Diary of a fat kid: deconstructed

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

Student Life

Exploring the healthy side with Fardad

Debunking stress eating: Tis’ the season of midterms and takeout

Midterm season is officially here, and stress is creeping up on many students. Although people respond to stressful situations differently, a lot of us have a common struggle: stress eating.

Emotional eating can happen for a variety of reasons, but this week we will specifically analyze stress as a cause.

When your body is put under prolonged stress, a multitude of physiological changes happen, namely, your body releases a hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol plays a key role in human survival—think about it from an evolutionary standpoint. Your body registers stress as a “fight or flight” situation. When your body thinks it’s in a life or death situation, it “panics” and urges you to consume calories for strength and survival, when really, all you need is a deep breath.

Needless to say, exam period is a stressful time. Seeking refuge in the glory of pizza or greasy fries when the workload gets overwhelming is something a lot of us can relate to.

While this may provide momentarily relief—due to the release of other hormones like dopamine—the underlying cause of your stress still remains.

Additionally, feelings of guilt about eating too much may enter into the equation and end up adding to your initial stress.

But how can you tell the difference between being actually hungry or just feeling stressed?

There are a few telltale signs. Here are the most important ones:

  • We usually turn to comfort foods or unhealthy foods when we are stressed. Let’s just say cauliflower and broccoli aren’t the food of choice when cramming for an exam.
  • According to Harvard Health, consuming comfort food triggers two changes in the brain. First, it stimulates the reward centre of the brain by releasing feel-good hormones. Second, it has been shown to temporarily counter the effects of the stress-producing and processing hormones. So not only does comfort food provide a “happy fix,” but it also temporarily takes the stress away.
  • According to American pediatrics doctor Dr. Mary Gavin, and many other experts, contrary to stress cravings, physical hunger isn’t instant. It takes time for the digestive system to process food.
  • According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, when you feel physiological hunger, it’s due to the gradual release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Ghrelin itself is released over time, thanks to “feedback” provided by sensory nerve endings in the digestive tract, including the intestine and colon. So if you suddenly have a “need” for a bag of chips, take a second to reflect on how stressed you are in that moment. You might just need to relax and take a deep breath.

Here are a few things you can do to help combat stress eating during exam time: 

  • Get moving. Exercise releases endorphins so hop to it. Physical activity also releases those feel-good hormones and it gets fresh blood flowing to the brain, making you feel more awake.
  • Drink a lot of water, regularly. Dehydration oftentimes manifests as hunger. Staying hydrated helps keep your body healthy and your brain active.
  • Call a loved one or a friend—but make sure you don’t end up talking about studying or exams. The aim here is to take your mind off all the stress by hearing a familiar voice and maybe cracking a joke or two. Tell the person in advance that you don’t want to be talking about school.

Fardad is a science student here at Concordia. He wants to share his research and learning about the science field with the Concordia community.

Graphic by Thom Bell

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