Monday, May 14, 2012

The things being thin didn't fix.

I have a perspective on body size that I think a lot of us have but don't talk about.

I have been more fat than I am now, less fat, "normal" weight, thin and underweight for varying amounts of time in my life.

I have lived in each state for a good amount of time and being that my size has been fairly stable for about four years I have some distance on it.

I can be pretty objective about each state and first I want to talk about being a "normal" (according to the BMI chart for a woman who is 5'3") weight.

For a long time the BMI charts were my bible. When I was actively dieting and trying to maintain a "normal" weight, I used the BMI chart and very detailed charts of my weight to see if I was "healthy" or not.

At the time I was trying really hard to believe what everyone says. I had lost so much weight, people were complimenting me, I bought a lot of clothes very easily. I was good right?

Actually no.

Even though I was quite young, for me to maintain 125-135 pounds (on the "heavy" side of the BMI for my height) I had to live a pretty restricted life.

I ate no more than 1000 calories per day ever, unless I had diarrhea or was on my period.

I exercised 7 days a week regardless of how badly my knees or back hurt etc.

I was really picky about what I ate and anytime I went over 130 pounds I would panic because I was edging back into fat territory.

Also, despite buying all those clothes I honestly had the same fit issues I have no and had when I was quite a bit heavier. Much of the time no matter how much I weigh I'm going to be smack inbetween sizes for everything and it's really frustrating. My boobs didn't get smaller either. Because of the type of workouts I often did, my boobs got bigger.

During that time I was told that my issue (because I would start regaining weight if I went off of my plan) with weight regain was because of my diet and that I was not exercising enough.

I decided to try a vegetarian diet and more exercise.

On paper in many ways I was reaping the benefits of being "healthier". My blood pressure was down, I was thin to almost underweight which curiously was fine with my doctor at the time. For a while I was the "after" picture. I was living all the things that we're supposed to believe about being thinner.

And then shit started going south.

One of the health problems I've had since I was a teenager and has never gotten better with weightloss has been easily injured/strained joints. Specifically my knees, hips and ankles. At the time I fully believed that the only reason my knees would ever hurt was because I was too fat. That's what doctors have told me for years.

Lose weight. Lose weight and that pain and swelling will magically go away.

Understand that the first time I brought it up to a doctor I was 18, at a "high" normal BMI, in good shape. The only part of the Presidential fitness thing I had trouble with was running, I could do the pull ups and full push ups etc. I had been a cheerleader and on a dance team. I had played volleyball and had tried taking up jogging. I was out of high school and concerned that the knee I hadn't previously injured would swell up, it hurt if I walked for long periods of time, sometimes I limped.

I was told to lose 20 pounds.

Even then because I was chubby (not really fat at all, still had a good bit of puppy fat on me) the immediate assumption was that I didn't exercise at all etc.

I did as I was told.

Fast forward to the vegetarianism which I wrote about in detail here, and my health took a sharp downturn.

I was thin, and then at some points really thin as in underweight.

However everything else was going to shit. My already not great immune system did not work worth a damn. I caught every cold, everything. My knees were constantly hurting, constantly swollen. Often after my new and improved twice daily two hour work outs I would have trouble walking to the bus stop.

I was 23 years old and trying to follow the programming that came from everywhere to get and stay thin and be healthy, I could sometimes barely walk.

I worked out to a soul crushing degree. I used Biggest Loser style tactics on myself. I abused myself in the mirror at the gym, I avoided certain foods as if they were poison and told myself if I ate that cookie or had a piece of pie or chicken that I would in fact die because I would get fat and getting fat meant I was a failure.

Sound familiar?

Those workouts were soul crushing.

Even when I started to get sicker, and my other health issues got worse I refused to believe that I was doing the wrong thing.

Think about that.

I was doing everything "right". My diet was fantastic, I was exercising a lot, I was doing all those things we're supposed to do so we don't get or stay fat.

And it was making me sick and causing me injury.

That's not even to speak of my emotional and psychological health.

I have never (even during a really awful time being bullied, I'll talk about that another time) felt so bad about myself than I did at that point.

The weightloss hadn't cured me of my ills. I was a worse insomniac, my knees were worse, I had problems trying to poop regularly, at one point I was put on birth control in order to help straighten up my periods and I had awful side effects.

Nothing was okay.

Even maintaining a "normal" weight for me was disaster.

It quite honestly took me winding up at home, sick with a god awful flu and almost fainting on the treadmill to wake up and realize I had drunk the Koolaid and if I kept it up I felt like I was going to die.

Let's stop here and I want you to really think about that for a minute.

I was doing and eating all the things we're told we're supposed to.

I was being a "good" fatty and hating myself enough to work out to the point of vomiting or fainting.

I was at the point of doing whatever it took to maintain that weightloss.

And it solved nothing.


Not. one. Thing.

Fast forward to me now.

I'm 35 years old and I have the very same health problems I had back then.

I still have awful insomnia that is exacerbated with too much exercise or not enough food. I have shitty joints that if I exercise too much, walk an extra mile or two during the day or if I wear the wrong kind of shoes swell and hurt. If I don't eat enough meat I feel run down and tired. If I am on my period and don't eat enough meat I want to lay down and die.

I still have a battery of allergies. I still get migraines. My menstrual cycle can still be a tricksy thing.

I still every time I bring one of these things to the attention of a doctor, doctors immediately tell me to lose weight.

Regardless of how long I've had these problems. Of what weightloss has done in regards to them in the past. Regardless of what or how much I eat.

This is a huge reason why I cannot buy the magical thinking that if one is obese, the answer is always lose weight.

Because I am a fat person I have to claw and fight to get basic health care. Basic. Nothing special. I'm not asking for miracles just things like a papsmear and maybe an overall check.

According to the doctors who are supposed to care for me, the only thing -wrong- with me is that I am fat.

How is that right?

Now I am no scientist but, the evidence of my actual lived life and health speaks to the fact that fat or not I have some health problems that need addressing.

I don't need the great Thinness Cure.

I need support to be as healthy as I personally can be.

Later this week, I want to talk about health moralism and the binary idea that one can only be healthy or not healthy.

Homo Out.



rebecca said...


Thank you for blogging Things.

JeanC said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

Right now, I'm the heaviest I've been in years, and I'm probably the healthiest, in terms of mental health, I've ever been.
I don't think the fat is causing the good mental health, but it's not hurting it, either.
I really wish I could wave a magic wand and get you a great doctor. When I was living in L.A. I had the awesome-ist doctor ever, and she totally treated me without focusing on weight. I miss her. I wish more doctors were like her.

Thanks for writing this.

Anonymous said...

As always, thank you for sharing.

I'm a 35 year old fat guy. My knees can't tolerate traditional exercises. I'd like to make an exercise suggestion related to joint protection. When anyone exercises, the biggest factor in joint strain is how fast they move. Exercise programs marketed under the names "Super Slow", "Power of 10", and "Slow Burn" all focus on really slow strength training movements. They originated in fitness programs for people with osteoporosis and arthritis.

Unfortunately they're also marketed with some kind of fad diet or another, which I ignore. But I do my 4 or more ten second up, ten second down squats holding small dumbbells twice a week, and my knees are fine both during and after. I can navigate a few flights of stairs just fine.

Good luck.

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