Monday, May 4, 2009

Fat Phobias, or The Fears that Tie Us Down

The other day when I was going through my Fat Clothes, I found a shirt that brought back memories... good memories, smudged by Fat Phobia. If you've ever been obese, you probably know what I mean by Fat Phobia. It's that terror you feel when you realize that your weight is about to get in the way of Life. It can happen at any time, but some common times when Fat Phobia attacks occur are:

*You are at an amusement park and your friends are all getting in line to go on a ride, and you aren't sure if you'll fit in it.

*You're with your friends or, even worse, on a date at a restaurant, and you're led to a booth that you aren't certain you will be able to squeeze into without cutting your torso in half and resting your boobs on the table.

*You are about to go on something with a Weight Limit, such as a boat, a hammock, a chair, or even an elevator. (Come on, be honest... you've looked at the weight limit when you've gotten on a crowded calculator and mentally calculated whether or not your weight will plummet the whole group to your deaths).

*You are getting in a car with a bunch of people who are squeezing into the back seat and you are sweating bullets knowing you won't fit back there without suffocating someone so you stand back and pray you get the front seat. Airplanes are worse, because you can't sit in the front seat, so you have to cross your fingers for an empty seat beside you.

All of these Phobias about our own fat are caused by anxiety about our size and not knowing whether we will fit in like a "normal" person. Heaven forbid that ANYTHING happens that draws attention to how fat we are! It's just mortifying when we don't fit, especially when everyone else around us does.

So back to the shirt. Several years ago, I was selected to go on a trip to the International Phi Theta Kappa Convention with a few other students to represent our college. At the time, I was a very poor college student (but with excellent grades) and a single Mom, and the college was paying for this trip. I was so excited, because I never really got to go anywhere. A friend had offered to watch my children so I could go.

The flight was uneventful and we were all excited to be there. Then we went to the first day of the convention... and everyone was given a pretty blue Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society tee shirt. Of course, I was pretty embarrassed when we were standing at the table picking out our sizes... even the MEN in our group were picking the XL shirts. I tried to sneakily pick a 2XL without them seeing, because, omg, I can't let them find out I am fat! And, btw, 2XL was the biggest size shirt they had. It looked plenty big. Embarrassingly big, with enough fabric to make a blanket for a small child. I got my shirt, stuffed it in my bag, and breathed a sigh of relief.

But then, on the final day, one of the people in our group suggested that we all WEAR our blue PTK tee shirts to the conference. Ummmm....

Guess what? It did not fit. I knew it did not fit, because when I'd gotten back to the hotel the day before, I'd put it on to admire myself in the mirror. It's a good thing I did this in private, because trying to get that shirt on was like stuffing a boiled egg into the finger of a glove. I could barely get it over my fat rolls, and it was so tight it was constricting my upper arms in a most unflattering way. It accentuated every bump and crease on my body. I took it off and set it aside. Maybe it would fit someday.

But they wanted to wear the shirts NOW. "Hey, let's all wear our PTK shirts tomorrow and take group pictures!" I felt my heart racing and my face flushing. I imagined the shocked looks on all of their faces when they saw me in that shirt. And I imagined one of the guys saying, "Let's take it back and exchange it for a larger size" or worse yet, "Here, I'll give you mine to wear. It's an extra large."

But it all worked out okay, as for some reason they decided not to wear the shirts that day. So I came home, folded up that shirt and stuck it in the Someday wish box.

I found it the other day, when I was sorting my clothes, and I pulled it out and thought, wow. Being fat really steals the life out of you. I was SO PROUD of being a PTK Officer but I never got to wear that shirt. It would have meant a lot to me to be able to proudly wear that shirt, but I couldn't.

When I tried it on this morning, it was too big. It hangs past my hips and elbows in a most unflattering way. Don't get me wrong... I am glad it is too big for me. But it is a symbol of yet another pleasure missed because of my fat.

I'm keeping the shirt, because I am proud of it. Maybe I will cut out the logo and frame it, or make a pillow out of it. I want to remember how it felt to be chosen for that honor, and the good times we had at the convention. And I don't want to forget how much being morbidly obese affected my life.

I still have those thoughts sometimes... the "will I fit/am I too heavy" fat phobic thoughts, but you know what? I pretty much always fit now, and I'm not sinking any boats or elevators. And that feels pretty good.

24 comments:

Stephanie said...

Hello Lyn. A friend of mine told me about your blog and I'm so glad she did. I'm at the same starting place you were in so I have a long journey ahead of me. You look amazing. I have many of those fat phobia moments and I'm sick and tired of them. I'll be happy to rid myself of them once and for all. Congratulations on your success. *HUGS*

VeeGettingHealthy said...

I have lost a little weight, but there's really only one outfit that I don't fit into any more - but I never liked it so only wore it at home. Maybe once I lose more weight, I'll have more fat phobia moments to choose from! Vee at www.veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

Coley said...

great post. sometimes when i think being heavy doesnt really affect me that much, i have lived through all your examples. i've missed out at the amusement park for YEARS and I love amusement parks. every.single.time we eat out, I worry about booths and have started opting for the table and chairs - boo...
and yes, I will never wear a polo... at leat not for another 50 lbs... it does affect me, everyday, and I miss the days when I wanted a booth without a second thought, and only felt excitment when in line for a ride...

