Wednesday, October 06, 2021

On Being Obese

I've been wanting to write this post for months now, but I continually put it off because I wasn't sure where I was going with it. I'm still not sure but today I'm writing it.

The idea of writing about how life is when you're obese came to me after catching an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. He went off on fat people, as he has done multiple times because he is another old rich white dude who is really a racist but can't admit it so he instead proclaims his misogynistic tendencies in sly ways and goes off on those who can't control their weight every chance he can.

In the episode I saw, he went off on the overweight because 40% of people dying from Covid are obese. I didn't check his statistics, but the CDC website considers obesity an endemic problem, and even calls it a national security issue because so many people would be unable to defend the nation, apparently because they can't fit into tanks and submarine openings.

I call it a societal problem, an obvious illustration that we live in a sickly nation. Any place that values money, power, and prestige over health and happiness is going to be a sick nation. Obesity is only one of the results of this gross societal imbalance.

Why are people obese? Most people consider those are overweight to be weak-willed and lazy. I do not think that an estimated 160 million Americans who are either obese or overweight are all weak-willed or lazy. (Nearly three-quarters of American men and more than 60% of women are obese or overweight. These are also major challenges for America’s children – nearly 30% of boys and girls under age 20 are either obese or overweight, up from 19% in 1980.)

I think obesity comes from multiple issues, including but not limited to hormonal changes caused by the crap processed food we consume, air and water pollution, stress from today's societal expectations, and other sources I haven't even considered.

I'm not one of those people who weigh 450 pounds, but I am obese. I'm not quite two of me when I should be one, let's put it that way. I can still see my feet when I look down. However, I'm short, so the weight I do have looks like a lot more than it is. I would love to lose the weight.

What I want to write about it is something I don't read about much, and that is what it feels like to be obese and not be able to get the damn weight off.

I did not chose to be overweight. I don't know of anyone aside from a sumo wrestler who would choose to be overweight.

Twenty pounds fell off of me in the last year - the result of an ulcer. Now the ulcer has healed and I'm still eating about like I was with the ulcer, but I keep losing the same two pounds. I have done this for months now. I see the scale slip up, I try to not eat. Unlike an alcoholic, I can't not eat. An alcoholic can not drink and still live. I have to eat. It makes me sick not to eat plus with my health issues I'm supposed to eat multiple small meals. I lose the two pounds, then I look at a cookie in the grocery store the scale goes back up. (Note I said look, not eat.)

But that still isn't what I want to write about. I want to write about the things I have to deal with because I am overweight. I want to write about how it feels.

Clothing is a big issue. Clothing manufacturers seem to think the answer to making plus size clothing is simply to add more cloth to the clothing they make for little bitty people. However, weight comes on in strange ways. It gathers on the buttocks, on the thighs, and the area above the knee. Sometimes it doesn't gather around the waist. Or it gathers in the breasts and back area. People come in millions of shapes and being overweight is definitely not a one-size-fits-all sort of situation. Plus-size clothing also costs more than say, a size two, and I've never complained about this. More material, more cost. I get that.

But when clothing binds or doesn't fit well, it makes for an uncomfortable day. If it doesn't look good - and most of it doesn't - then it can make me feel even worse about myself than I already do. If there is decent clothing out there for large women, I've not found it. I make do. I suspect a good portion of those 160 million people who are overweight make do. And making do doesn't lead to being the best one can be.

I realized that people who are not overweight, including doctors and health care providers, have no clue about the challenges we are presented with when a physical therapist told me to go home and take a bath in Epsom salts. The idea was to get the Epsom salts over my stomach area where I have a chronically cramped muscle.

That is all well and good, except that if I fill a bathtub and get in it, the water doesn't go over my stomach area. I have so much ass and thighs and other body parts to fill in the water, that if I want to cover my belly area, I'm going to need a sauna, not a bathtub. My tummy is simply going to sit above the water, and splashing some water with Epsom salt on it isn't going to do what the therapist wants. I can only imagine how it would be for someone who is even more overweight than I. Thank heavens for showers.

Other challenges include chairs with arms. These cut into the sides of my hips and it hurts. This is especially true of older furniture that was made for the size people used to be - tinier folks all around, both in height and girth. I've never broken a piece of furniture nor do I weigh so much that I would, but some furniture is incredibly uncomfortable because of my weight distribution.

The other thing I have trouble doing is getting up off the floor. Here again, my doctors and physical therapists did not realize this was an issue. "Do these exercises" is a great thing to tell someone - except that they require a solid flat surface, such as the floor. If I can't get off the floor without a pain, I'm not going to voluntarily get on the floor in the first place. Some of this is age and lack of strength, but it is also weight related.

Car seats can also be a problem. My car has a bucket seat and it works ok for me, but my 2014 vehicle is not as roomy as my 2003. I'm short and I'm not supposed to be so close to the steering wheel, plus getting in and out of the vehicle with the steering wheel would be impossible if my front seat wasn't electric and easily moveable.

