Look Ma, no sleeves! And something slightly deeper, too.

Well, I don’t actually have a picture. So, maybe “look” isn’t the right imperative. But “Read Ma, no sleeves!” doesn’t have the same ring to it. But I wore a sleeveless dress today to work, with a shrug over it, and the sleeveless is a bright fuchsia-orchid color, sort of like this. I bought it on clearance from Lane Bryant (don’t judge), it’s 97% cotton and 3% Lycra and it has a wrap top with a ruffle around the collar. I got many compliments on the dress and the color.

I continue to feel better.

Speaking of non sequiturs, I have a specific memory that I want to share. Get comfy, then, and read on.

The year was 1995. (Cue “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette). It was a warm, partly cloudy spring day in the San Fernando Valley. Here’s what I remember: I’m standing on Burbank Blvd. in Van Nuys, in front of my friend’s apartment. We had returned from a day at the park with friends. It had been about a year since I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and I was 26.5 years old. My friend, of a similar age, who had ranged in her life from a slightly chubby teen and young adult (which is sufficiently difficult to bear when one lives in the San Fernando Valley and travels in the circles my friend did) to a slim young woman in her later 20s to the present.

Me: “I’m thinking that I’m not going to lose any more weight for a while. I think I want to try to stay where I am right now.”

Friend: “Why not keep going? It’s going to be better for you, and you’re doing great.”

I had lost about 65 pounds in that year, going from around 250 pounds when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and riding a trajectory of fear and self-loathing, lost around 12 pounds the first month I was diagnosed, and then about 8 to 10 pounds a month for a few months, and then things slowed down. Even though I was exercising about 2.5-3 hours a day, eating around 1500 calories a day, falling asleep at work, exhausted from my 5:30 a.m. workouts. I have pictures from that day, and the thing is, I still look fat. I look healthy, vibrant, fit, happy. And fat. Because even with the 65 pound weight loss, I was still 60 pounds higher than the weight needed for a “normal” BMI.

Today, I weigh 206 pounds. Or so. I still think of myself as “at risk” of regaining weight back up to that 250 pound place, and I did “rebound” there slowly, more slowly than I lost the weight in the first place, after that big weight loss. I am grateful that the fear from the diabetes diagnosis propelled me beyond my fear of looking foolish for exercising in public, and got me to start swimming, walking, even running a bit, and made me question the mental image I had of myself as non-athletic. I don’t obsess about the fear of regaining weight, as I know the differences in what I do now and what I was doing then, at age 25, and what I wasn’t doing (in terms of fitness). I also take medications that appear to address some of the underlying stuff that contributes to both high blood sugar and weight gain, so that’s working in my favor in terms of staying basically where I am. I feel a little weird talking about weight loss here in the fatosphere, but I also feel as though our fat experiences aren’t monolithic, and I don’t need to gloss over this aspect of my life in order to belong.

But what stood out for me about this memory is this: Until and unless I was in that very slim range, I was always going to be “fat.” And even then, it would be a constant struggle and worry. It wasn’t long after that conversation with my friend, who I was hoping would be supportive of me continuing to maintain rather than trying to lose more weight, that I started eating chocolate bars again, and skipping workouts, because there was this futility to it. (Also, that’s what overexercising and restricting food does after a while — it send messages to the body to take corrective action). So, now, I don’t overexercise or overeat, and I’m able to stay where I am due to many changes in my life that are intentional and accidental and pharmaceutical.

If I had an extra few hours a day — say I only had to work part-time — I don’t know if I would spend all of them exercising or setting my life up in such a way as to eat less, or at least, consume fewer calories. I would like to think I would start reading novels again, or write more, or spend more time with my daughter, or all of those things. But for now, I’m not unsatisfied with the balance I have, given that I have to work a 40 hour week.

But I think there’s an aspect of fat hatred that makes it “not worth it” when weight comes off due to changes in lifestyle. There are certainly benefits to moving more and eating in different patterns, in reducing stress and generally getting more happiness, that can, at times, lead to a shift in weight as a side effect, depending on where a person is starting from, eating habits and exercise-wise. And, when this happens, there’s this carrot of acceptance held out there, but it’s held out there so far, far beyond the amount of weight that might shift from gentle, reasonable changes, that it functions as a disincentive.

If the idea that people of all weights and sizes are acceptable, and there’s no special club that one gets to join once one reaches a certain weight (I’m reminded of the Eddie Murphy SNL sketch White Like Me) — then the disincentive disappears. The “thin privilege gap” is very wide, indeed.

I have more to say, but I’m going to stop now. And hopefully, I’ll be back soon.


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