Friday, November 18, 2011

"So...you know you're fat, right?"

My general practitioner is from Yugoslavia. She also speaks fluent Serbian.  This makes me think that she grew up not in Belgrade, but somewhere closer to the border.  And by that, I mean to say that being a doctor in America is probably a lifetime away from where she grew up. 

So when she said "So...you know you're fat, right?" I think there were a variety of things at play:  English being her third or fourt language; obesity being a "first-world" problem; and her being the inspiration for the don't give a shit attitude of the honey badger.

Language and attitude aside... she was right.
At 5'9" and 240lbs, I wasn't just fat, I was obese.

I love that she didn't phrase it as a statement -- i.e., "You are fat." -- but as a question about whether I knew I had a problem or not.  Cause believe it or not, people think they're way healthier than they actually are.  For all the years of people saying it was "baby fat" or that I would "grow out of it after puberty" there was finally a person with the balls to stop sugar coating it, who was willing to risk offending me in order to help me save my life.

We talked about what I ate, my exercise patterns, and some other things.  Her recommendation?  A dietitian and a therapist.  She could see the tears well up in my eyes after she asked me "How long have you been overweight?" I could barely get out the story about my dysfunctional relationship with food and my family.  She knew I needed to address those issues before I would be ready to lose the weight.

My opinion is that "FAT" is only derogatory if you are unaware of who you are at the core (that is, it didn't hurt me to be called fat because I knew that deep down, the body I was in was holding back who I was meant to be).

 My opinion is that "FAT" can't hurt you anymore if you have truly turned your back on your former lifestyle and have dealt with all the psychological issues that got you there in the first place.

My opinion is that being called out for being FAT changed my life for the better versus all the times people tried to protect my feelings by saying "oh, you're not fat, here... have some fries."

My opinion is that my FAT is really FUEL. My wiggles and jiggles mean that I can run long runs without having to carbo load before.  I have little fat cells lying in wait to help support my muscles.

I also know the reality of how fat people are viewed in this world -- which is why my blog name is FAT GIRL versus WORLD.  By sharing my awesomeness with the world (and the fact that I don't eat Twinkies 24/7), I want to show people that just because I have said wiggles and jiggles, that it won't prevent me from kicking ass at life.  I will fight for the same rights and respect that naturally thin people get just by showing up.

But do bear in mind that I'm not advocating blind fat acceptance.  My core belief that the journey and how we should view ourselves is not through size/weight but rather through health/fitness.  Be whatever size or shape you want to be, but have a healthy lifestyle, a healthy attitude, and be able to outrun a ninja.

So when someone gets their panties in a twist over someone else using the word fat, I just wonder if they haven't fully faced their fears about going back to the way they were, or if they will continually be victimized by a three letter word.

I really like @TheAntiJared's take on the word "fat" and I love the conversation going on at @MizFitOnline's blog

I think at some point everyone needs to make a choice as to whether they're going to let that word define them, or whether they're going to let their actions speak louder than that one word.

18 comments:

Yum Yucky said...

I saw the blogs today - Tony, Miz and Leah's. Kind of a mess, but did spark very good conversation. I think some of the panty-twisting that went on was in defense of that entire community. But anyhooo, I did used to be fat, but I didn't let that word define me. I was too busy having swag anyway, and then eventually focusing on the healthy that ignited my weight loss. I never gave that "fat" word a chance to soak in and lower my self esteem.

Fat Girl vs. World said...

I can understand wanting to be protective/defensive of a entire community, but that obscures the fact that everyone has a different perception of the word.

I'm glad you were too busy having swagger to let that word define you! You're way too fabulous to be defined anyways.

But I'm the same way -- whenever someone says I'm fat it just makes me want to prove to them how fast I am, how strong I am, and how little I care about what they think of me. Except for you. I desperately care what you think of me :P

Leslie @ Body Won't Break said...

I have plenty of weight to lose. I have for quite some time. But I have never had a doctor tell me I was fat or obese. Even when I was having problems with my gallbladder and liver. Those words never came out. I think people associate a stigma with it. But what we need is more people, like your doctor, who direct and guide individuals to get healthy.

I also think that a lot of times people don't realize how unhealthy they are. We think bad things will happen to other people - not to us.

Fat Girl vs. World said...

Leslie:

I kinda wonder where I might be now if my doctors as a child had stepped in and talked to my parents about my weight, healthy diet, and exercise. But I can also understand that they didn't want to call a parent out on their parenting skills.

But i think there's a way to objectively talk about it, instead of it being so emotionally charged. So someone is fat -- ask them to food log and slap a BodyMediaFit on them, do a DEXA scan. Show someone the reality of their life.

Cause fat or not, you can still be unhealthy.

Leslie @ Body Won't Break said...

EXACTLY.

When I was in high school, I got "skinny" but was not unhealthy. I suffered from anorexia/bulimia. I ate a lot of crap when I ate and hid it from my parents. My parents tried to instill healthy habits into me, but I chose to turn to eating, not eating, binging/purging and such as a way to deal with my emotins and bullying. And the whole time, I always wondered WHY no doctor said anything about my drastic weight loss or anything. So I wonder the same thing. Regardless - I am here now, and I am getting healthy and doing the research for ME and putting myself first.

Andie said...

