Fat, Health at Every Size, Sweet Machine

How’d you do it?

Recently, I did something that I hadn’t thought possible a couple years ago; something I once worked hard for but failed to accomplish; something the medical establishment, the media, and even the US government had been coercing me to do: I lost 20 pounds. And I didn’t even have to go to the gym!

Don’t worry, faithful readers; I haven’t hijacked Shapely Prose to turn it into Diet Central. You see, this year, for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to lose weight. Thanks to Kate and The Rotund and the fabulous fatshionistas, I felt happy with my body and finally felt like my chub was not “extra” but part of who I actually am. I saw my body as one point in a range of possible human shapes and sizes instead of a deviation from a tiny norm. I stopped my negative self-talk, stopped trying to squeeze into the clothing size I used to wear, and stopped the mental calculus I used to apply to every woman I passed on the street: Is she thinner than me? Am I as fat as her? I even engaged in modest proselytizing with female friends, encouraging them to read up on fat acceptance and to recognize how fatphobia is connected to sexism.

So after all that, how did I do it? Why did I lose 20 pounds? Simple: I got sick and I didn’t get better. I don’t recommend this approach. I’m in a very fortunate place in my life as far as illnesses go; I have health insurance, and I’m in grad school and it’s summer, so I’ve had a lot of time to rest, nag doctors, and attempt to get my body back under control. As far as getting ill in the US goes, I’m extraordinarily lucky, and I’m grateful for it. [Edited to note: I’m also lucky because it seems to be the onset of a chronic but manageable condition, not an acute or life-threatening one. Don’t worry!]

Some people, though, think I’m lucky for another reason, which I bet you’ve already guessed. We’ve talked a lot at Shapely Prose about fat and health and the faulty logic behind the thin = healthy and fat = unhealthy equations. Kate recently pointed us to an article in the Chicago Tribune by someone who found herself in the “coveted” 0 size range due to serious illness; the article discussed the anger she felt at people’s ignoring her poor health in order to praise her emaciated frame. It cannot be said enough: thin is not necessarily healthy, and fat is not necessarily unhealthy. We can carry this oh-so-controversial logic a bit further to arrive at a corollary: weight loss is not always voluntary, and it’s not always welcomed by the shrinking person. If you notice that an acquaintance has lost a good deal of weight and you feel compelled to comment on it* (whether to praise her smaller waist or to rebuke her for selling out), ask her how she’s feeling instead. You’ll be a better friend, and you’ll be combatting kneejerk fatphobia to boot.**


The last time I lost a significant amount of weight (over 50 pounds, about 7 years ago), though it was (mostly) intentional, the experience was so disconcerting that it taught me a lot about the public scrutiny of female bodies and thus about feminism. I was in college at the time, living on campus, and though I had often felt quasi-invisible as a fat person, I became super-visible as a person who was losing weight. People came up to me all the time to ask me for my “secret” — without giving any context, as if I would just automatically know that they meant the secret about my weight. What’s more, any action I was taking must be secret, because we were all supposed to pretend we hadn’t noticed that I was fat in the first place! The way I saw it at the time, these people were confirming all my worst fears about my body: they saw me only in terms of my fat, and they assumed that in any conversation with me, fat was a primary subtext. (Now I have a more generous interpretation: they were not thinking about me but about themselves; they weren’t thinking about how fat I was but about how I could help them escape their fears of being or becoming fat.)

I got used to it soon enough, but it pissed me off. So I’d play dumb:

Random library staffer: Wow! Look at you! How’d you do it?
Sweet Machine: Uh, well, I went up to the computer lab and printed out the call numbers, and then I went into the stacks…
RLS: No, I mean how did you lose all that weight? You’re so skinny!
SM: Oh. I don’t know. I guess I started eating more salads.

This conversation happened so many times: with college staff who knew me only by sight, with classmates I saw every day, with good friends, with not so good friends, with friends’ families, with my own family. I must admit, I took pleasure in disappointing people who wanted a clear answer; I wasn’t on a commercial diet, I hadn’t started Pilates or some trendy exercise scheme, and my actual “lifestyle changes” had more to do with finding exercise buddies and rediscovering the salad bar and, crucially, getting over depression brought on by some very stressful events in my life. “How’d you do it,” it turns out, is an extremely personal question.

And that’s the point I’m trying to come to, really: our bodies are extremely personal. Yet they are simultaneously the most public thing about us: they are us and they represent us. When you comment on someone’s body, you may think you’re commenting on the representation only, but, as most of us know, that’s not how it seems to the person receiving the comment. Fatphobia is so insidious and hurtful because it plays on the double relation of selves to bodies: fat people are lazy and smelly and dumb, we’re told, but it’s okay — they’re just one South Beach diet away from being assiduous, fragrant, smart, thin people. This is why fat acceptance is so threatening to so many: our culture tells us, “Your fat is you, but it’s not the real you,” and fat people respond, “It is the real me. And if the real me is happy and sexy and proud and accomplished, then fat is an inextricable part of that.”


