Eating Disorders and Losing Weight (trigger warning: disordered eating, mental health issues, fatphobia)

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I suppose I’m continuing in a somewhat depressive vein, here, but it needs to be said.

I’m a fat-positive activist, and I believe in HAES — Health At Every Size. Fat people are still people and should be treated like human beings, instead of like second class citizens or monsters who live in catacombs below the opera house. Which, yeah, is how we are treated.

There are also different levels of fat, and if you’ve never been above 200 pounds you have no idea what it’s like to be 330 pounds (just like I have no idea what it’s like to be above 400). There’s a different set of oppressions for each level: under 200 pounds can be seen as socially acceptable fat, whereas the higher you get, the more you get slotted into “deathfatty” and seen as an animal. There are very few clothing options the higher up on the scale you are. If you’re a size 14 and you’ve never been higher than a size 18, you may be considered fat by society, but you still have no idea what it’s like to be a size 26, 28, 30, 40.

Now that that’s all said.

I am fat as fuck and hot as hell. And I’m okay with that. But my health is suffering. Because I don’t eat as well as I should, and exercising is painful. Part of this is related to health problems that have nothing to do with my obesity (chronic back pain, for one). But losing extra adipose tissue would also help these health problems get resolved. At least to a point where I’m not in pain every single minute of every single day (is there such a state of existence?). This is not true for every fat person; it’s true for me — so I’m not going tell you that losing weight will help you get healthy, because fat is not an indicator of general well-being and I’m not a fucking doctor. (Pro-tip: all you people who are so concerned about my, and other fat people’s, health, aren’t doctors either. So stop lying to us; we’re fat, not stupid.)

So I want to lose fat and gain muscle. I also want to eat healthy and exercise.

But I keep on running into road blocks.

Last summer I tried to do this. I tried to count calories, and exercise. Almost immediately I fell into a death spiral of anorexia nervosa and binge eating. As soon as I start counting calories, I go from eating a healthy amount of food to eating almost nothing each day. I looked at my measures of calories per day and realized what was happening — I’ve gone through anorexia before, and it was much worse than it was last summer. Fat anorexics do exist, and I’m sick of hearing “anorexic” as a synonym for “thin” because it erases us.

So when I saw what was happening, I’d eat something to combat it. And then the mental refrain of “fat disgusting slob, always eating your feelings” would kick in, and I’d feel really shitty, eat a bunch of high calorie junk food, and then starve myself for a few days to combat it.

Gee, I wonder why dieting doesn’t work for me? Maybe because the very thought of starting a diet now triggers my EDs back so hard that I have to tie myself to a chair to stop myself from going out and buying three pints of ice cream to gobble while crying and watching TV.

I swear, this happens every summer. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the immense societal pressure that I can’t escape telling me to have a “bikini-ready body”. Let me tell you, being fat gives you no social advantages. At all. Don’t fool yourself.

And if losing weight were as simple as eating less and exercising more, then guess what — we’d all be slim! Because why would we put ourselves through this fucking torture of being treated like absolute shit every day of our lives, when it would be so simple to just not?

If shame worked on making fat people lose weight, there would be no fat people in the western world. Period.

Shame doesn’t work. Eating less and exercising more doesn’t work for everyone. It’s not as simple as that. A million factors contribute to obesity.

It’s summer time again, and I want to lose some of this fat. I can exercise. Somewhat. I can go swimming, if I can afford the 6 dollars for admission per visit, and if I want to subject myself to the judgement of strangers as I swim in my fat person swimsuit. I can go on walks — around the block, at night, so no one sees me huffing, puffing, and limping around on my cane because I’m in so much pain I can’t see straight. I can do the “injured person’s” sit ups: lying on my side, clenching my abs, and releasing. I can do leg lifts, which may not help with anything, honestly.

Is any of that actually going to help me lose weight? Not any time soon. And in the meantime I get to deal with the looks from strangers and family and friends alike: pity, despair, disgust, loathing, exasperation because they’re trying to help, dammit, and why won’t I let them? If they were able to lose 30 pounds in the past six months, why can’t I? Here, have some inspiring posts on Facebook and the knowledge that you have my love and support and pity and that you’ll never be as thin as I am.

Maybe I should hurt my back again and go to being bedridden for a month like I was in January. I lost 30 pounds in a month then. It’s amazing how many calories you’ll burn when you’re in such excruciating pain 24/7 that you can barely make it to the bathroom to vomit. What a great diet.

The only time that eating less and exercising more actually worked for me was when I was at La Jolla — aka Fat Camp. They had us exercising for 5 hours a day on a 1700-calorie-a-day diet. The food they served us was low-cal and horrible for us. The epitome of American Processed Crap. But with so little food and with so much exercise you can’t help but lose weight, and I did: 40 pounds in 8 weeks. Anyone can tell you that’s not sustainable, and I quickly gained it — and more — back once I came home and had to go to school everyday.

And hey, for once in my life — people treated me nicely. After I’d been at camp for several weeks we were on an outing to a mall and I went to a bookstore. The guy working there was flirting with me and I didn’t know what to do, because it was the first time a guy had actually shown interest in me. I was seventeen.

When I got back to school, I actually felt like I was part of the group — for once in my four years in high school. I didn’t feel like an outcast. I was invited to things. And then I started to gain the weight back, and it went away. I went back to having one or two friends who liked me for me, but I was never part of the group again.

Because of a difference of 40 pounds.

