I am an avid blog reader. Ms. Kelly Williams-Brown’s Adulting blog is one of my favorites, mainly because she is smart, and has no problem calling out ‘isms’ of any type. Although I am 20 years her senior, she is who I want to be when I grow up! On July 23rd she posted the title referenced quote made by her friend Kim, and has it been timely. Here it is if you would like to read it- you will find it here… http://adultingblog.com/post/56261745066
So- as some may know, I have been on several concurrent ‘healing paths’ in my life. The past 4 years I have been working hard to remedy the damage done to me after several serious health issues occurred in 2006, and other issues added to the weight gain I experienced. For the first time in my life, I became an emotional eater, and as a result… I was simply the largest I have ever been in my life. And I was aware of it every second of every day. And although I had a lot of confidence, I did not feel like me, and I did not look like me. The misuse of hormones and the steroids started it and my life blowing apart gave me the vulnerability to add that much more.
After losing approximately 80 lbs I stalled. I was running, lifting, doing cardio, burning butt… I was eating decent, and keeping my intake low carb, low fat, and at 1500 calories net. I was plateaued … losing and regaining the same 10-15 lbs over and over for many months. Although I was not longer morbidly obese, or obese, I was still overweight, Meeting with endocrinologist, we discussed options and after testing and lots of discussion, it appears that I have entered the metabolic slowdown that happens for some women post menopause. Makes sense, since I went through medically induced menopause in 2007. I reduced my calories to 1200 a day gross, and the weight began coming off.
But, and there is always a ‘but’ in my life it seems… I had a massive medical crisis that threatened my life. (You can find that here: http://tlhamrick.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/a-lesson-learned-just-in-time/ ). I had reached my goal weight and goal BMI. I was at a BMI of 20, and I was training, and was ready for, a 1/2 marathon. For me, my journey was not about a magic number on a scale. I just wanted to be at my best form, whatever that may be. Arguably, I was in the best physical shape of my life… but I was not. And I was very near death and did not know it. Long story short, I had an almost 11 lb tumor in my pelvic cavity… on my Fallopian tube. The cancer scare notwithstanding, if that THING would have ruptured… it would be like and ectopic pregnancy, and the septic fluid from the tumor would have also ensured that I would not have survived. After very invasive surgery to remove it, and a hard hospitalization full of gains and setbacks, I have had 6 weeks at home, pretty much just in veg mode trying to heal and deal with some of the lingering issues. This recovery has not been linear, and has been physically and emotionally difficult. The fall out emotionally and mentally from what happened… the physical toll… not knowing if certain things will ever return to pre-tumor function. Low blood pressure that results in dizziness and fainting. And, I have continued to lose weight. I am now at size that rivals or is smaller than I was when I was in high school or college and did not break 100 pounds. And even though I am 115-ish right now, I am a US Misses size 00. And I look rough. I know this… any time I catch a glimpse of myself I see it. When I am undressed I see my muscle mass leaving more and more each day- if I actually look… as I am often averting my gaze to avoid my horrendously disfigured stomach (thankfully colostomy free). I see how prominent my cheekbones are and that you can clearly see the lines of my jawbones. Even now as I type… if I stop to think about something, and prop my head on my hand under my chin or on my cheek… I feel it.
What I am finding really difficult is the reactions of people who mean well, who care about me… but after you hear something umpteen times a day, it is demoralizing…
“Are you done losing weight? I don’t think you should lose any more!”
“Well you look great, but you are way too thin!”
“Look how gaunt your face is!”
“Do you eat? Here … eat <this>!”
“What does your surgeon say about this?”
