Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fat People

They're talking about New Jersey governor Chris Christie's weight on Morning Joe. The governor was on The Dave Letterman Show last night, joining in some supposedly good natured fun about his weight. Now, as the men on Morning Joe try to extend the joke, Mika Brzezinski is basically telling them to cut it out. She says she's interviewed Chris Christie. She quotes him as saying, "Do you really think my weight is a matter of discipline? Do you really think I want to look like this, to be mocked at every turn?" Mika points out that the man works out with a trainer four times a week and monitors his eating. The men around her look skeptical. One of them, the trim handsome ex politico Harold Ford Jr.,  offers that he just stays active all the time, and that's how he stays lean. In my mind, I'm talking back: Buddy, you never had a weight issue in your life. You hit the gene pool jackpot so the truth is, you don't know what you're talking about. You think your good looks are something you did, but really the fates decided to gift you so be a little fucking grateful. He really strikes a nerve.

Some, not all, people who've always been skinny tell fat people like me, "Just exercise a little discipline." My own mother, slender and elegant her whole life, used to do the same until the day I shot back, "If losing weight were so damn easy don't you think I'd have already done it? Why do you think I would choose to walk around like this?" To her credit, she changed her tack after that. She quit making me feel as if being fat was a moral failing and instead communicated her wish that I live a long and vigorous life. But most skinny people will never ever be able to imagine what it feels like to walk through he world as a fat person. If they did, they would no longer offer platitudes like, "It's just will power." "You just need to eat less." "You just need to exercise more." It is of course all those things, but it's never just anything. And another thing. Sleekly thin people enjoy vigorously moving their bodies. To them, exercise is a graceful and pleasurably activity. Their bodies do what is asked with no protest, no pain. For me, exercise is work, yo. It feels virtuous but it doesn't feel good. So I have to find other motivations, mantras like, I will see my children's children. 

I feel like crap today. Lonely. Fat. Lost.

Ironic update: Months ago, a thin, magnificently toned woman I work with who is evangelical about exercise and who seems to have decided I am her "project," gave me a book that she thought would help me break through my penchant for seeing exercise as something other people prescribe for me from a place of judgment. I took the book from her well-meaning hands, thanked her, and put it aside, face down on a pile of books on the shelf behind me. I forgot about it promptly.

This morning, everything stirred by that Chris Christie segment on Morning Joe, and by your comments here, I reached for the book and started reading. I was immediately transfixed. The book is The Unapologetic Fat Girl's Guide to Exercise And Other Incendiary Acts by Hanne Blank. The author has an irreverent, defiant, hand-on-hip voice that I find myself completely engaged by. So here's a more sincere thank you to my friend who handed me this book all those months ago and never asked me another question about it, though I did notice her eyes find it on top of the pile of books behind me on more than one occasion.




43 comments:

  1. I hear you Angella. My younger sister was overweight her whole life and it reached the point where she was actually morbidly obese. For years I'd see people look at her and whisper or people who made comments out loud as if she was deaf and couldn't hear them. What gives anyone else the right to speak about someone else in a negative way? Nothing does. She died at age 39 -- from a pulmonary embolism. For years my mother was concerned and tried to help with the weight issue and as with you, she made it clear that if she could do something about the extra weight, she would. My mother passed away 2 years before my sister. Some people are blessed with genes and metabolisms that keep them lean all their life. Some women, like myself, have gone through medical crises and gained weight -- and then add menopause and where I once was a good weight, I now have added pounds I could do without and diet and exercise don't always do it after a certain age.

    For my sister and for many people who struggle with extra weight, it was psychological/emotional issues that kept the weight from coming off. I know in my case I'm pretty sure I'm keeping some extra weight as a visual sign that cancer hasn't come back.

    So I do hear you about being lonely, lost and fat. But you aren't alone in this though it might seem like you are.

    Do me a favour as I can't reach out and hug you -- look in the mirror, smile at yourself and really mean it and say "I love you" -- then put your arms around yourself. Seem silly? I don't think so. You need to continue in this day by embracing the beauty of who you are -- inside and out. (((Angella)))

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    1. Sherry, ((((hug)))). Thank you. xo

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    2. oh lovey. there are no words to make you feel better, this particular brand of insanity. i dont even know what to say, because i look thin(nish) but i have struggled with this issue forever. just know that you are heard. and validated.

