I’ve never been one to shy away from the issue of obesity. I’ve discussed some of my struggles with obesity and shared the fact that I underwent gastric bypass surgery (the best decision of my life). I typically will engage in discussions regarding obesity in an attempt to present points that are often overlooked or misunderstood by others. I’ve never thought of myself as a crusader or the voice of an underrepresented group of people, but apparantly, my writing has struck a chord with some readers. To date, this post has resulted in over 30 personal emails to me. I’m shocked ya’ll. Most of the emails have been inquisitive, you know questions about this and that. Others have been expressions of encouragement regarding me speaking up. A few have been troubling as they were from folks who are in pain. I’ll save those for another day. The tone of most has been positive and the overwhelming sentiment was, we need to hear your voice more on this, so please write more “Thoughts from the Fluffy Side.” So, I shall. Not exactly sure how often I will, but I’ll try to make some consistent posts regarding weight, obesity, bariatric surgery and everything related. I’ll try to make sense of what I’m feeling, but forgive me if I ramble a bit at times.
A few weeks ago an inboxer asked me how to deal with insensitive friends. I had a conversation with a friend over the weekend and she hurt my feelings. I know that she did not do it intentionally, but that does not negate the fact that she did. As I’m a true Cancerian woman, my tone changed slightly, but I retreated inside my shell and did not let her know that she had hurt me. Instead, I stewed for two days and allowed myself to become even more hurt. I sent her an email last night because when I’m full of emotion, I can express myself much better through written word.
Ya’ll know I can’t rush a story (LOL), so here’s what happened. She and I were navigating our way through the crowded dining room at a local Thai restaurant. She was in front and chose one path. I watched her, then scanned the room and took an alternate path, based on the amount of space between the other diners and the “bump” potential. I arrived at the table a few second after her. She gave me a puzzled look and said, “Why did you go that way?” Duh, cause I’m fat and I couldn’t fit through those spaces. Before I could respond, she laughed and said, “TDJ, dude, you’re so much smaller than you think you are. You could easily fit through the spaces I just did. Why can’t you see what the rest of us see?” She paused, looked around the restaurant and said, “You’re not THAT fat anymore. Look at that lady. You’re way smaller than her. You used to be big big like the girl that played Precious, but now you’re more like, uhm, I don’t know. Latifah with more booty.”
She laughed. I stared. Then the waiter came over. Wow. Which part of her comment actually hurt me? That’s a damned good question. To tell you the truth, I’m still not really sure. I am overweight; well, obese even, based on that crappy ass height and weight chart. I’m no longer viewed as super obese by anyone. Well, maybe Ally McBeal would think I was, but not so much to everyone else. Strangers who meet me have no idea of my struggles or how far I’ve come. Those that knew me at my heaviest do know. When I look in the mirror, I’m pleased with what I see. However, I see a woman much heavier than I appear to others. And, contrary to what I saw at 417 lbs, I see myself as heavier now at 268. Crazy huh? Well, maybe, just a little, according to the medical professionals. There’s a little thing called body dysmorphic disorder. Oversimplified, it’s a disorder where a person’s mental image of themselves doesn’t match the actual, physical image. Extreme forms of the disorder are usually the underlying causes for anorexia, bulimia, etc. Often, bariatric patients develop a mild form of the disorder after losing a significant amount of weight.
Perhaps the sting was the usage of the phrase “THAT fat” or maybe it was the emphasis on “big big”. I still don’t know. Weight is such a sensitive and personal thing, and as someone who knows a lot of what I’ve gone through, her comments had a callous, off handedness that stung. I’m often in conversations and people will forget that I’m the fat person in the room. When I go to make a comment, they usually follow it with something like, “Oh, but you’re not THAT big.” Hmmm, compliment? Insult? Sometimes, I’m not sure.
No, I’m not fat enough to require a seatbelt extender or two airline seats anymore, nor did I encroach on my seatmate when I traveled in June, but I’m definitely fat enough to shop in plus size stores and get a little winded walking very long distances.
No, I’m not fat enough to be unable to fit behind the steering wheel of a midsize car anymore , but I’m definitely fat enough to have rented a midsize and not a compact during my June trip to ATL.
Don’t misunderstand my comments – I am extremely happy in the skin I’m in and I thank my bariatric surgery for giving me a renewal and resurgence at the age of 31. Health benefits aside, I can logically acknowledge the changes in my physical appearance over the last three years, but sometimes that doesn’t jive with the woman in the mirror. I still see a beautiful fat woman, but I often wonder how the world sees me?
So, to the inboxer and others, I would say this: Weight is and forever will be a thorny and sensitive topic. If you are the overweight person, remember that your REAL friends/loved ones mean you no harm when speaking of your weight. They are speaking with you from a place of love and concern for your well-being and quality of life. If you are the friend/loved one, be mindful of how you speak to your friend/loved one; especially those of you that shoot straight from the hip with no filter. Your opinion is yours alone, and although it is your right to share it as you see fit, there is a time, tone and place for every conversation. Your voice is not the only one in the room and often your message can be lost in the caustic, insensitive or heavy handed delivery.
I don’t mean these posts to be lectures, so please share your thoughts.