Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Way We Were

My parents have a picture of me hanging in their office/computer room at home. The picture is of me when I was 17 years old. My girlfriend Lynda and I had them made as Christmas presents for our parents and we did our best to capture our true selves - I'm wearing skin-tight faux-designer jeans, a "disco" scarf and a silly hat that I really loved. Keep in mind this is the early 80's we're talking about here.

I was fat back then. I was teased about my weight. I was teased about my breast size. I got lectures from my mother, my grandparents, my doctor about how I needed to lose weight. I was told how I was destined for a life of health problems if I stayed at that size. When all the other girls had their pick of costumes for the high school musical, I was shoehorned into the only dress that could possibly work for someone of my girth and told not to bend over lest I end up busting out of it. My mother, thinking it would inspire me, shopped only in the "normal" size shops for me. I hated shopping for clothes.

I was a size 14. I probably weighed about 150-160 pounds.

Too many diets to count and 100 pounds later, knowing what I now know about yo-yo dieting, I can't help but look at that picture and wish for a time machine. How I wish I could go back and tell my 17 year old self that size 14 was not HUGE. That dieting was only going to mess up my metabolism for life. That I was not some freak. If only one person had told me that my body was just fine the way it was I might have taken comfort in that voice of reason and not wasted years of hatred and thousands of dollars on programs that promised to make me the "right" size.

And now, 26 years later and knowing much better, I still struggle to accept that dieting is not the answer. Every day I fight to believe that I'm beautiful and okay as I am. Every day I read size acceptance and Healthy At Every Size (HAES) websites and journals hoping to find the motivation to accept myself and to lovingly care for my body, flawed as it is. Every day I battle self-loathing for letting myself "get like this" and try to find peace. Every day I think of my father - a type 2 diabetic who never took care of himself who is now housebound, barely ambulatory, and is dying at the young age of 65 - and berate myself for not doing more to keep myself from heading down that path. Every single day.

The "war on obesity" is giving people righteous permission to hate fat people, to propose legislation to limit the rights of fat people, to make spectacles of fat people on dozens of different "reality" programs designed to shame all of us into getting to that "right" size. I've actually heard people say that there shouldn't be nice clothing for fat people because then there is no incentive for them to lose weight. The world has gone insane.

But today it's just me, my tears and the image of my beautiful 17 year old self. I don't have a time machine but perhaps today isn't too late to begin the process of forgiving myself.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Did you know...?

According to the urologist I saw yesterday for my kidney stones, "Obese people are just harder to treat." Not the kind of statement that inspires confidence in your healthcare provider. And now I'm between a rock (a 6 mm rock that's caught between my kidney and bladder and doesn't seem to be moving on its own) and a hard place. The pain is so intense I don't really want to have to shop around for a fat friendly doctor - I just want it done. But when someone says to me that everything they can do for me will be complicated by the fact that I'm fat, it makes me nervous.

The procedure is tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

I'm thankful for many things in my life. I am truly a blessed individual. Today I wanted to pause for a few minutes and give thanks for the size acceptance community. To all the people who keep me on my toes every day, questioning the messages from society and reminding me that I'm okay just as I am... thank you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Finding A Decent Doc

I had an appointment with my gynecologist yesterday.

There was a time that the very notion of having to go to the gyno would fill me with dread. I shudder now to think of how often that dread kept me from making or keeping yearly appointments. Like many other fat women, I didn't want the LECTURE.

For a long time, I didn't believe I deserved any better. I was a fatty. I had eaten myself fat and if I'd exercised some self-control I wouldn't be in this position. If only I lost weight, I wouldn't have these problems. If I wasn't fat, I would be treated with respect.

What a crock of shit!

The final straw was when a doctor who was supposed to be helping me told me I needed to lose 100 pounds in order to become pregnant. At first I was shocked and hurt. I cried. Then I got angry. People of all sizes have been having babies since the beginning of time. Who was he to tell me that a pregnancy would not be "beautiful" or "natural" at my size?

Out of my anger came the realization that I had to be my own best advocate. I had to push past the "I'm not worthy" feelings and ask some very simple (but difficult) questions of prospective doctors. Despite my resolve, this was one of the scariest things I've ever done. Looking at a doctor and saying, "How do you feel about working with me at my current weight?" caused my heart to race and my knees to turn to jelly. But if I didn't ask... how would I know?

I was lucky on the first try for my reproductive endocrinologist. When I asked the "question" he chuckled and assured me that many of his patients were larger women. He also indicated that he had helped women much larger than me become pregnant. And he was true to his word - never once did he talk to me about my weight or try to convince me I needed to slim down in order to achieve my goal.

When we found out we were pregnant, it was time to find an ob/gyn. I asked my RE for a recommendation, reminding him of my desire to find a doctor who was willing to work with me at my current size. He recommended a doctor and I set up an interview to ask the same questions.

Little did I know that I probably could have just walked into the office and been immediately reassured. The first thing I noticed was the size positive magazines (Mode) in the waiting room right along side all of the pregnancy magazines. Then I noticed the office staff were different shapes and sizes, with the head nurse being a larger woman who was about my size. I went ahead with the questioning anyway - not wanting to make assumptions. I also talked to the office and nursing staff. I was determined to spend my pregnancy feeling beautiful and supported by my medical team. And I was - I am forever grateful to the RE for helping me find, quite literally, the ob/gyn of my dreams.