Right now, I’m a lot thinner than I’m used to being. Temporarily, I’m feeling a disconnect between the “real me” and the “representation of me.” But maybe I’ll stay at this weight, and I’ll realign my self-conception; maybe instead of a chubby healthy person, I’ll be a thinnish person with a medical condition. I’ll adjust. I’ll be good to myself. Maybe my health will improve again, and I’ll gain back those 20 pounds and more. I’ll adjust. I’ll be good to myself. I’ll remember that this body I live in is me and not a container or disguise or symbol for me. How will I do it? I’ll start right here.

*If you do feel compelled to comment on your friend’s body in the first place, ask yourself what you’re really trying to communicate before you say anything.
**If it turns out she has been ill, please don’t joke about the weight loss being a “fringe benefit” or a “lucky side effect.” Dropping a couple clothing sizes and thereby becoming marginally more socially acceptable does not somehow balance out the negatives of contracting a serious illness. And (you’ll have to trust me here), if you do make an asinine comment like this, your acquaintance may smile and nod, but she’s really thinking about whether she’ll have to take off her heels to kick you in the teeth.

59 thoughts on “How’d you do it?”

  1. Sigh, you’re totally going to be the popular one. It’s probably because you’re so skinny.

  2. I’ll remember that this body I live in is me and not a container or disguise or symbol for me.

    Damn, that’s perfect. I’ve blown a gazillion words trying to get that one sentence across in the last few months.

    Fillyjonk, I suppose it’s time to admit I’ve always liked Laura better. Mostly because she’s skinny and has big boobs.

  3. But she wears GLASSES!

    But when I take them off and let my hair down, it turns out I’m Rachel Leigh Cook!

  4. Doesn’t everyone look like Rachel Lee Cook when we take our glasses off? Rule number one of cinema: Glasses are meant only to intentionally disguise a woman’s hawtness; therefore every woman who takes them off will become a bombshell. (Don’t tell my boyfriend though; he absolutely adores glasses and even runs a glasses appreciation site!)

    Anyway, Sweet Machine, I could identify with what you wrote here. I went off a fat-fostering medication last December and since then have dropped about 10 pounds — not much considering I started out weighing 213, but enough that I keep having to hitch my pants up, so buying a size smaller is something that’s probably going to happen soon. So far I haven’t gotten any “how did you do it?” but I am sure that will happen if my weight continues a downward trajectory, and I’m rather dreading it. Am I going to have to make up a t-shirt that says, “I got fat because I was on meds for 15 years and now I’m not on them, any other questions?”

  5. “Your fat is you, but it’s not the real you.”

    OH SNAP.

    Don’t you just adore fucked-up cultural messages? I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  6. Meowser, a friend of mine went off Paxil and dropped about 35 lbs. in the last couple of years. I’m not entirely sure I’d still be shopping in plus size stores if I went off both Lexapro and the pill. Since I’d much rather be fat, happy, and not pregnant than slightly less fat, that probably won’t happen any time soon, but there’s one more strike against the calories in/calories out theory.

  7. The calories in/calories out theory is ASS. And I don’t anticipate being able to shop at BCBG any time soon, either, believe me. The main reason I wanted off antidepressants if it was at all possible was because I was getting scary involuntary movements and needing life-killing amounts of sleep just to function minimally. But dude, I’d take them all over again if I didn’t have other options. Anyone who thinks there’s nothing worse than being fat has never wanted to slash their wrists and jump in the bathtub just because someone gave them a dirty look in the gas station.

  8. (Don’t tell my boyfriend though; he absolutely adores glasses and even runs a glasses appreciation site!)

    Meowser, a good friend of mine once seriously considered starting a glasses-oriented porn site. Glasses are hott!

    Am I going to have to make up a t-shirt that says, “I got fat because I was on meds for 15 years and now I’m not on them, any other questions?”

    The sad thing is, probably most people would read that shirt, think for a sec, and then ask you what diet you’re on. Getting thinner from anything less than a triumph of “willpower” just does not compute for some people. Deciding how to respond to people is hard, I think; for me right now, it’s especially tricky because I don’t want them to think I’m dying or anything, but the gory details are pretty, well, gory. Although even my dad, who knows all about it and has been sympathetic and concerned, still has made jokes about how I’m probably excited to buy smaller clothes! NOT SO MUCH, DAD KTHX.

  9. Meowser wrote:
    > to make up a t-shirt that says, “I got fat because I was on meds
    > for 15 years and now I’m not on them, any other questions?”


    A year ago I was working out several times a week and dropped 3 sizes. My weight, however, actually went UP because muscle weighs many times more than fat. My GP, who had become unusually friendly and encouraging when I started and dropped 5 – 7 pounds, got visibly disappointed. Her facial expression and what she explicitly said made it clear that she didn’t believe I had “really” been exercising, or I’d have dropped more weight.


