My body has changed. You might have noticed. Now I’m living in a larger vessel I’ve been thinking about it and yes, worrying about it too. This post isn’t about numbers or reducing, and it is written from the perspective of someone who believes in fat liberation. Fat people are human and should be treated with respect.
Why are you so fat?
The fat body is a medicalised body and as reluctant as I am to view my body through a medical lens, it has been through medical treatments that my weight has increased over the years. I am also getting older, and as the body ages it gains weight, fat redistributes and the skin loses elasticity.
I am a fat type 1 diabetic with radioactive iodine reversed Graves disease (now hypothyroid) , PTSD, bipolar disorder and social anxiety. My diagnoses are part of who I am as much as my identity as a fat liberation activist. Treatment of these conditions makes me fat. Non-treatment of these conditions would leave me dead.
What do doctors say?
The fatter I’ve grown, the less doctors have tried to intervene. Sounds like a strange paradox, no? As someone who has travelled upwards in weight over the last 20 years, I have a theory that doctors only put the hard word on people whose weight falls between a certain threshold with the belief that there’s something they can actually do to prevent all the negative ramifications of being “Too Fat”. By that I mean, what they actually do is tell you to lose weight and don’t give you any tools that actually work to cause significant and sustained weight loss.
I had a chat with a GP at the psychiatric hospital last year and she said that they know they can only really effect change of about 10-15 kg but they encourage people to do whatever it takes to lose that paltry amount even if it leads to yo-yo dieting or any number of other negative implications from weight loss. She said that in my weight range the only thing that would cause significant change is Weight Loss Surgery. I said it wasn’t an option. She said, “that’s ok we have to suggest it… you’re in here for your mental health so that comes first.” Not a great approach for that doctor to take considering the amount of fat people with body dysmorphia and disordered eating.
Back to my regular doctors, my psychiatrist seems unbothered by the weight gain from psychiatric medicines she’s prescribed. Not going to lie, I have fantasised about going off my meds. My relatively new GP has not brought it up at all, nor did the nurse who was managing some leg ulcers for me. And you know what? It makes me want to go back when I have health problems instead of avoid them for fear of getting yelled at!
As I have gained weight I have worried about medical equipment being too small and poorly designed. Fat people suffer poor health outcomes because they avoid medical treatment. So many times I have put off appointments for things until they have escalated beyond self-management. I defer treatment because I worry I won’t fit in the chairs and equipment, because I am afraid I will be turned down due to my size.
What do you wear?
Clothing is a huge problem for larger fat people. In Australia most plus size brands stop at size 26. I am not a size 26 anymore, I have burst through the fat barrier and now travel at around size 30. A very small number of online shops offer clothes to fit me, two being Yours Clothing (UK) and Curvaceous (Aust). A number of small indie brands in Australia are offering larger plus sizes like Grump (who I have collaborated with!) and Buon Clothing so it really infuriates me that larger chains aren’t willing to increase their size range.
I’m very fortunate that I know how to sew, and that I can make time to sew my own clothing however sewing patterns suffer the same problem as ready to wear clothing – the sizing is not inclusive. Unhelpful people tell larger fat folks to learn to sew, but if there are no patterns to follow in larger sizes, what are we left with beyond togas?! In the last week I’ve been on a hunt to find a polo shirt pattern to fit Nick but first of all, men’s sewing patterns are rare and second, plus size men’s patterns virtually don’t exist. I ended up cutting one of his precious polo shirts apart to take a pattern. As someone who wears women’s clothing, my luck is marginally better. But only just. I have written about Muna and Broad‘s expanded size sewing patterns in my last post. I’m so grateful to them for raising the bar for inclusive size ranges.
Finding stylish, appropriate, well fitting, comfortable clothing sucks when you’re in a larger body. You’ll find any number of viral images of larger fat people in clothing that doesn’t fit them properly. Laughed at and dismissed as sloppy and uncaring, is it any wonder larger fat people have trouble finding employment or progressing in their careers?
How do you feel about it?
If I’m honest, and I am trying to be completely soul-baringly real here, it’s been difficult. I have felt my body swelling in size, my clothing getting tighter, seats getting smaller and stares getting… judgier. I have mourned clothing I’ve sewn that no longer fits and dreaded the notion of trying to find sewing patterns in my new size. I buy the ready to wear clothing that’s available to me even if it’s not my style, because it fits.
I have social anxiety and I am agoraphobic. I rarely leave my house and that’s one of the reasons why I went into hospital for TMS treatments last year. (It didn’t work.) Part of my anxiety does stem from the trauma of simply not fitting in to the world. The looks, the bruises from arm rests, the yelling out of the cars that drive past, the aunty that always says something. I have been reluctant to go to the hairdresser. In fact I stopped going to my last one because their seats are too small. Once they even pulled a bench out for me to sit on but I felt so conspicuous and self conscious, the whole experience was terrible and not the luxurious pampering that so many women love their hair styling experience to be.
I like to wear bright clothing with loud patterns, yet sometimes this larger and more visible body makes me feel small and unworthy. I don’t like admitting this as a fat activist, but at the same time… I’m not saying I’m the queen of self esteem. I’m just saying that fat people should be respected as human beings.