27 February 2014

"Have you EMBRACED ..."?

Anyone who has followed this blog for any period of time knows a few things about me: I am a diabetic foodie, who LOVES food, which (to me) is the ultimate proof that God has a sense of humor. As a result of my love of food (and my habit of late night snacks), over the last two decades of my life, I have ... blossomed ... into a "voluptuous" sister. As a child, teenager and young adult, I was (for lack of a better word) SKINNY. Looking back at pictures from that time period of my life, I often refer to myself as "a stick with boobs" or "anorexic looking" (and that was before we even knew what anorexia was). But you couldn't tell me (back then) how cute I was. Yeah, I had a bit of a vanity problem. But then, I hit the age of 30 - my metabolism slowed down AND my health took a hit which led me to have the first of two major surgeries relating to my ... "female parts". As a result of my first surgery, I was placed on Lupron, a steroidal medication that "helped" me gain ~40 pounds in about 6 weeks. And that is when I discovered the following fact: PEOPLE DON'T LIKE FAT PEOPLE. And they will be sure to let you know this - often in very unkind ways.

So, why am I even bringing this up? Earlier this week on Facebook, an ex-boyfriend of mine posed a question on his Wall: "Is fat the last acceptable prejudice since it's the only one you can do something about?" He went on to say that being a bigot or to gay bash has become unacceptable in today's society and that "fat shaming" seems to be the only prejudice that people can hold without being called into account for it. The comments that people posted were eye-opening, and it soon became very clear that if you live in America and are not a size minus zero, (especially if you are a woman) you have been a victim of "fat shaming" in one way or another.

Here's what I posted in response to his question: "Years ago, after my first surgery, when I put on over 40 pounds in a very short amount of time due to steroid medications, I found out the true HORROR of "fat prejudice". My beloved grandfather went from calling me "Sweetie Face" to "Moon Face"; my grandmother would ask me EVERY SUNDAY on our weekly call, "So, how fat are you now?"; I was asked, more times than I want to remember, when was the baby due - or told "Man! you used to be so skinny and cute"; and when I went to Alumni Weekend, I overheard someone tell a friend of mine who'd gained a lot of weight, "Man! I heard you were fat, but I didn't know you were THAT fat!" And all this stuff was said in a way like, you (as the recipient) were just supposed to smile and take it. People look at others who are overweight or plump or obese or (my new word for it) voluptuous - and make assumptions about why that person is that way, and most of the time, what you may be thinking is not the truth of the matter at all."

He responded: "I can only imagine the horror. The second part of my comment I will take up with you in private."

Never one to shy away from a "difficult" conversation, I called him up to find out what else he wanted to know. To say I was shocked by his follow up question is an understatement. "I hear what you said, but what I want to know is have you embraced your current weight situation because you seem to post a lot of pictures of your food and you talk about food a lot, so I just want to know if you have embraced, or just accepted being fat at this point in your life?" I literally had to pause, take a deep breath and count (very quickly) to ten before I opened my mouth to respond. (Even as I type this, I'm breathing kinda heavy).

Let me just say (sort of in his defense), I know my friends very well, and while that question may sound insensitive and harsh, I honestly believe that he was asking from a point of blunt curiosity and from a need to have a clearer understanding of the issue - as it relates to me. I applaud him for having enough sensitivity to NOT ask that question on the very public forum of Facebook, and for "pulling me aside" to have a private conversation about an issue that is very personal, and sometimes painful. Weight is just one of those subjects that I either don't discuss or when I do, it is in a joking, "you cannot hurt me by talking about my weight" kind of way. And I am not the only one who struggles with this. I have a friend who recently posted on her page about how she'd indulged in a Krispy Kreme donut - for the first time in MONTHS! The abuse (and there is NO other word for what happened) she received from "well-meaning friends" because she DARED to eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. (ok, maybe it was more than one - but still!) Upon reading some of the comments, I immediately picked up the phone and called her so that I could talk her down off the ledge. She is a BEAUTIFUL woman, inside and out, and if she wanted to eat the whole store of doughnuts - so what! Why is it anyone else's business or concern? And why do people feel they just have the right to chime in and say whatever they want to others, in whatever way they want to say it? Because as my friend's initial post indicated, someone's weight (and whatever they did to get to that weight) is open fodder on the "I'm better than you" prejudice acceptability meter. "Fat shaming" someone is OK in today's society because OBVIOUSLY this is something that is within the person's control and since they cannot effectively control it, let's joke about it and/or make them feel ashamed (or bad about) themselves, which in turn will help me feel better about myself. But as I said earlier, making assumptions like that can be based in error. You don't know where that person is coming from, or what has led to where they appear to be now.

Back to my follow up conversation with my friend. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that a lot of my food postings are deliberate middle finger extensions to my "skinny Minnie friends" who always post about how many miles they ran in a single day, or how they are doing a cleanse for the third straight month, or how they are somehow existing by eating lettuce and drinking water - good for them, but that is not the way I choose to live my life when there is lasagna to be eaten and buttermilk bars to be enjoyed with a tall cup of coffee laden with Sweet Italian Creme creamer. I shared with him that I don't post the pictures of the salads that I eat on a regular basis, or talk about how I've changed my drinking habits to include more (and I do mean, MORE) water every day - because it's no one's business and I don't want to hear the "noise" about how much weight I've lost or how much better I should be feeling or whatever the more physically fit among my friends would love to say to me. (Oh, and for the record, CONSTANTLY commenting to someone (ok, to me) about how much weight they've lost or telling them EVERY TIME YOU SEE THEM "Girl, whatever you're doing you need to keep on doing it!" - is just as aggravating and in a way, condescending.)

But back to his question: Have I "embraced my fat"? Nope. However, I have learned that it is much more important to me that I enjoy life to the fullest - and as long as my health is not negatively impacted by my choices, that is what I intend to do. For the record, I just had a health assessment and all my numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting sugars) were well within "normal" range. While I need to work on my weight and BMI number, the nurse practitioner told me, "you are doing good. While everyone is focused on your outside, the most important thing to consider is how is the "inside" of you working - and your insides are doing just fine."

Which reminds me of a Bible text. I Samuel 16:7 (NIV) states: "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I, for one, am glad glad glad that God looks past my voluptuousness and sees the core of me: the heart yearning to be more like Him, despite the temptations and obstacles that I allow to come between me and reaching that goal. I wish His children would do the same.

Be blessed.

© 2014 Kristina E. Smith