Stories about fat

Trigger warnings: weight, diet, body shape. And I’m starting with a trigger warning because this is a subject that puts some people in a very bad place indeed. Like most people my age, I grew up ‘understanding’ that being fat was the simple consequence of eating too much fat. That’s not how it works, and while more information is out there all the time, it doesn’t always filter through. The default is to blame and shame fat, still, which is bloody unhelpful.

It looks increasingly like sugar and refined carbohydrate are a far bigger issue than fat in the diet, and that the sugar industry has led the demonising of fat.

Sleep deprivation encourages us to retain fat. We live in a sleep deprived culture. I don’t know whether it’s because lack of sleep denies us processes that would have helped, or because lack of sleep is a crisis, and in a crisis, some of us store fat. Which leads me to stress – which tells our bodies there’s an emergency going on. For some of us, routinely trying to starve yourself thin can create and emergency that the body responds to by frantically storing everything it can. This was me in my teens, often only eating one meal a day, retaining weight, malnourished and miserable. Stress, and most especially work induced stress, and poverty induced stress are recognised things, but under-explored. There is also a known correlation between poverty and obesity, but no public debate about whether the stress of poverty, contributes alongside poor nutrition, to weight gain. If there were, we’d have to look differently at workplace responsibilities and government policies.

Thyroid function, and water retention and probably a whole heap of other medical conditions I’m not up to speed on can go unnoticed if we obsess over fat in relation to diet. If ‘get more exercise and lose weight’ is the only diagnosis available for the more padded person, other medical conditions – conditions that might well be causing or adding to weight gain – go unnoticed and unchecked. It happens.

Yo-yo dieting is a thing, and a lot of people get trapped in it. Brief attempts at wonder diets that cause weight loss in the shorter term, and then don’t work. This is in part because diets don’t deal with lifestyle as a whole. Wonder diets are often faddy, under-researched and won’t work for everyone, our bodies are different. It’s not just about how we eat, but about what we do with our bodies, how much we move, sleep, rest, and stress is all part of the mix. A happier life may make weight loss very easy, dieting misery can move us towards weight gain. Unhappiness leads to comfort eating, it can make us less active, and adds stresses to life that can help convince our bodies there’s a crisis we need to stock up calories to get through.

I’ve spent much of my life hating and resenting my body shape. I’ve starved myself as a form of punishment for being so disgusting – this is how I’ve felt about myself. Followed by the inevitable binges and the self-loathing those create, leading to a cycle of misery and excess weight. It’s really tough to break out of that self-perpetuating loop. I’ve done so by keeping the focus on doing things that make me happy. I’ve paid attention to how my body responds to foods, and altered my eating to do what feels good. I eat with a view to powering my body for whatever activities I have in mind, not with reference to my stomach size. I feel better about myself. I’ve got out of the punishment cycles and into a process that is about wellbeing and feeling good, and that has made a lot of odds.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Stories about fat

  • Story

    I relate to this and wish I could offer something to all those who struggle. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for the first 30 years of my life. I was lucky; it all stopped when I experienced love for the first time, the unconditional love from my partner. Looking back, I can see how being sickly thin didn’t make me feel better. I’ve yo-yoed between losing and gaining 70 pounds, and at the higher end of that scale now I know that my weight has never actually made a difference at all. I am comfortable in my skin now but it has nothing to do with what I physically look like.

    It might be harder for someone who is considered medically overweight, because there is even more pressure to be “healthy”. That’s a tough place to be in, thinking one’s own body hasn’t passed a test laid out by professionals. I do think that the tests of the medical world aren’t Truth, as long as we’re being nutritionally wise and taking care of ourselves.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I’m touched to hear that you have broken the cycles, because I know how unbelieveably hard it is. Love yourself, honour yourself, cherish yourself. Blessings to you!

  • Blodeuwedd

    Thank you so much for this! I get very wound up at government campaigns hinting that weight is all about education. I know exactly what I should do. The things that stop me doing it are to do with pressure of work and, as you say, factors concerned with mental well being, or the lack thereof. Not to mention a sizeable helping of genetic pre-conditioning. I know this because I see my Dad’s sisters who put on weight if they look at a crisp, and my partner who eats me under the table and takes as much exercise as I do and is, shall we say, wisp-like. The myth that being over weight is a moral failing is both deeply ingrained and massively unhelpful!

