Ruth Fowler:

Educating the general public about the trials of being a larger woman is a worthy endeavor. But calling thinness a “privilege” presumes that thin people do not understand the suffering of anyone deemed by the western world to be “fat,” or do not have their own struggles. West and her brand of pro-fat feminism also wander into the rocky territory of oversimplified identity politics, trying to equate dress size with other oppressions such as racism, sexism and poverty, and ignoring that one’s weight is not an inherent privilege.

Last fall, I aggravated a recurring knee injury. Apparently I got a small tear in my meniscus. I say “apparently” because an MRI would have been expensive enough even without factoring in surgery to fix it, so I was content to just take my doctor’s best guess based on a physical exam. Not long after that, I began to feel the stirrings of an inguinal hernia on the left side, a year and a half after having the right side repaired. This was all on top of a very painful ganglion cyst in my wrist that had made weightlifting too onerous. Suffice it to say, this was demoralizing after having gotten back into a regular exercise routine, so I was feeling quite sorry for myself through the winter.

In late April of this year, I went in for an appointment with my rheumatologist. I complained about my ankles, knees, hips and back aching more than usual, expecting that he might suggest my arthritis meds were losing their effectiveness, as they are known to do in many patients over time. Surprisingly, though, he said my bloodwork looked perfectly normal. My body wasn’t showing any signs of reacting to inflammation. Honestly, he told me, the best thing you can do then is to lose more weight. Take more of those pounds-per-square inch off your joints, which have already taken enough abuse from the arthritis.

Had you asked me that morning why I wasn’t working out regularly anymore, I would have complained that I was in too much pain, and that I would probably need more effective drugs to get me to the point where I could start up again. Now I didn’t have that excuse anymore.

When I got home from work, my inamorata and I sketched out a brief meal plan based on reducing calories to around 1800-2000 a day and incorporating more fats and protein at the expense of carbs (this is something I never had the discipline to do on my own, but I’ve come to see that it is far and away the most important thing). Then I went out to the porch to begin my stretching routine before getting back on the treadmill.

Five minutes in, the muscles alongside my shins were starting to cramp. Shortly after that, my feet were protesting. By the end of a half-hour walk, I had reduced my speed and needed to grasp the handrails to keep steady. It was painful and humbling.

Still, the next day, I did it again. And the day after that. And every day since then. Having started by struggling mightily to walk two miles, I now walk four or five easily, at an increased pace. The minor aches faded soon enough, the knee healed well enough, and the hernia has benefitted from having less weight pressing down on it. I’ve never had any overwhelming hunger cravings or needed to exceed my calorie budget. I’ve lost thirty pounds in those three months, and aim to lose as much as thirty more (which would put me back to skinny soccer-playing weight). Even if I eventually ease off on the exercise, I think I’ve acquired enough knowledge and discipline about meal preparation to keep from overeating again.

I won’t pretend to know exactly what it’s like to be genuinely obese. Even at my weightiest, thanks to my former athleticism, I never showed more than a slight paunch and love handles. But it was enough to be disappointing in front of a mirror, and it certainly felt awful from a physical standpoint. Nonetheless, the point I’m making is that nothing at all changed on that spring day except my mentality. I could eat sugary snacks or pizza with the best of them, but after that, I simply stopped doing it. Those foods didn’t become less tasty, I just cared more about losing weight and feeling better. I’m not superhuman, I’m just motivated. It wasn’t like I got some grim warning that I needed to lose weight or else face an imminent demise. It was just a suggestion. I just decided to act on it. The rest is all rationalization and procrasturbation.