I also had a few friends ask me if I was absolutely sure that I wanted to do this. Of course I wasn't. I'm sharing a lot of personal information in the most public way possible. The humiliation potential is high. But I've been obese for all of my adult life, overweight since puberty hit. Even now, I still have a lot of fat, it's just a lot less than I used to have. There's really no hiding it. By not admitting it, not talking about it, not accepting it, I was just holding on to the shame and guilt that comes with being fat. Selfishly, I'm hoping that by writing about it I can shed some of the shame and stigma, not just pounds and inches.
Perhaps not surprisingly, all of the conversations were with women. It's not that the guys I know don't struggle with weight or body image issues. They just haven't talked to ME about it in the past few weeks. Still, the overwhelming response of "I thought I was the only one!" and "I can relate to your story!" and "You read my mind!" and "OMG, you get me, you really get me!" has been from women. Strong women. Smart women. Healthy women. Fit women.
I couldn't put my finger on what bothered me so much about it all, until this morning when I had a message chat with an old friend. She's had big health issues over the last few years, cancer scares, surgeries, hormone fluctuations, and associated weight gain. She's now healthy and stable enough that she's working on getting back in to shape. A shape she's always been in, so carrying extra weight is foreign and new to her, and it's taking a mental toll. She wrote: "Have been quiet and ashamed of it for far too long. Your posts have inspired me to do this, to talk about the struggles but also to stay positive."
And then I knew.
Talking about our stories is the only way to reduce the shame of having fat. We learn at a pretty early age that "fat" is just about the worst thing you can be. That, in order to be successful we have to also be pleasing to look at. That so many women I know feel that they need to work at losing weight, women who are NOT overweight and certainly not obese, indicates that we've all bought in to the shame and the guilt. We've all been quiet for too long.
Because, you see, few of these conversations were about getting strong. Few were about being healthy. The fact that my friend survived and is alive should be cause for celebration. Instead, because it wreaked havoc on her hormones, she has felt ashamed of her body.
I'm angry that being overweight carries such stigma.
I'm angry that talking about weight is taboo enough that writing about the experience of being fat and getting fit is scary.
I'm angry that the message all too often is about weight and not health.
You don't owe it to anyone to be pleasing to look at.
You don't owe it anyone to be a certain size.
You don't even owe it to anyone to be fit.
Strangers do not get to dictate your social obligation to be healthy.
You only owe it to yourself.
So, let's start talking. Take back our stories, and use our words.
Stop holding your tongue.
I'm tired of being quiet about it.