A few weeks ago I shared this image on my personal Facebook timeline:
To which my Facebook friend replied:
This particular friend happens to be a health professional, although not my health professional! So here is my response:
Basically I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been in terms of body and mind – strong, more resilient, more positive sense of self, able to enjoy high impact exercise regularly (for years now). But I’m fat. Very fat. ‘Morbidly obese’ fat. I shouldn’t have to justify my fatness by saying “but I exercise and eat healthy food”. I’ve been lucky enough to have no medical conditions linked to my weight, 2 healthy pregnancies and births. I’m reasonably well educated and have always had a job since leaving school. Yet society sees my body shape as a problem. It urks me a little.
Before my wedding I was not in my current body confident mindset and I did what I thought was the standard, socially expected pre-wedding diet to drop a few dress sizes ahead of my big day. I can’t even remember which diets I did but I had some success and lost a stone or so. My doctor then offered me some (now banned appetite suppressant) to give me an extra boost. I took these for almost a year, I dropped about 4 stone and was the thinnest I’d ever been in my adult life at a size 16/18.
I thought I looked pretty good but emotionally I was a mess. The pills made me anxious, stressed, unable to sleep – they were making me ill! When I came off them I joined an NHS weight loss group and followed their programme but was unable to maintain the weight and managed to put some back on before I got married. It had little bearing on how happy and amazing I felt on my wedding day.
Both mentally and physically, I was definitely less healthy when I was thinner. Not to mention the risks attached to the medication I had been taking. I appreciate that there might be a time in my future when I may be healthier AND thinner than I am now but that will not come from society telling me that I’m a fat, ugly, lazy, worthless, unhealthy human being. It will not come from a crash diet or from excessive exercise because all of those things will have an overall negative impact on my emotional wellbeing. If it were to happen it would be from a place of self-love and self-care…and if it doesn’t I will make the most of the body I have now. I’m not going to hate it any longer!
I guess my Facebook friend is right – it probably is just as inappropriate to suggest fat is healthy as to comment on someone’s health without knowing their medical history, just the same as it can be wholly inappropriate to comment on how healthy someone looks if they lose a lot of weight. I recently overheard a conversation between two breast cancer survivors who were commenting on how their weight loss as a result of their gruelling chemo and surgery was in some way a benefit of having cancer. It’s great that they’ve found a silver lining but seriously – surely society should see that’s a terrifying way to think!
It’s not just the cancer patients either. I have friends or acquaintances who have lost weight due to depression, bereavement, stress, eating disorders, excessive drug or alcohol use and other illnesses who have had comments made about how ‘well’ they look because they no longer inhabit a fat body. These are just more examples of the fallacy that fatness equates to poor health.
My point is that you cannot judge an individual’s health by just looking at the skin they live in. Good health and wellbeing is made up of lots of different factors and it’s not as simple as thin=healthy and fat=unhealthy. For some people this may be true but for me and many other people it certainly is not.
If I’m looking for advice on my health I will go to my GP who knows about my overall health. If I don’t ask then I don’t need you to make an uninformed comment. You cannot tell by looking at me how healthy I am so don’t even try to.
The point of the original post wasn’t even really about ‘health’ for me. It was about it being OK for fat girls to feel comfortable in their skin. To be confident. To dress how they like. Regardless of their health, the number on the scales or the label in their clothes – surely everyone has the right to feel good?