This could possibly be the most real thing I ever write. I know, I know, I write some pretty raw and authentic things about marriage and parenting. But this… This is a part of my story that most of you don’t know. This is a piece of the puzzle of me that most of my current friends, acquaintances, readers, and followers would never imagine. And what makes this the most real thing I may ever write is that it is just that- it is real. It isn’t an idea or a concept about how to deal with the current or future issues in my life. It’s my story. It’s written into the book of my life. And no matter what shame or guilt or embarrassment surrounds your story, you cannot erase the truths of your life and your past. You can only change the present and the future. And that’s my story- one of change. And from that place of change, I want to share with you the ugly truth about being overweight.
If I told you that I used to be double my size, would you believe me? Most people look at me and think I am healthy, happy, and even blessed. And while I would say all of those things are true, I would say the first two certainly have not always been true for me. In fact, the first two have really only been true for the last five or six years. No, scratch that. The first one has been true for the last five or six years. The second? That’s probably only been true for the last two or three.
So before you look at me and think I am just shaming people who are overweight and that I wouldn’t understand, please know that I do. I speak from a place of experience and I wish that was not true. But it is, and I can’t change the fact that I was overweight. I can only better myself today.
So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter? We live in a culture where things are constantly shifting. And one of the most recent shifts in our culture has been in regards to body image and self love. And let me make it totally clear upfront that I wholeheartedly support loving yourself no matter where you are in your journey.
If you don’t love yourself where you are, there’s no guarantee you’ll love yourself when you change.
Loving yourself is essential to your health, and while I could speak on that subject for hours, we will save that topic for another day. For today’s sake, just know that I fully champion the self-love movement.
But within that self-love movement, there has developed an acceptance for obesity. Somehow, being overweight has become a normal thing. Unlike any other culture, America has an incredible tolerance for unhealthy lifestyles. The latest “Fat Acceptance Movement” is one that encourages health at any size, body positivity, and acceptance of excess weight. And again, I fully believe that we, as children of God, should love ourselves no matter what season we are in. But there are some fundamental issues with this movement.
First of all, “health at any size” seems a bit far fetched to me. The reality is, we all have an ideal weight (not mentally, but physiologically) that is best for our body, and at that weight our body is its healthiest. We would never look at someone who struggles with anorexia and say, “it’s okay, she can be healthy at that size.” Why? Because we know and understand that the effects of anorexia go far beyond the look of skin and bones. So why would we look at obesity- which is also a disease- and find ways to justify it? We can’t. Because obesity is just that. It is a disease. Did y’all know that obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States? That’s because obesity is the leading cause of heart disease and type 2 diabetes- and those are diseases that kill people.
And those are just some of the “big name” effects of obesity. Obesity can also cause high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, joint problems, sleep apnea, cancer, and metabolic syndrome. And that doesn’t even touch on all of the psychosocial effects. It is a real disease, and it’s a problem.
So why would we be okay with it? We would never look at someone with cancer and disregard it as “just the way they are.” HELL no. We would encourage them to do every possible thing to get treatment, find a cure, and live a happy and healthy life. How can we be so distraught over one potentially fatal illness and not over another?
And about the body positivity aspect of the Fat Acceptance Movement… Once again, I fully support loving the way you look. But shouldn’t body positivity also mean being positive about your health and well being? Shouldn’t we, if we truly love ourselves, take care of ourselves in a way that leads to good health and proper body function? If you ask me, there’s nothing more negative than destroying your body.
And then there’s the acceptance of excess weight. Again, it’s not “just the way we are.” Our bodies were not designed to carry excess weight. The problem with just accepting excess weight is that we are ignoring a whole host of underlying issues. Whether it’s a thyroid condition, poor metabolic function due to our upbringing, or the even worse issue of food addiction, we need to be addressing these problems.
Now, maybe you’re thinking or wondering, “why do you care?” Well, to be honest, I wish I didn’t. I wish that it didn’t bother me. I wish that it didn’t literally make me weep at times to see people who are insanely obese and struggling to walk. But it does. So why is being overweight such a big deal to me?
Well, that’s where it gets real for me. I could speak about the people in my life who are directly impacted and whose quality of life has been minimized due to obesity, but that is their story to tell. It is important to note, however, that seeing people I love struggle in this way is very heartbreaking for me.
But beyond those loved ones, this is my story.
I grew up in a pretty unhealthy home. I wouldn’t say my mom didn’t take care of us, I would just say that we didn’t know any better. And we ate well. I mean, I am from Alabama. The cooking was good. But it wasn’t healthy. The unhealthy cooking combined with not being a “sports kid,” as well as being from a broken home and dealing with many emotions led me down a path towards obesity. I was obese by the time I was in high school. I was the fat girl. And I know I shouldn’t use the word fat, but if you know me, you probably know I call a spade a spade.
And I didn’t really know any different. I just thought some girls were lucky and got to be skinny and pretty, and some girls were unlucky. I was one of the unlucky ones. I was made fun of more times than I can count, and I always felt like I was just “that girl.” I had a great heart and I was hilarious (seriously, if you are reading this and you went to high school with me, you missed out), but I wasn’t
cool skinny enough to fit in. I ended up battling an extreme battle of self hatred, food addiction, bulimia, and extreme loneliness.
And then I lived to tell the tale. I kicked my butt into gear and started fighting for my health. I decided that being overweight was not going to be my story. I started running and eating clean. Over a period of about four years I lost about fifty pounds. I felt better in every single way, and I loved myself more than I ever have. Not because of how I looked, but because of a dignity and self respect that comes from caring for yourself. But I still carried a shame and embarrassment about being overweight. I didn’t want my husband or his family to ever see a photo of me “before I was pretty.” I was terrified that he (and they) would think of me as “the fat girl.” I wanted to help others on their health journey, but I was too afraid of exposing myself. In the back of my head I was always thinking, “what will they think of me if they know who I used to be?” Being overweight was something I wanted to hide.
That all changed a week ago.
Well, I guess you could say it all changed three weeks ago. Here’s the long story short that I haven’t shared with many people: About two weeks after my baby was born I experienced a loss of feeling in about half of my lower left leg. Nine months later, I ended up at the doctor because I was experiencing sharp shooting pain in the midst of that numbness. My journey with the orthopedic doctors went all over the place. I was scheduled for a nerve decompression in my left leg and it was meant to be a minor operation. Then I got a call from my doctor himself. He told me he was concerned and wanted to check for a tumor in my leg. Needless to say, I was terrified, but I went in for an MRI and told myself all would be well.
Actually, who am I kidding. I begged three of my friends to take care of Sadie and protect her from the world in the event that I was dying.
So I had my MRI and by the grace of God I did not have a tumor, just a large cyst. I also had some “cartilage defects” in my left knee. The doctor told me it wasn’t going to be addressed during my surgery, but that I would see a specialist after I was well enough to do so. So I had my surgery and waited.
And that brings us to a week ago. I saw the specialist and was very blessed that he was an amazing and compassionate man. Because I needed to hear what I heard from someone kind and compassionate.
After a thorough processing of my entire health history, I was gently told that my left knee could potentially need a replacement by the time I am forty if I don’t stop running. Obviously that was a big deal to me, but the bigger deal was the “why.” And as humiliating as I still find it to share this, it is important to be shared.
My left knee is essentially destroyed because I was obese for more than half of my life. And I had no idea that in my efforts to get healthy and in shape when I started running as a college student that I was actually destroying my joints. The load I carried in my body was literally too much for my knees to bear. Being obese literally destroyed my knee. And their is nothing healthy or positive about that, and that should not be acceptable for any reason.
So the ugly truth about being overweight is that it damages your body. And in the grand scheme of things, you might say I am lucky that it was my knee and not my heart. But what is luck anyways? If you ask me, I am lucky I survived. Obesity is a disease, and it is killing people. Your beautiful heart and spirit are something to be proud of. Your gorgeous hair and stunning eyes are something to be proud of. Your face is something to be proud of.
Being overweight is not.
This is not a value statement, but rather a cry for change. Being overweight is not okay, and we need to stop finding ways to make a disease a beautiful thing.
People are dying from being overweight- emotionally, psychologically, and physically. And we cannot accept that.