I want to tell you why I’m not dieting anymore.
I want to tell you, but I am afraid.
I want to tell you, in joy, about the rolls that have come back to my arms, the measuring cups and spoons gathering dust in the drawer, the scale gathering dust in the linen closet–but I am afraid.
I am afraid because I have spent so long calculating, when can I next eat ice cream? When can I next have a slice of cheese? When can I order pasta? How many days, how many minutes, how many seconds until cheat day?
And then further calculations: How many points is a scoop of hummus? How many rice cakes can I afford? Can I eat only bananas until dinner, so I have enough points left for a tablespoon of pesto?
I am afraid because I have not seen myself in years. I too have been gathering dust, suppressed in the tiny back room of my mind, banging against the door and screaming, it just isn’t fair, watching thin people eat bagels, hearing the front brain reply, 17 points.
I want to tell you about these things. I want to tell you that my brain stem was a picture of me, huddled and screaming, pulling my hair out, while the front brain spoke to me, calm and calculated: three more days until weigh in–you can make it until then to have chocolate. Think of the loss this week.
I want to tell you how I wanted to impress you–how I wanted you to see “health” brimming from my slimmed hips, my narrowed waist, my ability to shop in whatever part of the store I wanted. I wanted my size to be a single character, my weight to start with the number one, my calves to fit into boots, my ass to not spill over the sides of the chair.
I wanted you to be proud of me. I wanted the stewardess to smile at me. I wanted to not hit that call button and ask for that seat belt extender. I wanted to sit in the exit row. I wanted that extra leg room. I wanted to earn your praise. I wanted you to see strength in me. I wanted to check the boxes of thinness and be admitted into the club. I wanted to wear short skirts and crop tops and strapless dresses and not worry if my body offended you. I didn’t want to offend you. I still don’t want to offend you.
I want to tell you that when I look in the mirror all I can see is arm rolls, spare tire, gut, chins, back fat, cellulite, ripples, dimples. I want to tell you that I can’t stop asking myself: why didn’t it work? What is wrong with me that I couldn’t keep going, that Weight Watchers couldn’t be my life? Why couldn’t I earn more stickers and rewards and free swag? Why couldn’t I keep dropping pounds in my wake and walking on Weight Watchers blueberry-infused water to the desert oasis (a mirage) of thinness? Why was it all too much for me?
I want to tell you that it wasn’t your choice to be thin. I want to tell you how you’ve never lived this life, yoyo-ing from 200 to 300 pounds, starving and binging and crying. I want to tell you how your diet when you dropped 15 pounds is not the same as spending a lifetime shopping online, working for years to have those few months of pulling clothes straight from the rack, trying them on, and having the zippers and buttons close. I want to tell you how my successes could not be celebrated with a coffee drink, because milk has points and sugar has points, so I would get an herbal tea and pretend it had honey in it (honey is a lot of points).
I want to tell you how it never stopped, how every moment was consumed with diet, how you could have your moment of being “bad” getting a frappucino, but I had to wait until Saturday to decide if a frappucino was worth 30 of my 42 cheat points. I want to tell you how my donuts were measured in the number of miles I walked, minutes I pedaled, and kernels of popcorn I didn’t eat late at night when dinner didn’t keep me full.
I want to tell you how as I lost the weight, as I went from 30 pounds, to 40, to 70, to 80, the points allowance got lower and lower. I want to tell you how the work only got harder and the losses more elusive. I want to tell you how I ached to continue, to feel your love and escape your disappointment, how I kept eating apples and bananas trying to stave off the feeling that it was all too much, that no one should have to do this. How I told myself that I was making the same choices that thin people make every day, and this was what it took to be a thin person.
I want to tell you how all my life I’ve wanted to be thin. How all my life I’ve wanted to not be the fat friend, to borrow clothes from someone, to have the experience of being hit on at a bar by someone my age, who didn’t say anything about how fat I am. To be harassed in the street for being hot, instead of having a passerby tell me to starve myself in front of all my friends (my friends said nothing).
I want to tell you that I know this isn’t your definition of oppression, but can’t you just admit that it fucking sucks? I want to tell you that even if this is how you choose to live your life–measuring yogurt and sugar packets and olive oil–you shouldn’t have to live this way. I want to tell you how the war we are waging with our bodies is useless; the weight comes back, the cravings come back, you end up eating the chips, and the spiral of yearning and succumbing and self loathing continues, until you are reduced to the gnawing animal in the back of your mind who cries out and beats at the sides of its cage, hungry and wretched and miserable.
I want to tell you that I refuse this life–that I refuse to fulfill your expectations of me if those expectations are rooted in changing my body. I want to tell you that I am thinking, then whispering, then screaming: fuck you. Fuck. You. FUCK YOU. I want to let you know that a lifetime of expectations has alienated me from my body and made me hate myself for the way I am: fat.
I want to tell you how you’ve made my fat a dirty word and made my body a dirty body. I want to tell you how you’ve refused me and rejected me and how all you’ve ever said to me is YOUR BODY IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I want to tell you how your words entered through my ears like a parasite and lodged themselves in the deepest parts of me. I want to tell you how effective it was–how all I can remember is hating the way I look, how many times I sat thinking, my face is beautiful; if only my body could match.
So here I am, trying to tell you that this is it. I am trying to tell you, even though I’m afraid, that I am surrendering. I am raising the white flag, and the white flag is a shirt I will buy in a size 3X, because I am done trying to change myself. I am telling you that I cannot stop the war waging outside–where we receive the coded messages of “wellness” and “clean eating,” but they are only whispering, insidiously, “you must be thinner.”
I can’t stop the war of profit, where the poor can’t get vegetables because there are no grocery stores, where six pounds of pasta costs the same as one mango, where you have to get your groceries at Walmart because it is the only place open after your shift.
But I can stop the war inside of me.
And I can tell you that you are enough.
I can tell you that you deserve to live, unencumbered. I can tell you that it is not your responsibility to hold the weight of your weight on your shoulders. I can tell you that it is they who have work to do–not you. I can tell you that you are loved, and worthy, and you don’t have to measure your worth in points or teaspoons or ounces or pounds. I can tell you that I love you, and I don’t care what size your pants are. I can tell you that your pain is real, that the stigma is real, that I believe you. I can tell you that we are fat, strange, and othered together, and there are so many more of us than there are of them. I can tell you that I am grateful for you. This is what I can tell you.
What I want to tell you is that I am fat and I love myself. But I can’t tell you that, because it’s not true–yet. I can tell you that I’m getting there. And I can tell you that my arms have grown bigger so they can hold you, just the way you are, and tell you: you are enough.