Content note: This post contains a description of the impact of fat shaming and a discussion of eating disorders.
As the heatwave has been raging over the last couple of weeks, I realise I have to worry about my insulin as it doesn’t survive in the heat. I briefly talk about it with another person I know with diabetes (though type 1, not type 2 like me). He can tell when his insulin has gone off and is in tune enough with his body to know how to adjust his insulin to his needs. He’s at a healthy weight, by all means what I might unfairly call a ‘perfect’ diabetic.
It’s not fair making a judgement on him, but it is in contrast to the judgement I have made on myself. I am a bad diabetic. I eat ice cream (and biscuits, and sweet cereal and chocolate andandand), I don’t exercise enough and I’m fat – morbidly obese if you still believe in the BMI scale. Therefore, I feel woefully unqualified to write about diabetes, let alone illustrate those links between feminism, fatness, diabetes and eating disorders, because this is what I’m facing right now. I am in the middle of a storm I do not see a happy ending for. And yet, it’s this intersection that is on my mind constantly, and the reason I applied to be a guest columnist in the first place. So here goes a very personal account.
I am writing about a battle. A battle I do not think I can win. I am a fat woman who suffers from disordered eating, clinging to feminism because it reminds me of my worth. It reminds me (because I forget) that I am beautiful as I am. It compels me to refuse to put up with fat discrimination and to see thin privilege as real and damaging. The personal is political means that the way I am encouraged to see myself – as immoral, a problem and a health crisis – as an attack on all fat women and another symptom of systemic and ingrained oppression of fat women*, not just a lone battle I am fighting. This is really crucial as it means I am not isolated and that there are blogs and tumblrs to turn to for support. It is a shoulder to cry on and a shield to many of my hurtful thoughts.
I feel that this slipped away somewhat when I was diagnosed as diabetic a few years ago. I was taking the messages of fat feminism to heart, when suddenly my size was the problem to overcome in order to fix my diabetes. Scary, life-changing implications are now tied in my fatness – organ failure, loss of sight, paralysis, stroke and death… Just as I had saved myself from my last ever diet regime, I had been put on another one by my doctors and now I had to find some magical balance between necessary weight loss, my body dysphoria and the feminism that told me to love myself at every size.
I was almost used to doctors using every excuse and appointment to lecture me on my size – I would roll my eyes quietly. But now every time it happens, it feels like so much more is at stake. All I get from the professionals is warnings of punishment, judgements and patronising; it makes me feel like I’ve done something dreadful to ‘deserve’ this. These new feelings of guilt, pressure and further self loathing has fed into my disordered eating – new ways to hurt and punish myself, comfort eating after bad appointments, starving myself until I feel like I’m going to black out.
It’s hard to get a full grip on self care and eating healthily as par the course when you’ve been on diets since you were eight years old and struggling with disordered eating and binging from your mid-teens. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting there, but most of the time I’m blocking the situation out in my head because I know my blood sugar levels aren’t right and I feel completely helpless. Through fat feminism I learnt that long term weight loss is extremely unlikely and read links condemning diets as false prophets; this can be seen as empowering, to love the body you’re in. I know that long term weight loss is not really possible – I’ve witnessed it in from loved ones and experienced it personally. But to me it means I cannot save myself from the worst of my diabetes. Right now, it means that my diabetes is a death sentence. At this point, I become too depressed, scared and anxious to fight back. It feels so much bigger than me. It feels like fate. I hate feeling like this.
From here, my friends become a lifeboat, with fat feminism as the vital armour to fight off thin privilege. But I would like some allies, or perhaps a comment from someone who is like me – fat and diabetic and feminist. I would like us to reach out to each other.
Five* white labels cut into round-cornered rectangle shapes arranged on a black background, each with the words “my body is” in bubble writing, followed by a line, coloured with gold pen and reinforced with black lines. The middle label has a chessboard print around the logo. By Pearl Pirie, shared under a Creative Commons License. (*There are four labels in the square frontpage version of this picture.)