A friend recently posted this article on Facebook – “An open letter from Piers Morgan to Tess Holliday: Stop lying to yourself Tess – you’re morbidly obese and it’s going to kill you“.
The next day, another friend sent me this article – “Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong“.
As someone who has legitimately struggled with weight her entire life (and still does), I got very fired up about this topic. Read both articles, if you’re interested. But Ima tell you what I know from experience on the larger woman’s side of the fence.
<Climbs on Soapbox>
Women who are obese don’t need “help” understanding that they are overweight, or that “diet and exercise” are important. WE KNOW THAT.
The vast majority of us also know what it feels like to try and try and never be able to achieve what everyone thinks we should. We know what it feels like to have EVERY medical ailment we encounter blamed on weight alone, when our “fit” friends get a lot of non-weight-related, helpful suggestions. We know what it feels like to spiral into self hate and shame, and feel like we will never be good enough for anyone – especially ourselves.
Do I applaud laziness or ignoring your overall health? No. But size alone DOES NOT determine activity levels or health.
I’m a few BMI points away from being labeled as “morbidly obese” – though I’m nowhere near Ms. Holliday’s 300lbs. (Don’t get me started on the flaws of BMI). I also exercise 4-5 times per week and love riding my road bike with my husband. I am very conscious of what I eat and have identified the situations in which I am likely to overeat. I understand what types of foods are best for me nutritionally. I have healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. I’ve never smoked. I don’t drink much alcohol or soda. I drink tons of water.
This is not to say I’m perfect (far from it!), but the point is – my current BMI and weight are NOT a reflection of a person who is lazy, lacks motivation, doesn’t understand nutrition and exercise or who hasn’t made long-term lifestyle changes in the name of weight loss.
But someone who doesn’t know me wouldn’t guess that any of this is true.
Culture, people like Piers Morgan and (most disheartening of all), doctors, beat me over the head every day with the message that EVERYTHING would be better if I would just lose the weight. They rarely ask or consider what I’m doing or what I’ve tried in the past – they just look at my body and assume I need to be educated about “healthy living”.
Have you ever gone to the doctor for a bad cold and left with a 10-page brochure, stapled to the back of your visit summary, about “how to achieve a healthy weight”, even though weight wasn’t discussed at all during your appointment? I have.
Have you ever started having back pain (without a change in weight), and been told by your doctor that you “just need to lose weight”, with no other suggestions or concern? I have.
I’ve paid thousands of dollars to trainers, counselors and other professionals in hopes of fitting into the sizes I’m told I SHOULD be wearing.
It’s a subtle but incredibly common, insidious message sent to millions of women every day – weight is the problem and you are a failure because you haven’t lost it.
The truth is that a woman’s weight is a very complex issue, one that is individual to each of us and extends beyond simple diet and exercise “rules”. Our bodies need different things on different days. We each metabolize food differently. Most of us navigate through stress, hormonal fluctuations and medications on a regular basis – all of which impact our weight. There are major mental components, too – self-hatred over weight can lead to depression, which can cause weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
Life is short. If I never lose another pound, I’d much rather find a place of self-acceptance than continue to beat myself up in order to acquiesce to the demands of an increasingly cruel and judgmental culture.
P.S. Piers – I’m sure all the overweight women out there really feel like you get it, since your doctor wants you to lose 15lbs, you work out 3-4 times per week and you’ve filled us in on the fact that “losing weight isn’t easy”. Color me inspired!