Backwards. Forwards. Backwards. Forwards. Backwards. Forwards.
Do I. Don’t I. Do I. Don’t I.
The pendulum of thoughts leave tired, worn tracks across my mind.
I am so tired.
I’m a big woman.
I never wanted to admit that.
In a world that idolises the skinny, I never wanted to face my reality.
I can no longer deny it.
As I sit down, bulbous fat curling over my rib cage, enlarged breasts resting on the first fat roll, unable to breathe, shifting from side to side in a desperate, unconscious bid to find some level of comfort, how on earth can I deny this reality?
As I walk from the sofa to the bathroom, my thighs rubbing uncomfortably together, feeling the swollen pressure between my legs, how I can I deny it?
As I walk up and down a flight of stairs, knees aching, how can I turn away from the reality that faces me?
I am a big woman. A physically uncomfortable big woman.
I wasn’t always big -real obesity only arrived in my late 20s – but I have always thought I was big. I have always had a brain that on the one hand would tell me how fat as I was and on the other hand would completely forget to remind me as it egged me on to have that piece of chocolate, or handful of crisps.
Life became a self fulfilling prophecy. My body eventually caught up to where my brain thought it should be.
Diet – eat – diet – eat.
The diet cycle that grips so many of us.
Menopause wreaked havoc with my body. Nay, it ravaged it.
The past two years have seen a perfect storm that conspired to ravage it even more.
I woke up last Monday and knew I couldn’t continue this way. A thought started to percolate. A thought that shocked me, but one that over the course of a couple of days grew in traction.
Brain, what are you doing to me?
In January 2007, aged 38, my parents came to Australia to visit me for the first time since we had left a year earlier. In a small gift shop in Traralgon, my mom could contain herself no longer. She told me that when she got off the plan she was shocked. I had ballooned over the past 12 months and she was shocked at just how much. She wondered if perhaps I should consider weight lost surgery.
I was furious and humiliated. How dare she say such a thing? Mom hastily retracted and we never spoke about it again.
3 years later, aged 62, she died of lung cancer. Perpetually on a diet for her entire life, she lost her sense of taste. At a time when she should have been finally enjoying whatever the hell she wanted to eat, she couldn’t taste it. Life can be so cruel.
I lost 12 kgs when mom was sick. I had just become sober and, surprisingly for me, I lost my appetite.
I was so happy to have lost those 12kgs. I lost my mother, the one woman in the world that truly understood me and whom I loved so dearly, yet, hey, at least I lost weight.
Yes, I know, fucked.
I gained back those 12kgs, and then some.
As many will relate, diet culture became my norm. Start the diet, crash the diet, start the diet, crash the diet.
7 years later I discovered Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating. I also discovered the Body Positivity movement (BoPo) which didn’t resonate with me at all for reasons far too complex to write down here right now (maybe another post). But HAES and IE did resonate, particularly the fairly conclusive research – obesity is a genetic predisposition that determines once you get there, no matter what you do, your body, that beautiful, biologically driven system whose sole purpose is to keep you alive, will fight to keep you there.
Dieting as it stands today simply will never work.
Finally, I could be released from the shame and guilt of being so overweight.
Except, of course, I couldn’t.
Have you tried shopping for underwear as a large person? How about clothes? Office chairs have a weight limit, did you know that? Have you felt the need to check the weight limit of furniture to avoid embarrassment? Travelling is a nightmare – in the quest for more bums in seats, chairs became narrower. My last trip to South Africa was 24 hours of literal physical hell.
But, in the name of inclusivity, I refused to give in to diet culture. I was fat, even though I didn’t want to think about that, and I wasn’t going to give in. Instead, I was going to work at acceptance. Accepting myself as a large bodied person, accepting that skinny is just a social construct, accepting that this is my life now.
Eventually, you have to face the demons.
Life is so fucking hard as a fat person.
- The entire fabric of the society into which I was born and live is aimed at making life for a fat person as hard as possible – this has significant daily physical and mental health consequences for fat people
- Being fat is physically demanding (see paragraph above) and no-one can really tell you other wise. Even those fat people who are amazing athletes still can’t fight the reality of physics.
