I fight my internalized fatphobia every moment of every day. I want to go back to that thin body but I know that is impossible. Don’t you know diets fail? Don’t you know that you’ll just put more weight on? Don’t you know that, yes, you may be able to diet one more time, but do you have one more recovery left in you? I repeat these things in my head.
Then along comes this thing called a pandemic, and with it all these jokes about “the COVID 15,”and how you can’t stop eating while you’re home, and how you’re going to weigh so much they’ll have to find a forklift to carry you around. The fatphobia present in today’s society, even in the midst of a global crisis, is disheartening. People are more afraid of putting on weight than they are about dying from a virus.
For those of us with a weaker immune system, whether from an eating disorder, yo-yo dieting, or some other immune deficiency condition, this is scary. It is not just another cold or flu. This could kill us. Yet the world goes on pretending they are immune, and maybe they are, but I am not. I have destroyed my body through pills and diets and ups and downs in my weight, so that my kidneys no longer function the way they should. My body is tired, and a “little” thing like a virus could very easily bring me down.
I do what the doctors say now. For the first time in my life, I want to live. For so many years, I prayed for death. I wanted to get away from this world and escape the pain of it—my eating disorder gave me that escape. Now I feel everything, and I no longer have the eating disorder to protect me from feeling anymore. I feel the grief of losing the body I once had. I feel the loneliness of not being able to see my grandchildren. I feel the fear of impending doom, whether real or imagined. Oh, how I wish I could escape into the land of restriction and not feel a thing, to let my focus be solely on reducing the size of my body so no one could see me. Reducing the size of my body so I could shrink and not take up space. This all comes blaring at me again during a global crisis.
The internal fatphobia will always be a part of me, I think. I will always grieve the loss of the body I thought I wanted. My body knows best though. It knows where it should be, so it can give me the strength to fight, and have the energy to chase after an 8-year-old and a 1-year-old. And I love it. It brings me to a place where the internal fatphobia is quieted— it’s not gone, but it is quieter. I eat what I want, when I want. I’m not afraid of what a piece of cake will do to me. I can eat a bowl of ice cream with my granddaughter and not fear putting on 10 pounds (which is actually physically impossible). I welcome the protection of my body.
In the midst of this pandemic, please think of those of us with eating disorders and keep the comments about weight gain to yourself. It is really harmful and makes fun of those of us who are fat. Heaven forbid you look like me. You know, it’s really not that bad though, and if diet culture didn’t say we all had to look alike with these slim, trim athletic bodies it wouldn’t even matter.
I want to put an end to these lies that being healthy is reserved for those who are thin. Even with my years of dieting destroying parts of my body and looking like I do, I can tell you that I am the healthiest I have ever been in my life. However, the more important thing is that I am happy. I am happy to be able to give and receive love. I am happy that I am still alive. I no longer beg for God to take me home every night, only to be disappointed I didn’t die overnight.
I don’t want to sugar coat this either. I still have my moments. I still get depressed. I am typically anxious all the time. I have dealt with an eating disorder all my life, and this is what my mind and body are used to. It is going to take a while for me to be comfortable with a new normal.
For now, I implore you to stop with with fatphobic jokes and quit making a global crisis about putting on weight and how out of shape you’re going to get. Now is not the time to be dieting. Your body needs the fuel to fight this virus should you contract it. It’s not the worst thing in the world to put on weight. I can now say death will be the worst thing. Please stop. You’re only propagating the idea that you cannot be fat and healthy, and that is just not true.
Photo credit: Christopher Cromartie