Friday, November 1, 2013

A Testimony On Fat Shaming

North Dakota woman, in an attempt to "take a stand against obesity" handed out "fat letters" to children who don't fit her ideal of what bodies should look like. She might have thought her intentions were good, but in reality they were cruel and demeaning. I have always struggled with my weight and never reach the ideal image of what people wanted me to look like. I was always either too skinny or too fat. I got sick with gallstones, was hospitalized and eventually needed surgery to remove my gallbladder, which led to a significant amount of weight loss. But no one cared about my health because I had finally reached the "perfect size." I was congratulated by my weight loss, and some even felt it was appropriate to warn me of future gain weight. And even though I have always felt uncomfortably with my body there are those who have it much worse, like my friend Veronica. Below is a statement she made after reading about the "fat letters" handed to children on Halloween. She gave me permission to share it because she is tired of being fat shamed.

I grew up always being the fattest girl in the room. And I am not joking. Any room I ever entered, I was always the biggest girl around, whether it was in St. Joseph's grammar school or in Bryant HS. I never had boyfriends, but I was popular and accepted. And that was only because I sharpened my skills of comedy and pleasing people in order to have kids say "Hey, you're funny" or "She's cool" as opposed to calling me "Fatso."

My name is Veronica Saunders. I am gorgeous, joyful, courageous and worthy. I am also an emotional and compulsive over-eater.

I hate the word obese, but I love it just the same. I remember the first time a doctor used that word to describe me. I wanted the earth to open up and suck me into the oblivion of a painless universe. Pardon the pun, but "Obese" is a hard word to swallow when you are thirteen years old. Today, I love the word "obese." Being able to say it, accept it and label it as a part of the defects of my character gave me incredible power and freedom. Freedom to begin the long journey that I am still traveling to accept who I am and the fact that I have the absolute right to say and believe that there is NOTHING wrong with me.

My fight against obesity is a private matter that I may one day write a book about, and it is too lengthy to go into today. But I had to write this "mini-manifesto" to the unnamed woman in North Dakota who took it upon herself to play God, to display such arrogance and unmitigated gall to shame parents of children whom she "determined" as obese and to further embarrass a child who is probably hurting to a degree that not many can understand.

My parents are not to blame for my obesity. They tried to talk to me. They tried several times, and I remember those moments in detail. I REFUSED to hear them. Everyone around me tried to talk to me, and their efforts may have been well-intentioned but often mean and offensive. To hear someone say to me, "you have such a pretty face, if only you could lose some weight" or "you know, boys don't like girls who are chunky" made me feel so unworthy in my "God-loving" Catholic parish that it only steepened my determination to not listen to anyone around me, but to also turn away from God for putting me in a situation that caused so much pain because society did not love or accept me because I was the fat girl.

Even at thirteen years old, I knew right from wrong and made decisions that were bad for me. I ate secretly, I saved my money to buy sweets, and I gorged on extra pizza on the few occasions we had it delivered to the house. And, like I said before, none of this was the fault of my parents. It is the fault of an addiction to food, a very complex disease to live with and to be around. It is as powerful and manipulative as alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex and so on.

So from the thirteen year old fat girl who will always be my loving heart and soul, and from the still obese forty-six year old who is still coming to accept her all-encompassing beauty, we say this to you, the unnamed North Dakota woman: Shame on you for being judgmental, uneducated, arrogant, and downright mean. I suggest you buy some mirrors for your home.

Please share this with anyone who has been touched by the pain of obesity. I am proud of my story and will continue to fight my way through life, carving a niche for myself even if I have to do it with bloody finger tips.

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