The Journey is not just physical, its mental, emotional, and psychological. Over the months, I have talked about my sense of self: my changing body, the clothes, the face and I have talked about the emotional side of those topics.
One of the ongoing conversations I have with people is about “Why people are fat” and it is often a hard topic to discuss. For many, if not most people, weight gain, and being overweight or obese is considered a failing. A Failing of control, of discipline, a failing of taking care of themselves. We see this mentality all over media and in our lives. This idea is encapsulated in the quote by Congressman Mo Brook (R-AL) about not funding pre-existing conditions like obesity or diabetes n the US Healthcare system;
“it [creating high risk pools] offsets all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives. They’re healthy. They’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”
I have come up on this argument a lot, and in many different ways. The idea that being overweight is solely a persons choice, or the result of bad decisions is a tough one. In my daily life, I get variations of this argument all the time, and I find that I often have to defend bigger people, even those who *are* being unhealthy and making poor decisions.
On one hand, being overweight and obese makes you a greater risk for Cancer. There are other issues associated with being Obese all of which can be a detriment to your health. Being overweight is not a death sentence, but it begins the stack the odds against you in terms of long term health and happiness. Also, coming from a community that embraces the “body beautiful” theme, no matter what size, there is that push and pull about loving bigger men, but also recognising that it may be detrimental later in life. I have previously talked about the fear and trouble about losing weight in the Bear Community, and I think I hold onto my defense of “big is beautiful” strongly because of that.
I also know that we are not in an Obesity Epidemic world wide because people make bad decisions or are lazy, or whatever. Worldwide Obesity levels are rising with 1/7th of the world considered overweight or Obese. So this is not just an American issue, or just an issue in the West. This is a health issue that affects the world. This is less about poor choices, and more about how we educate people, how we frame the food and exercise debate, and how we change our relationship with food from a consumer level. There needs to be systemic change in how we make mass produced food and drinks so that the factors that can lead to obesity is minimised and taken away.
The problem is that you can’t have that conversation every time someone says “They are fat because they made poor choices” It is esoteric, and it is such a large issue that people just glaze over it, which doesn’t help. It also goes into the old arguments of the responsibility of businesses in the realm of societal movements and personal buying (and eating) choices and that never ending fight.
I try to explain that for many people, they didn’t have a choice in their size. From their biology to their upbringing, to age, to their socio-economic status and more, the factors that set in motion their current weight may have started well before they (or anyone) knew the effects of their actions. And when people *want* to change, then there are factors working against them, even from their own bodies.
This is why surgery, at least for me, was *the* tool I needed to help me win this battle. It took surgery for my body to align with what I mentally wanted; to be thinner. The surgery was only a tool that helped change how my body reacted and processed food, and because of that along with my mental attitude and determination to lose weight, I have been able to lose double what is considered the normal weight loss for my surgery type. I would not have been able to lose 58 kilos and maintain my sanity or stay healthy if it were not for the surgery.
And it affects me as well.
In the past, I have seen several “ex fat” people become very judgmental on other bigger people. I remember, back in Sydney, someone I knew lost a top of weight, became a personal trainer, and then berate all of his former bigger friends for not losing weight. As I lose weight, I am super conscious about not falling into that trope. While my journey has been transformational for me, there are others who are not ready, or don’t want to. There are people I know who strive to become bigger, I have friends who love the size they are. My new found weight loss may not be the goal for someone else right now, and I think it is important that my journey, and other people’s journey will be different. We will have different trials and tribulations. It is also important to keep an open and empathetic mind towards everyone; not every big person needs an intervention, and not every skinny person is the paragon of health.
Every time I hear “People are fat because of *insert reason here*” I hope that I will always try and defend and be even handed in my response. Life, and bodies are much more complicated than “lazy” or “choices” or whatever criticism people want to place on them.