A doctor called me fat once.
My husband wasn’t in the room. In the previous appointment, when my husband had been present, the doctor had used words like “overweight” and “obese.” Still not pleasant words to think about, but professional and appropriate for the situation.
He waited until my husband wasn’t there and then he called me fat.
He wasn’t even satisfied with using that word to describe me. He wanted me to acknowledge that it was part of who I was.
“So when did you get fat?” he asked me, looking directly at me. It wasn’t even an uncomfortable question for him. He was bold in his rudeness.
I explained that I had been at a certain weight for many years, but in grad school I put on weight.
He commented on the previous weight, that it was still not a satisfactory weight. And there I sat in his office, 70 pounds heavier than I had been before the weight gain.
I felt like a piece of chewed up bubble gum.
This morning, this episode came to mind as I was going through today’s lectionary reading.
“…as having nothing but possessing all things.” 2 Corinthians 6
When someone sees the outside of me, they might assume that I have nothing to offer.
That man, that doctor, who was charged with helping me with a life-altering condition caused by the weight gain, avoided an opportunity to encourage me to be healthy or to be anything more than fat.
The memory of this still bothers me often. 4 years later, 3 pregnancies later, lots of inner healing later. It occurred to me this morning that for me, being called ‘fat’ is very much like being called ‘slut.’
Think about it–as a society, we use the word ‘slut’ to describe a woman who wantonly allows anyone to presume upon her physical body. She lets it out to be used and mistreated, from what we assume is her own free will.
But we are learning now that many women who have received this denigrating title have had little to no control over the choices they appear to have made. It is not as easy at it seems to come out of a lifestyle that is familiar. It is not often as black and white as we have made it seem in our heads.
I have never (to my face or to my knowledge) been called a slut. And if I were to encounter a woman who is carrying that around as part of her identity, I would ask her to rethink her definition of herself. That label is not who she is. It is not her name. It is not her identity.
Over the years since the episode with the unkind and unprofessional doctor, I have thought a lot about the current condition of my physical body. I have learned that food addiction is real and that it is hard to break. I have come to understand that so many choices, food choices included, are made out of a place of mere surviving and not with the mindset of thriving. I have realized that issues with weight are far more complicated than “calories in, calories out” calculations.
And yet, like the neighborhood slut, I–the fat girl–hide in the background when I’m around religious people, not believing that I have anything worth saying. And even if I did have something to say, why would someone listen to me? I’m so fat. Automatically, my words are discounted, because OBVIOUSLY I don’t have it all together.
I have believed that fat people are not worth listening to, that people who struggle inordinately with their weight have nothing to say that is of value.
I would never say that out loud, would I? I have many friends whose weight struggles do not discount their words of love and advice to me. But I do believe it, deep inside, where the light of truth has yet to shine.
Say it with me: Being overweight does not discount my wisdom, my experience, my story, my worth.
Replace “overweight” with whatever adjective you have taken for yourself that needs to be discarded.
Say it with me: I have something worth saying and worth listening to.
Listen to the words of the apostle Paul from earlier in 2 Corinthians:
Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh…
What is seen in the flesh does not define me.
I have to let go of that “fat” word and applying it to myself. Yes, the fact is that I am overweight. But that does not define me. I am Amanda, and OH, the wisdom of my parents and of God, whose name means “Worthy of love.”
You have to let go of the word that you define yourself with: fat, old, weak, depressed, anxious, crazy, unstable, afraid, small, stupid…
Whatever that word is, it is not who you are.
You are valuable, precious (of great price), worthy of love, beautiful, and wanted.
Consider the story of St. Lawrence, who lived from 225 AD to 258 AD. Under the emperor Valerian, Roman authorities demanded that Lawrence, a deacon in the church at Rome, gather all the treasures of the church to hand over to the state. So, obediently, Lawrence went and rounded up all the treasures of the church—the lame, the beggars, the blind, the suffering. The weak ones, he knew, were the true treasure of the Church.
You, my friend, in your weakness—whatever that might be—are the treasure of the Church. Your wounds are precious. Your story is valuable. Your voice is needed for the rest of us to know more fully the love of Jesus Christ.
Paul continues in his second letter to the Corinthians:
So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.
You have something worth saying. You are an ambassador for the Son of the Living God.
Reject the lie that you have nothing to say or that no one will listen because of ______________ (fill in the blank). You have so much to say and it is so powerful that the devil will do what he can to stop you from sharing it. In as much as you have a story of pain and redemption, you carry a word of God for someone who needs it.
And they overcame [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
*This post was written in June 2015, before I started using the word "fat" as a descriptor, and at the time, it still very much was an insult to me. My use of the word "fat" to describe myself is to remove the stigma and shame that all to often are attached to its use. It is my choice and it is intentional, but please know that you can choose whatever adjective to describe yourself. There is no shame in being who you are.