These are a few of the impositions that overweight people deal with on a daily basis. I don't expect the world to accommodate me, but it would be nice if I could find some decent clothes, or if chairs didn't have arms, or if the bucket seat in my car was just 1/2 inch wider.

To be overweight is to feel everyday that you are wrong. You, as a person, are solidly misplaced and an affront to society in general. This is reinforced on TV, social media, and with goods and services every single day. I can try to be happy with my body, try to feel like I'm ok with where I am, but at every turn, every movie, every newspaper, every car ride, there is something to remind me that I should be less fat to be more of a person. Because I am obese, I don't count. I certainly don't count in Bill Maher's eyes, that's for damn sure, and I feel like he represents another 100 million people or so who feel the same way.

To be obese is to be counted out. It is to be ignored when you're walking down the aisle at the store. It means learning to walk with eyes cast down because I know that I'm repulsive to you. I know that you think, "There goes a weak-willed lazy lard ass."  What you don't know is how many diets I've tried, how much I've exercised in spite of chronic pain, how much I and millions of others deal with on a daily basis because of societal expectations and a world that is run by bitchy old white men like Bill Maher, who want everything to reflect their virtues and values, and to hell with the rest of us.

I cannot apologize enough to the world for my body. I cannot say, "I'm sorry" often enough, or never stop thinking about how horrible it is for someone to have to see my fat self wander through the grocery store. I feel like I shouldn't even be in a grocery store - that all eyes are on my cart. Is she going to fill it up with Oreos? No, I eat healthy foods, generally speaking, except for Baked Lays Potato Chips which for some reason settle my stomach better than anything. Is that why I can't lose weight? I don't think so. I think it's a hormonal problem caused by a hysterectomy when I was 29 years old and a thyroid issue that hormone imbalances complicate. 

The reasons, of course, don't matter to the thin people who are walking the aisles in the grocery store and glancing at my cart, which has salad and a roasted chicken in it. They don't see the healthy food, I'm sure. They do see the box of Ritz crackers I buy for my husband.

To be obese is to be objectified, and then to be an object of disdain. To be obese is to feel like you are worthless, and not worthwhile.

Obesity sucks, and I don't need Bill Maher or anyone else to remind me of it.

3 comments:

  1. Much of this rang true for me as well. You asked, in another post, if the gastric bypass stuck. Yes and no. It was in 2007 and I weighed 320 lbs. I lost down to 175, regained back to 255, and have been losing/gaining the same 20-30 lbs ever since. So I guess it was a win--at least I'm not a diabetic anymore. But I have to say the whole weight thing is fucking exhausting and takes a chunk of my spoons every single day.

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  2. Sigh.

    I have quite a lot to say, but I'm not going to, just because it's kind of hard for me to get all my thoughts into any sort of a coherent form. But I have Thoughts on this topic.

    Bill Maher needs to be yeeted into the sun for his comments on this. It sets my teeth on edge every time he does it. It's why I've stopped watching him regularly.

    Fat is not inherently bad. We have let ourselves be gaslighted into believing the lie that fat = ill. It does not. There are some fat people who are perfectly healthy. Dieting is dangerous. It doesn't work. And it's high time that we stopped thinking that being fat was something to be ashamed of. It is not.

    There are many in the fat positive movement (or body positive) who have been doing work to combat the lie of BMI as a health indicator as well as other lies our media continues to push. What other industry could continually fail to deliver what it promises and then have people believe that they are the problem? Yet, the diet industry has been doing this for decades.

    Like I said, Thoughts. I'll stop now. If you're on Twitter, I have some accounts you can follow of people who regularly highlight some of the misinformation that we've internalized to the point where we don't celebrate ourselves at whatever weight we happen to be at.

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  3. I can agree with you on a lot of this. At 220 pounds (down from my highest weight of 260) my medical file says I am "morbidly obese." Am I fat? Yes. But when I think morbidly obese, I think of those who are so large they can barely function in their daily life. I admit I have aches and pains and that they would most likely not be as bad if I lost weight. I am still able to take a walk, manage my home, get in and out of the car and do most normal things. The only places that might particularly cause problems are airplane seats and amusement park rides...and since I am not likely to do either these days, problem solved. I have found a few places that have some pretty nice, stylish clothes...maybe not every item, but quite a few. Try onestopplus.com for over 100 brands in one place. It can be pricey, but they have great sales all the time. It surprised me that I like torrid.com. They are mostly a younger style, but I found the best and most comfortable jeans and leggings there...wait for a sale because they are EXPENSIVE! The Bombshell skinny jeans fit really well and have plenty of stretch. Avenue.com has some cute stuff, too. I got some gorgeous tunics to wear over my Torrid leggings there. Check them out. The right outfit can do so much for your confidence and make you feel like a million bucks!

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