel better about yourself, lift someone up and see their value. That’s a pretty good way to start seeing your own, as well.