Before and After (whooo, this got long, sorry)

Mar 15, 2017

Saw this on Twitter today. It's a piece on Medium by one of my new favorite writers, who publishes her stuff under the name Your Fat Friend. She's knocked me down a few times previously, with essays like A call to action: your fat friend is going it alone and How to love a fat person and, especially, What it's like to be that fat person sitting next to you on the plane.

A bit from this piece that hit me hard:


Images like those [of "headless fatties" on TV news segments about obesity] are what left me feeling so gutted with my family. The only time fat people are afforded a voice or a face is when our bodies change, or when we express the grief, regret, guilt and shame that thin people imagine must come from having bodies like ours. What they do not consider is the crumpling that happens when you see your body, every day, represented as a cautionary tale for someone else. If you are not careful, you may become a monstrosity like me. Before, desperately awaiting an after.

Because after, you can be heard. After, you are not required to renounce your own body in order to be accepted and embraced. You may share your experiences, hopes, dreams, plans, without weighing them down with caveats, dress sizes, inches, or pounds. After, you can have a face. After, you can smile. After, you can speak.


I hate that so many of us feel our lives don't really get to begin until we lose weight. I hate that. I hate it so much. I understand how we come to that place and I wish I knew how to lift everyone out of it. Anyway, what resonates with me so much about the Your Fat Friend exerpt above is the line: "Because after, you can be heard." There's the gut punch.

Because it's true.

One thing I noticed when I was at my lowest weight (forty pounds ago) was that suddenly people weren't just nicer to me (cashiers, fellow bus passengers, coworkers), they took me more seriously than when I'd been fat. Idiosyncrasies that annoyed people when I weighed 250 pounds were indulged and even appreciated when I was 144. Like I went form "obnoxious" to "cute" without actually changing my personality. (In reality, I am probably 50% obnoxious and 50% cute and always have been.) (I feel that at ~180 I've moved into a slightly more neutral zone in terms of peoples' perceptions of me, but most folks are definitely still way nicer than when I was Actually Fat.) 

Now, some if it's difficult to judge because I didn't have the same job pre- and post-op, so I can't compare a single workplace's response to me before and after surgery. But I could tell. When I was Actually Thin, people really listened to me, even when I maybe didn't necessarily know 100% what the hell I was talking about. They were patient with me. When I'd been fat, people tuned me out. They were not patient with me. When I was thin, people assumed I was smart. When I was fat, they assumed I was dumb. The contrast was stark, and sickening. When I was thin, people (especially other women) were even a little deferential, sometimes, in a slightly envious way? Which was weird and uncomfortable. Most of the really over-the-top privilege has evaporated as I've eased back into chubbiness, but the memory fucking lingers, I'll tell you.

You know what it felt like? Being thin? It felt like going undercover, as a fat person, and finding out what "normal" people really think about fat people and fatness. (Spoiler alert: they don't approve.) Because I had a new job and made a lot of new friends post-op, it felt like there was this set of people who never knew fat me and only knew skinny me, and these new folks were not necessarily guarded in how they talked about fatness—you know the way they are when they're around a fat person whose feelings they don't want to hurt. They kind of can't help themselves when it comes to saying shitty things about fatness in the abstract, but then they'll realize they are talking to an Actual Fat and sort of halfassedly backtrack or try to cover. Well, around people who only knew thin me there was no halfassed backtracking. To be honest, it was a huge disappointment. Soured me on humanity a little, lol lol lol.

...I see I've kind of gotten sidetracked. My original point was about Before and After, and how much I generally despise that concept. It's all marketing. I hate aspirational weight loss stuff. (Hate.) But at the same time, in a different sense than the Before and After we're sold by every Inspiring Weight Loss Narrative, bariatric patients do have a clear-cut Before and After. There is pre-op and post-op; the part of your life before you had surgery and the rest of your life afterward. And yeah, most of us want to see pictures and hear about what it's like on the other side...and the temptation is to believe there's a new and better version of you waiting to spring to life once the anesthesia wears off, but then it turns out you're still you. You've always you, and you've always deserved an awesome life. 

I don't even really know where I'm going with this. If a fat person decides to have surgery, all I hope for them is that the experience is complication-free and they enjoy better health afterward than before. But what I hope for all fat people is that they can live a whole life and be kind to themselves regardless of whether they opt for bariatric surgery. What I hope for all thin people is that they grow some damn empathy and compassion and not treat the fat people in their lives like pitiable Befores. 

Whooo, yeah, long and incoherent blog post yeeaah!!


About Me
Surgery Date
Sep 30, 2012
Member Since

Before & After
rollover to see after photo
2009, at a friend's wedding. Probably weighed ~250 at this point. (I miss that dress.)
Very awkward selfie! I should probably ask for assistance next time, but I'm impatient.

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