    I am fitfully shopping for a new GP.

    PS- Meowser, I hear ya on comment 10 also. Been there, doing that (getting off antidepressants, currently am stepping down on SSRIs). Hang in there. Bounce off that shame as redirected rage-energy. How dare they try to make you feel crappy!! GrrrrAAAAARRR! Scare the crap out of them in return! Sure, sure, I’m only achieving about a 40% success rate vs instinctual cringing myself, but it beats the 2% of several years ago.

  10. I lost quite a bit of weight a while back because I went through a period of really bad stress and anxiety. My sister was concerned, but everyone else told me how great I looked. Now, I admit, while I would have preferred to be happy and healthy, I did think: “Well, at least I’m losing weight!” And I was thrilled about the compliments. But when the stress stopped, the weight came back (+ a little extra)… and now I know what people really think. So I’ve made a policy of never telling somebody who’s lost weight how absolutely wonderful and fabulous (and so much better than before!) they look even if I know the weight loss is intentional. Because it might come back, and then how will they feel?

  11. They say: fat people should eat properly and exercise.

    You lose weight and they ask you how you did it.

    Why, don’t they believe what they usually say?

  12. Good point, wriggles! Everyone knows it doesn’t *really* work that way, but they have to believe the lie.

  13. god, that sounds so familiar!!! I’ve average a 40 lb per year weight gain all of my childhood, and a slightly less massive gain during my brief adulthood. The only time I lost serious weight was when I changed my eating habits not to lose weight, but to control my IBS, which is a chronic digestive disorder. I completely removed certain foods from my diet and as a side effect, lost 75 lbs. Seriously. I was like, WTF? Ecstatic, of course, but still! There was NO GYM, and NO STARVATION! All I did was remove red meat and dairy from my diet. Of course, I also had to remove most whole grains, almost all veggies, and a lot of fruit. So… basically I spent my senior year of college eating turkey and ketchup on sourdough bread. LOL

    Alas, I eventually discovered the joys of Soy substitutes and then the even greater joy of DATING and reached never before seen numbers on the scale *sobs*

    However, in the past three months I’ve lost 18 lbs through very simple calorie counting (1500 cal a day). No exercise though. I have a sleep disorder now and it’s like energy is not happening.

    I do plan to get the lap-band surgery done very soon, but it is for my health and not my looks. I’m 313 lbs right now and have been fat since I was five or six. All I want it to be able to lay down in bed without my breasts suffocating me, and to be able to walk up stairs without huffing!

    I already think I look sexy, though the next person that tells me I have “such a pretty face!” is going to get a black eye!

  14. My first semester of college, instead of gaining weight, I lost a bunch. Why? Oh, because I was so f’d in the head about a bunch of issues that I was almost perpetually nauseous. And then I started dating a guy (which only brought up more issues to be f’d up about) who was nigh-abusive (his idea of ‘helpful’ was to trip me as we were walking down a hallway, and then scold me about how catching myself on my hands was a great way to break my elbows, and I should have done a front shoulder roll instead – swell guy, no?).

    So by the end of first semester of college, I /looked/ awesome.

    Of course, I was also practically bipolar, where some days I felt super-awesome (aside from being nauseous), and other days I thought about ODing on pills, if I thought I could stop being nauseous long enough to keep them down.

    But I /looked/ great! So what was the big deal?!


  15. Strata Chalup, the fact that your doctor didn’t recognized that adding muscle causes weight to go up is mind-boggling. The number is so fetishized — the idea that a higher reading on the scale would invalidate your increased strength is just so backwards. But we’re all subject to it, you know? In a way, it’s the same dynamic as my situation, but in reverse — I’m clearly not as robust as I was a few months ago, but the smaller number on the scale is supposed to make up for my ill health somehow. That’s just not how it works!

    Becky, you make a great point that I wish I had mentioned in my post: congratulating someone on his or her weight loss is going to make that person feel even worse when the weight comes back, as it almost always does with dieting. With stress or illness, weight coming back is probably a good thing! But those “you look so great” comments can make you feel bad about getting healthy.

    Thorn, yikes. Your ex sounds like a real treat. What if you had actually broken your elbows? And you know, you say you looked awesome, and I know you’re being ironic, but I bet the truth is that you looked like a really stressed out thin person. I bet you look more awesome as a non-suicidal, non-nauseated fat person!

  16. I’ve had a similar experience with MS – my weight buoys on average 20 pounds either way from month to month, dropping because of dysesthesia and general malaise, then raising again because of stints on prednisone and other drugs. I’m hoping someday I’ll even out again and find the weight I used to be happy at, which was around 240lbs. Even five pounds either way makes me feel like a totally different person – not a “bad” one, or a “good” one, just different, and it drives me crazy. I already never know how I’m going to feel in my body from day to day, and I get weird weight stuff piled on top of that now, too.