My point is this - it's possible to find doctors who treat you with respect but it doesn't happen by accident or chance. We have to remember that we, the patients, are the customers. We have the right to ask questions and are not obligated to select a doctor who we feel will not give us the highest quality medical care. We deserve it!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

But what about the children???

One of the things that concerns me about all of the obesity epidemic hysteria (read about the lack of evidence here) is the impact on the kids. My six year old daughter is constantly barraged with messages to keep her on the path to thinness. We get "friendly" reminders from her school that we should be sending healthy snacks and lunches each day. They've doubled the amount of gym class and lost library time. (Obviously, reading books does not keep a person thin.) I received a communication requesting that she be involved in a pilot program to track children's blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. I refused to let her participate in the program. She's got a doctor, thanks. I really don't think she needs tutoring in self-consciousness and obsession with body image in the first grade.

But she's not immune to the messages. We went out to lunch last week with my work colleagues on a rare week day together. She got milk to drink and I could see she was upset when the carton was brought to the table.

"Mommy...." she started worriedly. "This milk has FAT in it!"

Her six year old reading abilities didn't allow her to catch the word "reduced" before the word FAT. She just saw what she believes is a dirty and bad word.

"Honey, it's okay. As a growing kid, you need fat. Your brain needs fat. Drink your milk."

She believed me that day and she drank the milk. At what point will she begin dismissing me as just a FAT person who doesn't know a thing about this, otherwise why would I be fat??

Before you know it, they'll be suggesting that we begin exercise regimes right out of the womb. You think I'm joking? Sandy Szwarc over at Junkfood Science has this story about exercise programs for 4 month olds.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Changing Direction

When I first started this blog, I felt so helpless as I watched the Gulf Coast drown in Katrina's flood waters. I didn't know what to do and so I did the only thing I could think of - I wrote. I put together posts expressing my disbelief and outrage as my government turned its back on the poor and stranded.

As time went on, I posted here and there about politics. There are so many people out there posting from all sides on political issues that it's impossible to take it all in. And while I do care about politics, the wonderful people at Shakespeare's Sister and other such liberal blogs can and do it so much better than I do. I can (and do) comment passionately when something gets under my skin but for the most part I have been unmotivated to put the time and energy in to get a decent political blog going.

Today, however, I realized that there was something I cared about. Something that I want to post about. Something that I need to say. And there's not many people out there saying it.

I want to talk about fat acceptance.

Now I'm relatively new to the fat acceptance movement. I've been reading FA blogs and following the chatter in the comment threads. But I'm not new to fat.

When I was in the 6th grade, the boys in my class signed my autograph book and addressed those pages to "Goodyear" and "Hindi" (short for Hindenburg).

The summer before 7th grade, I had hip surgery and was berated constantly by my doctor about "losing weight". After spending several weeks in the hospital, he "caught" me eating a single piece of pizza brought in by another patient's parent and made a scene and embarassed me in front of the other kids and parents about my "fat".

I started yo-yo dieting in high school. Of course, it was never enough. I spent my entire high school career being one of the fat outsiders.

Just before high school graduation my father begged me to lose weight. "I'm already married," he said, seeing the cognitive dissonance in my eyes as I tried to fathom why my large father was lecturing ME on size. "You'll never find a husband if you're fat."

University was a bit different but not much. I found that I loved being involved in all aspects of the theater and I adored appearing on stage. The local theater critic made a comment that I was incredibly talented and would have quite a career... if only I lost weight. My grandparents lectured me about losing weight while filling me with all my comfort food favorites every weekend.

I didn't go into the theater. I went into higher education administration. Over the years, I've been asked if I could go up and down stairs to do my job ("probably better than you" I responded in the interview) and I've experienced numerous rejections after people met me in person. Their enthusiasm for my candidacy always seemed to change after meeting me in person. Imagine that. I've been harassed by students who didn't like what I had to tell them. I've been called fat slob to fat bitch and everything in between. I've been told I needed to go find a gym.

Luckily my father was wrong and I did find someone who could see me. We fell in love and got married. In our home, I was sheltered in his love and support. I felt beautiful. And I finally began to believe I really was beautiful just as I was.

My rude return to reality came when we sought medical help to get pregnant. After trying unsuccesfully on our own, we starting working with a fertility doctor. Looking for a green light to start trying after a procedure to remove polyps from my uterus, I was told by the doctor, "You can start trying after you lose about 100 pounds. Pregnancy is supposed to be beautiful and natural and it can be neither at your current weight." I never went back to that doctor again and it would be more than two years before we realized our dream of becoming parents.

Halloween 2005. Another polyp in my uterus. This time it's cancer. I'm so thankful I have a fat friendly gynecologist who did not tell me it was my weight when I went to him and told him something was very wrong. We catch it at stage 1A. I wonder how many fat women are told to lose weight and aren't as lucky. My surgeon is not so fat friendly and I find the following whine in the middle of my surgery report: "Surgery was very difficult due to patient's weight."

I'm no stranger to fat. And fat phobia. And fat prejudice. And fat hatred.

So I'm ready for some fat acceptance. Because I am who I am.

Hope you'll come along.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I am Spartacus!

I've gotten off my lazy blogging ass to follow the lead of the wonderful Driftglass today. If you have a blog, please join us.