Ask Aunt Fattie: Do I qualify for HAES?

Dear Aunt Fattie,
I’ve been fairly thin my entire adult life – between 120 and 130 pounds (I am 5′ 6″) from age 20 until age 34. Then I met my husband, and because we both love food, we threw caution to the wind and ate whatever we wanted for 6 months, and I gained 30 pounds. I now weigh about 146 pounds. Of course, I’ve had to buy all new clothes, and a stranger stares out of the mirror at me when I look at myself. My husband and I have since begun a very strict meal plan that incorporates about 1500 calories a day of organic whole foods, whole grains, lean proteins, lots of veggies and fruit, no HFCS, no trans fats, no partially hydrogenated anything. We both feel great, but the meal plan is not translating into major weight loss for me (I’ve lost about 5 pounds in 3 months). I would like to stop hating myself, but I fear I don’t really qualify for HAES the way someone who’s had a lifelong struggle with weight does. Surely 145/150 is not my new “set point” just because I managed to eat my way up to it? Should I restrict calories more and try to get back to my old “set point”, 120-130? If not, how do I get used to the way I look now? I feel terrible about myself. Thanks for any advice,

Used To Be Thin

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Ask Aunt Fattie: Can I make my friend go to the doctor?

Dear Aunt Fattie,

I have a friend who is heavier than I am, and insists that there’s no point for HER to go to a doctor, because a doctor won’t help her, and she’ll just be wasting the copays to consult with them. She says that it makes sense for ME to go to doctors and take care of myself, because I’m less than 100 pounds overweight, and didn’t damage myself horribly while a child or adolescent.

However she was a horseback-rider as a teen, and has broken more bones than I can count. She seems to think this means she needs a doctor less than I do, because her case is already hopeless. At this point, she can’t sleep, because her arms fall asleep when she lays down, and she is having crippling back pain, and still says there’s no such thing as a doctor who can help her.

Screaming in Worried Frustration

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Ask Aunt Fattie: How do I talk to fatties in public?

Hi, Aunt Fattie

For awhile I’ve been wanting to reach out to other plus sized people in public, but I don’t know how to approach them. I think they would most likely be defensive towards me, because of all the fat prejudice they’ve encountered, which I can personally understand. Since I feel somewhat defensive around people who weight less than I do, which I think is another problem with size bias. It keeps people from being able to relate to other people.

So how would I approach someone who’s plus sized in public. Just say hi? I feel like I want to let them know I know how they feel, but I think they’ll look at me and think “Uh-huh, you’re only 200 pounds, like you know what it’s like being stared at EVERYWHERE you go!” You know what I’m saying?

Jackie

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Ask Aunt Fattie: How do I get a job when I look pregnant?

Dear Aunt Fattie:

I’m a college senior, about to enter the big wide job market, and I’m looking for some advice on how to handle my Ultra Super Special Body Shape.

You see, I look like I’m about 5-6 months pregnant, despite a complete and total lack of fetuses in my stomach.

I’ve got a fairly small frame, really, and all my weight goes to the front of my gut. No rolls, no back fat, skinny arms and legs, almost no boobs–and a protrusion right where my distended uterus would be if I were actually preggers. I’ve been working on accepting my body as is, practicing HAES, and just generally trying to dress well and treat myself well, but the upcoming job search is filling me with dread. While it may be technically illegal to discriminate against a pregnant woman, something tells me a lot of firms won’t consider that–they’ll just see that I’d presumably be on maternity leave in just a few months. The stigma against asking a woman if she is pregnant won’t give me a chance to refute said claims. How do I handle this in a professional manner?

-The Girl With The Imaginary Fetus

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Ask Aunt Fattie: How do I talk sense into my dieting friend?

Dear Aunt Fattie,

I have a bit of a conundrum. One of my friends used to be slightly overweight, now she’s quite thin. I’ve been concerned about her body image (she looked fantastic with a bit of extra weight but she never believed me when I told her so) and worried that she might take it too far and become underweight, or worse, develop (or already have) an eating disorder. I think her mother was part of the problem, as she has forced diets on her in the past.

I’ve tried talking to her, telling her she was beautiful the way she was, but all she says is “I was fat, and I didn’t like it.” She seems as happy as she was before, so should I leave it alone? I don’t want her to be unhappy with the way she looks. Is there anything else I could say to her to convince her that she is amazing no matter what her weight is? I don’t want to sound like a nag either or to preach statistics. I need help!

Love from A Concerned Friend.

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Ask Aunt Fattie: What if I never stop gaining weight?

