I recently had my yearly physical. I am perfectly healthy, thank goodness. My blood pressure is almost too low and I have a wonderful resting heart rate. I don’t need to take medically necessary prescription medications. With the exception of ongoing, slight anemia and a few aches of getting older, there is nothing physically or medically wrong with me.
This is just too easy, my doctor said. You are in great shape.
On paper, my blood’s profile is that of a thin, athletic woman. The irony is that I am fat. Fit, but still fat.
I saw a video of myself today. Let me you something, seeing my full, physical self on film and watching how I move through space absolutely punched me in the gut. I hate being fat. I feel like I look like The Great Cow. In my mind, I try to pretend that I’m merely rubenesque, that people see me as just a little chubby.
Who am I kidding? To actually witness my full, fat self in motion makes me wonder if I see myself right when I look in the mirror, because what I saw on that video made me sick.
This is what it is like to be overweight: we oscillate between trying to engage fat empowerment and self-acceptance to sometimes experiencing vitriolic self-hate for not being able to lose weight. Look at me, completely healthy and grateful for it, yet disgusted because I see myself as fat, fat girl.
There is sometimes real psychic and physical pain in being fat.
This fat stuff has been around a while. My weight journey is epic. It has its own soundtrack and should have a reality TV show: “The Days of Life of Deonna’s Fat Self,” To think that I’ve been even heavier than this, on the verge of real health issues, like that year I ceased menstruation because I was that obese. There is a medical term for this: amenorrhea.
I had a gastric bypass when I was 19 years old, the kind that would forever leave me iron and B-12 deficient (I have to self-inject B-12 shots every few months, and will have do to so the rest of my life.) I started my period in the hospital a few days after surgery, and I bled and bled to compensate for year of menstrual drought.
The surgery forever changed me in really good ways. I lost 60 pounds, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it was the tonnage between the death sentence of the morbidly obese to a somewhat normal, if still overweight, life. My smallest size after surgery wasn’t skinny by society’s standards – I hovered at a size 14 in college. But then, like now, I was healthy.
Blood doesn’t lie. My diet is sturdy enough to send my good cholesterol to epic heights. I rarely eat red meat or fried foods, I don’t put sugar in my coffee, I only sometimes indulge sweets or fast food, and I drink maybe eight soft drinks a year, and only with greasy or spicy foods. I generally don’t exceed the normal daily allotment of calories. My diet and my lifestyle are healthier than most Americans.
Oh, and I exercise. Not as much as I want to, but as much as I can. There was a time, before a forty-hour a week job, that I was Spinning and Zumba Momma. Still, the weight rarely budged. A few inches here and there might disappear, but I’m convinced they reappeared somewhere else. Like cyclical migration; move a little here, a little there, then move back again.
I know that my genetics are probably destined for largeness. I am not spawned from dainty women. I am healthy, after all, despite a lifetime of carrying weight around. I am not sedentary and I eat lots of veggies. But I can’t lose weight, not even during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting during the daylight hours, when my caloric intake goes down to 1200 calories a day. Fasting is hard for people with gastric bypass, especially because my stomach pouch would shrink so much during the day that I couldn’t sufficiently eat (and more importantly, adequately hydrate), once the fast broke.
I feel that there is something wrong with me, like I am a complete failure trapped in under all of this fat. Don’t let anyone fool you – most overweight people have felt like this at least once in their lives. We internalize our weight with a caustic burden heavier than anything we carry around on our bodies.
I left my marriage in late 2011, and then had to face myself head-on in the most painful, yet profoundly liberating, ways. I had these internal scripts running around in my soul that I had allowed to dictate my place in the world. Fortunately, I am in the process of re-scripting, and I am more powerful because of it.
Yet, after facing so many of my perceived inadequacies, I still can’t face my weight. This baffles me, because I’ve done so well with so many other issues. My weight seems like a bad relationship that I just can’t shake.
I know I have to make peace with it. I will never be what society calls a skinny woman. Getting older won’t make it any easier, either. I don’t need readers to tell me that I am beautiful; I know that I have many wonderful qualities. I just want to lose weight, even a little, just to prove to myself that I can.