    Until then I just get to deal with my mother watching me be ill and not hungry, then worry when I gain weight (which I am usually relieved about), then afterward talking about how relieved she is for me that I’m losing the weight again because “it’ll probably be easier on you in the long run anyway with trouble walking.” Well, thanks a pile, Mom. Actually, no, I’m really thanking her. If it weren’t for her, I’d never have learned about fat acceptance years ago because I wanted to run away and hide from her ridiculous train of thought before it got me, too.

  17. Six years ago I lost about 40 lbs. (and I’ve gained them all back, of course) without working out or bettering my health in any real way. It was an intentional loss, but the way people treated me post-loss was quite surprising–namely, I was congratulated far too often. I didn’t (and still don’t) know how to react to the laudatory language aimed at weight loss! It’s just…weird. I would rather be congratulated for my 3.9 GPA, my work ethic or any of my other REAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS OR TALENTS, not for a consistent diet of black coffee breakfasts, Healthy Choice lunches, and Wendy’s grilled chicken sandwich/baked potato dinners. How is that weird and grossly repetitive food regimen worth applauding, celebrating, discussing or imitating?

  18. My roomate has ADD and she has to take Concerta which makes her really nauseous and sick. It also causes her to lose weight. She HATES the weight loss and hates it even more when people congratulate her about it.

  19. I remember reading (maybe in _Fat is a Feminist Issue_, but I’m not sure) about fat women who were dying of cancer and were super-happy because, “even though I’m dying, at least I’m skinny now.”

    I just couldn’t believe how twisted that way of thinking was . . .

  20. I work out. Not to lose weight, but for strength and cardio and so I can pretty much eat whatever the hell I like.

    A few months ago I met a new member of my gym who was my age, in terrible physical condition and there to lose weight. I helped her figure out a couple of the weight machines and we’ve talked a couple of times since then.

    Last month she stopped me in the locker room and informed me she was very discouraged. She isn’t losing weight, you see, despite cardio and weight lifting three times a week. Her doctor wanted her to go on a diet. She was thinking about stopping her gym membership.

    I took one long look at her and went ballastic. She looks terrific, damn it. She’s got much better posture, her skin tone and eyes are clear, she’s moving with energy and confidence. And I told her so.

    “But my doctor said I’d GAINED FIVE POUNDS since my last checkup.”

    I pointed out she’d had to buy smaller sized clothing (twice that I knew of) since she’d joined. Did she think the Clothing Size Fairies had gone into business stretching clothes in the closet instead of shrinking them?

    “But my doctor wants me to go on a diet because working out isn’t working. I don’t know what I should do.”

    I handed her a business card.

    “Easy. Get another doctor. Try mine, tell her I sent you. She’s been to some new-fangled medical school which teaches doctors that muscle tissue is denser than fat. Kind of like your doctor’s head. ”

    I have a dear friend who had a tshirt made up to wear between chemo rounds that said ‘Leukemia and chemotherapy are rotten weight loss programs and terrible hairstylists.’ And yeah, she did have idiots congratulate her on her weight loss even after being told why.

  21. I also have MS and I’ve gained so much weight as my mobility got worse and I can’t exercise like before. then you add the Paxil, and maybe that’s doing it too? Or just plain overeating on a bad day when I NEED a cheeseburger, dammit, fuck you all to hell you don’t know what it’s like for MEEEE?? You know. Then my friend gets Celiac’s disease and is losing weight like CRAZY because she can’t eat ANY gluten, which is in everything, and now I want her disease but a life without bread may not be worth living for me. And I have also been the girl that wished she could get cancer so she could get skiiny (and then of course BEAT the cancer, but stll stay skinny). GEEZ why can’t we just be happy with whatever disease and body cards we’re dealt and play them the best we can! Some ethings we can control, some we can’t. likr the eay I can’t conytol what may come ooo my keyboard right now bcause my cat is trying to steall it from me, ?Okaytnksbye

  22. Ooh, I’m finally prompted to post on this blog! This post SOOO resonated with me.

    When I was younger, I was bulimic. Most of my friends and family complimented me on my weight loss, but fortunately for me, eventually, I got over it – though many of my “loved ones” never really got over my weight re-gain afterwards. Nowadays, I never weigh myself and have a standing order with all medical professionals not to tell me my weight.

    Earlier this year, I nearly died from a serious kidney infection caused by a kidney stone blockage. I was hospitalized nearly 2 weeks, had three surgeries within a month, and spent a total of 2 months pretty much bed-ridden. Astoundingly, when I started getting back into the world, people started complimenting my on my weight loss. I have to admit, it was satisfying watch their faces when I answered their “how did you do it”s with: “Well, I almost died.” But yeah, I still got the “fringe benefit” comments from quite a few folks, even after making a bald statement like that.

    Now I am being treated for PCOS with metformin, which is causing me to lose even more weight. After all these years of coming to terms with my size and not allowing my self-worth to be dependent on it, it’s more confusing/frustrating than ever to hear the constant comments about my weight loss. Every time I hear something about it, I want to scream, “Is my size REALLY the first thing you notice about me? STILL?” ARRRRGGGHHH!!!!

  23. A little off the topic- but wanted to vent a little where I knew folks would be understanding…

    Yesterday, I went to the New York State Fair. A great time, always is- and I didn’t have to bring the kidlets, so I could do whatever I wanted… anyhoo…

    My favorite building is the Art and Home Building. I love quilting and crafts, so looking at all the prize winners is my big fun at the fair. I was full of great new crafty ideas and thinking about scraps at home as I was leaving the building. Then, some lady hands me an emery board. I look around and all the women leaving the building are getting them as a freebie. Mind you, there are tons of giveaways at the fair- some people come just to fill up their bags with free pens, etc. But when I looked closer at the emery board, on one side was written “Need to lose weight? We’ll show you how.” and a phone number. FOR EVERY WOMAN. Regardless of size. I got so mad I flung it- which of course was perceived as an angry fattie. They clucked and shook their heads. I went back over to them and asked them how they would feel if their daughter was an anorexic and was given something like this– they said “All women need to take charge of what they eat and take care of themselves.” At this point, it’s obvious how clueless they are, so I left, after telling them that weight is not the only indicator of health- and probably indicates nothing.

    Then I went & bought myself a 1/4 pound of peanut butter/chocolate fudge to share with the kids for when I got home. Mmm. Fudge.

  24. I have a friend who was on Depakote for nearly her entire life, for seizures. She was always athletic (played fast-pitch softball) but never quite made the ‘good’ teams because she was overweight. Then she went off the Depakote after college as an experiment. The seizures came back but she dropped probably 50 lbs and is now something like a size 6 or 8.

    She thinks it’s worth it. I don’t. Although Depakote is a scary medication, I think I’d rather be overweight and not have seizures than be skinny and not legally allowed to drive. Oh, and get concussions from having seizures in the bathroom.

  25. Every time I hear something about it, I want to scream, “Is my size REALLY the first thing you notice about me? STILL?” ARRRRGGGHHH!!!!

    Dorianne, I totally sympathize with this feeling, but I want to add that probably the reason those people are noticing your size is that they are thinking about themselves. Most people, especially women, are so personally invested in the “thin is more attractive” mindset that they are always comparing themselves to other people–and *that’s* why they notice, not because they are actually monitoring your apparent weight that closely.

  26. Wow, Divajean, that’s unbelievable. Maybe you should have asked them how they’d feel about a lawsuit from someone whose teenaged daughter got their emery board and subsequently relapsed into anorexia. Take charge of this, bitchez.

  27. I can relate to this post, Sweetmachine, because I’ve also lost about 20 lbs since February. I went on the “Don’t bring sugar into the house because then your diabetic hubby will also eat it” diet.

    My health is better in some respects (I haven’t had a sinus infection for a while, when I’m eating sugar regularly I get them often) and worse in other ways (waaaay too many trips to the bathroom!) I’m also a bit lumpier and bumpier, when I’m rounder my flesh is smoother. That everything about you is suppose to look better thinner is just a myth, in my opinion.

    It’s actually amazing to me how easily my body can lose and gain this much weight. My theory is that my weight is “naturally” between 130 – 150 lbs. So this kind of fluxuation is normal and natural for me, because I’m always living either at the high end or low end of my natural set weight. If I gain back the weight (and if history is any indication, I will, it’s just a matter of when) I’m committed to being loving to my bigger, rounder self.

  28. I had to giggle at this line: “If it turns out she has been ill, please don’t joke about the weight loss being a “fringe benefit” or a “lucky side effect.”

    Because of my own chronic illness, I have spent a lot of time on steroids, which, of course, make you gain weight (oh, and it sure doesn’t go away as soon as the ‘roids, do, either!). I figure about 40 of my extra pounds are from my times on steroids, and no one ever thinks THAT is a fringe benefit or lucky side effect! Au contraire….I often get the message that I’m less healthy now because of the ‘roid weight…when, in fact, it’s made no effect at all. Thank you, health (relatively speaking) at any size.

  29. I’m in a posting mood today.

    I would just like to thank everyone here for sharing their personal stories in terms of weight loss, gain or acceptance.

    I too work out three to five times a week and have been for nearly a year (with a break of a month here or there). As much or as little as I go, I tend to remain the same size. When I was younger I was a fat kid in highschool (personal nightmare). I began working out obsessively during college for about a year and then stopped eating appropriately for another year. I was THIN and everyone was just giddy about it. It took me along time to gain the weight back, but I have gained it all back. It’s tough looking back and seeing myself as a happier person because I fit into a certain clothing size. It’s tough realizing that even my parents assume my husband, who I met then and am still with now, would not have paid me the time of day at the weight I am now. My personal worth has always been based on how beautiful I am or how thin I am. It’s only recently that I’ve taken it upon myself to read, to understand and to accept that there isn’t anything wrong with being who you are, at whatever size/weight that maybe.

    I can and will continue to work out, but understand that unless I drastically change my eating habits, I will not be losing any grand amount of weight. I will also try my best not to beat myself up over it.

    It is morally reprehensible to congratulate a woman who has been ill or is dying of a disease on her weight loss. They’re basically saying to her, no we don’t value your life, we just value your size 4 butt. Shameful!

  30. I often get the message that I’m less healthy now because of the ‘roid weight…when, in fact, it’s made no effect at all.

    Not only that, but I would think that if you’re on the steroids to medicate an illness, then you’re actually HEALTHIER than you were when you were lighter. But of course people can’t parse someone who’s fat because they’re healthy, just as they can’t parse someone who’s thin because they’re sick. The effect of believing so strongly in something flawed (like “fat is always unhealthy and the unhealthy are always fat”) is that you experience a lot of cognitive dissonance.

  31. I can tell you right now I wasn’t healthier when I was thinner. Because I had an untreated metabolic disorder AND an untreated psychiatric disorder, my HDL cholesterol was disastrously low, I was laid up for a week out of every month because of hideous cramps and migraines, and I was severely depressed and fatigued to the point I was having trouble holding down a job. Real healthy, you bettums.

  32. It is morally reprehensible to congratulate a woman who has been ill or is dying of a disease on her weight loss. They’re basically saying to her, no we don’t value your life, we just value your size 4 butt. Shameful!

    Well said, Buffy.

  33. My chronic illnesses are depression and hypothyroidism, so theoretically, I should be reaching a “healthy” weight now that I’m on medication for both. I figure I have – I’ve been the same clothing size for about ten years now, and I haven’t felt the need to beat myself up for it since I started taking the SSRIs for the depression. If I wanted to be daft, I could bump up the meds for the thyroid condition, and overclock my metabolism, but all that does is give me the shakes and makes me irritable – and I stay the same weight, because what happens to fix the shakes is food. The “happy” bit of “fat and happy” is the important one for me.

    Someone else thinks I should be a different size and shape? Sod ’em.

  34. How sad is it that so many of us have similar stories. I gained about 30 pounds when I was pregnant. I lost the weight almost immediately after I had my daughter (within about a month). At first I thought it was because I was nursing, but I was eating A LOT more than I normally would. I also felt like total crap. Everyone was telling me how great it was that I lost the “baby weight” so fast, and wanted to know my secret. Of course no one believed me when I told them that not only was I not dieting, I was eating A LOT more than normal. After a total of three months, and losing another 10 pounds, I told my doc I couldn’t take anymore. Turns out that I had post-partum thyroiditis. I had to get on beta blockers, and it cleared up, and then I wasn’t hungry all the time, and got back to my normal weight. No congratulations from anyone there, but I feel a million times better.

  35. Limor, that’s a scary story! I’m glad your treatment was successful.

    Man, “baby weight” is a whole other issue in fatphobia that I wish I knew more about. Having never been pregnant (knock wood!), I just don’t feel qualified to tackle it.

  36. I see my other comment wasn’t posted so I’ll try this again . . .

    I’m disappointed and think it’s hypocritical to write on
    fat acceptance and then spewl about how you were
    able to lose weight. I can see the diet enthusiasts
    now, ‘Well, if she can lose weight, why can’t other
    fat people?’ You really dropped the ball on this
    one, Kate!

  37. Julie, first of all, Kate did not write this post, I did. So please direct your ire appropriately.

    Secondly, if what you took from my “spewling” is that I have been happy about my recent weight loss, then I suggest you brush up on your reading comprehension skills. If any dieters do in fact say, ‘Well, if she can lose weight, why can’t other fat people?’, then they too need to be hit with a clue-by-four.

    If you want to spend the next six months of your life nauseated, in pain, bouncing from doctor to doctor, and constantly in search of a public toilet because you think it would be worth it to lose a few pounds in the end, then you’re the one who doesn’t get fat acceptance.

  38. I can see the diet enthusiasts now, ‘Well, if she can lose weight, why can’t other fat people?’

    Yeah, Laura, what about all those people who are going to read only the first couple sentences of your post and then jump to unwarranted conclusions?

  39. If this is TMI, I’m sorry, but here goes: I’ve been at my current weight (190 lbs) for several years now. Only once I got to that weight did I have normal, daily poos. When I was much thinner I’d go for days without one and felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to become addicted to laxatives. Obviously I wasn’t eating enough; not only that, I smoked a pack and a half a day (I quit in 1986.) I for one am much healthier being heavier.

