The Feel of Fat

Sometimes I think god is punishing me because I am fat.

Yes, I just said that.

There are so many reasons that statement is ludicrous. For one, I don’t actually believe in god. Note the small “g.” I have been a bona fide witch for 10 years, a raging feminist for 15, and an explorer in a variety of religions for my whole life. I gave up the idea of god a very, very long time ago.

I have also been fat my whole life. There was a time when I was thinner, but during that time when I was thinner, I was still 200 pounds, and so still technically fat. The lightest I ever weighed was 171 pounds, over Christmas break my freshman year of college. I got that skinny, and was into a Size 12 at The Gap!!!, by smoking, getting the stomach flu, and eating one meal a day. It was heaven. 171 lasted three days, and then I climbed back, back, back into the 200s again, despite smoking more, eating less, and abusing diet pills.

So now I am fat(ter), and older, and I suffer with chronic pain. I laid in bed last night, with fucking shoulder, back and neck pain and thought: It’s because I’m fat, isn’t it? I bet if I weren’t fat, I wouldn’t hurt.

See, I’ve bought into the notion that skinniness will make all of my medical problems go away. As I laid in bed, debating whether to take a vicodin not prescribed to me just to have one night free of pain, I rolled to one side and pushed my belly fat up with my hand to see what it would be like to be thin, kind of like N’s. What would it feel like? I don’t care so much about looks anymore, because I’ve accepted my looks in a certain way. But what would my actual body feel like to be thin?

I’ve always wondered that. I’ve been a fat kid, a fat teenager, a fat college student, a fat employee, a fat writer, a fat lover, a fat daughter, a fat friend, a fat sister, a fat daughter-in-law, a fat wife, a fat divorcee, a fat grad student, a fat crisis responder, a fat witch, a fat feminist, a fat woman, a fat human my whole life. Never once, never once have I been thin. I have always had a belly that rolled over the top of my pants. I have always had thighs that rubbed together. I have always had arms that jiggled. I have always had a very round ass. I have always had a double chin. 

Sometimes I look at thin people and wonder: What does it feel like to have a smooth belly, that doesn’t roll over the waistband? Sometimes I push hard down on my belly or pull my belly up toward my chest to see what that would feel like, but of course it doesn’t feel the same. Sometimes I pull the skin taut on my upper arm to see what it would feel like to have a bicep that is defined and smooth and not marked by loose skin.

And now that I suffer with chronic pain, I find myself blaming myself for being fat. Obviously, I wouldn’t be in pain if I weren’t fat, right? It must feel better to be thin, right? After all, the doctors say that thinness helps the joints and bones and muscles, and so because of my fatness, it must bne my fault I am in pain.

I acquired my chronic pain by being hit by a car while riding my bike. I used to ride my bike all over. I used to ride it to work at the publishing company, to work at the coffee shop, to work out my feelings, to look at the lake, to listen to music, to get back into my body. I didn’t lose any weight doing it. Yes, I was a fat bike rider, but I loved it anyway. I rode miles and miles, and sometimes I would ride several times a day. I loved it. It made me feel free. I was scared of being hit by a car, so I rode on the sidewalk. And then one day, crossing an intersection, sidewalk-to-sidewalk, on my way to a volleyball game, a minivan rolled through its stop sign and I nailed it, my whole left side crashing into it.

A broken wrist, a separated shoulder, and left hip bursitis and two tickets from the city police was my gift that day. I also haven’t done much bike riding since then. That was six years ago, 30 pounds ago, pre-bipolar and so, pre-psych med fattening.

I am still in pain. Last night, as I laid in bed contemplating the vicodin, I thought: Maybe if I were thin, I wouldn’t hurt. So I pushed my belly around, trying to feel what it would be like on my body if I were thin. Maybe God was punishing me with constant pain because I was bad. Fat is bad. I am bad. And so I must hurt. Fat must hurt.

I laid on my side, belly pushed up in my hands, and waited for the pain to abate.

It did not. My shoulder throbbed. My neck seized. My back ached. Taking the weight of my fatness off of my body and into my own hands, creating a sort of sling, did not prevent the pain. I was actually surprised at this. I expected the pain to leave. I expected that the fatness was causing me to hurt. And it wasn’t.

