Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Diabetes and Fat Acceptance: An Update

Yesterday I saw my doctor for the first time since last September and was surprised to learn that I’ve lost nearly 60 lbs. and my efforts to control the Type 2 diabetes I was diagnosed with last fall have been successful.

You might wonder how it could be a surprise to me that I’ve lost so much weight, but if you spent the vast majority of your days in nightgowns and loungers (nee muumuus), you’d know how easy it is to lose touch with your body. I knew I’d lost some weight, I just didn’t realize how much. The other reason for the surprise is that I wasn’t trying to lose weight, I was just making a concerted effort to eat less sugar and fat and fewer starchy carbohydrates, and instead eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, because I was frightened about developing diabetes-related health crises, like blindness, amputation, heart attacks and strokes. I knew I’d lose weight in this process, but since weight loss wasn’t the goal, I didn’t give it much thought.

For quite some time, I haven’t believed in dieting, because (as is the case with 98% of all people who diet to lose substantial amounts of weight) all my past efforts were counter-productive; I always re-gained more weight than I’d lost. But until I was told I had diabetes, I had never tried to change my eating habits for important health reasons, instead of the vanity and self-loathing that motivated my weight loss diets. I’m thrilled that I’m doing well with the diabetes management and I’m pleased to report that, for the most part, it hasn’t been too painful. I haven’t gone hungry or been obsessive about how much I eat, I’ve just focused on the nature and quality of what I eat – and I’ve allowed myself frequent treats.

I take oral medication and now subscribe to two major diabetes publications, test my blood sugar at least once a day, and frequently review the many good diabetes-related Web sites I’ve bookmarked. I’ve put a lot of effort into learning how to cook differently and have discovered that I actually like some of the foods I used to shun because I thought they were obnoxiously healthy. It’s been an interesting period.

But I’m still very much a fat person and will continue to be a fat person even if I lose another 50+ lbs. – and I’m still outraged by the vicious anti-fat sentiments that are part and parcel of today’s Health Fascism. As was the case when cigarettes were Boogeyman #1, many people are breathtakingly self-righteous about their healthy habits and downright hateful about fat people. There are a lot of folks out there who really believe that the obese are shredding the fabric of society, that our size and relationship with food are costing them in substantial economic ways. This is ridiculous and I’ll only consider taking this idea seriously when both government and the sick health care industry eliminate fraud, mismanagement and the profit motive from health care systems.

As a serious, sincere advocate of fat acceptance, I was initially concerned that my fat politics would be undermined by my efforts to control my diabetes (and, frankly, vice versa). It’s turned out there’s no conflict whatsoever. I’ve been doing what I need to do to improve my health and preserve my independence without concern for how these efforts do or don’t alter my appearance. I am who and what I am, which now includes having diabetes and needing to deal with it. I still defend my right (and the right of others) to be whatever size I am and to challenge social mores that demonize fat people. It’s good to confront real health problems (like diabetes) with pro-active vigor. It’s also good to live and let live. I wish the health fascists would shut the fuck up and butt out of my life and the lives of all fat people. And I wish for all those who are coping with diabetes the success and comfort I’ve achieved in managing this disease.

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