The first thing is that I couldn't even think about writing this post until I'd lost 50 pounds. Because you feel that everyone's judging you, for being lazy, eating too much, not taking care of yourself, not trying hard enough. You feel your voice doesn't count. You feel you can't talk about what it's like to be fat until you've proven yourself, shown that you're taking steps not to be fat anymore.
And now, I'm still overweight so it's not easy to talk about it now. But I don't want to be one of those people who only talks about what it's like to be fat from the vantage point of a nice, safe size 6, where how horrible it was is only a vague, awful memory.
I want to talk about while I'm still in it because for once I want to give power to my words from within my own situation. I don't want to write some chirpy "after" post once I've reached my goal weight about how much it sucked to be fat. I want to write it while I'm living it and while it's real.
So what does it mean? Well, let's see.
You don't fit into chairs. When you go to a restaurant and someone suggests eating outside, you do a subtle scan of the chairs to see if they're sturdy, if the arms are narrow, if you'll be uncomfortably spilling over the sides of the seat during the meal. When somebody asks if you want to go to a baseball game, you hope they have tickets for the expensive, roomy seats. Nobody wants to sit next to you in the Metro or on the bus. You see every seat fill up around you while the one next to you remains resolutely empty. You try to pretend you don't notice, try to pretend you're just being polite when you give up your seat so that two people will sit down and one less person will have to stand.
Shopping sucks. You see all the gorgeous, pretty clothes in the normal departments as you bypass them on your way to the plus size department, where the clothes have gotten trendier every year but are still not fabulous, and the same pieces cost more. Most of them are designed for women with huge chests, which I don't have, and they fit all wrong. Looking at yourself in the dressing room mirror is depressing. Looking at yourself in any mirror is depressing. You don't want to go wedding dress shopping, because even though most dresses come in large sizes these days, the samples at the stores don't, and how are you supposed to pick out the most important dress of your life if you can't even try it on? Even with the zipper down?
You never think anyone wants to date you. When a guy starts talking to you, you assume he only wants to be friends. You have no confidence to make the first move, to even believe it when somebody makes a move on you. You assume you're misinterpreting. You hook up with guys because you think you need experience, because you think that if you were thin you'd already have that experience. It doesn't matter that much if you really like the guy.
But it's not just about dating. You never think pretty girls want to be friends with you either. You assume they're embarrassed to be seen with you, or can't understand what it's like to be you, or look down on you. You can never engage in those lighthearted conversations about clothes and shopping and guys and flirting and looking hot. You feel a chasm between you and them and it's impossible to tell if you're imagining it.
Nobody will ever talk about it. You can't make reference to it yourself. It's the elephant in the living room and if you ever mention needing to lose weight, or having to shop in the plus size department, people look awkward and look away. It becomes your job not to make people uncomfortable, not to talk about it, not to push it.
You think about it all the time. You are always aware not just of how you look but of how much space you take up, of whether your chair is sticking out too far from the table so that someone has to squeeze around you, whether you'll fit into the crowded elevator.
When your significant other tells you you're pretty, or beautiful even, you assume he's saying that because he thinks he should and not because he believes it. Not because you're self-deprecating or have low self-esteem or anything else; you can accept all other compliments from him, about being smart or funny or whatever, and you can even smile and say thank you when he says you're pretty, but you don't internalize it the way you do other compliments, you don't really believe it, because how could it be true?
You can't sit on your significant other's lap because you're afraid of crushing him. Sometimes you don't want to try new positions because you're afraid of crushing him.
Your health becomes scary, even if you're currently healthy. Overweight women have a higher chance of infertility, of complications during pregnancy, both with the baby and with themselves. You think about diabetes, high blood pressure, increased risk of certain types of cancer. You look around and notice that there are no fat old people. You think about dying young.
Reading women's magazines is an exercise in jealousy. The designer clothes featured never fit you. When they run a feature on the best clothing for every body type, there's one category for "curvy" or "full-figured" or whatever they're calling it that month. The implication is that if you're overweight, that's your body type. There isn't a category for overweight and pear-shaped, overweight and top-heavy, etc. But you can't look at all the other categories that might match your body type because the clothes featured there aren't available in your size. Tons of stores are entirely off-limits. When your significant other sees a pretty dress in the window of J. Crew and suggests that you look at it, you make some excuse because you don't want to admit that even the biggest size there is probably too small for you.
It hasn't ruined my life, it hasn't killed my self-esteem. I haven't let it destroy other areas of my life, things that make me happy. But it's always there. You can never forget that you're fat. You see your excessive size in every look you get, no matter the context. The reminders come from all around you. But they also come from yourself.
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