When you’re insecure about your body, you do things that others don’t even think about, and frankly are downright strange.
When I eat in public by myself, I sit as far into the corner as I possibly can. Every day, I am still unlearning the fatphobia from the environment I grew up in, and when I see myself eating I feel disgusted. Intellectually, i know it’s wrong. Physically – it’s a conditioned response I’ve had since I was a child. I sit in a corner so there is less chance of people seeing me eat, and less chance of me seeing myself.
I buy clothes that are too big for me, so they don’t cling to the rolls on my belly or back. I cross my arms when I’m wearing clothes that show my cleavage, because I’m conscious of my chest and how even a normal t-shirt can make me look like I’m on my way to Girls Gone Wild. When I do buy something form fitting, I’ll only wear it when I’m a few wines down, and will instantly regret it the next morning.
When I exercise, I do it at night or in the early morning so there are less people, and thus less likelihood, of being yelled at by a passing car or judged by other people. If I see a car approaching me I’ll slow down a little so the horrible men inside have one less excuse to yell “white whale!” as they tear past (that’s happened more than once).
I shrink and try to make myself as small as possible on aeroplanes, so the person next to me doesn’t do the pissed off sigh and passive aggressively push their leg against mine in the futile effort for more space. I look at the ground as I shuffle down the aisle, sucking in my stomach and hoping that everyone is too preoccupied to notice me and my bottom attempting to get my backpack under the seat.
Before I meet strangers at conferences, I lie on my bed and give myself a pep talk, trying to outsmart the anxiety of talking to people that work in healthcare. Will they give me unsolicited weight loss advice? Will they take me seriously?
(And I am ‘small fat’. My experiences are minuscule compared to other people living in larger bodies than mine)
You may think all of these are ridiculous – but do you know what is ridiculous? The pathologisation of larger bodies, and seeing bodies like mine as conditions to be ‘fixed’. All anybody can see is our weight. Nowhere is this more apparent than the diabetes community, where losing weight and confirming to society’s vision of “health” as well as the “perfect diabetic” is the ultimate achievement. So many of my friends beat themselves up for the ‘insulin belly’, their size, and their diet. They are dealing with society’s general hatred of people living in larger bodies as well as the diabetes community around them. Can you blame me for doing what I do when my body is seen as a problem?
When I walk into an appointment with any new healthcare professional, weight loss is always brought up. The flu? Weight. Sore back? Shed the weight. Impaled by a large steel pole? Lose the kilos.
What’s more, there’s an insidious fat phobia under the idea that you can be whatever size you like, ‘as long as you’re healthy’. I call bullshit. I’m not healthy. My pancreas doesn’t work, or my uterus, and my hormones are constantly partying. I eat a balanced diet, I exercise, but my body isn’t the epitome of health – and why should that matter to anyone but me? People are worthy of respect regardless of their health situation. Someone shouldn’t have to justify their existence to you in order to be respected.
Existing as a woman in a larger body in this space is exhausting. I can compare it to before – I was an “average” weight in the first few years of diabetes (where, can I point out, I was mentally and physically unwell), and my weight was nearly never brought up. Even though I was slowly drowning, and my body was consuming itself, I looked ‘normal’, so I was fine right? Compare it to now, where people post photos of themselves in forums lamenting their ‘before’ body and how ‘disgusting’ they were, when it looks exactly like mine, the body I’m trying to love. Compare it to people asking me how my health and diabetes is now, and never bothering before. Fat people with diabetes, we know this type of question – writing it down sounds innocuous, but it’s always accompanied with an unsubtle scan of your body and eyes that say “Gee, she porked up”.
I accept and appreciate my body, but I am more than my body. I am a vivacious, passionate, and generous woman with diabetes, who lives in a larger body. I’m a woman who wants you to see me as a person, whose body is only a part of the puzzle. This fat on my body represents he years of work I’ve done to be happy. Each kilo is a kilo gained in self-awareness, self-care, and the ability to conquer mental obstacles.
If you’re living in a larger body with diabetes – I see you. I hear you. I know how hard it is to exist in this space, and I want you to know that I’m fighting for a space where we feel safe and respected. Call people out on their fatphobic bullshit and remember that we are ALL worthy of respect, regardless of our size or health. It’s ridiculous that we have to keep telling people this (We are human beings! We deserve to be heard and respected!) but maybe if we keep yelling, they’ll start listening.