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    3. Susan, dear friend, i know what you mean about this struggle. I was always a chubby child but when I was in my teens and 20s I appeared normal sized to the world (I realize now) but in my own head I was gargantuan. Ha! If only I could be that size now. I appreciate your comment, and you, more than you know. love.

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  2. I am sending you a virtual hug sweetie. You are not alone. Us folks out here in cyberspace got you. Like Sherry said "continue in this day by embracing the beauty of who you are--inside and out." Hugs sweetie.

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    1. Andrea, I'll take the hugs and the friendship. Thank you for being here, dear one. xo

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  3. I was one of those lucky high-metabolism skinny people for a long time, until I had my hysterectomy. The pounds are piling on, right in the middle which makes it hard to bend for things like shoe tying. It's miserable. I've made no changes in my life or eating habits, but my hormones and metabolism want to fatten me up to survive the winter I guess. It's never been easy for me to like the person looking back from the mirror, and it's much harder now that I am egg shaped like my grandmother who was thin until her hysterectomy too. Sigh. You can't fight your genes, they always win.

    I hate that the talking heads can't see past Christie's size. It is as rude as pointing out bald heads or buck teeth. People are ignorant and mannerless.

    I wish you didn't feel like shit. I wish we both liked ourselves more. I like what Sherry said. I'm sending you hugs too, lots of them. You might feel lonely, but you are not alone. xo

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    1. I love how you describe these people Mel... "the talking heads". It's so perfectly appropriate!

      Here is to all of us loving ourselves more and beating ourselves up less. xo

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    2. Sherry, I've been thinking about you keeping some weight on as a visual sign the cancer hasn't come back ever since I read your thoughtful comment. We humans are so complicated and perhaps some of what I think has to do with weight has to do with other strands of life, if i could pull the threads apart. In any case, I am glad you found my blog and glad you are here.

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    3. Mel, it must be hard to watch weight creep on. Trust me, I know. But as everyone here seems to be saying, the only antidote is to stop beating ourselves up, to love ourselves as we are, to not feel as if we a somehow broken and need fixing. Sure we can get out there and exercise for health,but it may or may not take off all the weight, but will make your heart strong. The more important thing dear Mel, is that you are lovely exactly as you are.

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  4. You are right, Angella! Genetics have a lot to do with our bodies. If there were such a thing as Eating Olympics, my daughter would've won Gold, hands down. Yet at 6' 1", she wore a size 4-6. I, however, have hovered between a size 14 and 18 most of my adult life. I used to joke that she did all the eating, and I did all the gaining.

    That aside, have you ever noticed how we focus on a person's looks only until they open their mouths? Only when we get a glimpse of their spirit do we decide whether they're beautiful or not. I hope you get over the 'shitty blues' real soon. I've never lain eyes on you, and I think you're gorgeous.

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    1. Nancy, you are so right! When people show their spirit that is all I see from that point on. I am never hung up on appearances, and so I wonder why I think others are. Well, some others are, but as Dr. Suess said, those who matter don't mind, and those who mind, don't matter. Please know how much you matter to me! Love.

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  5. I find if I think healthy not thin that works the best for me. But EVERY day I force myself to put my jogging shoes on and walk / jog five miles...if I don't I also feel like shit..fat..lonely...lost. So it is so worth it but not easy. I even canceled my Netflix...that was not a good thing for me...for four months all I did was watch movies..eat and drink too much. Yes a lot of it is gentics but there is so much we can do to help ourselves...find one little thing that you enjoy that requires physical activity and start there..

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    1. Hey there, thinking health as opposed to appearances is definitely the key. And yes, I would certainly rather watch netflix than lace up my sneakers. my wonderful athletic son is working on me. thanks for the comment!

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    2. I just want to say...you can do it! Twelve years ago I was 50 pounds overweight...miserable..going through menopause.(I am now 60 years old). I started getting serious about exercise...on my own. Started out walking..then jogging...then running. In a year and half I ran my first marathon...and the most fun thing was I literally could not eat enough! To see you change your body to become a strong healthy woman is one of the most empowering thing you can do for yourself...Please post more about this journey that you are about to start...you are so ready..I can feel it! You are searching for something...this may be it.

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    3. Really? Because when I trained for over six months and walked a marathon (yes, an entire marathon), I GAINED weight. I even dieted while walking very long distances every single day, and I gained weight.

