I had an appointment with a nurse with regards to a pre-existing condition I have. After the usual poking, prodding and inappropriate behaviour (she once told me, before a smear test, to lie back and think of England), we got to the dreaded weigh-in.
“You’re well over the optimum weight Annette. Time to start eating better and get that body moving!”
I am not a small human. When pressed to describe my physicality, people are likely to say:
“She’s not fat, exactly. Just big. Big-boned. Sturdy, yes. Pretty face though. For a big girl.”
Not the worst thing to have said about you. Certainly not an insult. Nope, I can think of many, far more awful things I could say about myself. For instance, I can be pretty bossy. Definitely sanctimonious. And I’m always right (even when I’m very wrong).
I am not, however, “a big girl” because I’m lazy. I hate it when people make assumptions about my personality based on the size of my underwear (16, if you’re asking). So, creepy nurse notices I’m overweight. Creepy nurse assumes that this is because I eat my weight in Twirls every day and I’ve done no exercise since the glory days of launching my self into a pit of sand (gravel) in ass-grazing gym knickers at school. That because I am not a lithe, long-limbed, bronzed beauty, nor a heroine-chic waif type, that I am a fast-food loving sofa surfer.
A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips
I love food. I love it more than I love most of my friends. I cook, I write about cooking, I edit other people’s writing about cooking, I un-cook and make raw desserts. But I have allergies and blood sugar issues, and I work hard at eating well. I juice like a demon, I make all my own meals and I am well-versed in macro-nutrients. Sure, my general mistrust of ‘dieters’ is notorious, but in truth, I probably eat less (and better) than 90% of my skinny friends.
*Cue skeptical eyebrow-raising as you glance up and down at my physique*
Get that body movin’
A similar reaction is rolled out when I tell people I exercise regularly. “Of course you do love.”
OK, I hate the gym. The notion of going to the gym voluntarily is anathema to all I hold true and pure. Sweating is only tolerable in situations where the eventual enjoyment far outweighs the trauma of leaking from every pore. (Sex. Eating vigorously. Playing dance games on the Wii). But I exercise all the same.
Having been embarrassingly extra-curricular as a teenager, a deep competitive lust still lurks in me. When swimming, apart from trying to stop my boobs from acting as some sort of uninvited flotation device, I race the unsuspecting, serious swimmers in the fast lane. When cycling, I race cars and buses. I run three times a week, dragging the reluctant beloved along behind me. I walk to and from work, I do weights, I do HIIT. I am surprisingly fit for a chubby asthmatic. I have some skinny friends who wobble and pant after a too-brisk walk up a hill or a frenzied run to catch the bus. Whilst they struggle for breath, their shock that their porky chum appears undisturbed occasionally gets ugly.
So…. Why are you fat?
“You know, you could just do something about it”.
OH. I should just do something about it! Oh how silly of me. I didn’t know I could just do something about it!
“Yeah, just eat less and go to the gym, and you could easily lose, like, a stone”.
Umm, first off: thanks for that uninvited comment on my appearance. Next time I see you remind me to return the favour and impart my personal wisdom on ways to avoid resembling a syphilis-addled product of incest.
Secondly: no, I won’t lose a stone. It doesn’t matter if I starve myself and exercise 23 hours a day. I will never “easily” lose a stone. And why? BECAUSE I HAVE PCOS FUCKHEAD.
PCOS, or poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, is a condition characterized by the accumulation of numerous cysts on the ovaries: it is associated with high male hormone levels, chronic anovulation (absent ovulation), and other metabolic disturbances. Classic symptoms include excess facial and body hair, acne, obesity, irregular menstrual cycles, and infertility. Sounds dreamy, huh? It gets better – there is no cure!
Basically, if you and I both started the same diet and same exercise regime, I would lose a third of the weight you would during the same period. If that. Any rupture or rumble in my hormonal landscape could reverse any weight loss in a matter of days. A frustrating and exasperating condition that one has very little choice but to live with.
Now, I rarely divulge this information by way of a defence as it is my view I don’t need to defend myself for taking up space. But when perfect strangers feel it is OK to comment on my body and my apparent laziness, I start to get a little bit ticked off. When a nurse tells me, “you really should start some gentle exercise you know, and cut out those biccies,” I get a bit punchy. When a man at the bus stop points out I would be “quite fit” if I “went to the gym”, I find it increasingly difficult to bite my tongue.
My body is none of your business. Unless my body is your business, and you’re in the business of pleasing my body, in which case, I’m all yours.