Trigger Warning: discussions of food, diet and weight.
I have always had difficulty with feeling positively towards my body, long before I ever became disabled. For as long as I can remember people have commented on my weight, on my lack of a flat stomach, on the size of my thighs; and that was before I exceeded 12 stone (168 pounds, approximately 76 kg) a couple of years ago. I have gained more weight since.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and don’t know why I worry, and other times I turn away so as not to see my reflection. I see cellulite and bumps that magazines would deem unsightly, stretch marks despite never having been pregnant, and long for the days when I could fit in size 10 clothing. Sadly, my least favourite feature, my double chin, is not so easily hidden beneath clothing.
Frankly, if I didn’t have the technical knowledge from my degree, I don’t know how I would cope with a BMI that considers me borderline-obese.
Being outside the arbitrary BMI range considered “healthy” is often portrayed as a moral failing, which anyone with a proper understand of nutrition will know to be false (do not even get me started on the myriad of reasons why BMI should never be taken in isolation as an indication of an individual’s health. Frankly, my opinion is that any correlation between BMI and health has more to do with the lifestyle available to those within the “optimal” BMI range than BMI itself). There are a vast array of reasons why someone may fall outside of this BMI range, and rarely if ever is that reason laziness. Ironically it is greed for profits, not food, that lies at the heart of the issue.
The least nutritious and most calorific food is often the cheapest and most accessible option available. Anyone who has to budget their time, energy or money is liable to resort to these foods at least some of the time, as are those who have difficulty buying and preparing food; consuming these foods is better than consuming nothing.
Furthermore, the portion sizes given on food packages are often unreasonably small in an effort to make their salt, fat and sugar content appear more reasonable, making it even harder to make informed choices about what you consume. Even with a degree in the subject I still get caught out.
I know all of this and more, and yet I still find myself worrying about my weight. I know that I literally cannot exercise and I know that certain medications I’m on impact weight, and I still worry. I worry not just about my appearance, but also about the fact that doctors are less inclined to believe any symptoms I discuss with them are to do with anything but my weight, and that treatment may well be declined unless I lose weight. I’ve already sat through more than one patronizing conversation about the impact of weight on my health, despite them knowing I was well within the desired BMI range when I became ill, and that frankly when it comes to diet, I know more than them.
I marvel at those brave enough to embrace their bodies without my specific educational focus, and at those who take to social media with pride despite the horrible comments and messages they receive. I hope that one day, I may be among those people.
Where I once found myself wrestling with the conundrum that disability is not inherently a bad thing, I must now repeat that process in relation to being what I believe the kids these days call a “chonk”.