Sunday, September 19, 2010

Just Shut Up!

One of the things I hate the most about being a compulsive overeater is the public nature of the condition.

When a person gains fifty pounds in six months, as I just have, it's pretty noticeable. People generally don't say anything when they see you gaining weight. They may whisper behind your back. And of course, if I were a celebrity (THANK GOD I'M NOT!) unflattering beach photos would be the talk of the town. But for the most part, people don't really say anything honest to someone when she's gaining wait. Nobody has ever said to me, for instance, "OMG! You're busting out of those jeans!" Nobody's ever said,"Keep eating that cake, Patty, you can sign up for the Diabetic Support Group next week."

No, people don't talk like that to compulsive eaters when we're getting fat -- possibly because most people eat compulsively at one time or another during their lives and because hardly anybody's ever at exactly the weight they want to be at. I was for about ten minutes one day. It was GLORIOUS. Did I ever look like a hottie! Someone even told me I was modelesque. Modelesque. Now that's a sweet sounding word to hear -- especially when you're pushing forty.

But let's face it, my modelesque moment is gone. I'm forty-four. And I'm fat! Seriously. I am SOOOOO fat, it's unbelievable to me. I was this fat before for awhile. But I haven't been anywhere near this fat in a decade. I'd forgotten what fat feels like. I'd been in denial of what fat feels like. It feels TERRIBLE. I hate fat. Hate it.

Here's the thing, though. Even though I know I'm really fat (Seriously, this much fat is a health risk), people won't agree with me that I'm fat. They tell me I look good (OK, so I admit, I photo shopped some recent photos a bit and it might not totally be their fault). But the fact is, people don't like to tell other people they look fat. I suppose that's fair enough. I mean, I can't really imagine myself going up to someone and saying, "Wow, you've really gained a hell of a lot of weight. You're enormous." You know, stuff like that, it just ISN'T NICE.

But here's the thing I hate the most: People won't tell you you're fat when you're fat. They tell you, you "look good!" They say, "I hadn't noticed." They say, "Oh, there's no way you've gained that much weight. The scale must be broken."

But the moment I lose ten pounds, the comments begin -- and they won't end! Everybody and their seventy-nine closest friends and neighbors has SOMETHING to say about a person's weight loss. I hate it. I wish people would just shut up. I've been down this road before. I know what I have to do. It takes commitment. It takes support. It takes planning. It takes exercise. But really, it's not all that difficult once I've become miserable enough with the consequences of eating cookies. And I'm pretty miserable. So the weight will come off.

And the comments will start in about two weeks:

"You're looking so good!"

"You're doing a great job!"

"You're being so good!"

"You have so much willpower!"

This sort of nonsense. I hate it. I don't like hearing it. It bugs me. Why does it bug me? It bugs me because of the way in which people in our culture associate thinness with goodness and fatness with badness, I suppose. It bugs me because of the way in which people associate fatness with ugliness and thinness with prettiness.

It bugs me because I get irritable when I give up sugar. It bugs me because I feel watched. It bugs me because everybody tells me their tips on weight loss when I haven't asked for them. It bugs me because all of a sudden my personal medical business has become everybody in the world's business.

Compulsive overeating, like alcoholism and diabetes and lupus and muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis and cancer -- is a medical condition. It's an illness. I don't overeat because I am a weak person. And I don't lose weight and get fit because I'm a good person or a strong person or an admirable person.

It just is what it is.

And I'm grouchy!


  1. Patty, i totally agree with a lot of this - it's frustrating to get reassurances you know are fake, and our culture absolutely worships skinny over big.

    a good friend once said, when i was griping about myself, "well, is anyone else you?? you're the only you there is, so embrace it!"

    i thought that was pretty good advice.

  2. People often don't say things TO you, but they sure don't mind making very judgmental statements about overweight people all the time. Fat humor is socially acceptable. Fat criticism is socially acceptable. An overweight person is considered less intelligent, less disciplined, and someone to be despised.

  3. That's good, Emily. Sounds like a good friend. :-)

  4. That's true, Kim.

    On the other hand, I really had trouble with HOW MUCH attention I received at the low-end of the scale. For about a year I was thinner than I'd been since junior high. This is actually healthy for me due to some medical issues I have. I felt great physically but I found everyone was SO FOCUSED on how "good" I looked that I wasn't taken seriously at work. No kidding. I really felt I got more respect as a journalist when I was overweight than when I was at the low end of my weight range. I think the problem is that people make judgements about physical appearance and how it relates to all sorts of things. But really, it isn't true. Thin and fashionable people are often smart and often lazy and often nice and often mean and often generous and often greedy, etc... and the same is true of fat people. People are just people and all after all.

    Thanks for checking in.

    I am happy my comment feature is working today. Often I can't get it to go and I feel sad that I am not very attentive to my readers.

    Have a nice day all. :-)

  5. You've got the only reason that counts -- you want to be healthy. Get what ever medical help you need. We're rooting for you.
    And btw, once your hair goes gray, you'll be surprised how differently people treat you. For me it's fallen into two camps. One thinks I'm entitled to my opinions and the other thinks I must be a batty old lady. You can't let other people's opinions influence your life unless you investigate their assertions and discover for yourself if they have any merit.

  6. That's the thing, Lois. I HATE the rooting. Go root for something else. :-). I don't want anybody rooting for my weight loss. It creeps me out. You know? I just want people to live and let live -- whether I'm plus sized or skinny. It doesn't matter. I'm still pretty much the same on the inside.

  7. I totally understand where you are and feel the same way right now. We've traveled this path together before, and I, too, am the highest weight I've been. It is so humbling to re-gain weight that was lost with such effort and focus. For me, the weight is a symptom that my life is out of balance - I need to work on both the weight, and getting my life back on track. My job is literally killing me. So much for playing it safe the last three years! Let's talk soon, Patty.

  8. You are definitely not alone! I know the struggle. Up and down. Others who do not suffer just do not understand! They just can't understand. Hang in there Patty!