Isn’t it funny how when we align with our true selves the Universe has a way of throwing some confirmation up for us? I will share a story I wrote recently below with you but first I want to share the things that have come up since I wrote it last week.
Bill Maher, an American talk show host, made a call on his show last week for Fat Shaming to make a comeback, Piers Morgan wholeheartedly agreed with him. He called for others to call out fat people and to do it loudly and publicly. This led to James Corden making a video that responded to Bill’s calls. What it interesting is that the two men work in the same building and often cross paths, but Bill had never once fat shamed James. Of course, there is a need to court controversy for the sake of ratings, but that doesn’t make the hurt felt by those under attack any less real.
Then a couple of days later a friend sent me this story about J K Rowling and it seemed that the stars had aligned to make this subject a thing on people’s lips once more. There are many ways that the body positivity movement has made progress, promoting a healthy and positive view of our amazing bodies without promoting one way of being over another. Body positivity is not about endorsing fat, or thin or any particular way of being, it is about accepting and loving ourselves and each other just as we are right now, in this very moment.
And on that note here is some of what I have to say on the matter.
This has been a long time coming and it has taken me a lot to get this down on paper as it is a very personal thing and I don’t share personal things that easily.
There is a saying ‘I am not fat, I have fat’ and I think that is true, but we use the term fat as an adjective and, more often, as a slur, accusation or judgement. It seems that as far a social convention goes, FAT is the thing that upsets people the most. Of course, we have unrealistic images of what bodies should look like, especially female bodies. Young girls and boys now think it is normal to have to parade themselves and their bodies on social media for acceptance, without the slightest idea of what message is being received, and often not the one being conveyed.
We should be proud of our bodies because they are amazing, awesome, inspiring, creative, intricate and wonderful things. They get us through each day with the minimum of maintenance and we abuse them for it, we take them for granted and we ignore what they tell us. What else could get through a whole day without being fuelled, maintained and even appreciated the same way a body does?
So how do you hide if you are fat? Well very often the very fact that someone is overweight can be them hiding in plain sight and I know for me that this rings very true. The bigger we make ourselves the more we are able to hide from all those things we have buried down, deep inside that we are too afraid to confront, so we hide from them in layers of flesh and food and comfort and loathing. And so often it is because we do not know how to unhide. Well for the last 2 years I have been working on unhiding and here are some of the reasons why and some of the ways I have done it. Well I say done it, but it is very much a work in progress and the unhiding has only really just begun.
I have never, until recently, felt fat! Anyone who knows me knows that I am definitely fat, and it is definitely obvious that I am fat, and I should know about that fact. But knowing it and acknowledging it and even feeling it are all very different things. It is only really in the last 2 years that I realise I am not comfortable in my body anymore and I am not comfortable in the world. In fact, I cannot recall the last time I felt comfortable at all, not in my clothes, in my bed, on my couch, in the car, at a café, the cinema, the theatre, a restaurant or anywhere else I might need to ‘fit’ in. I actively avoid going to places I cannot check out first in case they don’t have chairs that will hold me. I check everything out before I attend to make sure that there are chairs with no arms, or seats that will adjust, or cinemas that have a ‘luxury’ option that still requires me to squeeze in.
I am used to sitting in a public place and working out my route to the toilet, or the bar, or the door with military precision, having calculated the spaces between people, furniture, fixtures and much more. So when other people move out my way as I approach it annoys me, and it annoys me for two reasons, one is that you never have to move out of a fat persons way because they already know, with military precise certainty, that they can get past you, otherwise they would not have walked that way. And two because you moving out the way implies I do not know how big I am, trust me when I tell you that you never have to tell a fat person how big they are, the world reminds them in a thousand ways every day.
Now I am not advocating that the world needs to adjust, far from it. But in truth the ‘one size fits all’ mentality must be just as annoying for short, tall, thin, disabled, pregnant, old people too. I have noticed, however that most groups of people who do not fit into the ‘one size fits all’ world usually get met with sympathy rather than scorn and derision. Here is a conversation that happened recently to me.
I was at a meeting in a public building – very tall man walks into a room I am standing in cos the chairs have arms and they will not fit me.
Worker (on seeing tall man) – Oh can I get you a different chair as ours are bolted to the floor and you will struggle to fit it
Tall man – yes thank you
Me – oh could I get one too please?
Worker – of course
Random other man – pfft you want to lose some weight if you want to sit down
Me – Pardon?
RM – well no wonder you can’t fit in the seat look at the size of you. At least he can’t help his height (indicating very tall man, who looks shocked but says nothing)
Me – I’m sorry but how is this any of your business?
RM – it’s my business cos the NHS is being bled dry by fatties. I have to pay for you to stay healthy while you sit all day and stuff your face with food. It’s about time you lost weight and stopped draining the NHS of money
Me – I will lose weight once the cancer has gone
RM (looking mortified) – oh I am so sorry I had no idea
Me – of course you had no idea because you know nothing about me. I don’t have cancer, but it is okay for me to be overweight if I did? How is that logical? If it’s okay to be overweight because you have cancer, then why not some other reason?
