I’ve always been fat. And until a couple of years ago, I was completely unaware that I had permission to love my body exactly the way it was. And so does everyone else. Everything changed when I discovered body positive bloggers on Tumblr who wrote about fatness. When I first read these posts, it was as if a wave of recognition washed over me – I felt validated and like I was no longer alone.
Without body positive blogs on Tumblr I would never know what the words self-love or self-care mean. I would never know that I deserve to love my body the way it is, but if I don’t love my body that is okay, too. But the problem I’m facing now is carrying that knowledge with me when I enter public space. I’ve not yet rid myself of the false and somewhat self-centered feeling that everyone around me is constantly watching and negatively judging my body. I project my self-loathing onto other people and convince myself that they have already made their judgements about me before I even speak to them.
That makes it sound like I totally hate my body. Which is sometimes true, but other times I have really good moments with my body. When I look at myself in the mirror I try to take the time to look at my body and find things that I like about it. I’ve come so far with my self-love. Which is why when I went to my old doctor last year, I ended up feeling disappointed in myself.
My childhood doctor was a thin white woman who up until my last visit with her, was nothing but kind to me. It was at my last two doctor’s visits that I could visibly see the difference in the way my doctor treated me when I was “overweight” versus “obese” on the BMI scale. At my visit to her in the summer before my senior year of high school, I weighed 190 pounds. I was at the tail end of “overweight.” My doctor gave my mother and I the normal speech about eating right and exercising enough, and as I did at every visit, I lied and said that “I had a plan” that I was “excited to start on” in order to “get healthy.” This is so disgusting to me now – the fact that the shame I felt from being fat was so heavy that I pleasantly lied through my teeth in order to attain the moral as well as medical approval of my doctor. Looking back, I’m angry at myself for lying. Since when did doctors become the epitome of morals? Since when do I have to explain myself to anyone who judges me for my weight? Anyone who assumes that I’m unhealthy because of my weight?
One year later, I had gone on birth control and gained ten pounds. At my check up this same doctor saw my weight (an even 200 pounds) and came to sit next to me. We were shoulder to shoulder. She put her hand on my arm to comfort me and she looked at me sorrowfully as she said, “Julia, according to your weight today, you are obese.” She said this as if my entire world had ended! It was like the world had stopped to mourn my life. The shame I felt at that moment was so immense and the look on my doctor’s face was so sorrowful yet shaming at the same time, that I began to cry. It was as if I had failed at being a human being and my life could not resume until I had lost weight. I felt as if I had given my doctor what she wanted; it felt as if she wanted me to be ashamed of myself. The look on her face told me that she felt that it was appropriate that I cry at this “horrific” news. The doctor then recommended I go see a pediatric cardiologist who told me I needed to go on Weight Watchers. Needless to say, I didn’t go on Weight Watchers and I changed doctors.
Since that moment at the doctors’ office, I’ve been constantly battling those feelings of shame for being fat. The question of whether or not my old doctor truly cared about my health was tossed aside when she shamed me for my fatness. Working on your body has to take place in a safe environment. You can’t improve yourself if you’re constantly shamed by other people or if you shame yourself. It has to come from within. You have to want it for yourself. However the bigger point is that being fat doesn’t make you any less of a human being. You are deserving of the same kindness and respect as anyone else.
When I do experience moments of doubt and shame about my body, I try to remember that my body is my home. It’s the only body I’m ever going to have. My body carries my thoughts, feelings, personality, my entire self – so I should always try to accept, be kind to, and care for it as best I can.