Learning to accept yourself and deal with trauma as an overweight person
TW: Eating disorders, body image, body dysmorphia
First, let me get this straight: being fat is not wrong. It’s not because you do not correspond to the ideal conception of beauty set by Instagram influencers that you are not worthy of living, nor are you responsible for anything. If you feel at peace with your body, good for you, and you should never feel pressure because your kind of beauty is different from others’ standards.
“Hey, fat guy!”, “Are you the guy from Super Size Me?” Yes, I’ve heard these phrases directed at me. “Susan Boyle,” “Big Mama,”—these were just some of my nicknames. On Jan. 31, 2018, I was 18 and weighed 287 pounds, almost twice the normal weight for a boy my age. My BMI was 42 at the time, and deemed me morbidly obese.
Being overweight is tough, especially as a teenager. Teenagers are cruel and immature. Some will try to hurt you—these ones, you’d better ignore altogether. Others will try to fight with you, and I fought back, which I do not recommend since it almost got me expelled. Most of the time, people don’t realize they’re hurting you. In this case, you have two options: say how you feel, which requires an extraordinary amount of courage, or hurt in silence, which is the option most people choose, and the most destructive.
Depending on the characters, some people will be very affected by mockery, and some just won’t care. I belonged to the first category. One time, I was coming home from school when an old woman stopped me to comment on my sweater, and as she left, she yelled, in front of my friends, “And don’t get any fatter!” I’d never been so humiliated, and I spent the rest of the afternoon crying on my couch.
Harassment is one thing, but what’s worse is isolation. When you’re fat (let’s call a spade a spade), you don’t go out, because people might notice your double-chin; you don’t go to parties because girls might reject you; you don’t go on vacation because you’re uncomfortable being shirtless, it goes on and on. You stay at home, so you feel miserable, so you eat to forget. And once you enter this vicious circle, it’s very difficult to get out.
That’s how I went from being a perfectly healthy 13-year-old boy to becoming an 18-year-old teenager with no girlfriend, no real friends, and for whom tying shoes was a struggle.
Because being overweight is such a painful reality, I think some people tend to find excuses: “I have big bones,” “It’s genetic,” or “I have a hormonal problem.” And sometimes it’s true, but in most cases, I think being overweight is the result of bad eating habits, not enough exercise, or both. And even if you have to accept this responsibility, it does not make you any less valuable of a person. As a matter of fact, I tend to consider overweight people victims. Yes, you might snack too much sometimes or find excuses to avoid the gym, but this is not due to you having an abnormally large stomach or lower physical abilities. Eating is often compensation for trauma.
In my case, it was an unfortunate, routine doctor’s appointment that started it all. I was six years old and in perfect shape. The quack pediatrician checked me and told my parents, “If he’s not skinny now, he is going to become fat later.” At that very moment, he implanted that idea in my dad’s brain like Leonardo DiCaprio implanted the idea that the world was not real into Marion Cotillard’s head in Inception.
I recall a ski trip with my cousins. It was lunch time and we decide to go to a restaurant. Everybody savoured a raclette except me—my dad forced me to eat salmon with straight beans. I was only 10 and unknowingly, he created a complex in me.
As I said earlier, there’s no guilt to feel about being overweight, whether you’re slightly overweight or obese. However, because it is a disease that can put your life at risk, I’ll never blame someone for wanting me to lose weight. My dad used to tell me, “You know I don’t care about your appearance, as long as you’re healthy.” We live in an era of self-acceptance, which is great, but if you want to change, it’s your right to.
So, if you want to lose weight, here are my Four Fight Commandments (because it will be a fight): First, talk with the people who care about you. Believe me, nothing will bring you more comfort than their support. I know the loneliness of being overweight, and it’s too much pain to endure for one person. Vent as much as you need; they will never judge you and it’ll be a huge load off your shoulders.
Second, talk to a therapist. I know it can be scary. I refused at first, but you must identify your trauma to be able to treat it. A therapist will listen to you and give you a professional and educated opinion.
Third, find the right diet for you. We all have different bodies and taste buds. You have to find, with the help of a dietician, the diet most adapted to your body type and eating habits. Last, if you feel like you can’t do it alone, surgery is one solution. It’s called bariatric surgery: gastric band, sleeve or bypass. These are major and irreversible surgeries, so you want to think twice before going through that. I’ve considered this option, and there is no shame in that.
Don’t get me wrong, it will be a long road, sometimes you will want to quit, but if I did it (and I was a desperate case) everybody can. And don’t forget, whether you are skinny, fat or somewhere in the middle, the only thing that matters is that you are at peace with who you are.
Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee