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Your Fatphobia Is Dangerous

CW: Discusses food and extreme weight loss measures.

People like Jillian Michaels and Fatshaming Twitter is why I nearly developed a full blown eating disorder.

Recently, Buzzfeed gave a platform to a health “expert” Jillian Michaels, of The Biggest Loser fame.  Michaels had a lot to say about Lizzo and Lizzo’s weight.  Here is the interview

When I see, especially non-Black people, criticizing a Black woman’s weight, it never sits right with me. Why? Because Black women’s bodies seem to always be subject to someone’s opinion of what it should look like.  Naturally, I said something.

And then it began (for me at least).  So many fatphobic, fatmisic, and fatshaming comments.  Of course there are health risks to being fat, but don’t project your fears onto us fatties. Other than my weight and The Myrtles ™, I’m healthy.  Some of us are in otherwise good health!

But people like the commenters and Jillian Michaels are why there is pressure to lose weight to fit this “health ideal”. But we don’t talk about the health risks of dieting when the dieter is fat like me.‬  I’ve shared this before online but it begs repeating. I may have done more damage to my body trying to lose weight, or potential damage, than I ever did being a fatty. ‬

‪Since childhood I’ve been on one diet or another. None of those by choice. Imagine being 10 and being told your breakfast is two slices of dry toast, a boiled egg, some plain oatmeal (maybe) and water or a cup of OJ or even a cup of black decaf coffee (no sugar) OR alternatively, half a grapefruit…by a hospital nutritionist.  No candies. No baked goods. Nothing a kid would like.

‪Anyway, I discovered diet pills when I was in high school when I found some in a drawer and thought: OH this is a good idea! They were the energy boosting pills. I had tons of energy at school but I didn’t lose a pound.‬ Whatever.

‪Why the need to lose weight? Prosthetics that I didn’t even want to wear. As a matter of fact, before my last surgery in 1994, they admitted me to the hospital for almost 2 months pre-op JUST FOR WEIGHT LOSS! I was 10 and at the beginning of puberty.‬ While the other kids were getting Oreos or other wonderful snacks, I was getting pears or oranges or yogurt.

‪I didn’t lose weight.

‪Anyway, back to high school. I was getting stressed because my prosthetics kept breaking and everyone involved in my medical and personal life kept saying it’s because I was too fat. ‬They kept saying if I didn’t lose weight, it might be that I can never walk again. Did I want to be one of those people who had to be lifted out of their window by a construction machine because I was too fat to walk or be lifted?

It was all my fault. So diet pills it was!‬

‪Fast forward to college. I’m in complete control of my meals so naturally I start calorie restriction. Lunch? Dark green salad with bell peppers, sunflower seeds, olive oil and a dash of salt. Dinner? A serving of pasta with a lil olive oil and a dash of salt. Breakfast? Optional‬.  Skip a meal, figure out exercises I can do disabled-ly. Snack: turkey roll up. I wasn’t consistent with it, though.

‪Fast forward post-2005. I try Alli, that fat repelling pill. Remember that one? It blocked 25% of ‬fat from absorbing into your body. I bought two bottles. It was about this time that I bought a gym membership with a trainer.  I would take the pills as instructed, workout with my trainer, barely eat.

alli-horiz

I swore by these diet pills

See, the worse thing that they could have told me was to track what I ate and the calories in. I became obsessive.

The problem was and is that my workouts are limited.  I would burn at most 100 calories per cardio workout.  So, I couldn’t eat too much.  Breakfast became a Carnation Instant Breakfast (pre-made) and an ounce of cheese. Lunch was a couple pieces of turkey pepperoni, ounce of cheese, toast and tea.  Or I’d have some oatmeal and OJ but immediately go to the gym. Always with the diet pill.

As my trainer began to praise my weight loss, I decided to kick it up a notch.  Add: Colon cleanse pills.  They make you poop out the build up in your colon, which can add to your weight.

I carried this habit with me to California: Barely eat. Pop an Alli. Pop a colon cleanse. Gym trainer once a week. Gym on my own 2x a day. Lots of water.  I bought a heart tracker to help me count calories burned doing daily activities. I was charting, I was spending longer at the market.

Long after I ditched the gym I still kept doing destructive things. Appetite suppressant drops, tummy teas, wheelchair workouts I found online, barely there meals.  If I was burning 175 calories with my morning workout, then I would eat least than that amount for breakfast. One boiled egg, 7 grapes, one ounce of cheese, 3 apple slices. Plain black coffee.  A green juice for lunch. “And a sensible dinner”.  Always with the appetite suppressants and colon cleanse pills.

And with all that I was putting my body through, I was still just BARELY losing weight. My clothing size wasn’t going down so, what was I losing? Bone density. Muscle. Control.  I was tearing up my body in an effort to be what everyone else said I should be. Thin.

It took me awhile but, I gave it all up.  Maybe it was the trip to the ER after I lost all feeling in half my body.  Maybe it was learning about The Myrtles (TM).  I still drank my smoothies for breakfast, but I was better about the nutritional value.  I still watched calories, but it’s with the understanding that I cannot burn them like my abled peers, and that’s okay. My goal isn’t to lose weight. It’s to maintain good health.

 

An ADA Fail

An ADA Fail

Recently, I and a friend got into a “discussion” with someone who felt it was the government’s job to provide accessibility, not a business owner’s.  This person’s mind could not be changed, no matter how many disabled people spoke up and spoke out.

As I followed this “dialogue” it reminded me of the many times I encountered inaccessibility in government buildings or on government owned property.  Remember, this person’s position was that access is the government’s responsibility.  But if they can’t even make their own buildings and land ADA compliant, how do we expect them to problem-solve access for all American businesses?

Inaccessible Encounter 1: I was at a training for one of my clerkships.  We broke for lunch. I could have eaten in the building but, the line for the cafeteria was just too long.  I decided to go outside for lunch.  In my mind, I just knew it would be quicker, and probably cheaper.  This particular area has a lot of hills (Hi, one of the streets is called Hill Street, and it is the worse!).  I saw a plaza attached to a government building no far from me, and could avoid much of the hill.  Why not?! Right? Tah!! What I thought would be quick and easy, just wasn’t.  I can show you better than I can tell you.  See the video below.

Day 7: Imani, Disabled-ly

Day 7: Imani, Disabled-ly

Habari Gani! What’s the news?

Imani! No, not that Imani, silly!

Well, as Kirk Franklin said, “Cause you know I got faith, yeah yeah!”

Like I said in the original Imani post, it makes sense that this would be the last principle.  We started with the Unity and solidarity amongst the disabled community.  We worked our way through action principles.  And now we end with faith. Faith that the work we have done will bear fruit.

As a disability activist, faith is a necessity!  It can get so frustrating at times because you put in all this work.  You talk until you are out of wind.  And still, it seems no one is listening. No one is paying attention.  You might want to quit.  But no, Imani! Faith! Faith that we are reaching at least one person.  And that person will reach another.  Then faith that our work, as activists will make the changes we want to see, if not for us, then for the next generation.

Now, go enjoy your karamu!

Harambe! Heri Za Kwanzaa, disabled-ly.  Thank you for celebrating with me.  I hope you have a happy and prosperous new year.

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