RM – (says nothing)
Me – You have no idea what people are going through, what their experiences are and why they choose to be the way they are, and the reason is because it is none of your business and you have absolutely no right to comment on people’s bodies, their weight or even their height. So please don’t ever do this again.
RM – (mumbles) I’m sorry
Me – thank you I accept your apology it’s just a shame it wasn’t as loud as your condemnations
I would like to say this is a one off, that this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, that there are very few people out there that act like this. I would like to, but I can’t, because this is a familiar event, this happens more frequently than you would dare to believe, and not just to me. I want to be clear that this happens for other reasons too, not just when someone is fat, but for me that is what provokes it and I can only talk about me.
What I really wanted to do is scream in this man’s face about the real reason I am fat, the real reason I am hiding in plain sight, the real reason I do not prioritise my own body and my own health and well being as much as I should. I want to scream at him about all the ways I hide my emotions, my reactions, my hurt, my confusion and my self loathing. I want to scream at this man that it isn’t my fault, that I didn’t cause this, that I need to be heard and not be ignored in equal measure but that I am better at the former than the latter. I want to scream in this man’s face that this is the result of turning off my responses to the outside world via my own body, I want to scream so much at him so that he understands and so that he sees me, but at this moment I go back into my protective shell and carry on as the shame and embarrassment we both feel hangs heavily in the air. I truly want the ground to open up and swallow me right now and I want the humiliation of my own perceived failings to conform, to burn away forever, but they don’t because I would need to unhide for that to happen.
And that brings me neatly to here and one of the reasons for writing this and sharing this (although right now I am not sure I can, or I will. Right now I am wondering what friend’s responses will be, how it might harm my business, how I will react if people offer empathy and sympathy and kind words, I wonder how to be vulnerable enough to share when the world has shown me that is never a good idea, but if you are reading this then I guess I found my courage)
I am fat because I don’t want to be seen, I don’t want to be attractive and sexy, I don’t want to be someone people take much notice of, I don’t want to draw attention to myself, I don’t want to be hurt or vulnerable, I want be invisible, and for most of the time fat makes that happen. But 6 years ago, I acknowledged that I wanted to know myself more, I wanted to find out why I had cut communication with my own body, with my own desires, with my own hopes and dreams. I would love to say that it has been an easy journey, but it hasn’t, but for the last two years I have been working on myself daily. I have been working with lots of modalities and with lots of talented and caring therapists (who have most commonly been called Jennifer!) and now I think sharing this with you all is the next step to unhiding even more.
I switched off my body responses at the age of 18 months old, I put up a barrier to others as a self-preservation mechanism and I am only now learning how to deconstruct that. At the age of 18 months old I was sexually abused by a friend of the family, the type you called Uncle, and this continued till I was three and a half. Because of this abuse I have come to realise that I have unresolved issues including (but not limited to) anger, hurt, resentment, fear, loathing, trust, confusion, terror, trauma and more I may yet encounter. But I also know that I have never felt calmer, more at ease and more powerful than I do right now. I know there is so much more to work on and so much more to unpack but I also know that it is a journey and that it takes as long as it takes. I have recently started counselling and I have no idea what it is doing for me and I could not explain or quantify these sessions but know that something is shifting and that something is crumbling.
I am very lucky to have worked with some amazing therapists in breaking this down over the last 2 years and I have worked through the abuse, the perpetrator, my family, my response, and now finally I am working through the legacy of what was left behind, what I carried with me, what I still carry with me, and what I need to get rid of and heal and whole and most importantly what I choose each and every day for me and my body. I feel strong but in a calm way, the way you feel when doing a really hard jigsaw puzzle, but you have suddenly got to the place you can visualise the end result and are confident you have all the pieces in the right place so far.
I am finally ready to unhide and to fit into the world, I am finally ready to acknowledge all my feelings, all my hurts and all my vulnerability, and yes it will be a process, and yes it will be one step forward two steps back at times, but at least I am on the right path and that is what is important.
So remember the next time you see someone fat, or thin, or tall, or small, or any goddamn way they are, don’t judge, don’t comment, don’t assume, don’t get upset or annoyed cos really you have no idea what is going on and ultimately it is none of your fucking business anyway. However, if you want to be kind, be kind, that is always appreciated.
p.s. a couple of things I want to share
- I have not had a Dr for the last 17 years and have interacted with NHS24 twice in that time – so I hope that isn’t too much of a drain on their resources. I choose to take responsibility for my own health and do that proactively rather than re actively using homeopathy, herbal supplements and therapies.
- I would like to acknowledge some of the amazing therapists who have helped me to this point, including but not limited to:- Jennifer Rose, Jacqueline Adams Enerjise Therapies, Heidi Grillo Mandala Flow, Jen Wood Jen Wood Wellbeing, my counsellor at Moira Anderson Foundation, Antonia Newlands and all the friends who have truly listened when needed.
Jacqueline Munro is a Therapist, Trainer & Writer based in Glasgow, Scotland