  40. Oh, lord, I haven’t caught up on this thread in a while. Julie, I don’t know why your other comment wasn’t posted (random spam filter misfire, I expect), but you might have thought a little harder about the one that made it through.

    If the diet enthusiasts are going to point to a sick body acceptance blogger as a good example of how fat people can lose weight, I’m willing to let them go right ahead.

  41. Maggie, I imagine that a lot of women have a similar experience of being healthier when they’re heavier; so many of the things people do to stay thin are deeply unhealthy! I’m glad you’re doing better. And I for one welcome TMI, but I can’t speak for Kate and Fillyjonk.

  42. Wow. I’m just catching up with this thread and want to share my experience.

    I’ve had panic disorder since I was like 8. Spent many years in real pain–functioning, but so miserable I wanted to die. Got pregnant. Panic disorder went away, and stayed away until I had daughter #2, at which point it slammed me to the ground. Went on antidepressants. No more panic disorder, but I gained 50 pounds over the course of 4 years. I went off the meds, mostly because I was also oddly unable to write on them. But I remember thinking, Would I rather be suicidal with pain or fat? I decided I’d rather be fat, thank you very much. (Unlike the respondents in that survey who said they’d rather lose a limb, be blind, or shave 5 years off their lives than be fat. Geez.) Off the meds, about 25 of those pounds came off naturally, but the other 25 seem to have made themselves at home. And I’m cool with it. I can do everything I want to do–hike, bike, dance–and am far less obsessed about food than I used to be. When my daughter developed anorexia two years ago, I had a few of those it’s-your-fault-for-dieting conversations, in which I kept saying, “But I don’t diet! Really!” When you’re overweight everyone assumes you’re always on a diet. Which sucks.

    Anyway, it’s been crucial for her recovery to have lots and lots of high-calorie food around the house. And I’ve been interested to see that while the whole family is eating more of that stuff than we used to, our weights have stayed pretty constant. That shows you something about the human body and its longing for homeostasis.

    OK, done ranting now.

  43. For whatever its worth, I had a troll post using the name “Julie” in the last few days. Its a common enough name so I’m not saying there is a connection, but just passing that along.

    Last I checked, diet promoters don’t need much to justify telling fat people to lose weight. Especially given that the manner described was getting sick. Heck, I lost 40lbs once getting sick. I rebounded by gaining back 60 and it gave me some very unwelcome insight into the mechanics of yo-yo dieting even if it was very unwilling in my case. Also worth noting was the praise I got for looking more acceptable instead of sympathy for having an undiagnosed and then drug-resistant strain of strep that left me incapable of holding down food for 4 weeks.

    While there generally needs to be care taken to avoid the message that fat acceptance is just another way to try to lose weight, that simply wasn’t the content of the initial post at all.

  44. All this sounds familiar! I can remember posting thin doesn’t equal health a while ago. I had severe food poisoning for roughly a month. Everything went right through me and I had spasms in my digestive tract but no one could find anything. Finally I was given what a (male) nurse called the “nuclear bomb” of antibiotics. This seemed to help with symptoms but I couldn’t eat anything with fat in it. Some days I couldn’t eat at all. At one point I had to dilute clear soda just to keep it from burning my stomach. I mostly lived on dry cereal. I also used a liquid multivitamin because I was worried about malnutrition. Weight fell off me but all I could think about was Stephen King’s book “Thinner”. I wondered when it would stop, if ever. I walked through supermarkets full of food I could not eat and mourned every day of my life I had ever dieted. I could still taste food I avoided because it would hurt me. Just losing my temper and being angry would hurt my stomach. All the people around me could say was, “Wow, you look fabulous! How did you do it?” I was so temped to say back, “It was really easy! I got food poisoning and I’m willing to share!”. I felt so isolated, and scared that I was dying, it really infuriated me to hear these comments. After three years I did recover. I eat what I want and I don’t own a scale. My weight returned along with my strength, vitality, and body integrity. I think it’s a good trade!

  45. I qualify as thin…

    The last two times before I recently hit ‘large enough not to get told by the dr it wouldn’t hurt if I gained 5 or 10 lbs, because my metabolism is finally slowing down with age’ I got a kidney infection and lost the weight, pretty fast. No one was that concerned about the steady weight loss, even though I’d asked about it (I’d been in multiple times over the 2 weeks) except for the PA, who realized I’d lost 16 lbs in 2 weeks, and no, that’s not a good thing…

    Of course, since I’m small, no one noticed that I gained or lost any weight, so I didn’t have to deal with all those obnoxious comments, but then maybe if I had more weight on me, the drs would have addressed the weight loss…

  46. My ma has suffered from depression her whole life, and has an eating disorder (in the form of comfort eating, rather than comfort not-eating). When I was growing up, she’d yo-yo between sizes depending on how happy she was, but what really struck me is that every time -EVERY SINGLE TIME -she got too close to her “target weight”, she would get sick, and keep getting sick, until she put weight on again. Anything much below 100 kilos and she’d just be ill constantly. But she’s 5’5″, so her GPs would keep telling her she’d be healthier if she just lost a bit more weight. And while the obvious answer is malnutrition, but I saw what she was eating, and it was always extremely healthy and very well balanced. Her body just isn’t designed to be that small.

