I don’t like to eat.
I love food. I love cooking. I love everything there is about breakfast, lunch, and dinner except the part where I have to sit down and eat in front of someone else. And if you’re fat or formerly fat then I don’t have to explain why it’s so hard to share a meal with someone. Us fatties have known since we were little chubby kids that there is an inherent shame in eating while fat. We have always known that we have to take less, hide more, chew slower, never take seconds; we have always known how to apologize for our presence.
In high school I often skipped lunch. Or I went and just didn’t eat. Or shared a snack. Ate less than I wanted. Of course after school I would devour whatever I could find. Alone in my room, away from the stigma that my weight brought me, I could finally eat. I didn’t feel guilty. It didn’t hurt. It was okay to be hungry when no one else was looking.
In college I was forced to eat with other people. And sometimes I still feel the imprint of my nails digging into my legs, keeping me from crying or running away as I sat down to a shared meal with people half my size.
I can do it. I can do it, it’s okay. The absurdity of psyching myself up to go to dinner with friends was not lost on me. I’m a smart girl. I knew I was being ridiculous. I knew I was overreacting, hiding my mouth as I chewed. I knew I had a problem when I was barely eating anything and going to bed hungry and depressed.
But even more than my own absurdity, I was sure of everyone else’s. I’ve had more direct experience with fatphobia than a thousand blog entries could detail. Like all of us fat people, I can catch the slight look of disgust, the quiet annoyance at my existence, the hatred of people like me. It doesn’t miss me.
I see it. I see you. I know you. I knew what people were thinking because these thoughts also lived deeply inside of me. Beneath my flawless makeup and cute dresses and exuberant personality, I hated myself and my body and my skin and flesh. And I was too smart to believe these thoughts were mine. I wasn’t born hating myself. I learned it from the people around me, so I know what people think when they see me. I know what they think when I eat too much or too quickly or too hungrily. I know because I have been taught by society to think the same way. I have been trained to feel shame before anyone else has the chance to say a word.
Addressing fatphobia has to be central to our activism as women. Addressing a poison that erodes our self-esteem has to be a priority. We have to know and believe that fatphobia is an attack on women. We must accept this truth: a society which creates a false health epidemic focused on making us more obedient, smaller, more isolated is a sick society. Fatphobia is a disease.