The one question I kept asking myself: How in hell did I get this big?
We all live our lives by labels. Those governed by birth are immovable. Whether you’re a baby-boom, Gen-X or millennial, you’ll be one for the rest of your life, even if you lie about it. Some birth labels, like nationality, look permanent but can be changed, and some we have even more say on, at least in theory. I’ve lived with one label too long.
If there is a word in the language I hate, that’s the one. Clinically, it means someone whose Body Mass Index is higher than 30; when the extra weight can really starts to compromise someone’s health. But to the many non-medical people, obesity is a character flaw, not evidence of a health problem, a weakness in someone else that can be exploited.
60 lbs. down and I’m still OMG obese
And that kind of thinking can be hell to live with when you’re obese.
See, part of the pain of being really big is how that kind of treatment undercuts your confidence. Graduate with honors? Yeah, but you’re still obese. Complete a 5K? Doesn’t matter if you’re big as a house. Lose more than a hundred of those extra pounds? Well, that’s a really good effort darlin’, keep up the good work, but don’t think that you’ve earned my respect. Only thin people qualify for that.
For the last 30 years or so, I’ve listened to that old song while I rode the roller coaster of weight gain. And, as the scale numbers went up, my sense of self-worth plummeted. Like lots of other overweight people, I tried to compensate for my size by being smarter, funnier and nicer. Inside, I just got more tired, sadder, and fatter. So, instead of learning about getting healthy, I learned about the degrees of obesity. I watched myself morph from an obese woman into severely obese one, then morbidly obese, and finally super obese.
Overweight, yes, but, #ObeseNoMore
I also learned all my compensation efforts didn’t work. Those who liked me liked me at any weight; everyone else turned away. Eventually, my fat almost became an invisibility cloak. See, many people don’t like to look at fat ladies huffing and puffing along, so they turn a blind eye to us. Even when we get into trouble. Part of me hated becoming invisible but, to tell the truth, by that point, I was working hard not to notice myself. Between that and turning a deaf ear to anything that sounded like negative criticism, I didn’t realize how my health was deteriorating until I was in very bad shape. When I couldn’t look away any longer.
Funny thing was, my visibility as a person started returning (along with my physical strength) as I slowly descended the obesity ladder. All of the sudden I could walk long distances again, run and cross my knees. But, for all of the improvement, I still was measured by that old label: obese. It felt like a death sentence.
Then, a few weeks ago, the scale numbers dropped again, and my Body Mass Index fell below the dreaded 30. If you looked at me, I doubt if you could tell the difference but a burden’s been lifted. I’m still too heavy but that label with dread connotations no longer applies to me. After 30 years, it’s the sun just rose and it feels like a whole new day.