I saw this and I can so relate to it. Even now I’m out the other side almost, I still get this feeling from time to time. It gets easier to fight but it’s still there. It makes me feel sad reading this but I think a lot of people who are into bodyshaming fat people just don’t get it, they have no idea.
I have dabbled with blogging specifically about mental health before as I have suffered depression, grief depression and post traumatic stress disorder in the past, and still suffer with anxiety which manifests itself more as agoraphobia and an overwhelming incapacity to engage in life. Mostly I’ve not known what was wrong with me at the time, or that anything was wrong with me and I’ve never sought help, I was one of the lucky ones who just battled through it and healed myself to a degree and I’m just getting better every day at the moment but know it can pop up and bite back. I would never be complacent about being ‘over’ a mental health problem but I do believe in healing the brain just as we can heal other ailments. I’m trying to keep my brain healthy and use relaxation, exercise, hydration and a good diet to keep my mental health in check as well as this blog which allows me to vent the things I would not normally allow to escape and would keep rattling around in my head where they just do more harm. This is my talking therapy and some of what I let out never makes it to publication, it doesn’t need to, simply expelling it from my mind frees me of thoughts or memories which may have troubled me.
I’ve also blogged about how I feel obesity is a mental illness or at least an emotional condition, similar to other eating disorders and similar also to self harming. I strongly believe that obesity is not always simply about poor diet and lack of exercise believing instead that they are tools which help us to self-destruct. I get it that some people get fat because they just eat poorly and don’t move enough but I’m referring to people who have battled obesity since childhood. People who have fought a life long battle with food, who have used food to mask a sadness or something lacking in their life, to throw up a fat shield to keep them safe from the big bad world or certain people in it, the pain of abuse or abandonment whatever… for some obesity is a mental health condition and I truly believe it is for me.
I’m not making excuses for being fat I’m finally finding a way not to be fat anymore.
This is why I have never beaten it, this is why I have struggled with it since I embarked on my first diet at the age of 6, this is why I have yo-yo’d in weight from being slim to being over 300 pounds, from a 15 stone 15 year old to a UK size 10 to a UK size 28 and everything in between more times than I can recall.
I have always approached solving my problem from a physical perspective, looking at the chemistry and biology of calorific intake and usage, focusing on food, the very thing which I use to destroy myself. It’s like sitting a suicidal person in a room with a ton of books on how to kill yourself and samples of nooses and forcing them to focus on that and nothing else and expecting them to not want to hang themself. Dieting has been about deprivation, about self chastisement, guilt, euphoric highs filled with happiness at weight loss and terrible depressive lows at weight gains. It’s been about failure, self loathing, comparison, awful food, judgement, embarrassment, ridicule, pain, frustration, sorrow, anger and misery.
It has never been about addressing my emotional issues with food, my mental issues, why I use food the way I do, why I feel the need to make myself fat to protect myself, why I have to periodically shrink away into this huge blubbery body and secret myself in its folds only reaching out to grab more food to make my safety pod ever bigger while I suffer and die a little more in the hell I’ve encapsulated myself in. It hasn’t been about why I feel the need to make myself feel less and less of a valid person and more and more of a failure, a freak and a non-human unworthy of love, affection, happiness, success , achievement and even life.
I set a mental health category some time back when I blogged specifically about mental health but lately I find myself increasingly clicking on that category when I’m writing about weight loss, about exercise breakthroughs, about my life events because this is what tackling obesity is all about for me now… my mental health. I know that if I take care of what is going on in my head my body will be easier to change. More than my physical health improving my mental health is improving by leaps and bounds, I’m happier, I’m calmer, I’m less anxious, I don’t feel tense, I breathe properly, I sleep properly, my mind is clear, I don’t forget things, I am more attentive, I am relaxed, at ease, not afraid, confident, motivated, inspired. It’s not a physical thing at all, it never was, it’s always been a battle in my head but I’ve never taken that battle on in my head before. I’ve heeded mental prompts, probably my brain crying out for relief from self-destruction but I’ve been fooled into believing the battle was happening in my mouth, in my stomach, in my belly, in my bowels, under my skin when all along it was happening in my head, the one place I never thought to address this hellish condition.
I’ll continue to always click that mental health category whenever I post about my fight with obesity, my triumphs, my challenges, my food wins and disasters, my exercise successes and frustrations and I’d encourage anyone else who is fighting this awful life sapping condition to do the same. The more we link obesity and mental health the more people might start to see that this is not about greed, gluttony or a lack of regard for how we look or for our health. This is about sickness and instead of sufferers being humiliated and mocked and regarded as lazy, greedy pigs we need to wake up and start giving it the attention it deserves and helping other sufferers to fight this while they are young, but fight it in the head so that they never have to suffer years and years of yo-yo dieting which inevitably leads to misery, self loathing and becoming heavier and heavier.
