Recently I was invited to write on my personal blog about weight stigma and what does it mean to me as part of fellow blogger and ED activist Voice in Recovery‘s Weight Stigma Blog Carnival. (ViR is HealthyPlace blogger Kendra Sebelius, author of Debunking Addiction.) I wanted to continue the conversation about weight stigma on Surviving ED.
I was very nervous about writing “Weight(ing) For Change: Why Weight Stigma Impacts Us All.” Why? Because it forced me to face my own prejudices and fears towards people who are overweight or obese, and about weight in general.Anorexia nervosa held me in its grip for years. I was a slave to the scale, and the number it showed was never right nor matter what. There were many times I felt like smashing the scale into a million tiny pieces.
Each morning I performed “The Ritual of the Scale.” I could not eat nor drink one drop until I first stepped on the scale and waited for its flashing red numbers to stop at the number of the day. That number determined how my day went. I was happy if it was a low number, but I always felt bad that it wasn’t lower. I was angry and knew a day of restriction and self-recrimination was ahead of me if the number was higher than the day before.
I was afraid of becoming fat.
I know that is not a politically correct thing to think or say. But it is the truth, and I still am afraid of gaining too much weight to this day. And I think many of us feel the same way if we are truly honest with ourselves. We have been trained by society’s ideals and standards to feel this way.
Why? I was asked about this once during one of my many hospitalizations back in 2009. I pondered about why I was so afraid of weight and fat, and wrote “What’s wrong with being fat?” Even though I was still quite ill and I wasn’t yet ready to work on recovery, I could still see the illogical thoughts behind my fears. I knew several overweight and obese people who were living much fuller and happier lives than I was with my obsession with weight and calories. They weren’t spending their time on the ninth floor in the psychiatric unit of the area hospital — they were out living their lives and enjoying themselves.
Society teaches us that being a certain weight — and that range is very narrow in today’s Western culture — makes us beautiful and worthwhile. Society also teaches us that there is something shameful about being overweight. And the majority of people buy into these values.
I’m not saying that there aren’t health reasons for some people to lose weight. That is a different issue than looking at the prejudice and stigma that is aimed at people who are overweight or obese.
Society doesn’t seem to have a problem making fun of overweight and obese people. Each time we hear a fat joke, we are hearing prejudice in action and we are subconsciously internalizing that it is okay to think and feel this way about people who are overweight or obese.
I did not think that weight stigma impacted me because I am not overweight. But then I realized much of my life has been ruled by weight stigma. Weight stigma hurts all of us by its very mean-spirited nature and the way it makes all of us feel bad about our bodies. Each one of us needs to look closely at how we feel about weight, and then help put to rest this long-held prejudice.
Note: I will be taking several weeks off due to upcoming surgery. I plan to write and publish my next blog post on Friday, Aug. 19. Please feel free to leave any comments or ideas for future blog posts after this or any other Surviving ED post — I would love to hear from you!