I finished reading How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran at the weekend. LOVED it. It resonated on so many levels, but one of the things that really hit home was what she had to say about being fat....
"Is the word 'fat' making you wince when you read it? Does it feel like I'm being rude, or indelicate, to say it? In the last two generations, it's become a furiously overloaded word - in a conversation, when the word 'fat' appears, it often alarms people, like a siren going off and prompts a supportive, scared flurry of dismissal - 'You're not fat! Of course you're not fat! Babe, you're NOT FAT!' - when the person is, clearly and undeniably, fat, and just wants to discuss it"
If I had a pound for every time I'd had a conversation like that.... no, scrap that, if I'd LOST a pound for every time I'd had that conversation, I'd never have to have it again, because I'd no longer be fat. I mention to a friend that I'm on the wagon (again) and that I'm trying to lose weight (AGAIN) because I'm too fat. This is always met with a wall of denial. "Don't be silly Amy, you're not fat" "Oh pfft, you're fine as you are".
I've never been entirely sure whether people react this way because they think that's what I'm asking for. That I want them to reassure me that I'm not fat at all. But the point is that I AM. I am 5ft 7 and weigh in at 13 stone. I know that I'm not Biggest Loser material, I'm not looking to cut myself in half, but at the same time, there's no denying that both my health and my self image would improve enormously if I lost 2 - 3 stone. So, aiding me in my denial is really not want I'm asking for here. If I mention the fact that I'm fat, it's because I want to have a conversation about it, to be open about it, to admit it and to try and move on from it.
Even before reading Moran's book I'd started to wonder whether a lot of people respond with denial because they feel uncomfortable that I have confronted them with my fatness or they're bored with me trying to lose weight (AGAIN!!) and don't really believe that I'll ever get there. I've had a conversation in the past with one (size eight) friend where we were discussing my latest effort to lose weight and a few minutes later she OFFERED ME A BISCUIT. I'm sure she didn't mean to, but she may as well have said "Give up Fatty, there's no point in trying so you may as well stuff your face with a Garibaldi or two and stop going on about it". It's like the F word had reacted with chemicals in her brain, creating an immediate ring fence to block it off and make sure that it didn't surface and try to mingle with her other thoughts. Was it a panic reaction? A frantic internal conversation "Oh God, she said the F word, what should I do, shit, what should I do?! OFFER FATTY A BISCUIT! Fatties love biscuits, it'll make her forget the whole thing". Or was it just a thoughtless throw away offer? I'll never know, I've never called anyone on these things, just let them slide.
And if you think that the F word is bad, how about I crack open the big one, the O word. I'm overweight. At one point in the not too distant past, I was obese. That's the biggest O word of all, the one that you can't mention in polite conversation, like a fat version of the C word, you know the one I mean. It's still a giant taboo, even though it is quite literally a modern plague - why can't we talk about this?
There are only a very few people in my life that don't immediately deny my weight. One is my friend B. She (unlike many of my friends) is not a natural size eight. She has to work to keep herself to a size that she is happy with, and sometimes her desire for a glass (or three) of wine when she gets home from work is stronger than her desire to be a hot slim mama. So she gets it. She seems to understand that I'm not asking for sympathy and she therefore doesn't give it. She understands that I'm asking for HELP and just drags me to the gym with her and gets me to crack on with it.
I'm not asking for sympathy. I'm not asking anyone to help fuel a delusion that my weight isn't an issue, because it is and believe me I'm able to delude myself about it plenty as I'm reaching for the fourth packet of crisps out of the multipack. It might not be an issue to you, I know you're my friends and you'd love me if I were the size of a house, but it is to me, alright?
I don't have a conclusion to this post. No magic bullet that'll stop me from being fat, or that will stop you from being uncomfortable when I mention it. I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts on this subject, regardless of your dress size....