Disclaimer: I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about a collective set of sentiments, so don’t take personal offense. This has been brewing for awhile and I’ve just got to get it off my chest.
Everyone I’ve seen blog about being bipolar complains of being fat. Being fat is not a side effect of being bipolar, although it is a side effect of some meds (notably not mine, thank goodness.)
The thing is, I get the impression that some people making these complaints have gained a few pounds and may be a bit pudgy, but aren’t actually obese. And when I hear them getting so bitter about being “fat” it makes me feel bad because I am in much worse shape. I know it’s all relative and a matter of perspective and distresses us all, but it’s really been getting to me lately.
Gaining weight is traumatic, but it happens to practically everyone at some point (except the magical Mr. Chickadee who has the metabolism of the gods). So getting fat isn’t necessarily due to mental illness. Many mental health bloggers seem to be in the age range where the metabolism naturally slows down. Everyone has to adjust when their body changes over time. The lifestyle habits that come along with being chronically depressed definitely make things worse, though, I’ll grant you that – particularly with atypical depression that involves a lot of eating.
If losing under 25 lbs makes curves re-appear, you’ve got it easy. If the size that doesn’t fit anymore is not in the double digits, well, I won’t even go there because the wrath is unjustified. If your jeans won’t button up and you haven’t sized up in the last year, cry me a damn river. If you can actually run at all, you’re lucky. If you think it’s remarkable that your thighs rub together, that means it hasn’t always been that way for you – now imagine that you take thigh friction for granted because that’s just how it is.
My body looks like one of those Stone Age carvings of fertility goddesses, right down to the double-wide hips, droopy belly, and saggy boobs. There’s nothing sexy about that to anyone but Mr. Chickadee (who does care but doesn’t make me feel bad about it, and always makes me feel wanted.) I’ve gained 80 lbs in the last five years, 30 of them in 2011 when bipolar was really running amok. I have never in my adult life weighed less than 152 lbs, and I was very fit and skinny at that point – down to a D cup for the first time since 7th grade.
I’m about 5’7″ tall and I currently weigh over 220 lbs. I’m not “big boned”; I have an average frame. But my BMI is around 35. I could lose 30 lbs and no one would notice because it’s a drop in the bucket. I passed the “I’ll never exceed this weight without intervention” weight 50 lbs ago. So much for that resolution.
In 5 years, I’ve gone from a size 6 to a size 18, from S to XL. My bras are so big the cups could be worn as caps – 32JJ is a size most women don’t know exists. I don’t have a swimsuit and haven’t had one for a couple of years now. I can’t wear knee-high boots because my calves are too big. My hourglass figure is now either Rubenesque or Dali-esque, depending on my mood.
This is MY FAULT. I am 100% responsible for my body (just like everyone else.) I can’t blame meds because mine are weight-neutral. I can blame binge eating and being excessively sedentary, neither of which is uncommon in grad school or depression, and even worse with both combined. But these are reasons, not excuses.
These are my problems and no one can fix them but me. There is no use in whining about it. There is no use in flagellating myself about it. There is no use in trying to extract pity from anyone. I can either take action to improve my lot or shut up because I’m essentially choosing to remain fat by failing to do anything about it.
Sure, I feel bad about being obese. Awful. Even worse (much worse) when I see people complain about being jiggly, because I have never had a firm body, even when I was slender. I haven’t had kids but my belly will never be firm without surgical intervention. That’s just the way it is.
I have actually lost 10 lbs since starting Lamictal and stopping self-medicating. I no longer binge. I stop eating when I’m full, and I can now actually tell that I’m full instead of feeling unceasingly hungry – for the first time since I started having bipolar symptoms. I eat a pretty healthy diet most of the time. I have learned that I eat badly and excessively in reaction to stress, depression, and anxiety, which means I can try to take steps to prevent it.
I wear a pedometer so I can stay aware of my physical activity levels. Ever since I finished my dissertation, I’ve been getting more exercise on a daily basis. I’m working on stepping that up a notch – one thing at a time. The only fix for being overweight is to change the calorie-in/calorie-out ratio, and there is nothing quick or easy about that.
But please excuse me if I fail to offer sympathy when you complain about your body without saying what you’re doing to fix it. Don’t be surprised when I stay silent if you mention being fat more than once a year. I don’t want to hear about it unless you’re going to be brutally honest and give specifics, talk about why, and say what you plan to do to improve things.
If you’re sitting at a keyboard whining about your weight, go for a walk instead. You and I will both feel better for it.