My Mom Offered to Send Me to Fat Camp.... On My 30th Birthday

My Mom Offered to Send Me to Fat Camp.... On My 30th Birthday

Yeah, that's pretty much the whole story right there.

However, I've been encouraged to wrap some words around this, but that only makes me want to wrap bacon around a slice of pizza. My mother assumes that's how I start my day anyway, so might as well...

Truthfully, I'd super rather not discuss my obesity with y'all, but my hypnotherapist swears I can only achieve my goddamned "desired state of calm perfection" if I embrace the cathartic process of expressing myself.

She wants me to use this blog to write about something real. I want her to get real about offering discounts on her services.

But since I am paying (full price) for her advice, I should consider following it. So, today we discuss the realness that is the pain and suffering my scale endures each time I punish it with the weight of my swollen carcass.

And so it begins...

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So there I was.

In the middle of a showdown.

Me versus the dressing room mirror.

A friend I haven't seen in six years is coming into town this week, and I've been seeking a garment that hides all my lumps and bumps and the two tons of junk in my trunk.

Then, I remembered that magic isn't real, that I am plenty of pounds past plump, and that vacuum cleaners can barely make cat hair disappear, let alone pass as a workable liposuction substitute. So, I looked at myself, shrugged, and thought:

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Seriously, when I gazed into that mirror, I swear I saw this staring back at me:

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And I'm afraid that's going to be my reflection for some time to come.

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I guess now is a good time to throw in an important tidbit. Doctors have diagnosed me with two conditions. The first is a nasty malady common to those of us who suffer from owning lady bits --- poly-cystic ovarian syndrome.

What happens is this: Your cyst-filled ovaries make you balloon up like a bloated badger left on the highway. Oh, and you sprout facial hair that would make a 13-year-old boy weep with envy. We're talking a swarthy 5 o'clock shadow that would make the ladies swoon, if the ladies in question were face-beard-loving lesbians.

In short, you leave people wondering:

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The second diagnosis is a gnarly tumor ripening on my thyroid (a.k.a. the body's fat pump.) Fun symptoms include weight gain (again!), severe depression, and hair loss (unfortunately, NOT from your chin; those follicles are too ballsy to be beaten into submission).

Sadly, I couldn't find any memes that depict this particular horror. Instead, conjure a vision of a fuzzy-jowled, almost bald version of post-gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde of Willy Wonka fame. Yup. That’s me. Hi!

Now, I know you're thinking two things right now.

The first is, "Seriously, Bekah, you can't be that fat. I bet you're just exaggerating."

No, actually, I'm not. Since the heavens parted and shat those diagnoses on me 18 months ago, I've gained exactly 131 pounds.

The second thing you're thinking is, "Holy balls. You really did get fat."

Yup. I really, really did.

Now, that is probably leading to a third thought, which is something like, "Sure, Bekah, a 'medical condition' made you fat. Not your daily Coke. It's all your hormones' fault. Riiiiight."

In other words, you're thinking....

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This is when I tell you to eat a bag of all the butter-flavored fucks I do not give about you and your judge-a-roo-ness.

If I'm coming off as a wee bit hostile, it's because I am. It's hard being a hairy heffalump. Before I inflated into an obese person, I never thought about fat as a state of being. Let alone a lonely, agonizing, exhausting one.

"Sure, Bekah," you're thinking. "Being fat is super rough. Eating Doritos and watching TV and drinking Mt. Dew -- how do you fatties ever make it through the day? It's almost like you're working your ginormous asses off right along with the coal miners and stay-at-home moms and our war veterans. Oh, wait. I'm being sarcastic."

To which I respond, "Have you ever heard of a thing called 'privilege?'"

Yes, it's a social justice term, and I'm sorry to burden you with something so heavy as an academic concept this early in the day. But the idea is basically this: Some people have advantages other people don't simply because they are not in the same group. Groups can be based on such categories as race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc. And, you guessed it: your weight.

When I was in the thin group, I benefited from such privileges as people not judging me for my food choices, not staring at me like a freak show at the gym, and being able to shop in a regular mall.

