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FAT REDUX

13 July 2002

The first year of this journal, I had some loyal readers--but not a lot.  I suspect most of them were related to me.  Lately the numbers are climbing, for which I am humbly grateful (especially the readers who found me by searching on Google for "pee" which seems to be the most common term used to bring people to this journal!!!)

Also, in the first year of this journal I started my first attempt at losing weight. I wasn't as serious about it then, but I decided I'd be open about it then, too, hoping to back myself into a corner so I couldn't give up (but I eventually did).

Recently, I joined a marvelous on-line group of other WeightWatchers, called "The Pointers." Shortly after I started receiving the messages, I decided to share something I wrote back in 2000 about what it's like to be fat. I've had such incredible response from that piece that I decided to reprint it.

This was written at a time when I never thought I'd exercise, couldn't possibly imagine myself riding a bike, and when I was still thinking of myself as a very fat person (because I was a very fat person--now I'm just a somewhat fat person <g>)

Anyway, people who have read this entry this week have said it was helpful to them, so I wanted to share with people who might not have read it before. It's mostly not for fat people, but for thin people who don't really understand the totality of being a fat person...

 

It's no fun to be fat. There are some things that most "normal" people realize about being fat, but there are an awful lot that you probably never think of.

Of course if you're fat, you look like shit in everything, so shopping for clothes is a chore, not a pleasure. Likewise, what's the point of wearing good looking shoes when clunky feel so much more comfortable? And if you're going to look like shit and can't find anything to wear, why bother with makeup or anything else?

You dread going into crowds because you know you scare little kids. They hide behind their mother's skirts and don't realize that once you were normal size and that you love little kids and really won't hurt them. The bolder ones point out loudly "Mommy, she's fat" which embarrasses the mothers--and that's almost worse than the kids' brutal honesty.

Not all cars have seatbelts that fit. I travel with a good friend frequently and I'm not sure if she realizes that her expensive car has a seatbelt that doesn't even begin to fit me. I hold it so that it looks like I'm wearing it in case a cop passes by.

I can still fit into an airplane seat and buckle an airplane seatbelt...barely. But the tray table hasn't been able to fold down in front of me for a very long time now--and if the guy in front of me decides to recline his seat, I might as well forget about eating a meal at all. Fortunately most airlines don't feed you any more anyway, but if I'm on a plane that serves a "meal," it's almost impossible to eat (unless Walt is traveling with me and then I share his roomy tray table space).

Theatre seats are for the most part very uncomfortable. The newer multiplexes allow a skosh more room in the seat with the widening of the American butt in recent years, but older movie houses require careful maneuvering to just get into the seat. The whole movie or play is spent with your butt feeling like it's being squeezed in a vice. And if the rows are too close together, it's incredibly uncomfortable. Walt and I had season tickets for two years to the San Francisco opera. We were seated in the middle of the row with seats that were way too small for me and because my butt extended forward so far, it left me with knees tightly bent and with nowhere to move--which is painful when your knees are shot anyway.

It's also expensive to be fat. A friend and I are planning a hot air balloon ride this fall. I've been very leery about this whole thing because I just don't know if I can get INTO a balloon basket. But my companion is adamant. So I called to get information. It's $100 more if you weigh over a certain weight--and I far exceed that weight, so there is no hope of even thinking about losing enough to fit under their weight guidelines by the time of our planned trip. [this was Peggy--and we had our balloon ride, which was wonderful. We managed to find a company in the Lake Tahoe area which didn't charge extra for extra weight.]

I'm too embarrassed to ride a bike in this city of bicycles. Even if I can find one sturdy enough to hold me, I've heard joking asides about people seen riding around town with their asses hanging over the bicycle seat. I can't let myself be the...uh...butt of such jokes (it's ok if I make the jokes, but the worst thing you can do to me is laugh at me. My father did it all the time and I never learned how to cope with derision. It's easier to take the offensive and initiate the joke on myself; then it's OK). I'm also embarrassed to go to a gym or the swimming pool. This is a town populated by the physically fit. You won't find a store that sells anything larger than a size 14 (which is considered "large" here) and you find people biking and jogging everywhere. I sometimes wonder if there is a secret rule in the town charter banning fat people. I once attended Weight Watchers meetings here and the largest person at the meeting (other than myself, there to lose 100 lbs) had about 10 lbs to lose...maybe 20. Imagine feeling out of place at a fat person's meeting!

I know a woman who is larger than I am and has no compunction about making allowances for her weight. But I try to act like I'm a normal weight because I refuse to give in to thinking fat (which, at my weight, is pretty ridiculous!). So when a group of folks go tromping off somewhere, I gamely try to keep up, trying desperately not to let people know that my heart is pounding and my lungs feel like they're on fire and trying to keep the huffing and puffing from showing.