Dear Aunt Fattie,

I am deeply afraid I will never stop gaining weight.

I am 25 years old and 250 pounds. When I was 15 I was 150 pounds. Throughout my life I’ve averaged a gain of 10 pounds per year. Sometimes that has slowed down or sped up, but it always averages out. I have never successfully lost any significant amount of weight, even after 9 months of anorexic behavior that landed me in the hospital with severe hypoglycemia and malnutrition. The fact that diets have never ever worked for me, even in the short term, has made it really easy to give up dieting and in the past 6 years my eating habits and overall relationship with food has more or less normalized. I love fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean meats, and although my hypoglycemia means I have to eat frequently, it also makes it very easy to maintain a balanced diet–if I’ve had too much sugar and not enough protein, or too much fat and not enough greens, I feel it immediately. Although I don’t do much in the way of deliberate exercise, I am a full-time pedestrian and walk everywhere, often while hauling several dozen pounds of books or groceries. I also have a very active food-service job that keeps me moving and on my feet for 20-40 hours a week. In other words, although I could always do more, I feel like I am living a lifestyle that is consistent with HAES.

I am satisfied with my lifestyle and how healthy it makes me feel most of the time. But every time I go up yet another size in my jeans, I get afraid. I no longer believe that fat is bad, or ugly, or dangerous, but I feel like there must be something wrong with me. Shouldn’t my weight at least be stabilizing? Or maybe fluctuating? It can’t possibly be normal just to gain and gain with no end in sight while leading an objectively healthy lifestyle, can it?

I have started to believe that there must be something medically wrong with me. Perhaps whatever it is that makes my body so resistant to weight loss is the same thing that makes me continue to gain weight. But I am so afraid to seek medical treatment, especially about something directly involving my weight. I know all a doctor is going to do is tell me I must be lying about my lifestyle and send me out the door with directions to the nearest Weight Watchers or Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Hell, I had doctors trying to “help” me lose weight while I was in the hospital for malnutrition. You’ll have to forgive me if my trust threshold for medical professionals is pretty low. I don’t want to fall into the diet trap again– it’s futile and miserable and crazy-making–and I certainly don’t need to be paying a doctor to lead me there.

And yet I’m afraid if I don’t seek help, and I continue to gain weight at this rate, I could end up wheelchair- or home-bound, possibly as young as 50 or 60. I am no longer willing to engage in self-destructive behavior for the hope of weight loss, but I am also unwilling to resign myself to a compromised quality of life. I am starting to feel both helpless and hopeless. Please Aunt Fattie, what do I do?

- Scared and Gaining

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Introducing Aunt Fattie

Editors’ note: We frequently get emails and blog comments in which readers ask for advice. The questions range from “how do I learn to love myself” through niceties of interpersonal and office politics. We’d been saying for a while that we should start a regular advice column feature to address our readers’ needs, but the below question was so poignant and universal that it finally got us off our fat asses. And so we present the first installment of “Ask Aunt Fattie.”

If you’ve got your own questions on fat, fatphobia, fatshion, and fatiquette, send them to auntfattie@gmail.com.

Dear Aunt Fattie,

I am in dire, dire need of help. Before I start, I’ve been reading FA blogs for about a year now, practicing HAES, exercising more, elevating self esteem, etc. I thought I was finally happy…

…until just now, when I had a bath. My mum was there, showing me where the candles and bubble bath was, when she asked me to weigh myself. I stepped on the scales; it was 99.3 kilos [219 pounds]. I’m 14 and 167cm [about 5’5”].

She said “oh, you’ve put on a bit” – from 96 at the end of last year. I don’t really remember what happened next, but she launched into a lecture, which I was crying all the way through.

I really don’t know what to do. She’s been on my case for years and years. The lecture can be translated as “You will have health problems unless you lose weight. I want you to because I love you.” She thought I was crying not because of her torrent of abuse, but because I never thought I could lose weight and that made me desperate. She rattled off a list of friends and family who were trying to lost weight. She even said “Every five kilos you lose you can do something really fun, like a reward.”

Now that you know my situation, I need help. Any way – comforting words, studies I could show my mother, just help. And the scariest thing is that it’s fucking tempting to give in and try and lose weight. Acceptance! Rewards! No more fights! There’s even a kid at my school who constantly calls me fat, and even said he could catch diabetes off me because I’m a “bit overweight”. I wouldn’t miss that.

But I don’t want to lose myself in losing weight. I’m between a rock and a hard place here.

- Non-Dieting Daughter

Aunt Fattie’s response below the fold…

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