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On Being Fat

When I resided in a different body, I didn't know how different my life would be and how different I would feel about myself in a fat body.
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I am fat. This fact cannot be disputed.

I am also intelligent, educated and successful. To look at me, one might never guess that I am a successful director at a large corporation or that I gave up a child for adoption or that I survived kidney failure and a lifesaving kidney transplant. You probably also would not guess that I speak Arabic and was an interpreter on an archaeology dig in Syria. Would you guess I have been married twice and that I was an accomplished athlete? I have many stories, but because I am fat, you may never know these things about me.

You see, I, like many others like me, endure one of the few remaining acceptable forms of discrimination. Some people may judge me by the way I look and assume that I am stupid, lazy or that I eat chips and ice cream all day. They may also assume I don't care about myself. They only see the fat. They treat me differently than they treat thinner, more attractive women. I know this because I wasn't always fat. I, too, was oblivious to fat people and even shared some of these cruel misjudgments toward them. When I resided in a different body, I didn't know how different my life would be and how different I would feel about myself in a fat body.

My transformation has been remarkable. I went from being a confident, fun, smart and beautiful woman to a fearful and shy resemblance of my former self. I am somehow falling into my dutiful place in the world, trying not to been seen and feeling ashamed of me.

Now, don't get me wrong; I don't want to be fat. I want to feel the way I used to feel. I am on a constant diet and trying every new one that comes along. I watch the weight loss shows and fantasize. I exercise with a personal trainer; I obsess over food and how many calories there are. I get creative with vegetables and eat a ton of them. I get discouraged and pick myself up again. But since my transplant and the steroids I take to keep my body from rejecting my new kidney, I can't seem to lose the weight that I put on since that life-saving surgery. But losing weight is not what this is about.

I am amazed at how inferior I feel now. I feel invisible. People avoid eye contact with me. I am often treated rudely or dismissed. I live in daily fear that my weight will be the thing that results in my long list of fears, which now rule my every thought. I fear things like being let go from my job because "I don't represent the company well," or of never finding a man to love me again because I am no longer attractive. I wonder if people are embarrassed to be seen with me. I fear that someone might say something horrible to me like, "stay away from the donuts, fat a**," or complain loudly that they have to sit next to me on the airplane... again. And yes, the big one, will I die young because of the fat on my body?

Will anyone know the amazing life I have lived and the person that I used to be? Will they know the adventures I have had and people I have met? Amazing experiences like riding horseback Saturday mornings at the Giza pyramids when living in Cairo; being interrogated at gunpoint in Syria; living in Yemen; moving to Egypt as a 13-year-old American; living with lupus, and raising a son by myself. I fear the answer to my questions is no. Just like others that are discriminated against for the color of their skin, many people dismiss me or are rude when they see me in this body. They don't want to know me because they assume that I am something different than I am. The key difference is there are laws and social pressure against racial discrimination (which is still far too prevalent!). Discriminating against fat people is still socially acceptable, and in fact, it is done all the time.

My dream, of course, is to lose some weight. But, if I continue to be unsuccessful, will I ever been seen and acknowledged again the way I used to be? Will anyone step back and see me, want to know me, or will they just continue to see that I am fat?


Jennie Runk

Body Image Heroes