I guess this means I am not bad. I guess this means god isn’t punishing me. I guess this means my body just hurts because I was hit by a fucking car, and fat or thin, I have a right to hurt from that. It’s a novel concept. Part of me has been putting up with so much pain because I don’t want to hear anymore about how if I lose weight I won’t have anymore health issues. I don’t want to hear anymore about how I just need to live with it. I would like the doctors to live with this pain. I would like everyone who has ever told me to suck it up to live with this pain. I would like to ask them: If I were small and petite and came to you as a patient, would you tell me: “Too bad! That’s your lot in life?” I am not sure you would. But I have heard it over and over again. And so I have lived for a long time in a body that doesn’t feel good, and that has nothing to do with my fatness, because my fatness actually doesn’t feel bad or painful. It feels like fat. Which is soft, and smooth, and cushy, and jiggly. And if it doesn’t feel bad, I guess it can’t be all that bad.


1 Comment

  1. stewart said,

    January 11, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Although you are fantastically beautifully created, regardless of your weight, there must be some realization that a significant amount of weight wears on your frame. The joints, the bones, the muscles, tendons, and organs are all working very hard to support that extra weight. I am so sorry that you were hit by the van. I’d bet they fixed the scratches on their vehicle… or not… and went about their business. You, on the other hand have to deal with the chronic pain from that experience. I also am overweight and deal with the extra aches and pains that have gone along with it. I refuse to make one more New Year’s Resolution, rather, I am going to make a goal for myself. Honestly, I haven’t set it yet, but I am on my way. I hope that this year brings you less pain and more joy.

    thoughtracer: I want to thank you for reading, and comment back on several things you said. First, I really challenge the notion that people carry extra weight, or that people are “over”weight. Who is to say that any amount of weight I have on my frame is extra? Who is to say that the exact body I have is the isn’t the body I am actually supposed to have? Who says I as an individual am supposed to fit into charts devised by an insurance company in the 1940s for the purpose if denying people their insurance? I don’t say that. I say: This is the body I have. This is the body I live in. This is the body that I cannot rid myself of. This is the body that will not, for any period of time, be thin. In fact, at my THINNEST, I have actually still been fat, and, insurance-chart-wise, obese. And to be that “THIN,” I have had to engage in really unhealthy, clinically insane eating practices, which means eating something like 600 calories a day and abusing ephedrine. I am not sure how that is better for me than simply being fat, and again, I am not exactly sure how it is that being fat means I am carrying weight that isn’t natural to my genetic makeup.

    Secondly, let’s say I chose to be fat. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, I just decided I really enjoyed Haagen Daaz, (even though I’m terribly lactose intolerant, so there’s no ice cream, no dairy delectables, none of it) and laid around eating twice as much as everyone I know. Let’s say that I overcame all of the bullshit media and societal pressure and said: Fuck it!! Fat is so amazing, and it’s IN this season, so I’m gonna ditch the Size 2 jeans and Twinkie it on up to a Size 22. Why the hell not? That’s the same argument every oppressed group uses, right? My joint and muscle pain is above the waist, in my left shoulder and my neck and upper back. I don’t have a hell of a lot of fat there. So, unless I my head has suddenly become morbidly obese, unless Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig develops a way for me to lose fatness in my brain, I’m out of luck for the joint pain above the waist. And I am sure a lot of people would think, “I’d rather chop off my head than be fat!” The clothes would fit better too.

    The post was more about the fact that I have bought into the notion that I don’t have the right to seek care for my body because I am fat. That I apparently deserve to be in pain because I am fat. That fat=bad, and bad warrants chronic pain, so I should just shut up about it, because I chose to be fat, right?

    But, wait. I didn’t choose to be fat. Not any more than the queers choose to be queer, or the blacks choose to be black, or the women choose to be women. And like those groups who have also faced difficulty in getting apprpriate, prejudice-free medical care, I too have an inexorable right to be OK with my body and demand equality in the doctor’s office, despite what the scale may say.

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