Hi I'm Fat
Recently I was invited to a YSC event as a guest. The tickets cost $150, which to me is a fortune. I could never afford it, and while I am thrilled to be able to attend, my first thought was “Oh, God, are they going to want pictures?!”
This surge of panic hit me like a bomb because for the past year I have been hiding a secret. I’ve been skulking in shadows, only coming out at night, avoiding people I might know at the gym or the hospital. I’ve been turning corners and turning down invites from friends who want to see me. I’ve been holding on tight to a secret so shameful that I would rather hide in seclusion than live my life. That secret is that I’m fat. I gained weight during chemo.
It’s a weird thing to admit to. This is off color, and I’m sure I will get a lot of hate for it from fellow survivors, but by now you all know me. I’m not the most sensitive person. I laugh through the pain. It’s a genetic thing. My mom made fun of my bald head. It’s shocking to some, but to me it’s a way of coping. It made things feel more normal between us.
Anyway, I’m getting off track. What I want to say, and I am admitting this now because I’m especially truthful after just one beer, is that when I found out I had cancer my first thought after sheer panic was “at least I’ll lose weight.” I know. I’m a monster.
The hope of weight loss was a silver lining maelstrom of utter bullshit that I wanted to cling to. Unfortunately, I found out very quickly, weight loss isn’t always what happens during chemo. It depends the type of cancer, the type of treatment, and how a person’s body handles treatment. A lot of patients, including breast cancer patients, who have cancers connected with hormones can actually gain weight, not to mention the steroids they pump us with causes something that is actually called “moon face.” I kid you not. I remember being ravenous the three days right after treatment, only to feel extreme nausea and regret as the steroids began to leave my body.
The weight gain is just odd because I think when most people picture cancer patients they think of someone emaciated and sickly. This is a bizarre thing to admit, but I felt like people didn’t realize how sick I was because I didn’t look it. I almost perversely wished I looked more sick so that my boss and co-workers would stop looking at me like I was taking days off for fun and not because my insides felt like hot lava and ice at the same time.
I’ve never been thin. As young as I can remember I have battled with a chubbiness that clung to me like shroud. I never had baby fat—I just had FAT fat. There were periods of time where I would lose weight. Usually that would only last for a year or so because the only way I could get down to a size 4 was by eating only 500-650 calories a day. Even then my weight was still high at 148.
I look back at pictures of myself two, three, four, even five years ago, before the cancer, and I think how stupid I was not to appreciate my body. I was dope. I had tits and ass for days. I had a body that was healthy and could workout five days a week. I have picture proof! I had a bangin’ body and I didn’t appreciate it because it wasn’t thin enough.
As much as I love the body positive movement and follow all of the accounts. As much as I “yaaaas girl” stan over a chubby babe posting a bikini picture, I feel like that confident person can never be me. I am trying my hardest to be comfortable with my body but ages worth of conditioning is hard to break.
My entire life has centered around weight and beauty from as young as I can remember. I have extremely fat phobic parents, they’re a product of their generation and also a country, Brazil, that deals in beauty. Even at a young age I remember my aunts comparing my chubby little rolls to the non existent ones of my thinner cousins. My father, who lives in Brazil and rarely sees me, would always ask me “are you still skinny? Did you lose any weight?” instead of “are you healthy? Is everything all right?”
It didn’t help that with the exception of the 6 years that I lived in Brazil, I moved to a town filled with blond, emaciated glamazons who not only did well in school, did amazingly at sports, but also looked flawless while doing it. I couldn’t help but compare myself, and I always fell short...and fat.
It’s hard for me to write this even one beer in. I think a person can admit to almost anything in this world and it feel like people are willing to be accepting, but for some reason being chubby or fat is looked at as a moral failing. If you’re fat you must be lazy. You must not have will power. A little chubby? Clearly you’re not taking responsibility for your own body. People post gym selfies and healthy food choices like a badge of honor, like it’s a sign of good character.
Now, I’m not here to argue about whether or not “big boned” is an actual thing. I’m not a doctor. I do think that some people happen to be blessed with amazing metabolisms and great body structure. My mother, for example, can eat a huge dinner consisting of 2-3 cups of white rice and a steak and later have a grilled cheese at 2 am and is still thin. I’ve had roommates who ate nothing but macaroni and cheese and dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and had not one roll of fat on their body. If you look at the pictures above, I was working out five times a week. I ate relatively well. I was still a curvy babe.
I’m not saying I’m a saint. This weight gain didn’t just happen to me. First, the chemo knocked me on my ass, and I had to stop working out, and secondly, I self medicated with carbs. The thing about people going through chemo not feeling hunger did not apply to me. In fact, the steroids they gave me to lessen then negative symptoms of treatment actually made me very hungry for the first three days after my infusions. I would eat like a bear preparing for hibernation, and I could only eat carbs. I couldn’t stomach anything else. It would all make me throw up or feel nauseous for days. Protein was my enemy. I couldn’t even think about fiber. I stuck to my gnocchi and baguettes with chunks of parmesan cheese (your taste buds change during chemo). Not only did these foods fill me up, but they also made me feel comforted. Through all of the pain and horrific thoughts like “am I going to die?” something as simple as a piece of lasagna could soothe me like no form of heroin ever could. (Disclaimer: I’ve never done heroin so I can’t say for sure, but I’m just guessing…) Food was my drug.
Today, I sit before you, second beer in hand, and admit that I am a food addict. We’re all addicted to something. It’s hard to go through life unscathed. It’s too harsh. A lot of addictions are benign and easy to hide. Maybe you like to shop a little too much. Perhaps you like to come home from a long day of work and drink a little human blood—yes people do this. I saw it on My Strange Addiction. People do all sorts of things to cope, some as common as video games and binge watching Netflix to others as strange as eating cigarette ashes and huffing Glade cans. Either way, you don’t have to wear all of your addictions on your sleeve. You can hide many addictions. You can’t hide your love of carbs.
I’m working on it. So far I’ve lost twelve pounds. I’m working out again. I am eating a lot of protein again. I try to eat less sweets. I’m doing my best. My nutritionist says I’m doing great, so there’s that. I think the secret to success is taking it slowly. If you try to lose twenty pounds in a month and don’t give yourself any leeway for enjoying the foods you are accustomed to, you will most likely fail. I think that was my problem—everything was black and white as far as dieting. If I ate something unhealthy in a day I saw it as a failure, and instead of doing better next time I just gave myself permission to be a glutton for the rest of the day. Learning to love yourself means also being kinder and gentler with yourself. I would never call a friend or a family member a failure for eating a slice of cake. There’s no reason why I should be placing those intense standards on myself.
Slowly but surely I am learning. Instead of following too many diet accounts on Instagram, which seem to promote extreme lifestyle changes, I tend to follow body positive accounts that promote self love while also trying to improve yourself through working out and eating better. With that I am going to take a cue from these accounts and do the bravest thing I have ever done (joking). I’m going to post pictures of myself today, as I am.