If you can sit and eat a big meal and then munch your way through family sized bars of chocolate, family packs of crisps, everyone’s dinner left overs, sandwiches, four helpings of breakfast, whole packets or boxes of biscuits you have a mental health problem, trust me, you are not greedy, you don’t have a big appetite, there is something going on in your head that it making you destroy yourself and you need help with what is going on in your mind not what is going on in your stomach.
The only people who benefit from the food focused battle are the multi-billion dollar players in the diet industry. They don’t want to cure you they want you as a life long customer and I’ve never come across one yet which offers me counselling, support with the mental and emotional elements of over eating or which told me I have an eating disorder. They all just serve to reaffirm the greedy lazy fat person stereotype and I’m not denying that type may exist but for some of us it runs a lot deeper than that and we owe it to ourselves and others like us to make that link between obesity and mental health clear. That way help might be more readily available to those who need it and don’t have the strength to tackle this alone before they have to resort to life threatening surgery or before they die too soon having been denied the life they deserved and so badly craved.
So I have yet to conquer this sleeping thing. It is 04.02 here in the UK and I’m full of energy and still wide awake.
I was thinking of this earlier and want to blog about it in case anyone relates to it but mostly to get these thoughts out of my head.
What goes on with a fat person and self perception?
I really didn’t have a clue what size I was. I had no perception and I’m quite good with spatial awareness.
I knew how much I weighed (most of the time) and I knew what size clothes I wore but I couldn’t picture myself. I avoided photos from school days onward.
I was hideous on my school photos. I think it was because whenever we had photos taken as a family or within the family my mum would always tell me to stand in a particular stance which was supposed to make me look thinner. Couldn’t have the fat kid ruining the shot. As I was one of the youngest I had to be at the front or I’d have not been visible at all. I was told not to show my teeth when I smiled, I don’t know why that was, I’ve always had good teeth and I used to have cute dimples (I still have somewhere under the fat).
I’m not sure where it all went wrong. My mum has more photos of me as a baby and little girl than any of the other kids, because I was so pretty that people were always taking photos of me. Then suddenly they stop and turn into these rare hideous, awkwardly posed things which have only had the purpose of being dragged out for everyone to have a good laugh at over the years. Even since my incident where I stopped contact with my family I saw that my sister had uploaded them onto facebook and I was so horrified that I deleted any mutual family friends we had and sat and cried for two days. It was a hateful thing to do, not even pictures with anyone else in them, just photos of me put there to humiliate me and for no other reason.
Anyway, even if I did have photos taken, if I looked slim in them I thought it was a good camera angle and if I looked fat I thought it was… a good camera angle because in my head I was always fatter than I actually was.
I look back to some photos of a holiday in 2009 to Greece and now I see myself as pretty average build, I look further back to photos of a holiday in the South of France in 1992 and I was positively slender, tall, slim in shorts and vest top. But at the time in my head I was huge. I thought then that I was as big as I am now, I’ve always thought I’m as big as I am now. Ironic that it’s taken me to actually get to this size to be able to see that I wasn’t this big before. Even though I wore small clothes it just didn’t compute. Even when I was slim I would wear elasticated waist and baggy tops and clothes with lycra in them and I thought I was just stretching them over my huge body.
I used to be out with friends and I’d see a fat person and I’d ask if I was that size and my friends would say no and I wouldn’t believe them. Guys would whistle me down the street and I’d think “why they whistling a fat chick?”
This is why I kind of get anorexics (I know that’s a terrible condition and I wouldn’t ever profess to fully understand it or to be in any position to comment on it) but I kind of understand how what we see and feel is just not what is there. They don’t eat to get rid of that imaginary person and we, the obese, eat to console ourselves because we think we are that imaginary person. It’s awful isn’t it? Awful the tricks our minds play on us.
It is self destruction, all of it, the voice in the head fooling us into thinking we’re hungry, the false eyes through which we view ourselves keeping us in a state of confusion. It really is a demon. It’s an illness and yet we are left largely to face it alone. We’re stigmatised, mocked, bullied, discriminated against, dehumanised and ridiculed and all because we’re ill.
People are so cruel and so ignorant.
When I did my before pictures for this new healthy lifestyle I couldn’t look at them for a couple of days as I’ve mentioned in my blog before and when I did look at them there were tears. I saw a monster. I couldn’t believe what I had become and I knew this time what I saw on the photo and what I felt inside matched up. I wanted to avoid taking photos because I just don’t want to look at them but I see the importance now. I don’t have to share them although I have promised that I will at 6 months into this journey but I need to see them to believe them. I need to capture and monitor my loss visually and hopefully that will help me to accept my new self and this time when I get to a health weight I will believe what I look like and be content with that.
I really hope so because if I still feel huge I’m going to have a real problem on my hands. Losing the weight is one of the battles, keeping it off will be the greatest challenge and I need to feel that I can be honest with myself and have some belief in the person I am at that point.