“Damn, heifer…” As I exit an upscale supermarket last week, my body size is apparently so remarkable that it is mentioned, if barely audibly, by the store’s security guard.
I should be horribly offended. Right? That’s what my friends say when I recount the incident to them later. “What did you DO?” they ask, wide-eyed and furious by proxy. And though I appreciate their outrage, the truth is that I did nothing. But my lack of response, contrary to what one might think, didn’t stem from feeling intimidated or embarrassed. Actually, I felt little at all, and I consider my indifference the proud result of therapy, practice at loving myself, and ironically, weight gain.
After tweaking my knee recently while teaching a fitness class, my first thought was—to quote a text I sent to my best friend about two hours after the incident—I am a fucking idiot. The idiocy, as far as I was concerned, was my refusal to stop pushing myself despite the signals my body was giving me over the last few weeks. Signals in the form of pain. Some context—I’ve had five orthopedic surgeries on my right leg since 2005. Most recently in December 2012, I needed a second ankle ligament reconstruction after rupturing the first, plus a knee surgery to fix a torn meniscus and pop a few cysts.
The reason I dropped the F bomb on myself was because I felt so angry and frustrated for not learning the lesson of self care. I was injured and then beating myself up further for not stopping. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to know this is not exactly compassionate, loving-kindness. Even after years of working on my inner monologue and teaching others to do the same, I still found myself failing the “Would you treat a friend that way?” test (note: I treat my friends very well.).
I can’t overstate the importance and high stakes of reigning in self-hate, blame and shame in favor of a gentle attitude towards the self. I share that story because even at 36, I am very much a work in progress. The initial idea for this article was to write about the bulimia I developed a when I was 18 and when I found myself more drawn to write on the subject of injuries and self care, I fast realized they are closely related. I grew up with a “No pain, no gain!” and “Walk it off!” mentality. The perfectionism I internalized became a way to measure myself against goals that were simply unattainable. The eating disorder I developed and then the string of body breakdowns share similar roots and my healing from both is the tree of self love.
I can honestly say I’m sick of hearing about, talking about and thinking about fat. And yet it’s everywhere – whether it’s the fear-mongering headlines that claim our country has been consumed by an obesity epidemic or if it’s the innumerable magazine articles written on the newest get-thin-quick scheme, it’s undeniable that over the years, our society has become obsessed with fat. But despite the often one-sided, overwhelmingly negative attitude our country has towards fat, the question remains: what is the true nature of fat as an issue of health?