    Sometimes, I feel like I’m crazy, because people are so disbelieving of it. :( It’s reassuring to hear that it’s in no way a crazily unusual experience.

  47. Friends after 50lb weight loss: Wow, you look great, congratulations!

    Me: Thanks. Yeah. It’s cool.

    The voice in my head: WOO! See! See! They really DO like you better when you’re thin! Now don’t eat dinner. Or you will be fat and unloveable again. God. Ew. You know how many calories are in that bananna?

    I really hate when people mention my weight. I am probably in much worse physical health now than I was when I was fat(ter), getting all my vitamins and minerals, and swimming for a few hours a week.

  48. I had a doctor who was very focused on my weight at one time. I was on antidepressants for severe PPD after I had my frst baby. I am 5’8 and he was determined that I should weigh less. Oh my gosh I was wearing a size 10!!! Then got pregnant and had a miscarriage at 13 weeks. I had the baby in my shower and then proceeded to black out from blood loss and was hospitalized…and do you know what he wanted to talk about at my appointment? That I weighed 162 and that I should weigh 140! I was traumatized enough by that month’s events but of course I should have been excerising and dieting even though I was on bed rest because I was at risk for further hemmorgaing!!!!

    Also, I was at my sister’s wedding and cannot eat gluten because it gives me terrible joint pain. Someone offered me cake and I said “no thanks” and they said, “good for you!” WHAT! I wish I could have some cake!

    It is crazy out there!

  49. my best friend, who has always been a beautiful curvy girl, lost 50 lbs in 07 because: her husband DIED suddenly from a brain aneurysm; her roommates kicked her out the day after the funeral, leaving her homeless, she had a gallstone that had gone misdiagnosed for several years that was reaching the point where her gallbladder was DISINTEGRATING, she lost her job from taking too many sick days, and wrecked her car all in a period of about 8 months. her usual answer to “how’d you do it” is “my husband died and i got really sick, i don’t recommend it”. unfortunately, instead of realizing that her weight loss was and is unhealthy (she looks awful and eats terribly) she is terrified of gaining it back, and is working her way towards a severe eating disorder to stay small.

  50. Life story ahead alert…

    “Since I’d much rather be fat, happy, and not pregnant than slightly less fat, that probably won’t happen any time soon, but there’s one more strike against the calories in/calories out theory.”

    Ok, I’m new around here and I’m trying to chip away all the messed up mentalities I have about my body, and reading this gave me a total a-ha moment for myself. I was on seasonique for about 9 months, gained weight, and stopped taking the pill. I’ve been debating talking to my doc about trying a different pill with perhaps less-pronounced side effects (I seem to be susceptible to several common bcp side effects, not just weight gain), but have been very tempted to just stay off the pill bc I don’t want to gain weight. Reading that simple sentence made me seriously compare the possibility of getting pregnant right now versus being a little heavier, and within about half a second I came to the very obvious conclusion that was nevertheless hard for me that I should go see my doc about an alternative bcp.

    There may be such a thing as slightly less fat, but no such thing as slightly less pregnant, after all.

    So thanks for that :)

  51. Old, old, old, but this is something that’s happened to me recently and it’s bugging me enough that I’ve stopped being all gracious and have moved to blunt, eye-contact maintaining, make you squirm honesty.

    “Wow, you look great – you’ve lost a bunch of weight!”

    “I have no idea, but I’m guessing that having my husband take a job 300 miles away, stress and smoking a pack a day will do that!”

  52. Super late to the party, but:

    When I went vegetarian I lost about 20 lbs before my body adjusted and leveled back out. I *hated* it. Suddenly I was always cold, I bruised really easily (I play contact sports) and my neck looked like a chicken. This happened at around the same time I started learning about fat acceptance, and it really drove home the idea that fat is not always horrible for you. It exists on my body for a reason, and I hated going without it. I never thought I’d be so happy to gain 20 lbs!

    This weekend I was telling this story to a friend who is struggling with his body image, and my mom felt the need to burst in and tell me how I’m “bigger than I used to be” and she’s concerned about my health. Aside from that 20 lbs, I’ve been around the same size since the middle of high school. I know this because I still wear a lot of the same clothes. I’ve gained muscle mass (again, contact sports) but the amount of fat in my body is the same. The only time I was skinnier was when I was a freshman, and rapidly gaining height. I don’t understand where this comment comes from, especially since she knows about my eating habits (very balanced and healthy, and I also don’t eat a lot because I get full quickly) and exercise habits (no car, so I walk those couple miles to class every day, then home, then to the grocery store and home with my groceries, then wherever else I need to go).

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