Love this! In my mind, fat is what I have, but it is not what I am. And, I love that your doc is a honey badger - lucky you!

Polar's Mom said...

The word fat bothered me until I wasn't anymore. But "obese", well that was a cuss like no other. Now I realize they are merely qualifiers, like "I/m blonde", or "I'm smart", or "I'm a shopaholic". Once I realized this I understood these descriptors were my truth, they were me, and every descriptor can be changed if I want it bad enough. If it is true, then it shouldn't hurt, right? But no one likes their warts exposed by others, or have their issues brought to their attention when they are trying to mask them deep in some neural cavern. Been there, done that!

Suban said...

<3 <3 <3 this post! A friend who reads my blog just shared yours with me and I am so thrilled. I understand, and I'm glad I'm not the only one writing about this out there. Best of luck, my dear! You are not alone ... this I know.

Fat Girl vs. World said...

Leslie: disordered eating takes many shapes and forms. It takes someone with lots of love and foresight to call us out on it and help us break the cycle. It's possible to do so through self-awareness, but I think that is rare and a hard road to go alone. I'm glad that either way, you've figured out the right path for yourself.

Andie: My doctor isn't the warm, fuzzy how you doing kind of person. I think of all the people in my life, my doctors are the ones who should bullshit me the least. It irks me that my dad's doctor hasn't scared the bejeebus out of him b/c he's obese, inactive, and getting on in years. I don't like how she's like "well, you don't have diabetes or heart issues or cancer" without saying "but that is contrary to how you live your life, you're lucky." My doctor doesn't want to be my friend. My doctor wants me to live a healthy life.

Fat Girl vs. World said...

Polar's Mommy: I love the way you put it -- no one likes their warts exposed by others, or have their issues brought to their attention when they are trying to mask them deep in some neural cavern.

Being called fat or obese feels tantamount to being called a failure sometimes. No one wants to be called a failure, but at the same time isn't that exactly what it is? A failure to take care of yourself?

Isn't that what being healthy is -- living proof that we honor and care for the bodies we have and the lives we are fortunate to lead?

Fat Girl vs. World said...

Suban -- that's the one thing that I've learned time and time again -- that I'm not alone. It's both a comfort and a heartbreak. I wouldn't want anyone to go through this. I know how hard it can be.

Katie said...

FYI: Serbian is the primary language in Belgrade. At least that's what my aunt says and she has been living in Belgrade for almost 70 years.

But more importantly, how do we encourage people to talk more openly about weight in the context of the larger society and not people individually (which as noted in the above comments is stigmatizing)? While weight is indeed a personal issue and some people are successful maintaining a healthy weight, our society is set up that makes managing weight so challenging. Transportation (yes, including public transportation) limits how much we move any given day. Many of us have office jobs where we have to sit on our ass for 8+ hours a day. Our food system is laden with processed foods that our bodies are not adapted to digest. When the entire system is stacked against to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, then we also need to address the system, not just individuals. Just my two cents. :)

alastconfession said...

For years, I'd visit my doctor and wait for her to say something about my weight. I knew I was overweight, but didn't know what to do. I stepped on that scale at each visit, and saw that the number kept climbing higher each time. I was at least 80lbs overweight. My doctor never said a word to me about it. I wish I had. Part of me thought that if she wasn't concerned about it, I didn't need to be either. I'm glad I finally woke up and realized that I needed to get healthy.

When I started teaching, I became more self-conscious about my appearance, though. When students were whispering, I was convinced that they were talking about how horrible I looked. Students did occasionally comment on my red face (from being out of breath, or when my blood pressure was high). That was embarrassing.

Honestly, I don't know how I feel about the word "fat." No one ever called me that (to my face, anyway), and I didn't use it to describe myself. I tried to define myself by who I was, rather than how I looked. Most of the time, I succeeded.

MizFit said...

I am so very grateful we've met.

Fat Girl vs. World said...

Katie:
Even if I'm wrong about the language, the point still stands that (1) my doctor doesn't sugar coat things and (2) english is her third language (Yugoslavian, and Spanish being her first two).
And while I agree the "system" is part of the problem -- how do you otherwise explain people who live in the system and manage to lead healthy lives. It's part education and part personal responsibility. Just cause the system sucks doesn't mean you have to be victimized by it.

ALC -- I think you and I see eye-to-eye on this one, that doctors are doing no favors by ignoring the role that weight plays into health. People need to know, from the onset, what extra weight can do to their bodies. Doctors need to have compassionate but frank discussions with their patients about weight. Also, doctors need to have a plan to deal with it. They can prescribe medicine for just about every other illness, but they are clueless as to where to begin with weight/obesity. They need to have dietitians and trainers to recommend.

MizFit -- I'm so glad I swept you off your feet :P

Cat said...

Thank you for this post! I also am on a journey to health, and even though I'm losing weight and getting smaller, I am so thankful that I have lived my life to this point as obese. I learned hard lessons about self worth and self esteem that I think would have been more difficult lessons without the benefit of the extra fat.

Fat Girl vs. World said...

Cat--that's a really interesting perspective.
I kinda feel the same way about having lost my mom at a young age. The fat, though, I wish I didn't have to live through. There were some positives, but there were many more negatives.

Use the other link said...
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