By Creighton Leigh; cross-posted with permission from Voix Noir
In 2011, after five years together, my partner and I decided we wanted to have a baby. Considering we’re both cisgender women, we knew starting a family would require medical intervention. The following year we were married and our journey to creating a family on our terms began. I consulted with two reproductive endocrinologists, both of which encouraged me to lose weight before proceeding with insemination. I spent the remainder of 2012 on a strict nine hundred calorie per day weight loss regimen. I went to the gym three times a week, and considering my work as a field medical case manager, I burned many a calorie traipsing across New York City. In a matter of months I lost a whopping ten pounds. Yes. Ten pounds.
You see my weight has never been about inactivity or overeating. It’s metabolic. I have an extremely ineffective metabolism. I know this. My primary care doctor knows this. My wife knows this. Who didn’t believe me? Everyone else. Against medical advice, I decided I was ready to conceive; and I did—on the first try. My wife and I were thrilled. We shared the news with anyone who’d listen. What did most say, including my own family? “But, Creighton, you’re fat.” People were still concerned about my weight and that sucked the joy out of my happiest moment.
Fast forward a few weeks into my pregnancy when I fell ill. I couldn’t hold anything down, including water. I was weak and unable to remedy it. The mere sight of food, even on television, would cause me to vomit. I carried around cups wherever I went. My wife grew concerned and believed that I was suffering from more than morning sickness. She brought me to my OB’s office hoping I would exhibit the same signs I had been showing for weeks. She got her wish. During a fire drill in the doctor’s office, I was too weak to even leave the building. As soon as a nurse began to wheel me to an exit, the smell of fresh air was all it took for me to vomit everywhere and damn near pass out. I was immediately admitted to the antepartum unit of my local hospital, where I remained for a week. I was diagnosed with severe Hyperemesis Gravidarum—an extreme form of morning sickness. I could not eat. I was given IV nutrients and fluids throughout my pregnancy because I was malnourished. Amazing– the utter irony of a fat person being malnourished, right?
I was the sickest I had ever been. I was hospitalized twice during my pregnancy and visited the emergency room twice. By the time I delivered my daughter at thirty-six weeks, I had lost over seventy pounds. I was the thinnest I had been in years, and the sickest I had ever been in my life. Ironically, everyone I knew couldn’t help but tell me how wonderful I looked and beautiful I was. I lost pounds and inches each week. I also lost hair and teeth. The complications from pregnancy and labor and delivery had damned near killed me. My wife brought my mother to New York City ‘’just in case’’. We had discussed our will, and asked for our child’s birth certificate to be rushed in case I didn’t make it. We wanted to make sure my wife’s name was rightfully added to our child’s birth certificate. But I looked good, right? I finally fit into a smaller gown.
All the while I “looked good” and shit, I was trying to recover. I experienced even more complications that led to gall bladder issues, which led to me being diagnosed with pancreatitis. When my daughter was a little over a year, I was hospitalized in the ICU for nearly two months. I was put on bowel rest and forbidden to eat. I received nutrients via IV and a feeding tube. I lost even more weight. Still “looking good” I lost my gall bladder and half my pancreas. I remained hospitalized for an additional month to recover from major surgery. But, I fit them jeans, boo. Fast forward a year, I was on the mend—at least I thought. I found out I had a hernia that required repair. A year to the day from my last surgery I was having that pesky and painful hernia repaired. That surgery was difficult and recovery was slow. For the most part, I was immobile for months. I was bed ridden for some time. I gained back a significant amount of weight; and once again the well-meaning assholes, who thought I looked fantastic during the most unwell time of my life, inserted their unfounded medical opinions where they didn’t belong. And despite my illnesses being pregnancy related, they blamed my weight.
The point is y’all don’t give a fuck about fat peoples’ health.
Yesterday I read about Gabourey Sidibe’s weight loss, and apparently the rest of the world did, too. Everyone with access to social media decided it was their duty to let us fatties know that thin is in, and Sidibe did the Lord’s work when she decided to get weight loss surgery. Sidibe cited health reasons, which are valid as fuck and anyone who believes their health is at risk deserves to do what they feel they need to do to be a healthier version of themselves. But we need to realize being fat isn’t inherently unhealthy and being thin isn’t inherently healthy. Weight loss isn’t every fat person’s goal. If you’re only concerned with fat bodies and how people are when they’re making efforts to loss weight, you’re fatphobic.
Last week I read an article about how The Biggest Loser’s Bob Harper suffered a heart attack. I waited for the ‘’but your health’’ brigade to drag Harper about an unhealthy lifestyle, but it never happened. Harper gets a pass, ‘cause skinny. Harper cited family history, stating he was surprised that he’d suffered a heart attack. He posted a selfie of himself on a treadmill, perpetuating the myth that thinness and exercise are the keys to good health. Look, no one denies that healthy eating combined with physical activity helps reduce the risks for chronic and acute illness. I am just arguing that the assumption that those of us with fat bodies don’t put forth effort to eat well and exercise is dangerous. I have been fat most of my life and have always had normal ranges for all blood work, and passed my annual physicals with flying colors. So, no, being fat doesn’t equal poor health. And even if a fat person is unhealthy it doesn’t give anyone the authority to chastise or brow beat them about their body.
Praise of thinness and our society’s hatred of fatness and fat people is insidious and widely accepted. Thin people, and often, fat people who suffer from internalized fatphobia are disgusted by fat bodies. Fat people are treated like problems that need to be solved. Our humanity is always denied because thin people refuse to acknowledge their biases. When thin people eat junk, they’re praised for having exceptional metabolism that prevents them from gaining weight. When fat people eat junk food we’re viewed as lazy people who cannot control our urges.
Thinness is a privilege and quite often it’s an unearned privilege. And just like any other privilege it needs to be checked. Your opinions of Sidibe’s body, or any other fat person’s body isn’t wanted or needed. It’s also important to note that despite her reasons for getting weight loss surgery, Sidibe received an Oscar nomination and had steady work in Hollywood at her highest weight. She probably had bomb sex in a G IV flying over countries many of us will never visit. Sidibe’s confidence in herself, her body, and her body of work never wavered; she’s stated many times that she loved her old body as much as she loves her new one. You must admit your newfound love and desire to champion Sidibe is due to her weight loss because you only see value in thin bodies– regardless of their health. Fat people are not asking for your approval. You don’t care about Sidibe’s health or mine. Mind yo’ business, B.
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