- There is massively conflicting data on whether or not obesity is as life threatening from a health point of view as society would have us believe, but being a person who has some major health anxiety, the very notion that my life could be cut short because of my body size infiltrates my brain all the time.
I’m at a cross roads now.
I’ve become a recluse.
ADHD brings with it a thing called Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria. This means we truly believe that people automatically assume we are horrible, terrible people. On a catastrophic level, we have conversations in our head imagining all sorts of ways we are going to be rejected. And they feel very real. I will write a post on this one day but to say that it is a debilitating condition is an understatement.
As a result of my RSD, and obesity, I have become a recluse.
I entered this year, knowing I was staring down the barrel of the next 20-30 years of life imprisoned in my own home. Undeniably, no matter how I wish it weren’t so, a large part of this is because I am a fat person.
I have already had two mental illness hospital admissions in the past 5 years.
Something has to change.
Conflicted doesn’t even begin to describe where I am at right now.
Do I enter the diet culture again, a tried-and-failed-many-times approach where I know that it simply won’t work as my brain does all it can to bring me back to where I am now.
It could work, with hard work, perseverance and a whole heap of deprivation. But I would be doing this on the understanding that one cannot fight biology. The sweet taste of freedom would indeed be short lived.
Autistics are driven by their values. These are non negotiable to us – anyone or any thing that doesn’t align with them can often be dead to us. One of the things that I have learned in the 18 months I have been in therapy is the “all or nothing approach” we/I have to life, commonly referred to as black and white thinking.
Inclusivity of all humans is one of my non-negotiable values. By trying to lose weight I am going against something that is quite literally baked into me.
Add Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria into the mix where I am terrified of what the HAES/IE community will think of me and suddenly I am frozen, unable to move.
But, here’s the kicker:
That value is killing me. That fear of rejection, of being branded a betrayer of humanity is killing me. Being overweight and all the societal judgement that comes with that is killing me. The weight of being a champion for inclusivity and the weight of being fat is slowly removing every ounce of living I once had and replacing it with an empty gaping hole of nothingness. I am just existing – just waiting to die.
This is my reality.
I do not leave the house. I dread being invited to go anywhere. I cannot decide what to wear because what I have to wear is what I could get my hands on that fits me as opposed to some lovely expression of who I am. My underwear is threadbare, and I do not have the energy to go through the humiliation of trying to find underwear that fits, never mind something that makes me feel womanly. I have stopped doing all the things I loved – swimming, dancing, going out, being with friends, and much more besides. Pyjama days are a thing on more days of the week than not. I am imprisoned. But hey, at least I am supporting human inclusivity, right?
There is only so much therapy can do.
So, here I am, on the precipice, looking at my life to see what I can change to improve my life, to enable me to start living.
And here it is:
Weight loss surgery.
With a BMI close to 39, I am in the obesity severity 2 range. I am 1 point away from the morbidly obese category. Long story short, I qualify for this surgery.
With that conversation with my mom 15 years ago resonating in my mind whilst precariously sitting on the loo trying to position myself in such a way I could comfortably and properly wipe my arse, I was shocked when WLS popped into my head as a truly viable option.
The truth is that with all the diet options out there, WLS has by far the largest proportion of success. Around 50% of all people who have WLS manage to keep the weight off. For people on a diet, it is just 3%.
The reasons are complex. Physically of course, you can get less food in, but that actually doesn’t last forever. Over time, what little remains of your stomach, can stretch and unless eating habits change or emotional issues are dealt with, the weight piles back on. But, with WLS does come chemical changes. For reasons not entirely understood, people who have WLS tend to feel less hungry, and tend to have no cravings as such. The hunger hormones are reduced and the satiety hormones are increased. This would explain why the percentage of people able to maintain their weight loss is so much higher. The surgery appears to enable to the body to rewire itself biologically so that it isn’t fighting to keep us obese.
But, of course, it comes at a cost.