So, yes. I’m working on losing weight. My reasons are my business and the fact that I’m trying to lose weight — or what I do to go about effecting this change — does not, in any way, detract from my support of the fat acceptance movement.

Nor does it change the fact that I deserve to be treated like a human being, no matter my size, or that my eating disorders are real fucking things, no matter my size. And it also doesn’t make it suddenly okay to constantly comment on my weight, or someone else’s — the first thing you say when you see me after a long time of not seeing me shouldn’t be “Oh, you look like you’ve lost weight!”. It should be “Hey, I heard you published a book — that’s awesome!” or “Hey, I watch your vlogs, you’re funny!” or some other comment on my actual accomplishments.

Don’t ever comment on someone’s weight unless they’ve invited you to. If they say, “I lost a bunch of weight, and I’m happy about it,” say “Congratulations.” If they say “I’ve lost a lot of weight and I’m worried about it,” say something sympathetic. If they don’t say anything like this, then don’t fucking mention their weight. This isn’t a hard concept to grasp, and yet people always seem to think that it’s okay to comment on others’ weight.

This has turned from an honest assessment of my eating disorders and issues with losing weight into a bit of a rant about the culture of fat hate that we live in, but I suppose that was to be expected. Bottom line: I’m trying to lose weight. And I have eating disorders that get triggered at the drop of a fucking hat. So I’m navigating a minefield of healthy eating and exercise within a bigger minefield of society’s expectations of what I should do and hatred of who I am because of my size.

No, it’s not any fun, socially, being fat. But I have to believe that I’m strong enough to do this because no one else can do it for me.

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9 thoughts on “Eating Disorders and Losing Weight (trigger warning: disordered eating, mental health issues, fatphobia)

  1. robinasams

    “So, yes. I’m working on losing weight. My reasons are my business and the fact that I’m trying to lose weight — or what I do to go about effecting this change — does not, in any way, detract from my support of the fat acceptance movement.”

    Yes. I feel uneasy talking about the fact that I am essentially on a diet to help me conceive (because refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, etc. don’t go well with PCOS), because of how it might be interpreted by others and because it doesn’t change my support of the fat acceptance movement.

    I avoid owning a scale or even measuring myself (except when necessary for sewing projects), because it is a slippery slope to Self-Hatred.

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    • Ditto. Every time I step on my mom’s scale I feel like dying a little. I prefer my Oma’s old scale. It always lies to the tune of several pounds lighter.

      I also hate saying “I’m trying to lose weight” because there are people who invariably do the “Good for you, I’m so proud of you!” and it’s so condescending and patronizing and ugh. Like really? You weren’t proud of me when I was just a fat published novelist, but now you’re proud cause I’m gonna be a skinny one? Fuck off. (And yeah, family does this one a lot, which sucks even more than random friends or strangers.)

      *hugs* We can do this.

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  2. Katje, I hear you.
    Losing weight is so freaking hard, I am failing at it, ever since I started gaining it.

    Also I find it a rather bad twist, that it seems a fat person has to fight a two front war by now:
    One against the ‘you are disgustingly fat, why aren’t you slim?’ people and one against the ‘but we are sooo happy with our fat, don’t you dare to feel/say otherwise.’

    It is your body and being in pain sucks. It sucks and you need to do, what you need to do to feel better.

    If it helps you, I am not happy with my overweight, tho’ I am not self-conscious about it either, at least not all the time. I am not lying about it. I’d feel better, if I’d weigh less.

    And I thank the gods, that I don’t have joint or back problems, but I want to go back to a weight I’m feeling better.
    So I am right there with you.

    Let’s do this together, hon. *hugs*

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    • *hugs*

      We do have to fight two wars now. At least. There’s even a third prong, the prong of people who really ARE concerned about our weight-as-health — usually family. My mom constantly gives me this look like I’m going to stroke out or have a heart attack right in front of her. Never mind that all my blood tests came back completely normal except for my cholesterol being a little high, but mostly in the good cholesterol area (the doctor wanted me on drugs for that — are you kidding? Cholesterol is a *little* high and you wanna drug me? Screw that; I’ll fix it with diet). Nope, the weight means her baby girl is going to die young! She’s sure of it!

      And so because I can’t change her mind or her actions, even when I tell her how much she’s hurting me, I have to change my body. Yay.

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  3. I’m working on losing weight too, because my doctor swears that it will help my knee heal so that I can avoid surgery. But, like you, I’m coming from a history of eating disorders (in my case, bulimia) and had finally come to terms with my body, until I was injured and my joints won’t correctly support my weight anymore. The fact that I’ve finally found meds for my mental-health issues that don’t make me gain is helping, but it’s a lot of pressure–on the one hand, society insisting DON’T BE A FATTY ANYMORE, and on the other hand, feeling like I’m selling out my fat-acceptance beliefs. It’s hard, when the (unsolicited and unwanted) feedback we get on our weight is a judgment of how closely we adhere to a socially acceptable appearance, to remember that I’m doing this for my health, not to please anyone else. As such, it’s hard for me to look at my body and not judge my value based on my weight, or my success based on my clothing size rather than my reduced pain level. I saw a lot of myself and what I’m living with in this post, especially the part about the judgment at the pool–when my sister worked at the local pool, the other lifeguards referred to the water aerobics class, mostly made up of fat women, as the “cattle call,” and the supervisors thought it was funny.

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    • *hugs*

      Yeah. I love swimming, but I hate doing it at pools that have a lot of people. Cause I know I’m getting the judgement stares.

      Ughhhh unfuck the whole world.

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