How do you perceive your body, and how does it compare to how society might see it?
I have lost weight so my body has changed, but now it’s changed because I’ve got saggy skin. People don’t see it but I see it, so just getting over that is tough right now. But, I know in the end when I’m done my weight loss journey, it’ll be better.
How has weight loss changed your perception of your body?
I’m pretty proud of myself. More people tend to [see] it than myself. I still look in the mirror and think “Oh, I got a lot more work to do.” But it makes me feel like maybe I am doing something right because everybody else is noticing it and they comment about it so it brings me up a little bit more … It’s [harder to see the change] for yourself, but it helps along when people notice it. I think if people didn’t notice it, you wouldn’t think it happened.
How were topics of body image and weight discussed when you were growing?
I didn’t really start gaining weight until my puberty years. I’d always been a curvy girl ... and all my friends, they were overweight too. We kind of have all of that in common, so it wasn’t very hard to overcome that, because we kind of did it together. But it can be hard - a lot of people look down on you for being a little overweight, or chubby, or all that, and they think that you can’t do anything. Or [they think that] you’ve gained weight because you eat too much, there’s a [stigma] all around it, and it’s not good, because some people have a condition, or in my example, I’ve gained weight because I love food and I ate too much of it. It wasn’t what I was putting in my mouth. I didn’t eat bad, I just love the taste of food, so it would make [me] eat more.
When did you start realizing that your weight was becoming a problem?
When I was sixteen I got into a ski accident, I ripped my ACL out, totally. After that, my weight gain was quite dramatic, so it was harder to fit into clothes. Plus, being 5’1, it’s even tougher when you’re a plus girl living in a small town. You can’t fit into any of the clothes. It was tough to grow up being a bigger girl and short. I have two things against me right there. [But] I tend to never let it bring me down, probably because I had a good support network around me. That got me through the times that, you know, I didn’t have very many people picking on me or anything- you know, the odd person here and there, but I just let it roll off of me.
Have you experienced any weight or size discrimination?
I was on knee surgery number two (the first one worked but I fell and I reinjured and ripped my ACL), I was waking up from my surgery. Nurses were around me and they were bringing me to, the anesthesiologist was there with three or four RN’s trying to bring me to, and I could hear them talking and poking fun at me. Saying “look at how overweight she is”, “she’s so obese”, and “no wonder she has knee problems”, and all the nurses were laughing and poking fun at me. I was very vulnerable because I’m half asleep, but I know what was happening, because he came and saw me later that day and his mannerisms towards me. I felt really vulnerable. I went to my doctor about this to file a complaint, she had said “I think you should file a complaint”. Then I got thinking after a while, and I thought, “Do I really wanna go through this again?” I felt embarrassed, ashamed, because I was just coming out of surgery, like, you’re half awake and can they really say “oh, she was half awake, it didn’t really happen”? Well it did, and I know it did. But I just kind of left it alone and I’m kind of thinking, there’s probably other women or men that have gone through getting the same kind of treatment from that doctor. I wish I did something at the time, but I didn’t.
If weight discrimination, or the fear of it were eliminated, what would your life look like?
[If the fear of weight discrimination were eliminated], I don’t think my life would change too much. I just decided one day that I needed to lose weight because my knees will never be the same. Yes, I’ve had so many surgeries, but I had to do something. People tend to look at people who are overweight or obese and think [that] they can’t do anything, but there are tons of people that can do everything as much as a person that’s overweight. They kind of have a stigma of thinking that all they do is sit around on the couch and do nothing, which isn’t true. They can do pretty much as much as anyone else out there. It’s tough, and it gets me upset that I know that people look at other people that are overweight and they feel looked down on, at times, but they don’t know the person inside at all.
What misconceptions about obesity would you like address?
There’s so many apps, and so many things to kick-start your weight loss journey that I didn’t know of before joining weight wise. There’s things to track what you eat, and there’s nothing wrong. And there’s drugs out there to help you lose weight and help to take your hunger away. I’m not ashamed to say that I do that. I also stick to the food groups too, and I try not to sway off of that. And that’s important. You can still have carbs in your diet, whereas before I thought that to lose weight, I had to take out carbs totally from my diet. Or sweeter fruits. You don’t have to do that to lose weight. If you keep track of what’s in your mouth, and portion control, you can do anything, really.
What barriers do you feel your weight has created for you?
Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a barrier, but I think when you’re sitting on those planes, and those belts don’t fit, and they have to bring you a bigger one, it makes you kind of sad inside that you have to ask for that.
I do yoga like anyone else, and I have the same flexibility as anyone else out there. I would run if I didn’t have knee problems. I honestly don’t think that weight brings a barrier to not doing stuff - it’s how strong you are.
Is there anything you would like to address?
Something I’ d like to [share] is the wait times in Alberta. I’m not sure what other provinces are like, but getting into the Alberta health services weight wise program took me two years. And then, it’s a great group of people that help you go through everything and that a lot of people have huge success stories. And I’m one of them, and I’m pretty proud that I got in, and I’m learning the tools and the course and the great team of nurses and psychiatrist and the internalists and everybody around. And it helps so much to tackle everything, because before that I had no idea where to go. Doing the cabbage soup diet or no-carb diet, or high protein-no fruit diet. Like this was meant for me and I’ve learnt so much. What happens down the road? I don’t know but the guidelines, and how to use MyFitnessPal, which is calculated and taught me how to use my calorie intake and all that- its helped me tremendously. And some people don’t have all those tools to deal with it and they’re going around it the wrong way, and not losing the weight or being healthy, which is what the majority of it is for me. It’s just being a healthy person. I will never be my BMI of 105, there’s no way that my body, like I would look sick. I’m just working to be a healthy person- and I’ve gained that with being in that program. It was well worth the wait for two years.