WLS is a HUGE surgery. Complications can and do occur. Sometimes these are life long. As far as I can tell, there is little to predict who gets these complications and who doesn’t. Certainly, sticking to the advice of doctors, dieticians and exercise physiologists is key to minimising that risk, but I have read many stories of people who did that and still succumbed to complications. Forums are full of people who have ongoing gastric issues. Pretty much all have said it is worth it for the ease with which they are able to move through life and the living that they now get to enjoy.
Then there are the 50% of people who put the weight back on. This is a massive, not to mention expensive, surgery and the notion of being one of the 50% that put it back on is pretty scary. The reasons for the weight gain are many. WLS is not a panacea for weight loss. It is commonly referred to as a tool in your arsenal of weight loss. You still have to do the work – make lifestyle changes, eat well, exercise, etc. This is a lifelong effort.
This is clearly not for the faint hearted.
It also comes with societal judgement.
Having 80% of your stomach removed and your intestines rearranged is “taking the easy way”, apparently.
Because of this, people don’t openly talk about the surgery, and moving through life, though easier because of the weight loss, is still tricky. Having a smaller stomach, and wanting to maintain the weight loss, means you can only eat tiny amounts. Fielding questions of “Aren’t you hungry?” or “Why aren’t you eating?” brings with it a minefield of judgement, and subsequent shame. I wonder if this shame doesn’t eventually drive people to simply give in and turn back to emotional eating, telling themselves that life is too short to not enjoy the food they love. At least eating provides solace against a cruel world.
As fat people, we are damned if we don’t do anything, and damned if we do.
As fat people, we have to somehow show just how hard we have worked to deserve the moniker “skinny”, we have to prove we truly deserve to be accepted into society. It’s not enough everything is stacked against us as a fat person, making life as difficult as possible, no, we also have to prove we deserve to be a normal weight, as well as endure perpetual scrutiny of what goes into our body.
Who the hell sets these fucking rules?
Thus, here I am, weighing up my options as to how I progress.
I am not going to lie, I am more than slightly seduced by the prospect of being able to fly in comfort. Travel has been on my agenda since I was 18 years old. Life, and then weight, put paid to that. After my 2019 trip to South Africa , I gave up the notion of travel altogether – and I was beyond sad. A whole world out there and I was never going to see it.
This week, though, I have dared to look at countries I’d like to visit and watch travel YouTube videos (this lovely lass really made me lust after travelling, I really want her to be my tour guide 😊).
WLS also brings with it physical benefits besides living in a smaller body – reduced cardiovascular disease, strokes, cancer to name but a few. These are not insignificant benefits with life lengthening numbers that are difficult to ignore.
This week, a glimmer of light filtered through.
Dave has noticed a marked shift in my mood – I have had less emotional melt downs, less anxiety, less sadness. Two years of darkness, and now, light.
Could actually going through Weight Loss Surgery bring many more such gifts?
Many many people I have spoken to who have had the surgery say it could and it does. I have yet to speak to a person who has ultimately regretted it. I have come across a person who got so ill with it that they had to do a reversal (she had a bypass), but she lamented it terribly, the WLS had given her so much she said, despite the illness.
I am not unaware of what this says about society, but I also have to acknowledge the mental and physical magnitude of being able to move through life with ease.
Of course, I am conflicted because I know if I make this choice I am surrendering to a diet culture that I abhor. I am also facing the prospect of complications, and/or regaining the weight. But is being a prisoner, being so lonely and without life worth the torture of my values, and the fear of what might be? Is this particular value misplaced? I cannot deny that I am physically so uncomfortable that just moving through my day is largely painful. Is denying myself an exit from that in the name of a value akin to cutting off my own nose to spite my face?
At which point is it acceptable to say it is okay to live my best life in the best way I can?
Despite how society sees WLS, this is my decision, and mine alone. Society does not get to dictate my worth in this decision. I understand how society works, and the not insignificant judgement that will come, whether I choose to remain fat or not, choose the surgery or not.
I’m seeing a surgeon on Wednesday to weigh up my options.
The journey has begun.