I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I preface almost every situation with a comment about my size. My perceived weight, really my size, has been a cornerstone in most situations in my life. It’s there hanging around like the devil on my shoulder or a shadow that sometimes looms so large it engulfs me in misery, sometimes small and unassuming, but always there. I really feel like if I address the elephant that is my pesky size-shadow in all situations, we can just get it out of the way that, like, I know it’s there, okay?
But it really has colored my entire life, and unfortunately, the coloring is outside the lines and done by someone who clearly has no concept of color matching, because when I look back at these pages colored, I can see situations that could have been beautiful. But instead of beauty, every single underlying stroke goes back to this perception that because I cannot get my weight under control, I’m a big, fat failure.
As I write this, I have an avalanche of emotions bubbling up trying to escape out of my eyes and down my face.
There are so many instances in my life where my weight had nothing to do with my health and everything to do with my worth as a human, and I know I’m not the only human with this experience. It’s everywhere.
Stigmas associated with obesity are rampant, and I’m not immune to being the judge, even though I struggle with obesity. It’s part of the fabric of who I am because of the way I grew up. My mom struggled with anorexia. At 33 years old, she weighed less than I did at 8. And weight loss was – IS – such a part of my relationship with my dad that I don’t see a life path where an obsession about my weight just wouldn’t be part of who I am.
I don’t remember a time in life where I didn’t obsess about my size.
I grew up in the fat- and sugar-free era where waif-like supermodels walked the runways, and the more like a corpse you looked, the hotter you were. It wasn’t a good time for girls with small waists and big butts. I mean, I was so pumped when “Baby Got Back” dropped when I was 12, but back then, big butts just weren’t en vogue, so even though it hit pop culture, women with hourglass figures didn’t become desired until I was in college.
I do specifically remember a time during my freshman year in high school where I wore a skirt to school one day. It was tan with neutral colored flowers on it and I paired it with an ivory ribbed t-shirt. My friend took me to a guy’s house to hang out for lunch. I was a size 8 at the time, and I vividly remember this because I had gained a few pounds and a couple sizes. I was up from being a size 5 just a few months earlier. Even then, a size 8 was quite small for me. At the time, I was recovering from living off of chocolate-flavored laxatives and bell peppers. I had blamed my extreme weight loss on my braces, but my mom eventually found me inhaling laxatives and only consuming fat-free foods.
So thanks to my skinny-mini mother who had completely thwarted my quest to be bulimic, I had ballooned up to a size 8 and was wearing a skirt I had literally no business wearing to the house of a dude I didn’t know during lunch time.
I was 14.
The next day, my “friend” told me all the guys at that house had thought I was fat and told her to tell me to never wear that skirt again.
I was crushed like ice.
So crushed that it still makes me feel sick to my stomach to think about. I never hung out with that popular crowd again, I stopped hanging out with her, and I spent the rest of my high school career talking about how fat I was.
It was that day that made me realize if I just told everyone I knew the elephant was there, it wouldn’t be so awkward.
Since then, my size has fluctuated wildly. If a roller coaster was built based on the past 27 years of weight gain and loss, it would, quite possibly, be the most thrilling ride ever made.
So now here I am: 37, over 200 lbs, an avid CrossFitter, raising a daughter who I so desperately want to love herself and two boys who I desperately want to love themselves, for a grand total of 3 children for whom I want to remove ALL stigmas from the fabric of their lives as they grow older. They *have* to do better than I’ve done, they have to.
But how can I raise that kind of child when I can’t even remove those threads from my own fabric without becoming completely unraveled?
The truth is, I don’t know that I can even do it alone. I have the knowledge. I have baseline blood work that shows what happens to me when I eat according to the food pyramid. And I have blood work that shows how everything returns to normal when I eat another way, yet I cannot stick to that way of eating to LITERALLY save my life because pressure comes from all directions to do it differently.
I’m really exhausted of living my life in constant fear of my own reflection, which is why I jumped at the chance to partner with Med-IQ on this project. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. A company that strives to provide education to the very people I trust my health to is one I wanted to stand with in changing the conversation around obesity.
Nobody should have to defend their honor because they’re not media’s view of the perfect body.
The biological makeup of every human on this planet is as different as snowflakes that fall from the sky. What that means is that there is no one right way to be healthy. And being healthy does not look like one, single thing. Obesity is a chronic disease.
People aren’t obese, they HAVE obesity.
Just like people who have cancer are not called cancerous. Like other diseases, people develop obesity due to genetic risk factors in their DNA that respond to environmental and behavioral factors like stress, lack of sleep, medications, and eating nutrient-poor foods. Because every human is different, the path to successful weight management is, for each person, as different as the hairs that grow out of our heads.
I spoke with President of the World Obesity Federation, Dr. Donna Ryan, and her insight has genuinely changed the way I’m looking at life.
It’s going to take a whole lot of undoing, but I’m working at it, and by “it” I mean the way I view people who have obesity, including myself. I tossed the scale out the window and have begun to focus on quality sleep, eating the way that makes my body happy, and trying to come to terms with the fact that, for me, weight management is never going to look like a model in a magazine.
Because I’m not her, I’m uniquely me with all my curves and healthy, happy blood work. I am uniquely me.
The most important thing I’m doing is making sure that I’ve got a positive support system. This is a piece of weight management that might possibly be the most important (notice I said management, not loss). Where I have personally gone wrong in the past is having a support system that is far too large and way too opinionated. I’ve had to learn to toss people to the curb who are not willing to support my own, personal path to optimal health – mental or physical. And that’s okay. It’s okay to tell someone that if they can’t support you the way you need them to, that they just don’t have a place in your life anymore.
Because as soon as you take the trash out, life looks a whole lot more sunny.
Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Together we can change the conversation around obesity, and hopefully as a result, positively impact the lives of those living with obesity. Please take a few minutes of your time to complete this survey. It will take you less than 15 minutes and upon completion, you will be entered into a drawing to win 1 of 10 $50 VISA gift cards. Survey responses are anonymous and will be shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide us with important information about your experiences with obesity and your care team, which will help us develop future educational initiatives for healthcare providers to improve care
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Share this post, the video above, and the resources below with people you know need to feel like they’re not alone in this. The sooner we get the conversation changed, the quicker people will be able to focus on being physically healthy rather than listening to the drone of judgment all around them.
Resources for those with Obesity and the people who love them
- The CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
- The Weight Bias Toolkit, Resources for Overweight Patients
- Take Charge of your Health, Learn to talk to your Healthcare Provider about your weight
- Find a doctor who is trained to treat patients with Obesity
- What exactly IS Obesity? Get Educated!