  • Tracy Kruse

    Nimue, you are a treasure. Every word is true to my experience. I am in recovery from a 15 year, mis-diagnosed hyper-parathyroid tumor. Tests for women frequently use samples used with men as subjects, which has little to do with the finer details of a woman’s body. I have had 19 broken bones in my feet for the last two years; a broken collar bone when my dog pulled the lead too hard and a mind that went like eggs in a blender. My bone density is like an 80 year old although it is slowly improving. It is with slow perserverence that I am recovering body and mind. In my case, the mind was the easier….less complex?? I have gone through all sorts of confusion, attempting all manner of things to lose weight. It is the old story that your life will be happy when….but it’s not true, either and only leaves one living in the future, missing all the beauty of the NOW. I am finally coming into acceptance with my body, in my 50s.
    It became my mission to understand and to work on healing my health, rather than dieting. And what a gem of surprises I have found. I recently also learned that wheat flour products ACT like a t ype of sugar in the body that is more addictive than heroin and has similar craving and chemical effects in the brain and body. It has been ‘engineered’ to be that way. We as a society offer understanding and even treatment (ins paid) for drug addiction, but no support at all for food or sugar addiction. I also had occasion to see JJ Virgin on youtube speaking about sugar. Essentially and she does an excellent job of explaining it, but even the way that sugar works in the body has not been presented correctly. I highly recommend her work/videos/website to anyone who is struggling with sugar issues. She also deals with food intolerance and how that triggers inflammation which is the real cause of disease. On top of all that, what is coming out in research is how the common foods in most people’s diets damage the liver and create a toxin overload. There is work with regard to that in the Truth About Cancer video series by Ty Bollinger that I think Everyone should see. Not only do all the specifics Nimue brought forth in this article prove true, but lying under the cover of inaccurate information is that whenever the body digests a toxin (pesticide, etc), if the liver cannot deal with it right away, the body will actually wrap the toxic elements in fat cells to protect the brain and heart from it. So there is no exercise or diet plan that will remove that tissue. Only detoxification, and to date there is no treatment known to remove the worst of these which is glyphosphate. The amazing thing is that education has helped me to know what I face in terms of removing any weight I want or regaining my health. I am slowly dealing with the monster under the bed (or at my Mother’s house), but faced with a highly stressful situation and I go hunting for something chocolate-y, preferable in a shiny wrapper. (We fae like shiny things!) It is my deepest hope that we as humans can begin to override this programming in our culture to seek truth and offer compassion rather than ridicule and judgement. It would also be a boon if those in the food industries would stop adding chemical poisons to our food supply. A unified people of Earth could create that change. (sorry Nimue…I wrote a blog in a blog!)

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for this – and dear gods what a terrible set of things to have gone through. Inflammation is on my radaor, and I’ve moved away from white grains – makes an incredible difference, and my gut now works far better.

      • Tracy Kruse

        Yes! I have taken out of consumption corn, wheat, soy, almost all sugars (damn that stuff!) and dairy, except for hard cheeses like swiss and parmesan which are made differently. I also started to Bulletproof my morning coffee, which is a bio-hack from Dave Asprey (genius!) and it works as he says it does…it actually tells your body to burn fat for the day and not sugar while feeding the brain essential fat. My hunger levels and food consumption have gone way down as my body burns it’s stored fat rather than looking for intake energy, with a caveat that for me, I must continue to take a pretty potent multivitamin to make up for what I am not getting in less nutrient intake. My energy has increased as well and more walks, more gardening has improved other things as well. As to the illness, I see it as a gift as my journey is much now of the wounded healer and the old crone! lol

  • lingib

    I’ve suffered with polycystic ovary syndrome for almost 38years after having my son. It’s a miracle we both servived as I had pre-eclampsia and was blacking out. I was told that I was one step away from a brain bleed. I have struggled with my weight and undiagnosed depression since then until both were acknowledged 2 years ago. I’ve also had osteoarthritis for over 11 years, so have not been able to exercise properly. I have it in most joints now, so can’t walk far let alone exercise I’ve also had my Personal Independence Payment stopped since a reassessment last August and have to go to a face to face tribunal to get it reinstated. All of this with the added stress of trying to keep the bills paid and a roof over our heads until the tribunal ( which could take months for the date) has triggered the depression again, which I was beginning to manage with meditation. If I don’t have 1 or 2 squares of dark chocolate I would lose the plot completely. I’m type 2 diabetic and wheat sensitive too which doesn’t help. Thank you so much, Nimue for sharing with us. You are indeed a treasure. Blessings!

    • Nimue Brown

      That is a vast amount to be up against – he assumption that ‘exercise’ is a magic fix, you more than demonstrate why that doesn’t hold up. I can’t help but think that proper, research led moves towards finding ways to get people with serious body problems safely moving would be really useful. There could even be stuff out there, but there aren’t any obvious signposts towards it.

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