Lady Downsize! said...

First, way to go!!! It's great that the shirt is now big. I can certainly related to that freakish feeling of having to wear something that fits everyone else but won't fit me. However, for me that's not the phobia, it's the fear of embarrassement. The phobia though contradictory, is of being my ideal weight. I just can't get a visual of that in my head. As much as I want it, I am terrified of it. Now does that make any sense?

Twix said...

This is a good story, thank you for sharing. I'm looking forward to when my clothes hang. :D

As for sinking boats. For the longest time I always thought it was my fault we sunk that paddle boat. At the time I was only 240 but I thought I was so huge, 5'10. Anyways I was told afterwards that the boat had a default. Instead I had chosen to hang onto this insane idea that it was all my fault. Looking back I know now it wasn't. Those boats were designed to carry much more than my 240, plenty of males out there comfortably in this range. I'd be happy to once again weigh 240. Funny how lifes like this.

I like your idea of turning the short into a pillow! :D

skinnyhollie said...

What a great feeling! I know exactly what you're talking about, though (especially the tables in the restaurant).

PLEASE submit your story to W8LOSSCHICK's blog so she can feature it this month! You are SUCH an inspiration to everyone who reads your blog. There are details on my blog about it from the other day.

Tony said...

I think anyone who has been overweight can relate to the whole concept of fat phobia. With that being said, I think fitting into clothes that you haven't been able to wear in the longest time is one of the greatest feelings ever.

Jen said...

Ahh another great post. I give blood regularly. I remember being at the table full of free shirts for those who gave blood. I picked up the XXL and went OMG no way that would be HUGE on me, so I took an XL. I got home and I could barely get it on. It made me so sad to know that I was THAT big!

Chubby Chick said...

I suffer from fat phobia every time I leave the house. As you know... it is NOT a fun way to live (if you can even call it living.)

I can't even imagine what it will be like to not have issues like these to deal with... but I sure am looking forward to it!

BVar said...

Great post, I have had many of the same Fat Phobias.

new*me said...

totally understand the fat phobia but happy to report it isn't happening near as much anymore. Summer picnics with resin chairs with arms stand out to me. I could barely get in them and once I did, if I stood up fast, the chair would be stuck to my butt! Not a pretty pic or a happy moment.

I bet that was a moment when you discovered the shirt was too big.

Annimal said...

Fat robbed me of the joys of pregnancy. It wasn't obvious that I was pregnant even at 9 months. I just looked super-fat. At 300+ pounds and with a long torso, the baby just fit in the middle. I was insulted after giving birth by the ob doc. He looked up between my legs and snarled "better look for another baby". It was so sad that at my moment of pure joy, he took that away and replaced it with shame.

antgirl said...

I can relate. There were many things I *opted* out of when at my heaviest. It's nice not to have to opt out any more, huh? :)

mythreemonthokinawadiet said...

Lynn, you are such a talented writer. I often re-read your posts. good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful post.

Heather said...

I would definitely keep that shirt as it is a symbol of how far you have come. I definitely had a moment like that when a few years ago at work they decided to do a group costume where we all wore different tshirts. I had to give my size to a girl to buy the shirts and I didnt want her to think I was too fat so I told her Large. When the shirts came, mine was obviously so tight, but I had to wear it anyway and it was horrible. I should have either asked for the size I really needed and sucked it up and faced her knowing my size, or not worn the shirt because it was terrible! I should go find that shirt though because it means the same thing to me that yours does to you.

Glam,Glitz&Gut said...

Okay, your post made my cry. Not just cry, no, sob. I think I go through at least one fat phobia a day, how horrible. Congratulations on how great you've done. Hugs.

Aimee said...

WOW. You are such an amazing person and writer. You have seriously put into words things I feel every single day. Thank you so much for this post. And thank you so much for being an example for me to look up to.

ani pesto said...

Great post :-)

I have totally been in every one of those fat phobia situations. And I still have the group photo from a 10 year anniversary work weekend away where I'm the only one not in the special 10th anniversary polo shirts. In a spooky turn similar to your own story, I found mine years later as well, tried it on and it was too big too.

Betsey C. said...

How well I understand! I had the exact same thing happen to me. It was at a family reunion, and a cousin had made t-shirts for everyone with our grandmother's picture on it. Then of course, we all had to wear the shirt to take photos. Ugh. How well I remember my angst while posing for pictures. I felt like a sausage in a casing -- and even though I was with family, it still felt terrible.

Juice said...

Lyn, your posts always move me. Thanks for sharing. I think you should do something with that shirt - a pillow sounds good. Wish I were crafty and I'd offer to make it for you. But you really don't want to see that! ;)

coco said...

I can relate to this. I don't want to, but I can. Reading this reminds me of all the reasons I want to lose the weight. Thank you.

brookesballbuster said...

Congratulations! I hope you are so so proud of yourself. Definitely put that shirt somewhere where you are reminded everyday of your hard work and all the progress that you've made. Congrats again!

Mary @ A Merry Life said...

I definitely understand the fat phobias and think anyone who has been overweight does. So I definitely relate to this. But the end of your story where you can wear the shirt again gives me hope. Its hard to miss out on life when you are overweight, but you are moving on with life. That is amazing.