Yesterday and the day before I was at a work related membership meeting (I am transitioning back into work the past week and a half) and saw nearly 70 folks I have not seen for a while, some not since March, some not since my surgery. And to get the above nearly 40-50 times (I wish I were exaggerating) is hard at best. I am starting to simply dread large gatherings of people for this reason… But- we were in King of Prussia, that has the US’s second largest mall. Thursday night was ‘Ladies Night’ and a perfect night to pick up some clearance discounted clothing to get me through this period until I can build a bit of muscle mass again. When I was in my favorite store, they had a pair of petite pants in a size 00. I was so excited to get $70 pants for $15. As the sales associate was ringing them up, she commented she wanted to purchase those pants, and they would not pull up over her hips. I thought she was really, really tiny… and I was not sure why she said that to me. Was that meant to be a complement? Or some sort of insult?
Yesterday I was wearing a form-fitting dress, and was leaving my hotel. I passed a smartly dressed, middle-aged woman and she muttered, “Eat a cheeseburger” as I walked past her. Now, I had experienced something similar in the dressing room of the Limited, right before I got sick, and I had called the people out. I had a sales associate tell me in the most flip manner possible to ‘try the children’s section’ when I was looking for a wool coat. On my way down, especially after I had entered the single digit sizes, I am treated differently. I am no longer invisible to men, and I am apparently perceived to be part of the fat-shaming club. After all, my thighs do not touch. I was thin as a young person, and received really, really wrong/size-ist messages… and it was not until I spent over a decade in the world of the fat/obese that I understood how harmful and MEAN those messages really are. They are laden with loathing and shaming, all masquerading as ‘concern for health’. My absolute tipping point is the people who shame children for weight, and I have had friends who have struggled with their weight cruelly confront a young female relative because the child ‘needed to know she was fat’. Let me tell, you… the child knows. Every second of every day. And if she did not, I guarantee many of her classmates, teachers, and others around her have pointed it out. The clothing sizes have pointed it out. So has TV, radio, and social media. I have seen the memes that also shame skinny/thin women… that urges them to eat, that ‘real’ women have curves. I received an email on my birthday that a friend was avoiding me because I made her feel like a failure when she looked at me. And she was trying to pull two others into the conversation.
I have news for you. EVERY woman is a REAL woman. And those who will angrily and quickly jump to the same old, tired arguments that still do nothing but shame the person who dares not, or simply cannot due to genetics or health conditions, meet the ‘socially acceptable size and look’. And those who are outside the ‘beautiful people parameters of appearance’ also jump into the fray, attacking anyone who expresses uncertainty about their appearance, who dares to share some of the things I have shared in this blog. I was jokingly told by a friend that I lost the ability to talk about this when I dropped below the ‘overweight’ status. I have had folks jokingly say they wish they had my problem (that I am so thin, and keep losing weight even though I do not want to and it is causing me issues).
Really? You would like to find out on a Tuesday that you have a huge Ovarian tumor, and with your particular situation parameters, be told that the chance of it being benign are almost nil to nonexistent and that 5 year survival rates are extremely poor? You would like to be told on Wednesday that if it ruptures prior to surgery, the outcome is most likely certain death? How about on Thursday that you will wake up with a colostomy and have an incision that bisects you from public bone to just under your sternum? Watching your friends’ fear and tears? I am not even going to go into the past several weeks of the hell of recovery.
The message is clear. Especially as a woman, our bodies are not ‘ours’. We are objectified, and we are policed. What we eat, what we don’t. What we wear and what size it is. Our value is conceptualized by our appearance… and there is an ugly side to each space you can occupy. Whether you are thin, underweight, overweight, obese… there is a role that can be unthinkingly played to be covertly aggressive to others. And the only people who can stop this is US. Again, for the smug/indignant who loudly protest that it is not a form of misogyny, elitism, lookism, or any other form of discrimination or bigotry… this is the use of power and control. This appears to be one the last bastions that it is okay to hate on…
Oh… wait it is not. Marriage equality… Rape culture and institutionally propagated misogyny… racism… classism… need I go on?
ENOUGH. Once again, if you cannot touch it, you do not get to have an opinion on it. And my body is just that, MINE. And I will actively call this out from this point forward … each time. My worth is not defined by the scale or the mirror. No one’s is… or should be.
You cannot win any way you go…