According to this video, I am currently and am always having a heart attack.
This is terribly unfortunate because I was recently denied health insurance on the basis of my weight. I had a stronger emotional reaction to this rejection than I expected, partially because I never actually expected to be denied. I’m (relatively) young at 31, have no serious health problems, no penchant for cliff diving or anything risky or edgy at this point, and I don’t plan on doing anything expensive like getting pregnant EVER (which should be covered anyway, in my opinion, but just sayin’). If I’m feeling the symptoms in the video above, it is due to anxiety, which can obviously affect one’s health negatively in the long run, and I thought I could do something good for myself by seeking insurance coverage for my minor (by comparison) issues with that. I thought I was being smart and a good person by not lying about my weight (sorry about that, Driver’s License), but now it feels like I’m being punished.
Usually when the subject of obesity comes up among civil folks, two camps quickly form: those who advocate for size acceptance no matter what and those who are quick to inform everyone that they don’t hate fat people, it’s just that they are worried about us because we are probably going to drop dead at any second and are pretty much stealing the money directly out of everyone’s pockets with our expensive diseases (aka concern trolls). The issue of fat and health and whether or not the two can coexist has been debated at length and quite frankly I don’t want anything to do with it. I cannot stand it when people use concern as an excuse to shame fat people (that’s what it comes down to, pure and simple), but I’m also not a doctor or someone that likes reading doctor-y statistics, so whatever. I can only go by my own history of physical and emotional health as a fat person with a lifetime of baggage because of external and internal fat phobia. I struggle constantly with the disconnect of how I logically feel about body acceptance, my personal struggle with internalized fat phobia and low self-esteem, and my health issues and fears. The majority of past posts on this blog were written when I was at a much lower weight than I am now but starting to gain it back. When I was going through the archives recently, adding tags and such, I was kind of surprised and ashamed at just how much I talked about my weight and how I was absolutely planning on “starting a new diet asap.” I guess some parts were supposed to be funny and in-step with the whole Failure schtick, but reading now it feels embarrassing on two very different levels: 1) because I never want to feed into my own or others’ insecurities and body fixation/shame and 2) because I never did go on that diet. See what I mean about the disconnect?
Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to write briefly (HAHA) about a few of my adventures in trying to lose weight.
I never forget I’m fat. I mean, how could I? It’s a constant focus within and by the world around me. Sometimes it seems like my (thin) friends forget I’m fat, though. Surely that could be the only explanation for someone having the audacity to inform me, breathlessly, mouth curled in disgust, how “omg sooo FAT” so-in-so has gotten, or showing me FatBooth pictures (that app has thankfully fallen from popularity, but one remembers these things when an acquaintance was so genuinely horrified by what she would look like fat that she nearly cried), or posting Instagram shots of oozing burgers, decimated pans of brownies, or sometimes even just a regular plate of food with the caption “Uh oh, my inner fat kid is coming out!” or “Being a fat girl again” or (my favorite) simply, “I’m so fat!” My own “inner fat kid” comes out every day when I get out of bed as my outer fat woman, a person who is haunted by past ridicule and is subjected to very real prejudice in the world. For the record, my inner and outer fat persons are not particularly partial to burgers or sweet treats and are resentful at the suggestion that only fat people eat a certain way or at all and thin people don’t. I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed for nourishing my body. I’m not that sensitive when it comes to jokes and I have one of the most off-color senses of humor, but shit like this wears me down after a while. How many “Oh, I wasn’t talking about YOU”s can a person accept in their lifetime? I cannot pretend that when you, even unintentionally, say cruel or hurtful things about fat people, you aren’t talking about a fat person “like me.” You are. I’m fat. That being said, I am obviously not free of fat phobia. My own internalized fat phobia does some pretty impressive contortionist moves. I don’t hate fat people, just myself. I love the fat positive movement, but I could never be that. Wow, she sure is brave to eat that in public where everyone is watching and judging her. I want another serving, but I know what people will think. I just love how hot Beth Ditto looks on stage when she takes her clothes off, but I could never do that, my body is disgusting. All of my fat friends are prettier than me, which is why they can pull it off. It never ends, and yes, it is as painful and tiring as it sounds. All of this shame is something I’ve tried to use as motivation in the past to try to lose weight, and it just does not work. It leads to deeper patterns of despair, desperation, and negative behavior.
I won’t bore you with all 20+ stories of me trying to beat (and measure and count and blend) my weight into submission using Weight Watchers, Slimfast, etc., starting from about six years old. The main thing using Slimfast taught me was that there is no way a shake is a full meal for me and that adding a banana to one of their chocolate shakes, while counter-productive, is damn delicious and banana+chocolate is the dream team. All I really ever got out of Weight Watchers was the terror of being dragged there by my mother and weighed in public each week and probably, deep in storage somewhere, several vintage sets of measuring cups, kitchen scales, and books emblazoned with the WW logo. Today Jennifer Hudson wails at me from my tv to say that if I want it, I’ve got it, I’ve gotta believe, believe in myselllllffff. I wish I could tell her that one of the main reasons I DON’T believe is that I DID believe on and off throughout the 90s and yet here we are. Oh well.