In the fat group, I've faced the disadvantage of having somebody moo at me. (That's happened.) As if that's not bad enough, thin me never encountered the following attitudes/scenarios:

1) Dudes be all like, "I'd rather have my yippie-ki-yay fall off than be seen in public with this cow, because people might misconstrue our relationship as romantic, and that would clearly be comparable to getting AIDS."

2) Chicks be all like, "Ooo! I want to collect you as a friend, because it'll totally raise my score in the 'diversity bingo' game of life. I already have a gay friend! Check! And a black friend! Check! And a Muslim friend! Check! And now a fat friend?!? Oooo! Double chin check!"

3) Store clerks turn you away. I once walked into Abercrombie & Fitch to buy my brother a present, and the salesperson informed me that they didn't have anything in my size and that there was a Lane Bryant a few doors down.

4) When you're a woman, people plant pregnancy on you. So, you'll be at the Bennigan's, and the waitress is like, "We have 25 cent margaritas," and you're like, "I'll have a water, please," and she says, "Oooo! Congratulations!," and you're like, "Why?," and then she realizes her mistake, and she's like, "Um, for not giving into the evil temptation that is alcohol...???"

5) You still get sexually harassed but in a way that adds an extra sting. I used public transit a few weeks back, and a guy started following me. Then he got real close to me on the escalator and was all like: "We should hook up." Now, I'm already scared, but because our misogynist society has social norms that make me feel obligated to be polite under any circumstance, lest I piss off a person with a penis, I softly replied, "No, thank you." His response? "You're fat, bitch. You don't get to say no."

I'm serious. This all actually happened.

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Typically, this would be the inspirational part. You know, where I'd smooth everything over by telling you that being fat doesn't diminish your worth. But I'm not there yet.

I'm still catharsis-zing, OK? I've got a hypnotherapist to get off my back!

Society doesn't understand that weight is not a litmus test for personhood. Instead, our culture tells us that being fat equals ignorance, at best. "Bless your clogged heart, I bet you just didn't know butter was bad for you!" Or folks assume you're lazy. "I bet if you tried exercising, the pounds would melt away!" Or there are the asshats who think you lack willpower and say things like, "Have you ever considered just not eating something that you know is bad for you? Like Nancy Reagan always said, 'Just say no!' Except to ice cream instead of cocaine!"

My favorite judgement, though, is when people insinuate that my weight demonstrates a shortage of morality. Examples: "Your body is a temple. You should treat it better," or, "Have you considered asking God to help you with your struggle with gluttony?"

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I understand that society doesn't get that some issues (like obesity) are more complex than black walnut ice cream versus white chocolate truffles. But even my own mother doesn't understand, which means that on my 30th birthday, I got a call that went something like this:

Mom: Happy birthday, honey!
Me: Thanks, Mom!
Mom: Do you have any big plans?
Me: Well, Chris(my husband) was going to take me out for dinner, but I just had a lot of blood work done and am not feeling well. I think we're just going to stay in.
Mom: That's probably better. That way you can have a nice salad instead of something all greasy. Did you talk to your doctor about your weight again? Did he mention anything about diet and exercise this time?
Me: Yes, mom. We talked about my weight. We always talk about my weight. Every time. And yes, he knows all about diet and exercise. They're not new concepts.
Mom: Well, I don't understand why you keep gaining weight. Are you sure you're exercising?
Me: Yes, Mom. I'm sure.
Mom: Well, just walking doesn't count. How about that Jillian Michaels video? Just start with the warm-up every day, and do what you can, and before you know it, you'll be able to do the whole thing! And you'll feel so much better about yourself!
Me: Okay. Anyway, Chris got me a rad gift.
Mom: That's partly why I called, too. Your father and I have discussed it, and we think you'd benefit from a Biggest Loser Ranch-style experience.
Me: You want to send me to the Biggest Loser Ranch for my birthday?
Mom: Yes. It might be a good kick starter for your weight loss.
Me: Well, the doctor just started me on some new hormones, and he said I'll probably gain some more weight again, so it's probably going to be awhile before they get everything regulated. So, he said to stick with the diet regimen I got from the nutritionist.
Mom: I just don't know. Maybe you should see another doctor? All this weight gain just doesn't seem right. I bet Bob Harper would know what to do.

