Updated: Mar 10, 2019
There is a very loud message that comes from doctors and society at large: If you’re in a large body and you have pain, it’s your fault, and everything would be better if you weren’t fat.
I’m gonna be honest with you: personally, I do believe that it could be true for me. I think that if I weighed less, I’d probably be in less pain. There, I said it.
But you know what else I believe? I believe that there is no sustainable way to lose weight for the vast majority of people, and certainly not for me. I have tried, many times. I believe that dieting doesn’t work, and neither does any other plan that involves food restriction or rigid, punishing exercise. There is research that supports this.
I also believe that I would be in less pain if I hadn’t grown up in diet culture, and if I had never been told that there was something wrong with my body, never tried to lose weight. The yo-yo dieting I’ve done throughout my life has made its mark on me. My body has suffered a great deal because of the fatphobic society we live in.
As if, if only I could follow their lifestyle and advice, I’d have their body, their health. As if my body were my fault, and all I need is the intelligence, dedication, and will power that they have. Then I’d be free from my self-imposed trap. AS IF.
And despite my beliefs, I also know that I could be wrong. There’s a good chance that I’d have the same pain even if I weighed less. After all, I experienced it for the first time after a particularly intense step aerobics class at the age of 17. I was fit, active, and doing things “right”. Even if I were to starve myself thin now, the damage caused by a decade and a half of pushing-through-the-pain workouts and a nervous system tortured by the stress of weight cycling has been done.
So I’ve made a promise to myself - I will never try to manipulate the size of my body again.
And so here I am. I’m in a large body and I have chronic pain in my legs. I fight the shame that bubbles up when I imagine what people may be thinking about me when I walk slowly, or take the elevator, or need to sit down (“It’s because she’s fat”). I speak my mind with those who think they know better because they’re thinner and they have less pain. As if, if only I could follow their lifestyle and advice, I’d have their body, their health. As if my body were my fault, and all I need is the intelligence, dedication, and will power that they have. Then I’d be free from my self-imposed trap. AS IF.
It is, of course, bull shit. So then what to do instead? Do I just resign myself to a life of suffering?
Hell no! There are so many things we can explore to manage pain that don’t involve weight loss. (Hint: they’re the same things that thin people try when they have pain. Go figure.) I’ve tried acupuncture, osteopathy, orthotics, massage therapy, more acupuncture, herbs, psychotherapy, homeopathic remedies, physical therapy, and working with a personal trainer.
I grieve the life I imagine I’d be living if I weren’t in pain. I grieve the life I had when I wasn’t in pain. I grieve the future I may never have without the shadow of pain hovering above it all. I grieve the time I spent blaming myself when I was actually a victim.
The most useful? Orthotics, acupuncture (the second guy I tried), herbs, psychotherapy, and physical therapy. But psychotherapy is really the unsung hero of it all. It’s where I process everything, receive support (get yourself a weight-neutral, HAES-informed therapist), and it’s where I grieve. Grieving is so needed. I grieve the life I imagine I’d be living if I weren’t in pain. I grieve the life I had when I wasn’t in pain. I grieve the future I may never have without the shadow of pain hovering above it all. I grieve the time I spent blaming myself when I was actually a victim.
You might be thinking that it sounds expensive, and it is, although many of the treatments are covered by insurance.
But what about the cost of being invested in diet culture? There’s the financial cost of the books, an obscene amount of clothes spanning many sizes to fit me at all my many stages, “health” foods and protein powders that were never enough and often led to binges, and punishing workout classes. And there’s the emotional cost and pain of never believing I was good enough, thinking there was something wrong with me, putting my life on hold, believing that my body was the most important thing about me, and constantly comparing myself to others. I never complained about those costs. I barely even noticed them. And when I did, I understood that it was my duty to pay them.
So I understand now that breaking away from all of that, and spending what I can on making my body feel as good as it can, is so worth the investment. It’s an investment in my physical health and my emotional health. It’s a priceless investment in establishing and supporting my sense of self-worth. It’s an investment in my future.
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