      I'm glad it worked for you, but it doesn't for us all.

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  6. I so know what you are talking about. For today, take that beautiful little girl you were into your arms and give her much love and praise. You are beautiful, just the way you are. A not often commenter. Sweet Jo

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    1. Sweet Jo, I love when I see you here. You have such a generous spirit. And yes, I put that photo of that little girl up there because I wanted to remember that she is worthy of being held and loved and cared for. And that means going to the gym, whether or not it shows on the scale, because it will show in my other numbers. xo

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  7. I really loathe the pull yourself up by your bootstraps people. I've been told often enough that if I just go for a walk my bipolar disorder will disappear. Bah. Good rant Angella.
    love,
    Rebecca

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    1. Dearest Radish King, i know. The minute someone comes at me like that, i can't hear a thing they're saying. proselytizing of any sort is lost on me. ranting, however, is different. I'm not asking anyone to agree with me. I'm just letting out what has been bottled inside. So i like it when people rant. I know its coming from a place most pure and real. xo

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  8. My favorite comment is: "When you're ready to lose weight, you will."

    You've struck a note, here, Angella, as evidenced by the comments. I was a young person (pre-kids, pre-Sophie, above all) that was effortlessly thin. I don't know what happened, but I find myself in a state that is hard to believe. My Chinese doctor says it's all about stress hormones and unique body chemistry. Who knows, though? When I feel particularly loathsome, I try to remember my rather plump Italian grandmother who was as strong as a horse and lived to her late eighties.

    I am going to take a look at that book, though!

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    1. Elizabeth, I think you're on to something with the stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, grabs the weight and holds on to it, an ancient adaptation from hunter gatherer days when stress meant there might not be food for a while. And that book, the author is fat. She has never weighed less than 200 lbs even though she exercises 6-7 days a week quite vigorously. that's her point, though, that exercise is about good health, not about pleasing others with our socially approved appearance. That said, Elizabeth, to me you are so beautiful.

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  9. Again, we are one person, living very different lives.

    Yes.

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    1. NOLA darling, isn't that the truth! Yours is rather exciting and bold. Thanks for that.

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  10. I love the update...I love that your friend never asked you about the book after giving it to you -- and I love how what we need "finds" us at the time we need it most!

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    1. Sherry, the book says exercise is not about appearance and not even about health, because this woman exercises five days a week vigorously and has not gotten slim. BUT, and here's the point that was like a lightbulb going off for me, she says exercise is about connecting with your body, it's about the partnership of body and mind, it's about FEELING your body and giving it back to yourself. She explains it better.

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  11. Me, I have managed to accept the fact that I am obese and cumbersome and ugly. I am the first to make a joke about it (What do you mean you cut in line in front of me because you didn't see me standing here? Lady, I am my own zip code!), and the last to shed a tear alone in bed at night. The only really hard part of this self-revulsion is shaving without looking in the mirror.

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    1. Glenn, look in the mirror hon. The face you will see is lovely and beloved.

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  12. This is such a great post. I think I am just meant to be a fat person. It is so bad that I no longer meet with my girlfriends that I have known since I was 5 because I was "the one that got fat". I know they would never say anything and they love me but I also know human nature. To make it worse, one of them used to be fat and has lost over 100 pounds and every time we are together she tells me all about it. I feel so much shame.
    I will continue on with Weight Watchers. It is working but I have to lose another 43 pounds to get to a "normal" weight. Even when I get there I will still be on the heavier side for my body type. I will also have to watch every morsel I put in my mouth for the rest of my life.

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    1. Birdie, you touch on something so important. People who are or feel fat have so much shame. What is that about? And where does it come from? I often hide out socially, too, especially with people I haven't seen in years. It's not cool, but I do.

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  13. I swear to you, Angella, this is such a huge issue. NO pun intended. I could write volumes in a comment here but I won't. I will simply say that despite everything I am going through right now emotionally the thought, "I am fat" will not leave me alone. There is some sick part of me which truly believes that if I just had the discipline I could lose twenty pounds and BE A MUCH HAPPIER PERSON. Right now.
    As if I don't have enough to worry about at the moment.
    And I have been perusing the new Vanity Fair and I swear to you, the models in this issue are eight years old and not a one of them has an arm as big around as a budget hotdog.

