For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fat. There are plenty of pictures of me during my younger years that prove I was once smaller, but I only ever remember being the heavy kid. Even though I endured my fair share of bullying over my weight, I never considered being fat to be a bad thing. Growing up with a father who also had weight issues taught me that my size didn’t define me. It didn’t make me any less bright, hard working, funny, kind, or any other characteristic I worked toward. For me, getting called “fat” was just about the least offensive thing a bully could do to me.
I got older and my weight stayed firmly in place, but I didn’t allow it to become a source of shame. Yes, I was definitely frustrated when I couldn’t find clothes that fit me. I was angry when people judged me because of my heaviness, but I never felt ashamed.
I was proud of my curves and resolutely allowed comments about losing weight to roll off my back.
Even when others insisted that I’d be “so much prettier” if I dropped a few pounds, I didn’t feel any need to lose weight. I could be beautiful AND fat.
I knew that I was worthy of love no matter my size.
I met my now husband in high school. He never made me feel bad about my body. He loved my body then, he loved my body throughout my three pregnancies, and he loved my body when my mental illness caused me to pile on more weight. Even now, I am a certifiably obese woman and he has never stopped reminding me that his love for me is more than skin deep. His love, plus the teachings of my father and the support of the growing fat positive community, have all helped me to accept and embrace the body I have.
So I never thought that weight loss surgery would be something I’d even think about.
Even when my dad chose to undergo lap band surgery to lose weight, I never considered having it myself.
As self-righteous as it sounds to me now, I saw getting the surgery as a form of “selling out.” I assumed that if someone who claimed fat positivity underwent weight loss surgery, then they actually weren’t as happy in their skin as they pretended to be. My own critical mindset believed that changing your body so radically was the very opposite of body positivity.
I held firm onto this way of thinking even when my doctors began subtly bringing up my weight. Before then, I’d never actively tried to lose weight. I saw dieting as harmful to one’s mental health; I figured that running after my kids was exercise enough. But the truth was that side effects from my depression and anxiety medication — combined with my less active lifestyle due to chronic illness — added to my bulk.
I’d never had the so-called “fat diseases” like high blood pressure, cholesterol, or heart issues, but I started noticing that I had difficulty breathing at night. More than once, my husband woke me up, concerned because I had suddenly stopped breathing.
I have fibromyalgia, and the weight wasn’t doing my over-stimulated muscles any favors either; I was suffering from increased flare ups. More than once, my knees buckled when I picked up my youngest son. I fought the urge to collapse when I carried groceries into my house. This isn’t unusual for someone with fibro, but the intensity and frequency of these incidents was new for me. My weight-related issues are a common problem for other overweight individuals. Besides blood pressure and heart issues, obesity contributes to increased instances of stroke, cancer, diabetes, gout, gallbladder disease, and breathing problems. These ailments add up to $150 billion in medical costs every year for the 37% of adults and 17% of children in America who are obese.
Now, I found myself among that statistic.
Even with the pressure of a failing body and the prospect of medical issues that could rob me of my life, I was still resistant to the idea of weight loss surgery.
My acceptance of my weight had become such an important self-identifier. I was fat and unbothered — that was me!
Who was I without my weight-centered body positivity? I’d be a hypocrite if I changed my body. It was hard to process removing the weight I’d always embraced in spite of our society’s standards.
I spoke to friends online who had already needed to make this decision, and those conversations were the first time I felt open to surgery. I watched my friends embrace their bodies’ changes after the procedures, and I was able to understand:
Body positivity isn’t about loving your body only when you’re comfortable with it — it means loving your body enough to recognize its health needs, then making difficult changes for the sake of wellness.
Body positivity is about loving the skin you’re in even when your body doesn’t fit traditional molds — including the physical forms usually celebrated by fitness communities or fat positive/body positive movements.
I’ve started to prepare for weight loss surgery. It’s a really long, difficult process with lots of checks and balances to ensure I am making a healthy decision, but I’m fully committed to it now. My metamorphosis is going to take place over months and years, but there will always be one, undying constant throughout this process: I will always love this body of mine — whether it is thin, obese, or somewhere in between.