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What does it feel like to be 100 or more pounds overweight?

This question originally apepared on Quora. Answer by Jessica Lynn, overweight woman. 

It feels like no one believes or values your personal experiences. When you try to explain how dieting never worked long term, how every diet you’ve ever been on left you even fatter in the end, the assumption is you’re lying about “sticking to it.” Since so and so’s cousin’s sister’s fiance’s brother-in-law’s aunt lost 100 pounds and has managed to keep it off (even if only for a short time), and you haven’t, clearly it’s you that is the problem. Never mind the millions of other people telling the same story as you. You simply must be the problem.

Part of that is people want to believe that they can beat the odds. They can be that random anomalous person who manages, for reasons unknown, to be in the minority who can keep weight off long term. This is true even when the person in question is a so-called “normal” weight, because plenty of people in that category are dieting and trying to be even thinner and secondly they’re terrified of ever needing to lose weight and want to believe they could defy the odds, should they have to ever.

It goes beyond this, though. Doctors who treat illnesses, diseases, injuries, etc in their thin patients without batting an eye will tell their fat patient that they must lose weight. Even if there is a treatment, weight loss is almost always the first prescribed “solution,” despite the overwhelming, decades long research that demonstrates quite clearly that this is about the absolute worst “medicine” they can prescribe.

A friend of mine had an avulsion fracture in her foot during her college gymnastics career. It wasn’t an uncommon issue for her. In fact, she’d had multiple avulsion fractures in both feet, typically caused by landing something poorly. Her orthopedic doctor never judged her for being a gymnast. They treated the break, told her how long to stay out of the gym, and they treated her assorted injuries (of which there were many over the years) as was appropriate. They never said, “oh hey, you’re abusing your body with gymnastics, and you need to stop.” Maybe some doctors do say that, they probably at least should mention that it’s an inherent risk of the sport, and I’d like to think the handful of good doctors out there do this. But not hers.

When I stepped on a bone my dog had hidden under his bed and had an avulsion fracture in my foot I was sent to an orthopedic doctor. I was lectured about my weight. The woman was a condescending bitch to me, in fact. She made multiple snarky comments about diets and even weight loss surgery (which I have not had, by the way). She did the latter as she left the room, so I was given no chance to even reply.

This sort of double standard is not at all uncommon. Despite there being plenty of research to support that some people simply have bigger bodies by nature, we are treated as if we’ve chosen these bodies and as if any (theoretical) damage done as a result is our faults. We’re treated like we’re less than simply because we weigh more.

Mind you, I don’t think doctors have the right to dictate what someone is doing with his or her body in terms of weight or preferred sports or athletic endeavors. My friend who didn’t get lectured about gymnastics causing her injuries didn’t deserve sub-par treatment because gymnastics was her passion (it was also her ticket to a college degree, since she had a full scholarship). But I also don’t deserve sub-par treatment because my body is bigger than some arbitrary chart that was never meant to measure health says it should be at this point in time.

This just scratches the surface of what it’s like to be a fat person in this world. When I was a fat person who was also a dieting person, I was applauded and given a lot of, well at least you’re trying to “do something about it” sort of accolades. Which, frankly, are condescending as hell and not even remotely helpful, at least in my own experience. This is often referred to as the “good fatty” vs. “bad fatty” dichotomy because if you’re dieting, you’re looked upon as “good,” and if you’re not, you’re viewed as “bad.” Which is crap, by the way.

If you’re thin and you walk down the street carrying a bag, no one shouts “hey fatty, what’s in the bag? Ice cream?” at you (yes, this happened to me). If you’re thin, guys don’t say they want to screw you but can’t be seen with you in public (also happened to me, multiple times).

When you’re thin, or even only somewhat fat, you can typically buy clothes almost anywhere. If you’re especially thin it may be somewhat more challenging, but generally speaking it’s possible. When you’re fat, not so much.

When you’re getting on an airplane, you see the abject horror as fellow travelers stare at you, terrified you’ll be sitting next to them. You might feel compelled to even tell a few of the more obnoxious ones, “don’t worry I paid for an extra seat, so you won’t have to worry you might touch my fat, which oh, by the way, isn’t contagious.” If you dare to suggest the problem is with airlines who, despite all the obesity epidemic hysteria, keep making seats even smaller, you’re the problem. You, for daring to expect the same service someone thin is automatically granted. Same is true of seats being too small in restaurants, movie theaters or - even worse - doctors’ waiting rooms.

I could honestly go on and on with what it’s like, because it is never ending. I’ve been told I should just kill myself and get it over with since, clearly I’m going to die young by virtue of being fat, and I should do society a favor and put an end to my miserable existence now. I’ve had my husband mocked (not that he cares even slightly) because clearly something must be fundamentally “wrong” with a man who would choose to marry a woman who weighed 380 pounds. Never mind that our marriage has been the envy of many of my friends. It must be somehow fucked up simply because who wants to be with a fat woman, right? Oh, wait…

So this is just a small bit of insight into what it’s like to be fat. I did not, contrary to what people decide to believe for whatever reasons they do, choose to be fat. I won’t justify the existence of my body by explaining why or how I got fat in this context. I shouldn’t have to. Fat bodies exist, just as thin ones do. I have every right to live my life, to take up space, to be happy and treated with basic human dignity (even though I’m not at this point). The “why” shouldn’t factor into this discussion.

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