Seriously. Meth. Okay, sort of. When I was in high school my group of friends and I met a group of older kids, Caltech students, and started hanging out with them. We found out that the school actually has a not-so-secret reputation for its wild parties. Apparently extreme science nerds need to cut loose somehow, and that somehow was with booze, weed, ecstasy, GHB, meth, and K. Someone told me they used their superbrains to make their own drugs sometimes, but I don’t know if I believe that. I do know that there was a hollowed-out electrical box in the wall of one of the dorms containing piles of condoms and clean needles, among other goodies. I never got down with any needles, but I was curious and self-destructive enough to try just about anything when the creepy ringleader dude gave my friend and I a tiny baggie of speed one afternoon. We took our first ever nostril-burning rails in our Catholic school uniforms as he stared lecherously, leaning back on his bed. It was totally weird because he obviously expected something other than money in return, so we got out of there fast. I remember feeling slightly euphoric for literally about four minutes and then feeling my emotions come crashing down as I walked along the sidewalk, wishing it would open up and take me inside. When we got home we put on a movie in an attempt to chill out, but I could not relax, laugh, or even smile. The movie was There’s Something About Mary, and to this day I don’t know if it was any good. I mean, I highly doubt it because I don’t find Ben Stiller very funny, and is the main gag seriously semen as hair gel? But it WAS sort of a 90s classic, never the less, and now I’ll never be able to appreciate it. We stayed up all night until the little baggie was gone, trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to ward off the terrible feeling of coming down. We talked in circles about everything awful under the sun and moon and damn near made a suicide pact. Somehow we made it through to the next morning when my mom picked me up and I’m seriously glad I can’t really remember that awkward car ride. Just before I finally fell asleep late the next afternoon, after trying to force myself to eat a piece of bread that tasted like poison in my mouth, my friend and I swore to each other in whispers on the phone that we would NEVER EVER try speed again. I hadn’t tried it to lose weight, just out of teenage curiosity, but fast forward a few years later and I was trying a diet pill for the first time, the original formula of Metabolife, which was packed with ephedra (a powerful stimulant which has since been banned by the FDA). I pretty much had a meth flashback and a total meltdown, so no, it didn’t help me lose weight, because I was only able to take it once. I had hoped it would give me energy and cut my appetite, but instead it just made me jittery and depressed. If you know me, you know if I drink even one cup of coffee I start having racing thoughts, pacing back and forth, and being generally intolerable. This “energy boost” doesn’t help me get stuff done or concentrate or feel invigorated. I’ve since tried caffeine-based diet pills and they have a similar effect. It doesn’t really suppress my appetite much, but even if it did (like meth and the amphetamine diet pills that some doctors still prescribe) it wouldn’t work for me because I hate that speedy feeling. I know a lot of people love it, but we all know that real speed and fake speed and even excessive amounts of caffeine can be just as terrible as or much worse for your body (speaking of heart attacks) than being fat, so there goes that method of weight loss.
The Not-So-Healthy Diet and Exercise Plan
Several years ago I tried to go on The South Beach Diet but failed to lose even one pound or inch, despite the fact that I had followed it strictly for over a month. I had healthcare at the time and went to the doctor to be like WTF and was tested and diagnosed with PCOS. It had been so hard to lose weight even when I was genuinely trying my whole life that it was in some ways a relief to be diagnosed with PCOS, a disease that makes weight loss more difficult, among other symptoms. The thing is, even though it’s harder to lose weight, weight loss can help alleviate some of the other symptoms. I began a strict regimen of birth control pills, anti-androgen meds, generic metformin (a diabetes drug that can be helpful to some PCOS patients, but has several unpleasant side effects), exercise, and an extreme low-carb diet (as in not even fruit for the first month) all under a doctor’s care at first. Eventually I did start to lose weight, but I wasn’t exactly at my healthiest. I lost my health insurance through my mom and was no longer seeing a doctor. I was newly living away from home and was hanging out with two thin girls who were both very concerned about their weight, and we talked about it constantly, obsessively. I was getting thinner and thinner for me, but never “thin enough.” There were days I cheated on my diet and ate whatever I wanted, weeks I ate salads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and times where I wouldn’t consume much at all other than vodka sodas (low in carbs, you see) when I went out at night. I had a job where I was constantly moving and on my feet in addition to taking daily walks and spending feverish nights on the dance floor. I was such a hot mid-20s mess that I rarely remembered to take my medications then finally stopped altogether. For me, losing weight was a FULL TIME commitment and lifestyle change that had started for health reasons, but that was never the real issue. I wanted to feel better about how I looked and be more accepted, and people did treat me better, sadly, but it was never enough. I never got skinny, I never felt like I looked as good as my friends in clothes, I still hated my body, I still hated myself, inside and out. And I certainly wasn’t being healthy about it after the first few months, skipping meals because I was too busy and going out every night, not dealing with my real problems. I think people who find it easy to moderately difficult to maintain a certain weight really don’t understand that when they say “why don’t you just lose weight?” to someone like me, they are essentially saying “why don’t you devote just about every waking moment to looking a certain way and being my and society’s definition of beautiful and healthy?” I mean, I kind of feel like no one should be getting in anyone’s body business like that anyway, but it is particularly annoying to me as someone who has a condition that makes weight loss extra difficult.
So, this is where I’m at now. I feel defiant, like going on a diet and exercise plan would be me bending to society’s will. I don’t want to be shamed or bullied into doing something that could potentially be healthy for me, and losing weight definitely isn’t the answer for everyone’s health. It sure wasn’t the answer to my biggest problem, which was my absent sense of self-worth. I do want to make steps to avoid certain health pitfalls I know may be prone to because of my history. I feel like this time I could be trusted to do things right and for mostly the right reasons, but I keep going back and forth. Attempting to get insured was a big step for me, but we know how that ended up. It feels extra hurtful and crazy that I would need to lose weight to get health insurance but getting health insurance could be one of my best shots at losing weight, if that’s what I decide to do.
Ugh. Is it Obamacare yet?