And then there's food. If there are 20 people at a table and all but one are normal size, when the hostess is clearing off the table and finds that there is just a bit of something left over, who do you think she asks to finish it? Not the anorectic, not one of the men at the table, but the fat person. "Bev? Are you sure you don't want to finish these potatoes?" (never the salad, always the potatoes--or the pasta--or the bread--or dessert) This does two things--is tempts you to have the one thing you shouldn't eat more of (but which, of course, you want because your stomach has long since forgotten how to tell when it's full), and it sets you apart as "the fat one."

Or the opposite happens. The hostess has made some horribly sinful dessert, but is a good friend of yours and will bring it out saying, "I know you shouldn't eat this, Bev, but just have a little..." or "Yes, I know you're on a diet, so I've made you this fruit cup to eat while the rest of us have this double chocolate cheesecake" The mere fact of making an issue of offering it or not offering it depending on whether or not I "should" have it again says to everyone: "Fat Person!" (As if they couldn't see that already anyway.) It's not that I don't want the dessert to be enjoyed by everyone else. I just don't want to have the finger of fat pointed at me. Let me decide for myself if I want or don't want the dessert. And then respect my decision. ("Are you SURE you don't want any...? It's very good...." or "Really? You know you shouldn't be eating that.")

And portions. The fat person gets served a larger portion and is usually the one the hostess asks "are you sure you got enough?"

You also feel embarrassed to be in a restaurant. If you eat something, you know people are saying "look at that fat woman stuffing her face."

How about chairs? You walk into a room and learn to immediately assess the situation-- which chairs will hold your weight, or which chairs you can get out of without too much embarrassment after you get into them. I've stood through entire picnics because the only chairs available were folding webbed lawn chairs and I was afraid I'd fall through them. Of course I tell the host that I just feel like standing. But I don't.

Booths in restaurants? Most of them don't allow enough space and the table cuts into your stomach throughout the meal. But of course, you can't let your companion know that you're too fat to fit, so you squeeze in. But how embarrassing at the end of a meal to discover that you can't move. You hope people don't notice the gyrations you are going through to try to slide across the booth seat in order to get out.

Getting up itself is a problem. On our recent trip to Washington, a group of us sat on the lawn at the Mall a couple of times. I hadn't gotten down that far in a long time and discovered that both getting down and getting back up again required assistance and was very embarrassing.

Getting dressed is a problem. It's difficult to reach my feet to put on socks. I tie my shoes at the side because I can't reach them by bending over. And I always tie in double knots so I won't run the risk of having to tie my shoes in public. Putting on slacks is likewise difficult because I'm too fat to balance on one foot while I put the other in my pants.

We won't go into fat jokes. (I refuse to tell or listen to fat jokes, blonde jokes, gay jokes, ethnic jokes or any joke that pokes fun at anybody. The person being made fun of is probably laughing, but inside they're dying. I am that person.)

Fat embarrasses me. Have you noticed how many times I've used that word? It's not the health aspects (though lord knows it should be). I haven't been to the doctor since I stopped working for a doctor's office, where I felt comfortable being examined. Our current HMO weighs you at every single appointment. The scale is in the middle of the reception area, and the nurse calls out the numbers as she weighs you. I have no fear of going to the doctor. I just don't want to be put on display as The Fat Woman and have my weight read out to everybody in the waiting room. (I also don't want to make an issue of it by asking that they not do that, so it's just easier not to go at all.)

Yes, it's my fault. I know it's my fault. I accept responsibility for allowing myself to get this fat. It's embarrassment that has finally brought me to this decision to take control of my weight and publish my efforts to the entire world. I don't want to embarrass myself any more, and I don't want to be an embarrassment to people who are with me. And by stating all this publicly, I'm not going to be able to change my mind in a week or so!

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It's two and a half years later and some of those circumstances have changed (though I still can't fit in Olivia's seatbelt! I think the car's designed for Twiggy). But it helps me to go back and read this from time to time to remind myself where I've come from and why I don't want to go back there again. I also think that from time to time, it's a good thing to let "civilians" (non-fat people) know what it's like to live in a fat body.

 

Quote of the Day

I've been on a constant diet for the last two decades. I've lost a total of 789 lbs. By all accounts, I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.

--Erma Bombeck

Picture of the Day

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The carpet finally got
installed today!

 

One Year Ago
Fire Drill

Two Years Ago
A Friend Indeed
(a tribute to my friend, Gilbert,
who died in 1986.
I still miss him.)


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Pounds Lost:  64.6
(this figure is updated on Tuesdays)

On the Odometer:  320.9
(-I haven't been biking much--it's too damn hot!!!)


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Created 7/12/02