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    1. Ms Moon, this is so interesting, the idea that if we can just lose weight we would be happier. Even though we know it's not true (or is it? See, I have that delusion, too.) But I think you're right. it comes from popular culture where all the thin and young people are adored and rich and happy, or so they are portrayed, and the reality is so much different. I know you are happier with your good handsome loving man and your wonderful children and breathtakingly adorable grandsons than so many of the beautiful people out there. Even on your saddest day, you are richer. I'm rambling, but you know what I mean. Love you, dear Mary. Oh, and you are so not fat.

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  14. i am so glad you found a book that you love. I'm a health advocate myself, but i don't judge people. But I think hearing your perspective sounds like it could be perceived to be judgment. Exercise if VERY hard and i've been doing it consistently for ten years! It's not easy, and i rather not ever have to do it. but i know that i HAVE to do it. i find a diet and exercise that works for me, that doesn't make it feel like torture or deprivation. And that's really what it's about. Thanks so much for this post.

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    1. Candice, i know you don't judge. It's why people have such comfort in your presence, because you let people find their own way, just as you have. Thanks for the comment! xo

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  15. I feel for you Angella. It seems no woman in this society can escape this whole weight, beauty and youth issue. You can see by the response that you are SO not alone.
    I'm glad you picked up the book and found something wonderful. It really is true...when the student is ready...

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    1. Yolie, and you know what else? if it weren't weight, it would be something else. it's the human condition, maybe. love to you.

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  16. I think this has given so many of us lots to think about. I've always said that weight is complicated. You do a beautiful job describing a very difficult subject. My sister was over 100 lbs overweight. I made a point to never make her weight a "project" for me. She'd always struggled with being heavy and I never have. Now that she's gone, I'm so glad that this never cast a shadow over our relationship.

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    1. Kimberly, as a doctor you must have a very different sense of how weight plays out, but it's so great that you didn't let it shadow your relationship with your sister. Have I ever told you I feel a kinship with her? Of course, I only know her through you, and the truth is, I feel a kinship with you, too. Hugs.

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  17. I think it is possible to be a heavier person and still be healthy, based on your genetic makeup and your body, you know? I'm sure it's frustrating as hell having people say things to you about weight. (And why WOULD they feel like they can go there, I wonder??) I think it's a bit like people who don't have ADHD not really believing ADHD exists, or people who have good teeth looking down on people who need more dental care, or straight people thinking being gay is a choice. It comes from a place of not knowing, not being able to identify with another person'e experience. Why they can't accept the other person's experience at face value, without judgment, is the question!

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    1. Steve, it is true that one can be heavier and healthy, that sometimes a person's body type is just their body type. Your comment gets at something I was thinking about in response to some of the comments here, that really, the ways in which we can miss each other's cues so profoundly is really about the struggle we all share as humans, and maybe that's what we're here to overcome together, to find ways to connect through our fog of not really knowing how it is for another person. You, my zen friend, will probably not think that too weird. Thanks for sharing here.

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  18. I think we all have things about ourselves we wish we could change. Things we think are unbeautiful - internally, externally, all encompassing. You are most certainly not alone. I hope you are feeling better. My mom always tells me to be kind to myself, so I'll spread her word and say: try and be kind to yourself.
    xoxo

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  19. Simply being here, Earth, being human and not turning into some horrifying headline creature seems like success to me, a great overcoming. How must it feel to be here, be gracious and productive, strong and slender, insightful and compassionate, do, or so it seems, everything right rather than maybe SOME things right? I don't think that is something I will ever know. I would rather be fat and as I am than completely batshit crazy and mean and thin. Those may not be the only choices, but that's what I know today. I'm glad you found a voice, a book, that makes sense to you. My dear, you are so beautiful by any definition. Were we really all meant to fit in a specific size range? I find that hard to believe. This much is clear: I have a lot to learn about everything. xo

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  20. Just read this post and all the comments and I can say it has shed some new light on the whole issue for me. I have always been told it is impossible for me to get overweight because of my body type (even two kids later), but my sister is overweight and so is my mom. It takes inner strength to stop myself from commenting on their weight especially when I see them eating 'too much'. it is hard to let them know that my issue is not with their weight but with them being healthy enough to be around for a long time..

    Taking it from Grady Doctor though, I need to ensure the issues doesn't cloud our relationship. I am steadily putting on weight, though inconspicuously because of my height and I want someone to buy me a book when I need it too :-)..
    Just keep on loving yourself Angella. xxx

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