Now, I love my mother. I do. I'd swear it on my kitties. She's got scads of wonderful qualities. For example, Mom makes gorgeous wedding cakes. Okay. That's all I can think of right now. But, seriously, she means well. She really, truly does. She wants me to be healthy, and she can't fathom a world where people have minimal control of their weight.

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Just as I have little control of my weight right now, so, too, does it feel like I have little ability to stop obsessing about the fact that I once weighed 162 pounds, wore a size 8, hiked mountains, played intramural sports, and looked like this:

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I'm not saying I was anorexic or anything. What I am saying is that I never used to worry about mold blossoming in my fat folds.

Now, at 283 pounds, I look like this:

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Or, on a good day, I look like this:

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I don't know what you see when you look at these pictures, but here's what I spy with my super-sized eyes: four chins, a belly big enough to house triplets, legs sturdy enough to support a hippopotamus, and arms so squishy that they are the exactly the size of the Hellman's mayonnaise packets that would be served to a giant alongside his/her meatball sub.

I don't see cysts or tumors or medical conditions. I see failure and humiliation and disgrace. I see an unhappy whale woman who hates every inch of herself. (Except for the "feminism & cats" t-shirt and the blue wig. Obviously, I love those things.)

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I feel I've ranted enough now to achieve my "desired state of calm perfection," so let's get to that motivational part.

Here's the deal: I can't presently control my weight. Nor can I control how people determine my value. I can eat salad until my ass up and sprouts kale, but it won't make a difference. If people don't love me exactly as I am now, then they probably wouldn't have loved me when I was "better." Vegetable eating skills do not a more enjoyable, important, worthwhile person make.

And even if my weight was a result of a decision to lock myself in a basement and eat nothing but chicken wings, who gives a fat rat's ass? Yes, it would be poor decision, but it wouldn't make me a bad person. It would make me just like everyone else on the planet: flawed. I have friends who drink to excess, who have used drugs, who have cheated on their significant others, who have declared bankruptcy, who voted for George W. Bush. Guess what? I'm still seen in public with them, because I love them for who they are, not the mistakes they make.

Fact: Haters are going to hate, so fuck them. Slow-motion replay: F-u-c-k. T-h-e-m.

Seriously, if some jagweed doesn't like me because of my size, then they don't deserve to benefit from the 283 reasons I'm awesome. Because I am, obviously, or you wouldn't be reading this tome.

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In conclusion, if I can offer one quick word of advice (and I'm going to, because I read that bloggers should occasionally do so), then it would be to love yourself, whether you weigh 107 or 407.

Also, never use the word "fat." If forced to describe your physical condition, say you're corpulent. America’s education system has assured us that nobody’s going to know what it means. They are only going to know that it sounds sensual and decadent, much in the same way a strawberry crème puff does. And by all means, eat a damn crème puff now and then. Because let me tell you who are the most interesting, humorous, thoughtful, and just downright lovable people I know – they are the ones who enjoy their fucking dessert and don’t ruin the conversation by whining about calories. I’m not advocating that you eat yourself into an obese oblivion, but I am saying that life is meant to be enjoyed, so please embrace substance, not shallowness. Be a person, not a Paris Hilton.

And now I'm off to get that last sentence made into a bumper sticker to display next to my "Feel the Bern" car bling.

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True story: Life would be super swell if we all embraced our OMG side instead of living a Facebook-friendly existence. So, let it out. Have you ever been judged solely on your appearance? Have you ever clocked a person for being a douche canoe about your looks? What do you wish people knew about you that they couldn't discern just from looking at you? What's your favorite junk food? I ask, because I'm a fat person on a restricted diet, and I want to live vicariously through you. Feel free to disclose details. You're safe here.