As I continue coming to grips with last Friday’s diagnosis, I’m facing up to some uncomfortable emotional realities around the Venn diagram of overlaps between my life, my habits, my body and my diagnoses.*
Now, I don’t think I was wrong when I theorized that part of why I was thrown for such a loop last Friday had to do with me (falsely) believing that I was off the hook, only to have a sudden reversal of fortune. But another huge piece of this is just a plain old shame spiral.
The conventional rhetoric around Type 2 diabetes and my version of prediabetes is very much that it’s, like, totally preventable. That makes it very easy for me—in my usual perfectionist, hard-on-myself way—to think of myself as being “to blame” for being prediabetic. And that self-flagellation takes me down the shame path pretty darn fast.
I am now 100% in the ranks of the “bad fatty,” and I am having all kinds of shame and sadness around that.
The horridly ironic (embarrassing?) thing around the level of shame I’m feeling about becoming a bad fatty is how strongly I disagree with the whole damn good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy. At its most simplistic, it works like this: if you’re a fat person who’s actively working to be thin, then you’re a good fatty and deserve to be treated with some basic level of compassion and humanity. But if you’re a fat person who is not living the extremes of caloric deprivation and intense exercise, or who (gasp!) has the audacity to like or love your fat self, then you need to be taken down. (For a more nuanced taxonomy of the different types of “good fatty,” I highly recommend this old gem from Everyday Feminism.)
Clearly, this is bullshit. It’s narrow-minded bullshit to imply that only a small subset of (skinny) humanity deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion. It’s ableist bullshit to suggest that a certain type or caliber of physical performance is required before someone deserves to be treated with human respect. It’s goddamn insane bullshit to push fat people towards self-destructive habits in the interest of perpetuating thinness:
We must remember that wherever the patient falls along the weight spectrum, warning signs of eating disorders remain the same. Frequently weighing oneself, meticulously logging food intake, delaying hunger and avoiding meals, and obsessively measuring food damage health and wellbeing for people of all sizes. The problem of weight bias is painfully clear when we see healthcare providers praising these behaviors in larger bodied patients while diagnosing them as disordered in smaller bodied patients. Fat activist Deb Burgard puts it like this: “We diagnose as eating disorders in thin people what we prescribe in fat people.”
I know this is bullshit. I thought I’d be among the first people to call out this bullshit whenever it crossed my path.
And yet the uncomfortable realization I’m making is that somewhere subconsciously under all that righteous fat acceptance, there was still a part of me that took comfort in being a version of the “Fat Unicorn” archetype from the taxonomy I mentioned above. Now, I’ve never been a paragon of nutritional or athletic virtue, so I’ve never matched this archetype exactly. But my labs—cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.—have always been rock solid,** so I’ve been able to go through the first however-many years of my fat acceptance journey carrying the smug satisfaction that however fat I was, I was still also 100% healthy.***
It kills me to realize that my degree of fat acceptance was so stupidly conditional. I can only hope that this is a function of my tendency towards being harder on myself than on others in my life. And I really, really hope I haven’t been carrying these sorts of veiled prejudices and judgements into how I see other fat bodies in the world and in the FA/HAES movement.
* I’m putting this in the plural because the co-existence of this new condition with my old, old, old mental illness is sure as shit part of my internalized upset.
** Until now, at least.
*** Aside from the whole depression/broken brain thing. (But who’s counting?)