Trigger warnings: mentions of weight loss and diet culture, fatphobia from people including doctors, discussion of eating disorders and suicidal thoughts
I’ve been thinking about this post for quite a while, but I finally decided to write it. This is for a couple of reasons – I just got engaged, and weight loss is a big thing in the wedding industry. Also, I just finished reading an ARC of Sofie Hagen’s book Happy Fat. It was brilliant, and it made me think a lot about how much weight and diet culture has impacted my mental health.
When I was around 8 or 9, I remember being teased in ballet class for my weight. The instructor told the other girls off, and said “Wendy will be beautiful once she loses that puppy fat.” Aka, equating thinness to beauty. And it’s all kind-of gone downhill since then.
I know I am privileged, in many ways. I am a smallfat. I am white. I am not physically disabled. However, I have encountered my share of fatphobia. I’ve been told that my fiancee will leave me, because I’ve got bigger. I’ve been told that no one will respect me in the workplace, because I am fat. I now have to usually shop for clothes online, because high street clothes stores don’t carry clothes in my size. When I eat in public, I feel watched and judged, particularly when I am with my fiancee, as he is in very good shape. I can feel people wondering why he settled for me.
This is really interesting, because I also know what it feels like to be thin – what it feels like to be considered conventionally attractive. I’ve talked about this before, but I thought it was worth mentioning again. In my second year of university, I went down to a UK dress size 6. (I am currently a size 18-20). This wasn’t on purpose, but rather because I wasn’t eating, because I was suicidal. It was a really difficult time, because in some ways I felt incredible (aka, being thin) and in many others I felt awful (fainting all the time, feeling suicidal). I was told that I looked amazing. I got attention from men (as I outwardly appeared to be straight). I was able to wear all sorts of clothes that I’d never been able to before.
As I got better, I gained weight. And when I went on medication for my psychosis, I gained a lot more. (It’s a common side-effect). My weight has gone up and up over the past two years, from the medication and not being able to move for a while because I broke my ankle. It has gone up because I lived alone for a year, and I have difficulty summoning the energy to cook healthy meals for myself, or convincing myself that I deserve to eat. It has gone up because when I’m with my fiancee I do believe that I deserve to eat, and to eat things that I like. In some ways, my weight has gone up because I am now mentally much better.
It is difficult, because I feel like I am pressured to lose weight by many people, who do not consider that this would be extremely bad for my mental health. My doctor, for example, mentioned this a couple of weeks ago. I told her that I had no doubt that this would trigger my disordered eating, as I tend to use food to punish myself. She didn’t really seem to care. (I might at some point write a blog post about why losing weight is not necessary, and is the result of the diet industry looking to make money from people’s self-hatred. So I’m not going to go into that here.)
She didn’t seem to care that I have struggled with my mental health, and with my disordered eating. (Not that I’ve worked on everything yet). In many ways, I feel that a lot of people would rather me be thin and extremely mentally unwell – or dead – than fat and doing well. And that’s really fucked up.